Top 10 Tips to Master Emotional Competency

October 27, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”~Winston Churchill

1.      Accurate Self-Assessment

It all starts with self knowledge. So, go here now and see what personality profile you fit best. I’ve done this test multitude of times over a number of years with coaching clients and I would say it’s 90% accurate. If you haven’t done one before, it will give you incredible actionable insight. If you have, then compare it with this one and look for commonalities. That’s probably as close to an objective assessment as you’ll get.

2.      Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is a key to leading a happier and more fulfilling life. The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself,” requires us to know how we feel in different situations. If you haven’t already, read Daniel Goldman’s bestselling book on Emotional Intelligence, do so. Increasing your awareness of your own feelings is the first step towards furthering the development of your Emotional Intelligence.

3.      Self-Confidence

There are some bedrock rules to self-confidence. Reframe negative thoughts. Learn to handle mistakes and failures in a more positive way. Don’t fall victim to the comparison trap. While you’re at it, don’t be a victim. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Take this self-esteem test to learn more about your own perception of self.

4. Resilience

Resilience is simply defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is a skill. Like a muscle, it will grow stronger the more you work it. This means developing and practicing strong coping skills, a healthy perspective, relentless optimism and good self care.  It also means managing stress and being proactive and anticipating challenges. Here is an excellent piece in ‘How to Build Resilience in Midlife.’

5.      Mindfulness

Yes I know: buzz word du jour – but that doesn’t negate its importance. This is the state of being actively open and attentive to the present moment. Instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future, be present in the here and now. What could be wrong with that? The difficulty is sustaining the practice. Meditate, do yoga or just be attentive to your breathing. Little practices each day will help enormously. The next time you are confronted by your snarky boss, go Zen. Instead of overreacting, bring your attention to your physical body. Scan your body from head to toe and consciously try to let any tension slip away.  After that, bring your attention to your breathing. Breath gently.  Now respond without ego and with compassion. See what happens. If it’s good enough for his Holiness, it’s good enough for you.

6. Empathy

I have a popular article on empathy which explores this theme in the context of leadership and you can read that here.  But in short, here is what you need to know. Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is not the same as sympathy. It is a key element of emotional intelligence because it is how we understand what others are experiencing and therefore allows us to act on their needs and concerns.  Researchers have identified three types of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy: Understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense.
  • Emotional empathy: The ability to relate to someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too.
  • Compassionate empathy: Understanding someone’s feelings, and taking appropriate action to help.

7.      Social Bonds

I am always amazed at how much time people spend in the gym to look good externally but how little time they spend comparatively on building social bonds. Ironically, social media has spurred an epidemic of social isolation with proven drastic mental health consequences. Further evidence from a decades-long study shows that loneliness has detrimental outcomes as powerful as smoking and alcoholism. So, the next time your friends or colleagues invite you out for coffee or a meal, take them up on it. That next line of code or whatever you are doing can wait. Human beings are social animals and a strong social support system is key to an emotionally healthy life.

8.      Collaboration and Cooperation

In my training exercises, I sometimes use the improv technique of Yes, And. Unless you are currently a monk in a cave, your work is not a one-person show. That means collaboration, engagement and cooperation with others. This exercise forces people to avoid rejecting other team members ideas and instead to build upon them. “Yes, And” is the opposite of “No, But,” which is what I hear most on the shop floor.

9.      Service orientation

The Dali Lama believes that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. The servant leader is a popular model for leadership.  One of the key differences between a more traditional model of leadership and servant leadership is that the latter is a bottom-up approach, whereas the former is more top-down. The servant leader is servant first invested in the growth and development of others. What is exciting about servant leadership is that by putting others first, we find deeper fulfillment in ourselves.

10.  Optimism

With growing evidence that optimists live longer, happier lives, I am not sure what anyone gets of out being pessimistic, except early onset of heart disease. If you are prone to negativity, find quick distractions you can use when you realize you’re stuck on the same negative thought. It is possible to develop an optimistic world view through practice. A grateful mindset is a good start. Think about the long arc of your life when considering your success and not just the setbacks you may feel at the moment. Minimize your exposure to negative people and negative influences. Hang out with optimistic people. You are, after all, the average of the five people closest to you.

