Small Changes make big differences Part 4 – Centredness

Centredness as an ability to manage your inner mental life, moods, and emotions. People that display centredness are not insulated from failure but instead find the mental strength to pick themselves up when they get knocked down. Rather than struggle on under the weight of roiling emotions, they find ways to work through them and recover, and in doing so allow themselves to sustain high levels of motivation and performance even in the face of adversity and crushing defeats.

Small Changes make big differences – Centredness

Rob Yeung defines Centredness as an ability to manage your inner mental life, moods, and emotions.  People that display centredness are not insulated from failure but instead find the mental strength to pick themselves up when they get knocked down.  Rather than struggle on under the weight of roiling emotions, they find ways to work through them and recover, and in doing so allow themselves to sustain high levels of motivation and performance even in the face of adversity and crushing defeats.

Many of the exceptional people Rob Yeung has interviewed don’t even realise they possess the skill of Centredness.  Most people focus on the outward behaviours of what they do and say rather than the inward processes of how they think and feel. Because Centredness is an inner expertise, the workings of which are are invisible to onlookers, people who possess it can at times appear fairly unassuming.  They may appear reserved, quietly spoken, unadventurous, or even shy.  Their outward demeanour may reveal nothing of the steely mental toughness within.

Psychologists have known for decades that how centred we feel depends on the ratio of negative to positive thoughts we tell ourselves. The more negative messages we hear the worse we feel.  If we allow ourselves to dwell on fears, regrets, and worries, we feel down, less centred, less able to think clearly and get on with life.

For example, say you’re a manager looking to fill a vacancy.  All other things being equal, wouldn’t you rather hire someone who brushes off setbacks than the one who suffers  from more extended mood swings? or if you were a customer looking to buy an insurance policy, wouldn’t you rather deal with the cheery sales person than the one grumbling about whatever is bothering them?

The answer to both questions is yes.  And research tells us that happy, centred people are more likely to receive a second interview than their less happy peers.  Salespeople with a positive, centred disposition also sell more than their downbeat counterparts.

Even well centred people tell themselves off or worry occasionally. A good place to start becoming more centred is to watch what you think and what triggers your patterns of thinking.  Last year we did a course on life coaching and one of the key things that came out of that was the phrase “catch your thoughts”.  It was all about being very aware of what you were thinking and every-time you said something bad about yourself to change the thought to a positive one like next time I will do better.  We were encouraged to put the letters CYT up on mirrors and anywhere you see them to remind us to always catch our thoughts.

As a result of this I saw a dramatic change in my friend we were doing this course with so I have seen living proof that that we can improve our mental resilience.

Decades of psychological science and research into into psychotherapeutic techniques tell us we can help ourselves to feel less anxious, less unhappy. less angry, and more centred simply by choosing to change how we think.  This is despite our genetic tendencies, to depression.

One of the patterns that Rob Yeung has noticed in his research of exceptional people is they focus their thoughts strongly on the present, on what they are doing at any given moment. They do not let their minds wander back to past blunders.  They do not fret over what could or might transpire.  They focus intently on the present, not the past or the future.

There are a lot of teachings out there now on being present, in the moment.  They are teaching the ability to be mindful at school now and I have noticed myself when I am walking or doing a number of things that I am very mindful of my current world, noticing the beautiful sounds of nature, being more observant when on bus rides, getting more involved in what I am feeling right now.

Small changes make Big Differences – Centredness

We can all decide what we pay attention to.  When misgivings or worries pop into our heads, we could give them the full weight of our attention, replaying them over and over again and making predictions for how they will effect us in the future, or fret over what might happen the next time we have a critically important meeting or a big date the next day. The more helpful alternative though is to choose to let such thoughts pass and focus our attention instead on what we’re doing and what’s going on around us right now.

Our attention is like a spotlight that we can shine on whatever we like. Try directing your attention to your breathing, notice the inhales and exhales, then focus on the events going on around you.  Perhaps there are people nearby or you could home in on what’s going on outside your window, a splodge of dirt on a wall or anything else around you.

