Author Archives: SimpleIntentions

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.

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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.

 

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My New Trick Journey

By Dayna Lee Cohen, Customer Events Manager at Insights and Friend of Simple Intentions

Blog_NewTricks_Dayna_0427Old dogs are the best dogs. Puppies, like babies, get more attention, but it’s the old dogs who really embody the traits of what I love about the species; they are the most loyal, loving, and soulful…they are the sweetest and most comfortable.

I am an old dog. I initially shied away from attaching that moniker to myself, but it’s true. And when I think about the behaviors of old dogs, I realize they are my behaviors, and the aforementioned traits could also be applied to me. And that was pleasing to me.

For the first time in years, my mom spent the day at my house yesterday, and it was so wonderful to have her. She is a REALLY old dog and likely would not appreciate being called so. Part of the time yesterday was spent showing Mom new dog tricks – her dog, Zoe, has recently become a part of my family as Mom can no longer accommodate a pet where she’s living – and I have been working to teach Zoe new habits and behaviors.

I began my mindfulness journey at roughly the same time Zoe arrived in our household. Coincidentally, Zoe and I have both learned new tricks over the past few weeks.

Here are Zoe the Dog’s:
1. No pee or poop in the house
2. Sit
3. Speak
4. No licking (still working on this one)

And here are mine:
1. No electronics in the first hour upon awakening
2. Take time out of each day to have moments of fun and distraction
3. Acknowledge the positives – all of them, large and small
4. Be quiet sometimes (still working on this one)

I know you are wondering how to teach an old dog new tricks and it’s pretty simple, really – There are three key steps:
– Repetition
– Praise/acknowledgment
– Treats

The first two techniques remained the same for Zoe and me – it was the third step that had to be redefined to fit my life. There was never a chance I would reward myself with the Newman’s heart-shaped peanut butter dog treats Zoe loves so much, even if peanut butter is my Desert Island Food. And I was mindful to abstain from treating myself with human food as well – this was my NEW trick journey, after all.

So here is how I decided to treat myself:
– I treated myself with love
– I treated myself with peace
– I treated myself with second chances (and third & fourth…)
– I treated myself with time

By the way, Mom was amazed at all of Zoe’s new tricks, and when I actually contemplated the broad scope of my own altered behaviors (my new tricks), I was pretty in awe of mine as well!

It wasn’t always easy to remember my commitment on how to treat myself and initially I landed on the gaps (no one said it was easy to teach an old dog new tricks, did they?). However, I was able to recognize and replace my self-criticisms with facts and compassion.

One of the best factors that contributed to the success of my new tricks experiment was a trusted mentor and friend’s lack of judgement, and her largesse in holding me able to create and complete the best version of my desired behavior changes that I can manage in each moment and within my own circumstances.

I realized recently that treating myself in a meaningful way is a process, a “trick” if you will, that I will need to repeat over and over until it becomes something I naturally do without thinking – sort of like when my other dog, Moses, starts rolling over before I actually give the command. He already knows what to do – and someday soon, so will I.

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Reclaim Your Power in Toxic Situations

By Christopher Littlefield, Founder of Acknowledgment Works & Friend of Simple Intentions

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn]

Few things seem to have the ability to drain our energy more than dealing with toxic people. In the workplace, we may have to frequently interact with a co-worker, manager, or direct report who seems to constantly be releasing negative or “toxic” energy. I’ve created five simple steps to help us take responsibility, create accountability, and reclaim our power in any unpleasant situation with a “toxic” colleague.

The first step is to stop associating the colleague with toxicity. How we talk, speak, and think about an individual or a situation dictates how we relate and react to it. If I believe someone is “toxic”, even a simple invitation from them to lunch starts to appear suspicious and malicious. Shift the associations and you’ll start to shift your experience of how you view this person.

Second, ask yourself, “What have I decided is true about this person?” Often, we may write someone off the first time they do something we do not agree with. The disagreement could have happened months ago, but since then we have been gathering evidence that they are a jerk. Acknowledge to yourself when and what YOU decided was true about them. They were not born toxic, it was a label that was given to them.

The third step is to try listening to the person from a different angle. In the book, The Art of Facilitation, Dale Hunter suggests listening for the motivation or “hidden commitment” behind an unpleasant interaction. As an example, after an important meeting your boss says, “I can’t believe you said that it front of our client, that was so stupid!”

