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What to Do When Asked About Weaknesses in a Job Interview

vor 7 Stunden 26 Minuten
A job interview can be as close to legal torture in the 21st century that hopefully any of us will ever get. We’d rather have our pointless appendices' removed than sit opposite someone who has the power to decide if we’re going to get any money in our bank account and feel like a useful member of society. No pressure then. So if it’s not bad enough that you spent hours agonizing over the perfect outfit, checking the location (a hundred times) and reorganizing your CV for the 50th time you know at some stage you’re going to feel like you are facing the Spanish Inquisition or feel like you are 7 years old in front of the head master (who can reduce you to a blubbering wreck just by saying your first name.) How are you supposed to perform well in an environment like that? How are you supposed to showcase that you are the perfect candidate for the job when you can’t think of one clever thing to say? And how are you supposed to get around the random questions companies insist on asking, like asking about your weaknesses in a job interview? Let’s look at how to deal with those tricky questions that can leave you feeling stumped and like you have no chance of getting the job in ways that doesn’t require you to reinvent yourself. Before you get in there Who are they? It’s not rocket science to know that if you want a job you should do your research on that company:
  • What matters to them?
  • What is their brand like?
  • What does their website look like?
  • Does it talk about individuals, mission statements, ethos, values or charitable work?
  • How do they present themselves?
Taking the time to learn about the company you are going to aim to work for means that whatever question that comes up you have in your head (hopefully if you actually took notes and really thought about the company) what they want to know and what floats their boat, i.e. you know who they want to work with. While anyone can (in theory) work anywhere, we all fit in some places better than others. Some will tell you it’s good to be able to change who you are; however eventually that can get physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and that’s no good for long term success. Knowing who you are looking to work with means you can find out if you actually want the job too and if you don’t it helps you assess what matters to you in your career. Who am I? Turn on the TV, phone or laptop and just by watching an advert, you can work out what they are selling, what age it’s intended for, what kind of person it’s aimed at and even where their ideal demographic likes to eat or travel to. None of that is by accident. A strong brand attracts the right people. And just like organisations want to attract the right customers they also want to attract the right staff. Therefore before you even get to the interview really take the time to answer the questions above on yourself:
  • What matters to you?
  • What is your brand like?
  • What do you look like online?
  • What is your mission statement, ethos, values and charitable interests?
Let who you are exude through every question you are asked. This also enables you to appreciate why you would really like to work for this company. You’ve taken the time to assess if their values, beliefs, products, etc match up to what you want and that helps you to connect regardless of whether you get an answer wrong or not. This also means you have prepared some of the things that you want from that organization too. Are you looking to stay in that job for the rest of your life? Are you looking to learn new skills? Are you looking to be a part of a bigger team? Are you looking to take on the big challenges that face society? Knowing this information can really help because interviews are not just about being asked questions it is about the ability to ask effective well thought questions too. Practice, practice practice Interview skills is a bit like any communication skill especially public speaking; you need to consider what you want to get out of this communication and they want to get out of this communication too. To do this, it is about having the right skills and the right mindset. Like public speaking or any communication where you have a vested interested, an interview’s results can be damaged by not ensuring you look after both the mindset and skill set. For instance, you could have an awesome positive attitude; however if you’ve not done your research and physically prepared accordingly, you could still fail. Likewise, if you have all the right skills but lack the right mindset, again you could fail. To get around this you need to be prepared mentally. This works well for big moments in life too. Really visualize walking away from the venue, secretly grinning from ear to ear because you got exactly the result you wanted, i.e.:
  • How do you feel?
  • What was said?
  • What is going to happen next?
  • What are you wearing?
  • Where are you?
Craft the result in your head in every detail. Why is this so important? Because in life, we can’t always plan for what is going to happen however we can be determined to get the result we want. And by being determined, we can ensure we keep heading in the right direction. Essential for interviews where you don’t actually know what is going to be asked of you. In the room How you act I’m very aware that so far I’ve not told you what to say to those difficult questions that really throw you and that’s because if you get everything else right, those questions (and their answers) become less important because overall you’ve still had the chance to shine and impress. When you walk in that room, you want to look like you should be there (and are pleased to be there) but not like you own the town. Arrogance can cost you the job and there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Make eye contact. Are you the kind of person that can get served first in a packed bar? Then it’s a good chance you’ve sussed eye contact. Eye contact is not just about the eyes, it’s about your body too. How do you stand? With confidence? Do you look like a bunny trapped in the headlights of a car? Or happy to be here? This works on two levels, first it makes you look confident and secondly, it makes the other people in the room feel more comfortable. Try changing the way you sit and act in a room and watch how those around you can change too. We feed off other people. How you breathe and speak A space in a sentence is not the same as an “Um” pause. Know the difference. One has confidence the other is feeling out of their depth. Practice lots of kinds of questions and practice out loud your replies. As someone that has helped a lot of people become successful public speakers, I know the importance of breathing for you and your audience. So practice, because where and how you breathe can impact on the way you come across:
  • What is their style? -- Know the style of the person asking the questions.
  • Do they speak fast?
  • Do they like to use jargon? (Or do they hate it?)
  • Do they speak quietly or loudly?
  • Do they speak in long sentence?
  • Do they ask open questions or closed?
These and more give you clues into the interviewers preferred way of speaking and if you can naturally mirror their language, terminology, tonality and phrasing the interviewer can feel like they are building a rapport with you. Don’t overdo it though, because that can be creepy and put them off! Down to the evil interview questions Think of it from the interviewer’s point of view, they’ve got to fill a position in their organization and they want their business to be the best. They want to know that the person they ask these questions to will be perfect to fit in their team, make the difference and help them achieve what they aim to. A big responsibility to achieve all of that in a few questions. So how can they find out who someone really is? How can they work out what is true in your CV and what you researched on line as the “top 10 things to include in your CV”? These questions are a mixture of tedium of asking the same question so many times, researching what questions you should ask (yes, it’s not just the interviewee that will hit the search engines!) and trying to ask questions that enables them to remember the individual behind each answer. So let's look at what to say: I don’t know Not knowing the answer is not against the law and no one knows everything. So if you don’t know the answer, the first rule is don’t lie. You will get found out. Think about this right now, what could be an answer to a question that you don’t know that enables you to look honest and keen to learn more and capable in areas around this subject? Preparing some answers (Out loud so you can hear how they sound) means you can feel more prepared. And while I could write the words to say, they would be my words and not natural to you and so could come across as fake. The key to shining in an interview is allowing who you really are to shine through. (If they don’t like that, it could be this is the wrong company, not you’re the wrong candidate!) Don’t’ be a politician Another dangerous approach is to keep talking without answering the question. This is an infuriating technique that could cost you points. Think about answers that you can give that showcase what you do know in this field. “I’ve not had a lot of experience with xxx however I’ve had great results using xxx and it led to a xxx% increase in sales so I feel I have the right skills to migrate to xxx” Thinking about what you are good at and how it relates to the job you are going for means you can prepare lots of answers like this. When working with someone who is looking to pitch to an audience or engage an audience with an idea that they may not (initially) like, you don’t want to tell the audience what to think, however you do want to answer the negative questions that are in their heads. The same applies in an interview. What questions do you feel would worry you if an interviewer asked them of you? How could you alleviate their concerns in prepared answers? Proof is in the pudding When you are faced with tough questions, be prepared with examples of how successful you’ve been in the past. For instance, when I first trained as a coach many years ago, I didn’t want to tell people I was a newly qualified coach (newly qualified can sound amateur and not up to the job, right?), so I steered my answer to the fact that I was 1 of the UK’s youngest female automotive Body shop managers with over 20 years experience in business. Proven experience, right? Think about successes in your career and how they can feature in your proof. Steer clear of extravagant exaggeration While it’s important to showcase “why you” with proof and to be confident. No one likes a big head, so be mindful of your language. I’m over enthusiastic at the best of times, so I have to be mindful of my audience and ask myself “is this the kind of language that makes them feel comfortable or am I making myself stand out for the wrong reasons.” Feel free to say “I had a xx% increase in productivity from the team thanks to this idea;” however, avoid “It was due to my brilliance that I created this system that helped the department increase productivity by xx.” How does your choice of language impact on the way you come across? Are you someone that risks exaggeration or exuberant language? Know when to shut up If you are digging yourself in a deep whole with an answer that goes nowhere. Know when to stop talking. Taking a moment to prepare your prospective replies can help with this. If you’re concerned about not talking or having an answer, repeat their question back to them in this style: “That is a good question, ‘what is my view on my ability to deal with xxx?’” and in doing so, you create the space to think. Thinking is not banned in an interview. If anything, a well prepared reply says you are confident in your own skin and are taking this seriously instead of just splurging out the first thing that comes into your head. The answer for "What is your biggest weakness?" They ask the question that you feel can only make you look bad, so how do you handle it? Remember the reason they are asking you these questions is because they want to find out who you are really are. They need to know who they are employing, so remember they are not trying to trick you. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has new things they need to learn. Everyone has something they wished they had handled differently. Everyone has something they’ve said they regretted. Think of a moment in your professional life that you wish you had handled differently. How can you word it so that it sounds like you not only recognized the need to do something differently but learned something powerful from it too? If you want to see how this works. Listen to the radio and a seasoned pro turn any question around so that they get to talk about what they want to. I once trained a team who were likely to end up on the radio. They knew they weren’t going to be asked to speak about their business (which they wanted to) and it was likely to be a conversation about something random like mince pies. I remember one member of the team saying, “this is impossible” only for us to change their style of communication that meant within 2 sentences talking about mince pies had turned into talking about what the business was doing locally.” It takes practice but can be done and is a skill you won’t just use in interviews, you could find yourself using this in every area of your life. Another skill to copy from presenters and those great at TV and radio is their ability to bat the conversation back to the other person in a respectful way. While the interviewer is keen to hear you speak, it’s important to know when to stop talking and enable the interviewer to take control of the conversation again. A big issue for candidates is that they are so keen to say everything relevant to the subject that has been raised that they don’t know when to let the interviewer take back the conversational control. By practicing what you are saying and what you want it to say about you, you will feel more comfortable with giving the control back. Final thoughts I heard a story years ago that the English Rugby team were playing atrociously. They then employed a coach (not a sport coach, but a coach like myself) to help the team perform better. One of the strategies they put in place was that in the second half, the team would come back on the pitch in a clean kit. This enabled them to feel fresh and new to the game bringing a new attitude and mindset. I’ve been unable to find any proof of this story (and I’m always keen to verify what I share with you). However, I can tell you that this clean kit approach has worked with many clients who’ve found themselves making a mistake and not wanting 1 mistake to spiral into a cacophony of failure. That they stop dragging up what has gone wrong. Stop the panic from escalating and start as if this is the very beginning. It’s powerful because the brain gets itself back to a positive state. Thus if you find yourself drowning in a bad answer, let it go and concentrate on the result you want. And get that fresh feeling of “I’ve arrived and will do my best” or “If I’m not right for them, then they are not right for me.” What could be your go to thought that gets you back to fresh thinking be? Ultimately an interview is like any powerful communication you have in your life. Be it at work, at home, your child's school, your parents doctor or even trying to get a flight out of a fog bound city. The skills you learn to communicate powerfully can have a knock on effect across your entire life. So it's worth investing some time and honing your skills.

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

21. September 2018 - 19:00
"Can I look like you in 3 months?" The teenager stared at me, waiting eagerly for a response. It's a normal day as a certified fitness coach and yet again, I had to grab some flying feet and put them down on the ground of reality again. "If I would be able to reach this body in 3 months, you think it would've taken me 5 years?" I responded smilingly. In the same moment I tapped the teenager on the shoulder and we both went to the training floor together. Fast forward to today, he eventually reached his dream body. But it took him a little bit longer than 3 months. In this article, I want to give you a broad overview and answer to the commonly asked question: how long does it take to build muscle and increase fat loss? Your biggest enemy for building muscle and fat loss I remember when I joined my first gym years back. After two weeks of continuous training, I saw absolutely no difference in the mirror. I googled "2 weeks body transformation" and was frustrated by seeing all these pictures by savvy marketers. We human beings have evolved to seek instant gratification. We can't wait for things to happen tomorrow. We want them today or even better, yesterday. It doesn't matter if we talk about business or our fitness results. If we truly want to make a long-lasting change, we have to delay our innate need to crave gratification instantly and focus on the big picture. In the book called Grit by Angela Duckworth, a predictor for future success in children was the so called 'Marshmallow Test'. The Marshmallow Test works this way. Children are basically given two options:
  1. Eat the marshmallow in front of them right now.
  2. Wait 10 minutes without eating the first marshmallow and get a second marshmallow to eat on top.
This is an insane test of willpower and the ability to delay gratification for an even bigger payoff, as a 10-year old school child. If the child already mastered that crucial skill at such a young age, it was a strong predictor for future success. We all have to learn how to delay gratification better. Most people overestimate what they can do in one month, but totally underestimate what they can do in 10 years. What you really need to build muscle fast Your ground zero It all matters on which point we start off. Because the reality is: Everyone has to start somewhere. A former Olympic athlete will have an easier time building muscles and losing fat than an avid couch potato. There are mainly two reasons for this:
  • The pre-selected genetic blueprint of the athlete.
  • Work ethic of a professional.
While countless of variables play a role in influencing your success in the gym, it all can be traced back to those crucial points. And the saying still holds merit: Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard. -- Tim Notke A mentor of mine told me years ago that you can succeed in life if you just don't give up. You can have average skills, average genetics and average work ethic. As long as you keep improving on your craft, you will succeed. Not immediately - but definitely and finally. Setting the right expectations I'm great at setting unrealistic goals and having the wrong expectations. I wanted to have 100,000 subscribers on my Youtube Channel and at the end of my first year when I started, back in 2015, I ended up with 30. This is an embarrassing story, but I hope it gets one point across: Your goals need to be realistic if you can't deal with the setbacks of not reaching them. Ending up with 30 subscribers even after pulling frequent all-nighters to get this endeavor rolling was soul-crushing. I contemplated throwing in the towel. With the right support from my network and discipline, I managed to keep going. The channel has now grown 100-fold in those 3 years. To find out what is realistic, consider the next timeline. The muscle growth timeline Here's what results you can expect if your main goal is building lean tissue mass. Warning: Genuine muscle growth without performance enhancing drugs takes a long time. Of course these time periods can vary individually depending on your genetic blueprint and work-ethic. You might see results sooner, or maybe even later. The time frame is set to training 2-3 times per week (continuously!). Pro tip: Ask a friend or hire a coach to boost your progress tremendously. This is what happens when you decide to join a gym, out of my experience training hundreds of clients: Month 1-3 Eat - Sleep - Gym - Repeat. Your motivation is at your peak at this point. You will tell your friends and family about your new workout regime. You will notice slight differences in your appearance, which are mainly nonexistent. You will experience immense strength gains on your training because your body finally realizes how to use its muscles properly. Month 3-6 This is the time period where most people break. You will be going to the gym consistently, yet the results won't come just now. It's the big dip in the whole process. Your goal in this phase is to build a habit around your gym visits. You will most likely discontinue to have the all-in mentality as in the first 3 months. You will seek sustainability. Breaking news: It will still be hard. But in the end it's all worth it. Trust me. Month 6-12 "I've seen a new vein in my arm!" The guy came up to me excited. This is the time where the normal person starts to see considerable results in his training. An old friend will talk to him and see a difference in his body shape. Suddenly, his old t-shirt gets too thin. The frequent gym-goer feels amazing. Month 12- 24 Fitness is a trojan horse. While you might think frequent training will only change your body shape, your character will be impacted too. Your friends and family will notice. You're more confident, assertive and more happy with your self-image. You feel confident and sure in your abilities because you have achieved what you set out to do. Breaking news: You will still not be satisfied. And that's a good thing. But don't forget to enjoy the fruits of your labour. They haven't come easy. Month 24+ "That's what works for me!" If you've been going frequently and consistently (twice every week for 2 years), you can pat yourself on the shoulders. If you've done most things correctly and with a certified coach, you will reach the goal shape at this point. But this is also the point where it can get frustrating. Further results will come painstakingly slow at this stage. You increasingly have to work on your weaknesses and constantly alter your training to see further results. Be it applying different repetitions, intensity, workout duration, speed or machines. A lot of people will not see results after this stage because the benefits are not worth the work for them. We have to realize that what got us here, will not get us to the next level. The fat loss timeline If you're trying to lose fat, I have 2 pieces of news for you:
  1. It will come faster. Fat loss has a shorter timeline.
  2. It will be exactly as hard as building muscles, if not harder.
Here's what you can expect if you're starting to lose weight. Here again: Proper guidance can speed up the process. Month 1 "I've lost 10kg in the first week!" Your results will come fast. Too fast. You will feel exhausted. Most of your weight that you lose will be water. This is the big dip in the whole weight loss process. The shocking news: Most people stop their diet in the first month. Month 2-3 You will reconsider your dieting strategy and opt for more sustainability. You will reintroduce "bad foods" in your diet that you've most likely blocked out in the first two weeks or month. Because balance (and not quitting your diet) is more important to you at this stage than seeing rapid weight loss. Your life quality will increase at this stage. Month 6-12 At this time frame, you have probably lost more than 10kg. The majority of the people looking to lose weight will be satisfied with their results and shocked by how much of a difference it makes in their appearance. You will feel more confident, more energized and more self-assured. You would've never guessed that you could make it, that you could finally lose your weight - yet you did! And everyone will notice. "What happened to you?!" - your friends will ask you jealously. Old crushes of you will suddenly initiate contact again just to know what you're "up to this weekend". The fat loss after this stage will come slowly if you haven't been obese to start with. The goal at this stage is to have created a rock-solid habit out of your gym and eating patterns. Then you don't have to worry about the Yo-Yo effect. Conclusion "You changed my life!" The same teenager took me aside at a Monday evening. He had his first date the weekend prior. Apparently it went well. In the whole time frame we worked together, he built up more than 10 kilograms of muscles. It took him more than 2 years. Yet I'm sure if you'd ask him today, he would tell you that it was all worth it. Focus on the things that you can control. Losing fat or building muscles might be an overwhelming task to start out with. We have to delay our innate need for instant gratification and focus on the things that we can control. Changing our genetic blueprint or the responses our muscles have to the training stimulus is not in our hands. But training at least 2 times per week, eating the right foods and setting the right goals and expectations is.

