Why Mindfulness is a must-have mental skill.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become” – Buddha

Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are always in a constant chase in order to achieve them and other things which we think will make us happier. As a result, we either get into stress or discontentment with our present state of existence depending on what we can and cannot. We end up spending lot of time mulling over past mistakes and negative thoughts and want to get rid of anything that limits us.

Negative thinking is one of the reasons for underachievement. When you choose to engage in negative thinking you are deciding to believe in your inability rather than your possibility. How you think manifests in your actions. If your mind is always filled with jumbled, chaotic thoughts, that’s what your output will be. When you’re clear on what is important to you and on the type of person you want to be, it becomes easier to block out distracting mental noise so that you can focus on your goals and objectives. When we face overwhelm, self-doubt and various other unhelpful habits of mind, learning to pause them in their tracks puts you back in the productive state.

Mindfulness; key to being a productive self

We as humans are evolutionarily hard-wired to operate by a negatively biased mindset. In our daily life, be it personal or professional endeavours, there are emotional and mental challenges we experience as our work load keep changing as per work demands. Stressful conditions give rise to doubtful critical voice that makes us feel incapable of handling such situations. Having no intervention to keep such negative thoughts in check can result in cognitive and emotional derailment. However, mindfulness provides for a non-confrontational intervention where you can choose to pivot your thinking and stop the broken record of unhelpful thought looping on repeat.

Mindfulness meditation is not only a way to gain insight into your own mind; it also serves as one of the primary ways to become aware of the negative thoughts and emotions that are blocking you from focusing on your goals. In meditation, content from your subconscious that you hide from the world and from your own awareness reveals itself. When negative thoughts rise up to the surface of awareness, you can choose to respond rather than recoil or react to them impulsively. Allowing yourself to observe your present moment reduces stress and increases your wellbeing and productivity.

So, what is mindfulness meditation?

In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness. When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement. When we practice mindfulness, we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.

Mindfulness meditation improves the quality of your thoughts and thus helpful for gaining more focus on what you want rather than past or future. No longer will you constantly be at the whim of your racing thoughts. Instead, you can focus on the people and goals that matter most. there are two main functions our brains perform during mindful meditation:

• The generation of thoughts, feelings and emotions — these are transient and can change from one moment to the next;

• The observation of information, data and feedback without judgment, evaluation or criticism, or without even trying to make sense of it.

We learn to listen to and accept the thoughts and feelings that arise within us. We practice being able first to notice that we are having these unfavorable thoughts, labels, criticisms, judgments and feelings, and then we pause them in their tracks by choosing to observe them: 

Even though the idea behind mindfulness meditation seems simple – it requires patience and commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment because our mind quickly gets caught up in other tasks. And also sometimes, the present moment becomes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved only by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.

How to practice mindful meditation

To begin the process of mindfulness meditation, get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes and simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath. Focus on your breath. Try to observe where you feel your breath most, In your belly? In your nose? and try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Follow your breath for two minutes. Notice How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did notice how busy your mind was even without your consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to your breath? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there or tasks that we want to get to. We all experience these sorts of distractions. Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practice to overcome such distractions.

Set firm intentions

Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. If you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating. Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions or goals and objectives that you want to focus on and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome negative emotions, and thoughts.

Tap into the feeling of being

Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual. Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.

Connect to something bigger

Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. Learn to align with this force through mindful meditation. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture. Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life and sets up positive emotions to go after your goals.

Practice mindful breathing

Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending. Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.

Accept your thoughts and emotions

Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information. You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and  self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.

Welcome feelings of joy

Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.

During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.

Contemplate on interdependence

Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate  in our suffering and in our desire to be happy. When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.

Finally, If you have a long-standing habit of negative thinking, the first step of managing your negative thoughts is simply knowing that they exist. If they are to grow out of control, they might cause lot of despair. Focus on your most troubling thoughts in mindfulness meditation even if you feel uncomfortable. This is where the core of your distress lies. Our deepest beliefs and personal truths will be at the base of all our thoughts. These thoughts fixate in negative outcomes. To untangle from these destructive thinking patterns, you have to be aware of how they work. When you recognise the negative thought patterns, counter them with alternative messages that are positive and optimistic based on truth and not fear. How and what you think can determine relative happiness of your life.

To conclude,

Do not take meditation as some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in your brain. Just practice bringing your attention to your breath, and then back to the breath when you notice your attention has wandered. Include the above insights as individually or apply them all together. Insightful meditation not only helps to bring your attention back to your breath but also gives you a focus to keep your thoughts meaningful and positive. And allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide you some much-needed space to make better choices and focus needed to achieve your goals.

Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice. Invest in making this skill an essential feature of your mental toolkit. You’ll not only leap leagues ahead of your competition, but you’ll also move faster and further toward your chosen goals. The noise in your head will quieten and your feelings of overwhelm will lessen even though the workload and increased responsibilities remain. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.

Are you living with integrity?

Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains.”

