Loosen Up!

December 13, 2017 ·

The holiday season at the workplace adds a whole extra layer of stress to an already busy time of the year. How do you celebrate holidays without offending someone, snubbing someone, and still make a good impression? Whether it’s a secret Santa gift exchange, meeting colleagues’ significant others at a holiday party, or just how to be respectful towards others that may not celebrate the same holiday that you do. It can be a real minefield.

But the best thing about the holiday season, no matter what holidays you celebrate, is that it is meant to be a happy time. Celebrations are meant to be inclusive and full of delight. When we stress out, we’re not only ruining our own fun, but the fun of others as well.

In End the Struggle and Dance With Life, Susan used this aphorism to describe her approach to life:

An old woman, when asked why she was always cheerful, replied:
“Well, I wear this world just as a loose garment.”

To wear a loose garment is to be easy, flexible, comfortable, and free. Wouldn’t we all like to feel that way in December? Susan wrote, “Most of us, however, wear life like a girdle...tight, hard, rigid, uncomfortable and constricting.” This goes double for the holidays! We’d all love to be in the moment enjoying the festive atmosphere with our family and friends. Yet we find ourselves with To Do lists miles long, with end-of-year deadlines looming over us, and having to dance to the tune of the holiday edition of office politics.

What better time, then, to shake off that girdle and learn to lighten up? Susan recommended the following six tips to learn how to approach the holidays both lighter and freer:

  • Let go of your expectations and make something wonderful from what is
  • Stop trying to change other people, the only person you can change is yourself
  • Pick up the mirror and learn how to control your reactions
  • Focus on the abundance you have instead of the lack
  • Focus on the giving instead of the getting
  • Be patient with yourself…and with others

If you take these lessons to heart, you will be well on your way to not just “getting through” the holiday season, but to make the best holiday ever. 

Tags: Confidence

Don’t Act Out in Anger

November 09, 2017 ·

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems—not people; to focus your energies on answers—not excuses.” William Arthur Ward

At SusanJeffers.com this month, we’re talking about how anger is often times a response to fear. In a work environment, that can more often be true. At work we’re supposed to be confident and self-assured, so when we become anxious or fearful, we react in irritation and aggressively. It’s as if we think anger and confidence are interchangeable.

While at work, it is hard to take the time to step away and understand where anger is coming from. That generally needs to wait until our leisure time when we can step away from work issues and look at them with the clarity of distance. Yet when we are in the thick of a problem, it’s hard not to give into the anger and fear. When things are happening quickly, we can’t help but react. It’s how we choose to react that can make all the difference. We need to make sure we channel that anger in a way that supports the work we do and supports our colleagues.

As Ward’s quote above says, when we are angry it’s best to focus our energies on solutions. But how many times have we found ourselves instead focusing on the perceived mistakes or misintentions of a colleague, client, or vendor. When we are angry and fearful is not the time to lash out. Not only is it unprofessional, but can undermine our reputations and alienate the very people we have to collaborate with on a daily basis.

If you find yourself acting in anger in your workplace, consider how you can constructively channel that energy, taking it from a negative experience to create something beneficial. Maybe take a five-minute walk outside to clear your head, or find a quiet spot in which to meditate on the reasons for your anger. Whatever you do, make sure you point your energies towards the problem and solution, not at people. People may be the cause of your stress, but people are also part of the solution. 

Tags: Personal Development

How Do You Listen?

October 18, 2017 ·

“I listened carefully to their wisdom, they reaffirmed and added to my fund of knowledge.” –Susan Jeffers

We are so often told that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. That to make it in our jobs we have to be cut-throat. Following such advice, we might find some success, but we sure won’t be happy about it. In the long run, putting ourselves ahead of our colleagues will leave us isolated and behind. What is success, really, if we don’t have friends and supporters to share it with?

To make connections that really matter, we need to show respect and show our fellow workers that they matter.

The best way to do that is to listen and show that you are listening. You’re probably thinking, “I’m a great listener, all I do is listen!” But do you really? Maybe you’re looking right at them and nodding along, but are you really listening? Or are you thinking about lunch or what you’re going to do after work?

If you really want to make someone feel that they matter to you, that they are respected, then listen. It’s really pretty easy. As you listen to someone speak, ask them questions, repeat back to them what they’ve said, respond with “when you say…” or “this makes me think…” Really engage in the conversation. Make sure you are speaking less than you are listening.

