Photo by Mattbuck
I had flown to London, for a meeting at one of the main financial centres, Canary Wharf. Realising I’d hit the rush hour and remembering my days of working in the City, I knew I had to watch my step or get out of the way; fellow commuters en route to work would behave like robots, eyes closed, or focused on one fixed point (usually their paper), then getting off the tube and walking straight to the office looking neither left nor right. They had the potential to trample right over you, should you accidentally fall out of line or God forbid, fall over. I did in fact once trip on the underground stairs, and the lady who helped me scramble to my feet encouraged me with: “Quick, get up, get UP, THEY’RE COMING! “ Back to Canary Wharf; there I was, wearing a cream mackintosh, like a lone white chess piece surrounded by black suited pawns. I smiled at the scenario, as although I was still on the chessboard of the working world, living in relatively quiet Geneva, I was no longer involved in the “game” in quite the same way as before. I could now really see the commute from an outsider’s perspective. It was like a sci-fi movie; the futuristic buildings, with what looked like zombified clones moving past me, just focusing on getting to their destination. They appeared devoid of life, non-human; expressionless faces, vacant eyes. I had to phone someone to share what I was witnessing! Which brings me to the point of my article:
It’s so easy to take the same route to work day after day and fall into a routine. Of course there’s nothing wrong with routine, as long as it’s serving you well. Routine can help give us structure and stability. However, it can also stagnate us if it leaves us drifting through life with a loss of awareness. When routine becomes stagnant, it’s easy to become “programmed”, as the clone-like commuters at Canary Wharf, traveling in a trance like state because you’ve done this journey a thousand times before, only to wake up when take your first sip of coffee at your desk.
So, here is some inspiration to refresh your trip to work and enliven you!
1. Change your route: Do you always take the same route to work? The quickest, fasted, most efficient one perhaps? The one that lets you have a little longer in bed? I invite you to change it. If you travel overland by car or bike, pick another route, perhaps a prettier more scenic one, even if it is a little longer. If you take public transport, particularly the underground/metro, and have the option, pick a different station to change trains or buses. If you have no choice, get off a stop or few earlier and walk the remaining way to work. If you are lucky enough to be close enough to walk, go a different way, just for fun!
2. Change your mode of transport: I realise this wont be possible for everyone but for those who can; do something else for a change. Instead of driving, take the bus. Instead of taking the bus, cycle or walk. You’ll get a different perspective. If you are always travelling on your own, by being on public transport you will get to be with other people. If you are often on public transport and decide to walk or cycle you will get some time on your own. The pace and environment in which you travel will also change and you will have a completely different experience.
3. Change your entertainment/activity. If you are normally a reader, or have your head buried in your phone, do something else (for example listen to music, or a podcast). If you always read the paper, take a novel with you or do a crossword. If you have a hobby that’s portable take it with you: perhaps you like writing, so start writing. If you have your hands free and some space, you could even do some craftwork! Which leads me on to the next point, you could just…
4. Look around you: If you don’t have to have your eyes on the road, and are walking or on public transport look around you. If you normally look down, look up: notice the sky, the architecture or the trees. If you are normally in your thoughts, look at the different people who pass you buy. Pick something different to notice each time you travel. Pay attention, you may be amazed by what you see.
5. Meditate: Perhaps you are a super active person using every spare second to do or think about something. In this case you could use your journey to meditate. This is different to just zoning out. Actively use your time to focus on your breathing, and creating a calm space for yourself in the midst of the flurry. Perhaps you would like to repeat a positive statement in your mind to set your intention for the day. e.g. “Today I intend to be calm and peaceful”.
6. Talk to someone: (I mean a real person not a virtual one!). Perhaps you sit on public transport with your head in your book or typing messages on your phone. Look at the people around you. Notice what’s going on. If you feel comfortable with the person you are near to, start a conversation. Find out about your fellow man or woman. Just smiling at another person can put their day and yours to a great start and you never know, you might make a new friend or business contact, or who knows, even a romance!
7. Don’t go straight to work: Wake up earlier, and stop off on your way to work, Perhaps you could have breakfast in a different cafe to the one you normally do? Maybe you normally eat breakfast at home or at your desk, so just going to a cafe would be a novelty. Perhaps you’d like to meet a friend also on their way to work at a mid-point? Some cities offer early morning lectures or concerts, see if there is one going on near your home or office. If there’s a beautiful view or place on route, stop off and spend some time there.