Conclusion

What if you incorporated these items as daily habits? I have seen from my coaching clients how this has a profound effect on the quality of work and life. You will reap both immediate and long-term benefits and you will begin to feel more fulfilled. Instead of focusing on weaknesses, flaws, limitations and malfunctions, mobilize your resources  so that these qualities become part of your attitude and flow each and every day. What do you have to lose?

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Is It Enough to “Follow Your Passion?”

July  10, 2017 •   3 minute read • by Saeed


“To be a great motorcycle racer, the most important thing is passion for the bike.” ~ Valentino Rossi

Follow your passion.

Seems simple enough. The theory behind this advice is that following your passion will inevitably lead to happiness and that when the chips are down, you are more likely to persevere because, it is after all, your passion.

That’s all good and well but many struggle with their passion.

What if your passion is philosophy or karate or motorcycle racing? Should you become a professor or own a dojo or compete in MotoGP?

Is that the path to personal fulfillment?

There is a limitation to a paradigm that seems, at least on the surface, self-serving?

What about impact on others? What about social good?

So, there is a flip side to this coin.

Follow your passion, yes but also do what provides value to others. Following your passion will only help you check off some of the boxes towards fulfillment and happiness.

Helping others is the secret to being personally fulfilled and happy over the long haul.

That is because a fundamental connection to others is necessary for true personal fulfillment.

Focus on getting at something that genuinely helps others and makes the world a better place and you will find fulfillment and happiness.

You do this by spending your time solving problems and finding your vehicle for self-expression.

Spend your time where your energy and effort meet someone’s need.

Passion is not a job, a sport or hobby or a dream. It is the full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you – not something you desire in a distant time and place.

Following your passion means being all in – not just dabbling.

Following your passion is not just about something that can make you feel happy but it is also the impact that something has on others.

Passion is an obsession. Passion is love. Passion is pain. Passion is also hatred.Because along with the positive feelings passion can stimulate, there is a need for perfection that comes with the obsession. Good enough is never good enough and passionate people often don’t feel ‘good enough.’

Passionate people are almost always ambitious. They are characterized by drive, limitless energy, and motivation. They transform passion into raw enthusiasm which is then processed into an internal drive that keeps them going.

Passion is a gift and a curse.

Not everyone has the courage or the opportunity to follow their passion. For some, being practical is a more important survival skill.

For others, the obsession leaves them no choice.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content and Photography by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

3 Reasons Why You Should Think (Really) Big!

Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

3 Reasons Why You Should Think (Really) BIG!

June 28, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”

Burnham (1907) quoted in: Charles Moore (1921) Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities. Volume 2. Chapter XXV “Closing in 1911-1912;” p. 147

BIG goals are scary to many of us. They cut right to the “A” in the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting scheme. But the reality is that in many cases we don’t know what we are actually capable of achieving until we try.

In his breakthrough book Built to Last, Jim Collins wants us to do just that.

He wants to know what mountain we are climbing, pushing us to articulate what he and Jerry Porras call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

The BHAG serves as a ‘North Star’ (or ‘Southern Cross’ if you’re down under) as you drive your business, your project or your life toward success. It provides a vector along which all other decisions will be tested, helping you make the critical “yes/no” decisions that drive progress.

One of the most historic BHAGs ever set was by JFK when he declared:

“…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Kennedy did this because he believed that, if America wanted to stay on the forefront of innovation, exploration of space was key. Kennedy realized that the nation needed this motivational, albeit seemingly impossible goal.

  • In the 1960s, Nike vowed to crush Adidas,
  • In the 1970s Honda set its’ sights on ‘destroying’ Yamaha,
  • In 1990, Wal-Mart declared it would become a $125 billion company by the year 2000,
  • Microsoft’s BHAG was to put a computer on every desk in every home,
  • Stanford set out to be the Harvard of the west,
  • Amazon set out to make available every book ever printed, in any language in less than 60 seconds, and
  • Starbucks set its sights on becoming the most recognized and respected consumer brand in the world.

