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held hostage habits

Are you held hostage by old, comfortable habits?

Can habits hold you hostage?

Have you ever had a moment where you’ve said something and as you’re saying it you kind of can’t believe what you’re saying?  You’ve heard yourself telling the same story about how you endured a soul-sucking job, tolerated your obnoxious boss or felt exhausted and stuck in your business.

I was catching up with some old friends this weekend about some of our experiences and how our lives have changed over time. I was telling the story of when I first started my private counseling practice how I was contracted by Social Services to help clients who were “unmotivated and unwilling” (i.e., court ordered) referred by social services who were at risk of losing their children to the court system.

And especially about how I was on call 24/7 (remember pagers?) and we couldn’t take a family weekend away because there was no one else who could be “on call.” Sometimes I needed a police escort to my appointments.  How every Monday morning I’d find myself thinking “why am I doing this?”.

Since the social services contract made up 90% of my private practice, I was very busy.  I did the “crisis counselor” thing as an in-home-intensive-family-therapist for about 8 years.  And for the last six of them I’d be thinking “why am I doing this?”

As I explained this it dawned on me that it had taken rather a long time for me to go from realizing I wasn’t enjoying it to actually doing something about it.  Over 6 years.  Wow.  I was being held hostage by my own habits.

Much of the work I do today with business and executive coaching clients these days gives them a new perspective on their business and their impact.  Shows them possibilities and solutions they just hadn’t thought of before.

But often, just like me on a Monday morning, they already know they need something different. Sometimes they even know what that different thing is.  But they feel stuck.  Held hostage by habits.

Because when you’ve done something for a long, long time it becomes part of you.  It’s just what you do. For some, It’s who you become.  A mindless habit.  It’s easy.  It’s familiar.  It’s certain.  You know how to do it.  I’ve heard it all (and done it myself).

Even though you don’t like it, or it’s not really getting you the results you need, it’s a lot less scary than something completely new that might not work at all.  Or might make you look silly.  Or you might fail.

It took over six years (and a lot of encouragement from my husband) for me to get the courage to give up the certain income that came with that counseling contract and do what I really wanted to do.

Don’t let it take you that long to try something new in your business (or career).

You don’t have to change everything.  But pick one thing you don’t think is working well and drop it for a few months and do something else instead.  Stop saying “yes” to every request and say “let me give it some thought and I’ll get back to you.”  Stop taking on new clients who don’t fit your ideal client profile and say “Thank you, but it’s not a good fit, let me refer you to someone who could be a better fit for your needs.”

If it works, keep doing it.  If it doesn’t, try something else – sooner rather than later.

Not rocket science.  Obvious on paper.  Trickier to do in real life.  Therefore the six years.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Don’t you waste six more years, or even six more months doing something that constantly drains you, leaves you feeling exhausted or fails to bring you joy.

What’s one small thing you are willing to do (or stop doing) today so you aren’t held hostage by habits?

 

Christina Haxton, MA LMFT is the Chief Potential Officer & Founder of Sustainable Leadership.  An executive coach, business consultant and speaker, Christina assists busy business owners, high potential managers, key executives and CEOs to achieve successful work/life balance and peace of mind to become exceptional leaders who are built to last.  

To apply for a confidential Strategy Session to explore your business or career goals or to inquire about a professional development program for your team, meeting or conference, contact Christina at christina@sustainable-leaders.com or (970) 387-8935.

 

Are you paid to think? 5 Strategies to make better decisions, solve problems and get more done!

Are you paid to think?  Sustainable Leaders® know that the secret to success is not only managing time, but also managing energy, is an essential practice to making great decisions, especially under stress.

Are you paid to think?

Successful leaders also know being efficient with their energy is critical to their success.

The latest research in the field of neuroscience (how our brain works) describes our pre-frontal cortex as the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking.  However, since it’s relatively newly evolved, it is also very inefficient as compared to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores our hard-wiring,  what we can do “automatically” without too much thinking power.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, describes the pre-frontal cortex as “powered by rechargeable batteries” and needs frequent re-charging, in the form of sleep, glucose (and Ill add play and fun!).