What’s the purpose of all this? Why shake up what’s working? By all means if what your doing is working keep it going! Here’s my question: How do you feel on your way to work work? Excited? Full of energy? Alert and aware? How do you feel when you walk into the office? Happy to be alive? Or does it take you the first cup of coffee to get into gear? How about if you walked through the doors of the building full of energy because you felt fully alive having already started seizing the day?
For those of you who already love their journey to work, please do share, I’d love to hear about what works for you and your ideas could help others. For those of you who feel that something needs to shift, I invite you to try some of these ideas out and let me know how you do. If nothing changes with regard to how you feel, I would I’d love to have a conversation with you to find out what really needs to happen to spark you up!
Whether in the office, among friends or even strangers, gossip is something that we are exposed to every day.
The Oxford dictionary definition of gossip is: Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true: chiefly derogatory; a person who likes talking about other people’s private lives.
Gossip can be extremely negative, as it is rarely founded on the truth, it’s intentions are seldom honorable and it has the potential to cause a great deal of harm. Superficially, it can induce irritation, upset and hurt while at the deep end it can lead to complete character assassination, conflict and even death. People in the midst of gossip may say, “Oh, it’s just harmless chit-chat.” Gossip is rarely harmless as it is often based on a target: the “prey” of the gossip. One may ask, “Well how are we supposed to know what is going on without gossip?” This is where news comes in. News is based on facts and pertinent information. A professional and honourable news reporter will not write an article simply based on what someone told them, they will check out the facts and will ask questions before publishing a story for all to read.
Below are some key word reminders to help you differentiate between gossip and news:
Relevance: If, for example, it’s a case of “I heard that John’s wife left him for another man. She’d been having an affair for years,” while you are discussing your next client presentation; what is the relevance of this statement to the conversation? Is John part of the team? If not, then this statement has no relevance or use. If yes, then of course if his performance has dropped there may be some relevance, however there is a way to handle personal situations professionally and there is no need for everyone to know all the details.
Facts: is the information being shared based on fact or on hearsay? Compare “There’s a chance we’re going to be made redundant next week. My boss just told me that the board meeting she attended on Monday ended with the decision that major cuts are going to be made the across middle office”, with “I heard we’re all going to get fired next week”. What is the origin of the information? Is it a case of chinese-whispers or is it coming from a reliable witness?
Credibility: Is the person sharing this information a close friend or colleague who you believe has your best interest at heart? Is this someone who likes to discuss everyone’s business and jumps to share the latest intrigue? What is their track record of honesty? How much do you trust them? How do you feel about their integrity? How do they treat other people?
Intention: Intention is, in my opinion, a key factor that helps decide whether information falls in the category of news or gossip. What do you believe the intention behind the disclosure of the information you are receiving is? Is this a sharing of pertinent news that is important or useful? If someone is discussing another person who is not present, what is the purpose of them being brought into the conversation? The body language of the informant can give you some tips. When sharing information about others is it open, do they have a positive tone of voice, or is their tone conspiratory and their body language furtive? Notice the words they are using when discussing others. Are they positive, factual, detrimental?
Feelings: Do you feel positive about hearing more on this topic, or anxious that if you hear more you will be prying or be part of something that is private and not for your ears. Do you feel that the sharer of information has the absent person’s best interests at heart? There is a big difference between “I heard that Jean lost her job, I hope she’s doing OK and wonder what we could do to help?” and “Did you hear that Elise and Gary got it on in the photocopying room last night”. Do you feel these people have been brought into conversation in order for positive action to be taken or do you feel that there is another motivation? If the latter, read on.
Motivation: Sometimes people can feel insecure and try to make themselves seem knowledgeable and powerful by gossiping. Perhaps they are trying to impress you. They could be trying to gain favour with you by sharing private information about others that they think you might like to know. They may love to collect stories about others and by sharing with you, hope that you will release some private information to them that they can pass on. They may be driven by drama and intrigue or uninspired in their own lives and thus focused on the lives of others. Remember, no matter how nice they are, there is a strong likelihood that if they gossip about others to you, it will be hard for them to keep any private information you give them to themselves.
Ideas on how to extricate yourself from or neutralize gossip.
Be curious: Gently ask the person “What’s the purpose of you sharing this with me?”. If there is a call to action required you will find out very soon. If it’s a case of pure juicy gossip, they will probably be left high and dry.
Change the topic: If someone says to you “I heard that Peter didn’t make that promotion and that he had a big fight about it with his boss”, you could reply with “Is that so?” and quickly point something out such as, “The sunrise was amazing this morning, did you see it?”, or “Wow it was busy coming in to work today. What do you think about the new transport system?”.
