After a tough year, the 4D Energiser programme is all about getting you, your people and your organisation back to thriving.
It really feels like time to hit refresh, to turn the page on a tough year and reboot the system. Sometimes, we need to make room for new and positive changes, as well as new and positive energy in our lives.
So, if you are looking for more wellbeing, energy and motivation at the moment, it’s time to “let go, to let in.” Let go of the old, the unhelpful and the negative to let in the new, the exciting and the expansive. As the great writer and professor on human Experience, Joseph Campbell said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
It’s over a year since the pandemic started and we are all now going into various stages of lockdown and disconnection from loved ones and colleagues. The year has brought it’s stresses, strains and sadness for a great number of us. Many of us will feel our wellbeing has been impacted and at 4D we are aware of the support many teams, leaders and organisations are looking for to help re-energise their people and take care of the well-being of their employees.
The spring is a wonderful time to think about letting go of the tired energy, emotions and baggage to give space for new narratives and possibilities to blossom and flourish. Here are a few practical tips you can think about to let go, lighten your load and increase your own, your loved ones’ and your colleagues’ well-being this spring.
1. Physically let go
Take a moment to scan your body. What muscles are you tensing and holding unnecessarily? Many of us hold our shoulders, legs, jaw, stomach – wasting and draining our energy. Holding tension is associated with anxiety. Simply releasing and letting go of unnecessary tension will kick start your parasympathetic nervous system and signal to your brain that your anxiety has reduced. Give it a go and drop that tension, to instantly increase your well-being.
2. Say “NO” to negative narratives
Whether it is a question of forgiving someone else or changing your negative internal narrative, there are so many health benefits to letting go of toxic thoughts. Telling a different, positive story will allow your brain to build new and inspiring pathways.
3. Boot out bogus beliefs
Let go of beliefs that simply aren’t true anymore, if they ever were. Sometimes, we have been holding onto beliefs because we were told them when we were young or because they are social myths that no one has questioned. Health Psychologist Kelly Mcgonigal has researched a wonderful example of this. She found that it is not stress that kills 20,000 Americans a year, it is the BELIEF that stress is bad that kills them. People who viewed stress more positively and believed they could cope, didn’t die of stress. What belief could you drop about yourself, your workplace or the world is weighing you down right now?
4. Drop the diary and move through each moment
So many of us wake up on a Monday morning holding the whole day, week or month diary in our heads. That’s a LOT to hold. Letting go of your whole diary and simply choosing to move through each hour, of each day is far better for our wellbeing. Try only holding your next meeting or event in mind. Finish it, take a deep calming breath, reset and then look at the next appointment! Let go of your mental schedule and start simply being in the conversation you are actually having.
Finally, while many of us had plans that the pandemic spoiled, we are where we are and there are new opportunities available if we clear the space to look for and create them. Someone said to me the other day in reference to the Covid crisis – “What do I do when my dreams have been ruined?” I simply said, “Let go of the past, start from where you are…and dream again.”
How we can help
The 4D team can really help you take charge of your energy and well-being in all 4 Dimensions. Focussing in turn on your: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Relational well-being. Our impactful and practical 4D Energiser Program has just the right tools, insights, care and fun to help you, your team and your organisation re-activate the well-being, creativity and energy that will make 2021 the game changing turnaround year, that you can all be proud of.
Treat your team to the 4D Energiser Program, now! Only ONE hour a week, for ONE month, to ensure a super-charged and successful launch into the year ahead.
As my dear friend and 4D colleague Katie Churchman once reminded me – write from where you’re at. I think right now a lot of us are at a tired, depleted place. 2021 feels like it has got off to a sluggish start but instead of slamming our foot down hard on the accelerator in an attempt to push through, I am going to make the case for why this might just be the time to take your foot off the gas and how that could be a very good thing. Dare I say it – a positive thing!
It somehow feels like we are in suspended animation at the beginning of this year. Of course, this won’t be the same for everyone – the incredible NHS workers, and individuals I work with through Frontline19, certainly won’t feel like things are slow to get going this year.
