Yearly Archives: 2017

The Real Problem With E-mail

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

062017_EmailDespite what you may think, the real problem with e-mail has nothing to do with e-mail. The problem is not the volume of e-mail you receive. Nor is it that messages are poorly crafted, often lacking details and specific requests. The issue isn’t that subject lines are misleading and your peers don’t understand the difference between CC, BCC and TO fields. These are all annoying and unproductive aspects related to e-mail. However, “fixing”, even eliminating, these aspects won’t solve the main, mostly unspoken issue with e-mail.

The real problem with e-mail is we have forgotten there is a human being on the other side of the message. A human being seeking connection, making a request, asking for help or in some cases offering help. In our hurry to slam through our inbox and knock it off our “to do” list, the bid for human connection has become a casualty of the exchange.

E-mail has evolved into a powerful tactical and transactional tool, yet at the same time, it’s also the primary business communication tool. Which is why it makes sense that e-mail has become such a pain point — as the speed at which most people “attack” their inbox leaves plenty of missed opportunity to understand what is a transactional message and what is a bid for relationship building.

Hence the disconnect — we keep trying to solve our e-mail problems with productivity tips; when instead of color-coding, flagging or filing in folders a slew of half-way communicated messages, we could choose instead to craft a few carefully, intentionally worded communications with the purpose to connect and be of service to those on the receiving end. Sure, your inbox may be at zero, but was the information you wanted to share complete and more so, how did your message make the person/people on the other end feel?

When listening to people talk about their relationship with e-mail, many people hold a belief that e-mail isn’t part of “work”. How can it not be part of work? E-mail isn’t just something you do — it’s a chance each day, with each e-mail you write, to be the person you want to be. Each communication you craft is an opportunity to reflect what you really want to say and how you really want to show up and who you are.

What if instead of focusing on the next ten e-mails you have to “pound through”, you became fully present on the one in front of you? What if you imagined the face of the person or people on the other end of the communication looking to you for a response, guidance or acknowledgement? What if you slowed down your inbox time and really read the message and looked for the request for understanding, approval or connection?

With each e-mail you send, you have the power to make someone feel important, acknowledged, respected or heard. You also have the same power to make someone feel dismissed, disrespected or unimportant. The choice is yours for how to be in relationship with your e-mail, and with each message you send you get to make that choice again and again.

 

[Note: This post originally appeared in Thrive Global]

FacebookLinkedInShare

How Far Are You Willing To Go?

By Melisa Portela, Simple Intentions Lead Consultant: LATAM Region

061517_LimitsWe live in a society that tells us: there are no limits, you can always go for more, you can always achieve more, you can always produce more, you can get more “likes” on social media, you can lose more weight, you can have a better job, you can have a more loving partner, and the list goes on and on… And this is what I want to reflect on today: How far are you willing to go?

Sometimes we find ourselves stretching far beyond our limits and well-being, reaching a point where our relationships and health start to deteriorate. We begin to lose some quality in our lives the moment we start to race to the end of our limits – And there are many consequences along the way, our health often being one of them.

Sometimes we push ourselves beyond our limits because we might feel there is a sense of freedom associated with breaking out of the box. However, when we ignore our limits, too often we end up completely exhausted and suffering from burnout. And, by the time we realize the cost, it is sometimes already too late to prevent a significant impact.

This is why it is so important to set limits in our lives. When we don’t set appropriate boundaries for ourselves, it often may feel that others are (unintentionally) disrespecting us. When we do not know when and how to say “ENOUGH”, we feel at the mercy of others or even things (like material possessions, jobs, unhealthy routines, etc.). A lack of boundaries means we are often unable to take accountability for the events that happen in our lives. We might try to find an external cause or justification for our suffering, which sometimes leads us to resignation (ultimately, reinforcing our lack of boundaries and creating a vicious circle).

Before we can communicate boundaries to those closest to us (such as friends, family, partner/spouse, boss, coworkers, etc.), it is important to figure out for ourselves what they are. Most of us do not pay conscious attention to how, why and what boundaries we must set in order to lead the life we wish. Once you are clear on what your boundaries are, then it is time that you clearly communicate them with the people you share your life with. Remember that if those around you do not know what your needs and limits are, it gets harder for them to support you in what you seek by respecting those limits.