If the gossip persists: Excuse yourself and politely walk away and get on with something else more productive. This is more easily done when in a group. In a one-on-one situation, e.g. over lunch with a colleague, you could say something along the lines of “I’d much rather use our time together to hear about you and what’s going on in your world”.
If none of the gentle approaches work: Don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest you rugby tackle the gossiper to the ground and sellotape their mouth closed! A kind but firm. “How do you know that to actually be true? Were you there at the time?” or “I’m not interested in hearing any more on this topic”, should stop any gossiper in their tracks.
Few if any of us are immune to gossip and it can at times be tempting to join in, particularly in those grey areas between gossip and news. If ever in doubt of how to proceed I invite you to consider the words of the sufi master Rumi. Before speaking, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Some questions to ponder:
How do you deal with gossip?
How do you differentiate between gossip and news?
This article first appeared on the Huffington Post Blog, October 29, 2015
We’ve all been there. Sometimes life is tough and you feel like the whole world is against you. At these points in time, it’s easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. Once you start feeling sorry for yourself it can be hard to get yourself back into the driver’s seat and moving forward with your life. Before you know it you’ve slipped into a sad, sad place and as the Japanese would say, “Your soul has caught a cold”.
Below is some inspiration on how to get yourself out of victim mode.
Remember you are not alone: There are people out there who care about you. There are other people who have either been through or are going through something similar. For those spiritual ones amongst you, you know you have a higher power behind you.
Decide how long you want to feel sorry for yourself: There’s nothing wrong with some self pity but only you can decide how long feeling sorry for yourself is going to serve you. What do you need? A five-minute cry, half a day of moping; a week of feeling upset? Do you need to take a whole block of time all at once, or will certain times of the day suffice? The time you need is entirely up to you. The purpose of taking this time out is to prevent victim mode from completely overwhelming you and enable you to refocus your energy in a more positive manner.
Let yourself feel: While you are taking your “feeling sorry for yourself” time out, really let yourself feel all your feelings. Even if it’s only for five minutes, find a safe space, set a timer and let it all come out. What’s happening within you? Is it sadness, rage, humiliation, pain? Let go and feel it all. Don’t deny it and pretend it’s not there. If you repress your feelings, they will only bite you back later. The more you allow yourself to feel, the more quickly and efficiently you will be able process what’s happening and move on. (If you choose, you can share what you are doing with those that you love and trust. This way they can support you, either by being with you in the moment, or just understanding that you need this time to yourself).
Once you have taken the time to really feel sorry for yourself, you now are ready to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get back on your feet. What’s going to help you do that? Take a look at some of the suggestions below.
Be with people who are upbeat and positive: Their high energy will rub off on you. Avoid other victims, negative or sarcastic individuals and people on a downer at this point in time. Surround yourself with those who support and care about you and who will prevent you from slipping back into victim mode.
Complete some unfinished tasks: Even if it’s as simple as tidying a desk drawer, RSVPing to an invitation, finishing a report, washing the dishes. Do something that you know will make you feel good once you have done it. Any positive action that you take will energize and revitalize you.
Move your body: Whatever you like to do to move around: make it happen. Whether it’s going to the gym, yoga, dancing, an extreme sport you love, or as simple as taking a walk around the block; body movement helps you stay in the present moment and keeps you from ruminating.
Do positive things that make you happy: stay away from negativity right now. Read uplifting books, listen to beautiful music. Treat yourself to something good for you, it could be as simple as cup of coffee in your favourite cafe or a massage; a day out at a spa or a holiday. Be inspired by nature’s beauty; what lifts you? Time in the wilderness, in the mountains or by the sea; or simply looking at flowers in a park, spending time in your garden or with your pets? Your soul needs to be warmed up so give it some heart inspiring material to help it.
Stay aware: Pay close attention to how you are feeling, what you are saying to others and your own inner dialogue. This will enable you to know if you are starting to slip into “poor me” mode, and will allow you to decide how you want to manage that.
Now that you have lifted your spirits, its time for you to move on with your life.
Blaming others or the world for your situation is not going to get you anywhere. You know what caused you to initially feel so sorry for yourself. If you still feel it’s a challenge, what are you going to do about it? You are the master of your emotions. Unless you want to continue feeling like a victim, you and only you can decide how you want to move forwards. How you wish to proceed is completely your choice. By taking 100 percent responsibility for your situation and your life, you are preventing yourself from blaming others or the system. By taking positive action you are putting yourself back in the driver’s seat. Where do you want to head to? What do you want to happen? Keep travelling in the direction you want to go.
