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Why boundaries are about saying YES!

What happens when you hear the word boundary? Most people feel a sense of contraction. A feeling of resistance. We feel that a boundary means “no”. Because we wish to be liked, and to please others, setting boundaries can feel like we are pushing others away, and that we are being selfish. 

Take a look at some of the questions below and see if some resonate:

Do you struggle with a particular relationship, and have resentment towards an individual/s?

Do you procrastinate and have a mental chatter about getting stuff done, and are just not able to prioritise? 

Are you not able to find time to achieve what’s important to you? 

Is there a creep on your day and energy where you feel a sense of “blah” (a term coined by Adam Grant) and a sense of stuck-ness  and stagnation?

While these questions may seem unrelated, there is a golden thread linking these questions. That thread is clarity. Clarity about your values and how you fiercely defend them! When you are unclear for yourself about what’s important to you, your mental and emotional boundaries become even more hazy for those around you. And this shows up in your thoughts, actions and relationships.

So effective mental boundary management is not so much about saying no to others, and is it is about saying yes to yourself. This starts with knowing what you want and need to flourish and thrive – your goals and aspirations for your best life possible. Betsy Jacobson said that “Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”

Here are some questions for reflection on how to gain mental clarity and setting boundaries. 

What I want is …………..? (write down your personal goals)

This is important to me because….. (this is the why – your purpose and possibly values too)

I will say yes to this by managing my time and energy in the following way….(this is the action that you will take e.g scheduling exercise, waking up early to study etc)

I will communicate this to those around me in the following way….(who do I need to support me, understand, have buy-in)

Now, for the the messy “emotional” boundary setting. This is often the nucleus of mental anguish, fatigue, burnout and relationship turmoil. If left unchecked, it can be destroy relationships and sap emotional energy. Chances are there have been many times have you found yourself re-hashing an issue or a conversation with or about someone in your head? Most times repeatedly involving imagining the worst. 

Now, check in with this question. 

Which value (something that you hold close to your heart), has been violated or compromised? 

Perhaps clarity on roles, or rules, or expectations? Most times resentment in a relationship is because an unsaid “line has been crossed” and this leaves one feeling exposed, exploited, unheard or somehow violated. Let’s explore some actions that we can take to create emotional clarity and space: 

Giving Voice 

It is often the unsaid rules, roles and expectations that leave us feeling resentful. Giving voice to this so that we feel seen and heard, can end relentless self persecution.  What is the kindest way that you can communicate your values  – kind to you, and the other. 

Inviting Respect 

One of the most profound quotes that resonated with me around this topic is that “a lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect”. To start, a lack of clarity about myself is a lack of respect for myself. When I am clear to me, I can be clear for me! 

It is then from this clarity that I can ring-fence my values, priorities and goals. Let’s take a practical example. Someone invites you for a meal/event, and your initial intention is to have a family evening with loved ones. You struggle to say no. Your response could be “Thank you for your generosity, and I would love to. Just not tonight as we have a family dinner planned.Let’s make a plan for another time.” It’s not an excuse. It’s also not saying no. It’s saying yes to you and your family! 

Brene Brown says that “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others” and Lydia Hall says that .”Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are the gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden. I would like to add that daring to set boundaries is about saying yes to me, it’s about staying true to myself and my values. It’s from that place of integrity (wholeness) that we can impact the world and change from 

defensiveness to protection, 

from confusion to clarity, 

resentment to love (for ourselves and others). 

So defend fiercely and with infinite compassion, my friends. 

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Quality Sleep-Sound Mind-Happy World

March 18 is World Sleep Day and the theme for this year is

Quality Sleep – Sound Mind – Happy World.

We all know how we feel when we are sleep deprived. I’ve experienced first hand, through clients and family, how completely life and personality changing lack of sleep can be.

Good quality and quantity of sleep is crucial to help us reset physically and metabolically, mentally and emotionally. It’s like wireless recharging!

Sleep is essential for us be at our best cognitively and rationally. It helps us manage and regulate emotions better. It helps us learn and retain information. It’s in fact crucial for effective leadership (see below from a recent McKinsey article).

McKinsey and Company : Sleep and Leadership

Here are some pointers:

  1. You need at least 8 hours of quality sleep.
  2. If you have some form of insomnia, see a professional that can help you diagnose a possible sleep disorder.
  3. Reflect on your sleep routine
  4. Switch off blue light from tech gadgets 2 hours before. Read a physical book, play music, speak to loved ones.
  5. Keep your bedroom cool and for sleeping (not working, watching movies, eating). Charge your phone away from your bed.
  6. Find a wind-down routine that works (dim lights, meditation routine, music, bath etc)
  7. Have a light and early dinner
  8. Get the family involved and make it a lifestyle choice.