Many of us make choices and decisions in our day to day life that define who we are and what we believe in. All of us face integrity-based choices on a regular basis. Most often, the choices we have to make may seem insignificant, but even the smallest choice or action we take has an impact on our reputation. And it always takes courage to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. But many stay disconnected from their true inner core and tend to carry on with social persona merely to seek acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance. “The end justifies the means” has become a common school of thought in today’s world and many tend to either exaggerate, over-promise, or underdeliver in a desperation to meet their expectations or goals. They tend to justify their act of dishonesty by telling themselves a valid reason as to why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

Acting without the constraints of morality may provide instant gratification in the moment but is always temporary and the success with such actions comes with far reaching consequences and at the price of your trustworthiness. Just as honesty is essential to develop trust in any healthy personal or professional relation, so is integrity to become trustworthy. If you can’t trust someone in all areas, you can’t trust them in any. Integrity is a prerequisite for credibility and involves an inner sense of wholeness which results in being consistently honest and morally upright. Integrity is important in all aspects of life, professional, personal, or social.:

What is integrity?

Integrity is the quality of adhering to moral and ethical principles and is a state of being whole and complete or undivided. It comes with an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of your actions, words, decisions, measures, expectations, methods and outcomes. Integrity encompasses truthfulness, credibility and sincerity. Learning to live with integrity requires developing self-awareness, adhering to strict moral values and communicating truthfully to others regardless of the complexity of situation or the possibility of negative consequences.

Lack of integrity, for instance, saying you will do something and not doing it or telling a lie or leading someone to believe that they can trust you and betraying them, or hiding things about yourself so that the aspect of you that other people see is not the real you or changing your opinion in order to bend to other’s opinion shows inconsistency between your words and actions. Lack of integrity is not adhering to your conscience and not living in a state of wholeness. For instance, when someone puts pressure on your authenticity, then deciding to change your stance so others will see you as a good person demonstrates your lack of integrity. To give false impression or telling lie in a way to avoid shame of being different or for the fear of being ridiculed also takes you out of integrity.

Integrity is important to achieve your goals

Integrity is one of the most important and valuable character trait to build in order to be successful in your endeavours as it can help you to build trust, be honest and consistent in your efforts and in decision-making. Integrity includes two components that go beyond just doing the right thing. The first is honesty to adhere to moral and ethical principles. If we are honest with ourselves we know intrinsically what the right thing is without having to look to laws, rules or some code of ethics. Being honest with ourselves and others makes us authentic to build trust. And the second is consistency to live in alignment with your values, actions and words. Being consistent enables others to rely on their expectations of your future behaviours based on your past commitments or actions.

We often fail to stay committed to our goals and resolutions due to lack of integrity that is, we simply don’t keep our word to ourselves. We make promises to ourselves and then break them often for reasons we don’t even understand. How good are we to our expectations depends to a larger extent on our integrity. When you are in integrity, you bring the same you regardless of the circumstance and don’t leave parts of yourself behind thereby removing self-doubt and show consistency in your commitments. You cannot commit to your goals if you agree to things but never seem to be able to show up for your agreements, or when you use your words destructively or when you say things you don’t really mean. Such actions often take you out of integrity. Personal power to achieve your goals and objectives comes from being in integrity with yourself and others.

principles or values are prerequisites for personal growth. Maintaining moral high ground and honesty in your dealings with coworkers, friends, peers, superiors or team members helps you own your sphere of influence and can gain their trust as you become dependable and hold yourself accountable for your actions, decisions or choices. This can help you to build healthy relations and impacts your success positively.

“The most important persuasion tool in your entire arsenal is your integrity.”– Zig Ziglar

How to practice living with integrity?

Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral violation, it means having the strength of character to learn from those and seek continual self-improvement. It is an important character trait that can be strengthened and developed in our daily life. Here are some strategies to enhance and live in integrity.

Identify your core values. Your personal values are a central part of who you are and who you want to be. They are often shaped by your formative experiences, but your values may change as you grow and adopt to new stages of life. Assess the degree to which you adhere to them and focus on what matters most to you. To live with integrity is to align your behaviours and actions with your core values. Define what’s truly important to you and make sure they fit with your vision of yourself. Which values are important to you ? Do your values make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud of your values? Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire? Do these values support your choice even if it isn’t popular? Answering these questions can help you in determining your values. By becoming aware of your values, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation and maintain your sense of integrity.

Align your choices with your core values and do not drift or fall into the easy or popular path while making important career choices, work or business agreements or personal decisions. Consider all the options and consequences and the impact of your decision on yourself and others. How does your decision align with your personal values? How would it differ from a decision you would make if no one found out about your choice? If you make a choice right now, will it hold good in the long-term? A good way to ensure that you are living a life of integrity is to assess where you are now and where you want to be in future in terms of your personal integrity. Analyse every choice you make. Keep in mind that in times of fear, stress or chaos, the temptation is even greater to make a wrong choice. Integrity isn’t about living by your values when it is convenient, they are values that you should live by all the time which include both big and small choices. By aligning with your values all the time, you can approach decision-making with more clarity and confidence.