Transform Your Memories: 10 Best Photo Editing Apps

21. September 2018 - 18:00
How do you get the best out of photos? By using a photo editing app of course! Though phones are getting smarter by the day and there is AI to click better photos, for now they can’t match up to photo editing apps. In this exclusive list, I have rounded up all the photo editing apps that will help you transform your memories. These apps will help you to resize, adjust, beautify, sharpen, apply filters, make collage, remove objects and even shoot time lapses. So without further ado let’s take a look at the best photo editing apps: 1. Pixlr Pixlr is a complete photo editing app that gives you a variety of options. A lot of users rely on it for quick fixes to a photo, adding texts and applying preset filters. Recently, Autodesk acquired it, which validates it popularity. Features:
  • User Friendly design and functionality which are extremely simple and logically categorized.
  • Simplified editing tools like crop, adjust and autofix.
  • Advanced tools like Splash which makes the image black and white and helps you add selective areas with colors.
  • Variety of preset filter option.
  • Add text feature.
  • Collage making option.
Available for iOS | AndroidWeb 2. Facetune Facetune is photoshop for dummies. It helps you to modify your photos, especially you face and make them look picture perfect. It whitens your teeth, removes blemishes and pimples, does away with wrinkles and even reshapes so that you can have those perfect cuts. Features:
  • Basic features like crop, adjust aspect ratio, rotate and flip.
  • Advanced features like whiten, smooth, red eye reduction, tones and details.
  • Option to see before edits and after edits.
  • Preset filters (limited options though)
  • Frames to lighten up your images.
Available for iOS | Android 3. VSCO Cam VSCO Cam is an editing app for people who are serious about their photos. People in the professional circuit seem to like it a lot. Its filters make the photos look better, but still help it keep real. Another standout offering that makes it one of the best photo editing app is that it has an amazing social platform where you can make your own photo journals and share it with the world. If you are obsessed about your pixels being perfect and and would like to experiment with a new photo sharing platform, this is a highly recommended app. Features:
  • All the basic functions like crop, edit, adjust and resize.
  • Advanced photoshop features like washed out tones, saturated colors, high contrasts etc.
  • Social platform GRID for your photos to get discovered.
  • Amazing set of film like pre-set filters to automatically make your photo look great.
  • Integrated camera.
Available for iOS | Android 4. Touch Retouch The Guardian says that there is no easier way to remove unwanted objects from your photos. This is precisely what this genius photo editing app does. It removes unwanted content from your pictures. If you are constantly photo-bombed or the frame has a lot of disturbance, you can remove them all using Touch-Retouch. The best part? It is not hard at all. Features:
  • Replace unwanted objects in the picture.
  • Weed out photobombers by using a lasso.
  • Make portraits more beautiful by removing blemishes and wrinkles.
  • App replaces selections automatically (using nearby pixels)
  • Clone tool can be used to easily duplicate objects.
Available for iOS | Android 5. Moldiv Moldiv is a friendly photo-editor app with all the standard photo-editing functions but with more than 550+ stickers in it and a plethora of collage options. If you like to liven up pictures using stickers and collages, then this is the perfect app for you. Features:
  • 320+ fonts
  • 150+ filters
  • Beautify selfies – face slimming, enlarge eyes, smoothen skin and whiten teeth.
  • Collage - Ability to artistically combine 10+ photos in one frame.
  • Ability to crop, straighten, rotate, adjust colors in a picture.
Available for iOS | Android 6. Lapse It Lapse it, as the name suggests is a time-lapse capturing photo app. Though there are many smartphones these days that have a slo-mo capacity, lapse it beats them all with its rich features and easy to shoot functions. Of course, if your phone doesn’t come with a slo-mo capturing functionality, this app is hands down the best. Features:
  • Choose the interval between captures.
  • Customize focus.
  • Pre-set ISO.
  • Battery saver mode that switches off screen while capturing videos for long hours.
  • Crop videos and apply filters.
  • Import videos and apply effects easily.
Available for iOS | Android 7. Perfect 365 Perfect 365 is a virtual make up app. It delivers exactly what it promises. It lets you retouch and apply makeup to deliver that spotless portrait photo. What's more, you can explore makeup services with this app! Features:
  • Change color of your hair and your eyes.
  • Whiten your teeth with one touch.
  • Easily remove blemishes and dark circles.
  • Sharpen your face structure for that perfect jaw-line.
  • Easily apply virtual make-up to your photos.
Available for iOS | Android 8. Afterlight Afterlight is a delight for people who want everything perfect in their photos. It has enough filters, styles and toning tools to please probably everyone. It also has an amazing range of premium offerings (in-app purchases), that is non-intrusive and sets it apart from its peers. Features:
  • Abundant filters and frames.
  • Varied options in lights and leaks.
  • Designer letter frames that put your picture in that letter.
  • AI powered contrast, shadows, highlights etc that understands your image.
  • Filter collections (free) by popular photographers.
  • Ability to add overlays, texts and even stickers.
Available for iOS | Android | Windows PC 9. Snapseed This photo editing app is what we call an all-rounder. If you are looking for an app that is a jack of all trades, this is the one you should be looking to install. It was originally developed by Nik Software, but was then taken over by Google. Now, the app has seen quite a lot of improvements including better user interface and user experience. Also, like most things Google, this app has all things free. Features:
  • Simple and user friendly UI.
  • Myriad of editing tools.
  • Vintage filters, HDR adjustments.
  • Remove unwanted objects.
  • Apply “last edits” to a new photo.
  • Available guides to better use the app.
Available for iOS | Android 10. Lens Distortions This app is the best app if you are looking to add natural elements like sunlight, rain, fog, snow and other weather effects to your photos. A lot of apps do have this as an additional functionality, but Lens Distortions is the best in the business. The USP of the app is that it makes it look so natural that viewers won’t be able to recognize that it is an added effect. Features:
  • Add natural elements like sunlight, snow etc.
  • Add multiple layer of effects.
  • Ability to adjust depth, sharpness and brightness of images.
  • Blur effect.
  • Adjust the depth of each overlay.
Available for iOS | Android The bottom line The marketplace is littered with thousands of photo editing apps, promising to transform your memory. However, as a user, it is entirely for you to gauge what the important features you need in a photo editing app. If you are a professional – you will need something advanced like Afterlight2 or Moldiv. For personal use there are even more options like Facetune, Touch Retouch and Perfect 365. If you need something specific like collage, time lapse, face -emojis – you can take your pick from apps like Lens Distortions and Pixlr. Get explore and find what suits your needs!

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

21. September 2018 - 17:00
Drinking alcohol is a big part of the social fabric in the United States. Just last night, my wife and I had friends over to our house for a drink before dinner. We were going to try a new restaurant that had gotten some great buzz. And the hype was well deserved, the food, atmosphere, and service were amazing. As part of the social activity of the evening, we had a drink before the dinner and another one at the restaurant. Part of a very common social scene. But when drinking has become an addiction or is affecting your health, it's definitely a good idea to quit drinking. Here we will look at how to the consequences of drinking to much and how to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind. How much alcohol is too much? This is a great question to ask in our discussion of how to quit drinking for a healthy body and mind. Let's look at several definitions of how much drinking is too much and when it can become a problem. A recent study that was published in 2018 says it has found the magic number. After analyzing data of 600,000 people who drank between zero and 350 grams of alcohol per week they came to the conclusion that 100 grams per week was the magic number. People who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week, the equivalent to 6 glasses of wine, had increased risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aortic aneurysm. There is also research that has been done that suggests a different number. In other studies excessive drinking is defined as either drinking too much in one sitting or over the course of a week. For men the number is 5 or more drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks over the course of a week. For women that number is 4 drinks at one sitting or 8 over the course of one week. According to this definition 29% of the population can be defined as "excessive drinkers" but 90% of those do not fit the definition of alcoholism. So even though someone is characterized as an "excessive drinker" by these studies, they don't meet the definition of an alcoholic. Interesting. I used to be neighbors with a guy that drank 12-18 beers a day and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and was never sick. I know another person who felt she was an alcoholic, quit drinking, and joined AA 15 years ago even though she never drank more than 2 glasses of wine at a time. I think it depends on the person. If drinking is adversely affecting your life in some way, you are most likely drinking too much. It could be that you are too tired and hungover to do the things you like. Maybe you call in "sick" to work more often than you should. You speed through time with your kids in order to get to the beer quicker than you should. Whatever it might be. If drinking is adversely affecting your life in some way, you might want to take a look at how much you drink. Now on to exciting ways of how to quit drinking for a healthier mind and body! What alcohol does to your body and mind It's pretty intuitive that alcohol probably isn't the best thing for us. We've all read or heard about how alcohol in moderation can be good for us. There's probably some truth to this but it's best to seriously look at the research before putting too much stock in it. Many of these studies suggest that drinking in moderation equals 1 drink a day for women and 2 per day for men. When you drink alcohol, what does it do to your mind and body? When you first drink alcohol, it triggers the release of endorphins which are chemicals that produce feelings of pleasure. This is a good thin, right? Maybe, but alcohol also does other things to you. Here are some things that drinking alcohol does to your mind and body: Your body on alcohol There are many ways in which alcohol affects your body in the short term. Let's start with the always fun hangover. A hangover is caused by several factors including dehydration, the fact that alcohol upsets your stomach lining and opens up blood vessels which leads to a greater chance of a headache, and the fact you don't sleep very well after a night of drinking. Other short term effects of alcohol on your body include dulled senses, lack of coordination, slurred speech, blurry vision, poor balance, dizziness, nausea, and bad sleep to name a few. Let's not forget that the lowered inhibitions can lead to making dumb decisions such as smoking which is bad for your body as well as doing really dumb stuff like driving when you shouldn't. This puts not only yourself at physical risk but others as well. Long term effects of alcohol on your body include stomach ulcers, immune system deficiencies, nerve damage, liver disease, pancreatitis, damage to the heart muscle, cancer, vitamin deficiencies and other cardio vascular issues. Your mind on alcohol When you first drink alcohol, you may feel more social and talkative. This is the classic "loosen up with a few drinks" feeling. And it's true that many people become more vocal and outgoing while drinking alcohol. It's good to remember though that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The depressive effects of alcohol can be seen when people drink too much and suffer from slurred speech. The pleasant feeling many people get when they drink alcohol is due to the effect it has on the dopamine site in the brain. This is short lived. When someone continues to drink their short term memory becomes impaired. If someone drinks too much, they may experience a "blackout" which is not being able to remember what happened. In general, short term effects on the mind are short term memory impairment and blurry thinking. As many of us know it also loosens inhibitions and of course there could be potential consequences of that. If you a heavy drinker for years, there are long term effects of alcohol to the brain. One of the biggest ones is developing deficits in brain functioning. Long term drinking can alter your brains hard wired ability to think, even if you have stopped drinking. In other words, it can cause permanent damage to your brain. The brains of long term drinkers can also diminish in size. Scary. It's important to remember that not all of alcohols effects on the mind, both short term and long term, are known. This is an area that is still being studied. How your body and mind benefits from not drinking Here're several ways your body and mind benefit when you decide to quit drinking; You will sleep better. This benefits both your body and your mind. Even though alcohol is a depressant and makes you feel more tired in reality, you don't sleep as well with it in your system. The reason is it disrupts your alpha waves. When you quit drinking your body will rest better which not only improves your energy level but also your concentration, mood, and mental performance. You'll lose weight. Alcohol is full of empty calories. An average beer contains approximately 150 calories. If you are a weekend drinker and typically have 5 beers Friday and 5 beers Saturday, that's 10 beers and 1500 calories saved in a week. That's pushing a full days worth of calories right there. Not to mention losing the bloated feeling. When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I quit drinking as well. I lost 12 pounds in 3 months. Your skin will look better. Since alcohol is a diuretic, you urinate more when drinking on a regular basis. This causes you to be less hydrated than you should be. When you quit drinking, you'll be more hydrated and this shows up on your skin in a positive way. You are able to concentrate better. Several studies have suggested that your concentration levels can improve up to 18% and your work performance can go up by 17% after a month of not drinking any alcohol. That's substantial. Your immune system improves. Know how heavy drinkers are more susceptible to serious infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia? That's because alcohol suppresses both the innate and the adaptive immune systems. When you quit drinking, your body is much better at fighting off infections because the immune system is no longer suppressed. Your head will feel clear and alert. Alcohol can disrupt the way neurotransmitters work in your brain. You chalk up the foggy brain to a hangover but there's more happening than that. Your neurotransmitters aren't working as well, especially if you've been a heavy drinker for a long time. After you've put alcohol in the rear view mirror for several months, your head will feel more clear than it has in a long time. Your muscles will thank you. If you are someone who works out and enjoys staying in shape, your muscles could benefit if you quit drinking. For one thing you put a lot of hard work into building up muscle and staying in shape. Drowning your muscles in beer and wine only helps add empty calories. There has also been recent studies that suggests that alcohol my decrease the production of human growth hormone which is a key part of muscle building and repair. How to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind (Step-by-step guide) So how to quit drinking? It's all about changing habits. Let's review some of the major steps: Step 1: Admit you have a problem. Awareness is the first step in wanting to change any situation and it's just as true here. When you find yourself thinking more and more often that drinking is creating problems in your life, it's probably time to admit you have an issue with drinking too much. No shame in admitting it. Many people have issues doing too much of lots of things. Step 2: Think about why you should quit. When we think about the long term effects such as cirrhosis of the liver, it's not usually enough to make us quit. The reason is because it's not real yet. Think about the very real short term effects drinking has. If you drink 4 drinks at a time, 3 days a week and each time takes 2 hours, you've "lost" 6 hours a week to drinking. Add in the cost of the alcohol, say $30 a week (and that's being generous) times 52 weeks a year; you realize you're spending over $1500 a year on booze. And then toss in the things you miss out on by drinking it becomes much more real. Step 3: Focus on being sober. When you decide to quit drinking alcohol, that has to be front and center of your attention all the time. It has to be the driver of you day, the foremost on your mind. Figure out how you are going to achieve not drinking and stick to it. It has to be the framework for your life until you get established as a non-drinker. Step 4: Change your environments This is a tough step. You have to change multiple things that have been central to the way you live your life. Probably the most important is some of the people you hang out with. You can't go to happy hour anymore or similar type situations. You'll most likely have to not only cut certain people pretty much out of your life but also alter the places you go. Step 5: Keep adjusting your attitude When drinking is a big part of your life, it is difficult under the best circumstances to quit. You will get mad at people who think they are "helping" you. You will most likely get down on yourself and beat yourself up internally. You might have trouble falling asleep and your mind will think about drinking a lot. Keep pumping yourself up and know that you are working towards a goal that you know is right for you. Step 6: Get help from rehab or support groups Many people are not able to quit drinking on their own. If you find yourself unable to quit drinking on your own, you might want to consider checking into a rehab facility. Another option is joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There a variety of support groups and rehab facilities that can help you on your road to quitting drinking. Step 7: Keep on keeping on If you decide to remove alcohol from your life for good, it will be an ongoing process. Once you get through the initial stage and then are a non-drinker, you will have to work on it as long as you want to not be a drinker. This isn't as bad as it sounds though. This is really true of any situation you want bad enough. If you want to be in great shape, that takes ongoing commitment. If you want to make a million dollars, that takes consistent and ongoing hard work and hustle. Any major life improvement is constant hard work. The bottom line We've taken a look at how to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind. It's readily apparent how much alcohol is woven into the fabric of our society. Like everything else in life that's a choice and there's a lot of people who don't drink. If you decide that drinking isn't for you, you are on your way to a healthier body and mind. And don't forget another way that quitting drinking will benefit you -- you'll save money!

