Endings, Transitions and New Beginnings

There have to be endings for there to be new beginnings. As an old year ends so obviously a New Year begins which we have a tendency to think of as full of promise of changes and new experiences. As Mitch Albom, wrote in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, “All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”

It’s a great way to look at endings in our lives. If you are familiar with the work of William Bridges around Transitions (read more at Transitions) then this will be something that you will recognise. There are some endings, such as the death of a loved one, which leave us deeply saddened, however if we can accept the loss then we will in time start to dwell more on the good memories than the loss. Eventually, we will start to focus on what the new beginnings which the loss has created will have in store for us.

Each step in our life is necessary for us to continue growing. For example for many of us the end of school or college signifies the beginning of an adult lifestyle and possibly a career that you’ve studied for.

Every New Year is an opportunity for you to sit down and figure out what you want to do differently this year. Do you want to lose weight, quit smoking, move on to another job? As I wrote on LinkedIn the other day now is the time to rethink and reset your goals and make the necessary changes in your life – perhaps one at a time rather than in one almighty go.

An ending can only come when you let go of thinking about them. When negative things get to be beyond your control, you’ve got to distance yourself and begin to make a space for the positive. Otherwise, it will interfere with the future you want to have and keep you from making the changes you need to make.

We each need to recognise the reality of endings. We don’t have to like all of them, but we do need to accept the reality of what they are. If you don’t learn to accept endings you close your mind to allowing the new beginnings.

Think about things in a new way. You may think of yourself as “set in your ways,” about certain things, but you have the right to change your mind if something occurs (such as more knowledge) to tilt your thinking another way. Sometimes it helps to gain a fresh perspective on life and let go of old beliefs.

Remember, if you don’t take chances, then change isn’t possible. You can hold on to the good things in your life, but if a new idea triggers excitement and fulfillment in your life, try it. If you don’t, you may regret it.

Celebrate Your Emotional Intelligence!

I have written before about EQ or EI, that is Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence, because it is a topic that fascinates me. A number of people have asked me for a basic explanation of the difference between EQ and IQ?

Whilst Intelligence Quotient (IQ) measures your general intelligence, EQ is a measure of your level of emotional intelligence. Essentially, it is a sort of emotional inventory which enables you to better understand the world around you. It is the ability to sense and understand your emotions and the emotions of others as well. If you are highly aware of the feelings of people, you will be able to build long-lasting and beneficial relationships with the people in your life.

Emotional intelligence may be the greatest tool you can carry around. If you are highly mature about sensing feelings of others and adapting to people’s moods, you can assure yourself of success in practically every area in your life.

Have you ever noticed how some people become successful even if they don’t possess your traditional idea of what intelligence is? It is because that person is emotionally stronger and more versatile. These are the people who are dynamic, the go-getters.

If you are unsure whether emotions play a crucial role in your career, then imagine yourself being given the task to execute complicated yet highly rewarding projects. An assignment of this scope usually involves a lot of decision making. Your opportunity for growth now hinges on this one task, and making adept decisions calls for a calm and steady mind. Emotional flexibility helps you to adapt to these very demanding situations. This is only when you will fully realise that emotional maturity and stability is that important!

In business, a high EQ improves performance. It can help you become more productive by improving your skills in decision making. You become a superior performer who people can count on. It’s being “street smart,” as some prefer to call it

Your emotional quotient, therefore, rests on your ability to understand others and relate effectively to them. When you know how your actions can make an impact on others, it is easier to make a decision because you now know what not to do. You are able to build strong relationships, reduce stress, and motivate yourself and others to get the job done.

To increase your emotional intelligence, you have to become aware of your feelings and of how others will react to them. You also need to learn how to empathise. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand the motives behind their actions. We know that our experiences shaped who we have become. Knowing that we have different experiences, we also value diversity. This is what makes each of us unique. Be grateful for these differences and celebrate your uniqueness as a person. When we become aware of how each of us was shaped, we become more understanding. Life, after all, is what we make of it.