Some questions to ponder:
How do you know when you are in victim mode?
What is the best way for you to lift yourself out of it?
(This post first appeared in the Huffington Post on 08/25/2015)
“Kite surfing Oahu” by Eric Guinther — Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Several years ago I was on holiday in Egypt. My best friend and I were in Club Med, El Gouna, far away from our stressful jobs in finance. We were having a whale of a time with nine days of sports, fabulous sunshine and lots of delicious food! We both windsurf and thought we’d give kitesurfing a go. It looked like lots of fun, and we were drawn to the multi-colored kites bobbing over the sea, pulling the surfers across the waves.
Every morning, our instructor Osama would pack us, the kites and boards into a speedboat and we’d race across the Red Sea to a lagoon that allowed us to learn safely in shallow water. Osama was always in a good mood. He was an excellent surfer, great instructor and always smiling. At the same time he was so laid back that he was practically horizontal. On land, clients would come to him, who even though on holiday appeared to have brought all their work issues with them. They would be stressed out of their minds trying to schedule their kitesurfing lessons, making all sorts of irrelevant or unreasonable demands. Osama would not even have a feather ruffled while listening to their mini-tantrums. If he could help them he would, and if he couldn’t he’d tell them, without getting involved in any histrionics. Similarly at sea, when there were problems in the water with the surfers, he’d respond quickly and efficiently and there would be no fuss or anxiety. The situation would simply be dealt with and any relevant lessons learned.
At one stage my kite started whirling around and around. Upwind from the others, I couldn’t hear them calling me with instructions. I was trying hard to untwist it but it wasn’t working. Suddenly Osama was behind me and released the kite from my harness. It shot away from us across the water, pulled by the wind and we thought it was lost for good. “That was dangerous,” he said, in a serious tone, “a couple more minutes and it would have started to drag you under the water”, then calmly took a board and raced over the waves after my flying kite, somehow caught it and surfed back on two kites with a big smile on his face. When he returned he reminded me that preserving my life was much more important than me trying to rescue the kite, and to always remember to release it, if it started to pull me into the water.
Later, at the end of our lessons, we asked him and his colleague. “Don’t you ever get stressed? We never see you stressed or worried, you’re always taking everything in your stride and just seem completely relaxed and happy”. They smiled back at us and said, “Of course we get stressed. We get stressed if someone’s about to die”.
That really put things in perspective for me and was the best souvenir of my holiday. So next time you are dealing with primadonnas, petty irritations or challenging situations that simply need to be taken control of, I invite you to remember the words of the kite surfers; take a deep breath, smile and continue enjoying your day.
How do you deal with stress?
When feeling stressed what could help you put things in perspective?
(This article first appears in the Huffington Post 07/28/2015)
Many of us struggle to remember names. Research by Kansas State University came up with a theory that those of us who find names hard to remember are simply not that interested in people and relationships. I challenge this; as although I am certainly interested in people, I am much better at faces than at names. I can often describe people I have met in great detail but when it comes to their name, I flounder. The truth is, that I am usually so eager to find out more about the person I am speaking to, that their name is the last thing I pay attention to. Funnily enough, it is the unusual names which tend to stick in my mind, rather than standard ones. Perhaps their uniqueness sparks my curiosity, and my mind automatically registers? I feel there is room for a lot more research in on this topic. As a result of my own challenges in the name remembering department, I tend not to mind when people forget my own name. I do however, appreciate that some people can understandably take it very personally, as a sign of lack of interest, respect or care.
Below is a strategic action plan on what to do when someone remembers your name and you don’t remember theirs:
1. Stay calm and breathe: Your initial reaction might be sweating palms, increased heart rate and panicked thoughts e.g. “Oh my goodness, they remember my name and I can’t remember theirs, what am I going to do? Help!” The panic level will most likely be exponential to how much importance you place on the person/situation (e.g., potential career opportunity or love interest versus a friend of a friend). By staying calm and breathing regularly, you will be more centered and able to respond more effectively to the situation.
At this stage, you could simply return their greeting with “Hello,” or an appropriate substitute such as “Hello friend, teacher, wise one”, etc. However, that will only buy you time, so let’s keep going.
2. If you are with another person/others: simply smile, and introduce the person whose name you can’t remember to the people you are with (we are assuming in this case that you can remember their names). To the person who’s name you have forgotten you may say “Hello! Nice to see you,” followed by “let me introduce you to John”, gesturing towards your friend. A this stage the “nameless” person will hopefully introduce themselves to John, allowing you to find out what they are called. (Clearly this will not work if you are on your own. For that situation, keep reading).