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

21. September 2018 - 16:00
Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the "natural" way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on. Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.((2016 U.S. Census Bureau: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2016)) This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked. If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support. For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don't be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation. 1. Find your community and ask for help As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you've had to go at it alone. Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don't need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don't assume they don't want to hang out if they are not parents themselves. Would you prefer finding mom friends((Hot and Sour: How to Make Mom Friends)) who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area. After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don't be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can't do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think. If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about. 2. Make peace with the past Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with. You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future. 3. Make plans and set goals The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement. In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate. Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life. 4. Look for role models A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them. It's also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach. 5. Rethink your priorities Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly. Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It's okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes. Don't compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don't sweat the small stuff. 6. Make time for me time Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance. If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets. Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don't let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids. Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run. 7. Stay organized With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities. Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis. 8. Be flexible (Don't be a control freak) Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don't always go according to plan. When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer. For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up. Most of all, don't let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day. 9. Learn to say no (Don't feel guilty) Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn't be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it's important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere. You don't have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don't have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week. Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one. 10. Live within your means When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever. If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over. Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals. After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies. Don't let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time. 11. Spend quality time with your kids The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count. Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with. When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits. Final thoughts Being a single mother is not an easy job. That's why it's important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier. Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It's also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances. Most of all, don't forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love. Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

15 Static Stretching Exercises to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

20. September 2018 - 19:00
Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. Well… you’re wrong! Everyone needs stretching! Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain – stretching can help you. Stretching – static or dynamic – comes with myriads of benefits – such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness – which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency. For the purpose of this article, though, we’ll zero in on static stretching and take a look at its benefits and when it should be done. Finally I’ll cap it up by revealing 15 great static stretching exercises that’ll help keep your whole body in tip-top condition. So sit back, relax and enjoy! Benefits of static stretching Static stretching comes with tons of benefits that can help you to make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include: 1. Improved flexibility Alright! Here’s the deal – if you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. And luckily enough, static stretching is all you need to get all the flexibility you desire. Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.((Braz J Med Biol Res.: Effect of frequency of static stretching on flexibility, hamstring tightness and electromyographic activity.)) And although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretching has been shown to greatly increase joint flexibility((Phys Ther: Low-load prolonged stretch vs. high-load brief stretch in treating knee contractures.)) and tissue length,((J Rehabil Med.: Effect of stretching on hamstring muscle compliance.)) which work in tandem to make your workout more effective. 2. Decreased risk of injury If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and time again, that performing the right stretch exercises pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.((TrainingPeaks: The Benefits of Static Stretching Before and After Exercise)) So, how does it work? Well, think of it this way: When you stretch you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury. 3. Increased blood flow and nutrient supply to the joints Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation and removal of metabolites. For static stretching though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression. However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.((J Sport Rehabil: Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion.)) Thus, blood flow increases. 4. Improvement in recovery If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling with sore muscles… for days! Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibres back to their tip-top condition. So, how does stretching come in? See…that’s the thing, research has shown that practicing static stretching after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time. Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released and this encourages the inflammation and faster repair of such tissues. Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:
  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscular tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Provision of relief from cramping
Alrighty! Now that it’s crystal clear that stretching does your body a world of good, let’s dive right into the actual stretching exercises. 15 Great static stretching exercises you should start doing Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level. 1. Neck stretch While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head and place the other arm straightly on your side.
  • Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.
  • Repeat for the opposite side.
2. Chest Stretch Stand right, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks.
  • While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you, until you feel the stretch in your chest.
  • Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.
3. Cross-body shoulder stretch Stand right or sit tall
  • Extend one arm to your front to shoulder height.
  • Grab the extended arm with your other arm and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight.
  • Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.
4. Triceps stretch
  • Lift your arms overhead with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow.
  • Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.
5. Biceps stretch
  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you.
  • While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders and chest.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds before release.
6. Wrist stretch
  • While Standing straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Grab your right fingers with your left hand and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch
  • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite arm.
7. Side stretch
  • Stand straight with your feet hip-wide apart.
  • Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side.
  • Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side.
  • Maintain this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.
8. Abdominal stretch
  • Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up.
  • While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push up your upper body from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs.
  • Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.
9. Reclined spinal twist
  • Lie down facing the ceiling, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor.
  • While keeping the right leg extended, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.
  • Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground and you should feel the stretch around your back
  • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.
10. Low-back stretch
  • Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent.
  • Hold your shins and pull up your knees toward your chest.
  • This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.
11. Hip flexor stretch
  • Stand right in a standard lunge position.
  • Place your two hands on your hips.
  • Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.
12. Glutes stretch
  • Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor.
  • Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent.
  • Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes.
  • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
13. Quadriceps stretch
  • Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture.
  • With your left hand, grab a pole, wall or anything durable for balance.
  • With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.
  • Keep your knees close together while doing this and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps.
  • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other side.
14. Hamstring stretch
  • Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent.
  • Reach forward with your right hand and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.
  • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg.
  • If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.
15. Calf stretch
  • Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you.
  • Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.
  • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg.
  • If you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.
When should you be doing static stretches? Static stretching is great…when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,((Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular)) but not as a part of warm up exercises before an explosive workout session. This is because static stretching exercises have a “cool-down” effect on the muscles and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm. So, does that mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out? Certainly not! You can, but it should be kept to the barest minimum. Dynamic stretches – that involve more movement – are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body to prepare better for the work ahead. The bottom line Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running, you need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training. And that’s the whole point of stretching exercises. So, starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before. Just remember to keep these stretches a part of your post-workout dessert for maximum benefit. You’ve got this!

11 Google Chrome Apps and Features to Help You Get More Done with Less Effort

20. September 2018 - 18:00
In today's fast-paced and never-ending busy world, we are overwhelmed by tasks that need to be completed by tight deadlines. With so much technology it is difficult to find the right tools to help boost our efficiency. And, many tools get obsolete so its essential to stay up-to-date to know when you will have to make adjustments to these tools. Independently of where you work, there's a good chance that you have to be working on a PC or a laptop. Do you are feel like you do not have enough time, or cannot accomplish much as of late? It is recommended to take a step back and look at the big picture. Also, you want to explore new and innovative ways to improve productivity. In this article, I outline 11 features and apps within the Chrome browser that can help you do just that. Minimizing Tabs Let's face it we all have more than a dozen tabs opened on our computers. One neat trick to still keep most of them open is to turn them into pinned tabs. On Google Chrome you can right-click the tab and select "Pin Tab" option. This turns the tab into an icon enabling you to continue multitasking. Pinning a tab anchors the tabs on the left of your toolbar; a great benefit of the "Pin Tab" feature is that you can't close these tabs accidentally since the "X" disappears after pinning them. Incognito Mode Google Chrome is a very easy-to-use and intuitive. But, Google does collect our browsing data; so to remedy this, you can use Incognito Mode. This feature does not keep your browsing or download history. You can enable or access it in three different ways:
  1. Press Ctrl/Command+shift+N
  2. Select File Menu and choose New Incognito Window
  3. Download extension New Incognito Window
This feature is very handy if you'd rather not have your browsing history stored and utilized for future advertisement or suggested pages. Save Webpages as PDF Files Have you ever browsed interesting or important information and then forgot to bookmark or save it in "favorites", making it impossible to find again? Chances are you have done this on a number of occasions. Thankfully, there is an easy solution. You can save webpages as PDF files. On your keyboard, press control/command+p and you will be able to save webpages as PDFs. Open Recently-closed Tabs Ever had dozens of tabs opened and all of a sudden your browser shuts down? It has probably happened to all of us. You can easily recover all of your tabs using two approaches. Don't panic if this happens because there is a workaround and solution for it. One is by pressing Ctrl/CMD+Shift+T. The other approach is to click on the three vertical dots on your browser and hover over "History". Solve Mathematical Problems Google's Chrome browser doesn't just search for relevant and updated information. It is also capable of performing some mathematical problems. Within the omnibox (Chrome's address or URL bar), you can perform mathematical exercises. For example, if you are struggling with percentages you can search 20 percent of x amount and it will instantly provide a result. Pretty handy, right?! Play Media Files Are you frequently met with difficulties when playing or watch a video files? Well, once again Chrome comes to the rescue. You can can listen or play videos from all sorts of movie or music files (mp3, mp4, .mov, .mkv, .ogv, .webm, .wav, etc.) by simply dragging the file into the search bar. In addition, you can view images, PDF files and Microsoft Office files, too. Navigate Swiftly Between Tabs With all of those tabs opened comes great navigation responsibilities. Rather than clicking through every tab, you can use shortcut keys like Ctrl+Tab to navigate all of the different tabs. Also, you are able to navigate to the first tab by pressing Ctrl-1, Ctrl-2, and so on. If you want to switch to the very last tab, press Ctrl-9. Stay Focus(e)d Computers nowadays have awesome capabilities. Sometimes we like to get work done, but let's face it, we're all human. We sometimes procrastinate by visiting a website we really like, or maybe take a break with watching a flick on Netflix, a video on YouTube or browsing Facebook. With Chrome's StayFocusd extension, you can truly stay focused and get more done in less time. This extension naturally helps you stay more productive by limiting the amount of time you spend on websites. You can set the time and it will automatically block those sites after a certain period. Grammarly for Editing Grammarly is a must have, and it's really a complete powerhouse. Grammarly helps you check your grammar and spelling for everything you write online. You can use it professionally or as a student, which will make the editing process much easier and more efficient. Furthermore, it can automatically check for typos when you send an email, type a Tweet, or post a Facebook comment. It's like having your own personal copyeditor! Loom There are times that words in an email or written text in a chat app will just not convey the right meaning. There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, the same is true of videos. With Loom, you can capture, narrate and immediately share video recordings of your screen, which will help coworkers understand issues you are facing, or to easily convey an explanation on screen. Plus, with video you will be able to easily walk people through a process, and you can use it to create simple how-to videos. Chrome Calendar Extension No matter what your level of responsibility is at your job, Google Calendar is another essential resource to have at your fingertips. Specifically, you can have this extension added as an icon in the toolbar of your browser, which I highly recommend. Once you add the extension to your browser, you can check for upcoming events with a single click without leaving your current page. Final Thoughts Google Chrome has definitely evolved from its inception. As you can see you have a very powerful tool that comes as a free installation and is loaded with dozens of capabilities. The above listed Chrome apps can resolve some of the most common obstacles to your time management and productivity.

12 Tips for Parenting the Strong Willed Child in a Compassionate Way

20. September 2018 - 17:00
How do you know if you have a strong willed child? You just know. Nobody had to tell you and you didn't have to analyze your child to determine if they were strong willed. Their personality is so strong that there is no guessing that they have a strong will. This type of personality is especially challenging to parents because it is difficult to parent someone who already has their mind made up about just about everything in life. If channeled in the right direction and you don't break your child's spirit along the way, you can have a kid who is destined for epic things in life. Strong willed children are often highly self-motivated, so they are go-getters from a young age. Help your child become the best person they can be by parenting your strong willed child appropriately, so their spirit is not broken. Below are tips on parenting the strong willed child: 1. Don't make yourself the enemy Don't make yourself the enemy by making it your way or the highway. Being a dictator as a parent will only drive your child away from you and make you the enemy. Some parents want their strong willed child to listen and obey above all else, so they become forcefully strict in their parenting. They think that they need to act dominating and forceful in order to gain obedience from their child. This is not helpful for the strong willed child. This will make you out to be the enemy because the perception is that you want your way and you are against their way. It becomes a battle of wills; yours versus theirs. This obviously isn't your goal as a parent; which is why you need to practice authoritative parenting methods. Authoritarian vs. Authoritative Parenting Parents should try to be authoritative parents of their strong willed child. Authoritarian parenting methods should be avoided, as this type of parenting is a dictatorship with parents trying to exert their will over their children. Authoritarian parenting is especially not helpful with strong willed children. Conversely, authoritative parenting methods are very effective with strong willed children. Parents who utilize authoritative methods have clear rules, are loving, consistent, while also placing value on their child's bests interests. At the end of the day, their goal is to do what is in the best interest of their child. Rules for one child are not the same for another within an authoritative home. They see each child as an individual. They have rules, but rather than always seeing everything as black and white, which would be the case with an authoritative parent, they are willing to listen to their child regarding the situation at hand and determine the course of action in each case. The rules are not there to simply be enforced. Rather, the authoritative parent sees the rules as guidelines to the end goal of raising healthy, happy, morally sound individuals. Seeing the rules as guidelines provides some flexibility. For example, if you have a rule that your child's bedtime is at 8:00 PM bedtime and your strong willed child wants to stay up until 9:00 PM because they want to watch the Miss America Pageant, then you take the time to listen their reasons and a discussion takes place. Your child explains that they want to watch the talent portion of the competition because they have a goal to someday be in this pageant and they want to see what kind of talent is needed to get to the Miss America level. Rather than being an enforcer of the rules, for the sake of the rules, you begin to understand that they are wanting to watch because they have a goal and dream that they want to pursue. You allow a one hour flexibility in this case, but make an agreement that anything beyond that hour will have to be recorded. You also include in the agreement that if there is any complaining or arguing when the hour is up, then the show will not be recorded at all. Creating clear boundaries, but also taking into consideration their desires, dreams, and goals (within reason) will help you make better decisions that aren't black and white all of the time. The example above helps to create responsibility for the child with expectations, allowing them to not simply "have their way", but to create an environment where they are treated with love and consideration. Their hopes and dreams should not be squashed or minimalized. Your strong willed child may have great dreams and you don't want to send the message that their dreams don't matter because the 8:00 bedtime is more important. 2. They need to make choices: Offer them options Love and Logic parenting methods can work quite well with strong willed children. This parenting method emphasizes offering options to children. How it works is that from even the youngest of age, a child will be offered two choices for most daily decisions. This allows the strong willed child to be the decision maker for themselves. Strong willed children want to feel in control of their decisions and will. Allowing for decisions throughout the day, even on the most basic level, puts the decision making in the hands of the child. This is obviously within reason though. Parents provide the options, so they should be options that are win-win for the situation. For example, at lunch time you can offer your child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or macaroni and cheese. These are both options that you don't mind making, yet it leaves a decision for the child. This helps the child feel empowered, because they are in control of decision making. What if you went to a restaurant every day and there was only one option and no choice to be made? That could make it feel like prison day in and day out. Your child's home environment can feel the same way to them. Are they being told what to do all day long or are they being allowed to make decisions on what they want throughout the day? Making it a point to allow decisions, with two options (that are both win-win options), you are helping your strong willed child to not only feel empowered, but you are also helping to develop a positive relationships with them. You don't want your child to feel like they are being raised in a prison, so allow them to make decisions daily. You will have a better relationship with your child when you allow them to make these daily decisions because you are sending the message that their thoughts and opinions matter. 3. Instill morals: Don't force your views Strong willed children become determined adult. If you want your children to have good morals and character as adults, then you need to help guide them by your example. You can't force a strong willed child to believe what you believe. However, if you live a virtuous life, then you are providing a great example. You are their number one role model as a parent. Their morals are shaped in the home. If you want your strong willed child to have good morals, then practice what you preach. If you talk about not cheating and stealing and then your child overhears you at the dinner table talking about cheating on your taxes, you are not being a good example. Teach your strong willed child to live a virtuous life by how you act. Be the example you want them to follow. Have conversations with your strong willed child about their morals and character. Having these discussions will help them determine what kind of person they want to become. Allow them to digest the important role that morality and good character play in their future. This will help shape their behavior because you are shaping their mind. 4. Keep in mind that they learn from experience One reason that strong willed children appear to not listen to their parents is because they learn primarily through personal experience. They learn from their first hand experience, rather than taking someone's word on it, and therefore they test limits and boundaries. A parent can say repeatedly "don't touch the stove because it is hot". The strong willed child will inevitably touch the stove for a millisecond to see for themselves that it is hot. They learn from their experiences and tend to test parental advice rather than just listen to the advice provided. They are listening though. They will likely challenge parental advice by seeing for themselves whether the advice has substance. Because strong willed children learn from experience, safety is of utmost importance when they are young. These children can be highly determined to do things on their own. You don't want them falling down stairs or touching hot stoves, so protect them when they are young and don't know any better. As they grow, they become smarter about their safety. A strong willed child needs extra safety measures when they are young because of their determined spirit. 5. Listen to their reasons Strong willed children usually have a reason behind their behavior. Allow the opportunity for them to explain themselves before you disagree with their decisions at face value. Ask them "why" when things don't make sense to you. Kids are not always logical, but the strong willed child usually has a reason behind their decisions and it is not just to defy you as the parent. Allow them the opportunity to explain themselves, so you can better understand them and their decisions. For example, your strong willed child may be refusing to wear the outfit that you laid out for them to wear to school. You lay out their outfit to make the morning routine go more smoothly and quickly. Their obstinance is not a welcomed part of the routine. Rather than get angry and order them to put the outfit on, ask them why they don't want to wear it. To your surprise, there may be a logical explanation such as it is gym day and they need to wear clothing and shoes that are fitting for the activities. Get to the bottom of the reason, so you can better understand their logic. Don't assume that their refusal to follow the rules or routine is out of sheer disobedience. Let their voice be heard, so they know that you are listening and you want to understand their reasons. 6. They need to know why Strong willed children need to know the reasons behind a request. If you are asking them to stop jumping on the bed, your request for their obedience needs to be explained. They have a strong will, which also means a strong need to understand the "why" behind things. Explain to your child jumping on the bed that you don't want them to get hurt or break a bone, like you did when you are kid. Let them know that you are concerned about their safety and whatever other reasons you have behind the rule, so that they can understand your logic. They don't take rules at face value. They need to know the "why", so be prepared to explain your reasons for your rules. The consequences should also be clearly explained. That way, they know the logical reasons behind the rules and the consequences if the rules are not followed. 7. Use empathy and compassion Strong willed kids need empathy, compassion, and respect. This can be difficult because strong willed children can appear obstinate and disobedient. Parents have to understand that their child is not doing things for the sake of disobedience, rather the child has a strong will and determined spirit. They have reasons behind what they do and why they do it. It takes extra compassion and empathy to seek understanding the child and why they do what they do. For example, on a morning when you are already running late and your child is refusing to put on their shoes and you yell at them to put on their shoes now or you are leaving without them is lacking in compassion. They may not want to wear those specific shoes because they are too tight. If you don't take the time to ask them "why", then compassion is lacking. Take the time to talk to your child empathetically. This means a true desire to listen to them and their reasons. If they are not feeling listened to, then they will feel that you don't care. Listen with your full attention. This means stopping what you are doing and set electronics to the side while you communicate with your child. Also, try to use a calm and loving tone when asking them their "why" and listen to their response. If you don't listen to them, then who will? If the child feels that they are not being heard or are being treated unfairly, their emotions will likely turn into behavioral issues. Allow them to express themselves verbally, so that they don't resort to physical expressions of their emotions, such as meltdowns, hitting others, or throwing things. 8. Repeated bad behavior is often a message Strong willed children will often repeat themselves until they feel heard. This can also true with their bad behavior. They are often trying to communicate something to you because they are not feeling heard. For example, that melt down in the store because you are ignoring their demands? Is it because they think that the melt down will get what they want or is it because they aren't feeling heard? When they ask a question, answer them and provide your reasons why. Don't ignore them and hope they will stop asking. The strong willed child will not stop. They will escalate to the next level until they feel that they are being heard. It doesn't mean that they always get what they want. Instead, your goal should be to communicate that they have been heard and they are respectfully answered. Yelling at them "no, because I am the Mom" is not a good approach when parenting a strong willed child. Instead answering with "no, we haven't had lunch yet, but you can have a dessert after dinner if you a well behaved today", will more likely result in good behavior. The child feels that you listened to them and furthermore, you understood that their desire was for something sweet. Explaining that they can have something sweet later, as a result of their good behavior, puts the ball back in their court. They now have the decision to be well behaved to get what they want later, or they can have a melt down which will result in the consequence of no dessert after dinner. Children who are strong willed require more time because you need to listen more, explain more, discuss more, and respect more. It is a not an easy road. However, the strong willed child can be a great success in life when their energies are channeled appropriately because things are clearly communicated. This communication is a two way street. Don't ignore their words until it escalates to bad behavior. If the behavior is seemingly out of control, then you need to help them verbalize their desires. They are communicating something through their behavior. You need to help channel the behavior back into meaningful verbalization in order to figure out what they want and determine how to resolve the situation. 10. Weather the storm It is not easy parenting a strong willed child. You will likely endure many storms while parenting your child. Keep doing what is in the best interest of your child, keep listening to them, and keep loving them. Don't be defeated by the storms which can come as temper tantrums, bad behavior, and rebellion. Know that they will pass. Know that you are not alone. There are parents out there also dealing with strong willed children. If you are feeling overwhelmed, then its time to reach out for help. A counselor or therapist can help both you and the child. You can also find support groups on Facebook. Use the search term "strong willed child". Don't go at it alone. Find support now so you can weather the next storm even better. 11. Embrace their strong will -- It can make them successful Strong willed children are determined individuals. If their spirit is not squashed, they can use that determination to become successful people as adults. Parents obviously need to protect their children from harm, but the smaller issues should be let go. Learn to differentiate between issues that matter and those that really don't matter in the long run. Does it really matter if they wear mismatched socks to school? No, if that is what they want, then let it be. Allow them to make some decisions, especially about their own body, without making an issue out of it. You don't want to break their spirit because someday that spirit is what will make them stand out in the world. They are their own person, with unique ideas, and a determined spirit that will help them become successful in life. They are more likely to persevere through difficulties because of their determined spirit. Don't break this spirit at a young age by demanding obedience for the sake of obedience. Take the time to understand your child, their reasons, and allow them to make choices along the way. 12. Motivate them! Strong willed children tend to be highly self motivated. This means that when they decide, they want to do something they really go for it. Provide motivation for your child by providing incentives. Strong willed children can be motivated with the use of a reward system. The use of the "CHART method"((Living Joy Daily: Yes, Bribery Can Be Good Parenting- Here’s How)) I developed can be especially helpful in parenting strong willed children. I have a strong willed six year old and this system is working great for her! Here is the article I wrote on the CHART method, so other parents can use this system as well. Final thoughts Having a strong willed child can be very challenging for a parent. If parents take the time to parent their strong willed child the right way, then this child can become a great success in life. Strong willed children are not acting the way they do out of disobedience. It is their inner determined spirit that makes them want to do thing their own way. They are highly motivated individuals and when that energy is channeled correctly, with their will in mind, then they can accomplish just about anything!