Possible hidden commitments that may have caused your boss to use “toxic” rhetoric include:

  • They may be committed to the outcome of the project.
  • They may be committed to your growth.
  • They may be committed to doing what they feel is perfect work.
  • They may be committed to the client.
  • They may be committed to a promotion to help support their family.
  • They may be committed to not making a mistake.

The fourth step is to simply remember that this person, consciously or unconsciously, is doing what they think is best. Assuming positive intent can make all the difference in diffusing a toxic situation.

Finally, the last step to overcoming toxicity is to write your colleague’s name on a piece of paper and take 5 minutes to write a list of things you appreciate, admire, and have learned about/from them.

When we shift our relationships to “toxic” co-workers, we gain the power to understand the deeper meaning beyond difficult communication, stay present, and shift the atmosphere of the situation to calmer waters. When we are in alignment, we are able to set the boundaries of what kind of communication is acceptable in the future.

I find that even in the most difficult situations, once we show a colleague that we can see through their fire to what fuels them (their commitments), we are able to gain their respect and gain their partnership.

Now go reclaim your power.

 

Christopher Littlefield is the founder of AcknowledgmentWorks. He trains leaders around the world in the Art of Acknowledgment and Engagement. His work revolves around the understanding that at the heart of all of our relationships is the experience of feeling valued. Watch Chris as he shares his research at TEDx Beirut.

 

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Straight Talk

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[NOTE: This post originally appeared in the April 2017 print issue of Mindful Magazine]

Rear view of man gesturing with hand while standing against defocused group of people sitting at the chairs in front of him

I’ve developed a theory that the biggest driver of mindlessness at work comes from lack of communication. Most times, this is connected to the conversations we’re not having about our values, or about the boundaries we set (or don’t set) around how we live, honor, or uphold these values at work. You know the type of conversation I am talking about: the really uncomfortable one, where you know what you need to say is going to be awkward and might displease or disappoint another person.

Each day we encounter situations where we halfway communicate what we want to express, request, or need. In many cases, we do this because we fear being judged. Think about it: Have you ever edited a response because you felt uncomfortable revealing yourself and your thoughts concerning a certain topic?

  • Not sharing that you don’t agree that the redesign plan is the best choice.
  • Going along with the excitement around a new initiative even though you have serious doubts about its visibility.
  • Keeping silent about how uncomfortable it makes you that your boss brings her dog to the office every day — and it ends up in your space most of the time even though you really don’t like dogs.

So we halfway share, putting off the conversation we know is coming at some point. And, of course, the longer we avoid having it, the more uncomfortable the conversation can become.
The collective impact from having uncomfortable conversations can be truly transformational. Its effect goes beyond communication in the workplace; it can transform communication in every situation.

The path to navigating this territory with ease starts with awareness. Begin to notice when you are withholding, closing down, or not speaking up. Write about it in a private journal if that’s helpful. Then, with that awareness, begin to experiment with expressing your thoughts, needs, and desires one conversation at a time using the following tips to push through the discomfort.

Offer Context
It isn’t just about assigning blame. It is about creating dialogue around toxic and disruptive issues, so all involved can feel heard and choose to create a different reality. Offer context as to what the issue is, in a nonjudgmental way, this kind of sharing builds compassion and allows everyone to get on the same page. It’s when we don’t offer context that the discomfort grows.

Invite Options
If someone is making a request that isn’t possible, say so and invite a conversation about what is possible. It’s important to ask how that might work for the person making the request. Explaining, offering another solution, and inviting dialogue increases the sense of sharing and collaboration.

Be Sincere
Say what you mean with grace, respect, and as much authenticity as possible. When you speak from the heart, even if others don’t like or agree with the message, the energy behind the intention comes through. Odds are strong that your honesty will help things to shift.

With this in mind, what is one uncomfortable conversation you are willing to have today?

 

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Breaking the Cycle

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Program & Marketing Manager

033017_BreaktheCycleThe term ‘vicious cycle’ has always peaked my linguistic interest, both attracting and repelling me. I find more and more that there is a callous reality to the phrase that exists in my day to day world. It reflects a biological concept I learned in high school – a social translation of positive feedback. To pull straight from the textbook (since I got a C in that class), this process is characterized by “the enhancement or amplification of an effect by its own influence on the process that gives rise to it”. In other words, it’s a system or cycle that intensifies by creating a stimulus which triggers an effect that causes more stimulus which triggers a greater effect and so on.