To enjoy a good life, you have to be at peace with yourself and with the people that surround you. Stop finding faults. Instead, concentrate on how you can succeed despite these faults. And that is what emotional intelligence is all about!

Dealing With The Mood Hoover

I have been talking with a former colleague recently who has taken on a new management role in a Customer Service team. The team and indeed the business is going through a lot of change and she is finding that she is having to deal with a number of negative people who she refers to as “mood hoovers” which is a phrase I have heard used before.

I am sure we have all met them whether in work or in our private lives. The moody or grumpy person who can be a real “mood hoover” to be around. Obviously many people can have mood swings for a variety of reasons. Some people may not be feeling well at a particular moment, or may be experiencing some sort of issue or have a concern that just occupies most of their mind.

Some people, on the other hand, are just moody by nature. They have regular ups and downs that seem to be a part of their daily routine. They are a real mood hoover and it can feel almost as if they are sucking the positive out of the air! Dealing with this sort of person is never easy but there are some techniques for dealing with this sort of person and that can minimise the impact on you and others.

Get to know their basic temperament. In essence there are two types of grumpy or moody people. The first is one who has an occasional bad day. They may have lost their car keys and been hopelessly delayed by trying to find them or had a misunderstanding with their partner, whatever it is, there is generally a reason we can empathise with for their mood. They are the sort who will soon shake it off with calm and order being restored. Then there’s the kind who seems to go through an emotional roller-coaster on a daily basis. The latter is the kind of person who just brings those around them down with them because they like to always look at the glass as being half-empty. People like this are usually extremely sensitive, and any little thing gets them on a roll of negativity and criticism of others and everything around them. Should you be faced with that kind of person, one thing you should never do is feed their fire. Step back and avoid circumstances that can tick them off.

We all need to learn how to read people. While some may all too readily share their emotions, there are others who are prone to withdrawing and displacing their inner feelings by having inappropriate reactions to small incidents. People like these will rant and rave about the most trivial of matters when what they are trying to do is mask their vulnerability. The best way to deal with people who do this is to try to find out the underlying causes of their anger. Ask them how they are and offer to listen to them when they are calm enough to talk. Never force them to open up and talk about it, otherwise they will retreat further into their shell. If they really refuse to talk, simply take a step back and let them know that they can approach you when they are ready. When we have problems, most of us need to talk about the issues when the time is right.

Try to put things in perspective. It’s important to know that with the typical mood hoover you are not responsible for their mood because whatever you do they will find some way of turning it into a negative. The important thing here is to remain positive and continue to be the objective person. Take a step back and observe the things that trigger their anger. When they are grouchy towards you even when you haven’t done anything, you also need to stand your ground and let them know that you will not tolerate this kind of treatment.

Deciding when enough is enough is entirely up to you. When you deal with a moody person, you have to be brave enough to also say stop. The mood hoover can be incredibly destructive and ultimately they will have to face the consequences of their behaviour but don’t let them drag you down to their level. As I advised my former colleague you need to maintain your focus on the positive and sometimes you have to accept that some people cannot be jolted out of their approach to life however good a manager you might be.

50 Is The New 30 – Confidence As We Mature

In a meeting the other day the comment was made that “50 is the new 30!” which was a reflection perhaps of how in the space of no more than a couple of generations what we expect of ourselves has definitely changed. If I think back to my own parents at my age then they certainly approached life in a very different way to how we find ourselves behaving, dressing and indeed working today.

That set me reflecting on some of the discussions with “mature” people I have had recently. Some of them also talked about how in the face of the seemingly relentless change they have felt a loss of confidence at times leading some to feel like an “imposter.” I have written about the imposter syndrome before (see here) but in this post I want to look at how, as we contend with the world which expects more of us, we can retain or re-discover our confidence.

In the glossy magazines and on websites we are told that we can do it all and have it all. That can seem quite daunting if you are at a stage in your life where you are struggling with being confident. The reality is that everything is a balancing act, and the best way to stay happy and confident is to make a list of priorities and stick to it.

Who Are You?