Have you found that in meetings you turn your attention inwards?  You allow your attention to drift away from what is being said and concentrate on your inner thoughts, the list of groceries you need to pick up on the way home or something funny someone said in the office today.  Or dwell on painful events from the past or something you are dreading in the future.

Mindfulness is the tendency to focus on what is going on around us in the present moment.  It means concentrating on that meeting, or conversation that is happening now not what is going on in our heads.

Research has found that people who are naturally more mindful tend to be more centred, more satisfied and successful.  Several studies show that being mindful helps us to stay centred when others around us are distressed.  Couples who are naturally mindful reported greater satisfaction with their relationships than less mindful couples.  Mindfulness has also been linked to better exam performance.  The good news is that we can train ourselves to be more mindful.  Modern mindfulness training is scientifically proven to deliver results.  Becoming mindful is essentially about training the spotlight of our attention to focus outwardly on our situations, what we’re doing and the people we are with rather than inwardly on your own thoughts.  Try to become more mindful in everyday situations and you will begin to see the benefits when you need it most.

When you are having a conversation, focus the spotlight of your attention on the other person or people  – avoid letting your attention stray to those internal thoughts.  When you are eating a meal focus on the tastes and textures of the food, really appreciate the food.  Concentrate on the activity you are doing,  driving, reading, sleeping or exercising.  When distracting or unhelpful thoughts pop into your head – and it happens to everyone – imagine they are clouds floating through the sky.  Use your imagination to zoom out from the scene and give yourself a bird’s eye view of the landscape below.  Just see those thoughts passing by in the distance.  Observe them but do not dig into them. Then bring your attention back to what you were doing.

Becoming more mindful takes practice.  Most people find that they can only manage it for a few minutes at a time to begin with.  No one can be mindful all the time. But with practice you will find that it helps stave off unwanted thoughts, and enjoy what you are doing, becoming more centred and productive.

Small changes make big Differences – Centredness

Sometimes if we just have too many thoughts in our heads that we can not quieten them we need to look at using another method. The FASTER technique is an example of what psychologists call a thought record.  It is a proven technique for combating negative thoughts and becoming more centred.

FASTER stands for Feelings, Actions, Situation, Thoughts, Evidence against negative beliefs and review feelings again.

  • Feelings – write down the emotions you’re feeling as a result of thoughts going through your head. Be as specific as you can with words like disappointed, tense.  Then give each emotion a rating from 1-10, based on how strongly you feel each one.
  • Actions – write down how these feelings are effecting your life, what are they making you do or putting you off doing?
  • Situation – Describe what triggered these unhelpful feelings, taking note of who you were with, what happened, did someone say something or did thoughts just start it all off?
  • Thoughts – capture all the unhelpful thoughts that are running through your head so you can help yourself to see through them.
  • Evidence against your negative beliefs – Now is the fun part.  Here is where you look at ways to re-frame your negative thoughts. Now imagine your best and most understanding friend is asking you these questions.
    • Is that really true?
    • What’s a better way of looking at that?

Look for the flaws in your negative thoughts, demolish them and help yourself escape from their grip.

  • Review Feelings again – now take a look at the feelings you wrote down in step 1.  Are they still as strong.  Hopefully by now the feelings describes in step 1 are now a lot less or completely changed.  You should now feel a lot less emotional and more centred.

We mustn’t repress our feelings, just make time to look at them properly work out what is causing them and then carry on with life.  Our feelings are messages from ourselves – an internal memo -with a warning or a meaning to impart.  If you are feeling sad it might mean that you need to surround yourself with friends and family for a while.  If you are angry it might mean you need to review the current situation and make changes to change it either speaking up about it or removing yourself from the situation.  Fear may tell us we need to do more preparation.

It has been proven scientifically that writing about, or recording our experiences on a tape enables us to regain our mental balance faster, than thinking about the bad experiences.  Health and everything improves once the experience is released on paper or tape.  It has also been found that reviewing the experience from a third person perspective is much more healing than re-immersing yourself in the negative experience again from 1st person.

