Monthly Archives: July 2015

Laugh Often?

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”  Anthony Burgess

Laughter is the best medicine.  We have all heard this saying.  How well do we apply it?  How often and how much do you laugh?  Various research has shown that when you laugh, it helps you to feel better.  We can laugh with our friends, at a funny scene in the movies, reading a funny line and even laughing at ourselves.

Laughter is contagious.  Sometimes we laugh not because of the “joke” but because of how someone else is laughing.  It brightens and lightens the mood of a situation.  We all know the effects of laughter.  Laughter makes us stretch the muscles on our face and body and even makes us tear.  Laughing fits hurt our stomach muscles (so I think that it is an abs workout too).  The physical and emotional effects of laughter are certainly beneficial.

Subconsciously, we prefer to spend time with people who can make us laugh.  We prefer to work in an environment which is fun and that is usually one where people laugh often.  We prefer to see the lighter side of a situation.  Emotionally we are drawn to people who are optimistic, jovial and easy-going with a good dose of sense of humour.  It is just fun.  Who doesn’t want fun?

An environment that is devoid of laughter, would be dark, gloomy and downright quiet.  Imagine a place where there is no laughter.  Imagine a life where laughter is not an everyday occurrence.  How would you feel about that?

I am assuming that I am not the only one who likes a good laugh, hang around with people who have the same sense of humour, work in an environment where we can laugh and have fun.  Going to work knowing that it will be exciting, where people are motivated to do their best work and enjoy a good laugh or two, sure sounds like a great place to be in.  I remember when I was working in Microsoft, we would have Mid-Year Review (MYR) which was essentially the most stressful time for a director.  It was during these stressful moments, that some of the best laughter were experienced.  Maybe lack of sleep and too much caffeine contributed to that, but we would laugh.  In a way, that lightened a stressful environment.

Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you laughed so hard that you almost toppled over?
  • When was the last time you made someone else laugh?
  • When was the last time you laughed with your children?
  • When was the last time you laughed with your friends?
  • When was the last time you laughed at something that you did?  Do you laugh at yourself?
  • How often do you laugh?

If you find yourself thinking really hard about the answers to the questions above, then maybe its time to lighten up and spread some laughter around.  Watch a good comedy or hang out with the funniest friend you know.  Have a laugh.  It will at least for that moment, make you feel better.  After all, as the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine.

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” –Maya Angelou

5 Ways to Change Well

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” -Gail Sheehy

Change is necessary and uncomfortable.  It is vital in order for us to continue to grow.  We can only grow when we are challenged.  Challenges only come when our situation changes.  The causes of change varies from self-initiated to forced-upon by others or circumstances.

Let’s take a look at self-initiated change.  This type of change comes from:

  1. Need to challenge our current thinking or circumstances.
  2. Need to change our current status or situation.
  3. Ability to see that changes are required before it is forced upon you.
  4. Just feeling bored or unsatisfied with the current status quo.

There are many more reasons why you would initiate a change.  All of which puts you in control.  You are in control of:

  • Outcome of the change.
  • Level and degree of change.
  • Comfort level of the change.
  • Circumstances of the change.

There are a 5 key stages of the change process that you should be aware off and what you can do about them:

  1. Change is uncomfortable and we need to face and overcome our fears.  Fear is usually the number one reason why people resist change or give up.  Fear does not go away, even if you are the one initiating it.  Ask yourself these questions when fear sets in:
    1. Identify the fear.  What kind of fear is it?  Is it rationale or not?  What is the possibility of it happening?  If you were to put a number on that fear from 1 to 10, what would it be?  What can I do to mitigate it?
    2. Remind yourself of how you had overcome fear in the past and what was the reward.
    3. Change your perspective from fear to opportunities.  For example, instead of thinking about failure, think about how to be successful.  Instead of a challenge, focus on the opportunity.  Instead of the limitations, think about the possibilities.
  2. Resistance from yourself and those around you.  Depending on the level of change, it is scary not just for you but for those around you.  You might face resistance from the very people  you expect support.  However, always remember the reasons for the change.  You need to be very clear and focus on why are you seeking change.  What are your goals, desires or purpose for this change?  Realign yourself back to the reason that you are pursuing the change.  Read through what you have written down with regards to your purpose, missions or goals.  Remind yourself.  Explain and share them with others.  Be open to their feedback and concerns.
  3. Distracted but get back on the track again.  It’s easy to get started when the enthusiasm is high, the adrenalin is rushing and everything is new and exciting.  Then time passes by and the distraction of other priorities or just the busyness of life comes into the picture.  Distraction along the way may derail your outcome.  Before we let that happen, it is good to have set up some time every month or quarter or mid-year to review.  Review where you are today vs. your plans.  Review what needs to take place next.  What help do you need to get back on track?
  4. Disappointments drag you down but don’t give up.  Failure and disappointment are just part and parcel of the learning process.  Like growth that comes from change, we learn best through failures and disappointments.  We learn what we can do differently, how to do it better and so on.  The key is not to let the disappointments drag you down and then give up.  Think about or remember , what got you to where you are today.  How can use what you have learned to get to the next level.  Remember your past accomplishments to build your self-confidence.  It is easy for us to forget what we have achieved, what we have experienced, what we have learned and who we know that can help us transition.  It is useful to review and remember.  I have used this numerous times in my coaching role and have found that clients find great empowerment when they realise that they do have the abilities to make the transition.  The motivation to pick themselves up and continue.
  5. Accountability and find someone to be accountable to.  Hold yourself accountable to the change.  You know the reasons for the change and the positive impact for you and those around you.  In order for you to push through and achieve the desired outcome, you need to be accountable to doing the work.  You can find yourself an accountability buddy.  Someone who will hold you accountable and not let you get away easily.  Someone who will push you and support you when necessary.  I have found that this is one aspect that most people ignore or push aside.  However, it is safe to say that the one who is successful is one that has someone they are accountable to.  You can think about your partner, your friend, a coach, a mentor as options for your accountability buddy.