Set a moral code for yourself and others. Choose a set of rules, morals or principles that you believe will lead you to righteous and satisfying life based on what your values are. Be willing to update your code as you adjust your sense of right and wrong and your moral reasoning. Most of the times how we think about right or wrong changes as we gain more experience. Whether it is leading a group of people or managing a business, parenting children, leading with integrity requires outlining a standard of behaviour by which others abide. Adhere at all times to the behavioural standard you have established for them.

Surround yourself with morally upright people. Avoid spending your time in environments that can drag you down morally. If people around you violate your sense of integrity, consider removing yourself from that environment. Develop friendships and work relationships with others who demonstrate integrity and who support your decisions. If you surround yourself with dishonest or by those who cut corners to get ahead, then you will find yourself following a pattern of enduring and adopting their behaviour. Do not give into others who try to get you to do things which are not in alignment with your values in favour of an easy gain. Remind yourself that you alone have to live with consequences of your behaviour.

Create an atmosphere of open communication

Communicate to others with authenticity. Be open with others regarding issues that affect them. Stop speaking impulsively or sugarcoating your response. Be assertive to put your point of view with authenticity and without being aggressive. Keeping secrets or hiding important information can lead to an environment of mistrust. Listen attentively to others to lead them with integrity. Acknowledge others’ contributions and practice tolerance for different perspectives. Be transparent in your interactions with others so as to avoid mistrust. If you are running into obstacles then communicate to the person and take responsibility for your words and actions.

Be honest in keeping your promises

For some people, overpromising, underdelivering, or apologising for running late, for being behind schedule on their work or project, or forgetting to do the thing they said they would becomes a regular thing. Stop and reflect before you say ‘yes’ to commitments. Practice saying ‘no’ to things you know you will have difficulty completing. If you break a promise, apologise, but don’t let that become a habit. Keep your appointments personally and professionally. Be honest in owning up to your mistake and take responsibility for your action and do whatever it takes to right the situation. If you give your word that something will be taken care of, do it. Follow through your promises and commitments. Reflect on what circumstances, relationships and patterns are leading you up to broken commitments to identify where you are most frequently breaking promises with yourself and others.

Live with mindfulness

When you live with mindfulness, you are conscious of the way you think, speak and behave every day and you work towards carrying out those activities in a more meaningful way. Meditating through mindful breathing can help you gain a deeper awareness of your thoughts and actions. You cannot live a life of integrity without being mindful of and concerned for others. A lack of empathy can result in poor judgment, act of selfishness and lead to unhappy relationships. Show compassion and empathy towards others. Reflect on how to live and make decisions in a way that is reflective of your values and beliefs by contemplating on which actions of yours are in accordance with your conscience? Is there consistency between what you are thinking and what you are doing? Are your thoughts and practices are same? and so on.

To conclude,

Are you living your life with integrity?

What are your core values? What standards of behaviour are really important to you? Do you have a habit of breaking your promises? Are you two-faced? What specific values you admire about other people, Is the fact that they are generous or honest? Are you aware of your authentic self? Do you identify yourself with those values? Would you still live by those values even if they put you at a complete disadvantage?How honest are you in your behaviours, actions, and words? Are your choices and decisions aligned with your core values in all situations? Answering these questions can put you in the perspective of whether or not you are mindful of integrity in your choices and decisions.

Acting in accordance with your integrity requires aligning all aspects of yourself with what is right and to be honest and authentic with yourself. Living with Integrity is not forcing yourself or trying to be better or harder and following yet another should. It is more about authenticity, self-honesty and a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code and being whole and undivided. Appreciate yourself when you act with integrity and acknowledge when you don’t. Use the above strategies to correct course when required. Be persistent and patient with yourself and others while practising integrity.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/05/19/are-you-being-self-aware/

https://sscascades.org/2019/06/09/how-to-be-a-good-listener/

How to challenge the Status Quo

“If you focus on results, you will never get change.If you focus on change, you will get results.” ― Jack Dixon

A good way to predict the direction of our life is to measure how much of our time we’re actually trying to enhance and improve it. Most of us claim that we want better life or want things to change. It is easier to wish than to face change and uncertainty. Sometimes, we imagine that when we make a change, the choice we select should be easy to accomplish. So we wait until that magical state arrives by expending a lot of mental energy only wishing, expecting, and worrying. In other words, much of our time is spent in just maintaining the Status Quo rather than working constructively in creating the change we desire to enhance our personal or professional life.

Many times people end up on not taking action that will take them to the next level and prefer staying with the Status Quo, that is “the way things are”, no matter how flawed that may be. This way, they often find themselves stuck in mediocrity trap that keeps them in an automatic loop of routine. This makes them complacent as they get used to the ‘norm’ and are not desperate enough to change. There are others who want to pursue a goal, but don’t feel it can be achieved. They want to change, but are afraid of failure. Some have clear objectives to achieve but unhappy in place where they are. They want their environment to change without them having to do anything about it. So they just are stuck to their status quo instead of finding ways to make fulfilling changes.

In today’s world, if you want to compete or stay ahead or want to create sustainable growth for yourself or for your organisation or business, you must constantly think about how you can adapt and change. But one of the biggest barrier to change is our Status Quo thinking. We resort to thinking “its how we’ve always done it..” or “ that’s just how we do things here.” and so on. we often like to doing the things in same way or keep things as they are and don’t want to shake things up or change.

