5 Ways You Can Start Journaling Today

5 Ways You Can Start Journaling Today

Journaling is an incredibly useful tool for developing self-awareness, practicing creativity, managing your emotions, planning, organising, and more.

Journaling can also help to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression.

I have used a journal for as long as I can remember, and am a big advocate for keeping one regularly. Journaling helps me gain clarity, calm my mind, pump myself up for the day ahead, gain insight through reflecting on the day that has passed, and even stretch creatively!

If you’re new to journaling – you may not know where or how to start, and that’s okay! The great thing about journaling is there is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s not an assignment, nor a presentation. It’s for you, so it’s okay if it feels a bit awkward when you first start!

Below are the five different techniques I’ve used when journaling.

1. The Ask & Answer

I’m going to start with the one that’s a bit woo woo, but please bear with me!

If you have something you’re unsure about, write about it as if you were asking someone for advice.

Be honest, and be direct about the problem and your feelings surrounding it. Don’t hold back. Then, conclude it with a question like:

“What’s the best route to take?”
“What would be best to do in this situation?”
“What’s in store for my relationship with X”

Avoid asking why, too much introspection can be counterproductive.

Then, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths, or sometimes I get up, get a glass of water, etc. then come back. The point is to give yourself a bit of space between you and the problem you just spilled onto the page.

Once you’ve created some space between yourself and the journal entry, come back to it and re read what you have written.

Then, write down your response as if it wasn’t you who wrote it down. Write as if you were speaking to another person, maybe a friend or coworker who you are giving advise to. Or (here’s the woo woo bit) channel your higher self or intuition to speak to you.

The most important part of this is to not hesitate and just write what comes out naturally. Try not to overthink it.

I do this often when I’m feeling really strongly about something and need a bit of help making sense of it.

2. The Reflection

Contrary to the ask and answer, the reflection is more similar to a fact finding exercise.

You may have specific questions that you want to ask yourself and reflect on every day such as:

“Was today a good day?”
“Did I do my best today?”
“What was the best and / or worst parts of today?”

OR you can just write down any strong feelings that you had and reflect on what prompted those feelings.

You’ll get the most out of the reflection by leaving the emotion out of it. It shouldn’t be used as a tool to beat yourself up or build resentment against other people. It’s just a way for you to look at your reactions, what prompted them, and what needs to stay the same or change.

I do this in the evening or right before I go to bed as a way to wrap up the day.

3. The Brain Dump

The brain dump has so many uses.

What you do is put your hand to paper and you put everything in your brain onto the page. It’s that easy.

This can be done anytime of day, and can be used for anything! Having strong feelings about something and need some clarity? Brain dump. Have a lot on your plate and need to make sense of it all? Brain dump!

The brain dump is also really useful for lists, organising your thoughts or a task, making notes, or prepping for a meeting.

Brain dumping can also look like just…writing. Write anything and everything that comes into your head. You don’t have to worry about punctuation or structure or if it makes sense, you can literally write the same sentence ten times, it doesn’t matter, it’s just about clearing the cobwebs from your brain. Usually the first couple sentences or paragraphs are pretty shit but then I get into some really juicy stuff and either connect with something that I didn’t know I needed to connect with or some really good ideas come up that I probably wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.

Remember, it doesn’t need to be punctuated, and it doesn’t need to be structured. It doesn’t need to look like anything! It’s literally called a dump for a reason. I do this most often like right when I wake up in the morning or if I have a lot of energy and need to put it somewhere, I free write and see what comes up.

4. The Hype Journal

This is probably my favourite technique and probably the one I go to the most.

The Hype Journal is just a space for your to tell yourself what you need to hear. A space for you to hype yourself up!

Things like:

“You can do this.”

“You got this.”

“Keep going.”

“You’re almost there.”

“Who cares what they think!”

It’s a space for you to back yourself. The things that your mom, or best friend might say to you – you can say these things to yourself!

If you’re having a hard time on starting – I would recommend making a list of all of the things you accomplished. Start from the beginning of your life and acknowledge every single thing you have been able to do. Even the little things. Afterwards, you should feel proud of yourself, and that is the energy you can carry to your hype journal.

Another way you can look at this is to picture your best friend, sister, or the person you love the most and reframe this as if you’re talking to them. Would you tell them how amazing they are? How much value they offer the world? How funny, beautiful, smart and kind they are? Of course you would! So, why not tell yourself the same?

5. The Visualisation

There’s a couple ways of doing this one.

If you have a specific goal in mind, imagine your mind and then write out the exact moment when that goal is achieved, or where you will be when that goal is achieved. Get into the details, if you can. What are you doing? How do you feel? Where are you? What are the people around you saying? If the specifics are hard to imagine, then just focus on the goal being achieved and how you feel about it.

You can also write out a scene from your future – where will you be in one / five / ten years?

I do this when I’m feeling demotivated, because let’s be honest, just because you have goals, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to also have the motivation to do the thing that’s going to help you get there. By writing out the scene, as if I’m already there, I feel more motivated to take action.

Another way to use The Visualisation technique is to write out the day ahead.