Susan Jeffers wrote in Dare to Connect, “Really listening opens us up to receive not only the insight of others, it allows us to connect on a deeper level. It is another way of acknowledging the ‘light’ in another person.”

Really listening when Bob from Human Resources recount his latest fishing trip sure sounds like a real chore. Sure, you have zero interest in listening to him, but he’s not a bad guy and deserves your respect. Show him that by really listening to him, no matter what he’s talking about. Even if it’s a coworker you don’t particularly like, listen to them as you would want to be listened to. Then, maybe, in the future they will return the favor. 

Tags: Personal Development

More Than a Means to an End

September 13, 2017 ·

At work, it can sometimes feel as if we are just a cog in a machine. We don’t matter so much as the end result, the bottom line. It’s hard to feel otherwise when we’re pressured with quotas and deadlines and performance reviews. It’s easy to forget that each employee—whether colleague, boss, or intern—is a human being who has the ability to influence the lives of those around them. It’s easy to forget that about ourselves as well.

As an employee, we are parts in a machine, but it doesn’t have to be the soul-deadening mechanics of an assembly line. Every person in the company plays an important role, not just in the completion of the work, but it their contact with fellow employees.

As Susan Jeffers wrote in Dare to Connect, “When we realize that we aren’t just our job title we become less attached to our role. We realize that we may be the boss, the secretary or the boy in the mail room . . . BUT WE ARE MORE. We are all human beings who touch each other’s lives.”

Our work identity is not dependent on our position. It is more of a reflection of how much effort we put into our work and how much effort we make to connect with our colleagues.

When we stop thinking of ourselves as a replaceable unit and approach our jobs with the idea that we have so much to contribute, we can bring in the human values of integrity and humanity. We gain self-esteem by being a present and engaged human who also happens to do a certain job.

“As we expand the bottom line, money, status and power lose some of their importance,” Susan said. “Fear diminishes as we realize that who we are encompasses more than simply winning the race;

it also encompasses the notion that we are caring human beings.”

Think about work in ways that are more than just getting the work done and meeting your goals. Think about how much more you are than just a “means to an end.” You have so much to contribute to those around you. Remember that and your work life can be so much more than just your job. 

Tags: Personal Development

Let Yourself Be Inspired

July 14, 2017 ·

At SusanJeffers.com this month, we’re talking about Heroes. Not the kind in the skin-tight costumes that save the universe over and over again, but the kind that you pass in the street and don’t recognize because they look just like regular people. Because they are regular people.

Susan Jeffers wrote in her book, Embracing Uncertainty, about her own heroes. People she looked up to who gave her inspiration. Some of her heroes were leaders—Viktor Frankl and Ram Dass—while some were people she knew who had been through the worst life has to offer and still came out a winner. She kept a notebook filled with her heroes’ stories that she could refer to whenever she needed some inspiration.

She suggested that you do this too. In the business arena, there are a lot of inspiring CEOs to look to for inspiration—Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, or Richard Branson, just to name a few of the big ones. But it’s also important to look to unrecognized heroes.

Perhaps you can find a Hero in a former boss who was a mentor to you. Or maybe a coworker who always seems to go the extra mile and who had overcome some tragedy in his or her life. You could even find a hero in that nurse at your doctor’s office or the barista a at your favorite coffee shop may have lived an inspirational life that could serve as an example to you.

Heroes and inspiration are everywhere. When you’re feeling deflated or overwhelmed by work and need some encouragement to help you go forward, think about your heroes—both well-known and unsung—to give you boost of inspiration. 

Tags: Confidence · Personal Development

Challenging Your Comfort Zone

June 07, 2017 ·

“The only way to change your future is to step off the path and step into the forest.” Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

Comfort zones. We all have them. It’s how we make ourselves feel safe and secure. “For each one of us that zone of comfort is different, but whether we are aware of it or not, all of us—rich or poor, low or high on the totem pole, male or female—make decisions based on the confines of that comfortable space,” wrote Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

While comfort zones, by their very definition, are comfortable. “Most of us operate within a zone that feels right, outside of which we are uncomfortable. For example, we might be willing to initiate friendships with people at the office who are at our level in the company, but would be uncomfortable doing so with one of the higher-ups. We might go to the local deli when eating alone, but would feel really uncomfortable in a luxurious restaurant all by ourselves. We might ask for a $5,000 raise, but $7,000 would make us cringe. We may charge $30 an hour for our services, but we don’t feel that we are worth $35. And so on.”

