Category Archives: Energy

Practice Random Acts of Empathy

101917_EmpathyBy Mellicia Marx friend to Simple Intentions

Life is busy. I’m guessing that your to-do list is as long as mine. From home, to work, to finances, time with friends, hobbies — and let us not forget exercise — we have countless tasks that need to be checked off the list. And let’s not even start with the calendar; if you view multiple calendars at one time on your phone, let’s say family and work, that alone has the ingredients for an anxiety attack. So, the mere thought of adding on community service may simply be too much. But, I’m here to tell you that giving back is not only possible, it’s easier than you think.

What’s the secret? Practice random acts of empathy. That’s it.

Years ago, I saw an incredible documentary that explained a theory behind road rage. Because we can’t see the other driver’s facial expressions, we assume the worst. We don’t develop empathy. Compare that to the person who bumps into you on the street. When you exchange a glance or words in the moment, later you barely remember it happened.

Now that so much of our communication takes place online, devoid of the opportunity to observe the reactions of other people, we often forget to practice empathy. And we see that with our kids, too. Online communication means that kids don’t see the hurt expression when another one is the target of online bullying. And we wonder, who taught them to behave this way? Well, we did.

So, while I’m a huge proponent of volunteerism, if you feel you don’t have the time to give back more than you already do, how about committing to a random act of empathy every day as your work for the community? Here’s how:

4 Steps to Practicing Random Acts of Empathy

  1. Recognize your Knowledge, Skills & Abilities

Start with the obvious ways in which you are different from those around you, and recognize that those differences may be beneficial to others. Perhaps there’s a person in your office who would benefit from coffee with you once a week because you can offer valuable career advice, or because you have developed some helpful habits around balancing work and family responsibilities. Maybe you have a solid handle on saving for retirement — I bet there are all sorts of folks around you that could use some helpful tips on that. When my husband and I had our son, he worked in technology with a group of dads of young boys. What are the chances? This crew shared tips with him regularly that made the first year much easier. One even helped us move our crib from one house to another because our car was too small for it. We would have had to rent a truck during tight times, to solve that problem without this generous fella whom we barely knew. (And, I’m still grateful for the diapers.com tip.)

  1. Acknowledge your Opportunities

Sometimes, practicing empathy isn’t about mentoring as much as looking outside of yourself and seeing opportunities to help someone else, especially strangers or acquaintances. The other day I was in the middle of my session at the nail salon when I heard a woman behind me asking how much longer she’d be there — she was heading to her engagement photo session and thought she’d be late. She was stressed. I offered to give her my spot and finish after she was done. It added an hour to my stay and threw off my calendar. But really, who hasn’t been there, stuck at an appointment that you are desperate to leave, feeling like no one cares? This is where we move from kindness to empathy. Sure, it was nice of me to do that for her. But being nice doesn’t outweigh meeting my own objectives for the day. Putting myself in her shoes and relating to her stress — THAT is empathy. And when I did that, there was no question what action I would take. Sometimes, it’s just about seizing the opportunity.

  1. Pay Attention

One thing I really appreciate about Jae’s teaching is the focus on awareness. It’s going to be challenging, if not impossible, to practice empathy if you aren’t already practicing awareness. Yes, we all have things we are sorting out in our own lives. But take a moment to look outside of yourself and attempt to understand what the people around you are experiencing and how you could help. Does someone look lost downtown? How hard is it to not only offer directions, but walk them five minutes to their destination? You’ve got this.

  1. Remember that Whether or Not You Speak, You’re Making a Statement

We make countless choices every day. When someone cuts us off, will we unleash our anger on them or make another choice? I conducted exit interviews at a giant event offering services to people experiencing homelessness. After the men, women, children and teens received help that included rental assistance, food, help with IDs and much more, I asked each one what was the most valuable part of the event. Every single one of them said, “being treated like a person.” They didn’t mention the services, they spoke about someone looking them in the eye and making conversation. When we walk by someone suffering and don’t even acknowledge that they exist, we’re making a statement. Whether someone is suffering from homelessness or from issues at work, offering compassion means something.

Here’s the thing: every choice we make, every time we decide whether or not to be empathetic, our kids are watching us. They are modeling themselves on our behavior. If we offer empathy to our family and friends, but not our co-workers or the stranger at the store or on the street, we are telling them something, whether we know it or not.

Be intentional. Make choices. Choose empathy. Add these to your to-do list or your calendar, even though I know those are already jam-packed. But don’t just add it to your family calendar — add it to your work calendar and your life calendar. After all, we’re all in it together. And there will be a day when you are stuck at the nail salon or have a new baby or just need a break and you’ll feel especially grateful that someone else around you has this task on her to-do list.

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How to Manage Energy at Work

090717_EnergyCommon themes in the workplace that zap energy from a person or a team.

By Jae Ellard, Founder, Simple Intentions

What gives you energy at work? Odds are strong an answer quickly sprang to mind. Now consider what drains your energy? Likely a feeling came to mind before the root cause of that feeling did. For many people gaining clarity around what drains their energy and how to redirect it can be a tricky. Having worked with thousands of people in over 50 countries teaching the skill of awareness, I’ve noticed five common themes in the workplace that transcend geography, gender and job type when it comes to zapping energy from a person or a team.