Write exactly what you’ll be doing, who will be with you, what you’ll wear, eat, etc. Get specific on details and don’t hold back. It can be useful if you’re feeling anxious in the morning and need to ground yourself.

Don’t forget, journaling is meant to be used as a tool for you to connect with yourself, so be kind to yourself when you’re doing it and don’t be afraid to dig deep. You never know what you will find!

Hey, I’m Courtney.

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this post.

I’m always looking to connect with like minded people, so please say hi and let me know what you’re working on and if I might be able to help.

More On The LW/LW Blog…

Coaching Your Team 101

Coaching Your Team 101
Coaching has not only become a sought after skill among individuals but has grown rapidly as a career for many in the recent years. “In simple terms, coaching is an interaction between two people…and is aimed at developing the performance of the coachee in some aspect of their life.” (Stewart and Rogers, 2017 pg. 202) 

Coaching in the workplace is most likely to take place between a manager and their direct report, but can take place in any capacity such as between coworkers, or between an HR team member and an employee. 

Myles downey developed the scale of directiveness which shows us how our actions as the coach can show up on the ends of two different styles – non-directive and directive. 

Non-directive coaching actions can look like listening (to understand), reflecting, paraphrasing, summarising, asking questions (that raise awareness). However, the more you start to put your own view, expertise and advice into the process, it will start to look like more directive style coaching. These actions include, making suggestions, giving feedback, offering guidance, giving advice, instructing and telling. 

If a key purpose of coaching is to develop a coachees ability to take responsibility for their own decisions and selection of activities, then you would expect the coach to take a more non-directive approach.  

If you’re a line manager wanting to implement coaching into your 121s with your team members, it’s important to ensure there are clear boundaries with the feedback given. Coaching is not a substitute for performance management. When giving feedback, be clear on whether it’s being given in order to correct a performance issue or for performance development. 

The GROW Model was founded by Graham Alexander and gives the coach a useful process to keep the conversation flowing with the coachee in a way that is productive and useful.

Goals – what does the coachee want to achieve and why? Be specific and agree on how success will be measured. Know when the goal wants to be completed by, who else might have influence in this, and what are the consequences of not completing the goal.

Reality – what is happening now? Understand the issues that may need to be factored in, the helpful and unhelp factors, what has been tried previously and what have been the results previously. 

Options – what are the possibilities for moving forward? To stimulate new ideas, think about what the options would be if time, money, resources, energy was unlimited. Try viewing the problem as if it belonged to another person and then ask what their options are. What is possible? 

Wrap Up or Will – what are the best options and what specific action will be taken? Think about the obstacles that may be encountered and how they will be addressed. What support is going to be needed in order to stay on track?

Using the GROW model as a framework with your coachee will help you to guide the conversation, and agree on actions that will get results. 

More tips on how to be an effective coach include:

Get better at active listening. You can do this by eliminating distractions, showing your concentration physically (with your body language), avoiding interrupting, summarising and reflecting to ensure you’re understanding your coachee correctly. 

Start asking questions. Draw out the information by asking open questions. Questions like “How are things going?” or “Tell me about X.” are examples of open questions.

Ask questions to Inspire deeper thinking:

“Why did you choose that particularly?”

“Can you tell me a bit more about what X involves”.

Ask questions to clarify thinking:

“Where would that be on a scale of 1 – 10?”

Ask questions to consider different viewpoints:

“Why do you think they have responded that way?”

Ask questions to reflect back thinking:

“So, you feel they did that intentionally?”

Ask questions to challenge assumptions:

“How can you know for sure X feels that way?”

Get creative with your questions:

“Has this situation occurred before? How was it resolved then?”

“If you could do anything you wanted to do in this situation, what would you do?”

“How would (mentee, hero, person admired) deal with this?”

Ask questions to extend thinking (especially when stuck):

“Can you think of one more option?”

“If there were any other possibilities, what would they be?”

“If this didn’t work, what would be your Plan B?”

When coaching, it may be useful or necessary to provide feedback. The BOOST model will help give you the appropriate framework:

Balanced, include both strengths and development points in your feedback. 

Observe, base the feedback on what you have observed.

Objective, check for and avoid any biased, or personal agenda.

Specific, give specific examples.

Timely, give the feedback as soon as possible and is beneficial after the event has occurred. 

The coach, coachee and the organisation are all likely to benefit from an effective coaching relationship, with the benefits including an increased connection with team members, to increased confidence, motivation, engagement, and enhanced staff competence. Like any skill, it requires practice to develop, but will be well worth it. 

References

Stewart, J., and Rogers, P., (2017) Studying Learning and Development Context, Practice and Measurement. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

More Posts Like This One:

Thank you for taking the time to read this page.

I’m Courtney, and I write about leadership. I love connecting with like minded people, so please reach out and let me know what you’re working on or how I might be able to help. You can also say hi in the comments below.

Be Self-Aware. Practice Self Care. Lift Others.

Be Self-Aware. Practice Self Care. Lift Others.

Smart Style Leadership encourages leaders, both fresh and skilled, to connect to themselves in order to truly connect with others.

It’s my belief that without this basic form of self-love, the connection and acceptance of ourselves, we aren’t able to lead those around us effectively or authentically.