Change on your terms and remember that change is not a lonely process.  Change is enriching when you are clear on the purpose, the impact on you and the people you love and going through it with a good support structure.

“Change before you have to.” -Jack Welch

Living on whose terms?

Terms and conditions.  Something we are all familiar with.  We see it in the things that we buy, services we render or consume as well as in our everyday interactions with family and friends.  Before you say that that’s not true, think about when we try to get a child to do something, are we not setting up some sort of terms and conditions for the behaviour or action?

In the workplace, we are bound by terms and conditions known as policies and for most of us, we probably only know less than 1% of the whole company policies or manual.  How our performance is reviewed and rewarded, how metrics are calculated and awards given are all based on a standard set of terms that are set out and agreed upon.  Most of the time, we don’t even think about it, we just go about doing our job until an issue crops up or someone complaints.  Each of us could go through our entire lives living based on terms and conditions set by the people around us, place we work as well as self-inflicted terms and conditions which we call expectations.  Hence the question, on whose terms are you living your life today?

I was reading an article around freelancers and how they are satisfied with being in control of their time and doing what they enjoy doing without the structure of an organization but face great challenges in meeting financial obligations and the struggles that comes with that.  There must be a good balance between freedom of time and pursuing your passion with realities of living in this material world.  Does that balance exist?  What is the appropriate balance for you?

Whenever I watch sports and most recently tennis, Wimbledon to be exact, I am always amazed with how these athletes take defeat and bounce back up, practice day in and day out, never losing hope that they are able to win or do better.  For most of them, they don’t earn the huge paycheck, so what makes them keep on going?  Clearly it is not the money.  What is it?  Undoubtedly they say that it’s because they just love the game or sport.  Each of them is clearly living out his/her talent and passion and on his/her terms.  Acknowledging all the time that it is not a bed of roses.  But then again, life in general is not a bed of roses.  What and how we define the bed of roses is the term and condition of the life we live.

Whose terms are you living your life on?  What are my dreams that I have not fulfilled?  Am I doing what I enjoy doing?  Do I know what I would enjoy doing?  Do I have the power to change?  Do I have the choice to make the move?  What do I need to do?  What do I need to let go of?  What do I need to embrace this change?  How do I know if I am ready?  How do I know if I need to?  Do I even want to?

There is no right or wrong and no good or bad options here.  Just what is aligned to your values and purpose.  If you are living aligned with your values and purpose, then in all probability you are living on your terms.  You are doing what you are supposed to and you should enjoy it to the fullest.  I am constantly reminded that life is short and precious so as they say Carpe Diem.  Seize the day with both hands and make an impact on those around you.  Or as the Vulcan would say “Live long and Prosper”.

Not feeling “right”, check your alignment.

We have all at one point or another felt that something isn’t right.  That strange feeling that tells us to take a step back or to be careful or to stop and re-look.  We might call it gut instinct or just something that does not sit right with us.  When that happens, what do we do? Most of the time we will :

  • Stop and check.  We will stop what we are doing and check to see if we have done it right. For example, when we are writing a report and when we feel that something is not “right”, we will stop and check the facts or re-read what was written.  More often than not, we will spot the error, correct it and move on.
  • Be cautious or be more careful.  When we sense that something isn’t “right”, we will naturally be more cautious, more aware of what’s going on around us and take a more careful approach.  For example, if we are walking on a quiet street, we will heighten our senses and be aware of what’s around us and take precautions.

These are all natural defense mechanism that we have.  What would you do if you feel that something is not feeling “right” when it comes to your work or life in general?  What do you do when you feel that you are missing something?  Have you ever felt like there is something missing in what you are doing?  Something that you can’t quite get your finger on.  In this scenario, I would suggest the following:

  1. Reflect on your values:  You can take a quick look at your values.  List down your top 10 values.  Based on that list, reflect on where you are today and what you are doing and whether it is aligned with the value list.
  2. Review your life purpose:  Go back to what your life purpose is.  Stop and pause and see if what you are doing aligns with your life purpose.  Now you may ask “What is my life purpose?”  How can I align with something that I don’t even know the answer to?  That could be a challenge.  I would suggest that you spend some time thinking about this.  List down what you enjoy or are good at, your strengths and your inner desires.  Patterns may appear for you to connect the dots and you might be able to discover what your purpose is.  Now summarise it into 2 words and see how that feels and whether it resonates with you.

Once you have establish these 2 key areas, you can then align where you are today based on those 2 parameters.  Most of us will struggle with coming up with our values and life purpose, however, I would encourage you to make the effort.  This will give you clarity on the “why” and “how” we do what we do.  It will also provide you with the ability to check your alignment when something does not feel “right”.  Just like the wheels of our car, if we find that the car is veering slightly to one direction, we know that there is something wrong with the wheel alignment.  We take the car and get it aligned.  For our lives, the alignment is towards what our values and life purpose are.  There is nothing worse than going through day by day struggling and not enjoying what we are doing.  The hard part is being honest with yourself and then making the necessary adjustments. Check your alignment at least once a year just like servicing your car to ensure that you are on track and working towards a desired outcome.  You will enjoy what you do, be fulfilled with who you are and bring happiness to those around you when you are aligned with you values and life purpose. Live life in alignment.