1.    Big goals cause us to expand our vision and our imagination. In doing so, we have to confront the reality of the basic foundation we need to get us there. If that foundation is not strong enough, then we have to gain the skills, knowledge or resources we need to strengthen it so that it can hold the weight of the BHAG.

2.    Big goals cause us to focus. They make us realize that we must maximize our time and do our best every day to move inch by inch towards the BHAG. To dwell in failure or self-pity slows our movement. Distractions take us off course. Big goals help us realize there is little time to waste and much to achieve and they help us recognize the kind of talent and support we need around us to get there. Big goals help focus our attention.

3.    Big goals cause us to become execution machines. This may be the ‘biggest’ benefit of big goals. If we are serious, big goals cause us to change our self-defeating behaviors and habits. We become organized. We stop procrastinating. We start tracking tasks that help reach our goals and we start doing so with efficiency. We take responsibility for our mistakes. We become efficient learners by incorporating the lessons learned from errors into processes so that they are not repeated. We become steadfast in our mission to systematize our progress.

At this point, something magical and more significant starts to happen. It doesn’t even matter whether we achieve the big goal or not because we have achieved an arguably  greater victory. We have revolutionized ourselves. This is the ultimate ancillary benefit of setting big goals –  to become self aware, and to build and improve ourselves. Transformational change only happens through consistent and sustained effort. That, in turn, takes the power of habit and the discipline of focus.

I hope this helps you to get thinking about your own BHAG.

If you have one you’d care to share, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

June 18, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Our emotions need to be as educated as our intellect.” ~ Unknown

Over the last couple of decades, numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, engagement, retention, and performance.

The higher up the ladder you are, the more people you impact. The person at the top sets the atmosphere that permeates throughout the organization. They set the emotional tone for the organizational culture. Here are 15 traits that every leader should demonstrate that are indispensible to setting an atmosphere throughout the organization that is conducive to productivity and morale. They are also key milestones on your journey to emotional intelligence mastery.

1.    Encourage open communication: When you get ideas and suggestions from colleagues or your team, acknowledge them. Ten words or less, such as, “I appreciate the heads up,” or, “Thank you, that update helped me,” does a lot to encourage further information, whereas a ringing silence or lack of response telegraphs apathy, which tends to shut people down.

2.    Err on the side of over communicating: When you decide to ignore input or recommendations, certainly ones you solicited, take a moment to explain. Absent that, people will read their own story into your silence, which may be: s/he doesn’t want my input, so I’m not going to provide it.

3.    Invest in relationships: Over time, go a level deeper of getting to know your people by investing in some one-on-one time with them, outside of the context of immediate tasks or projects.

4.    Let people get to know you: People want to know you. Don’t hesitate to share a story or to talk about yourself in a way that shows something about your character, as context and time permit.

5.    Understand personalities and motivations: It’s good to know your colleagues. How much do you really know? Make sure to ask questions about others — both work-related and on a human level. Show caring and concern about others when it’s heartfelt.

6.    Attention is the currency of all relationships: Listen hard. Watch distractions, like doing other things while people are talking to you.

7.    Know when to use kid gloves: Consider making extra effort to be gentle with people who are easily intimidated, or less prone to go “toe to toe.”

8.    Have an open door: Leaders who sit behind a closed door all day long become cut off from those they lead. Their teams can become antsy because they rarely see their leader and feel like they’re imposing on him/her when they need to talk. Decide to have an open door when it comes to hearing out your team. Give them permission to approach at any time.

9.    Smile more: Facial expressions say a lot. A scowling or stone-faced leader does not say: “I’m approachable! Come, let me know what you need and what’s happening.” Rather it tells those you lead to stay away and don’t bother me. Make the choice to smile more often than not. Let your team know they can approach you by welcoming them with a smile.

10.  Share your mistakes and vulnerabilities: One thing exceptional leaders know is that mistakes need to be recognized. And they’re willing to go first with their mistakes. Approachable leaders open up about the mistakes they have made. They also let their team know where the mistakes have led. By being open about past mistakes, you encourage others to share their trials with you. Doing so allows you to help guide them through the tough times.

