Many of us who took an Intro Psych course in college probably remember learning things like diagnosing mental disorders and the controversies around anti-depressant medications. Thinking about that class, you might wonder “where is the positive in psychology?”
That’s the exact kind of question which started the positive psychology movement in the 1990s, when some leading psychologists decided to make a conscious shift in the field away from the negative aspects of our psyche and toward the positive. One of the founders of the positive psychology movement defines it as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” Positive psychologists believe that we can improve well-being and goal-achievement by focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad.
As a coach, one of the things that attracted me to positive psychology is its grounding in research evidence that shows us how we can be most successful and satisfied in our life’s pursuits. Some people confuse positive psychology with the self-help movement or trends like affirmations. That’s not what my coaching practice is about. Coaching using the science of positive psychology involves understanding the research findings about how people thrive in their given endeavors, and applying those findings in meaningful ways in our lives.
For example, substantial psychological research shows that one of the most powerful predictors of long-term happiness is high-quality, supportive relationships. The relationships we have with our friends, family members, significant other and our coworkers all matter. This is one of the reasons that my own research has examined workplace relationship management as an important factor in our ability to accomplish our job. Next week I will be presenting this research at the International Positive Psychology Association’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology taking place here in Los Angeles.
Keep an eye out for next week’s Foresight Blog, where I’ll give you a sneak peak at what I’ll be presenting and how it relates to coaching using positive psychology.
In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing more about positive psychology, below are links to some of the most influential books in the field:
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Stumbling on Happiness
The Myths of Happiness
We tend to think of time as a limited resource. We say things like, “there are only so many hours in the day” and “I’m already working 24/7.” But what would it feel like to think of time as something flexible that we can build and expand?
Consider the difference between activities that are time wasters and those that are time builders. Time wasters are things that happen throughout your day that take precious time away from your priorities. Time wasters include technology disruptions like instant messages or Facebook, drop in visitors, telephone interruptions, unproductive meetings, meetings that go over their allotted time, multi-tasking, putting things off until you “feel inspired,” and all types of procrastination.
By contrast, time builders are strategies, habits, and activities that you purposefully integrate into your life to manage time and focus your attention. Time builders include making to do lists at the beginning of the day with your priorities in mind, designating 60 to 90 minute blocks on your calendar for uninterrupted productive time, organizing your desk so that you can easily find what you need, setting reminders in your Outlook calendar, and doing your most challenging work at the time of day when you feel most awake.
One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that time wasters and time builders are different for each person. If you are a social media strategist, spending time on Facebook may be a time builder for you. The point is: discover and reduce time wasters in your life while also identifying and cultivating time building habits.
If you completed the How Did You Spend Your Time? worksheet, now is a great time to revisit it with the idea of time wasters and time builders in mind. A technique I suggest to my coaching clients is to literally X out items from your worksheet that were time wasters. This will help you visualize how often they occur in an average week. Next, put a circle around time builders to show yourself times in the week when you were able to organize yourself to build time for what you love.
Check the Foresight Blog in the next couple of weeks for the final entry in the De-Clutter Your Career series which will provide strategies to keep your career de-cluttered going forward.
Recently I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop at Pepperdine University for doctoral students working on their dissertations. My portion of the training involved demonstrating a software program that is used for analyzing qualitative data. (A little geeky, right?)
In thinking about how to engage the participants with the software, I took my inspiration from an author who suggested that the best way to become skilled at data analysis is to “learn by doing it.” What a great reminder! As adults, so little of what we learn happens through formal educational activities, like a lecture or a webinar. And data shows that when we adults do attend these kinds of formal education events, we tend to retain about 5-30% of the material.
So, how are we learning? Much of adult learning and workplace learning occurs through informal mechanisms. Think of all the things you know how to do that you didn’t learn in a classroom. Maybe you read about it in a book and tried it on your own. Or a mentor talked you through it and assisted you the first time. When we practice by doing, we are likely to retain more like 75% of what we learned.
That’s one of the things I love about coaching. Among other benefits, coaching is a space for learning that doesn’t involve lecture or instruction. The coach creates an environment of self-discovery and self-directed learning, where the client sets the learning goals and selects how the learning will occur. Coaching clients can learn by practicing with their coach or by co-creating a step-by-step process for how they will acquire or improve a skill. For example, many of us have jobs that require us to have difficult conversations, perhaps with a subordinate or an important client. Having difficult conversations is a skill that can be learned, and coaching is a great environment for developing these sorts of “soft” skills.
Have you recently learned something new by doing it? If so, share your experience in the comments field.
De-cluttering your career begins with an accurate assessment of how you are spending your time. Just like spring cleaning your cluttered garage or attic, the question is: what is in here and do I need it?
The first blog in the De-Clutter Your Career series introduced the idea of career clutter and invited you to complete the worksheet: How Did You Spend Your Time? This worksheet was intended to help you gain a reality-based snapshot of your life during a one week span.
The ultimate goal is to spend your time – your most valuable resource – in the ways that you choose in order to feed your life’s passions and priorities. While none of us will ever have full control over our time, especially at our jobs, we can probably take more control than we realize. A difference between “being busy” and “being cluttered” lies in having an alignment between how you spend your time and your goals, strengths, and passions. When time and passions are aligned, we can feel engaged and alive, no matter how busy we are. When they are misaligned, we can feel cluttered, overwhelmed, disorganized, and disengaged.
I suspect a lot of feelings came up for you as you were completing the worksheet. You might have thought, “how come I consider myself a creative person but I’m working on budgets most days?” Or, “no wonder I’m not making any progress on my dissertation when I was at the office for 64 hours this week!”
