The Concept of Mind over Matter

I recently read an article titled “Mind Over Matter” in the special report section of HRD May 2018 issue. The article was an extract from “Mindfulness for Busy People: Turning Frantic and Frazzled into Calm and Composed (2nd edition) by Dr Michael Sinclair, Josie Seydel and Dr Emily Shaw. Phew now that the credit is done, let’s move on to what caught my interest in this article! I have to admit, it was filled with a lot of take away gems and my journal dedicated several pages to writing these gems down and the highlighter had a great work out whilst I read on the train.

Some of the bits that particularly spoke to me that I wanted to share were “mindfulness is about training ourselves in awareness…” “Mindfulness researchers have shown that people who practice mindfulness experience a reduction in stress related symptoms and an improvement in the way they respond to stress and manage it” I gave the air a little punch when I read this because I recognised this as something that is real! often you will read about research says this or that and you think who did they actually do the research with, because what is being purported as fact is not recognisable. This statement however I understood and could identify with. Mindfulness does not guarantee that you never experience stress, but what is does is enable you to look at it and deal with it in a very different way to how you might have done if you were not aware and able to reframe situations.

“These days, it is as if our attention is being fractured into tinier and tinier pieces and mindfulness may provide us with the much-needed help to remain focused and to get stuff done, in a more effective and efficient way.” Can I get an amen!!! as a working mother, I am used to my attention being fractured on a daily basis. On any given day I have to remember to check homework, support with reading, assist with project, drop off at extra curricular activities, RSVP to the birthday parties, pick up ingredients for the bake sale at school, mend uniforms, iron uniforms, make the packed lunches, remember what each child eats and isn’t eaten that particular week; get the correct coloured clothes for tag day or sports day; book dental appointments, book doctor appointments, go to parent evening; update contact information with school….. you get the idea and this is only daily mommy duties.

Add in work, running a home, events etc and you really get the idea that our attention is always being fractured into tinier and tinier pieces constantly! such fractures can leave anyone stressed and unable to cope but there are ways to prevent this and this is where mindfulness comes in. It allows you to focus, make plans, journal, to do list and helps to allow you to prioritize and not just feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what is in your personal and professional inbox daily.

“Just like the sky, your awareness is never overwhelmed by the strongest emotions or the most troublesome thoughts; it has space for them all. It also be helpful to remember that, sooner or later, the weather always changes.”  What a beautiful sentiment. This reminded me of what I say to myself daily, Focus on what you can control and pick one task, complete it and then move on to the next.

Are you practising mindfulness? as always have a brilliant week.

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Don’t be afraid of failure

It is remarkable that fear is something that is developed rather than something we are born with. I am often amazed at the lack of fear that babies and toddlers display. I can recall with perfect clarity memories from as young as 2 years old and I shudder with fear now at some of the things I used to get up to!

I recall once at 3 years old climbing underneath my grandfather’s house to hunt crabs that used to make their homes there! In this particular incident the crab had grabbed my comb in its pinchers and scuttled away! I was so determined to retrieve this, that I scrambled after the crab and proceeded to wrestle it for my comb!

If you have seen a land crab in Jamaica you will know that they are not tiny!! In the midst of the struggle, the crab dropped the comb and latched onto my finger with its pincher and proceeded to squeeze!! The howls and screams that emanated from my mouth were enough to bring my mother and cousins rushing to my aid from all directions. Luckily I didn’t lose the finger but I still have the scar today as proof of this incredible act of bravery ; ). At 3 years old I was fearless! The lesson I learned from this at 3 was to never wrestle a crab head on! No knock it out with a big stone first!

My second recollection in being fearless is at 16 years old going on a hike with the pathfinders group I led at church. During this hike alone with a group of kids of similar age or slightly older we had the brilliant idea to end our hike by exploring the local Bat Caves. Apart from bats, we had no idea what else resided in these caves but we were determined to find out! We had no light source just our over developed sense of curiosity and a knowledge that nothing bad could happen to us! ( the knowledge of youth, oh how I miss this).