How do you know when you’re pre-frontal cortex is running on empty?  Here are some common signs:

1.  (More) easily distracted by sounds, visual stimuli

2.  Difficulty focusing

3.  Irritability

4.  Unable to make a decision

5.  Unable to remember things you “should” be able to remember (like your bosses’ name)

Here’s an ironic conflict of interest.  The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for higher order thinking or “executive functions” such as:

  • Inhibiting (keeping out distractions, both internal and external)
  • Decision-making (comparing two or more possibilities)
  • Reasoning (if-then thinking)
  • Understanding (listening, reading or watching a new idea and integrating it into existing knowledge base)
  • Memorizing (learning or hard wiring new ideas, concepts)

In order for us to increase the odds we are being most economical with our brain’s limited brain-power, we must take time to recharge, and make time for our self, and preserve our limited brain power.

5 Strategies to make better decisions, easily solve problems and get more done:

1. Unplug/Disconnect for 10 minutes a day no cell, no tv, no radio, no computer – Turn off notifications on your phone, your Blackberry, your computer email program.  Go for a walk without your phone. This is completely doable even if you are marginally neurotic.

2. Give up on perfectionism in areas where you don’t need perfection – What if you can get away with a C instead of an A?  Let your friends know from now on when they receive a return email from you and see: a   that means “I like it!”  This might not fly for business emails.  For work, do your response emails really need to win a Nobel Prize?  Will “C” work be satisfactory for some things so you can save “A” work for the really important things?

3. Schedule a one minute break every hour during the busiest time of the day – Set a timer/bell at the end of every hour or pick a number between 0 to 59 and at that minute in that hour, take a one minute  “bathroom” break.  Take 20 deep breaths, pay attention to your breath, nothing else.

4. Practice saying “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” instead of “Yes.”  Think about how responsible you’ll feel saying this rather than irresponsible because you’ve over committed, again.

5. Schedule a 10 minute session with yourself (yes, put it in your calendar) once a day (with no deliverables) and totally unplugged.  Early mornings or right before bedtime is a perfect time to reflect and think.

How do you recharge in 1 to 3 minutes at work?  Reply to this blog with your suggestions and … Thanks for playing.

… I’m off to recharge with a 5 minute walk!

If you like this, click the link to sign up and get more free tools to become a leader who will be built to last here:  Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

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Leaders: Secrets to finding solutions to problems – stop looking!

I posted a question asking what Senior Leaders do to recharge on the LinkedIn Group Developing the Leader within You.  Below is a quick summary of great suggestions and ideas for creativity, solution-finding and recharging from senior leaders from around the world, and included:

  • Listening to music
  • Reading
  • Golfing
  • Walking
  • Driving country roads (avoid traffic)
  • Riding horses (mine) … p.s. just being in their presence recharges and relaxes many people)
  • Showering
  • Meditation
  • Hand washing dishes
  • Vacuuming (mine)

The consensus seems to be in order to recharge or to find solutions, we can get there easier and in less time when we switch off the thinking brain and switch on the the being and doing brain and “mindless” (preferably enjoyable) activity.

Activities in which we enjoy and lose track of time (the state of flow) also may encourage alignment of our heart waves and brain waves, which will clear the clutter and allow you to recharge your thinking brain (which is why we have Aha! moments doing these very things).

The evidence in the latest brain-science research proves it. Now … go forth and play (and of course, shower)!

Are you paid to think? 5 Strategies to make better decisions, solve problems and get more done!

Are you paid to think?  Leaders who are sustainable, or “built to last,” are paid to think and to do so effectively and efficiently, also know that being efficient with their energy is critical to their success.

The latest research in the field of neuroscience (how our brain works) describes our pre-frontal cortex as the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking.  However, since it’s relatively newly evolved, it is also very inefficient as compared to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores our hard-wiring,  what we can do “automatically” without too much thinking power.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, describes the pre-frontal cortex as “powered by rechargeable batteries” and needs frequent re-charging, in the form of sleep, glucose and I’d add play.