Make sure you look back on situation with compassion – you would naturally express concern to a friend who had gone through a gruelling situation.  Make sure to express understanding and kindness to yourself as well.

Several studies have looked at the benefits of expressive writing.  Students who used the technique found that their grades improved.  Un-employed middle age engineers who wrote about the experience of being out of work found new jobs quicker than those who didn’t.  And in some studies, participants who used the technique also reported that they felt physically happier – they even paid fewer visits to their doctors.

The last technique that will help you feel more centred is physical exercise.  It really is true that a healthy body also means a healthy mind.  Research tells us that exercisers report greater levels of psychological wellbeing than non-exercisers.  Several research trials suggest that moderate exercise may be as effective as talking therapies and even certain drugs in the treatment of clinical depression.  It may be a particularly potent method for remaining centred because it both distracts us from our worries and floods our bodies with endorphins, our natural feel-good hormones.

When we stop  to take stock of how we spend our time, we usually know when we are living our lives in ways that help us to stay centred. To help you stay in peal psychological condition and allow you to perform consistently at your best, are there any activities you should be doing less?

If you have enjoyed this blog you may like to check out the other blogs in this series.

Small changes make big differences  – Awe

Small changes make big differences Part 2 – Cherishing

and  Small changes make big differences Part 3 – Authenticity

The next one will be on the fifth trait of high achieving people – Connectivity.

Please leave comments below I would love to know what you are getting out of these posts and if these posts are helping you in your job search, current career, business or life generally.

Have a great day

 

Please note that this blog includes excerpts from the book The Extra One Percent - how small changes can make big differences by Rob Yeung.  I acknowledge that this book is used of the source of most of the information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Changes make big Differences Part 3 – Authenticity

Rob Yeung says that “Authenticity is the ability to choose activities in life that we genuinely want to do rather than be pushed into tasks and jobs we don’t like. We feel authentic when we engage in pursuits that we do simply because we find them interesting, challenging, or fun. We feel authentic when we happily do an activity without the promise of reward for doing it or punishment for not doing it.

Small Changes make big differences part 3 – Authenticity

I never went into business to make money – but I have found that. if I have fun, the money will come.  Richard Branson

This is such a powerful trait of high achieving people.  How many times on a Monday morning do you say I hate Mondays I don’t want to go to work today?

Rob Yeung says that “Authenticity is the ability to choose activities in life that we genuinely want to do rather than be pushed into tasks and jobs we don’t like.  We feel authentic when we engage in pursuits that we do simply because we find them interesting, challenging, or fun.  We feel authentic when we happily do an activity without the promise of reward for doing it or punishment for not doing it.

Do you have tasks you start doing which you loose yourself in?  These are the tasks which you feel most at peace with.  When you are doing these tasks this is when you are been your most authentic.

The more we can align our work to what makes us feel authentic, the more prosperous we will be. Some people just feel totally at peace when they are running a business.  Time means nothing to them.  The amount of money they are earning is nothing to them, these people are there because they are doing what they love.  They build up a business, get it successful and then sell it off they then start a new one work it up and then sell it on to the next great idea.

Too many people put up with the drudgery of their jobs because it pays the bills – but that is hardly the attitude that high achievers adopt.  If you desire to succeed, you must do work you enjoy. otherwise you will only ever be a fraction as effective as you could be.  To begin the process of moving your career on a better trajectory , work through the following questions:

  • In what kind of work situations have you worked harder  than you normally do?
  • What have been the highlights of your working life? Why?
  • What activities do you pursue in your free time when you have no other obligations? Why?
  • If you could do different activities on separate days of the week, how would you structure your time?

The biggest thing is to do is find activities that feel like play.  If you feel you are playing while you are working and earning a living then you are been authentic.

When you are in the flow, or in the ‘zone’ then you are focused and content.  Hours slip by and before you know it the day has passed.  Only then are you flooded with glee or gratitude for the intensity of the experience.  At its core, flow is about being engrossed. totally absorbed in a task rather than merely having fun.  It’s like being in a tunnel, seeing only the task at hand. Research shows that when we experience flow, our self-belief blossoms and we improve at what we are doing.

