Is Your Life Monochromatic? (No offence intended!)

September 20, 2009

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The word monochrome, or monochromatic, means, in black and white, or in shades of only one colour. For the purpose of this article let’s use the second definition: in shades of only one colour.

Now, what do I mean by a monochromatic life? One that focuses on just one thing. Or shades of it. For some it could be work, or work-related stuff. For others, family responsibilities, and things to do with family. Your colour or shade could be the pursuit of fame and fortune, keeping up with the Joneses, looking beautiful or even just sex! I don’t mean to be rude but take a look at how you spend your 24-hour day, or 7-day week. What fills most of it? What occupies the most of your thoughts? Do you give much of your time to anything else? Do you belong to Tribe Monochrome?

If you are satisfied with a monochromatic life, all well and good for you. Different strokes for different folks. But going by the number of people who take vacations, change their wardrobes, cars and hairstyles, move house or complain about things they consider boring, I think it safe to conclude that most of us want variety. The fact that we complain about lack of work-life balance further proves my point.

I am reminded of an exercise I once encountered in Dr Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. She described a full life as one with its shelves full of varied preoccupations, such as family, work, community, health etc. An empty life on the other hand had one or two items on one or two shelves. Quite a few of the shelves were left empty. With a full life, the absence, or loss of one of the items on the shelves had a lesser impact, from which recovery was more likely. In the case of the empty life, any loss or absence, such as a redundancy, divorce, bereavement or relocation would be greatly noticed and quite devastating.

What is my point in all of this? If we live our lives with more balance, catering to a variety of interests, paying attention to the different things that matter to us, enriching the lives of others and not just building up treasures for ourselves, we end up living fuller, happier lives. We create satisfying memories for life’s rainy days. And we aren’t so hung up on any one person or thing that our world would come crashing down if we were to lose them.

What could you do to add more colour to your life? What other things could you stock on your shelves? A healthier lifestyle? Better relationships? Travel? A hobby? Community service? Is your work so much the focus of your life that you derive your identity from it? Would a redundancy, failed relationship or a child leaving home knock the wind out of your sails? I dare suggest that a fuller-shelved, multi-coloured life could stretch us further, open the doors for us to give and receive more, reduce the chances of burn out and ultimately be more satisfying. So , what could you do to give your life more colour and balance? How could you, and others in your life benefit from this?

 If you would like, drop a line to say whether you are monochromatic and loving it, or seeking more colour in your life. Tell us what items you could add to (or remove from!) your shelves and the difference this could make. And of course, share the experience with those you love!

P.S. It’s not only about adding stock to the shelves of our lives. Sometimes we need to get rid of things that aren’t serving us well. Things such as a toxic relationship, unnecessary expenses or an unprofitable business venture. Will you be adding or removing? Or perhaps doing both!


Coaching Corner: Freeing Up Space and Creating Better Balance

September 20, 2009

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 Do you find yourself with so much to do and too little time? Do you feel you are attending to some aspects of your life while neglecting others? Is your work getting in the way of your life, or vice versa? Creating balance isn’t about equally rationing our 24 hours between all of our endeavours. It’s about giving each aspect the time it needs to flourish. Enough to make us feel full and satisfied. A full day’s work and time at the gym do not  need to be equal. Neither do hobby time and family time. And what means balance to one person may not, to another. It’s about finding YOUR OWN balance. Because we are each coming from, and headed for different destinations.

I find that just as our lives are always changing, so is our definition of balance. Therefore, we may need to review our lives from time to time to maintain the equilibrium. This could require us to throw out some things to create room for others. Time requirements and regularity may also change. For instance, a sick family member needing more attention could necessitate our taking time off work. Or the birth of a child  could require a shift to part-time hours. Be aware that work-life balance is dynamic. To enjoy its benefits we need to proactively monitor it. You will know when a review is necessary when your previous balance stops working! Or better still, anticipate and prepare for change.

Coaching questions/action points:

  • Make a list of all the areas of your life at present, e.g. health, work, family, charity/service, finances etc.

 

  • If there is some element you would like to include, but aren’t into it yet, add this to the list.

 

  • Score each aspect from 1 – 10, where 1 = totally unhappy with this, and 10 = Completely satisfied. Award a 0 to those aspects you would like to include but aren’t involved in at present.