11. Know your team members’ names: Some leaders have large staffs. In these environments, it can be hard to learn team members names. Yet the best, and most approachable, leaders know that knowing the names of their teams make them more personable. When you begin to make the effort to learn names, people will see your willingness to get to know them. This makes them see you as a more effective leader.

12. Share the glory: You will find there are leaders who hog all of the glory for a job well done. You will also find that these leaders are rarely the ones that have credibility with their teams. Rather, the leaders who share the glory are the ones who are seen as fair leaders and people rally around them. Don’t hog the praise for yourself. Pass it around to the ones who really helped your organization get to where it’s trying to go.

13. Tell more stories: Stories have a great power. They draw people in and they help people remember details. Stories can also help make you a more effective communicator. People are drawn to stories. Stories click with others. And stories create community when done right. Tell stories that encourage your team to be a community.

14. Practice positive thinking: There are positive people and then there are negative people. Generally, people are drawn to those with a positive worldview rather than those who hold a negative worldview. Having a negative outlook will make others see you in a negative light. Change your perspective and begin to think positively. Share this with others and they will see you as a more positive and effective leader.

15. Initiate chit-chat: Effective leaders are willing to sit down and chat with those they lead. Whether it’s at the lunch table or at the front door or at a community event. When leaders initiate conversations with others they are seen as approachable. They open the doors to conversations They make the first move so others can feel more comfortable.

As a leader, you must have a solid understanding of how your emotions and actions affect your team. Taking the time to work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills will pay off in dividends in the long run. In the meantime, if you practice the skills highlighted above, you will begin your journey towards emotional intelligence mastery.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

June 9, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” Bruce Lee

Truth #1: All achievement follows deliberate and disciplined action.

The main reason you are not more successful is not because you lack creativity. It’s not because you lack work ethic. It’s not because you’re not smart enough, or good enough.

And if you struggle finishing what you start, you’re not alone.

If you get super charged about a new idea or project and go all in for the first couple of weeks only to find your excitement tanking shortly thereafter, you’re not alone.

If you hit one nail halfway in only to move to the next and do the same, you’re not alone.

Key Idea: You fail because you lack follow-through.

But why?

Make-Productivity-a-Habit-ARTTruth #2: Your Mind Is The Enemy.

Ever notice how when you are on a long run, the treadmill or pedaling your bike up a hill your mind suddenly begins to nag at you that you are tired and your body soon follows?

The mind is a trickster. If you keep pedaling, you’ll be at the top of the hill soon enough. If you listen to your mind, you’ll be on the side of the road contemplating how easy it would be to turn back and go downhill.

Here is what I’ve learned from many of my coaching clients: Your problem is not motivation since you are so good at ideation and initiation. Thinking that’s your issue only increases your stress and results in de-motivation. Ironic.

In doing anything, there is a mindset and then there is the mechanism. Motivation (the mindset) is conceptual. Follow through (the mechanism)  is practical.

Key Idea: Motivation in the mind. Follow-through is in the practice.

 

 

Truth #3: Ideas are a dime a dozen.

It’s execution that’s hard. The greatest products and companies rarely got that way based on the uniqueness of their ideas; they got that way because of their ability to execute on their ideas.

Steve Wozniack likes to tell the story of how Steve Jobs only learned to execute after he was fired from  Apple and started NeXT.

Jobs was just 30 years old, wildly successful, fabulously wealthy and a global celebrity when he was suddenly fired. But that firing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was when you came back to Apple that most of the iconic products we know and use today were launched.

Motivation is not enough. Motivation will not carry you through the hard times and what it takes to execute. It’s commitment and daily work that get you to the finish line.

Key Idea: Ideas + Execution = Success.

Truth #4: It’s About Commitment, Deadlines and Milestones.

Here is the single most effective strategy to get to execution I’ve discovered: Commit to a plan with concrete deadlines and milestones.

To do this, set a 90-day timeframe for any new project or idea. Develop a plan to achieve the most possible progress you can make in the timeframe you assigned. Use Trello to schedule your milestones and deadlines. Then, assess the next 90 days. Have you clearly framed the project, idea or opportunity? What hypothesis or prototype can you develop and test? What are your key milestones leading up to the 90 days? What are your success measures at the 90 day mark? When you’ve hit the 90 day mark, conduct a project postmortem  to learn from successes and failures. What was done well? What could have been improved? What else do you need to know or learn. It’s remarkable what can happen when you think that way. When you develop a Kaizen discipline.