SSL’s values are simple.

Self-awareness invites us to step back, and observe. It requires honest reflection, action, and is the first step to growth and connection. Unless we can understand our own motives, triggers, strengths and weaknesses, we run the risk of developing disingenuous relationships, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Self-awareness is our ability to notice and monitor our inner-world – our thoughts, feelings, emotions – but also how others are receiving us.

Self-awareness is vital in leadership because it is the first step to change. With awareness comes the ability to consider different choices, and different choices will present opportunities for a different outcomes.

Self awareness can look like taking responsibility and apologising, setting a boundary and committing to it, being present, challenging your thoughts and actions, reflecting, pausing before responding, acknowledging and celebrating your wins, asking for help, getting an outside opinion, making changes, working harder, or learning something new.

Being able to dig deep, connect to yourself and be aware of who you are brings you the chance to truly care for yourself.

Self-care is trusting yourself, protecting yourself, and tending to yourself. Put on your oxygen mask before helping another person with theirs. Keep filling up your cup and let the overspill fill up others. Know and accept yourself so you can care for yourself fully.

Self care can look like hot baths, scented candles, face masks, but it can also look like paying that bill, eating the salad, shutting your phone off, going to sleep, cleaning your room, calling your mom, sitting in silence, getting up early, or sleeping in later. It can be as simple as speaking kindly to yourself. It will look different every day and for everyone, and this is why self-awareness is important to help you navigate what is it that you truly need – not what your ego tells you – not what your friends, boss or mom tells you – but what, based on honest reflection and loving awareness, is going to be the best for you.

Live well, lead well means caring for ourselves so we can care for others. It means connecting to ourselves so we can connect to others. It means fighting for ourselves so we can fight for others. The reason we do this is to shine the light for others. Whether you are a manager looking to engage your team, or a student wanting to show up more for those around you, leadership is a lifestyle, and lifting others is the reason why we do.

Lifting others can look like showing gratitude, offering to help, giving a compliment, giving your time, being useful, making it about them, removing yourself from the narrative, asking what they need, holding a safe space, listening, encouraging,or supporting others.

We willingly and relentlessly practice helping and guiding others. This is how we stay humble, stay present, and keep learning. This part may scare you, but leadership wouldn’t exist without the people around you. It’s really about them, and once you’re self-aware, and practicing self-care, you will be strong enough to lift others too.

And this is how we lead x

More posts like this one:

Thank you for taking the time to read this page.

I’m Courtney, and I write about leadership. I love connecting with like minded people, so please reach out and let me know what you’re working on or how I might be able to help. You can also say hi in the comments below ❤

Growth Mindset + Friday Fails

Growth Mindset + Friday Fails

Theorist, Carole Dwek, developed the concept of a growth mindset. Since then, popular ted talks and industry thought leaders have highlighted the importance for individuals, teams, and businesses to practice and develop a “growth mindset” in order to flourish long term. 

If this is the first time you’ve heard of this concept, there are two definitions you’ll want to grasp first – that of a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,”

While you can dive deep into the topic and find debates on when a fixed mindset may be more favourable than growth, or analyse the worrying, emerging trend of the False Growth Mindset, it’s safe to say that developing a growth mindset in yourself, and your team is a useful strategy to achieve ceaseless opportunities to develop. 

After reading and learning more about the growth mindset, I wanted to find a way to embed this more in my own team at work. I created a practice called Friday Fails:

Once per week, create a forum for your team to openly discuss a mistake they made, or something that went wrong for them throughout the week. Keep the focus on their mistakes, what they learned from it, or what they will do differently next time.
The benefits of developing this sort of practice with your team:
  • This will allow your teams to learn from each other’s mistakes (if one person has made that mistake, chances are others will too). 
  • This will encourage your teams to be open and honest with each other and management. It will discourage them to feel ashamed of getting something wrong, and will encourage them to learn from the mistakes they have made. 
  • This will allow you to pay closer attention to what is happening in your teams. Are the same mistakes being made over and over? If so, is there something that can be changed to prevent this from happening? Maybe more specific training, or a new process is needed to help prevent these problems. 
  • This will help build rapport and trust within your teams. In my experience, when we openly share our vulnerabilities with each other, it creates room for honesty, openness and a deeper connection. 

Some other useful tips you can help create a “growth mindset” culture within your team:

  • Do not reprimand your team for bringing a mistake to your attention. While performance management may still need to take place, depending on the mistake, you should always encourage your team to be honest about their mistakes vs. trying to cover them up. 
  • Start by evaluating your own mindset. You can start by answering these questions, as they may give you a bit of insight into your own attitude and mindset around mistakes, learning, and growth: How do you approach change? How do you approach learning? Do you believe people are capable of growing, adapting and changing? Do you feel comfortable admitting when you’ve done something wrong? Are you open to criticism of your methods and processes? How do you encourage your team to learn? Do you demand perfection from your team? How do you handle mistakes? 
  • Continue to reflect and develop your own self-awareness to ensure you’re not falling in the “false growth” mindset trap. Be honest about whether the progress you’re praising is getting the results that are needed. Telling your employees, for example, that they can progress into a new role is not as helpful as showing them how they can progress with honest, direct feedback, and development opportunities.