A boundary is like an instructional manual that you can give to yourself and to others that clearly informs what your limits are. Once you’ve done that, it becomes easy to say how far you’re willing to go – in any situation.

FacebookLinkedInShare

I Will Turn on the Light

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing & Program Manager

060917_TurnontheLightFear can do strange things. With an electric power, it can alter reality, shift perspective, and make the strongest of us tremble. Fear can be gripping, all encompassing, and can make you feel certain of something that is just not true. Fears might be passed down from those who raised us, conditioned into us by society, or sparked by an insecurity.

The great thing is that not everything we think is true – and that includes our fears.

The tricky thing about fear is it feeds. It can feed on someone’s opinion of you, the evening news, or often your own thoughts. When someone says something unsavory about you (that some small part of you, in the back of your mind, also fears is true), does that mean it’s fact? Is your fear validated? It often feels this way, but in many ways this naysayer is simply turning on a light for you. Illuminating a negative belief you have about yourself, so that you can see it in the light for what it is. So that you can decide if it is something you truly believe.

When we shine a light on our fears, we witness them for what they are – and that can be scary. But what we end up seeing is often smaller, uglier, and much less frightening than what we once perceived (think the Harry Potter Limbo train scene). It may invoke pity or even compassion, for self or others, but it does not wield the same power. Turning on the light eradicates the uncertainty of what a fear consists of – and eliminating uncertainty itself helps diminish fear.

This is also true for someone else’s fear or anger or doubt – even if it’s aimed directly at you. Turning on the light means having the clarity of mind and self-possession to observe an emotion or fear trying to cling to you and to say “that isn’t mine” – and mean it. Even if that feeling or belief was “yours” yesterday or 5 minutes ago, you can drop it at any time. Shining a light means creating depersonalization around others’ thoughts and emotions. When someone doubts us – instead of feeding on that doubt and making it our own – remember that it does not belong to us, it is not ours, and we do not have to pick it up.

I recently learned an exercise to help me with this.

The Whiteboard Meeting.

Pick a fear or an unpleasant thought about yourself, sit down and have a meeting about it. Actually.

Visualize the uncomfortable chairs, clicky pens, stuffy conference room, the whole shebang. The exercise is to fill a whiteboard about a specific fear with your members of the board. Each board member stands for a unique belief you have about that fear, representing the diversity of thought we all have in our minds even about a single subject. (Stay with me.) Have each “board member” write on the whiteboard a unique thought related to that fear. Be specific. What is it exactly you are afraid of? At first, some of your more outspoken and historically negative board members will clamor for attention. You might be barraged with things like “I’ll fail at this because…”; “I’m not good enough”; “If I do X, I’ll lose Y”. Write them all down without judgement until these “fear thoughts” eventually run out of steam, leaving only half the whiteboard filled.

That’s when it’s time to hear from the rest of the room. What about your thoughts that stem from a place of courage, trust, empowerment? How does that change the tone of the board? Fill the rest of your whiteboard and notice the diversity of thought. The other side of the room might say things like, “I already have most of the tools and resources I need to be successful”; “My family and friends support me”; “I am enough”; “If I do X, I might lose Y but I’ll gain Z”.

When the whiteboard is filled, step back and look at everything together. This is it. All your thoughts on the matter. And, without shame or judgement, observe which thoughts have gaps in logic, which thoughts are empowering, which thoughts are operating from a place of insecurity. What on the board, after seeing it in the light, do you genuinely believe? What do you want to be true? Through observing the many realities your mind sees as possible, you will discover that while the fear thoughts can often feel like the only reality or truth, there are actually many truths to choose from. And you have the power to do just that, choose. To say thanks but no thanks to the fear thoughts and say yes to what’s on the other side.

This exercise can be as literal or figurative as you want. Use post-its and fill up a wall. Write in a journal. Use your imagination. Where different tiny hats and talk in accents. This is your party, as they say. The Whiteboard Meeting can help answer the question of what beliefs about yourself you want to let go – and which you need to actively choose again and again.

The saying “if you’re not scared then your goals are not big enough” has long intrigued me. But I realize now that the phrase is only half complete. Because for every part of you that is scared, there is another that is thrilled, delighted to rise up to the challenge. To truly complete the phrase, I know I must only turn on the light.