So, healthy sleeping is a way of becoming more awake to life, to being present to life and to living more fully.

Make a choice today, to change your sleep habits!

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You make choices, and your choices make you: a…

For many of us, by now, New Years resolutions have become a distant memory. Research says that of the 41% of Americans that set resolutions at the beginning of the year only 9% are successful at keeping them. Perhaps the fact that we set our resolutions, often misty eyed, in the afterglow of a holiday, festivities, rest and fun could be a factor? However, the New Year promises a new beginning, a time to reset and inspire ourselves into what we believe our potential is. In my view, even a small step towards a positive change is an improvement. So, are you in the large majority whose goals are now fading slowly? This is not a disaster. I have recently been helping MBA student clients review their goals for their year ahead, and also experimenting with my own.Here are some strategies that we’ve been playing with.

1. Setting a soul-based goal rather than an ego based one – what this means is looking deeply at the “why” of the goal. As an example, you can set a goal like : “I want to lose 10kgs by the end of the year”. Let’s look at these words. They feel hard. They may have the implication of perhaps diet and deprivation? This is an example of what author Marci Shimhoff calls the “ego-based goal” which we can transform this into a “soul-based goal”. One that feels lighter, and has more “ease and openness” associated with it. Something like “ I would like to be my best physically (maybe emotionally and spiritually” or “I would like to have energy to do the things I love and be with my loved ones” These are just some of the ways that you can, using language, create a deep soul-felt intention about something that is important to you. 

2. Asking “who do I want to become?” rather than what I want to do? An example of this is looking at what some of our goals would result in. Perhaps you have a goal of reading one book a week. How would that change you? Perhaps it is around becoming well read/ an expert on a certain subject? Perhaps you would like to be someone that uses your time deliberately and intentionally? What would your goals help you to transform towards? 

3. Getting clearer and clearer on what these goals actually mean. Goals that are vague are difficult to achieve, so visualise your goal, the end result with exquisite precision. Get into the detail, the picture as precisely as you can. What would you feel like. What do you see, smell, taste and feel if you achieve this goal? 

4. Having “micro-goals” linked to the big picture. Following on from the above, what do you need to do daily, weekly, monthly to achieve this goal. Also called chunking, in setting the micro-goals, the big goal becomes more achievable. Just one step at a time, every day, is where the magic lies

5. Getting back on the horse, when life bucks you off. Yes, this happens and I can certainly vouch for that too. How can we see this not as failure, and simply a detour in the path? Remember that in building new neural pathways, the old ones are still there, and can be activated at the drop of a hat especially when life happens. 

How can you use the mindset that life is iterative, just the way, a computer program needs several tweaks and need redesigning to change your perspective. Use the fall of the proverbial horse to inquire into what happened. Perhaps you had a stressful day, where you simply could not fit in the 30min walk, or your child was not well. The trick is to be gentle with yourself, and not listen to the tyrannical voice many of us have inside our heads. Literally say to yourself “It’s ok, tomorrow is another day”. Write in your journal and unpack the noise and stories in your mind, and create space for trying again. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal — it is the courage to continue that counts.”

6.Focus on the process not the outcome.James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says that “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference” See your goals as a journey to becoming more present and intentional about what truly matters to you in life. Stay with the process and invite ease and an attitude of learning, iterating and learning some more. 

So as you haul out and dust off some of your goals from January:

First, invite ease not criticism. 

Next check if this is really what you want to become. 

Ask “why?” 

Then, rework  and reword them if your need to. 

Lastly, take one tiny step today. It could simply be making a call, putting on your walking shoes, or not reaching for the candy bar. 

Your goals are not more complex, than the next smallest choice you have to make, because in the end  as Anne Frank said “Our lives are fashioned by our choices. You make choices, and your choices make you”

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Love is in the air…. (that I breathe)

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate and honor love. Traditionally we know that love is associated with the heart and while the heart may seem like a symbol of love, research is showing how important the heart is from a biochemical perspective. The heart-brain connection is a two way highway, and it is believed that the heart actually sends more information to the brain, than the other way around. The HeartMath Institute has been researching this for decades looking at how the heart-brain connection influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health. What we know is that the biochemistry of the body changes when we are balanced and “coherent”. Coherence creates balance your mind and body so that you can see things more clearly, and not from the space of an emotion-only lens.