While there is still much research needed on developing this mindset within the workplace, the findings so far suggest that at a minimum, growth-mindset firms have happier employees and a more innovative, risk-taking culture. 

If you have any tips or practices for developing a growth mindset in your team, please share your ideas below.

I know your time is really important,

so I want to say thank you for reading this page, it means the world to me.

I want to connect with more like minded people. Please reach out and say hi! I would love to hear what you’re working on or how I might be able to help.

Email me at hello@smartstyleleadership.com or follow me on:

More From The Blog:

5 Ways You Can Start Journaling Today

Journaling is an incredibly useful tool for developing self-awareness, practicing creativity, managing your emotions, planning, organising, and more. Journaling can also help to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression. […]

Coaching Your Team 101

Coaching has not only become a sought after skill among individuals but has grown rapidly as a career for many in the recent years. “In simple terms, coaching is an interaction […]

Read This If You’re Feeling Ungrateful

Read This If You’re Feeling Ungrateful

I wrote this while journaling one morning. I was feeling lost, but not sure why. Everything was exactly as it had been (thank you lockdown), but my mind still managed to wander somewhere else. My motivation had hibernated and the joy I thought I had once cultivated for good had disappeared – the mandela effect in action. I could have sworn it was here a second ago…

When I feel like this, I know it’s best to write.

You may have heard of “brain dumping” or “morning pages” or “free writing“. I basically just put my pen to paper and keep going until I can make sense of it. Or of something. Sometimes, what comes out is the same thing that came out the day before. My fears, my schedule, a gratitiude list, a resentment, my hopes for the future, an idea I have, affirmations (journaling is a great tool I use to hype myself up) – but sometimes, what comes out is something more powerful. Something really helpful. Something I had no idea was in me, and when I finally stop and read it back I think, ohhh that was what I needed to connect with today.

If you’re feeling ungrateful, put your hand to the paper and ask yourself what you need. Then write, and listen.

Wednesday February 24th 09:45am

Let fear counsel you in what you can conquer.

Allow judgement and anger to guide you to what parts of yourself you still need to love.

Doubt can be your signal that you need to connect with others, with yourself, or with your intentions.

To know oneself, and love oneself, is to know and love everyone else too.

Let your thinking brain take some time off. Just osberve. Zoom out.

Look around at all that is happening, and take a moment to acknowledge how amazing it is that you are here. That the people in your life are here. That we have all gotten to this point.

There is such beauty in moment to moment living and you can see it if you choose to.

Existence is a miracle that I cannot comprehend, so I sit in awe instead.

The sensational warmth of feeling the sun on my face.

The sound of people I do not know, but can recognise, because we are all the same.

The feeling of my chest expanding as I breath, unconciously, because my body works by default to keep me living.

The wind on my cheek that I cannot see, or hold, but somehow can feel and hear.

The colours. Hundreds of shades before me. Shapes, textures, spaces, all showing themselves to me.

Senses. All working simultaneously to give me this moment which is my life. My experience.

And this moment is all that exists. The now. For the rest of my life.

How I Take Action When I’m Overwhelmed

How I Take Action When I’m Overwhelmed

I love the feeling of dominating my to do list. When I am organised, taking action and achiveing consistently I feel unstoppable. I know I’m not the only one who’s heart flutters when a tick box is able to be ticked, or a task can be crossed off, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say “productive” is not and has never been permenant state of being for me.

So the question for me has always been, why is motivation inconsistent? Why do we conquer some days and hesistate and procrasitinate on others? How can we manage the indecisvness and the paralyses when they quickly blind side us so easily? When we’re overwhelmed, how do we still do the things and tick the boxes and cross of the tasks?

I have no idea (anticlimactic I know, I’m sorry), but I have found a way to trick myself into taking action when I am feeling this way. When the youtube video below popped up on my explore page, it was a game changer.

The method Jessica describes in the video is below:

Step one:

Write down everything you need to do. This part is easy. It’s your classic to do list. Get everything that’s poking around in your head onto a peice of paper. Don’t leave anything out.

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Call mom back
  3. Finish first edit of research paper
  4. Finish passport renewal application
  5. Mail passport renewal application
  6. Fold laundry
  7. Buy friend birthday present
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer
  9. Go grocery shopping
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes

Step two:

Grab 3 markers (or coloured pencils, crayons, etc.) and colour code the tasks on your list in terms of urgency.

Red tasks are the priority. These tasks cannot wait and must be done today.

Yellow tasks need to be done within the next three days. You may want to get them done today, because they are important, but it’s vital to be realistic about the deadline. Could you delay this to a few days from now if you had to? If yes, it’s a yellow.

Green tasks do not need to be done within the next couple of days. Maybe these need to be done next week, the week after, or next month, but they don’t have a real urgency at this moment.

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Call mom back
  3. Finish first edit of research paper
  4. Finish passport renewal application
  5. Mail passport renewal application
  6. Fold laundry
  7. Buy friend birthday present
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer
  9. Go grocery shopping
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes

Step three:

Rate each of your tasks in terms of the effort it’s going to take you to complete them. I like to think of effort as a combination of time and concentration.