So, What is Status Quo?

Status Quo is a Latin phrase that means “state in which”, the state in which your current outcomes or results happen or your current state of things. It is about doing what is comfortable and thinking inside the existing box. As creatures of habit, we always tend to move toward the familiar, known, and believe it into be safer than what is new and different. This creates a Status Quo bias or our preference for familiarity. Because of this, it is harder to accept change and we usually prefer the easier option of keeping things as they are as it takes less mental effort.

Downside of maintaining Status Quo

To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are or being complacent with how things are. Sometimes things are done a certain way because it’s the best practice. Other times we do things without a thought to process improvement. Sticking to status quo in your present circumstance, habits, behaviour, or efficiency or your skill or how things are in your personal and professional life not only keeps you stuck, stagnant but also hinders your growth and progress. We get so comfortable and safe thinking inside the existing box that it makes us resistant towards change or to think outside the box or to take risks or to challenge ourselves or to move out of our comfort zone. We see something new as inherently risky while something familiar as safe.

Change is something every body wants and talks about but cannot make it happen in reality as many of us get stuck in our Status Quo mindset. We get caught up in daily routines and any change seems uncomfortable. We refuse to challenge our status Quo thinking and refuse to adopt to more positive outlook thereby creating an aversion to change. Adhering to status Quo and giving preference that things stay the same is problematic for your self-growth or professional growth.

For some reason, we find it difficult to challenge the status quo when dealing with peers, friends, superiors or others in our personal and professional life. There is a sense that the act of challenging is inappropriate and may lead to conflict. But it is important to understand that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to insightful learning and change by challenging a problem from different viewpoints.

Why is it important to challenge your status quo?

Challenging Status Quo means that you identify better ways of doing things in order to change for better or to improve yourself or to add value. This not only makes you feel more engaged, meaningful, creative,and content but also increase your productivity, leadership skills and helps in managing things more effectively. And you can find solutions to a problem through different perspectives and can think more creatively or you can set yourself some personal challenges to encourage personal growth.

To become more productive and improve, you need to shift your perspective to challenge what’s become “the norm.” Just because something has worked until now, it doesn’t mean that there’s no need for change or room for improvement. Also, If you don’t challenge your status quo bias and are not ready to address what’s keeping you from making a change to enhance your life or to get yourself out of the mediocrity trap, you really cannot get on the path to create change or growth that you actually desire for.

Trust your idea enough to know that it can challenge the status quo.”

― Arlyn Davich

How to challenge your status quo ?

When you have to challenge how things are, you need to modify behaviours to impact results. Just knowing does not equal change unless you take different actions than those that created your present state of affairs. Only when you really understand the relationship between your inputs and outcomes or state in which your current outcomes are generated by current inputs, you can find your status quo and challenge it successfully. One of the effective way to do so is by asking right questions.

Ask questions

Asking yourself ‘why’ can help you to quickly pinpoint the actions that are generating your current results and you can identify what needs to be changed or improved. By asking yourself what actions can lead to positive change, you can challenge the status quo and focus on finding solutions. At work, be open to new ideas brought in by your team or others. Consider all the variables to implement the idea and explore all avenues to make a positive change. asking questions like is there something that isn’t working? Or why isn’t it working? How can you arrive at a solution? What are the ways to improve? can give you the ability to turn negative outcomes into positive. Asking right questions can give you insights to why you need to challenge the status quo, what resistance you may face and potential strategies to improve.

Here are some more ways to challenge your status quo.

Take risks. We often resort to status quo to avoid risk or uncertainty. If you want real change, you must embrace risk as new normal. Understand the impact of doing nothing is rarely ‘nothing.’ You must learn to create to anticipate unexpected and should learn to perform under pressure and should be able to adapt yourself better to change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is the risk involved in doing the same things or doing the same work or keeping the same habits? What short or long-term risks do your status quo results pose? What is the risk involved if you were to challenge your status quo? What can you do differently to improve yourself?

Identify the emotions behind change. You must identify what fears or emotions may be keeping you from changing. Unhelpful emotions can hold you in a status quo state. Emotions like fear of failure, or unwillingness to move out of your comfort zone or fear of the consequences of an unsuccessful implementation can keep you in Status Quo. Sometimes the root cause may be fear of additional effort required to implement a change, or to invest in time, money or other resources. You need to emotionally commit to the desired change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Which emotions have strong hold on you? Which emotions are holding you back? Which emotions drive you towards change? Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone to challenge yourself?

Take responsibility. We talk about change but we don’t include it in our thinking or actions or decisions. We expect and maintain the status quo and want others to work on existing framework and not challenge them. This happens when we don’t take responsibility for the problem. You must be willing to reach out to others and new ideas. Also sometimes you might not be thinking in the right boxes to recreate growth or it might be uncomfortable for you to think outside the box. By being accountable, you will be able to challenge the status quo of your actions and decisions.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Are you willing to take responsibility for your ideas or choices or decisions? What needs to be challenged? Is there something that needs to be changed? What can you do differently to improve your status quo?