15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime

20. September 2018 - 16:00
Time away from the office gives us an opportunity to kick back and relax. However, if you're like me, you might enjoy squeezing some productivity out of your days off, too. Thankfully, there are several ways to incorporate productive things to do during downtime that can keep you in the flow of getting things done. 1. Start the new hobby you've always wanted to try Who says downtime productivity has to be boring? Extra time off is perfect for starting a new hobby, especially if you've had one in mind for a while. This is a great time to Google, take notes, and bookmark some excellent resources that'll help you get started. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even dive right in—you can usually start hobbies such as photography, arts and crafts, right away with what you have at home. 2. Organize your emails for a calm inbox Admittedly, tackling your inbox is about as exciting as it sounds. However, once you take the time to go through and organize your emails, you'll have a less stress-inducing inbox and can set yourself up for increased inbox productivity at work. Start by grouping similar emails together, like receipts and order tracking, and take advantage of your email provider's "promotions" and "social" folders, which will automatically sort all your Facebook updates and newsletters for you! Another good tip that I personally swear by is adding a set of priority folders right at the top of your email's folder bar. It's easy, effective, and will allow you to streamline your tasks. Here's how to do it:
  • Create a Priority 1 and Priority 2 folder at the top of your email bar
  • Sort emails appropriately as they come in. Priority 1 for the high-priority items, and Priority 2 for tasks lower on the totem pole.
  • During your workday, tackle all your Priority 1 emails first, then move on to your Priority 2 folder.
This system will not only make your inbox clean and calm but will give your productivity and prioritization skills a nice boost during work hours too. 3. Revamp your budget Another way to be productive and reduce stress during downtime is revisiting and revamping your budget. In the age of everything-as-a-service, many of us accrue new paid subscriptions every few months. Those small monthly payments of $15 here or $25 there can really add up—and you don't want these charges catching you off-guard when money is tight. A good starting point is to go through a month or two of bank statements and jot down all bills, subscriptions, and other recurring charges. Write them all down in a spreadsheet or planner and subtract the amount from what you make monthly. This is also a great time to get a good look at all the subscriptions you currently have and to decide which to keep and which to get rid of, if any. 4. Plan some fun activities If you've been meaning to plan a fun date night or a family day-trip, your extra downtime is the perfect time to do so. Take a look at your calendar for the next few months. What days would be perfect for some extra fun? If you want to add some entertainment to your calendar but don't know where to start, a good idea is to gather some new ideas and see what fits with your lifestyle, family, budget, and calendar. Setting time aside for fun activities is also a fantastic way to ensure you're carving out some stress-free time to enjoy your time off. 5. Set your appointments While not as fun as planning a day trip, setting your appointments for the next few months (or even the year!) can make sure you have the time to actually get necessities like doctor and dentists appointments out of the way. Better yet, if you've been putting off a routine cleaning or flu-shot, get them done quickly during your downtime and take the opportunity to schedule your next visits in-person. 6. Take a course With sites like Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare, learning something new has never been this easy. You can simply sign up to any of these sites, for free, and begin learning right away! While most of these sites offer free trials, they also offer a hefty variety of free or discounted courses, which makes it easy and inexpensive. If you prefer the traditional face-to-face route, you may want to check your local recreation center or community college for upcoming courses as well. When it comes to productive things to do, taking a course is one of the most useful, as several courses offer resume-boosting certifications that can help you move up in your career. Or, you can always learn a new skill just for fun! 7. Discover the educational side of YouTube Surprisingly, YouTube isn't just made of cat videos and millennial trends. In fact, the video sharing site can be an excellent resource for educational videos and even free courses. From TED Talks to learning to change the oil in your car, there are all sorts of things to discover on YouTube with a quick search. I find YouTube to be a great office companion—I often choose a TED Talk or a recorded productivity round-table to listen to while breezing through my to-do list every day. 8. Documentaries: A productive thing to do while relaxing If you've been looking for an excuse to curl up with a drink and some Netflix, here's your chance! Watching a documentary is both an entertaining and relaxing way to take in some new knowledge and learn some nifty facts. Documentaries can range from animals to unsolved crimes to the study of happiness around the world; there's always something new an interesting to learn with the added benefit of a relaxing night in front of the TV—without the guilt. 9. Get in some exercise while waiting in line When we're running errands or out and about, we're often faced with small bursts of downtime waiting in lines. These periods, while often not long enough to get a lot done, do allow time for the quick exercises below:
  • Calf raises - stand on the balls of your feet while keeping your legs straight, then return to your normal standing position. Repeat while you're in line—it's that easy! The benefits of calf raises include strengthening your calves, improving your jumping ability, and of course, burning some calories.((WebMD: Calf-Strengthening Exercises))
  • Standing on one leg - Don't worry: you don't have to look ridiculous in line to do this one, either. Slightly raise one of your feet off the ground so you are standing on one leg. Alternate every five seconds as needed. Standing on one leg can help build muscles throughout your leg and improve balance.
Adding just a little bit of exercise to your downtime each day can help to keep you active, and getting active is always productive! 10. Find a new favorite podcast When thinking of new productive things to do, sitting back and listening to something might sound counter-intuitive. However, enjoying a good podcast is a great way to add some extra productivity to your time off. Podcasts can help you learn about your industry, hobbies, and get you more involved in your community. In addition to being easy entertainment, podcasts can also help to inspire you and aid in self-improvement, which in turn raises productivity all around. 11. Learn a new career skill While we touched on using courses to boost your knowledge and even your resume, there are a few other ways to add a new skill set to your career toolkit. First, of course, you'll need to find a good skill that will aid you in your career. Then, the real fun begins with these methods:
  • Volunteer - While you'll be hard-pressed to land a job using a skill you're just starting to learn, often you can find volunteer opportunities that will let you learn within their organization. Learning in this environment is beneficial as it allows you to make a change in your community, looks great on a resume, and can even provide unique networking opportunities (but more on that later).
  • Use a multimedia approach - Don't be afraid to collect any and all resources pertaining to your new skill. In fact, reading books, articles, listening to podcasts, watching videos, and attending events centered around the skill are all great ways to develop the skill in a well-rounded manner. Of course, don't forget to practice!
  • Use your resources - If a friend or family member has your new desired skill, reach out! Chances are, they'd love a helping hand with their own projects and don't mind teaching a few tricks along the way. A bonus to this method: Family and friends might give you a deeper or more unique insight into the skill, unlike a book, event, or course normally would.
All of the methods above can be done during downtime. Whether you have five minutes to watch a video, an hour to read a book, or a few hours each week to volunteer, there's an option for new skill development no matter your downtime restrictions. 12. Network Networking isn't just for entrepreneurs. It can help you get ahead in your career, build and strengthen skills, introduce you to new hobbies, and open yourself up to new opportunities. The best part about networking is that it isn't exclusive to conferences and meetings either. By introducing yourself to the people around you, be it at a coffee shop or playground while watching the kids, you never know who you'll meet and what opportunities they can provide to you. Even if a new connection doesn't lead to a new opportunity or skill-building, it still allows you to build new friendships and flex your social muscles which are often lacking in today's digital age. 13. Set some goals to improve motivation Setting goals is one of the most motivational and productive things to do during downtime. This is the time to get real about what you want in life and set some goals to achieve it. These goals don't have to be career-centered either. They can be places you'd like to live, vacations you'd like to take, and hobbies you'd like to try. While we mostly think of vacations, dream homes, and leisure activities, we'd like to pursue as "dreams," putting these dreams onto paper with an action plan can turn them into highly-motivational goals. Even better, the more motivated you are by your goals, the more likely you are to boost your productivity in order to achieve them. 14. Start a blog If you have a knack for writing (or want to learn), then starting a blog is the perfect time to use those skills and get productive on your day off. Why? Because it allows you to utilize and hone a creative and desired skill and can even add extra income to your wallet, all from your keyboard. The best part about blogging? You can write about anything your heart desires. Whether you want to blog about raising kids, fly-fishing, or the best restaurants in your city, it's your blog, so anything goes! Writing for your own blog is the perfect way to learn by practicing, and also provides an opportunity to build a community of readers and other writers as well. Bonus: Many employers see blog writing (aka content marketing) as a highly valuable skill that can often help their companies or even their clients. It looks great on a resume and can even give you an edge over colleagues when it comes down to a competitive promotion process. 15. Build your brand Who says branding is just for businesses? In today's digital age, it seems as though everyone has a Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter account. So what does this have to do with branding? Everything! Chances are, you don't want to be a lost face in a sea of digital profile pictures. This is why it's crucial to develop your own personal brand. Your personal brand is all about how others perceive you, whether in person at work or online. Now, you don't have to start a website, blog, or business to have a "brand," but some things to consider are shown below:
  • Determine what you want to be known for: Do you want to be known as an expert in your field? Or do you simply want to show the world your baking chops? Either way, what you put out to the world online can and will be seen by many users, including the people in your company and community, so make it something great!
  • Decide where you need to be: Though they seem to blend together on occasion, every social media platform serves a different purpose. Decide which purpose will help you build your personal brand and stick to it for best results.
    • If you're showcasing career-centric blogs and trying to connect with other like-minded experts, communication-heavy LinkedIn and Twitter are for you.
    • If you're showcasing your unmatched cat-training videos or cake decorating process, then the visual-heavy platforms Instagram and Facebook are where you should focus your energy.
  • Keep things consistent: Consistency across your social media platforms is key to establishing your personal brand. By demonstrating your personality through consistent and relevant posts, users will be able to quickly identify your posts from the crowd.
Your personal brand can help you move up in your career or even start a brand new one. It can help you build a business or earn a stellar reputation in your community—if it's done right, that is. Now that you have a wide range of productive things to do during downtime, it's time to put some in action! The only question is, what will you start with first?

17 Ideas to Keep Your Love and Marriage Strong Through Thick and Thin

19. September 2018 - 19:00
Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? Everyone! And most of us want to believe that when we find our Prince Charming (or Princess) that we’ll easily ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. But for so many couples, that simply doesn’t happen. With the divorce rate around 50%, it is clear that most people don’t know how to create and maintain healthy relationships and marriages. If you think about it, that’s not very surprising. I mean, it’s not like any of us had a class in school called “Love and Marriage 101.” In fact, most of us never learned any life skills at all, let alone relationship skills. So, it’s no wonder most couples are floundering out there and don’t know how to save themselves. As a dating coach and communication professor, I hear people complain about relationships all the time. And do you want to know what the top complaint is that I hear all the time is? It is… “Relationships are so difficult!” And I always respond: “Relationships aren’t inherently difficult. It’s the people involved in the relationships that MAKE them difficult.” So, whether you are embarking on a new relationship, or trying to fix a 50-year-old marriage, here are some tips for you. 1. Know your love languages. If you’ve never heard of the book, The Five Love Languages, then you should definitely read it. Written by marriage therapist, Gary Chapman, it explains how there are basically five main ways that a person expresses and wants to receive love. And you and your partner may not do it the same way. Reading it will help you understand yourself and them better. You can also take a look at this article to learn a bit more about the five love languages: Understanding These Five Love Languages Can Reward You With The Perfect Relationship 2. Empathize with each other. One main problem with relationships is that most people only see their own point of view. It’s inevitable that couples will have disagreements. But that doesn’t mean it has to damage your relationship. So, in order to really understand each other, you have to listen to and accept the other person’s point of view. Everyone deserves to be understood: How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships 3. Have date night. One of the sad things about relationships as the years go on is that people forget to “date” each other. They think the “work” is done because they’re so comfortable with one another. But sometimes life, and kids, get in the way of keeping the romance alive. It’s essential that you go out on date nights so you can consistently keep connecting. 4. Learn to work through conflict effectively. Most people handle conflict the wrong way. They think it’s a “Me vs. You” situation. They think they have to be right and “win” the arguments. This is backwards thinking. It’s not Me vs. You… it’s US. Think of yourself as a team who are working together to accomplish a goal and solve a problem TOGETHER. 5. Understand each other’s unique quirks. Everyone has weird things that they do. Whether it’s not liking to share their food or not being able to be spontaneous, you need to learn to accept each other’s quirks. You may not like them, but you do need to accept them and try not to let it ruin your relationship. 6. Take a Myers-Briggs personality test. There is a great website called 16personalities.com that lets you take the personality test. It shows you how much of an introvert or an extrovert someone is, among many other personality traits. Once you both take this and read about each other’s personalities, you will understand each other better. 7. Talk about finances and plan a budget. Money is one of the top things that break couples up. Maybe one of you is a spender, and the other is a saver. That’s a problem! It will cause a lot of disagreements and strife. So, talk about how you handle money. Come to a compromise, make a budget and stick to it. 8. Don’t neglect intimacy. If you have kids, it’s easy to neglect intimacy. And intimacy means more than just sex (although you shouldn’t neglect that either). You need to have intimate conversations, cuddle while you sleep, and just do the things that keep the two of you connected. 9. Beware of addictions. I’ve heard people say that everyone has some sort of addiction. And I’m not talking just alcohol or drugs. People can be addicted to anything from shopping to video game playing. If you do ANY activity too often, it’s taking quality time away from spending time with your significant other. So, cut down on that so you can re-focus your energy on the relationship. 10. Don’t be selfish. It’s easy to focus on yourself and what YOU want. But it’s not so easy to put your needs aside sometimes and focus on what your partner wants. Any quality relationship involves compromise. You can’t be #1 all the time. And if you want to be, then you shouldn’t be in a relationship. You should stay single for the rest of your life. 11. Have a balance of togetherness and independence. Sometimes couples fall into one of two different extremes: too much togetherness or too much time apart. Neither is healthy. Of course, you need togetherness to connect. But too much of it might make you lose your own identity. On the other hand, too much time on your own will make you drift apart. So, keep an eye on the balance you have (or lack thereof). 12. Talk to each other. Most people’s lives are very busy. Work, kids, family, other activities… they get in the way of your relationship. But only if you let them. Make sure you still talk to each other. And not just about the kids or work. Really talk. Get into interesting and deep conversations sometimes. If you don’t think you have the time, then make time. 13. Put effort in every day. After people have been in a long-term relationships for a while, they tend to think, “Ahhhhh. All the work and wooing is done. Now I can be the real me and do nothing!” But that’s when the real work starts! You have to think of your relationship as a plant. If you don’t water it every day, it will die. So, make sure you “water” it every day. 14. Put your partner’s needs at least equal to - or before - your own. This goes hand-in-hand with selfishness. No one wants their partner to feel like the don’t care about their needs. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not fun. You have to figure out what your partner likes, and then do it. And vice versa. Both people have to put 100% effort into pleasing the other. It can’t be one-sided. 15. Be self-aware. This is easier for some people than others. But having an element of self-awareness helps you see how your behaviors are affecting the other person. Playing video games every day? Well, maybe you should wake up at some point and realize “Hey, I’ve been playing for 5 hours straight. Maybe I should stop.” You get the idea. 16. Consider how you are contributing to the relationship - for better or for worse. Most people blame their significant other for the problems in the relationship. But what a crock! It takes two to tango, right? So, it takes two to mess up a relationship too. You need to look at yourself and see how you are making the relationship better or worse. And that takes some self-awareness like I mentioned above. If you lack self-awareness, I’m sure that your partner will be happy to tell you how you could change your behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Or, you could seek the help of a therapist too. 17. Always stay affectionate and loving. I realize that not everyone is a warm and fuzzy person. Some people don’t like touching, hugging, and snuggling very much. But, it really does help a relationship stay strong. It releases good chemicals into the brain the promote bonding. So, even if you don’t like doing it so much, try to do it so you stay connected – even on a biological level. Final thoughts As I said earlier, relationships don’t have to be difficult. It just takes some awareness of what helps keep it healthy, and then some effort to keep it going. But if you keep putting in effort every day, it doesn’t feel like “effort.” You should actually want to keep your partner happy. Because remember, the happier they are, the happier YOU will be too.