 

  • Are there items already on this list that aren’t serving you well? Could your satisfaction improve if you took them out? Such as a toxic relationship or an expensive habit? Circle such items, if possible, in red!

 

  • Every item for which you did not award yourself a 10 could benefit from some “re-engineering.” Of all such items, including the zero-scored, choose 3 that could make the biggest positive impact in your overall happiness if you could bring them to a 10.

 

  • Regarding these top 3, what would a perfect score of 10 look like? E.g. for health it could be weighing 10kg less than your current weight. For your significant relationship it could be forgiveness and open communication rather than the current sulking and grudge-bearing.

 

  • For each of these 3 areas write out a brief description of where you are now. Next to each, write out your “perfect 10” description. This is a map, albeit incomplete, of your journey from dissatisfaction to satisfaction.

 

  • What steps could you take to get from your starting point (where you are now) to the finish line (where you want to be)?

 

  • Write out an action plan, with achieve-by dates, for reaching your desired destination. This is your road map or game plan. Now get to work with it!

 

P.S. If you are the kind of person who can run with your plan and make things happen, great for you! However, most of us need a little help. You may have inner fears or limiting beliefs standing in your way. Or sabotaging habits such as procrastination and negative self-talk. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed and just can’t get started, let alone finish. If you feel that you need support to de-clutter your life, achieve better balance and reach your goals please do not hesitate to contact me. Simply send me your responses to this coaching exercise with your name and valid contact email address and I’ll get back to you for a complimentary review. For a limited time this free offer is open to the public.


Taking Care of Me!

September 20, 2009

 

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Sometimes we actually need to give ourselves permission to take time out for self-care. It needs to be on the To-Do list! I’ve been learning this lately. I usually eat my food while walking around doing things, like typing on my keyboard with the non-eating hand, or finger! Now I remind myself to sit down and enjoy the meal. And perhaps look out the window and enjoy the view!

What extra steps can you take in the direction of self-care? How could you go the extra mile to give yourself the care you deserve? Some things that appeal to me are as follows:

  • Taking a quiet walk in the park where I get to sort out my head! Silence and walking do wonders for me as I’m quite kinesthetic! I think more clearly, get some mind and body exercise and feel refreshed after such a stroll. The increased oxygen-intake is also a health benefit. Sometimes I can’t avoid having my kids with me but I let them know that this is “mummy’s quiet time”, and they are learning to respect this. Perhaps learning the habit as well! At other times we enjoy animated banter or a sing-along as we walk! I find this equally refreshing and good for building the child-parent relationship. Important for my life balance as well.

 

  • For me, a bath or shower isn’t just for cleansing. It’s for chilling out too! Think aromatherapy, soft towels, soft lights, room at right temperature and you are getting my drift. I often hurry through a shower due to a tight schedule (imagine that!) but I insist on the occasional chill-out in the water. And it works just as well as a stroll in the park to get me relaxed and thinking clearly. Thankfully, the kids aren’t in on this one, though they are often whining at the door!

 

  • A leisurely read! Much of my reading is work-related. I love what I do, so work and play sort of keep on mixing! For instance, I love reading Psychologies magazine, but as a coach that’s kind of work as well! It has therefore become necessary for me to give myself permission to enjoy a leisurely read that isn’t in any way work. Like a fiction novel, something spiritual (I love my Bible or daily devotional) or a magazine (Good Housekeeping, Ebony, Readers Digest are some of my chill-out favourites).

 

  • This brings me to my next self-care step: Turning things off! Things such as my laptop and TV. While I enjoy a leisurely read, it certainly must not be online! You know how one thing leads to another when you’re surfing the net! So I occasionally give myself computer-free mornings, afternoons, evenings or whole days. If I need to check email I allow myself a sneak-peek on my  i-phone. But the laptop stays on the desktop, firmly shut!

 

  • If the laptop and TV are staying off I could either spend the time in refreshing silence or listen to some music. My favourites are classical, smooth jazz and gospel. So it could be just music and me, or music while I work.

 

These are five of my self-care activities that foster improved work/life balance for me (I have more!). They help me fit living and working into my day, as well as the other things that matter to me. Such as my family relationships, my spiritual, mental and physical well-being and personal interests.  Care to share some of yours (you are self-caring, aren’t you)? Why not post a comment and share them below? Or if you aren’t yet self-caring and actively working out your work/life balance, tell us what you’d like to start doing, and how this could help you.