5/4 stars are the hard ones. These are likely to ones you procrastinate the most. It’s the stuff that will take at least a couple of hours of your time and your concentration.

3 stars will take either less time or less concentration, but will be heavy on the other. (For example, going to the store to get get some food probably doesn’t need a lot of concentration, but may take a fair amount of time.)

2/1 stars are the things you could do in your sleep. For me this looks like mindless activities that are boring: folding laundry, doing dishes, etc. (If I can do it while watching tv, it’s probably a 1 or 2 star. If it will take me less that 5 mintues to do, it’s probably at 1/2 star.)

  1. Walk the dog (* * * 2 Stars)
  2. Call mom back (* * 2 Stars)
  3. Finish first edit of research paper (* * * * 5 Stars)
  4. Finish passport renewal application (* * * * 4 Stars)
  5. Mail passport renewal application (* * * 3 Stars)
  6. Fold laundry (* 1 Star)
  7. Buy friend birthday present (* * * 3 Stars)
  8. Look into hotels for holiday this summer (* * * * 4 Stars)
  9. Go grocery shopping (* * * 3 Stars)
  10. Go through closet and discard old clothes (* * * * 4 Stars)

Step four:

Now that you’ve got some more information on what you need to do, how urgent each task is and how much effort is required for each task, you can decide on a plan of action.

There’s no right or wrong way to tackle this. If you have a lot of red items on your list, then you know you need to do these things today, so it might be easiest to start with the one that’s going to require the least amount of effort to start building momentum. Or maybe you want to start with the task that’s going to take the most amount of effort to get it out of the way, and then you’ll know everything gets easier from there.

The point of this is to clarify what you need to do, acknowledge the urgency of each of the tasks, and being reasonable with your efforts. I’ve used this exercise through periods of depression when it can be really difficult to do even the smallest things, like taking a shower or calling someone back. It also helps me to be realistic about the timelines of tasks I might be worried about. As soon as I write it down and color code it, I realise that actually none of the things I was worried about were urgent, and the anxiety lifts allows me to be present in the day. This is also how I keep the small, mindless tasks at bay and not allow them to overload us by consistently checking in.

Whatever you think will work best for you, probably will, as long as you decide on a plan and then take action.

I’m Courtney and I write about Leadership and Self-Awareness. Thank you for taking the time to read post.

If you would like to connect, please don’t hesitate to reach out via instagram or email.

Drop me a line
hello@smartstyleleadership.com

Let’s hang out

Your Priorities vs. Your Actions

Your Priorities vs. Your Actions

During lockdown, I feel like I’ve gone through every emotion under the sun. Every feeling, every thought, and ambition has washed over me as I continue to ride this roller coaster that is “the world being paused for who knows how long”. During the first lockdown, I was determined to use this time to my benefit. I’ll finally be able to do all of the things I want to do, but don’t have time to do. Very quickly I realised that no matter how much time was available to me, I did not want to clean, or do life admin, or be productive every second of every day. 

Now, on my third lockdown, it is still tempting to plunge myself into a pool of expectations. My brain goes there naturally, especially when I’m feeling out of control, but I’m learning how to balance this. I’m learning how to be kind to myself, and realistic with what I am going to be capable of, regardless of the amount of time I have available to me. 

This time has also allowed for a lot of reflection.  I’ve been contemplating my priorities recently, and not only is it interesting to observe what I instinctively say is a priority, but then how I act because of or despite these ideas. 

There’s an exercise I’ve tried recently which has helped me to make more sense of my priorities vs. my actions. 

To start, name the top 5 priorities in your life right now

These should be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “family”, for example, you might say “to nurture my relationship with my children” or “to contribute to my family by being a supportive wife”. You might say “to be able to do 50 pushups in a row” or “to stop drinking soda” instead of saying “to get healthier”. The more specific you make your priorities, the better. 

If you’re having trouble pinpointing what your priorities are, think about what goals you currently have, what you want to accomplish in the future, or what is good in your life right now that is important for you to maintain. 

An example would look like this:

My Priorities:

  1. To save money in order to move house
  2. To run a marathon in 2022
  3. Spend more quality time with my husband
  4. Finish my L & D qualification
  5. Spend less time on devices and more time being creative

Now, think about how you spent your day yesterday. 

What did you do for the first hour after you opened your eyes? What did you do after that? And after that?

Start from the beginning and write down exactly or as much as you can remember of how you spent your day. 

An example:

My Actions:

08:00 – 09:00 woke up, made coffee, watched the news

10:00 – 11:00 scrolled through instagram, called a friend, made breakfast

11:00 – 12:00 worked out, took a shower, answered emails

12:00 – 13:00 got dressed, went to the post office, picked up groceries 

13:00 – 18:00 did some work, made and ate lunch

18:00 – 19:00 watched tv, spent time with my husband

19:00 – 20:00 cooked and ate dinner, watched more tv

20:00 – 21:00 finished up more work, cleaned the kitchen

21:00 – 23:00 got ready for bed, scrolled through my phone, went to bed

Now compare the two. 