When we have an experience of flow, we may:

  • Feel in control
  • Experience a sense of challenge
  • Lose track of time
  • Feel fully involved
  • Want to tell other people about it

Can you think of times when you have felt at least some of these feelings?

Think back over the course of your life and bring to mind occasions when you felt lost in what you were doing. It can be anytime in your life, childhood, work, or leisure.

Then think about

  • What skills were you using?
  • Who were you with?
  • What made the experience special?

Once you have a number of experiences, about 10 is good, what kind of skills crop up the most often? What are the implications for what you should be doing, how should you be spending your time?

Now how many of your peak experiences happened in your current job? If none – not a single one – of your high points has been in your current job, then why are you doing it?

Taking stock of our lives occasionally can be very beneficial.  Revisiting our past, our jobs, interests and activities can allow us to see patterns and better career and life decisions in the future.  One of the best ways I have done this in the past is by working through a book called “What colour is your Parachute?”.  This is a book that is released every year and helps people sort out their careers.

High achievers understand what they are good at and find ways to play to their strengths.

Not everyone finds it easy to work out their talents and a lot of this is because of the school systems we were brought up in. Schools tend to promote a fairly narrow definition of aptitude, which is predominantly focused on the ability to learn and regurgitate information.  So a lot of people grow up thinking they have no skills – that they’re stupid or untalented.  Fortunately school systems are changing now and more and more successful people never finished school.

There was an article a couple of weeks ago in our local newspapers about a 17 year old student in New Zealand that is making $100,000.00 a year reviewing games and playing games.  There is more and more examples around the world now of people that have not finished school succeeding in life and using their talents and skills.

No matter how much you like or dislike your current job, you can find ways to relish it more. You can look at the tasks you do and look at them form a different angle so you can see the value of it and enjoy it more.  You can alter the boundaries of the tasks you enjoy and the ones you would rather not do.  You can modify your relationships at work to change the way you interact with people.  Re-framing your current view of your job can change the way you think about the job completely.  For example an insurance administrator at a call centre could think about the job as a way to take the hassle out of the callers’ lives.

Authenticity is the ability to choose activities in life that we genuinely want to do.  We feel authentic when we engage in pursuits that we find interesting, challenging, or fun.  Bear in mind that even small adjustments to how you spend your time could reap significant benefits.

If you are enjoying this series of articles please let me know.

Here is the link to the first and second ones.  I would love to hear your feedback.

The first one covered the the trait of Awe and was an introduction to this series.  The second one covered the trait of Cherishing.

If you want to know more about ways you can train yourself to pick up the habits of high achievers then click the banners on this page and together we can change the world.

Leave a comment below and leave your email address to get a copy of my inspiring quotes e-book.

Have a great day

 

 This series of blogs uses Rob Yeungs books as reference and contain excerpts from the book.

 

 

 

Small changes make a big difference Part 2 – Cherishing

In the past the skill of cherishing was called ‘people skills’, now it is called ’emotional intelligence’ in most organisations and it has even been called ‘social-emotional agility’. Whatever label is attached, the need for cherishing is only growing. In the past we used to work locally, only dealing with the people around us in the workplace, most of which were the same socio-economic group as us, and as a result we knew how to think and influence them.

Small Changes make a big difference – Cherishing

The last blog post was about the first trait that successful people need of Awe.  Today I am going to talk about Cherishing which is the second trait of successful people.

Rob Yeung says that Cherishing is a flair for rapport building, for building relationships with other people.  High achievers are usually great at listening to others, considering their perspectives and empathising with them; they are respectful of the differences between people and seek emotional connections or personal bonds rather than just making demands for what they want.

In the past the skill of cherishing was called ‘people skills’, now it is called ’emotional intelligence’ in most organisations and it has even been called ‘social-emotional agility’.  Whatever label is attached, the need for cherishing is only growing.  In the past we used to work locally, only dealing with the people around us in the workplace, most of which were the same socio-economic group as us, and as a result we knew how to think and influence them.