We proceeded to explore the caves, it was dark and damp. There were a lot of stumbling about while our eyes adjusted to the darkness and about half way into our exploration, we fell into an underground river!! To understand the import of this, you would need to understand that whilst we all lived on an island and had no fear of being in water that very few of us could swim! Myself included there were about 10 others in the group that also didn’t know how to swim. What we did know how to do was tread water! Whenever this memory surfaces I break out into a cold sweat! Just imagine what could have happened if anyone of us had started to fear or panic!

Needless to say we all safely exited this river even though to do so meant diving under a short tunnel to emerge on the outside of the caves. To add to what would now be a big fear factor this all took place in pitch darkness. From this experience I learned that fear can stop you having the most brilliant experiences if you allow it to dictate your actions.

There are many things I have failed at both professionally and personally but it is only through failing and learning from those that I am authentically who I am today. To miss the me now who has developed and grown would have been a personal tragedy. To anticipate me in the future is only possible due to the failures I have had along the way. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. We learn from our mistakes, we grow by learning.

I’d rather be…

At the airport jetting off to sun and sea!! It’s been a long winter. Somewhere there is a beach towel and a mojito with my name on it! nothing fancy, just me, a sandy beach, rum, coconut water, fish, my kindle, numerous bathing suits, a hat, aloe vera gel and 8 plus hours of full on sun and a cool sea breeze. My idea of heaven on earth. This is is what I would rather be doing than sitting at home preparing to be snowed in this weekend!

Feedback is a Cuss Word

Feedback has become the new/newest buzz word to replace rigid performance appraisal sessions with employees but for many employees the word feedback is a “cuss word”. Why is this? the word itself simply means giving someone information in real-time about their performance, whether good, bad or indifferent. Yet many employees hate when they receive an email titled feedback, or they are asked to participate in 360 degree feedback sessions on their managers, peers or subordinates. Body language also changes dramatically when you open a conversation by saying “I thought I would give you some feedback”. Immediately postures become defensive, a coldness enters the meeting, arms are folded, chairs are moved back further away as if to put distance between what is coming and the individual.

Fear becomes a living thing in the meeting room and in extreme cases individuals have shut down or even started to cry as they started to work through all the possible negative things that they may done or caused to happen in the last couple of days or weeks. Sometimes the fear is so potent that they have stopped listening immediately you mention the word feedback and are so busy working out in their mind what they have done wrong that they fail to actually hear what is being said.

It could be that such reactions are due to individuals having experienced a lot of negative feedback in the past which has coloured their perceptions. Or it could be that genuinely we are a culture in the UK that thrives so much on innuendo and being savvy to navigating politics in the workplace; using words to say one thing while meaning another that we have not adequately trained our people from a young age to see feedback as a positive thing regardless of whether is telling us how to improve or how to be even better.

I grew up in a culture where people spoke their minds, nothing was hidden, so it felt useless to fear the unknown because truly was anything ever unknown? I grew up in a village where everyone regardless of whether they were related to me or not took great accountability for parenting me. If my dress was creased, I would be told this several times while walking to school and given advice on how to achieve the perfectly ironed dress. The more forward in the village may even take me into their home and show me how to iron a dress properly.

No subject was off-limits, from personal hygiene, to school work, to spiritual wellbeing, morals etc you name it and someone without prompting would be on hand to offer you advice on how to be better or avoid a pitfall whether you wished to have the advice or not. This was the ultimate feedback culture in which I grew and which has shaped me.

So I had some thoughts about how we can change the fear that people feel when they either need to give or receive feedback:

  • put yourself in the person’s shoes and do onto others as you would have them do to you. If you are coming from a place of wanting to help someone to improve or to keep doing something that they are doing well, because this is what you would wish for yourself, you are able to approach the conversation in a very different light.
  • think about the damage or the limits you are placing on that person by not speaking up. Why would you not offer praise where praise is due? equally if your colleague had a stumble, surely you would not want them to stumble again or worse fall? think about the reason why you give information.
  • my personal favourite it when you think about giving or receiving feedback and the fear creeps in, ask it firmly “what is the worse that can happen?” in reality often we let our fear makes things into a lot worse than they really are. Open up yourself and listen, you may be surprised at the results.

So have you provided or received feedback recently? share your views here, I would be happy to hear how you approach it!

Remember FEAR can also mean Face Everything and Rise!