Be growth seeking. When you lack growth mindset, you cannot break down status quo bias or open to new possibilities to learn and grow. To challenge status quo, you need to think long-term and explore new insights, perspectives and ways to improve things.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is your obstacle to growth? What behaviours are causing you negative outcomes? If you want your outcomes to change, which actions or behaviour you need to change? Which new ideas and perspectives you should be open to?

Evaluate your core values. Lack of honest evaluation of your current conditions, values, results and actions keep you in status quo thinking. How you approach change depends on your core beliefs and in how you view learning and improving yourself and other values.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : What are your core values? Are your core beliefs aligned with desired change? What values are taking you away from moving forward in new and better direction? What values you need to embrace to progress in the direction of change?

Prepare your approach. If you are challenging long-standing attitudes or processes, you cannot just challenge them in a knee-jerk manner. Being passionate about change is admirable, but not able to present your ideas in a positive manner may lead to failure. You might face resistance while challenging status quo, especially in a workplace environment from your coworkers or superiors. Some may resist your efforts and think you are accusing them of doing something wrong. Some may even take changes you proposed personally or perceive them as self-serving, or inappropriate and reject them. In such situations, clearly communicate your intentions as to why you are challenging the status quo.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Am I presenting my suggestions in a positive manner? Does the proposed change leads to improvement? What actions can lead to positive change or increase productivity, efficiency or morale right now?

Improve your social environment. Your social environment like friends, family and co-workers play an important role in challenging status quo in progress oriented way. Your social interactions and relationships may hold you back in implementing the changes whether intentionally or unintentionally. You need ensure you have supportive, challenging and mutually beneficial relationships in place to enable you to successfully challenge status quo. Gather right allies to wheel and support you in the cause and change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Is your social environment supportive of you? Do the people around you facilitate change you want to make? Are people holding you back in challenging your status quo?

Conclusion

Challenging status quo is not pointing out every little flaw and error or being rebellious. It has got more to do in making a positive or creative contribution that can improve your present situation. It is about bringing change by trying something new be it in your work, or personal habits, or in setting a new routine, or to implement new ideas in your business or workplace.

Measure your goals. Goals are nothing more than desired changes. You are choosing to maintain status quo if you don’t have concrete goals. To create the change you desire, you need to confront what has been simply accepted so far. Identity which areas of your life you are stuck in mediocrity and use the above strategies to challenge your status quo. The more you challenge the status quo, the more progress you will make towards your goals and objectives.

How to manage your expectations

“The quality of our expectations determines the quality of our action.
– A. Godin

We always hold onto conscious and unconscious expectations when it comes to our friends, coworkers, superiors or subordinates, or from other personal or professional relationships . These expectations we all tend to hold onto, about ourselves, others and about the situations we find ourselves in directly influence us. As these expectations become targets or plans for the future. They not only influence what you are going to attempt and your confidence but also your attitude, decisions, behaviours, perspectives and your interactions with others. So, when we hold onto realistic expectations, they direct us in positive ways and towards our goals. However, many of us have a habit of often holding onto unrealistic, negative or sometimes to failed expectations that not only distort our perception of reality but they also lead us away from the goals and objectives we want to achieve.

In general, expectations are required for us to function. It is a good thing to set standards and expect for them to be met in our personal or professional endeavours. But problems arise when we fail to give the right balance to expectation, such as expecting more or less from others or ourselves, than we ought to. It is then that we set ourselves up for disappointment. There is a difference between having realistic standards for behaviour or performance and expectations. Because sometimes our expectations might be based upon strongly held assumptions.

Downside of having unrealistic expectations:

Some of our expectations are may be unrealistic or unreasonable because of the unjustified assumptions and conclusions we make. Such expectations make you think that things will go your way and create unnecessary stress and disappointment when things don’t work out. Sometimes they drive deception because of your past perceptions. For example, your worries are often built upon a set of unrealistic expectations and beliefs that end up influencing your behaviour negatively. Also living up to others unreasonable expectations creates stress and frustration. Expecting others to do what is in your interest also leads to resentment when the outcome is less likely than what you imagined it would be. Also when you try to live up to others’ expectations, the gap that arises between what people expect from you and who you are leads to frustration of yours and others as well.

Low expectations vs high expectations

Setting our expectations high or low generally has objective consequences. Many think one way to avoid disappointment and unhappiness is to have low expectations. This gives rise to a notion that you should lower your expectations to increase your well-being. But this may not hold true factually. Research shows that people with higher expectations are generally happier, whether they succeed or fail. Their findings were based on the result of three cognitive processes.

First, what matters for your well-being is how you interpret the events you encounter. For instance, a student with low expectations who got an A might attribute to his luck and not to his effort. But another who expected an A but got C might put in more effort next time and even turn hopeful that he would eventually get an A. But a student with higher expectations who succeeds, he attributes it to his personal potential. Second, adjusting people’s expectations upward led to bettering their performance. For instance, most of the times it is enough to encourage students with the word ‘clever’ to make them score higher. And the third, having high expectations about the future made them happier in present.