Take some time to reflect on your completed worksheet with the analogy of spring cleaning in mind. When you spring clean, you don’t throw out everything and start from scratch. It’s a process of asking essential questions: What do I need? What don’t I need? What can I live without? Is this serving a purpose in my life?
Check the Foresight Blog in the next couple of weeks for step three in the De-Clutter Your Career series, where I’ll demonstrate how de-cluttering can build time in your life.
Have you ever found yourself imagining a conversation in your head with someone from your workplace? In this conversation, you may be reliving or replaying a conversation that took place, remembering what you said and what the other person said. Or, you may be imagining a conversation before it takes place, mentally rehearsing and preparing for an upcoming meeting. Or, you may be imagining yourself saying things to a coworker that you would never say in real life.
These are imagined conversations: conversations that take place in our minds with people from our real-life. During these imagined conversations, you mentally play the role of yourself and the other person, imaging what each of you would say and how you would react.
Last year, 88 managers and leaders participated in my research project about imagined conversations at work. All of them were able to remember a recent imagined conversation with a coworker. During these imagined work-related conversations, they were most often talking in their head to their boss, but frequently they were talking to a subordinate or a peer. The topics of these imagined conversations were things like: lack of work getting accomplished, work schedules and absences, conflict between staff members, bringing a problem to the boss, division of work duties, and customer complaints.
These imagined conversations reflect the emotional and relational complexities of today’s work environment. Working with others can difficult and we are challenged to collaborate with each other as well have tough conversations, give honest feedback, and manage workplace conflicts. All of these situations can be triggers for imagined conversations. Through these imagined conversations, we can better understand ourselves, our situation, and our coworkers.
One of the goals of Foresight Coaching is to raise awareness of the many hidden aspects of workplace relationship dynamics, including imagined conversations. These hidden dynamics are mirrors of our real-life workplace relationships with coworkers. Paying more attention to our imagined conversations can be an important leadership development tool for greater awareness of our thoughts, our emotions, our motivations, and our word choices.
No matter the reason a client comes to coaching, it seems that the conversation eventually comes around to the topic of work-life balance. Clients say that their work assignments and to-do lists overwhelm their lives. The endless demands of their jobs drain their energy and creativity, leaving them little time for other life pursuits.
This is career clutter.
Like the TV show Hoarders, I was once a cluttered hoarder in my professional life. I couldn’t say no to anything and I said yes to everything. The nickname for my office was “grand central station,” because there was a constant stream of colleagues coming through. I worked 10 hours per day during the work week (with an hour commute each way), then I’d add another 8-10 hours of working at home on the weekends.
What happens to us when our careers are cluttered? It doesn’t take too long before we start to feel overwhelmed, disorganized, and in that state of mind where we fear there is more to do than can ever be done.
At some point, we make a conscious decision to get it under control. Just like cleaning your cluttered garage, attic or basement, career clutter cannot be resolved in one day. I started with a small step – working from home on Fridays, which immediately saved two hours a week in commuting time. Next I made a commitment to myself to stop working on the weekends and to turn off my work e-mail from my phone during weekends. That helped to de-clutter my brain so I could get some cognitive space from work-related stressors. I decided to delegate more to my subordinates, which often involved the difficult process of letting go of some projects in which I was deeply invested.
It was tough, but two years later I’m much less stressed, more organized, and more in touch with what my priorities and passions are for my career.
Recently a fellow coach, Dana Platin, co-facilitated a workshop with me. The goals of the workshop were to assist clients to de-clutter and organize professional commitments, and identify areas to regain balance, both at work and between work and personal life. Participants completed a worksheet: How Did You Spend Your Time? This worksheet is attached for anyone reading this blog who wants take the first step in de-cluttering their career. For one week, write down all of your career and professional activities, including meetings (scheduled and unscheduled), e-mails, administration, staff management, work on projects/budgets/writing, commuting, networking, trainings, etc.
Check the Foresight Blog in the coming weeks for the next step in the De-clutter Your Career series, where I’ll explain how the worksheet can be used to make decisions about your most valuable resource: your time.
Have you ever been at a restaurant, casually reviewing the menu and chatting with your companion, when the waitress presents you with a complimentary, bite-sized appetizer? Known as an amuse-bouche, the chef provides this tasty sample as a preview of her talents and offerings as a practitioner.
One famous New York City chef describes the amuse-bouche as the best way to express "big ideas in small bites."
I came across this description of the amuse-bouche as I was mentally preparing to launch the Foresight Blog, and I felt it was the perfect analogy for this new creative undertaking. Certainly, I am under no pretense that brief, weekly thoughts and commentary are sufficient to make substantial change in our lives. If only it was that easy! Just as the chef sends out a bite-sized sample to provide a glimpse of her big ideas, so too can this blog be a place of sampling and exploring. The Foresight Blog is a venue where we begin our conversation; where I bring to you some big ideas in small bites and you (hopefully) find yourself wanting more.
Those of you in my social network know that my field is change, and my focus is on workplace, careers and academics. I believe that change is very personal, often occurring at the interface of our relationships with others and ourselves. Many times we articulate change in terms of a goal or desired future state, such as "I want a career that's more fulfilling" or "I want more time to focus on my priorities." Sometimes change is forced upon us, perhaps an encroaching deadline or a job transfer.
But what do we really know about change and how to make it stick in our lives? What can we learn from research, from practitioners, from storytelling, and from our own lives that provides insights into making real change in the pursuit of our goals and aspirations? How do we make a vision for our future into a new reality?
I invite you to join me for a weekly small tasting of big ideas about how to change our daily lives for the better and illuminate the path of change. You can follow the Foresight Blog on the website, www.theforesightcoach.com, or by clicking “like” on the Foresight Coaching Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/foresightcoaching.
Welcome and enjoy these small bites.