Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

Thanksgiving Leftovers

OK, so I finally threw out the remaining crumbles of Thanksgiving stuffing last weekend. Now that we’re headlong into the rush and buzz of the holiday decorating/shopping/singing/gift-giving season, I have this deep need to hold onto the simplicity of Thanksgiving—“the holiday that’s just about food and family”, as one of my friends described it. I’ve had several people confess to me recently that Thanksgiving is actually their favorite of the holidays, and I can’t personally argue against this sentiment.

How can anything be better than having a day—or a season—to reflect on feeling grateful—to be well, to be surrounded by loved ones, and to indulge ourselves with harvest feasts that remind us of our abundance and blessings? No malls, no carols, no shopping lists to break the bank; but we still have the joy of gathering together to eat and talk turkey.

Gratitude is, by its very nature, good for us. (And not just because our grandmas taught us to appreciate and be thankful as a practice of living as civilized beings.) When we experience gratitude, appreciation and deep levels of caring, something amazing happens to our biology. Research demonstrates that when we feel gratitude or appreciation, we have increased levels of DHEA, the anti-aging hormone, flooding our endocrine system. In addition, acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, rushes into the neurological system to produce feelings of calmness, peace and contentedness; it is the body’s natural chemical that promotes relaxation during sleep, massages or other low-energy states.

I was raised on The Power of Positive Thinking. At an early age, my father introduced me to Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, the book that described the law of attraction years before The Secret. Practice in positive thinking can help shape attitudes of optimism, problem-solving and perseverance. New research in neuroscience, however, demonstrates that positive feeling—the deliberate invocation of a feeling state created through positive imagery—can have a direct and immediate effect on the body’s hormonal and nervous systems, and can create an actual shift in a person’s emotional state.

Last year, I became a certified provider in HeartMath, which is essentially a set of tools to help reduce stress, increase focus and live a heart-centered lifestyle. The HeartMath Institute has conducted and collected extensive research in neurophysiology, and has produced a wide array of tools, resources, publications and products which help people learn to work with their own biology to be effective in their work, in their play, and in their relationships. I’ll write more about HeartMath as time goes on, but feel free to check it out for yourself, or call me if you want a one-on-one demo.

And in the meantime, there’s no rule that says you can’t hang onto Thanksgiving a little longer. It’s not an accident that we start the bustle of the holiday season by giving thanks.  Keep it alive all season. Happy holidays!


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Growing up we hear (hopefully) that we can accomplish anything, or be anything when we “grow up”.  You can be a Nurse, a Firefighter, Airline Pilot, Doctor, Lawyer, Entrepreneur or Inventor, Artist or musician.

Some of these roles require more education or certification than others, but all are achievable if one works hard enough and puts their mind to it…

Imagine two siblings, each growing up in the same household, with the same teachings, access to education, experiences etc.   Both graduate college in the middle of their class.  Both average or above average intellect and seemingly at an equal place in life.  But for one, life appears easy.  She can accomplish her dreams, achieve goals and have fun in the process.  For the other life seems difficult, she struggles to achieve, is overwhelmed by the massive challenges that life presents.  At some point she stops dreaming of achieving more, because it is just too difficult.

In another chapter of my career I was a district manager of retail stores; working with Store Managers, I would  discuss maximizing the ‘potential’ of each of their employees as being limited by two things:  One being the individual ‘Talent’ of the individual, which at the time I defined as their smarts, skill-set, know-how or technical skills.  And the Second being their ‘Mindset’.   As a manager I would argue that you could teach technical skills to anyone, but what made the largest impact on their ‘potential’ or productivity was their ‘mindset’. 

We used an equation to facilitate those discussions:

                (TALENT) x (MINDSET) = (POTENTIAL)

Think of each on a 1 – 10 Scale.  If someone had a slightly above-average talent of say 6, but a mindset of 1 (sibling # 2)  the best they could achieve is

                6 x 1 = 6

Wherein sibling number one from the above example has the same talent level of 6, but a mindset of 6, that person can achieve:

                6 x 6 = 36

Obviously exponentially greater achievement, which drives engagement, happiness and satisfaction in (and of) life.  Life might seem ‘easy’ to the individual with the higher ‘mindset’ score, which in itself helps elevate your outlook on life or mindset.