How much of your time yesterday was put towards the things you say are a priority in your life? 

In the examples above, “spending less time on my devices and being more creative” was a priority, but what is reflected is there are no actions backing that up. “Run a marathon in 2022” is also listed as a priority, but there aren’t any actions showing that is more important than watching tv, for example. 

If you have found an inconsistency with your priorities and actions, what needs to be questioned is whether or not the things you wrote down are actually a priority. What I love about this exercise is that our actions do not lie and ultimately, how we spend our time will show us what our futures look like.

If your priorities and actions are not aligned, you have two choices: You can either get realistic about your priorities, maybe dropping or swapping a few, or you can start putting more action in towards them.

Let it go or make it work.

Maybe you really want to make something a priority, but you’re struggling with making time for it. I get it, but what I would suggest is finding 15 minutes a day to put towards it. If something is actually a priority in your life, surely you can find 15 minutes per day to focus on it. If you can’t find 15 minutes, I’m sorry to say, you need to take it off your priority list until you have time to focus on it consistently.

(Don’t think 15 minutes per day is enough time? After one year, that’s 5, 475 minutes – which adds up to about 91 hours, almost four whole days of focus on a single priority!) 

Allow this exercise to give you room for some gentle, honest, adjustment and reflection. 

If you are consistently in a place where your time is spent in alignment to your priorities, you will undoubtedly be making progress on them or maintaining them. With discipline, there is freedom.

I do want to stress that the point of this exercise is not to berate yourself but instead to open yourself up to your truth. It may require a frankness with yourself that you are not used to, but alignment between your thoughts, beliefs and actions are an important step for living an authentic and successful life. 

Try this exercise, and let me know how it goes in the comments below! 

Did you find any inconsistencies between your priorities and your actions? 

What adjustments do you need to make and what will you continue to work towards?

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Speak To Yourself Like This

Speak To Yourself Like This

How often do you speak negatively to yourself or about yourself? 

How often do you speak positively to yourself or about yourself? 

Which question was easier to answer? 

My sister used to say something whenever I said anything mean about myself. It usually went like this:

Me, “I look ugly in this shirt”. 

Her, “Don’t talk shit about my sister like that.” 

The first time she said it, I had to pause and think about what she had said. Then I laughed. Whether she realised she was doing it or not, very subtly she was bringing my attention to the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was “talking shit” about myself without even realising. Would I let someone call my sister ugly right in front of me? Hell no – but look how casually it could creep out my mouth about myself. 

We live in a world where #selfcare is translated to lush bath bombs and face masks (and not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there’s more we should be doing to take care of ourselves

Speaking kindly to ourselves and about ourselves will make more of an impact on our mental health (plus it’s free)!

Why do we let those words slip out of our mouths in the first place? 

Is it a defence mechanism? I’ll say it before they do. 

Is it fear? I’ll say it because they’re probably thinking about it anyways. 

It is just familiar territory? I’ll say it because it’s comfortable to believe it

Most of us probably don’t even notice it. It’s likely just the reaction born out of an interpretation our brain has created of an event that has happened.

Or more simply put, Event —> Interpretation —> Emotion —> Response.

Using this framework, you could see how this would happen:

Event – You completed a work assignment and submitted it to your boss who then asked you to redo it because it wasn’t done correctly.

Interpretation – All of your hard work was for nothing because you have had to redo it. Your boss doesn’t think your work is good enough, so you must not be capable of your job.

Emotion – You’re frustrated with yourself because you now have to revisit something you thought was finished. You don’t feel confident in your ability to do the task because you tried and were rejected.

Response – You say, “I’m horrible at this, I’ll never be able to get it right.”

Whether you believe it or not, it all stems from low self worth. And the way to change it starts with the voice in your head. Start paying attention to this voice, and work to change the message to something more kind, and more realistic. 

Using the example above, just because your boss has asked you to redo something does not mean that you’ll never be able to learn how to do it. In fact, studies show you will learn more from failing than from succeeding.

So what should you say instead in this scenario? What about, “I’m upset that I have to redo it but I’m still learning.” 

You can also work to change your negative self-talk by viewing it from another perspective. 

“I’m grateful my boss is giving me a chance to redo this. If it’s not correct, I want to learn how to do it properly.” 

Change your negative self-talk by being more objective. 

Below are some examples of how to flip the script in your head from negative to objective. 

“I’m never going to be able to do this.” -> “I’m struggling to do this and could use some help.”

“I’m so stupid.” -> “I do struggle with math, but will try my best.” 

“I’ll look disgusting in that shirt.” -> “That style usually doesn’t suit me as well as others.”

It is a process to notice and start correcting these patterns, but awareness is the first step towards change. If you’re struggling to see it in yourself, start with paying attention to the way other people talk about themselves. You’re likely to see a pattern with those who are confident and self assured vs. those who are not – the more fragile their state is, the more likely they are to have negative self-talk happening.

Remember, if you wouldn’t let others say it about your best friend – don’t say it about yourself.

Self care = self esteem.

Keep Reading LWLW

Why self-awareness will make you a better leader.

Why self-awareness will make you a better leader.

Why is self-awareness important in leadership?