Key Idea: It’s not about motivation, it’s about commitment.

Summary

The key to success is follow through. The key to follow through is action. Discipline is useful to spark and maintain momentum to make sure that each day to make sure you are stacking the deck in your favor. Thinking (and especially over-thinking) is counter-productive. If you rely on fleeting moments of motivation for achievement, you will only be frustrated and you will stagnate. But if you can reaffirm and sustain that motivation over the long haul by understanding the elements of commitment and by following a disciplined plan of action, you will greatly increase your chance of success.

 

Good luck.

Best,

Saeed

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

 

10 Easy Ways to Unplug (And Why You Must)

May 5, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” ~ Unknown

Companies have strategic plans so why not you?

Here is the brutal truth about modern day life:  On a typical day, you are air traffic control for dozens of conversations, meetings, decisions, tasks, and thoughts that fly through your head seeking refuge or resolution. Unless you’re an a-emotional Mr. Spock type, that’s a recipe for burnout and disaster. That’s a recipe for an impending crash.

If life has become an exhausting and giant game of wackamole, know that it will take its toll. Stress causes deterioration in everything ranging from your relationships to your hairline. To make matters worse, modern technology has created unprecedented convenience but also co-dependence. We are tethered to technology in ways that cause, not alleviate anxiety.

Elon Musk wants to give us all relief from the congested streets above, through underground traffic tunnels below. Finding refuge and relief from the daily congestion of life is a good metaphor for the need to unplug.

Here is the brutal truth about change: The secret to change is in whether or not the new behavior or habit is sustainable. Life is a matter of making progress in small steps, not giant leaps. Tiny steps are sustainable and they add up to a net positive cumulative result.

So before you’re no longer resembling something human, go analogue and go small in order to go big.

  1. Meditate

Start your day this way. The benefits of a meditation practice have been scientifically proven. It’s not esoteric. It’s just exercise for the mind. Don’t stress about meditation. Just think of it as five or ten minutes a day to simply witness your thoughts and experience first-hand how noisy it is up there. Practice focus. Learn about your mind.

  1. Sit and listen

Find it hard to meditate? Take a smaller step. Close your eyes and sit and listen to all the sounds nearby. Don’t think anything just notice. Then slowly move your perception out farther and farther picking up sounds just outside, traffic maybe, and then a train off in the distance. See how far you can tune in. This exercise will open up pathways in your thinking and quiet the noise that’s around you. It’s also the preamble to a solid meditation practice.

  1. Do some yoga (or skip the posing and just stretch)

I know you’re tired of hearing about yoga but there is a reason that yoga philosophy has lasted thousands of years and has countless disciples. Numerous studies have documented the potent health benefits of yoga on a myriad of ailments. Yoga has many parts to it – meditation, breathing, stretching and strengthening. How can it not be good for you?

  1. Take ‘nano’ vacactions

How many times have you been on a long vacation only to find yourself working in the middle of it? Research has found that frequent short breaks are better than long vacations. So try using your accumulated time off in bursts instead of spending it as a big wad. You’ll be happier and more productive. The bonus of short vacs is that it’s also easier to unplug your  computer, phone, TV, toddler and so on.

  1. Get your art on

This is catharsis through art. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be good. Set up an area in your office with paint and canvas or crayons and paper if you have to – the idea is to unplug and do something creative – try not to be bound to electronics.  Think it sounds silly? Try watching a preschooler drawing. Watch how they are lost in the moment. This is an ideal medium for escape from the daily grind.

  1. Journal

Get in the habit of free flow journaling. Do it once in the morning and once at night for 5 minutes. In the morning, write down what you’re looking forward to. What challenges do you anticipate? How do you see yourself dealing with them? In the evening, do a retrospective of your day. What worked? What could have gone better? What lessons did you learn?  You will soon notice many new insights into how you can be more effective and you will have a document of your improvements.