Nowadays with globalisation and internet working etc the most talented and ambitious people are increasingly crossing geographic and cultural boundaries in search of the best opportunities we find ourselves living and working in ever diverse communities.  We can’t expect that a 20 year old Russian student, 73 year old Scottish Grandmother or a 55 year old Indian entrepreneur will think the same way as we do when we work with them or live with them.  If we want them to influence them, get them to buy from us or simply live in harmony, we cannot take for granted many of the social conventions and rules we’re used to.

One of the experiments Rob Yeung talks about is the Puzzle of the ball in the box.

Imagine that you are asked to look after a young couple’s children, and once you are agree you are told please strip all the furniture out of the room that the children will be playing in and leave only a cardboard box, a plastic bucket and a rubber ball.

Moments later the children, we will call them Amy and Billy rush into play with the ball passing it backwards and forwards and kicking it around.  After a few minutes, Amy says she is thirsty.  You tell her you poured them both some lemonade in the kitchen.  Billy says he does not want any at the moment, so Amy puts the ball in the box before running off to the kitchen to get a drink.  While she is out in the kitchen Billy takes the ball and drops it in the bucket before his sister gets back.

So here is a question for you: when Amy returns from the kitchen, where will she look for the ball? Clearly it is not a big question for you.  But consider instead if you were to ask Billy; ‘Where do you think Amy will look for the ball?’ What would he tell you?

It is a bit of a trick question. The answer depends on Billy’s age.

Most three year olds can’t distinguish between what they know and what other people know.  So a three year old Billy, knowing that the ball is in the bucket, would guess wrongly and say that Amy would look int the bucket too.  He never considers that what he knows and what other people know could be different.

However by the age of four or five most children begin to grasp that other people can have different thoughts and beliefs.  So a five year old Billy would probably answer that Amy would look for the ball in the box where she had originally left it.  Older and wiser he is able to separate what he knows from Amy’s lack of knowledge, her false belief about the ball’s location.

The ability to understand that other people can have knowledge that differs from our own has been ‘dubbed’ a ‘Theory of Mind’ by psychologists – it is considered a theory in as much that the concept of the mind isn’t something that we can observe directly.  We can’t see other people’s minds, touch them, or examine them until we are satisfied that other people definitely have them.

Growing up as children we gradually became aware that we had thoughts, feelings and knowledge that other people didn’t always know about. Then, by watching the behaviour of the people around us, we came to realise that other people must have thoughts, feelings and knowledge – in other words minds – like us too.

As grown ups, we possess the mental capacity to take another person’s perspective and consider their thoughts and feelings.  So surely we wouldn’t make the same mistakes as children, right?

Wrong.

There is such a thing as the curse of knowledge and experiment that has been done to show this is:

This experiment is set up as a two person game.

A 4 by 4 array of pigeonholes is set up as below but with physical items instead of symbols.  Note there are two black spades and that five of the boxes have backs on them.

 ϒ  ∏
 ♠  ò  ∑
 ⊂  ♠
 Δ

The researcher sits one person on the front of the pigeonhole set up so they can see everything and the other person is blindfolded before they walk into the room and set up behind the pigeonholes so they can not see everything.

The person behind the pigeonholes is made to give instructions to the person in front of the pigeon holes on how to move the objects around the grid. Sounds straight forward enough and so the experiment begins.

The person behind, we will call her Lisa says to the person in front, we will say you move the triangle one space to my left.  Remembering that her left is your right, you move the triangle one space to your right.

Move the Y one space to my left. easy enough. you move the object represented by Y.

Now move the black spade up one space.

Which black spade? There are two. But then you recall that Lisa was blindfolded and cannot know about the second black spade, and the realisation hits you. You have figured out the twist in the experiment. The researcher wants to test whether you will reach for the black spade that both you and Lisa can see or the one that only you can see.

When researcher Boaz Keysar at the University of Chicago used an almost identical version of the test, he found that 30% of the participants attempted to move the wrong item.  When he repeated it three more times he found that 71%of the participants reached for the incorrect item at least once.  In other words, more than two in three people forgot that they had information that differed from that of their experimental partners.