To understand this, let’s first understand leadership – what is it and what is its purpose? This could vary in complexity depending on who you ask, but the answer should always come down to getting results. A leader’s job is to guide a group of people to a final destination – or to achieve a final goal.

The Results / Final Destination / Goal

This part is really important, because if you’re a leader, you should know where it is you’re leading your team. If you work in the private sector, then the final destination would probably look like making sure your team or department is contributing to the bottom line of the business, however, in a non-profit sector, your final destination might look like a more service based goal. 

Example: The final destination (goal or results) of someone who runs a kitchen in a restaurant might look like a safe kitchen that turns out delicious food in a reasonable amount of time, which also makes a profit for the restaurant. 

Regardless of what the final destination is, there is always going to be a leader who is helping those around them to get there. 

But Then There’s Bad Leadership

Have you ever had a boss that you couldn’t stand? You probably know what Bad Leadership looks like then. It may look like someone who does get the results – they will get their team to the final destination – but what did they exchange for it on the way? What have they lost as the result of their expedition? It’s usually either one of two things. 

The first would be the respect of the people they are leading. A leader must ask themselves this question – are people following you because they want to or because they have to? If it’s the ladder, there is some work that needs to be done to improve your relationships with the people you are leading. It’s also important to recognise that once you reach your final destination, you then have to stay there. If you’re using bad leadership, you won’t be there for long. There’s now multiple studies proving a healthy working environment (aka how happy and safe do your teams feel) is conducive to production. 

The second thing that could have been sacrificed to get to the final destination using bad leadership was their own sanity, and health. If you play the martyr role and are constantly sacrificing in order to get your team to where they need to be, you’re running the risk of burnout and exhaustion. You shouldn’t have to forgo your own happiness in order to get the results, and if you do, there’s work that should be done around pleasing people and boundaries with work. This will ultimately pay off for you and your team in the long run.

So, how do you create a positive, safe environment for you and the people you’re leading? This is where self-awareness comes in. 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was leading her team to their final destination. The journey was long, and the path was narrow, but she was certain she could get her team to where they needed to be. She was motivated, confident, and had walked this path before with a different team, so she had no doubts in her mind about where she was going. There was a problem, however, because this leader had really poor eyesight, and as a result, she would misstep and run into her team a lot. She would step on their toes, run into them, or stop along the way and trip on things on the path, holding everyone up even if it was very cold. 

After a while, her team started to get frustrated with her. They begged and pleaded with their leader, “We want to follow you, but you keep stepping on us, and it’s starting to hurt. You keep tripping and holding us up in the cold, and we don’t think we can keep walking with you if you’re going to keep stepping on us like this.” 

The woman listened to her team’s pleas with empathy, and she promised she would watch out for these things. Very quickly, she realised, though, how difficult it was to watch out for her team’s feet. It wasn’t that she wanted to step on their toes, it was that she couldn’t see in order to not. The longer they walked, the more she stepped on them, and eventually she resigned to the fact that this is just what it would have to be. The woman decided that it was the team who would have to watch out for her. This added extra pressure on her team. Not only were they trying to get to their destination, but now they now had to watch out for their leader so they wouldn’t get stepped on and held up. 

It was a stressful journey, and many people decided it wasn’t worth the trek any longer. 

Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this – all our leader needed was glasses to see, and all of this would have been avoided. Because she couldn’t see what was in front of her, her and her team suffered.

Self-awareness is your glasses, and developing self-awareness is not only important for your own confidence and resilience, but is vital to understanding how you are contributing to the world around you in order to build stronger, healthier relationships. 

Self-awareness is our ability to notice and monitor our inner-world – our thoughts, feelings, emotions – but also how others are receiving us. Both parts are critical for effective leadership. 

If you’re aware of the negative emotions you may have in regards to a task you have to complete, but aren’t aware of how this affects those around you, that’s a blindspot. You may be stepping on someone’s toes, making it difficult for them to journey with you, and not even know it. On the other hand, if you’re overly sensitive to how you are affecting those around you, you may be tuning out your own feelings and emotions. It’s been said that only 10 – 15 % of people are actually self-aware, which leads us to believe that it’s a lot harder than it seems to strike the balance. 

Luckily, like any skill, it’s something that can be practiced and improved on. If you’re reading this, it’s like because you’ve taken an interest in developing self-awareness. Being honest with yourself about what you need to improve on is always the first step towards change. 

Two things you can do to start improving your self-awareness today:

  1. Seek feedback about what your blindspots are from those who would have your best interest at heart. Be mindful of those you chose to get your feedback from. Ensure they are people you can trust, but also that they themselves have good values which are aligned with yours. 
  2. Start reflecting. If you notice you’re having an off day – ask yourself what happened. (avoid asking yourself “why”, as research shows that too much introspection, and this question specifically, can actually be counterproductive, instead ask yourself “what”). Be specific, and be honest. You will start to notice patterns in your emotions in correlation to circumstances and incidents happening in your life and throughout your day. You can then dive deeper into how to manage these triggers, and your emotions which follow. 

Thank you for reading, here’s where you can read More On The LWLW Blog:

Stop giving your peace away.

Stop giving your peace away.