When it comes to prioritising, you need to know who you are and what you want in life. With a purpose-driven life, you are in control, setting your goals and taking action to achievement.

There are only so many hours in the day, with one-third supposed to be reserved for sleep, and one-third of your weekdays (usually) reserved for work. However, as a partner, community activist or caregiver to elderly parents or relatives, the work day increases and the sleep often decreases. It can seem almost impossible to find “me time” in which you can relax, de-stress, and work on self-improvement.

Good Self-Care

The truth is that the happier you try to make others, the unhappier you will usually be yourself. You will never be able to take care of others well unless you first take care of yourself and ensure as many of your real needs as possible are met. These include food, rest, money to pay the bills, supportive relationships and so on.

Good self-care is empowering and will boost confidence. You won’t feel as if you are running on an empty fuel tank all the time. Instead, you can give all your important tasks your best effort. You might even have time to take classes online, learn new skills, and more.

Lifelong Learning

You are never too old to learn. Gaining new skills can increase your self-esteem. They might even help you get that promotion or raise you’ve been longing for.

Surrounding Yourself with Positive People

Positive people exude positive energy. You can tell who they are because you feel good whenever they walk into the room. Spend more time with them, and try to become more positive yourself, so you can network with like-minded people.

Do Self-Confidence Exercises throughout the Day

Start in the morning by telling yourself you are going to have a great day. Try a “power pose” in front of the mirror, stretching your arms and leg out as widely as possible until you feel like you are filling the room. Don’t be “small” or think small.

Work physical activity into your day for at least a few minutes at a time. A 10-minute workout session four times per day is just as effective as one 40-minute session, and exercise boosts your energy as well.

Come up with affirmations, positive statements that fill you with energy, such as “feel your power,” “You can do it,” and so on.

At the end of the day, journal about your successes, and what you can do even better tomorrow. Again I have written about the benefits of reflective journals elsewhere (see here.)

Cross Items Off Your Bucket List

Regularly do things you’ve always wanted to do. They will get you out of your comfort zone and increase your self-esteem.

Follow these tips to increase both your confidence and self-belief.

Five Steps to Becoming a Better Listener

In this final post in the short series on listening skills I want to look at how you can become a better listener. If you want to become a better listener, follow these steps to get started. But first, understand why you’re listening. You are listening to gather information, to understand, to learn and even to have fun. You’re not listening to respond. That is the main difference in active listening.

Step #1: Pay Attention

That may seem like an oversimplification, but it’s true. You need to shut off distractions such as your phone and other screens and truly seek to pay attention. Don’t try to multitask. No one is good at that and you will miss important information if you don’t pay attention.

Step #2: Show Them You’re Listening

When you are listening, no one else will know if you don’t show it. Use your body language, gestures, and words to spur the conversation forward if it’s a conversation. If it’s a speech, it might help you to take notes on the main points of the speech so that you can follow up later.

Step #3: Offer Feedback

When it’s appropriate in the situation, offer affirmative feedback by paraphrasing what you think you heard. Then get confirmation that you’re correct before you ask more open-ended and clarifying questions to keep the communication going.

Step #4: Delay Judgement

If you’re truly actively listening, you need to listen to everything the person is saying before you offer your opinion. It’s okay to ask them if they’re finished with their story if they’re an especially active talker, but otherwise, if you don’t have the whole story you can’t provide your opinion. Sometimes it’s appropriate and sometimes it’s not, but if you’re actively listening you’ll be able to judge this better.

Step #5: Respond Appropriately

All honest and open responses are appropriate if they’re given in a respectful way. Always treat other people in the manner you wish to be treated, even if you disagree with them vehemently. Focus on the intended message and not always the content of what they said to truly delve into the discussion or issue.

It can take practice to learn to become a better listener, but it will pay off in many ways. You’ll build better relationships in all aspects of your life. People will like and trust you more. To get good at listening, you’ll need to become more self-aware than you may be now. You’ll need to know what your body is doing and to control your mind while you’re listening so that you are truly listening and not just pretending to listen.