FacebookLinkedInShare

Are You Done Yet?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

060117_areyoudoneyetWe’ve all been there. The moment you realize that you’re doing something that is not in your best interest — and then continue to do it, over and over again, sometimes for weeks, other times for years. Until one day you reach your breaking point and feel you have no other option than to make a radically different choice to end the unpleasantness you are experiencing. (Many times, this process is rather dramatic and can be also known as a breakdown, meltdown, burnout, depression or in some cases a mid-life crisis.)

If you are like most people, there is normally a huge time gap between having the awareness that what you are choosing/doing isn’t working for you, and acting to alter or stop it in order to create a future that is different from the past. And for most people, there really isn’t much in-between, it’s an all or nothing pattern: Do it until it becomes unbearable.

We are not always talking huge life issues either. It could be eating a food you know won’t agree with your belly, staying up late to watch one more episode of your new favorite show, being absorbed in your mobile device when you’re with loved ones, not expressing yourself, or staying in relationship with a toxic person or work team. The list of examples is endless.

The point is each day everyone makes a few choices that sabotage their desired outcomes. (Even the most awake, balanced people do this.) And each day you watch yourself over and over again make the same choices and have the same conversation in your head about it, “I can’t believe I ate that”, “I should have gone to bed earlier”, “Why did I keep my phone out for that”, “I wish I would have said that instead”, “I let him/her talk to me that way again”.

Then the next day, you do it all over again. Until you have a health issue, a resentment issue, a relationship issue, or until the work team dynamic becomes so bad you are driven to leave. What if it were possible to be “done” without high drama or need for drastic action? What if you could decide in advance what your breaking point is, so rather than being surprised when you reach it, you see it coming and even plan for its arrival?

What if it were as simple as asking yourself this powerful question: “Am I done yet?”

What if you could define that limit before you get there and ask yourself — what does being done look like? “I will continue to eat this until my cholesterol reaches a certain level”, “When I need 4 cups of coffee to wake up — that’s how I’ll know I stayed up too late”, “I will withhold my emotion only 100 more times”.

You know you are done when the unpleasantness of what you are experiencing is beyond tolerable. Most people fear being done, because they don’t know what’s next. The great news is that there are very few truly unique problems in this world and the odds are highly likely you are not alone being done with whatever it is you’re done with — a few conversations with others, and an internet search will likely turn up more resources to support you than feels possible. It’s like when you decide to buy a car, and then you start to see that car everywhere. When you’ve decided you’re done, resources will line your path.

A future that is different from the past starts with a single question: Are you done yet?

[Note: This post originally appeared in HuffPost]

FacebookLinkedInShare

Change the Peg

By Larry Ward, Senior Dharma Teacher at The Lotus Institute and Friend of Simple Intentions

052517_ChangethePeg_LarryWhen we train our intention to focus on our states of mind, we cultivate our residual awareness. Neuroscience would say this practice is about taking charge of directing our own neuroplasticity. We are intentionally deciding (literally) how our brains are shaped, and how our nervous systems function – as much as we as individuals can influence that.

To achieve this, we must be constantly attempting to master 3 things in our mind:

– Awareness of what’s happening in our minds
– Learning how to shape our minds
– Willingness to liberate ourselves from our mind’s tendencies to cling and grasp

There are many variations of the meaning of “mind” – but the most important meaning of mind is state of mind. Where is your mind right now? What state is your mind in?

To answer that we first must know what a state of mind is. A state of mind includes several things. It includes images of ourselves and images of our world; it includes emotional tones, like a mood; and it includes questions that inevitably come up in different states of mind, these questions change depending on what the state is. Two states of mind to be aware of are the high mind and the narrow mind.

When the highest mind is there (this can also be called an empowered state of mind or being), we feel happy, we feel open, we feel generous. But when the narrow (or disempowered) mind is in control, we feel the opposite.