  1. Take a hike

Are you not amazed at the healing power of nature? A forest full of eucalyptus – smell it. Salt water ocean breeze – feel it. The trickle of a stream – hear it. It’s all good for you. It’s your natural environment. It’s where you belong. It’s healing. Trust me.

  1. Take a walk

Can’t hike? Exercise of any kind boosts endorphins and promotes good health. Have you given yourself an impossible exercise routine? That’s why you are not doing it. Try walking for 30 minutes each day instead. It’s actually all you need to do.

  1. Release tension through progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is one of my favorite techniques that you can do in a meeting or from your desk. Start with your toes and work your way up tightening and relaxing each muscle as you go until you get to your face. Do it every day at some point during the day. Your body will thank you for releasing all that tension.

  1. Build a good sleep habit

End your day this way. Busy people just neglect their sleep but maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule is paramount to good health. Don’t eat a large meal before you go to bed, have a relaxing bath, and cut down on caffeine because your behaviors during the day can impact how you sleep at night. Most importantly, unplug your phone, your computer and your TV. Screen time stimulates the brain and makes it harder to relax and wind down before bed. Healthy sleep habits are the cornerstone of a healthy and relaxed mind that can cope effectively with the inevitable stressors life throws your way.

Live long. Prosper.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content and photography by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other most recent post on how to be successful when you are new on the job.

Best,

Saeed

How Do I Live a Good Life?

April 16, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”Carl Rogers, American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology.

Johnny Depp likes to tell the story of when he met Marlon Brando before the filming of the 1994 romantic comedy-drama Don Juan DeMarco. Over dinner at Brando’s house, Depp began to recite the prologue to the William Saroyan play ‘The Time of Your Life,’ which he considered a road map for how one should live life. Halfway through, Brando finished the soliloquy for him verbatim. Depp then pulled out a dog-eared version which he’d carried around in his wallet for years to show him. At this point Brando got up to show Depp his own framed copy which he had also carried around for years in his wallet.

Go here to hear Depp telling the story. In the meantime, below is the prologue that guided the lives of two of the finest thesps the silver screen has seen. Enjoy!


The Time of Your Life (prologue) –  by William Saroyan

“In the time of your life, live — so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches.

Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed.

Place in matter and in flesh the least of values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away.

Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world.

Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart.

Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man’s guilt is not yours, nor is any man’s innocence a thing apart.

Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand.

Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.

In the time of your life, live — so that in that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

Citation. Prologue from the play in three acts. Copyright ©1939 by William Saroyan.

The Upward Spiral, Karma, and the Science of Gratitude

April 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


Stop searching for life’s big kahuna burger to make you happy.  As I made the case in my previous post, success in life is measured in increments.

In Upward Spiral, UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb writes about how happiness and depression aren’t as hardwired as you may think. Little things you do habitually can create an upward spiral of positive feelings in the brain.

There’s science to prove it.

The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine.

Gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.

Everything is interconnected:

Gratitude improves sleep.

Sleep reduces pain.

Reduced pain improves your mood.

Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning.

Focus and planning help with decision making.

Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment.

Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going.

Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

To a Buddhist, Karma is the law of causation and is dependent on the interconnectedness of phenomena. Karma does not deal with any notion of justice. Karma states that all the actions a person undertakes have consequences.

If you recognize these simple truths, you will have uncovered the key secret to a good life backed by ancient wisdom and scientific research.

Start today. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It’s simple (though not always easy).

What do you have to lose?

What do you have to gain?

 

The Wisdom of the Little Tramp

April 10, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Charlie Chaplin


In a career spanning more than 75 years, Charlie Chaplin is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of all time. Beyond acting, Chaplin was a humanist who believed ardently in the power of laughter and tears as an antidote to hatred and terror. The iconic actor of the silent film era was also a deeply reflective man. Few people know just how insightful and intelligent the he really was was. Even though he passed away almost 50 years ago, he continues to inspire. His movies were great but one of his greatest works is as this poem he penned which offers his unique and perceptive understanding of life and self-love.

Charlie Chaplin – as I began to love myself

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!

Charlie Chaplin

You Can Change The World. If You Think You Can’t, Then You Won’t.

December 10, 2014 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

– Mark Twain –

Thought to self: if you think you can’t, then you won’t.