The stronger our views and opinions, the less likely we are to put ourselves into the shoes of other people. The more we know or the more strongly we believe , the harder we find it to consider the perspectives of other people.  For instance most law-abiding citizens can’t imagine why a gang would vandalise a communal park or why adults can’t conceive why kids want to dress themselves in such ridiculous fashions.

Another aspect of Cherishing is being able to think about other people’s thoughts or perspective taking.  This is the ability to take the perspective of the person you are negotiating with, trying to understand what they are thinking and what their interests and purposes are in this negotiation.

An experiment which showed this in action was done with a group of MBA students.  The students were divided into pairs.  One person took the role of an employer looking to hire a candidate but wanting to broker the best deal for the organisation and the other person assumed the role of the candidate, wanting to get the best salary and benefit package.

Two minutes prior to beginning the negotiation exercise participants acting as the employer were split into three groups, an empathy group, where employers were told to imagine what it would feel like to be in the situation of the candidate, a perspective taking group, where employers were told to focus on what the candidate would be thinking about and a control group that were given no further instructions.

The key difference between the sets of instructions was subtle but the effects were not.  In the control group only 12% of the pairs achieved the best possible win-win outcomes.  The Empathy group 22% achieved win-win outcomes and in the perspective group 40% achieved win-win outcomes.

From this we can conclude that empathy has benefits when dealing with others but hands down the best approach is to think like the person on the other side of the negotiation.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of other people can help us to build rapport and understanding, but to cement those bonds we need to accept that more than one point of view isn’t just possible but likely.  When dealing with other people, we can enrich a discussion by exploring how opposing perspectives can be united rather than fought over.

We must learn to accept that, whatever our views and those of the people around us, we may all be right – even when those views seem to clash. The point: even though we may talk about understanding other people’s perspectives, we often fall into the trap of only engaging with those views in a fairly shallow way.  We may be looking for flaws in their arguments to prove us right and them wrong.  However that is not the approach that exceptional people take.  They look for ways in which we can all be right.

An example of this is approaching an employee who seems to be late for all internal meetings with the question ‘Penny, you and I seem to have different priorities when it comes to internal meetings – can we talk about it please?.’  Raising the issue from the third perspective is always the least threatening, most productive way to kick off any such conversation.

The best way to understand someone’s perspective is to listen to them. listening is not just a case of asking people questions and expecting them to share their innermost thoughts and feelings, their motivations and desires.  We need to make people feel comfortable that we are not going to judge them and try immediately to change their minds.  We can’t jump in to interrupt no matter how wrong we feel they are.  To gain true insight, we must be patient and give people a totally safe environment in which to speak.

To conclude Cherishing is a flair for building rapport and relationships with other people by understanding their perspectives, their thoughts and feelings.

We all have the ability to cherish other people, it is just that we may forget to turn it on. Consider the small changes you could make to have a big impact on your relationships.

Small changes make a big difference – Cherishing

Consider the small changes you could make to have a big impact on your relationships:

  • Being able to see the world from the perspective of other people, to listen to them and understand them, is a vital human skill.  Find ways to remind yourself of the need to understand both the thoughts and feelings of other people
  • Be constantly on the lookout for the ‘Curse of Knowledge’. The more we know, the harder we find it to put ourselves into the shoes of other people, which becomes an interesting challenge for experts or people in senior roles or positions of authority.
  • Research shows that even a quick reminder to consider others’ thoughts can have huge benefits in our interactions with them. Find a way that works for you and make sure you ‘Switch on”  your ‘Theory of mind’ ability.
  • Exceptional People accept that different people can have opposing views yet still be ‘right’.  Focus on both/and thinking rather than an either /or choice.  Look for ways to combine your viewpoints with those of others.

If you like what you are reading here please feel free to share.  Please comment below and leave me comments about ways you can cherish people.

If you are looking for support in teaching you how to cherish, respect and grow your businesses then then click any of the banners on this page and look at what I am doing.  And leave your email below so we can communicate.

Have a great day

Please note this blog contains excerpts from the book I am talking about here "The Extra One Percent - how small changes make exceptional people" by Rob Yeung.