How to Make Changes to Your Life by Changing Your Habits

19. September 2018 - 18:00
You wanted to make changes. This summer was when you were finally going to get fit, eat more healthily and lose those extra pounds. However, that new gym membership has seen your four weekly visits reduce to a single one due to changing work demands. In fact, you have not returned since you fell ill last week. Weekly viewing that subscription payment on your bank statement has become that fine thread of hope to convince yourself are still doing something…or are at least connected to something that can bring you positive change. You need to just do it. But you don’t. Those little three words are damning. Your parents’ judging voices speak loudly in your head of having no discipline yet again, and your shoulders shrink under the weight of regret, guilt and loss of confidence. In your weaker emotional state, you convince yourself you are no worse off as you are back where you started. Sound familiar? Coming up with ideas and ways to change your life is easy. Making those changes become habits is harder. However, when you understand how we form habits in the first place, you can become a master of applying a quick process for yourself to redesign and change whatever area of life you want. How do we develop habits? Habits give us something. They make us feel better in some way – physically, mentally and/or emotionally - otherwise, we wouldn’t do them. Our brain subconsciously learns that particular behavior is one to keep. We are usually unconscious of the habits we develop but when we dig deep to see why we developed them in the first place we unleash a whole universe of possibilities! Firstly, we create and keep long-term habits in one of three ways:
  • Having an enlightening epiphany
  • Changing our environment
  • Making small adjustments and changes over time
Having an epiphany is usually a rare event and something we aren’t in control of. Changing our environment is also something which can be done, but takes time. Making gradual changes is the simplest and most effective way to make big changes in your life! Your habits play out in a three-step sequence: The trigger The trigger might be the mid-afternoon yawn signaling you need an energetic pick-me-up. Notice the trigger of yawning is not something you consciously control? For us, that is great news because it means triggers aren’t dependent on your mood state or motivation level. If you want to change certain habits to change the course of your life, you can use the smallest triggers – occurrences which happen daily, all the time – to catalyze the changes you want. The routine behavior With the yawn, the thought of your favorite caffeine fix automatically comes to mind. You reach for loose change in your purse or wallet and tell your co-workers you are going out to get a coffee. Now you've developed awareness of this automatic behavior you’re in a greater position of power to choose whether you want to modify it to something better. The reward Leaving the office brings the logical rewards (reinforcement) are feeling the sun on your face and feeling more relaxed in your body because your legs have had a chance to stretch. These common-sense rewards pale in comparison with the entertaining jokes you have with the quirky, perky coffee cart owner as they prepare your latte. Something about their smile and spirit always lifts yours. Knowing this sequence to all your habits, you can strategically manipulate these steps to steer your life’s ship toward Paradise Island. How to build habits and make lasting changes Here are seven steps to do make changes in life: 1. Clarify and decide on the positive life changes you want and extensively explore the benefits. Simple goal-setting is extremely helpful in deciding what changes you truly want to experience. Think deeply. Decide on the changes you want first then prioritize them. If there aren’t emotional reasons why you want certain changes in the first place, trying to sustain the habit will be harder. Your brain always operates in ways to keep you safe, relaxed and happy. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Expect to experience some discomfort in doing something different to your habitual routine. That’s normal. So are those rotten excuses and reasons that immediately come to mind to keep you stagnant. Acknowledge these but don’t resist them. Honor their voice and in addition, purposefully and extensively explore the benefits you will experience. Identify the immediate and secondary (delayed) benefits and write them all down. An example of a new habit might be getting up earlier and meditating. We might draw to mind the benefits to be:
  • My mind feels clearer. (immediate benefit)
  • I feel a sense of calm. (immediate benefit)
  • The rest of my day becomes easier to manage. (secondary benefit)
  • The pain in my shoulders melts away. (immediate benefit)
  • Ideas and answers come to me freely. (immediate and secondary benefit)
  • My mind works sharper and faster; when I slow down I actually can speed up. (secondary benefit)
  • I see possibilities I can’t usually see under stress. (secondary benefit)
The more instantaneous benefits you can identify, the easier changing your habit/s will be, because your brain will love them! 2. Make sure the goals and changes you choose are yours. It is possible to pick the wrong habits to change. Learning that others have found a great eating plan that worked extremely well for them does not mean you should do it too. Trying to lose a few pounds because your partner says you should also raise alarm bells. Resist being compelled to follow the masses and motives of other peoples’ agenda and spend time getting clear on what changes you want to experience in your life. Research has shown time and time again that when you develop your own goals, you’re much more likely to follow through on achieving them. It’s your life so take the reins and choose your own adventure. 3. Identify behaviors that will give you the change you want, then choose ONE. Choose wisely. There are many ways to exercise and achieve weight loss, a multitude of frameworks to help you prioritize your time better and become better with managing money. The key is to choose something that positively resonates with you that has a strong element of fun. If you choose something you associate more with punishment and delayed gratification, sticking to your new habit is going to be harder and unlikely. Choose one habit change and become good at mastering it. Continue with mastering it to the point of it becoming second nature and it feels wrong to not do it. Your initial job is to become a master of the change process. When you do that, the result will speak for itself. 4. Change your life through making minor habit adjustments, not by punishment or denial. Going cold turkey will shock your system and before long, you will have resumed the old habit. If you look to make big changes, when you fall, you fall further emotionally and mentally. Denying yourself pleasure is already attaching a negative perspective to the new habit you are trying to create; you have sacrificed the guilty pleasure habit for the sake of a new habit. B.J. Fogg, researcher and psychologist at Stanford University, recommends training your brain to succeed at achieving minor adjustments.((B.J. Fogg: Tiny Habits)) Pair your desirable habit with an existing trigger. Don’t look at changing a habit altogether. Gradually reframe it in gradual steps. Using the previous meditation example, let’s say you desire increasing morning meditation to help calm your anxiety. If your morning routine is already hectic, see if you can pair it with another behavior you do already:
  • As I shower (trigger), I stand still for twenty seconds with my eyes closed and let whatever thoughts come into my head, come;
  • I close my eyes as I gently brush my teeth (trigger) paying attention to spending 30 seconds in each quadrant of my mouth;
  • When I wake (trigger), I sit up in bed, close my eyes and deepen and slow my breathing for ten cycles
Doing one of the above is much easier and faster than putting on a candle, getting into a lotus sitting position, turning on the calming music and trying to meditate for 10 minutes. Your brain will always struggle to adapt big, unfamiliar changes even if we know they’re good for us. Work one minor change into your already existing triggers, slightly modify your routine and make that your focus for a week. 5. Choose something that is easy to start. Prioritizing what changes and new habits you want to make is not as easy as you think. Do you start with exercise or focus on replacing your afternoon coffee and biscuit with? Do you do both? Do you work on getting better at leaving your work on time instead of staying behind an extra ½ hour every day? We get pulled here and there by changing work demands, our children getting sick, the vicarious stress of friends or extended family going through challenging times. Start small and choose to start with something that you have full control over despite the curve balls life may throw at you. Using the morning meditation example again, it’s nonsensical to think you’ll have uninterrupted time in the mornings if you have young children to get ready for school. Your morning tea break might be a better time to grab 2-3 minutes of uninterrupted time. If your workplace allows it, play a calming non-lyrical tune on your workstation and put your headphones in for 2 minutes. Changing your life can be easy, taking one small step at a time. 6. Strengthen and stabilize your new habit by increasing your attention to it. Make your new habit easier to stick to by increasing your focus and attention to it. Talk about it. Talk about it with friends, family and work colleagues. Talk about it with your neighbors. Write about it. Read about it and actively seek people who have been successful in changing this habit. Create a community you can plug into which supports the change you are looking to try and create. When you fall off the bandwagon, acknowledge and accept this. If you keep falling off the bandwagon, review your triggers and modified routines. It might help to adjust them. Maybe you need to create some variety. It might be highly possible your initial existing/new behavior-pairing no longer gives you the satisfied feeling you initially felt. It’s probably time to mix things up a bit. If you want to increase your exercise - for example, gentle walking as a start - you might start with walking up the three flights of steps to the third floor, then take the elevator to the fifth where your work area is. Extra motivation might kick in to walk the full five flights particularly if you want to avoid morning conversation with that energy-draining work colleague at all costs! Eventually, you become bored again. You might then look at walking outside for 10 minutes when the alarm you set yourself for lunch at 1:00 pm, tingles its pleasant ringtone. You will feel the air on your face, see the sky, and see different people. When you come back in after lunch, you feel more energized whilst your colleagues are falling victim to the post-prandial dip from eating lunch at their desks. Get good at creating little, interesting modifications. The magic of great life changes comes from tiny habit changes. 7. Reward yourself every time you implement your new behavior Celebrate all wins! Regardless of how minor it might seem, anchoring a positive experience will help burn that pleasurable memory into your brain that your new habit is one you want to keep doing. Wallow in that celebratory feeling to help your new habit stick. Swim in it like staying in the bath water too long until your finger pads turn into prunes. Tell your brain, this is something good! As you are carrying out your new habit, pay attention to how you feel better about yourself as you are doing it. Increase dedicated, purposeful recollections of this. Over time, your brain will direct you to keep this habit, you will feel better for it and one day you will wake up with your life looking radically different. And when you look back, it won’t have been as hard as you thought.

How to Listen to Your Inner Voice

19. September 2018 - 17:00
Five years ago, my husband Jake was training for a triathlon. He had just purchased a new road bike and woke up one sunny Saturday morning to take it out for its first spin. As we were lying in bed, he looked at me and said, “I don’t have a good feeling about this; I hope something doesn’t happen.” I suggested if he had a bad feeling, maybe he shouldn’t go. He thought for a moment, his logical mind kicked in, and he replied, ”Of course I should go, it’s fine. I need to train. It will be okay.” Fast forward two hours later when I got a call from an unknown number. I answered with trepidation, knowing exactly what this call was going to be. A man told he had just found my husband in the middle of the road. He had an accident and the ambulance was on its way. He would stay with him until it was there. Turns out, he was lucky to have just broken his femur and hip. Jake knew that morning that something wasn’t right. But instead of trusting his intuition and listening to that inner voice, he went anyway. It happens to all of us. You often hear people say, “Go with your gut”, “Trust your instincts”, “Follow your intuition” and “Listen to your inner voice.” That all sounds great, right? If only it were that easy. With all the external noise and internal conflict, how do we listen to our inner wisdom? When you can tune in to that inner voice, you can make better and faster decisions, solve problems with greater ease, and live a more fulfilled and happy life. But HOW? I’ve worked with thousands of people over the course of my career and have learned that while this inner voice shows up in a variety of ways for each of us, we ALL have it. In this article, I’ll outline some tips and strategies for how to identify and listen to your own inner voice. If you can find that voice and truly listen, it can save you a lot of time, energy, angst….and perhaps even a broken hip along the way. I understand this might be easier for some than others. But regardless of who you are and how you’re wired, I just know, in my gut something will work for you. What is our inner voice? Call it Gut. Knowing. Insight. Soul. Innate Wisdom. That’s the voice we’re looking for. The dictionary defines intuition as, “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” It’s a hunch. A feeling. An inkling. A sense. In Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, he explores the inner processes of intuition and instinct, examining how we make snap decisions and judgments. He has numerous examples of people having a hunch, feeling or intuition and how, while there was no hard evidence to back them up at first, science and data eventually backed up what they knew to be true. Did you know that 95% of our brain activity happens at an unconscious level? Studies from numerous cognitive neuroscientists show that only 5% of our cognitive activity (decisions, emotions, actions, behavior) comes from our conscious mind. We are taking in information through all our senses all the time – and processing it at an incredible speed. So that intuition, hunch, inkling, sense, voice, is coming from masses of information we can’t even cognitively or consciously process. Then there's cognition. “The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” This is more about understanding. Problem solving. Discernment. Organizing. This is the logical, thinking part of your mind. Weighing pros and cons; coming to rational conclusions based on data or other factors. These are the voices of reason which often try to override your instincts. But I don’t hear ANY voice. Your inner guidance and wisdom aren’t always a voice in your head. Often, it’s a feeling, a sensation, image, energy or emotion. You might notice it your body. There’s no one best or way to experience your inner voice. The important thing is to identify when and where you feel it. Is it a feeling in your gut? This is true for many of my clients and for me, personally. You may have heard the gut being called our “second brain.” This is because of the enteric nervous system (ENS). It can operate independently of the brain and spinal cord, and the central nervous system. We really can think with our gut!((Scientific American: Gut Feelings)) Celebrity therapist and pioneering hypnotherapy trainer Marisa Peer has this to say: “The stomach is the seat of all emotions and your feelings are the most real thing you have; so the trick is to listen to your feelings. If something feels wrong, your inner voice is saying it is not right for you. If you get the horrible lurch in your stomach, your inner voice is telling you ‘this is wrong’.” Perhaps it’s in your heart. When I asked a Jessie Gardner of HeySoul.com, a friend and colleague known for her acute sense of self-awareness where her inner voice resides, she said, “My heart for sure. Always my heart.” That’s no surprise, our hearts are very intelligent organs.((Exploring Your Mind: The Heart Has Neurons Too)) “Most people don’t know this, but the heart can feel, think and decide for itself. It has around 40,000 neurons and whole network of neurotransmitters with very specific functions, which make it a perfect extension of the brain. It’s automatic, almost instinctive, as if a mysterious, primal voice were telling us that the center of our true being, our conscience, is located right there.” Maybe the voice is in your head? When I talked to my Dad about his inner voice, he balked at the idea of feeling it in his gut or heart. Instead, he shared about the voice that comes from the back of his head that talks to him not with him. Try this: Look, Listen, Feel. We experience inner wisdom in different ways. Maybe you relate to one of my examples? Maybe you “see” a picture, vision or image that comes up in your head. Perhaps you feel sensations in your body – energy, emotions or feelings. As we go through examples of how to listen, pay attention to how and where yours shows up. If this inner voice is so powerful and effective, why don’t we listen? Logic or reason takes over. We often have a feeling or a sense of something, just like my husband did, but very quickly, our logical mind kicks in to try to understand and comprehend what we feel. This especially happens when we don’t have data or information to back up our hunch or inner voice. We, and of course, others believe it’s not valid if we can’t justify or explain ourselves. So we push our instincts aside. A recent client told me about how he ignored his inner voice not long ago. He dropped off his 16-year-old daughter at the mall. As she got out of the car, he thought, “I should tell her to make good choices.” But, because her friends were in the car and he didn’t want to embarrass her, he decided not to. His logic, reason and social graces took over. A few hours later he got a call from the mall police. His daughter had stolen a ring. “I knew I should have told her to make good choices.” We often override our instincts with logic, reason, desire, and, in this case, societal pressure or social graces. But we don’t have to. We don’t like the answer. Sometimes we know what we need to do, but don’t like the answer. This happens with clients all the time when I ask what they sense they should do. They answer, but then reply, “But I don’t want to do that!” Once, a client told me the story of her wedding, and a knowing that she simply ignored. As she walked down the aisle, she knew that she should not marry the man standing in front of her. Truthfully, she knew long before that day. But she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, call off the wedding, let friends and family down. So, she went through with it. Inevitably, that marriage ended in divorce - and this story is all too common. We don’t know how to distinguish, hear or listen to it. That’s what the following strategies are for! Let's dive in. Here are 9 different ways to tune into your innate wisdom and inner voice: 1. Find Quiet. “Be still. The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass There are lots of ways to find quiet in the busyness of life. Turn off the phone, shut off the TV. Get some time and space to yourself. You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Yes, I’m going to recommend you meditate. I know meditation seems to have become the panacea for everything that ails you, and there a good reason for that: it works. It’s one of the fastest, easiest and most effective ways to tap into your inner voice. Meditation aides us to connecting with our true self. Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati said "If you quiet the mind, the soul will speak." I completely agree. Another great way to find quiet is to be in nature. Why? Because there’s a connection. It’s grounding. You’re able to tap into the “oneness” of everything. This can shift things energetically. Want the double whammy? Meditate in nature. You might find your quiet in nature, meditation, yoga, exercise, prayer. Whatever it is, find your quiet. 2. Push Pause. Most of us are running a hundred miles an hour in every direction. It’s hard to hear anything at that pace. Have you ever been driving down the freeway with the windows down, listening to music, when the person next to you starts talking. Can you hear them? Of course not. It’s too loud. There’s too much going on. You need to roll up the windows, press pause on the music and stop. Our inner voice is speaking to us all the time, but sometimes it’s just too loud or we’re too busy to hear it. Pressing “pause” allows to tap into our innate wisdom. When I was studying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Mike Bundrant at the iNLP Center gave me a fantastic tool that I share with almost every client. It’s called the AHA Solution.((Mike Bundrant: The A-H-A Solution)) It’s often used to identify patterns of self-sabotage, but in this case, we can use it to listen to our inner voice. Next time you have a feeling, a sense, a hunch or intuition, follow this protocol. A. Aware: Be aware of what you are feeling. Pay attention and notice. H. Halt: This is the pause button. Think about the ways you can respond to what you’re hearing or noticing. You could listen to your inner voice, ask more questions and seek to hear it further. Or, you could choose to ignore it completely and let your cognitive mind take over and convince you it’s okay. A. Act: Now that you have options, decide which action you will take. 3. Invite your inner wisdom to show up. If you want someone to come to your house, you’ve got to invite them over, right? Try taking this approach with your inner voice. While it’s always running in the background, it may have taken a backseat because it can’t seem to get through all the noise. It’s going to speak up more often when it knows you’re open and listening. Take a moment now and invite your inner wisdom to show up. Let it know you are ready and willing to listen. Wait to see what happens. 4. Ask your Body. I love this one; our bodies are so dang smart. They will tell us if we ask and listen. But too often we have disconnected from sensations in our body to push through in the interest of productivity. A few months back I was working with a client who came to our appointment with a massive headache. She stopped midway through our session and asked if I would mind if she went and took a couple Advil. Of course I said it was no problem, but asked if she was interested to understand the cause of her headache first. She nodded. I had her close her eyes, take a couple deep breaths and ask her head, “What do you need from me right now?” The answer? “I need rest.” She burst into tears. She was exhausted but felt she couldn’t stop. She was leaving for a trip in a couple days, had her son’s birthday coming up and felt completely swamped. However, when she asked the question, her inner wisdom knew what she needed. Try this at home. Next time you get something that’s bothering you physically, stop and be still for a moment. Ask that part: What do you need from me? What’s this about? Or What’s going on? And then wait and listen for an answer. This might sound a little out there, but trust me, it works. 5. Put it in your ‘slow cooker’. When my Dad has a big problem he’s trying to solve or an important decision to make, he thinks about it before bed. I realize this might go against all advice regarding thinking about stressful things before bed, but that’s just the thing. He isn’t thinking about it or trying to solve it. He just puts the problem in the back of his mind for the night. In the shower the next morning, solutions start bubbling up. These are usually spoken to him as if someone is talking to him. “What about this? Why don’t you do this?” It’s usually a very simple answer he hadn’t yet considered. And his response back to himself is frequently, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But he did! This goes back to the 95% unconscious part that’s running in the background. When he stops thinking, his mind stops racing and puts the problem in the back of his mind, the unconscious part of him comes up with all sorts of great solutions. A colleague of mine used to refer to this as putting things in her ‘slow cooker’. 6. Flip a Coin. Have you ever flipped a coin, only to decide to do the exact opposite of what the coin said? Flipping a coin instigates our instinctive response because it gives us something to react to. When writing this article, My 7-year-old daughter was sitting at dinner one night, deciding who she wanted to put her to bed. She started doing the game, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.” Each time she finished, she landed on my husband. So, she went again. And again. Until six attempts later when she landed on me and replied, “I choose Mummy!” When a decision is taken out of our hands and happens to us, it gives us something to react to. Try this with a decision you’re trying to make. Flip a coin. Are you happy and ready to go with that answer? Or do you want to go against the decision and try again? Well then, you already know what you want, don’t you? 7. Eat the decision. I just had to include this one. I know it might sound a bit odd, but bear with me. Years ago, I read about a CEO who made all his big decisions this way. Let’s say he was considering acquiring another company. He would sit down and imagine he was eating that decision. Then he would stop and wait and see how he felt. Did he feel energized and alive or sick to his stomach? I love this idea and have tried it myself. It allows you to get out of your head and go into your body to make the decision. This might not be for everyone, but maybe it’s for you! 8. Take a step. Sometimes you don’t know until you’re “in it.” When you’re faced with two choices, make the best choice with the information you have and what you feel is best, and then start moving. You’ll know if that choice is really right for you as you’ll feel good as you move forward. You’ll know it’s wrong if you continue to feel heaviness or resistance. The more you move forward the clearer the signal will become. 9. Get some help! Whether it be a best friend (who knows how to listen and ask the right questions), a coach or therapist. Having scheduled time to tune in and having someone ask the right questions allows you tap in to what you already know. You already have the answers within you, sometimes you just need a little help to uncover them. Now what? Like with anything in life, practice makes permanent. It takes time to grow and nurture your inner voice, especially if you’ve ignored it or pushed it to the side for some time now. The more you listen and hone your skills, the better and faster you will become at hearing and listening to your intuition, your gut, your innate wisdom. Play with the strategies above and see what works. Better yet, as you read through the ideas, identify which ones you felt or sensed would be good to try. Try those first. Practice on small things first, like what you want to eat, what to wear or whether you want to attend that party Saturday night. You don’t have to start with major life decisions, whether you should buy that house or if you should take that job. Then:
  • Notice when and where your feel your inner wisdom.
  • Notice when you feel a pull, have a hunch or instinct about something.
  • Notice when you have that sense and your mind tries to override it.
  • Notice when you start talking yourself out of something or start talking yourself into something.
Need more evidence that this will work for you? Think about a time in your life when you recognized and listened to the inner voice – what was the outcome? Now, think about a time when you heard that voice, but for some reason, ignored it or pushed it aside. What was the outcome then? You, know, that time when you felt like you shouldn’t do something, but did anyway? Or had a bad feeling but kept moving forward? One last thing… Pay attention. Next time you have a bad feeling, a sense that something isn’t right, an inkling or a pit in your stomach, pay attention. Following your inner voice will lead you to the truth of what’s best for you. Tuning into your innate wisdom will help you make better and faster life decisions, solve problems with greater ease, and live a life of greater happiness, success and fulfillment. In the words of Madeleine L’Engle, “Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.”