How do you know when you’re pre-frontal cortex is running on empty?  Here are some common signs:

1.  (More) easily distracted by sounds, visual stimuli

2.  Difficulty focusing

3.  Irritability

4.  Unable to make a decision

5.  Unable to remember things you “should” be able to remember (like your bosses’ name)

Unfortunately, this pre-frontal cortex is responsible for higher order thinking or “executive functions” such as:

Inhibiting (keeping out distractions, both internal and external)

Decision-making (comparing two or more possibilities)

Reasoning (if-then thinking)

Understanding (listening, reading or watching a new idea and integrating it into existing knowledge base)

Memorizing (learning or hard wiring new ideas, concepts)

In order for us to increase the odds we are being most economical with our brain’s limited brain-power, we must take time to recharge, and make time for our self, and preserve our limited brain power.

5 Strategies to make better decisions, easily solve problems and get more done:

1. Unplug/Disconnect for 10 minutes a day no cell, no tv, no radio, no computer – Turn off notifications on your phone, your Blackberry, your computer email program.  Go for a walk without your phone. This is completely doable even if you are marginally neurotic.

2. Give up on perfectionism in areas where you don’t need perfection – What if you can get away with a C instead of an A?  Let your friends know from now on when they receive a return email from you and see: a  that means “I like it!”  This might not fly for business emails.  For work, do your response emails really need to win a Nobel Prize?  Will “C” work be satisfactory for some things so you can save “A” work for the really important things?

3. Schedule a one minute break every hour during the busiest time of the day – Set a timer/bell at the end of every hour or pick a number between 0 to 59 and at that minute in that hour, take a one minute  “bathroom” break.  Take 20 deep breaths, pay attention to your breath, nothing else.

4. Practice saying “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” instead of “Yes.”  Think about how responsible you’ll feel saying this rather than irresponsible because you’ve over committed, again.

5. Schedule a 10 minute session with yourself (yes, put it in your calendar) once a day (with no deliverables) and totally unplugged.  Early mornings or right before bedtime is a perfect time to reflect and think.

How do you recharge in 1 to 3 minutes at work?  Reply to this blog with your suggestions and … Thanks for playing.

… I’m off to recharge with a quick walk!

Free tools for Sustainable Leaders at Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

Why Your Brain Hates Change

It’s 6:00 AM on Sunday morning and I am visiting my old house in Pine, CO,
the one I lived in two years ago before we changed our whole lives 180
degrees and moved to the resort town of Steamboat Springs (to establish a
corporate headquarters for Experience HORSEsense Team Building and
Leadership Retreats
).

I am sipping tea in the room that used to be my home office, appreciating
the familiar sounds of the hot tub whirring, the refrigerator humming.
I forgot how gorgeous the sunrises were as the sun streams through the
ponderosa pines and reflects on Lion’s Head Mountain to the East.

And I’m wondering if I’d want to move back here. Wondering if we made
the right decision to change everything and leave what we’d known for
14 years to start over in a new place … I wonder ..

Then I realize, it’s not me . it’s just my brain. Our brains thrive on
what’s familiar, certain, and known. Our brains do not like change.
Even change for the good, for better possibilities. It’s similar to the experience
of being back in high school, and breaking up with our girlfriend or boyfriend,
feeling lonely the first Friday night as a single person, and wondering
if breaking up was the best decision after all.

Understanding the strengths and limitations of our brain at the time might
have kept some of us from going back into those old patterns, only to discover it
wasn’t such a good idea after all. What if we could have said then, “it’s
okay, it’s not me it’s just my brain” and rode out the discomfort of the change, knowing it
was temporary and our brains needed time to adjust to the “unknown” until it
became the new normal .

Recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience about the strengths
and limitations of our brain can not only help us in our personal lives, but
can also help us in our business lives as entrepreneurs, as managers and as
leaders a gain a very competitive edge.

As Peter F. Drucker said, “We now accept the fact
that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of
change. And the most pressing task is to teach people
how to learn.”

Our businesses operate in a knowledge economy, where people
are being paid to think to solve problems to be creative and innovative.
Combine this with information overload and constant change, and
no surprise there is more pressure than ever to improve how we learn.

As David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute states,
“Perhaps these findings about the brain can start to pull
back the curtain on a new world of productivity
improvement: in our ability to bring about positive, lasting
change in ourselves, in our families, in our workplaces,
and in society itself.”

So I’m going to smile and say . “it’s not me, it’s just my brain” and get
on with my business here . and when I’m done, say “goodbye” to the old
neighborhood and go back to the new one in Steamboat!

Free resources for Developing Sustainable Leaders at Sustainable Leadership, Inc.