It was July 1989 and this was the thought that came into my head as I was cycling up National Highway 1D, also known as the Srinagar-Leh Highway, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in Northern India. This 262 mile (422 km) stretch of road connects Srinigar, the capital city of Kashmir (locally regarded as the Switzerland of India), to Leh, the capital city of Ladakh (“land of high passes”), where the people are predominantly Tibetan and where, except in prayer, they do not have the concept of the wheel in their lives (evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the second half of the 4th millennium BC).

The Srinagar-Leh Highway is one of only two roads that connect the highly remote and forbidding region of Ladakh with the rest of India. The highest pass on the road is at 13,478 ft (4,108 m) elevation, which is approximately half the height of Earth’s tallest mountain, at 29,029 ft (8,848 m) elevation. The road generally remains open for traffic from early June to mid-November but heavy snowfall blocks traffic, cutting the region off from the rest of the world for some six months each year.

I was young and inexperienced. My cycling shoes were a pair of flip flops purchased in a New Delhi night market (BTW: best pair of footwear I have ever owned – seriously). My panniers were filled, not with rations for survival, but with philosophy and anthropology books, a Sony Walkman and music cassette tapes (Steve Jobs: where were you then?).

My fuel was an unreasonably large-sized bag of dried apricots (they have been cultivated in Central Asia since antiquity and the dried ones were an important commodity on the Silk Road). I had purchased them in the town of Kargil, an important transit hub, which sits at about the half-way point (and when you’re there please try the restaurant on the third floor of the building in the main street near the mosque, which offers pleasant and inexpensive Tibetan dishes – and tell Lobsang I said hello!).

The day I set off from Kargil, was the day I planned to cycle to the highest pass on the road.

That day was all climb. And as I did, I naturally began to wonder what in the world had possessed me to torture myself in this cruel way. The more negatively I thought, the more I felt my brain, not my body, giving up. There were certainly plenty of physiological considerations. The air was thin, but I had acclimated. Physical conditioning was required, but I had been on the road for more than six months. My body sponged up water, but I was hydrated and my gut was full of; well dried apricots (one serving cup delivers 81 grams of total carbohydrate).

It was not my body but my brain that was telling me that I can’t do it.

You may have heard the old adage that sport is 10% physical and 90% mental. Psychologists began studying sports in the nineteen thirties and forties. Research conducted in the 60’s and 70’s concluded that mental practice facilitated motor performance in about fifty percent of the studies. More recent control group studies of performance athletes have validated the earlier findings and gone further concluding that the brain gives up and subsequently sends signals to the body to also cease, even though the body is not showing physical signs of complete exhaustion. Not only do the new studies emphasize the idea of mind over matter, but they also demonstrate that the brain can be trained to allow the body to physically handle more. It is the brain that holds us back from pushing past a certain point and allows or limits our endurance performance rather than the body. But we often confuse mental fatigue with physical fatigue.

So, brain is boss and by that logic we must manage up.

The brain comes conveniently equipped with a control mechanism to make sure that the marathon runner reaches the finishing line not in a completely shattered state. There is always a little reserve. You may be the next Usain Bolt or you may be a nonprofit program manager or a social entrepreneur in the process of pursuing a new innovative solution to solve a vexing social problem. Whatever your goal, be it conquering a hill or a mountain or changing the world, you will have to be persistent in the face of challenges, adversities and failures in order to ultimately succeed.

When your brain throws un-motivating messages at you, it may just be that same control mechanism that exerts its influence over athletes, holding you back from pushing past a certain point. As with athletes, the secret to success comes with structure, discipline and focus.

Most of the time, success does not happen overnight or on the first try. There will be times when you will want to give up and when you will feel you have nothing left. You will ponder the challenges and you will wonder what possessed you to do this in the first place. You will run out of money, fans and friends. There will be times when you will simply think you can’t. The same way you train your body for endurance, you must also train (or trick) your mind for perseverance. It is your mind that will push you that final step, or hold you back from realizing your dream. If you succumb to the trickery of your mind and think you can’t, then you won’t.

I made it that day and I can tell you unequivocally, it wasn’t the apricots.

©2014 – All images and content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.