In biology, positive and negative don’t translate to good and bad. Positive feedback just means that a cycle continues to grow by feeding and stimulating itself until it reaches its peak. An example in nature is the process of childbirth: a laboring mother releases the hormone oxytocin which stimulates contractions which causes more oxytocin to be released until the baby is born.

Recently, I can’t help but apply the concept of positive feedback to social systems around me. When cycles, whether internal thought patterns, workplace practices or societal systems, feed on themselves, enhancing and amplifying in the process, it can make a good thing better and a bad thing worse.

Our lives are surrounded by systems and cycles, some that benefit society and others that do not. The latter I’ll label as unhealthy positive feedback and takes the form of damaging systems or detrimental cycles in our world. Some recent acclaimed examples in American media include the still embedded justice systems that promote sex and gender discrimination that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to in her book, My Own Words, as well as Academy Award nominated documentary 13TH which addresses systemic racism through mass incarceration. On a smaller scale, a workplace example that comes to mind is the system of rewarding employees who work long hours. This reward system often encourages employees to work longer hours and more frequently, which offers more rewards, etc…

How then do we break out of a cycle that’s not serving us personally or that isn’t serving a certain group or society as a whole? This question can feel daunting on the best of days. A sense of helplessness may swell at the thought of how to incite change in an unhealthy system, especially when it has been in place for a long time. Luckily, the first step is relatively simple.

I believe, truly, that the first and I’d argue most important step towards changing a cycle is to simply be aware. Really, just that. When we cultivate awareness around what unhealthy cycles or systems are around us, we start to shine a light on them, however dim that light might feel at first. This may be as simple as keeping up with current events, reading the written works of someone who inspires you, or asking your hard-working co-worker how she’s feeling with the never ending long hours. Collect data on the impact of the system in question – who does it negatively impact? Who does it positively impact? Do the benefits outweigh the cons? There’s no action to take – simply become aware of what cycles are around you and if they benefit or harm you, and if they benefit or harm others.

Once a basic awareness foundation is laid, the next step is to expand it. Go beyond the effect of the cycle and determine what your part is in the system or cycle in question. Acknowledge, without judgement, the ways in which you might feed the cycle. Did you give a shout out to your co-worker who’s been working 12 hour days at your last meeting? Explore all corners openly and honestly – and recognize that the cycle may very well be needed right now. Perhaps this is the busiest time of the year and long work days are currently needed. Just maintain awareness. If 6 months go by and the norm is still a 60-hour work week for your team, it’s time to reassess if this is a system that is still serving you and is still serving the whole.

To stress a point, creating awareness does not mean to blame (others or self). The purpose here is to become acutely (maybe uncomfortably) aware of what the cycle is, who the cycle impacts, and how we personally fit in the cycle. With that knowledge in place, we can make an informed decision on how to proceed to the next step. This step is still simple but at last requires some action: simply, to make a choice. It’s time to choose to either continue moving with the cycle or to make a new choice, even if small, that may help disrupt it. Perhaps in the next team meeting, you still give your co-worker a shout out for her hard work – and then start a discussion around team capacity and how to create sustainable success going forward. The smallest of choices may inspire others to do the same, creating its own positive feedback system – one whose results are more desirable.

Positive feedback in nature is extremely important and many of our social systems are incredibly needed. But it is up to us to determine when an internal thought cycle is damaging. When a workplace system is no longer sustainable. When an ingrained societal cycle is, well, vicious. And when it is not. It is up to us to first cultivate our awareness and shine a light on an unhealthy system. Something as small as that may start its own domino effect – and eventually break the cycle.

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States of Being

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Thrive Global]

032217_States of BeingNever underestimate the impact you have on other people. It is almost impossible to fully understand how your behavior (actions and words) has impacted others in the span of your life. Think for a moment about someone who has impacted you greatly in your lifetime. Do they even know it? Do you think their impact was intentional? Aware or not, your behavior has an impact on every single person you meet each day (including yourself). It is therefore interesting to think about why many of us keep choosing the same behaviors, words and actions day after day — effectively creating a future that is the same as our past.