So, the key to increase our productivity and well-being is not to lower our expectations but is the ability to identify and release unrealistic or unreasonable expectations or assumptions of ours and others. It has more to do with the ability to interpret negative outcomes in a positive way. setting high expectations for yourself and working hard towards achieve them proves to be more productive. Setting high expectations not only improves your productivity but also makes you more inclined towards learning from your mistakes. On the contrary, if someone is basing his/her performance on low expectations or on unhelpful or unrealistic expectations, then he/she will be more likely to fail, less productive and will be less inclined to learn from their errors.

We cannot get rid of our own and others’ expectations as they play an important role in our everyday interactions and in achieving our objectives. Be it an individual or as an organisation’s expectations, they play a crucial part in our planning and productivity. This is because many times optimism bias tends to influence our future success. To achieve your goals, you should be able to effectively manage your own expectations and of others. Handling failed, unrealistic and negative expectations in positive ways can help you achieve your goals and objectives. Here are some ways to manage your own expectations and others’ expectations of you.

Managing your own expectations

unrealistic expectations. At times, we hold onto unreasonable expectations about ourselves both personal and professional situations we find ourselves in. This is mostly because of inaccurate information we have or due to our unjustified conclusions or preconceived notions. Such expectations may distort our perception of reality and lead us down the wrong path. Asking right kind of questions can make you aware of the conclusions we are drawing at any moment and helps you to handle your expectations. It is important to challenge such expectations by asking yourself what your expectations are, are you basing them on assumptions or facts and whether or not it is reasonable to hold onto such expectations in the first place. Check as to what set of expectations would be more helpful for you in that situation. Challenge your unreasonable expectations to set realistic and helpful expectations in a specific situation.

Negative expectations. Sometimes certain negative expectations manifest from self-doubt and pessimism creating failure scenarios. Recognising the possible consequences of such expectations can help you handle them positively. In order to handle your doubts, challenge your limiting beliefs. What do you expect will happen? How do you know for sure that things will turn out this way? What if the way you are thinking about is flawed? Look for more empowering ways to think and handle such negative expectations. The more you challenge your doubts and limiting beliefs, the more confident you will be to develop more realistic and positive expectations that align with your goals.

Failed expectations At times, you might have set a goal that you believed that you would achieve but didn’t quite turned out that way. In such situations, instead of giving into limiting emotions like fear of failure and disappointment, or thinking that you are inadequate or incapable, look for what you can learn from them. The result is not what you expected but it doesn’t change what you are capable of. Treat it as a failed attempt that you must learn and grow from. In order to deal with failed expectations, check whether your expectations are flexible or are you expecting very specific results based on preset conditions. When your expectations are not flexible, there won’t be enough margin left to allow you to make changes when conditions change. Check how your expectations turn out if conditions change and how you need to adapt to these changing conditions.

It is good to set goals and achieve them. But it is important to note that expectations aren’t the same as targets and you should ignore brain’s need to expect the same thing over and over. Identify where your expectations are coming from and look for any confirmation bias. Do not let your past experiences dictate your expectations. Instead of seeking evidence to confirm your perspective of how things are same, make an effort to look for what is different in a situation the second time you come across it.

Managing other’s expectations

Sometimes, we make certain decisions based on how others expect us to perform. Others can help us raise or lower our productivity levels. However, when we fail to live up to others’ expectations or when their expectations don’t align with our goals, we experience disappointment and it gives rise to frustration and resentment. Here are ways to manage others’ expectations.

Communicate with others to clarify. Expectations if not clearly defined or expressed can lead to failure and frustration. Communicate with the person setting the expectations for you. A person who is setting unreasonable expectations might be unaware that he or she is putting unfair pressure on you. When in doubt ask whether it is your friends, coworkers or children as to what it is that they want or need in that particular situation. Talk to the person and be clear about what’s expected, how it might be accomplished and make them aware of your boundaries are. For instance, what your limitations are, your flexibility, or your availability and so on. Let others know about your preferences and your plans so that they don’t expect anything that is unreasonable or unrealistic. Communicate with everyone involved in a frequent basis to avoid any assumptions they have of you.

Anticipate worst-case scenarios We are aware of the expectations others have of us, but in an effort to impress them, we forget to take into account setbacks, obstacles or other interferences that come in our way. Do not assume that things will go as you expect. For bigger tasks or projects, anticipating every possible outcome and being prepared for worst-case scenarios will help you in making your expectations more realistic.

Be aware of biases and perspectives of others. Expectations from your relationships, both personal and professional might lead to unhappiness if they are based on preconceptions and other biases. Having a clear understanding of others expectations gives you an opportunity to improve or correct your decisions and choices. Make sure you understand the context and avoid falling into the trap of their biases and preconceptions. Do not assume that others have the same understanding of a situation as you do. Gain awareness of others’ assumptions, biases and perspectives if there are any. This gives you a proper perspective of what they are expecting of you.