One way to change your state of mind is called “changing the peg”. If the radio show playing in you’re mind right now is causing you pain and suffering, change the channel. It takes skill to change the peg because so many of our disempowered mental states are often seductive and encompassing. Create a list of things you know can help you change the channel or change the state of your mind. All of us need a list, a specific one – just like the subconscious checklist you use to get dressed every morning. Get dressed for your life. Get dressed to be awake. Make sure you have the tools you need so you don’t confuse the clouds with the blue sky, the birds with the trees. So you don’t confuse being the Inn Keeper with the guest. Change the peg.

States of mind aren’t permanent but consist of a flowing energy coming through. But it’s so easy to think it’s permanent. It’s so easy to latch on to a state of being, to have that define us, to see everything through that lens. Everything we see becomes amplified, larger than life – and drives us in a certain direction of thought, speech, and behavior.

A large part of being able to change our state of mind is being able to receive what life gives us –  without pretending that’s not what we got. My peace is not because I don’t have suffering. Peace comes from attending to our suffering without pretending it’s not there, attending to the suffering of society without pretending it’s not there.

Think about what it means to be at home with your family, friends, and neighbors. If you cannot change your state of mind, you have to figure out how to embrace it. This means figuring out how to be bigger than our experiences. The calmer we are (like when we are at home with loved ones), the easier it is to hold our experience. This is cultivation. This is being a good internal gardener. By preparing yourself to receive different states of mind, even when they are low or disempowered.

And if you can’t shift out or “change the channel” – ask for help. Just that act may help you change the peg.

 

This content is an excerpt from Larry’s recorded Dharma Talk Cultivating Liberation and Awareness of the Mind, it has been condensed and edited for written format. Watch Larry’s entire Dharma Talk here.

 

FacebookLinkedInShare

Three Steps To Internal Activism

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

Internal Activism ess051817_InternalActivismentially means being the change you wish to see in the world. It is a concept that Mahatma Gandhi became known for and a teaching that Martin Luther King Jr. carried forward.   Before one can be the change they wish to see in the world, they need to understand truly what the change is they wish to be.

Sounds logical and simple, however simple doesn’t mean easy and even the logical can become confusing when the volume of information and data becomes too much to discern.  Our world is becoming increasingly more complex and there is a common desire for many things to change (and change all at once). It’s easy to become either demoralized or paralyzed with where to best focus energy and attention to be the change you wish to see.

When feeling overwhelmed, it’s tempting to get angry at people and situations and cast blame outward.  The pull toward trying to change others behavior, to get them to act or do certain things, is a powerful one, one that can lead you to use manipulative behaviors that only compound your feelings of powerlessness.  A more powerful and impactful action is to choose to change what you can change about yourself when you are engaged in situations where you desire an alternative outcome.  It is through trusting the process of taking internal, thoughtful, individual action that lasting activism is born.

Internal Activism is a process that uses the skill of awareness to help people identify the change they wish to see in the world. When individual action is created around that change, it can transform singular effort into community or global activism and shift the environments in which we live and work.  There are 3 steps to discover your path to Internal Activism.

Define It. 

What is the change you want to see in the world? Your world can be defined as your family, your work, your community, your country or even yourself.  Where do you desire a shift, a change, a new direction? In what way would you like to see your world different?  Notice the articles you read, the shows you watch, the people you talk to. What is stirring you up and making you uncomfortable? What is it that you are avoiding or ignoring? What is it that gets under your skin?  What are you ready to stop tolerating or accepting?

If you are like most people, you’ll notice more than one thing you want to change.  Start simple and pick one issue or trigger to focus on for now.  (Don’t worry about picking the “right” thing – if you care about it, it’s right for you.) For example, you might be bothered by bullying behavior at work, issues around diversity and inclusion, or people obsessed with their devices.  The size and scale of the issue doesn’t matter – only that you care about it and wish to see a different outcome.

Discern it.

Take the trigger/issue you picked and isolate it from all the others. For right now make this your focus for action.  Consider the issue from all sides.  What is it about this issue that triggers you?  How does it make you feel?  How often do you see it and where do you see it?  How do you currently respond and show up when it occurs?  Consider the desired end state for the change you wish to see. What do you want to be different?  Now make a list of the behaviors you can take to support that outcome.  What role can you play?