It’s a simple technique of breathing that can invite this balance, and consistent practice can rewire our bodies and minds and help rewrite our stories. Spending time in stillness, in a place of pause and reflect, has an impact of releasing us from the conditioned habits of overthinking. Additionally, the breath itself is one way of regulating our overworked nervous systems so that we move from the fright/flight/freeze to one of rest/repair/restore. Not only does this help us get mental and emotional space, but we can also help our bodies to calm down, help our cardiovascular and nervous systems to relax and repair, and over the long term add years to our lives.

So, today, bring love to yourself, by pausing and breathing to balance yourself. Get out of your mind and into your body. Know that you have everything you need right now, to bring calm and joy and an open heart to life, and then give it away from that place of wholeness.

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What’s missing in the conversation on wellbeing at work?

If there’s ever been a word that’s been used more than “COVID” in the last 24 months it’s “workplace wellbeing” or some adaptation of it. The pandemic has really made it clear that health and wellbeing are front of centre of our lives. From a personal health perspective, COVID has shown us that those with chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and obesity have been impacted the worst clinically. In the corporate  health perspective, companies big and small have woken up to just how important mental wellbeing is to the sustainability of their organisations. While personally, many people are seriously considering and taking action on how to prioritise wellbeing, one of the many reasons for what popular wisdom is naming “the great resignation”, organisationally many companies have embarked on initiatives and programs that are aimed at supporting their employees as people deal with the serious impacts that COVID and lockdowns have had. Grief, financial losses, relationships breaking down, job insecurity, working from home, balancing family and work, to name just a few. 

This shift has been a long time coming. What was considered a nice to have, an HR function and something that was a ‘tick the box’, is now a priority. It speaks to corporate sustainability, productivity and resilience, and yet, what exactly is not hitting the spot, making sense or feeling uncomfortable in these conversations? This is a question that I have been chewing on for quite a few months. I have reflected on some of my thoughts here in this short post. 

Getting clear on intention?

My first thought is the principle that is crucial to any action. WHY? What exactly is the intention of these work place wellbeing programs? While actions may be taken towards wellbeing, the essence, sincerity and real intent of the company needs to be visible and transparent. Is your intention to “tick the box” or as a company are you genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of your people? Do you wish to embark on this to improve productivity, or is the real health of your real humans important to you? Is this the short game or are you prepared to invest in the long conversation? Where and what are you spending money on? (An accounting lecturer once said that if you would like to know the “real” strategy of a company, look at what they are spending their money on)

Changing the culture from the top-down, and from the inside out. 

Almost every company I know has its values clearly articulated somewhere. Most people know them and in fact sometimes employees’ performance is measured by how the values are lived in the work setting. While the word integrity may seem like a scary word in this context, this is what we are feeling into when we look at actions and behaviours rather than just the spoken word. It needs to be “this is how we work here”. It should be apparent in the actions of the senior leaders and CEO. Small things are indeed the big things. Do you receive emails at all odd hours? Are we expected to respond during family time, weekends and at odd hours of the night? The spirit of an organisation is the intangible energy that pervades it’s buildings, its people and it’s emotional vibration. Therefore, it is indeed a requirement that wellbeing be part of the pervasive spirit, and not just the espoused word.

Changing the culture from the bottom-up, and from the outside-in

What conversations are actually happening? Is it the senior leadership conversation? Or are we actually having the conversations that matter where it matters, when it matters and to whom it matters? What are the conditions and climate? Are our customers and partners involved in steering this intention meaningfully? Psychological safety and the belief that one would be treated benevolently creates the safe space for true connection and courage to show up. Connection that will change the spirit and intention of the organisation.

Finally, while to some, it may seem like semantics, to me, it feels meaningful and courageous  – to move the conversation from workplace wellbeing to wellbeing. Truly feeling and meaning that we care about the health and wellbeing of our people. Not just the mental wellbeing, but their physical and spiritual wellbeing and that of their families. To show that we care about their “why”, and that we connect deeply to join in the “collective why”. This shift may indeed surface that people need to change and move along to where they truly belong, and in the process the company may also gain the people that feel their essence. This is a positive discomfort in the long term. 

So, let’s shift the conversation. Let’s start the conversations that matter. In fact let’s muster the courage to listen – with deep care, with empathy and compassion. The birthplace of true wellbeing of ourselves and those we serve.