There’s one thing that is always going to come with work life, and that’s having to interact with people who will try to take your peace. Conversations with these people may feel exhausting. Knowing you have to speak to them and work with them may fill you with dread. Even a text or email from them can feel like an attack – they aren’t in the room with you, but somehow, they still manage to affect you. Your mind is the battlefield and they’ve got missiles. They take up your time, physically, mentally, and spiritually. How do you protect yourself from this?

Have you ever found yourself in the shower, defending yourself in an argument that hasn’t taken place yet? Or cooking dinner, but in your head, you’re going over a situation that happened yesterday? Have you ever reacted to someone in a way that haunted you later, because you know it was out of anger? That’s your peace being taken away from you, and it used to happen to me all the time. Whether it was a direct report with an attitude, a manager with a conflicting agenda, or a customer seeking justification, I was giving my peace out in spades. 

The first thing I had to do was understand that the way to keep my peace has nothing to do with the people who are stealing it. 

This can be hard to come to grips with. You are probably justifying how difficult it is in your head right now, running through why they’re so difficult to work with. You probably have specific examples of times they were too stubborn, or manipulative. I know how difficult it can be, but the reality is, you are giving them the power they need in order to affect you in the way that they do, which means you are giving them more power than they actually have. It’s like a deflated balloon – it exists – but it only gets bigger if you put air into it. Recognise that every thought, word, or action that is directed towards this person is giving them air to become bigger in your life. It’s YOUR breath that’s giving them life, not theirs.  

Stop projecting.

It’s also time to confront the fact that you can’t predict the future. You can’t predict what this person will say, do, or feel tomorrow. As obvious as that may sound, it’s funny how often we still get caught up doing exactly that. Let’s say you find out a piece of information that may affect this person, so now you spend the rest of the day constructing situations in your head about what this person will say, how this person will react to this news, what might happen based on this reaction, etc. How much time have you now spent worrying about something that A. doesn’t exist (this situation you have imagined only lives in your head) and B. you can’t do anything about anyways (we can’t control other people’s reactions). By assuming you can, you’re giving more of your energy, more of your peace, into the balloon and allowing it to get bigger.

Keep your yard clean.

For analogy purposes, your yard (or garden for my english folks) is made up of your words and actions. Feelings stemming from resentment and fear are likely to rise often with this person, but if you act on them, it will only come back to haunt you later. When you need to speak to this person, check that what you’re saying is in line with the following: is it kind, is it necessary and is it true? Anything that is not in line with these fundamentals would be the product of your ego getting in the way. Our ego tends to create situations for us that seem satisfying in the now, but will hurt our character in the long run.

“If someone treats you rudely, and you respond with rudeness, you have not done anything but prove to them that they are justified in their actions. Instead, today, let’s seek to be better than the things that disappoint or hurt us. Let’s try to be the example we’d like others to follow.”

Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic 

This idea will cause us to pause before we react. It’s not always easy, but it always pays off. Living with conscious intention means you’re aware of what you’re doing when you’re doing it, and you’re doing it on purpose. If you’ve ever found yourself firing off an email with a tone you regretted later, or word vomiting because you felt overwhelmed, you would benefit from learning to pause and then checking if what you have to say is kind, necessary, and true (KNT). When we are living in regret of something that we said or did, that’s more energy, more breath, more peace we’re giving away.  

Let go of your expectations. They are the root of all your heartaches. 

You may argue that there needs to be a base level of expectation in the working world, and I would agree with you, but what I believe is vital is where these expectations are rooted. For example, you may have a very reasonable expectation that your team needs to be on time, and let’s say that doesn’t happen one day. If this expectation is rooted deep in yourself, it’s likely to really hurt when it’s not lived up to. You will feel frustrated, disappointed, angry, because you’re holding the expectation so close to your heart. However, if you hold this expectation a bit further away from you, detached from you, you won’t be affected when it bursts, and the thing is – it will burst. When it does, what you can control is how you respond to it in a way that addresses the problem, if that’s what you need to do (but also ensuring that you’re keeping your yard clean, and speaking with KNT). 

There’s also the need to let go. Let go of the need to change people. You won’t. Let go of the need to control. You can’t. Let go of this idea that your life should be a certain way and everyone around you should just play their parts, what you’re doing is setting them and yourself up to fail, because they will let you down. 

Some practical tips to help you stop giving your peace away today:

  1. Use an affirmation every time you find yourself projecting:

“I hold onto my peace by staying present in this moment.”

“I cannot and will not try to predict the future. Everything will happen exactly how it should.”

“In this moment, I am (insert the task that you’re currently doing), and my peace belongs to me.” 

  1. Recognise the people that are the opposite of peace stealers – the people who love you and big you up. Make time to connect with these people every day. 
  1. Try to pause and count to three today before each interaction and think about what you’re going to say (remember – KNT). Do this especially with people who you struggle to keep your peace around. At the end of the day, note down what went well, and what didn’t go so well.

Understand that this is not something that will be easy to do all of the time. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes honesty, awareness, and goodwill. When you allow someone to affect you, it’s because you may be gripping too tightly on the idea that you can control them. Let go, and your peace will come back to you. 

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