Drama. You might be attracted to it or you might create it – either way the purpose is to use it as a distraction to avoid unpleasant issues. As a way of dealing with fear or uncertainty (or procrastinating dealing with it), it’s common for people to invent “stories” to fill in missing details in an attempt to create certainty. It’s ok we’ve all done it. Next time you see it happening, make an attempt to “see the story” and go back to the facts. Ask yourself or the people involved “is this true?” Asking this question can interrupt the downward drama spiral that can kill productivity and morale.

Perfection. This is the belief that there is no room for mistakes. When people feel they are working in an environment where their best is not good enough, it can not only be demoralizing to each individual but impair innovation as people will avoid taking risks if they believe there is no room for mistakes. The way to redirect this energy drain is to know what you know and own it as equally as you know what you DON’T know. Letting go of the idea of perfection and being open to failure is how we learn.

Control. This shows up as a compulsive desire to know everything and control outcomes. (Also known as micro-managing.) When we employ controlling behaviors likely it’s coming from a place of fear – either of the outcome not going our way or fear of being “exposed” as not good enough – both of which can deplete energy by focusing on incomplete or false data (aka drama). The way to get the energy flowing is to allow the natural flow of action to occur, take a step back and reflect when something feels forced. Releasing control doesn’t mean you stop caring, it means being able to see things from many points of view and assuming positive intent from all involved.

Boundarylessness. This use of energy creates a state of confusion in knowing what is and what is not acceptable, comfortable and tolerable. When we don’t know the limits we don’t know where we are in relation to them. Setting and communicating boundaries, individual as well as team, helps redirect energy by creating clarity for all parties involved about what is and what is not expected and allowed.

What’s not working. The habit of focusing on what is wrong, flawed or not working is downright exhausting. More than that, if a person stays in that space too long it can lead to a state called hyper vigilance, which creates feelings of helplessness and deep anxiety. Recognize and celebrate what is working, start each day by reflecting the “wins.” This doesn’t mean avoid or ignore the issues and challenges that need to be addressed, rather start with what’s going well first.

There is no right or wrong way to shift the energy of a person or a team – what matters most is the willingness to see when energy is low and the courage to redirect it.

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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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Work/Life Balance: The Elevator Energy Test

By Vahé Torossian, Corporate VP at Microsoft and Friend of Simple Intentions

[Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse]

1216_wlb-energy

Throughout my career, I have been blessed to mentor some very talented people. No matter the region of the world — from France to the United States and Asia to Central and Eastern Europe — a topic that comes up with almost everyone I’ve mentored is how to find the right work/life balance.

It is a very personal question. Back when I first started at Microsoft in 1992, work/life balance was very different than it is today. If there was work to do, you stayed until it was completed (usually accompanied by a pizza). When you went home, it was easier to switch out of work mode because you didn’t have emails coming right to a mobile device in your pocket. You had to make a conscious choice to open up your briefcase or, later on, connect your modem and dial in to the Internet.

Today, finding balance can be extremely challenging, especially when our technology gives us the ability to do business from anywhere. It’s easy for work to enter our home lives unconsciously. You look at your phone, and before you know it your head is back in the office. This connectedness can really blur the lines between work and home, making it hard to focus on just one at a time.

I don’t claim to have the whole recipe for success. Rather, the right work/life balance depends on who you are as an individual and where you are in life. But I do have one trick I’ve been using for many years that helps me choose how I show up at work and how I show up at home: Every day, I commit to returning home with the same energy with which I left. The “elevator energy test” is my way of making sure I follow through on that commitment.

I developed this test for myself while living and working in Paris. I lived on the eighth floor of my building, and I’d take an elevator between my apartment and the basement garage where I parked my car. The inside of the elevator was covered in mirrors, so every morning while I descended to the basement, I’d take a good look at myself to honestly evaluate my energy level. I would actually go so far as to score my own energy level on a scale of one to 10. Then, after work, as I rode the elevator from the basement back up to my apartment, I would consciously recalibrate back to the number I had given myself in the morning so that I brought back home at least the same level of energy as I had when I left.

In my own experience, at the end of a long, hard day it was a great refresher for me to bring that vitality back to my spirit and demeanor. It felt great to leave the workday behind in the basement garage, and my family appreciated it too. When the elevator doors opened, I would enter my apartment and spend the rest of the evening with them — feeling just like the person who had said goodbye that morning. I am not saying it’s always easy, but this state of mind helped me a lot especially during tough times.

Of course, you don’t need an elevator to do this test. You can do it anytime, in all sorts of situations. For example, you can look at yourself in your rearview mirror before heading to work each morning and again before heading home each night. I do the test before and after a tough business review, receiving bad news or taking a long multi-country business trip — every situation that might take a toll on my energy.

Throughout my career, I’ve tried to be an energy giver and not an energy taker. And there is a certain discipline to living that way. It’s the same discipline I learned as an international rower, where I had to be fit and prepared not only to help my own performance, but also to help inspire energy in my teammates. I have found that sustaining that kind of discipline is hard, but I always try because I feel strongly that the people around me shouldn’t have to pay the price for me being off-balance — not my employees and especially not my family.

So, my advice to people who are looking for a better balance is to make it a conscious choice again. Try the elevator test. It works for me.

 

Vahé Torossian is a Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Corp. For 30 years he has driven business transformation and turnarounds in high-growth and economic crisis environments.

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