Staying in our comfort zones means taking no risks and meeting no challenges. It means that what you have today will be it. Comfort zones feels secure, but the security is really a false comfort.

You have a decent job for a good company and you can see it going on this way for years. But what if the market collapses, or funding dries up, or management decides to go in a new direction, or the company goes bankrupt? Then that “security” you were relying on is not so sheltering as you thought it would be.

So what if you kept yourself prepared by constantly enlarging your comfort zone? What if you stepped off the safety of the path and headed into the uncharted? Who knows? Great things are waiting for you if you leave the protection of your comfort zone. There might also be some scary things there too. But unless you branch out, you will never know!

Tags: Confidence · Overcome Fear

Finding the Creative Side of Work

May 11, 2017 ·

As a society, we put a lot of time and effort into our jobs and careers. The term “workaholic” may have been coined in jest, but more and more of us find that we spend more time working than in the rest of our lives. Susan Jeffers wrote: “Some of us believe that workaholism is conducive to good business practices. Yet, studies show that compulsive, narrowly- focused, competitive, tense individuals can't see the forest from the trees. Hence, creativity and productivity are hindered, not helped.”

Creativity is defined as the use of the imagination or original ideas. It can also be described as using your mind to find new routes, ways, and alternatives. We bet you can think of all sorts of ways that you are creative in your work, even if you don’t think of it as creating. Whether or not our jobs are in creative industries, all employment calls for some sort of creativity.

Yet in our rush to get things done, we don’t take the time to acknowledge that creativity that allows us to do our jobs so well and wonderfully. We need to take a step back, slow down a bit, to appreciate what we bring to the table, our gifts that are rooted in our own unique minds.

When we talk about creativity here, we’re not just referring to get the job done or finding ways to do work more efficiently. When we are being creative, we can be so much more than our imagination or ideas. When we are in touch with our creative selves we are getting in touch with the best part of ourselves, reaching past fear, and touching the whole world. When we don’t stop to appreciate it, we lose out on the feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction. So take a minute, take a deep breath, and be grateful for your creativity. 

Tags: Personal Development

Don’t Forget to Jump for Joy

April 20, 2017 ·

How many of us find ourselves waiting for the big “win.” Landing an important new client, winning a big proposal, getting a much sought after promotion. We spend so much time looking forward, that we don’t see all the little wins we accomplish every day. Even when we do get that big win, often we are already looking forward to the next one and don’t even properly appreciate it.

We take so much for granted, even the hard work we put into our jobs, that we forget to “jump for joy” when we experience an accomplishment. Most of us don't spend enough time appreciating our “wins,” big or small. Instead we focus on what we haven't done or what needs to be done. By doing so we are choosing struggle over enjoyment.

Susan Jeffers had this same problem. She wrote in End the Struggle and Dance With Life about her own realization that she wasn’t appreciating her accomplishments. “At one time, it was a dream of mine to have a book published. I truly jumped for joy the day I received a copy of my first published book in the mail. As time went on, many other of my books were published, with editions published in other countries. This made two large shelves of my published works. But, soon, I took it all for granted. As each new edition of the books would come in the mail, I would mindlessly add it to the collection on my shelves without a moment of gratitude...without a moment of celebration.”

“One day, as I sat at my desk, I looked over at the book shelf and the ‘miracle’ of it all hit me. I stopped what I was doing, walked over to the bookshelf, and celebrated all those neglected successes for the very first time by jumping up and down for joy. I pulled out each book and thanked that particular publisher. I thanked the people who bought the books. I thanked myself for pushing through the fear and writing the books. I thanked my Higher Power for giving me the life force to be a part of this amazing world.”

Take some time each day to appreciate your accomplishments. Whether it’s just getting your weekly report out on time or it’s winning an industry award for your work, every “win” should be appreciated. “Jump for joy” at your accomplishments. Because, as Susan wrote:

“Remember that true success comes from the noticing and the celebration of all our blessings.”