Finally, Manage your expectations of others

Sometimes, our expectations of others can also be unreasonable. Such expectations also put pressure on people to meet those expectations. Challenging and pushing them to raise their personal standards can be very empowering. But the key is to avoid putting unreasonable and unnecessary expectations onto others. When you place unreasonable expectations on others, you place yourself at a high risk of getting disappointed. Such disappointments can lead to an increased anger toward the person causing the disappointment. Be mindful of what is it that you are truly expecting from others. Think of what’s unreasonable to expect of other person given their ability and their current circumstances. Ask yourself whether would you expect the same of yourself if you are in that particular situation. This will help you to make your expectations of others more reasonable and realistic.

To conclude,

So, what expectations are you holding onto? Are your current expectations helpful and realistic? Are your expectations too low or too high? Are you being reasonable in your expectations of others? Do you communicate clearly to others what you expect and about your limitations? Are your expectations flexible? Do you focus on communicating who you are or Are your conversations full of expectations of who you should be? Do you strive to fulfil others’ expectations at the expense of your needs? Ask yourself the above questions to be more aware and mindful of your expectations.

Our success and failure can be largely defined through how we manage our expectations of ourselves and of others. At the same time, managing your expectations of others is also important to navigate yourself through your work situations and in your personal relationships. Instead of getting bogged down by various expectations, use the above strategies to change your expectations to ones that are more in line with your goals and to manage them effectively.

How assertive are you?

“Too many of us fail to fulfill our needs because we say no rather than yes, yes when we should say no.” – William Glasser

To handle uncomfortable or hostile or difficult moments or situations in your personal or professional life, you should have a strong sense of yourself and should find balance in your passive and aggressive behaviours in order to stand up for yourself. You need to be more assertive in expressing yourself in a positive way in such situations and should be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings firmly and directly in order not to be on the receiving end of meanness or bullying or teasing. Research has shown that those who are victimised by bullies exhibit a certain kind of vulnerability as they lack the ability to stand up for themselves and are unable to assert themselves or defend themselves even when picked on. How well you can handle such situations is often determined by your levels of assertiveness. Some people are naturally assertive, but if you are not one of them, it is an important skill to be practiced and developed.

Assertiveness is a must learned skill when it comes to handling stressful and conflicting situations in our personal and professional relationships and to overcome traits like passivity, sensitivity to criticism, insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem. Some of us struggle to be assertive in some situations, but can find the right words in other. Some are not assertive for fear of upsetting or displeasing others and of not being liked. Even though you may avoid immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, in the long run, you end up jeopardising your relationships. And if you are too passive, always putting others’ needs before yours, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Sometimes this leads to saying ‘yes’ to certain things at the expense of your own interests and priorities thereby leading to an internal conflict, stress, resentment, seething anger or feelings of victimisation. And also leading to your needs always ending up on the back burner leaving you perpetually dissatisfied.

So, What is being assertive or self-assertion all about?

Being assertive is standing up for your rights while still respecting others, defending your own boundaries while not crossing other people’s lines, expressing your own opinions, needs, wants and feelings without hurting others, or disagreeing without being disagreeable. It means you are not afraid of speaking your mind. It requires being forthright about your wants and needs, while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. You thus draw power from this to get your point across firmly, fairly and with empathy.

Being able to stand up for yourself in a way that is both respectful to yourself and others shows that you have boundaries and you are prepared to put your own needs first. When you are effectively assertive, you are neither aggressive nor passive — instead you are honest, direct, and skilled at articulating your views. Assertiveness is being proactive. It’s negating any possibility of the person we communicate with getting mad at us or disliking what we said or did.

Being Assertive over Passive or Aggressive

Assertiveness is often confused with aggression as there is a very fine line between the two. For this reason, it is important to know the difference in both the behaviours. Assertiveness means standing up for yourself in a nonaggressive way and it does not mean dominance over others or controlling. If you are aggressive, and in case you had a difference of opinion with an other person, you may resort to anger, rudeness or name calling. Also you might try to force your point of view, even at the expense of another’s. Whereas assertive behaviour is standing up and expressing yourself by being respectful and without putting down anyone else.

Being aggressive is also disregarding the needs, feelings and opinions of others. Aggressive behaviour damages your personal and professional relationships and undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you. On the other hand, if you are passive, you become uncomfortable expressing yourself honestly. You feel you don’t have the right to be heard. You back down easily or would go with whatever others decide to avoid conflict. Also if you are passive-aggressive, you may say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ and you may complain and pass comments behind their backs rather than confronting them directly. You may show anger and feelings through your actions or negative attitude. Overtime passive-aggressive behaviour makes it difficult for you to meet your goals and needs.

Why is it important to be Assertive?

Being assertive is to find the right balance between passive and aggressive. To be assertive is to have a strong sense of yourself, your values and to openly express your opinions, feelings, needs and desires and to act in accordance with your goals and objectives. Knowing and claiming your own rights while at the same time respecting others can help you build better relationships in your professional endeavours. You can get things done by treating people with fairness and respect. It can help you to interact and negotiate so that yours and others’ views are given fair treatment and can find common ground to arrive at the best solution possible.