How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity: 17 Tips to Get Started

19. September 2018 - 16:00
With our busy lives, it feels harder and harder to plan our life effectively -- to keep track of everything we currently have to do, and to plan the things we want to do in the future. You may have invested in a paper or digital planner to keep track of everything, or a journal to note down your thoughts and ideas. You may have Post It notes on your desk or attached to your fridge or used an online project management tool such as Asana or Trello. The thing is, we know what we want to do and resolve to do it but then life gets in the way and our initial excitement and commitment falls down. In this article, I will help you focus on what matters despite the constant changes in life by knowing how to bullet journal. How starting to journal changed my life Now, I love using a planner and a journal and making notes of all my thoughts, ideas, goals and dreams. I’ve written about the power of taking notes and how to make it a habit. Actually writing things down gives me a lot more focus and clarity. It increases self-awareness and allows me to truly reflect on everything that’s happening both internally and externally. It has become an important habit in my life. I have found I’m more grateful because I capture what matters, remember things more clearly and have become quite creative in how I lay out the most important things. The habit of updating my journal daily has become the catalyst for creating a successful life and kick starting my morning routine. I start with exercise, whether that’s yoga or a run, then wind down by writing in my journal, capturing my thoughts or simply laying out my plans for the day. Have you noticed in your own life how introducing one new positive habit can change other things in your life, for the better? For me, that is journaling, and it has changed me on the inside as well as made me far more organised and productive. I am far more creative and organised because of my journaling. Why does it seem difficult to take up journaling? Journaling takes commitment. For many people, they have tried journaling several times and it hasn’t worked for them. They may do it for a week and then get bored and try something else. One of the problems people experience is that they’re trying to use too many tools to manage and plan their life. You may be using a calendar to lay out your appointments, important dates and sometimes your daily tasks. In addition, you may use a daily, weekly or monthly planner to lay out your goals, action plans and work and personal tasks. This may be through a digital app or paper planner. You may have a vision board to map out your dreams, goals and aspirations. You may also use Post It notes to remember important things that could be put up at both work and in your home. With information captured on a variety of different devices sometimes, it can be difficult to really organize your life effectively. To-Do lists can get lost and Post It notes can easily get thrown in the bin. Discovering the bullet journal Recently, I started looking for something that could capture everything in one place. My research led me to the bullet journal. If you search Instagram or Pinterest or put in a google search for bullet journal you will be met with an abundance of neatly designed notebook pages designed to map out and organise your life or creatively designed ‘spreads’ full of colour coded notes and pictures that capture everything from life goals to inspirational quotes to your ‘Year At A Glance.’ What I’ve learned is that bullet journals can be an amazing productivity tool and life manager if you make it your own and learn to use it in a way that fits into your life. Why bullet journal is good for you Essentially, it is just a simple notebook that allows you to include a huge variety of current and future planning techniques. According to Founder Ryder Carroll it is a system to help you “Track the past, organize the present and plan for the future.” “The Bullet Journal is a customisable and forgiving organisational system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” - Ryder Carroll The bullet journal is great for people who:
  • Want to get more organised
  • Like pen and paper to-do lists, planners and journals
  • Have lots of thoughts and tasks floating around but not written down
  • Love goal setting and tracking results and habits
  • Love planners
  • Are struggling to keep up with the habits of journaling or updating their planners
  • Want to plan their life more effectively
  • Want a place of self-expression and self-awareness
The notebook you choose for your bullet journal can be simple, with blank, lined or a dot grid pages. You can use it to create yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily calendars and to-do lists. It can be used as a diary, vision board, brainstorming notepad or whatever you choose to use it for. You can build out pages to create collections of the things that are important to you – inspiring quotes, bucket list, life goals, books to read, self-expression, personal and career wins as well as a place to express gratitude. It is also a place you can use to keep track of everything that’s happening with you right now as well as goals for the future. The key thing about the bullet journal is that it is a place to make your own – to capture what matters in a way that fits the way your brain and creative side works. How to set up your bullet journal Here's a simple guide for setting up your bullet journal: Lay out your index This should ideally be on Page 2 of your bullet journal. This is where all of your plans and collections get organised and refer back to the specific page number. For example, September may be on Page 6. Only Index the things that are important to you and that you want to refer back to. I will have an Index that Includes plans per month, big goals, weekly schedules, gratitude log, inspiring quotes etc. I show the start and end page number for each item, but adapt it to what works for you. The key It’s suggested that you keep a key at the front or back of your bullet journal to track what all the symbols mean. There is far more information on symbols to use in your bullet journal in the video I link to below. The future log This is essentially how you lay out priorities, events and appointment for the months ahead. This can be 12 months ahead or 6 months ahead. I personally prefer to go 6 months ahead and have this across two pages, 3 months on each page. I will usually have 8-10 items per month listed here. Monthly log The monthly log keeps track of all your current priorities, events and appointments across the month. The aim here is simplicity and to write succinct notes. Some people will write the date and day down the left hand side of the page for every day in the month. Others will create boxes for each day to fill in and complete. Once you decide on which works for you, add in the actual event, task or project. The aim here is to start the next month at the end of the existing month, rather than at the start of the month. As the month unfolds you can update and add to it. Daily log You can fill your day with all of the tasks, events, appointments and other notes, listed under the day’s date. For many, this is where the bullet journal is exciting as you can use the method of rapid logging and use the symbols (from the key). Once a task is complete, it gets crossed off with a simple x. 17 Tips to start using bullet journal Now we’ve touched on a brief overview of how the bullet journal works, let’s just into 17 tips that you can use to get up and running with your own bullet journal today. 1. Define your purpose Be crystal clear on your objective for using the bullet journal. The core aim of the journal is to increase productivity but is that your main reason for using it? Is it to bring together all of your notes, ideas and to-do’s in one place? Do you want to bring together your personal and business goals in one place and track your progress? Do you want to be more mindful about your day? Do better at remembering things? If you know what is motivating, you then you have a better chance of really making it work for you. 2. Start at the source The video below is from bullet journal founder Ryder Carroll runs through the conventions of how the bullet journal works. Spend a bit of time watching the video to know more about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm15cmYU0IM You can also visit the Bullet Journal website as they do a great job of breaking everything down. 3. Keep it simple to start with You can buy a simple notebook or invest in something like a Moleskin or Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Dotted Notebook. Many people start with a simple pen or pencil to get going, while others invest a little bit upfront and buy things like artist pens, midliners and fineliner pens and washi tape. Now you have your notebook, the next step is to number each of the individual pages. Whatever feels comfortable at the beginning, go with. 4. Join a bullet journal group or community When you’re just getting started, it’s a great idea to find a friend, family member or colleague to start the journey with you. You can learn together, help each other out, hold each other accountable to keep going and inspire each other. There are also some great Bullet Journal groups to join to where you can seek out help and inspiration. Bullet Journal Junkies and Bullet Journal Society are both large groups and there is also Boho Berry’s Tribe Facebook Group. 5. Customize to your needs Be clear why you are using the bullet journal and customize it to suit the outcomes you’re looking for. You can divide up months, weeks and days exactly how you want them based on your objectives. If you have specific things you want to keep in one place e.g. a vision board or bucket list, you can carve out space for that. If you want to track specific habits such as how many hours you’re sleeping per night or when you’re exercising you can track that as well. You can spend as much or as little as you want on the planner. You can keep it simple or be a bit more creative and use coloured gel pens, highlighters or washi tape to suit your style. When you’re starting out you can keep it really simple with a basic notebook and pen or pencil. 6. Create spreads that are important to you There are specific things – Index, Keys, Future Logs, Monthlies, Weeklies, Dailies, Collections etc. that will make up a lot of the pages of your bullet journal. However, the key is to create something that fits around what is most important to you. If you have a head full of ideas and you need somewhere to get them down on paper create an ‘Ideas’ page or have that page sit next to your daily page. 7. Review quarterly When I coach private clients, we always set 90 day goals and then review performance on an ongoing basis. One of the keys here is that the goal stays but the path to achieving the goal can be fluid. The same is true of your bullet journal. Sit down every quarter and review what’s working – what things do you love to do and what things aren’t going so well. Think about how you can expand the great and remove the bad to keep momentum and fascination with your bullet journal growing. 8. Plan in advance As with everything planning in advance will save you time in the long run and will reduce the chance of overwhelm, especially when you are starting out. Plan your weekly or daily spreads in advance (I personally do my weekly on Sunday night). You will then have a clear picture of your upcoming week but still have time to add things in during the week. 9. Set up your layouts There are two main layouts that almost everyone will use. These are the monthly spreads, which give you a clear overview of the month ahead. This is very calendar style with each day in big blocks next to each other. You may, as you progress, choose to doodle and colour theme these months. The next one is the weekly spread, where you lay out your week, typically on two pages and complete as you would a diary. You may be more comfortable with horizontal layouts but it can be fun to experiment with vertical listing of each day of the month. The key thing is what you are recording. It’s not style over substance. 10. Try new things (And stop what doesn’t work) You may start out using the traditional Ryder Carroll method or follow a method being used by one of your friends at the beginning. The key here is to find your own style, one that works for you. If things aren’t clicking, then stop and find something that does. This may become a mix of traditional planning mixed with more creative collections and trackers. Some people enjoy listing out the days of the month 1-31 down the side of a page whilst others prefer something different. Find the best organisation and planning system to suit you. 11. Start with one collection The bullet journal, at its core, is a productivity system so it’s essential to begin future planning and life management with monthly spreads, weekly spreads, habit trackers and dailies. It is also a place to house your big ideas, a place for self-discovery and self-awareness and a home to your dreams and goals. A collection is simply a gathering together of things that are important to you under a simple heading. This could be a bucket list of places to visit, a gratitude log, a list of books to read or podcasts to listen to, inspirational quotes, exercise regime, goals and dreams. Start with one. Have fun with it and go from there. 12. Create a habit tracker Having a habit tracker forces you to be honest with yourself and can inspire you to reach specific goals you may have. Many bullet journallers credit tracking with helping to improve their mental and physical wellbeing. You can track whatever is important to you right now. So, on a spread, list out all the habits you want to track on the left hand side. This could be related to sleep, exercise, running, blogging, meditation, journaling, whatever you want. At the top list all of the days in the month 1-31. Then for each individual day, against each habit, colour in whether you ‘completed’ that habit. At the end of the month you can see how you are tracking against the habits you wanted to improve. If you have missed a few against say getting 8 hours of sleep per night, look at ways that can improve next month. 13. Create a habit To ensure that the excitement of starting your bullet journal doesn’t wear off after a week or so, commit to working on jour journal for a specific amount of time every day. If tasks that you’ve entered haven’t been marked as complete or your collections aren’t updated regularly you’ll get bored quickly. It’s also important to set your weekly pages up in advance so you are ahead of the curve. If you develop a daily habit and enjoy the experience of updating your bullet journal, you will develop your own personal rhythm that will help you organise your time more effectively. 14. Don’t compare Instagram and Pinterest are full of amazing images of other people’s journals so it’s important to remember that your journal is unique to you. You will develop your own style along the way so don’t compare yourself to others. Motivation may drop and you may begin to ‘copy’ the style of others. The important thing to refer back to is why you wanted a bullet journal in the first place. If the aim is to be able to plan more effectively, be more organized and productive, then that’s all that matters if it works for you. Seeing other planners and procrastinating will stop you from simply just getting started. 15. Don’t overdo it Start small and build from there. Ease into using your bullet journal and get to know what works for you. Overloading yourself at the beginning with lots of collections, daily trackers and fully illustrated vision boards may lead you to abandon the bullet journal completely. 16. Give it time (And don’t be a perfectionist) If you’re not used to using a planner or a journal, give yourself a good month to really get into it. Don’t stress about your artistic abilities. It should be functional over beautiful every time. If you’re worried about making mistakes at the beginning, you can simply use a pencil or an erasable pen. 17. Include fun stuff as well To keep motivated and inspired, use the bullet journal holistically to cover both work and home life. Include things like memories, motivations, goals, exercise, gratitude and dreams will balance out the daily, weekly and monthly work plans. One of the great things about the bullet journal is that it should encompass your whole life and give you important events and achievements to look back on.