Why do we keep doing what we are doing when we know what we are doing is not working? Some of the answers can be found in the field of neuroscience, which studies interactions of the brain with its environment. Right now we are sharing a reality that is made up of whatever you are touching, smelling, and hearing — that includes the voice in your head (the one wondering when I’m going to get to my point). The great news is we all have a voice in our head — (if you have more than one — this likely isn’t the right content for you!). You can think of the voice in your head as the voice of awareness. And, as neuroscience tells us, our actions are linked with our senses: smell, taste, feel/touch, seeing, and hearing. This includes the internal conversations we have in our head.

In other words, our actions (behavior and words) are linked with our senses and our internal dialogue. And the only way you can really shift your reality — is to shift the voice in your head. To do that you first have to hear the voice — THEN ask yourself if what you are saying is true. Think about all the weird stuff that pops in your head throughout an average day — some of it is not true or based on old stories or old values that you may no longer have. It is possible that we continue to repeat the past because we listen to the same internal conversations over and over again.

Harnessing the power of the impact of your behavior is as simple as changing the dialogue in your head. If you alter the dialogue in your head, your behavior will begin to change as well. You can change what you are experiencing by changing the conversations you have with yourself. How you see the world, and the conversations you have in your head about it, make up how you relate to the world and the energy which you bring to your reality. This can be referred to as your state of being.

There are two primary states of being: disempowered and empowered. You have likely heard of these concepts before — optimist/pessimist, at-risk/at-stake, abundance/scarcity, victim/non-victim. The idea is the same behind disempowered and empowered states of being.

A disempowered state of being is one in which you feel overstressed and as if there is never enough time. Your life might feel like a house of cards — if one card falls, the house will crumble. You might feel anxious, as though you have to defend yourself and the status of your work at all times. You tend to feel as if it’s all yours to lose and both resources and support are scarce. In other words, you operate from a place of fear. You will most likely approach interactions with others from this perception, this energy or way of being.

An empowered state of being is a feeling of having purpose. You most likely have a feeling of clear direction and connection to your internal world and the world around you. You likely feel energized and absorbed in what you are doing and feel the value of achieving what you are committed to. If you are functioning in this state, you feel empowered, as though you have something (or everything) to gain: It is a place of abundance and love. You will most likely approach interactions with others from this perception, this energy or way of being.

One state of being is not more right than the other — we all will move through many stages of life and states of being where we feel empowered and disempowered. The learning here is to recognize the state of being you are experiencing and know that shifting that state begins with shifting the internal dialogue in your head. It is true that some people are “wired” to be more empowered or disempowered. It’s also true that regardless of how you are wired, shifting states is as simple as shifting your thoughts.

You’ve likely heard the phrase: ‘you bring about what you think about’ — this is what we are talking about here. If you think you will have a bad time, you will; and if you think you will have a good time, you will. Your thoughts are directly correlated to your behavior and the impact of your energy and actions.

Even more powerful is that when you shift how you experience and think about your personal or professional worlds, the behavior of others around you will also experience a shift. Your behavior has an impact whether you are aware of it or not. It’s the same principle as “a smile is contagious.” Think about it — most times you can tell if a person is happy or sad, excited or angry even if you don’t know them or what is happening with their internal dialogue. Their state of being, just like yours, is having an impact.

When it comes to reflecting on your state of being there are a few important questions to consider:

Do you operate more from an empowered or disempowered state of being? There is no right or wrong answer, just focus on building awareness. Begin to tune into your thoughts and see if they are mostly empowered or disempowered — no need to try and alter any thoughts at this point — just notice your default state of being.

What state of being is more common among your family? If you work — what state of being is more common among your teammates or in your company? This may shift from team to team and family member to family member — again the action here is just to notice.

What are you willing to do to shift your state of being when you feel disempowered? Are you ready to have awareness around noticing when you feel disempowered? Are you ready to listen to your internal dialogue? Ready to question it? To shift it?

How do you know when you are in an empowered state of being? What does it feel like in your body? Next time you’re feeling empowered — notice it — record how (and where) you feel it so you can recall that feeling to help you shift from disempowered to empowered in the future.

As you reflect on your answers, begin to become aware of where your behaviors are supporting you and where they are sabotaging you. Notice the choices you make, notice when you feel in balance, notice when you feel out of balance. Then make the necessary shift.

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