3. Look for clues: Is there anything on their person that gives you a hint to their name? A work or conference name-badge, an initial on a necklace or bracelet, a luggage tag or monogrammed briefcase?
4. Ask to be reminded of how they pronounce their name: “Remind me, before I say it: how do I pronounce your name?” They will at this stage say their name, the way that they like it to be pronounced, and you are safe and sound. (Please note this method will not work if they are named Tim or Bob or any other name can only be pronounced one way. If they do happen to have a very simple name that anyone could pronounce correctly; follow up with the below strategy).
5. Opt for honesty: If strategies 2, 3 and 4 do not or cannot work, you can opt for honesty. If you mix this in with random facts that you can remember about the person e.g. what you both did when you last met; something you remember is important to them, e.g. their child’s skating competition; a career change they had recently made, you will be in better stead to then tell them the truth and say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, please remind me of your name? I’m not strong on remembering names”. This way they will know that although you don’t know their name, you certainly do remember them and hopefully will not be offended.
6. Keep conversing: If you genuinely cannot remember anything about them: allow the discussion to carry on for a while before trying to figure out their name. Perhaps it will simply pop into your head, or at the very least your memory will be jogged by something they say in which case you can revert to the steps in point 5. If your memory still draws a total blank then go for brutal honesty (see below).
7. Brutal honesty: tell them “I recognize you but I’m so sorry, I must be suffering from mild amnesia, please remind me how we know each other,” and hope that they don’t tell you you spent an amorous evening together watching the stars or that that it was during a job interview or client meeting.
8. The maverick option: When they smile and say hello to you, beam back at them and say the first name that pops into your head that you feel sounds like it could be theirs. If they come back to you and say “It’s not Marie, it’s Rachel”; you can respond with something along the lines of “Actually I’m dreadful at names and was hoping I’d got it right. Of course it’s Rachel.” I recommend going for this option if you feel you can pull it off in a humorous or cheeky way that the other person will be open to!
Whatever happens, remember to stay calm, do your best and keep a positive attitude!
What happens to you when you can’t remember a name?
What strategies do you use?
(This article first appeared in the Huffington post on 16.06.2015)
My main mode of transport is cycling. It’s ecological, much faster than the bus, keeps me fit and allows me to be surrounded by fresh air.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who could cycle without their hands holding on to the handlebars, looking so comfortable and relaxed, and controlling the bike perfectly just with their legs and using their balance.
About 5 years back a friend of mine had tried to show me how to do this. I took my hands off the bars by a couple of millimetres, wobbled around a lot on the bike, felt very scared and out of control, and put my hands back on the bars. I tried this a couple of times but couldn’t get any further than a brief moment of out of control and fear. So having given it a few goes, I eventually decided that I just wasn’t a “cycling with no hands kind of person”.
I would still look at people doing it and wistfully say to myself. “It’s OK, accept it, you’re just not hands off the handlebar kind of person”. But deep down there was a still a yearning to be able to do this. Having successfully suppressed this yearning for a few years I recently bought a new bike. It’s a little more robust than my old speed racer, and we have been getting to know each other. I’ve been experimenting how it takes a hill and corners and seeing how far I can push it (and myself!).
While I was cycling along, the “what if I just tried..” thought came to me. Up came the hands, a few millimetres…and funnily enough it felt possible. But the negative self talk of “You’re not a hands off the handlebars kind of person” came in. Fear stepped in, and the hands went back on the bars. But I felt that had something had shifted, this was a new bike, and I had also changed. This time the hands came off the bars a few millimetres, but I kept them off for longer. Always keeping them close to the bars but not touching, I kept on cycling. I couldn’t believe it. It was happening! I was still moving, I was OK. Confidence building, the hands came right up and away from the bars. I was still going, I felt good! I could feel the bike moving underneath me but I was able to control it with my legs. Huge smile on my face. The self talk changed to “Wow I can do this, this is amazing.”
Just allowing myself to let go, and trusting myself, my balance, and my bike allowed me to make something happen that I previously thought was not possible.
Now each time I go out cycling in a traffic free area, I practice for a little bit longer, knowing that I can do this. Sometimes the hands are just above the bars, sometimes down by my sides sometimes they’re clapping above my head!
You don’t always have to hold on tightly to be in control.
Doing something that excites and scares you and making it through to the other side frees your mind and spirit.
What would you like to try that scares you?
Where are you holding on tightly?
How would you feel if you allowed yourself to let go for a bit?
What kind of self talk is preventing you from achieving your desire?