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These are some of the beautiful sights I enjoy on my walks in the park. Enough to keep me motivated to do my 30 minutes of brisk walking every day! I hope you like them too.

Squirrel in the grass

Squirrel in the grass

          

Beauty on Water

Beauty on Water

 

Breathtaking!

Breathtaking!

   

I really liked this!

I really liked this!


How to Get More of What You Want – Practical Assertiveness

September 5, 2009

 

The Scenario: An angry customer is “venting” at me, demanding that her problem be fixed.

Passive reaction: I am intimidated by her outburst and bend the company rules to give her what she wants. Immediate problem (irate customer on my hands) solved, but if I keep on giving in to angry outbursts I could build a reputation as one who can be bossed around, and so could my organization. Customers would most likely not learn to respect me, or my company policy. I could end up being and feeling disrespected and gradually resent my role.

Assertive response(Politely, pleasantly, but firmly, maintaining non-threatening eye contact and posture) “Thank you for bringing your complaint to me Ms/Mrs. X.  I can see that you have been unfairly treated and this is unacceptable. I apologize for (whatever went wrong) and will take immediate steps to (whatever you intend to do to resolve the problem). Is this OK Ms/Mrs. X? Is there anything more I can do to help?”  I listen to the customer, take note of her concerns, reassure her, then follow the rest of company procedure to settle the grievance.

Should Ms/Mrs. X continue with her tantrum:

Assertive response: (Politely, pleasantly, but firmly, maintaining non-threatening eye contact and posture) “ I am sorry Ms/Mrs. X but you are shouting/using abusive language/becoming disruptive. I would like to resolve this issue immediately but we cannot continue with this discussion while you are acting this way. Would you like a few minutes to calm down, and then we can try again? Or would you like to come back another time to continue this discussion? I would be happy to schedule another meeting with you.”  If Ms/Mrs. X opts to calm down and try again I could ask if she would like some tea/water/to get some fresh air outside/to use the conveniences e.t.c. If she decides to return, I would apologize for the inconvenience and reschedule another  meeting. Or whatever the company policy says.

Points to ponder:

(a)    Irate customers returning to you is a good sign. They are talking to you, not your competitors or other customers.

(b)   Handling a grievance is another opportunity to shore up your company image. Make good use of it. Follow up on it.

(c)    Don’t take customer outbursts personally. You are fulfilling a role, even if you own the business. Handle the complaint in your role. Then leave it behind as you go home.

(d)   The way you handle complaints and outbursts decides whether you, and your business will be respected and treated better next time, or not.

(e)   It is possible to be polite and unpleasant at the same time. When handling grievances take care to be both polite and pleasant, as well as firm.

(f)     It is important to maintain eye contact as you speak to complaining customers. This shows you are giving them your full attention and take their issues seriously. However,  eye contact should be warm and non-threatening. A stare could be intimidating or aggravating. A warm, empathic look could encourage the customer to open up more calmly.

(g)    Remember that body language communicates as well as words. Your posture should be open and non-threatening, just like your eye contact.

(h)   It is not about you or the customer being right. It’s about achieving win-win for all.

(i)      Assertiveness often calls for being proactive. You may need to take the lead to achieve positive outcomes.

 

The lesson:

Assertiveness helps us communicate with others in ways that achieve profitable outcomes for all concerned. In the above example we diffuse a near-explosive situation, get the chance to repair the client relationship, take steps to rebuild a battered brand, establish respect for staff and company policy, make our role less stressful and help the client get what she wants. Totally win-win, I’d say!


Coaching Questions – How to Get More of What You Want, continued.

September 5, 2009

 

Following are some coaching questions based on the preceding post. Enjoy!

  • Can you think of scenarios in your personal life where assertiveness could help you achieve better results? Say in your relationship/marriage, with your children/friends/neighbours/child’s school?

 

  • How could you diffuse a potentially explosive situation, discourage disrespect and encourage respect, lay down boundaries, rebuild a broken relationship or encourage positive communication using assertiveness?

 

  • Think of a situation where you were not assertive and did not achieve win-win. Perhaps the outcome was lose-win or lose-lose. How could you have been more assertive to achieve a positive outcome for all concerned?

 

  • List 3 situations in your personal or professional life where you think you should be more assertive. For each one,  write out possible steps you could take to achieve win-win.