Tags: Personal Development

Turn It Over

March 07, 2017 ·

Sometimes things don’t happen just as we want. In fact, that probably happens more often than not. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen for a reason. It means that we aren’t privy to the ‘why.’ However hard we work, no matter how much time and effort we put into a project, no matter how much time we put into our jobs, we ultimately have very little control over the outcome.

Yet we do have the choice in how we react to that outcome. And we have the choice to trust that what happened was for the best.

Maybe there is a job you’re hoping to get and some someone else not as qualified as you got the job. That seems so unfair. You find yourself angry and not a little worried about what that means for your future success. The negative chatterbox in your mind is telling you tales of gloom and doom about how the world is ending and other tall tales.

When you are in the throes of negative thinking it can be hard to remember that you do have a choice. You can let the episode destroy your peace of mind and weigh you down or you turn it over to the wisdom within.

Susan Jeffers wrote in End the Struggle and Dance With Life, “When I say, ‘Turn it over,’ I mean TURN IT OVER. And when I say ‘Trust,’ I mean TRUST! My own experiences in life have convinced me that things happen in our lives for very good reasons. Our very limited minds may not understand it all, but the Spiritual part of who we are understands perfectly. So when doubt comes creeping in, as it always will, it serves our peace of mind to keep repeating to ourselves over and over again that wonderful affirmation... It’s all happening perfectly!”

None of us can ever know the answer to all of our questions, but we need to remember that there are answers we will never be privy too … and that’s OK! If you focus on learning and growing instead of the anger and fear you will feel yourself lighten up as the heavy weight negativity goes away. The way events unfold is just a process of living. Like breathing or blinking, there is only so much we can do. Turning over the need to control and depressed feelings is one thing you can do. And you’ll feel so much better.

So remember, “With the enormous peace of mind that the thought ‘it’s all happening perfectly’ gives you, you move forward with the assurance that there is a meaning and purpose to it all.”

Tags: Confidence · Overcome Fear · Personal Development

A Thank You Improves Everything

February 21, 2017 · 2 Comments

Current research in employee behavior has revealed that gratitude shown by employers greatly improves employee morale and performance, yet most of us would be hard pressed to remember the last time we were given a genuine Thank You for our work. We also would be hard pressed to remember when was the last time we genuinely thanked a colleague or subordinate.

You’re probably thinking right now, “I say ‘thank you’ all the time!” Sure you do, we all do. It’s a pro forma saying as well used as ‘hello.’ Someone holds the elevator door for you, a store clerk gives you your change, a receptionist points you in the right direction, you probably said an off-hand ‘thanks.’ In these cases, and so many more commonplace interactions that occur during the day, Thank You becomes a shorthand acknowledgement of an interaction. You probably say Thank You the same way when your barista hands you your coffee or a coworker gives you a report you asked for that took many hours of work. Think about it. Should those interactions have the same response?

The kind of Thank You we’re talking about is a genuine show of gratitude. Making eye contact, saying Thank You, and really meaning it. Susan wrote in End the Struggle and Dance With Life, “Each time we say Thank You, two powerful words, we are acknowledging a gift we were given. On the other hand, if we don't say Thank You very often, it is a sign we are taking things for granted. When we take things for granted, we are sleepwalking our way through life. Giving thanks is one way of waking ourselves up.”

When someone says Thank You, not in a pro forma way, it makes us feel good on many levels, the most basic being that we are worthwhile human beings. After someone puts in hours of work on a project, acknowledging their work is as important as being paid. Connecting our paycheck with specific work completed is hard to do. Weeks later no one says, here is my pay packet and this portion is for the 15 hours I spent laboring over those financials. But getting a Thank You from a boss or a colleague for that work can bring immediate satisfaction.

It can be extremely difficult in a competitive work environment to acknowledge the contributions of colleagues, or even up and coming subordinates. Susan wrote: “So much of what we learn in life comes to us with great difficulty. And, for some reason, we have a tendency to want to see others struggle as much as we did. Turn this around and begin giving others as much help as you can possibly give them…. When you become a support to others you become bigger than you are.”

So cultivate the habit of saying Thank You and genuinely meaning it. You’ll be helping to boost morale and improve performance among your colleagues, and yourself.

2 CommentsTags: Personal Development