10 Most Productive Countries And What You Can Learn From Them

18. September 2018 - 19:00
The satisfaction and benefit experienced when you’re productive gives you confidence and induces a desire to achieve more. Productivity has several definitions; we shall define in relation to economies: Productivity measures output per unit of input, considering factors such as capital, labor, land or any other resource in the production process. It calculates Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a ratio to hours worked. In this article, we'll look into the 10 most productive countries and lessons we can learn from them. How to determine the most productive countries? The citizens who have the ability to produce a significant amount of results, make their countries productive. The measure of their output is the determining factor. Economies use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over hours worked to evaluate productivity. The total value of everything produced by every citizen and corporation located within the boundaries of any a country is the GDP. This is evident in a recent report by two credible sources, Expert Market((Expert Market: The Most Productive Countries in the World: 2017)) and data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)((Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: GDP per hour worked)): 10 most productive countries Based on these facts, here are 10 most productive countries captured from these reports: Lessons learned from the most productive countries Whenever productive countries and individuals find something that works well, they learn from it. Learn the reason it worked. Develop systems and processes around it. Apply the lessons learned and repeat the process over again until the desired outcome is achieved. With that said, here are a few lessons from the most productive countries you can begin to implement. After a period of time, you’ll notice some change. 1. Cultivate a culture of life work balance When you cultivate a culture of life-work balance you become a more fulfilled and productive individual. Life happens. Eventualities and uncertainties happen. You may lose your job, an ability or even your business. If your life revolved only around your work, you never took the time to cultivate a work-life balance, or develop other interests and relationships outside your work; the adjustment would be difficult to cope with. The beauty of life is never too late to start. Be deliberate and intentional and cultivate a life outside your work or business. Take up a hobby, spend quality time with those you love and treasure. Go back to school and learn a new skill that is exciting. Be a continuous lifelong learner. Schedule a holiday every year. Do something exciting that you love that is not related to your work. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Luxembourg is a fantastic location for start-up businesses looking to invest in foreign markets. The favorable political and commercial environment is good for new product and service development. Luxembourg was ranked 7th by the Global Talent Competitiveness Index in 2017(GTCI). The report measures how countries grow, attract and retain talent.((INSEAD: 2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index focuses on talent and technology)) It's an ideal location for career expats to build an international career. Professionals with specialist knowledge are offered attractive compensation packages. Consider relocating to Luxembourg and learn some great business and family life lesson you can implement back in your home country. 2. Shorter working hours are more productive Long working hours don't necessarily equate to high productivity. Countries like Japan and Mexico have long working hours and the results in productivity don't match the input. Sweden is friendly to a work-life balance culture and occasionally carries out several audits to enhance the productivity of its workforce: In one particular experiment, one employee who worked at a nursing home for eight hours always felt fatigued and drained with no time to spend with his children when he got home. His work hours were reduced to a six-hour workday with the same pay. The results were evident immediately. He was happy at work, energized and more productive. In the first year of implementing this new system, significant changes had occurred. The audit revealed the improved overall health of workers, increased productivity and absenteeism was minimal. Other benefits that these topmost productive countries working shorter hours experience are:
  • Creative talent retention: Workers stay longer with these companies. Not willing to trade their new found freedom.
  • More time to rest and sleep early. Waking up refreshed and restored. Ready to tackle the day creatively and efficiently.
  • Employees feel valued. Employees can spend time with their loved ones and have time to do what they enjoy.
3. Focus on and fully engage in your present task. People who’ve mastered the skill of “Focused Engagement and Disengagement” are more productive and fulfilled. Be focused and fully engaged at the workplace and fully disengaged on work-related issues when you leave the work premises; this is a conscious decision of the will you'll implement and practice until it becomes a reflex action. This will be a win-win situation because your employer will have your full and focused attention at the workplace, resulting in more output and higher revenue for your organization and country at large. The satisfaction you'll get from the feeling of accomplishing a task is very energizing. In Iceland, the workers maximized and efficiently utilized the short working hours to raise the productivity levels. They were engaged and focused on the task at hand. This is what made Iceland jump 10 positions higher. Perhaps this explains why German ranked only the 11th in spite of having the shortest working week. The difference was while they worked short hours, they were present but distracted and not fully engaged. 4. Maintain a happy and positive outlook towards your life and work Majority of people seek and pursue happiness. Norwegians topped the global list of happiness according to the 2017 world happiness report. Largely this was influenced by the life work balance that Norwegians have embraced. Coupled with factors such as generosity, good governance, honesty and caring which contribute to a happy country. Deal with excitement drainers by maintaining a happy and positive outlook towards your life and work. Yes, your working hours and environment may not be what your desire at the moment. You have no motivation to wake up tomorrow and go to work? But you know what? At least you have something to wake up to which the majority of people wish they had the opportunities you despise. For a moment, take the focus off yourself and your problems. Start to acknowledge the good things in your life, be a kind and caring soul. Then like the Norwegians, you too can start experiencing happiness. 5. Flexible work schedules Countries like Luxembourg, Sweden, and other Scandinavian countries have adopted flexible work schedules.((OECD: Be Flexible! Background brief on how workplace flexibility can help European employees to balance work and family)) Employees have an agreed work schedule about when they report and leave work. For example, an employee can schedule to come in a few hours early and leave early, or come in later in the morning and leave a few hours after 5 pm. Other options include working from home. This is based on mutual trust. Knowing the employee will actually be engaged in productive work while at home. Some more benefits of flexible work hours are:
  • A working mother with very young children can schedule convenient times to be home with their children.
  • An increase of more women workers in the workforce.
  • Parents can pick and drop off their children to school without interrupting their work schedule. No excuses for missing your child’s special event at school.
  • Ideal for employees who have gone back to school to study.
The bottom line Cultivating a culture of life-work balance, shorter working hours, be focused and engaged with your present task, change your attitude and have flexible work schedules are some ways the most productive countries are adapting to enhance productivity. With Luxembourg topping the list as the most productive country for two consecutive years, we can learn a few lessons from this small and vibrant country. Having emerged top 10, the Scandinavian countries work model has proven to be efficient. Countries can now confidently adopt a culture of fewer working hours with extended breaks, allowing their workers to leave work early and prepare for the next working day.

These Critical Crisis Management Tips Will Make You a Better Friend

18. September 2018 - 18:00
Life throws us curveballs without any warning. Some curveballs can come from nowhere and some send us signals they are coming but we choose for what ever reason to, ignore the signs. Nobody is immune to life's curveballs. We live in a world where as a result of technology, we are exposed to natural disasters, terrorism, disruption, change and adversity on a daily basis. The good news is that despite all this disruption, change and adversity that we face in our lives, we are hardwired to be resilient. The ability of how well we as an individual successfully deal with crises and adversity is significantly influenced by our social surroundings. So what does this all have to do with friendship? A huge amount, because without the support of our friends and family in times of crises, our journey to recovery is virtually non existent. "Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness" -- Euripides Euripides quote highlights the true purpose of friendship. Supporting and helping our friends to successfully manage their journey through a life crisis enables them to face adversity from a position of strength. Friendship is the key ingredient to enabling a friend in crises to be able to understand how to face adversity in a way where they can learn, grow and thrive. If we are a true friend, then our role is to support our friends and not let them crash and burn to a point where they have lost hope and their faith in themselves. So what can you do to help your friends successfully manage adversity or crises in their lives? These 3 strategies I believe are the key ingredients to you being able to effectively influence and support your friends through those curve balls that life will throw at them: 1. Be prepared to commit to your friendship If you truly want to help and support your friend through a crisis, commit to being there for the long haul - no matter what. A true friend does not wait for the phone call or the plea for help - they REACH OUT immediately. This can be a hard thing to do especially when a friend is suffering and in pain. It can be scary and confronting as it means that not only do we feel their pain but we also are forced to face our own emotions and fears that can rise to the surface. One of the key actions you can do to support your friends is to let them know that you love them, you are there for them and that they are not alone. 2. Commit to taking action Before you take action, take a long hard look at yourself and decide what your reality is around you taking action. Do not over commit and promise to do things that you cannot deliver on. A colleague of mine had a friend that broke her neck diving into a pool. She was a mum with young school kids. She desperately needed her friends support and they were all leading very busy lives with young families. I was very impressed with the way in which my work colleague coped with managing this crisis. She assessed the reality of how she could realistically provide on going support to her friend. She went and visited her friend in hospital told her that she loved her dearly, she was there for the long haul and she explained what she was going to do to support her friend. She had found an app that helped her organize meals to be delivered to the family for 5 nights a week. She had managed to get 80 people to sign up and the app organised emails and scheduling. When her friend got home from hospital, she blocked out every Wednesday night after work to visit her friend for a wine and a chat. She also told her friend that she would be her hair, makeup, pedicures go to person. She organized the hairdresser, makeup and pedicure ladies to come to the house on a regular basis. The appointments were scheduled in every 6 weeks. The accident happened over 18 months ago and my work colleague is still going strong supporting her friend to manage the on going challenges she faces in her life. 3. Listen, listen and listen -- Hold back from giving advice until it is asked for This strategy leads on from Strategy 2. Once you have committed to taking action, then it is time for you to be present with your friend. What I mean by this is, that as a true friend you do not have the solution or the power to solve the problem or make the pain go away. Physically being there with your friend is being present and it may mean you turning up and holding your friends hand. It may be that you sit with your friend listening and supporting them through whatever she/he is feeling while you are with them. Listen and let them know you hear their pain - not feel it, but actually hear it. Acknowledge their pain because when you connect with someone’s pain it makes them feel they are being supported. A good statement to say to your friend at this stage could be; “What I’m hearing is that you are feeling ____. Is that right?” Share how you truly feel - confused, lost for words, or struggling to know what to do. Sharing your feelings with your friend demonstrates empathy and deepens your connection with them. Here are some examples of what you could say "My heart hurts for you" " I wish I could make it better for you", "I just don't know what to say" When a friend opens up to you to share their pain, they are in a very vulnerable place. It shows that they trust you and it is important that you acknowledge this. By expressing gratitude and thanking them for sharing with you demonstrates that you are a safe harbour for them. The next step is to encourage by reaffirming the positive elements that you see in your friend. Be careful not to say things like " it will get better" or "this is what I would do". Once you start making statements like this you are disconnecting from your friend and you are not being supportive in any way. To be encouraging and positive, focus on sharing the qualities that you admire about your friend. Help your friend to see that they are amazing and worthy of love. Simple statements are the most powerful such as " I love you", "you are a warrior", "I am proud of you", "you matter so much to me" You are brave/courageous/brave". Understanding the power of words is hugely important when it comes to supporting a friend through a crisis. When you are truly committed to a friendship, then the words you use will demonstrate empathy, connection and love. Final thoughts Being a true friend is not that complicated, in fact it is very simple. All we have to do is follow the 3 strategies:
  • Make a commitment to the friendship
  • Demonstrate your commitment by taking action and be present with your friend in crises
  • Listen and support.
How hard can that be? Knowing who you are as a true friend is key to your supporting friends through any crises they may face. Follow the 3 strategies and your true value as a friend will provide you with friendships that will last for life - a rare gift that is priceless. "One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood" -- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

18. September 2018 - 17:00
When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together. One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process. Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier. 1. Communicate clearly. When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters. If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion. Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean. 2. Clarify rules. Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents. Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way. Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability. 3. Get out of the past. It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible. Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items. 4. Don't triangulate. One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children. Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children. In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs. 5. Bless and release. One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints. In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts. Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place. 6. Practice mindful parenting. Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too. Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent. Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help. 7. Develop a support network. Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don't feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process. Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference. 8. Practice presence. Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner. Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation. If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child. 9. Practice "I" statements. A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child. Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice "I" statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish. Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation. 10. Learn to compromise. If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children. Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children. Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run. 11. Give a little. Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family. If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will. Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment. Of course you don't want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved. 12. Talk with your children. Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids. If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world. It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent. 13. Leverage your relationship. Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them. Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care. Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you'd like for your child. 14. Attract, don't pursue. Don't overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more. Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness. 15. Open up. Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions. Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves. This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship. 16. Embrace change. A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don't know how to make it better. Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for. Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics. 17. Make room for new possibilities. A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever. Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations. Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

18. September 2018 - 16:00
Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer? Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place. Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated. After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you? Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team: 1. Show your appreciation In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets -- their employees. The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due. Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way. 2. Communicate effectively Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately. Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills. 3. Be open to dialogue Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work. New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie. In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts. For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader. 4. Provide constructive criticism Giving negative feedback is always tricky -- you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly. So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results. Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does. Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve. Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions. 5. Conduct one-on-ones Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level? While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them. Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks. More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal. 6. Build training programs In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance. From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going. While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings. 7. Offer growth opportunities Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated. Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder. Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills. 8. Reward them Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them. If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home. Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals. 9. Encourage team outings Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results. From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too! 10. Involve them Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause. Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously. 11. Set meaningful goals In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street. Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses. 12. Empower them You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking. Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn. Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way. 13. Deal with conflict A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity. How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations. As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team. 14. Implement a flexible work culture Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay. Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction. It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated. 15. Host engaging activities All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities? From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work. 16. Maintain a positive work space Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space. Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations. These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to. 17. Avoid discrimination Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance. In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination. The bottom line Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be. It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels. This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

17 Ways to Ace Your Next Phone Interview And Land the Job You Deserve

17. September 2018 - 19:00
There is one thing standing in the way of you and the job of your dreams: a phone interview. The screening interview is an opportunity for companies to narrow the list of presumably qualified applicants and determine who merits a closer look. So many candidates exclude themselves from the phone interview by being unprepared or by failing to take this screening session seriously. A phone interview should not block you from living the life you have always imagined. Here are 17 tips to help you ace your next one: 1. Clear the deck. If you are reading this blog, you are likely busier than you would prefer or even imagine. Even when you schedule or accept phone interviews, they are likely sandwiched between meetings. To show up fully present, energized and engaged, I recommend you clear the deck and give yourself at least an hour of uninterrupted time before and 30 minutes following the interview. You can use the time to mentally prepare, develop a list of questions, rehearse answers to likely questions and ensure you are comfortable and ready for the interview. 2. Look the part. It is no secret that we perform better when we look and feel the part. If you have a phone interview, dress up for the interview, if dressing up is comfortable and allows you to put your best foot forward. Even though you will likely do the interview from home or a private location, be sure you are dressed professionally. This will allow you to be fully engaged and present. In the event, the interviewer asks to connect with you via Zoom, Google Hangout or Skype, you will be prepared. 3. Resend your resume and cover letter prior to the call. As a courtesy, resend your resume and cover letter prior to your screening interview. You never know if the person interviewing you has had a busy day or if a schedule change forced him or her to work from home rather than the office where the individual has access to their files. There have been many times in my career where a last-minute change or a mix-up with support staff has left me scrambling at the last minute to find a candidate’s resume. It is quite embarrassing to misplace a resume and ask the interviewee to resubmit it. You can save the interviewer the trouble and earn extra points by resending both documents in advance of your call. A simple message will suffice, such as “I am looking forward to speaking with you in an hour, and I am resending my resume to ensure it is at the top of your inbox.” 4. Research the interviewer. Once your interview is scheduled, be sure to research the person facilitating it. You will want to Google the person and check their social media accounts. When you research the interviewer, try to get a sense of the individual’s personal and professional interests. Once you identify those interests, acknowledge them in the interview, but do not dwell on them, because you do not want to make the interviewer uncomfortable. Follow his or her lead. If the interviewer indulges your questions or comments, by all means, continue the conversation. I am always impressed when someone I am meeting with takes the opportunity to learn something about me ahead of time. This projects interest, which is important in my line of work. 5. Research the company. In addition to researching the interviewer, be sure to research the company. Ask people in your network if they know anyone who works or has worked for the organization in question. Conduct a Google search on the company, and be mindful to look beyond the first page of the search query. If there are yelp reviews on the company, be careful to review those and look for trends as well as how recent the reviews were posted. While more recent reviews are obviously cause for pause, older reviews – depending on their nature – could be problematic as well. 6. Check the staff listing or “About Us” section of the company’s website. Part of your research into a company is assessing whether you know staff or board members who are connected with the company. Most organizations list their staff or board members in the “About Us” or “Our Team” section of the website. Prior to a phone interview, check these sections to determine whether you know someone who works for the company. If you do, reach out to that person to request a phone interview to learn more about the company. 7. Remember interviewing is a two-way street. As much as the company representative wants to learn about you as the interviewee, you will want to learn about the organization. Try to ferret out information on the company, the job for which you are applying as well as the manager to whom you would report. You will also want to ask questions to assess the interview process. Additionally, because culture is important and will permit or slow your ability to do your job, ask questions to assess company culture, such as “What do your employees say they like most about working for your organization?” “What do employees say they like least?” “What do you do to create and maintain a healthy workplace culture?” 8. Develop questions prior to the interview. Prior to your interview, develop a list of questions about the company, the position for which you are applying, growth opportunities in the company, the ideal candidate for the position, and so forth. This will save you the trouble of thinking of questions on the spot during the interview. I have found that once I become nervous, it is a lot harder to come up with questions on the spot, and interviews can be anxiety-producing without preparation. 9. Stand during the interview. I train leaders and, incidentally, graduate students to become spokespersons. I recommend that they stand during media interviews. I find that it helps the person speaking to project better, and it reduces the urge to get too comfortable in an interview setting and say something that could be too informal. Similarly, I recommend interviewees stand for at least a portion of their phone interview. 10. Allow the interviewer to talk. While it is essential you ask questions during an interview, you should not dominate the conversation. Most people love talking about themselves and the company they represent, and it is your job as the interviewee to walk a fine line between allowing the interviewer to talk and interspersing questions when and where appropriate. I am not suggesting you remain silent – you want the interviewer to learn about you; but you should ensure that the interviewer has ample opportunity to do what most people do best: talk about themselves and their work. 11. Refrain from multitasking. We all live hurried lives, and most of us have to-do lists that are impossible to complete. When we have multiple due dates and obligations, it is typical to want to avail oneself of every seemingly free moment of time. When conducting or participating in a phone interview, be as present as possible. This means refraining from multitasking, which could mean responding to emails, text messages or social media messages. It could mean researching the company during the interview. Whatever multitasking means for you, simply do not do it, especially during a screening interview. 12. Conduct the phone interview in a place where there is minimal noise. A common thread throughout this post has been that most of us live busy lives. So, it is natural to be on the go. If you have the luxury of conducting a phone interview from home or a private office where there is minimal noise, do so. You may also rent a co-working space or ask a friend if you can borrow his or her office. Whatever you do, select a place where there is minimal noise and distraction. The person interviewing you should not have to strain to hear what you are saying or compete with ambient noises. When I am interviewing a candidate and competing with background noise, I grow frustrated and my focus can shift from getting to know the person to silencing the noise. Do not force your interviewer to choose. 13. Be punctual. Do not leave the interviewer waiting. This is both rude and unprofessional, and it may count against you. If you are able to follow my earlier advice and not schedule meetings within an hour of your phone interview, you should have no time being prompt for your discussion. If you foresee that you will be late, be sure to give the interviewer a heads-up at least 15-20 minutes prior to the start of the call. 14. Focus on how you can and will help. Let’s face it: people are naturally self-interested. When you walk into an interview focused on what you can bring and how you can solve a hiring manager’s problems, you will set yourself and your candidacy apart. Think about the challenges you could potentially solve and then share how your joining the team will benefit the company, not just you. 15. Take the interview seriously. Do not assume you will have an opportunity to meet face to face with company representatives. Do not discount the weight that may be placed on phone interviews. I once applied for a position on the East Coast while living on the West Coast. While my first interview was face to face, my interview with one senior leader was over the phone. I walked into the interview thinking it would be less intense than it was. From the moment the leader got on the phone with me, I was on my toes. I had to quickly recalibrate to handle the intensity of the questions lobbed on me. To this day, more than six years later, that phone interview remains one of the most difficult interviews I have ever had. Fortunately for me, I was offered the job, but the experience still stands out as a learning lesson. 16. Send a thank-you note. Kindness is underrated. We live in a society where most people are overscheduled and overbooked. When faced with intense pressure, it can be easy to underestimate the role of kindness. But when someone shares a portion of the day with you by granting you an interview, you owe it to that individual and to yourself to send a thank-you note following the interview. The note can be via email, a standard letter or a card. So few people do this that those who do stand out. Become an individual who remembers this gesture of kindness and professional courtesy. 17. Be positive. Energy really is contagious. If you don’t believe me, consider locking yourself in a room for one hour with people are upset. By the time you leave the room, you will be upset right along with them. It is natural to mirror the other person even if you do not realize you are doing it. During your next phone interview, mirror positivity, both about the position, the company and most importantly, your skill sets. The interviewer will pick up on your energy and positivity and that will reflect favorably. I cannot tell you how many times I have interviewed candidates who communicated no excitement or enthusiasm. Getting through the interview was difficult, not to mention, I kept thinking about what it would be like to work with the person daily. Being positive not only helps you feel better, it helps the person interviewing you as well. If you have read this list and want to add other tips, please tweet the link to this article and include the point you believe I missed. Use the hashtag #AceIt when you reach out.