With increasing competition, being assertive at the workplace becomes really important to openly share your ideas thoughts and opinions at work. Assertiveness helps you exhibit positive and open style of communication that is neither submissive nor aggressive. It also improves confidence and is an indirect and a powerful tool to increase your productivity and efficiency. Being assertive is important to handle different situations like to respond or cope with putdowns, to make requests, or to say ‘no’ effectively, give and receive criticism appropriately, handling and expressing anger, speaking up to a rude person, or to deal with stressful or unpleasant situations in your personal or professional life. It helps you plan and carry through difficult encounters and to manage conflicting situations more effectively.

How to become more Assertive?

Not everything you want will be handed to you. Sometimes, you have to go out and get it. And if you want to succeed in your goals, you will have to be assertive. The right amount of assertiveness can help you get ahead. Assertiveness can be learned and the key is to understand the context and to set realistic goals to make small changes. Here are some strategies to help you become more assertive.

Assess your level of Assertiveness. You can assess your own behaviour or can do so through feedback from others. Check your willingness to express yourself and what you want. Try to assess your interactions as to what is being said and how you feel about it, how do you want to respond to what is being said? Or what do you want from that particular situation. This way, you will be able to decide whether you need to be assertive and most importantly how to be assertive so that there is a positive result. If you find that in your assessment that you are holding back in certain situations where you shouldn’t, write down the reasons as to what you aren’t saying and the reason as to why you aren’t saying. This way, you can make yourself assertive next time you enter a similar situation. Assessment keeps you focused on improving your abilities to be assertive in difficult conversations.

Practice assertive communication techniques. Sometimes it is often quite hard to know how to put your feelings across clearly and confidently to someone. The scripting technique can help in such situations as it allows you to prepare what you want to say in advance. You can tell the other person exactly about the event and how you see the situation or problem. You can describe your feelings about the situation and express your emotions clearly. You can tell exactly what you need from him or her so that he or she doesn’t have to guess. Describing the positive impact that your request will have for him or her if your needs are met.

Using ‘I’ statements lets others know what you are thinking or feeling without being accusatory, like for instance, “I disagree” rather than “you’re wrong”. While requesting , you can say, “I want you to help with this” rather than “ you need to do this”. Keep them simple and specific to get your points across firmly. Try using verbs that are more definite and specific. For instance, use verbs like ‘will’ instead of ‘could’ or ‘should’ or ‘want’ instead of ‘need’ or ‘choose to’ instead of ‘have to’. Keep your communications direct to get your message across by using the assertive communication technique.

Express yourself positively. It is important to express your thoughts and opinions even when dealing with difficult or unpleasant situations. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to confront people who challenge you. If others get angry or resentful towards you, avoid reacting to them. But try to control your emotions and stay calm and respectful at all times. Accept both positive and negative feedback positively and if you don’t agree with criticism that you receive then you should be able to say so without getting angry or defensive. Express negative emotions in a healthy manner. Don’t take out your frustration or aggression on others in order to be assertive. Understand that you cannot be assertive all the time with all people in all situations. The key is to achieve the right balance of when to be assertive and when not to. This will help you to respond and not react to situations.

Practice saying ‘no’. Many confuse saying ‘no’ with negativity. Knowing your own boundaries or limits and how much work you are able to take will help you to manage your tasks effectively. You cannot possibly please everyone. Saying ‘no’ assertively when necessary can save your time and work load. Saying ‘yes’ to a commitment or task you don’t really want to do can get you into a state of stress and negativity. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate and be direct or brief in your explanation if required. It is important to be consistent in respecting your boundaries and to learn to say ‘no’ clearly and unambiguously.

Resist the temptation to react immediately and in extremes. Difficult conversations often trigger a huge amount of stress which is why you may avoid such interactions in the first place. When pushed to our limits, most of us get either compliant (submissive) or defiant(opposing or resisting). Reacting either way does not help you in being a good team player or to lead effectively. Recognise your style either compliant or defiant and then consciously try to take the middle ground. Ask questions rather than reacting. It gives you specific points to argue rather than just catastrophizing about how others might react if you object. And in contrary, If your views don’t chime with the dominant view point, you need not change yours on important issues according to who you are talking to. Sometimes saying nothing also is one of the most assertive position you can adopt.

To conclude,

Do you voice your opinion or remain silent in important discussions and conversations? Are you able to assert yourself or defend when you get picked on? Do you often say ‘yes’ to additional work even when you have work to do? Is your unassertiveness is because of the fear that the other person will criticise you or put you down? Do you stand your ground or do you feel victimised when it comes to your values or important issues in your personal or professional relationships? Is your communication style aggressive or assertive? Do you often disregard the needs, feelings, and opinions of others or do you respect them? Asking yourself above questions will help you to know where you are particularly sensitive and where you need to be assertive thus you will be better placed to avoid being too passive or aggressive.

If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive takes time and practice. You don’t need to be assertive in every context of the day or you need not change your authenticity to become assertive. Assess your own degree of assertiveness, understand the context, set realistic goals to make small changes in your behaviour or communication with the help of the above strategies to become more assertive in your work or social or personal relationships. Express yourself openly and authentically without being passive or aggressive.

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” ― Shakti Gawain