When I started working with PeopleSmarts earlier this year I was introduced to the equation:

 IQ (Intellectual Quotient) x EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is a predictor of your success.

The research and trainings that PeopleSmarts provides are much more researched than the rough models I used in my retail life, but I think you will agree that the concepts are solid.  If one can improve their outlook on life, learn skills to handle stress, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, accountability they are able to achieve at a greater level, despite their technical ability. 

Is your ‘Mindset’ where it needs to be?

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Passion For Your Work

Recently, a long-time friend and I were having a discussion about the importance of having passion for your work. She was telling me about the importance of following your bliss, and as the term “follow your bliss” may be used very often, it is very significant, and can be correlated with employee engagement and job satisfaction. Increasing employee engagement through improving emotional intelligence is definitely what PeopleSmarts is geared towards, so naturally this conversation got me engaged and thinking. This thinking then turned into reading, which is a natural progression for me since reading is one of my passions. I was reading an article on the Zen Habits web site entitle Work as Play. The author, Leo Babauta had a few great pointers to increase passion for your work. He said, “Exciment: follow your passions. Don’t be restrained. If something isn’t interesting, move on to something that is. Don’t force things”. He went on to say, “Pour yourself into it. You can skip from one thing to another, and that’s fine, but you might never accomplish anything that way. I find that when I get excited and really pour myself into a project, I can accomplish a lot and have a ton of fun doing it”. These two simple points really stood out to me as a way to make your work more fun and fulfilling. So what are you waiting for. Get excited and pour yourself into your work.

Waid Blanton

Assistant Marketing Manager

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The other day I was preparing for the “Pulling the Stress Plug” workshop as a free “Thank you!” Training Demo for one of our long-term clients. Of the various stress mastery techniques and mindsets that we teach in this workshop, one of them involves a neuroscience bio-feedback technique called Quick Coherence as developed by HeartMath. You can read more about the three steps here, but in a nutshell, Quick Coherence is an unusually simple, highly effective, and rapid method for reducing stress, anxiety and improving performance. HeartMath describes it briefly as follows:

“Create a coherent state in about a minute with the simple, but powerful steps of the Quick Coherence® Technique. Using the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, you can achieve energy, mental clarity and feel better fast anywhere. Use Quick Coherence especially when you begin feeling a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or anger. Find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that’s reflected in more balanced heart rhythms, facilitating brain function and more access to higher intelligence.”

emWave-smIn preparation for the workshop, I brought the various HeartMath emWave equipment home to test it over the weekend, thinking my family would find it interesting. Using both sophisticated technology and simple instructions my two youngest (Matthew, age 8, and Molly, age 10) quickly and easily kept achieving optimal coherence levels, as indicated by a green light on the emWave Personal Stress Reliever (PSR). Well, Matthew took to it right away and kept asking if he could use it over the weekend.

Matthew-09Monday, as I was heading out the door to work, Matthew exuberantly exclaimed as he held the green-lit emWave PSR aloft, “Hey Dad! All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling!”. I laughed, hugged him and left. I thought that was all, however, for the rest of the day his words kept coming back to me: “All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling.” There you had it: My 8-year-old son had mastered the Quick Coherence technique in only a few tries. Nothing fancy. Nothing complex. No muss. No fuss.

Some people, usually adults, worry that mastering stress is too complicated and/or that it will involve too much time that they don’t have for mediation or yoga. Take it from a child, folks: Effective stress management isn’t in long-involved methods; It’s in the simple. “La la la” is a child’s version of a mantra—just something to fill the mind (i.e., the practice of mindfulness) with something else other than distraction and worry. The simple act of just physically smiling shifts our neurochemical state by releasing stress-relieving and pleasure-inducing endorphins and DHEA in the brain. Repeated simply over and over produces a coherent, stress-relieving state, quickly.

For years I have said in my stress management workshops that children are little Zen masters and that we would be wise to learn from them. My son proved it to me again. As Darth Vader said to Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can say of my son: “Now the student has become the master.”

An 8-year-old nailed it. Not only that, his example helped me nail it the rest of the day. In fact, it’s helping me right now. I feel fully coherent and peaceful as I’m typing this for my deadline. No stress. No muss. No fuss. I’m just, “La la la” and smiling. I feel just fine.


Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training and Development

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