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Changing the paradigm to Flourish

I have written previously about stress and theres a lot that is known about what causes it, how we sense it in our bodies and that chronic stress can lead to downstream chronic disease and poor health. However, how do we shift the paradigm from managing stress, to optimizing wellbeing – so that we can be healthier, live longer more fulfilling lives, perform at our best, have wholesome family and social relationships, make a difference in the world, and in this way – become true leaders – of ourselves, our families, and our communities. 

Read more “Changing the paradigm to Flourish”
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Perfection versus Excellence: In the quest for progress rather…

Is it possible to get out of your own way so that you can gain traction and get action on things that you would like to do? Sometimes the thing that can keep us stuck in unfinished cycles and continuous loops of inertia and inaction is a fixated view of getting things right vs getting the right things done.

Read more “Perfection versus Excellence: In the quest for progress rather than perfection…”
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Mindful Media

“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” – Jim Morrison 

Social media is pervasive. Even the fact that you are reading this – is evidence of how much content is out there. The question is, are you “choice-ful” about what you consume, or are you a victim to relentless barrage of news items, posts about other people’s lives, polarized journalism, political agenda and conspiracy theories. 

Read more “Mindful Media”
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Rest is more than just sleep

There’s no doubt that many of our minds are on hyper-alert. The stress response of feeling vigilant, worrying , planning, working, and dealing with immediate day-to-day chores can be overwhelming. At this time of lockdown when we supposedly have “more time”, we can actually feel burnt out, because so much is changing, uncertainty pervades and the balance of the “known” is thrown off. Expectations of “being more productive”, having more family time, exercise etc can actually deplete us by making us feel like we are not “making the most” of the time that we have? A spectrum of emotions like guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, frustration are part of what we experience through the day.

Read more “Rest is more than just sleep”
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Building Personal Resilience – manage stress and perform at…

Challenge, and change often results in stress and energy drain, impacting how we relate to ourselves, the world and our work. How do you manage times of decreased capacity, fatigue and lowered effectiveness. Often we think “relaxing” is a way of filling us with increased capacity and energy. While this may work, it is not a way of a sustainable way to manage life – in order to show up, as much as possible, as the best versions of ourselves – focused and performing at our best.

Read more “Building Personal Resilience – manage stress and perform at your peak”
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The way…..

Friends, I wrote a poem (yes, yes I did) ….. to celebrate love.

True love can only be – with self love.. that’s the message?
Gnothi Seauton – Know thyself.. The Oracle of Delphi is YOU!

Let me know what you think?

Read more “The way…..”
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Connected?

You wake up in the morning, to switch off your alarm, and instantly notice the trail of messages, notifications and messages lighting up your screen. As you trample your way to the bathroom, you’ve probably checked and responded to some of the messages, and already about to click onto Twitter to see what you may have missed out on.

Read more “Connected?”
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Stressed? How does stress affect your performance – or…

Stress – an emotional word that conjures up all sorts of physical sensations in the body – tension, contraction, heart racing – you get the picture? It is safe to say that we have ALL experienced stress in some way – perhaps even since the moment of birth!

However, what is stress? Is it always bad? Can it be managed?

Read more “Stressed? How does stress affect your performance – or not?”
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Introductory Mindfulness Based Course – for stress and healthier…

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, is a way of being present, on purpose, and without judgement. It is training in attention, to the observation of self, with an attitude of kindness and compassion. It teaches us how to be in a different relationship with our thoughts, without trying to change anything.

Read more “Introductory Mindfulness Based Course – for stress and healthier living”
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DAY 2 How do we access our choice-fulness?

Yesterday we explored the automaticity that we all live in, the absence. And looked at “presence” as a choice..

Lets start today with a practice. For a minute, just tune into your breathing – feel your inbreath and your out breath. The sensations that accompany the breath, where you feel the breath most vividly. Don’t change the breath, just notice the breath with detail noticing of the sensations that accompany your breath…

Read more “DAY 2 How do we access our choice-fulness?”
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Exploring Mindfulness together.. DAY one.. Choice

Last week, I had the opportunity to give a talk on mindfulness. I would like to share some of this with you, and perhaps go on a reflective journey together? So, over the next few days, you will see a series of posts that relate generally, to mindfulness and then a more specific exploration of some of the attitudes that are embedded in this way of being..HOW to BE in the world.

Read more “Exploring Mindfulness together.. DAY one.. Choice”
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Keeping Fit??

Most of us are in some way pre-occupied, occupied and think often about physical fitness, exercise, keeping fit, eating well (even though we may not really..). It’s physical fitness, strength, vitality and resources that occupies us. Yes?
Have you ever wondered about building strength and vitality in other areas of life? What about the mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions?

Read more “Keeping Fit??”