For example, if you picked workplace bullying, start by creating awareness around your own behaviors to determine if any of your actions could be considered bullying by other people. Perhaps some can and you were previously unaware of it. Next, notice how often it happens, where, when, who and what meetings do bullying patterns emerge?  Finally, decide the behavior you wish to model when you witness bullying in a meeting occur.  Perhaps you have a go-to phrase, “I’m interested to learn your thoughts/feelings, however, I’m not comfortable with that language in this meeting, in the future talk like that (give example) isn’t acceptable.”

Do It.

Now the hard part – putting it in action.  It’s much easier to contemplate being the change than it is to actually do it.  Being the change means you will likely upset your world in some way. Setting a boundary or addressing unacceptable behavior will cause some discomfort and maybe even some tension at the start.  The same is true with learning to undo something that you’ve noticed is a behavior that you no longer wish to do – it’s common to feel exposed at the start of being the change.

Behavior change takes time.  It also takes courage no matter how big or small the change is you wish to see – you will likely feel vulnerable at first.  Stay with it and trust that over time, the more deeply connected you are to your action, the more confidence and empowerment you will feel each time you witness yourself being the change.

The key to successfully living a life of Internal Activism is consistency in your behavior (words and actions).  Stick with the behaviors you’ve chosen and at every opportunity, be the change – offer others an example, become the presence of the possibility until it becomes as natural as breathing. Then begin again to become the next change you wish to see in the world.

[Note: This was originally published in HuffPost]

FacebookLinkedInShare

Moments to Unlock and Unblock

By Elaine Jones, Market Intelligence Lead at Microsoft and Friend of Simple Intentions

051117_Unlock+UnblockRecently, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes on leadership, from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” I had asked my toddler daughter to fetch me a book from the top of the counter one evening. She happily skipped to the counter to get it, only to be an inch or two too short to reach it. In between suggesting trying a step stool and thinking I should just do it myself, it struck me that Eisenhower may be only half right.

We all encounter situations where the lack of motivation for change seems senseless. We assume positive intent, and are sometimes even certain that motivation is plentiful. Yet nothing happens. I call these situations the “Eisenhower Trap”, just because someone else wants to do something you want done, doesn’t mean something gets done. These situations look like this:

  • A close partner with the same vested interest in success consistently pushes back on every proposal, clearly emotional about the disagreement
  • A motivated employee is unable to stretch themselves to a higher level of performance at work
  • That person on the team who somehow always manages to find a fault with the plan, or casts a negative light on a piece of good news
  • A colleague stuck in a job they hate and aren’t doing well in, but persists on the job day after day
  • When I need to make a difficult decision, and speak to everyone I know, hoping someone will give me the encouragement to avoid a difficult choice

I’ve realized that each of these situations represent an Unlock or Unblock moment. In each of these situations, a critical Unlock or Unblock action is needed to be able to progress the situation. Recognizing which of these actions is better suited for the situation goes something like this for me:

In Unlock situations, the individual,
– Seeks permission or approval
– Experiences fear or anxiety of failure
– Feels inadequate about qualifications or knowledge

In Unblock situations, the individual,
– Seeks authority or empowerment
– Experiences internal or external conflict
– Meets disapproval of their opinions or thoughts

To Unlock the situation, I focus on easing the fear and doubt by offering encouragement and support. I praise the effort instead of the outcome, and marvel at how amazing it is and feels to take the first step, to be brave and to try something new for the first time. I offer safety nets, yet quite frequently find that I do not intercede publicly on their behalf, instead, I provide pointers and feedback privately to turn good into greatness. This belief in the intrinsic abilities of the individual to accomplish greatness may feel like a loan, a leap of faith, but I am seldom disappointed.

Situations where someone needs to be Unblocked feel inherently different. My trust in their abilities feels less like a loan and more like a payment overdue. I am publicly standing with someone in this situation, and lend my authority and opinion openly in support of the person I intend to Unblock. I reward and praise their accomplishment, deliberately looking for ways in which their ideas, even negatively, improve a project, remove risk, and give credit to the good of their intentions. Once whatever is holding them back is Unblocked, they take off like a launched rocket, releasing the pent-up passion and ideas that were waiting to be expressed.

In some sense, Eisenhower’s quote could be flipped around: “Because they want to do it, Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done.” Trust that someone else wants to do what you want done. Now, Unlock or Unblock their way there.

 

FacebookLinkedInShare