10 Popular Myths About Right Brain Left Brain Debunked

17. September 2018 - 18:00
Want to learn how to master your brain and navigate effortlessly away from the common mix-ups most people have? Then you're in the right place. I'm going to expose the 10 biggest myths about the brain, including ones you hear about being a "right brain or left brain" person. And for each one, you'll learn some proven ways to counter them too. So without further ado, let's do this! Myth #1: Believing you're either a "left or right brain" person Chances are, once upon a time, during your happy musings on the internet, you came across the idea of the right brain left brain. This is the myth that you're either a logical facts driven person (left brain), or you're a intuitive, arts and imagination type person (right brain). It's not true. Your brain is a very intricate and complex organ. Despite decades of research and study, the brain is something that we still know relatively little about. Even so, just google "right brain left brain characteristics" and you're bombarded with pages and pages of results. Each one claiming to tell you which one you are. This left brain right brain idea originated back in the 1960s, as a result of research done by Roger W. Sperry.((The Nobel Prize: Roger W. Sperry)) It's well known that the right and left sides of our brains are different, but can we group people into the left brain people and the right brain people? Is it that simple? A team of neuroscientists at the University of Utah spent two years testing this out, studying over 1,000 people's brains to see if it was indeed true. What their research revealed, was that both sides were more or less equal in their activity on average. “Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network. It seems to be determined more connection by connection."  - Dr. Jeff Anderson (lead author)((Dr. Jeff Anderson: An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging)) So be careful when surfing the interwebs. The self proclaimed brain messiah's aren't always doing their research, and whilst graphics like above seem cool, they aren't very accurate. You don't belong in a box of left brain or right brain. Lesson: People aren't either logical or creative. You can be both. Don't limit your thinking and capabilities by believing this myth. You get better at what you work at. Myth #2: Believing you're hardwired for happiness Many people I've coached over the years demonstrate this crippling flaw: We tend to think of our problems, worries, etc. as something unique to us. We mistakenly believe that we are unique in this way. However, let me reveal something to you having worked with tens of THOUSANDS people from around the world. Something which may surprise you. Our mental biases and flaws are quite common. We tend to make very similar mistakes. Instead of personalizing all your problems and over identifying with them. What if you saw the challenges you face as problems created by the brain generally, instead of something you are doing? Think of it this way: Imagine you have a faulty mobile phone that can only operate for 2 hours at 100% capacity at a time. Then it needs a short break. Now, you could view this as a problem with your specific mobile, and get angry and frustrated that you had such bad luck. Or perhaps, realize the truth. What if it was just a manufacturing fault? But one you can't "fix" immediately by going to the Apple Store because it was built two million years ago for a different environment. Obviously I'm simplifying things a little (Ok, a lot). However the point I'm making is simple: Your problems aren't unique. We all suffer from them. So plan for the common pitfalls so you can avoid them. "We have a two million-year-old brain that isn't designed to be happy, but to survive."  -- Tony Robbins As the above quote so beautifully summarizes, your brain is designed to help you to survive first and foremost. This mechanism is both deep and complex. In my work, we often identify these subconscious patterns and make sure they're running in alignment to the specific goal you desire to achieve. Something which most people are totally unaware or uninterested in discovering, so they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again no matter how hard they try. These "software faults" are ones we all experience from time to time:
  • Not feeling motivated to go to the gym
  • Not feeling confident about starting a new project or idea
  • Being randomly affected by weird moods or feelings
But the difference between those who succeed, and those who dabble and get frustrated is simple: Working on our weak areas consistently and planning for them. Lesson: Think of your brain like an old computer, full of some common bugs and viruses we all contend with. Accept these flaws, learn about how they manifest themselves for you in particular, then work on improving them so you can perform better. Myth #3: Believing your personality traits are fixed You have personality traits (often from childhood) that (for most) won't change. But before you get demoralized and reach for that jar of chocolate chip cookies again, that doesn't mean that you CAN'T change. It just takes work. Realistically, most people still won't change their personalities for two reasons:
  • They like the safe, comfortable option of staying the same (let's face it - it's quite easy)
  • They don't know they can change
Fortunately for you, we've already dispelled the idea that you cannot change your personality traits. So you're immediately ahead of most people. There are so many different theories and ideas about what your personality is, how we can measure it and how it comes to be. The general consensus is that it's shaped in the early years of our lives and (generally) stays stable over time. The most widely accepted is something known as the "Five Factor Model", stating that there are five basic personality traits that can define us: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These traits shape and influence how we react to different experiences and events in our lifetime. But here's the thing: Defining events, traumatic experiences can all trigger changes in who we are, and how we are. One of the latest study integrating 14 longitudinal studies that gathered information about people's personalities, found that from the Big Five personality traits — all of them showed major fluctuations across individual participants' lives.((Eileen Graham: A Coordinated Analysis of Big-Five Trait Change Across 16 Longitudinal Samples)) Lesson: The best way to think of your personality is like a mould of clay. It's already in a rough shape, hardening over time. But you can work to change and adjust it. Myth #4: Believing you only use 10% of your brain This myth is simply not true. If I cut 90% of your brain out, would you still function? No! Imagine that what is known about our brains is like the volume inside a balloon. Imagine that what is unknown is the infinite space outside of the balloon. The surface of the balloon, the interface between the known and the unknown, represents questions. The larger the volume inside the balloon, the larger the balloon surface. The more we know, the more questions we have. It's simply not true that we only use 10% of our brains. What's more accurate is that we don't always perform to our maximum mental capacities. Different factors -- motivation, environment, overall health, sleep -- all exert different levels of influence on how close to 100% we perform at any given time. So why does this myth exist? Why is it so appealing? Probably because of the untapped human potential it implies that we have huge pools of dormant mental powers, which if used, could help us achieve so much more. Lesson: We don't just use 10% of our brains. We use 100% of them. But not all of us are performing and achieving to our highest standards. Find out what blocks you have and work at improving every day. Myth #5: Believing that smart people have bigger brains When it comes to size, we're obsessed with believing that bigger is better. The simple fact is that a bigger brain has no ultimate bearing or indication on our intelligence. A very easy way to debunk this myth is to look at the animal kingdom. A cow has a bigger brain than a chimpanzee. But is it smarter? A whale or an elephant have a bigger brain than a human. But are they smarter? Many neuroscientists now agree that it isn't size, but the complexity of neural connections that truly determine a brain's capacity and potential. To translate this, it's not size that matters most. It's how efficiently different parts of your brain communicate with each other. Lesson: It's not how big your brain is that matters most, but how well the different parts communicate. Train your brain to connect different ideas, senses, intelligences together and keep learning everyday. Myth #6: Believing women and men have different brains Of all the myths here, this perhaps is one of the most damaging. It sets you up to behave according to a preconceived idea of how you should or shouldn't behave based on your sex. Let's start with what is true. Yes, there are some very very minor anatomical differences between male and female brains. However, this difference has never been linked to a difference in ability. What we do know, is that any distinction which is created is the by product of our own cultural conditioning. If there is a difference, or inequality, it is one created by our society. A common misconception is that women do better when you test them accordingly to emotional intelligence and empathy. The anatomy of the brain runs counter to this however. The hippocampus, associated with memory, is typically larger in women, while the amygdala, involved in emotion, is larger in men, which is quite contrary to the myth. Lesson: Your sex does not determine what you are fated to be good or bad at. It's often the result of our cultural conditioning. Reflect on your own gender biases and avoid stereotyping yourself or others based on this. Myth #7: Believing you know what makes you happy This probably surprised you a little, didn't it? Deep breaths. Allow me to explain: We commonly believe that we know exactly what will make us happy and unhappy. The truth however is that this isn't (totally) true. We massively overestimate how happy we think something will make us feel -- gifts, promotions, marriages, divorces -- you name it. Even when it comes to money, countless studies have shown that beyond a certain point (around 77,000USD/year), money doesn't really make us that much happier. Conversely, the things that we fear and avoid don't make us as unhappy as we expect. The commute on a Monday morning is nowhere near as bad as we think, nor is the awkward conversation with an estranged family member or friend. The most soul crushing tragedies -- breakups, losing a loved one -- cause us despair and grief, but don't last as long as we anticipate. Lesson: Things are never as bad as they first seem, or as good as they first seem. You're not that good at predicting how you will feel, or felt about the future or the past. Myth #8: Believing you lose mental power over time When we're young, it's easier to take risks and try new things to some degree. But as we age, we seek our comfort and routines. Until eventually, those same patterns and routines become shackles. Maybe that's why you haven't:
  • Stuck to that workout or yoga routine you want to get better at.
  • Finished the book you say you want to write and publish.
  • Started that business idea you're thinking and talking about so often.
Many people fall into this trap of believing they "lose it" over time, and this mental error quickly sends them on a downward spiral of stagnation and mediocrity. I want you to realize something: Your brain and intelligence can get better with age. So be excited, not demoralized! It's well known in business circles for example, that you get better as an entrepreneur as you age. The same is true in so many other fields too. Of course there are some cognitive skills which decline in efficiency as you age - learning new languages, memorising a list of random words, counting backward by sevens. But who cares? Vocabulary, judgement of character, social wisdom, conflict resolution, emotional regulation and finding purpose - these are all skills that matter, which we are proven to get better at over time. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Well, let me take you a step further. Not only can you get smarter over time, you can even continue (literally) growing your brain. A brain which is active, for example learning new languages, trying new skills and hobbies, develops a richer connected network of brain cells. Taking it further, this "brain growth" also helps to prevent dementia and other diseases. So no, it is not true that your mental decline is inevitable. Quite the opposite, the effects can be stopped and even reversed through mental exercise. The best part is you don't even need to do it for that long. In a study of more than 3,000 people aged 65 and over, just 10 hours training over several weeks in memory, problem-solving and decision-making resulted in significant and prolonged increases in cognitive ability. Lesson: Spend 10 to 15 minutes daily working on your memory, problem solving and decision making. One of my favourites (which is a lot of fun) is to play Chess puzzles for free on lichess.com. Myth #9: Believing there are 5 senses & one measure of intelligence What if I told you that you don't have just 5 senses? And school only tested you on one measure of intelligence? Would you believe me? A commonly held belief that most of us have is that we have 5 senses and one type of intelligence. It's not your fault either, our entire paradigm of education only ever tests us on one "type" of intelligence" - via exams and essays. When in actuality, there are eight types of intelligence. Just think: There's probably a type of intelligence that you may be a genius in, that you were never even tested on in school. A comforting thought for those of us who didn't ace every math or english test. Additionally, there are not just 5 senses. But six more:
  1. Equilibrioception: A sense of balance, otherwise known as your internal GPS.
  2. Proprioception: A sense of where your body parts are and what they're doing.
  3. Nociception: A sense of pain.
  4. Thermo(re)ception: A sense of temperature.
  5. Chronoception: A sense of the passage of time.
  6. Interoception: A sense of your internal needs, like hunger, thirst, needing to use the bathroom, etc.
The most fascinating part is that when we contrast this to other species, there are so many more senses we don't have. Bats and dolphins can use sonar to find prey, sharks can sense electrical fields, and birds and turtles can even orient to the earth's magnetic fields. If anything, this displays how much more there is to know that we cannot even comprehend. Here's a philosophical quote that builds on this idea, from one of my favourite wise men, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev: "You are seeking the infinite through the physical. Can the physical ever become infinite? The physical is finite, always within a finite boundary, it can never be infinite. It's like you are riding a bullock cart but your destination is the moon, and somebody is saying buy yourself a new whip. If your destination is the moon, you need an appropriate vehicle. So through the physical if you are seeking the infinite, there will only be frustration." Lesson: You are more intelligent than you may know. You have more senses than you know. But equally, there are vast oceans of unknowns too that you can't comprehend. Keep expanding and learning constantly, don't rest on the knowledge you have. Strive to unlearn and learn simultaneously. Stay humble. Myth #10: Believing your memories are accurate This last myth is quite mind blowing. What if I told you that your memories are not real? And that each time you access them, the more distorted they become? If we just take a glance of the various types of biases that the brain has - there are at least 20! There're so many different ways in which the brain we have, has small errors or faults built into it. And here is just one of them: Every time you access memories, you project your current feelings and mindset onto that memory. As a result, your memory itself changes. Mind blowing, right? But how does this help you? Well each time you look back on an experience, you are changing it. This means you can't accurately predict or recall how things really were. Knowing this, how much more important are those seemingly menial things like:
  • Creating a daily journal of what you are thinking, feeling and planning to look back on later.
  • Keeping clear and up to date records of your workout progression.
  • Tracking your to do lists, goals and plans throughly to keep yourself focused.
Lesson: You aren't able to recall things as accurately as you might think. So take diligent notes always in everything you do. From your feelings, hopes and dreams to your day to day budgeting, to-do lists and more. These written records will help you remember things more accurately! Have you found yourself understand a lot more about your brain? The most popular myths about left brain and right brain are now busted. It's your turn to really develop your brain's potential and don't get restricted by those myths!

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

17. September 2018 - 17:00
Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time. With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence. So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let's take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future. 1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish” It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle. You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well. So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases. 2. When you want something big, wait Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different. It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood. We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then. A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires. So, you get the itch. You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed. Here’s where you have to take a step back. Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out. Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts. It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all. The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money. 3. Live smaller than you can afford You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not? You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work. That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done. Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more. Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist. The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings. But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before. 4. Practice smart grocery shopping Food... it's one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you're not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet. But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries. Create a grocery budget Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it. Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track. I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people. Make a list… and never deviate Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need. You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly. These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget. Eat before going grocery shopping It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force. If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing. After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items. Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience. However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear. This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan. 5. Cancel your gym membership Now that you're all set on your food, it's time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let's begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is. The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year. Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy! I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services. Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership. Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment. For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could. Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki. There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free. It's baby steps... And baby steps can start now! I've never met anyone that can't stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn't happen all at once. Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren't getting your money's worth out of anyway. The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

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