A friend of mine said – this year so far feels like wading through treacle but maybe that’s okay. Maybe this is a chance to step off the hamster wheel, reassess the busy trap and listen to physical exhaustion as a message to do things differently.
Here are a few things to think about as we wade through treacle in the attempt to gear up and energise into 2021…
How much energy you have at any one time is key to understanding whether you can go into super productive mode or whether you need to be efficient with your energy usage. When you are depleted, you might need to be more ‘energy smart’ about where you choose to invest the power available to you.
2. Effort vs Value
As Researchers from the University of London and ESCP Europe Business School found – over-working doesn’t necessarily pay off and can lead to dissatisfaction, less promotions and low recognition due to burn out and quality of work suffering. How can we work with less effort but with more valuable, noticeable and impressive results? Rather than slogging through a 60 hour week – stop and reflect on where is your energy placement going to be most valuable? Where and for whom can you create the most value?
3. Smart and Lazy
Bill Gates was supposedly quoted as saying “I always choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” In business these individuals would be your super stars – your progressives, your innovators and your real strategic thinkers. When you take a look at your growing To Do list…rather than ploughing through it, how can you place yourself in the superstar category of lazy/intelligent and find smart, innovative solutions that surprise and impress? How can you create high visible value rather than high invisible workload?
Another way to think about this is Pareto’s 80/20 rule. In brief – Pareto studied a wide range of phenomena and discovered that most often 80% of output comes from only 20% of input. If you look at your input, what 20% of effort is actually producing 80% of your productivity and success? What 80% of your effort that is only producing the other 20% of your output – could you ditch?
5. The 4 hour week
By being more efficient with your energy, you have more time to really live in and enjoy the present moment. I make reference here to Tim Ferris’s book and philosophy – The 4-Hour Work Week. Tim is a strong advocate of ‘live now.’ He tells his readers not to be ‘deferrers’ and sacrifice their lives to the idea of retirement when they’re older. So – what if you were paid a super high hourly rate and a company only got four hours of your time? As you are being so well paid for that 4 hours…how would you give the business the maximum value of your talents and energy? How could you apply that to your normal working week?
6. Go with the flow
To go back to the treacle analogy – like in water – when we try to run through treacle, we get pushed back, feel blocked, and get stuck. However, when we take our time and glide through the liquid, it can feel effortless, in sync with our environment. Therefore, if the world is offering you a different energy field right now, maybe don’t fight it, rather work with it. Perhaps it’s time to stop identifying with the amount of ‘effort’ you make. That somehow prolonged effort and a 60-hour week is a badge of honour and makes you a worthwhile human being. Perhaps it’s time to take off that false badge of honour and start identifying as efficient, smart, creative, discerning, lazy and intelligent. Not the person who gets lost in three days of a grinding powerpoint build, but someone who is so creatively efficient they suddenly have a lot more hours in the day for themselves.
So, maybe it’s time to take your foot off the gas, enjoy the view and think about…what you are going to do with all that time …
4D can really help you take charge of your energy and well-being in all 4 Dimensions. Focussing in turn on your Physical, Emotional, Mental and Relational well-being and fitness – our impactful and practical 4D Energiser Program has just the right tools, insights, care, and fun to help you, your team and your organisation re-activate the well-being, creativity and energy that will make 2021 the game changing turnaround year you can all be proud of.
Treat your team to the 4D Energiser Program. Only ONE hour a week for ONE month – to ensure a super-charged and successful launch into the year ahead. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book your program now.
Welcome to the 4D Human Being Podcast. Don’t worry! In this episode Philippa and Penelope are talking about worry. And Philippa has gone bullet point crazy with all the topics we would love to cover on this very important subject. Enjoy the show!
At this time of year, we are bombarded with the word ‘happy’ from every direction. From the greetings on festive cards to the banners in shop windows, to the jolly e-mails landing in our inboxes, to the Christmas lights strung across every high street, to the smiling Santas and snowmen and scenes depicting the perfect ‘happy’ family gatherings to the happy messages telling us to have a happy Christmas, a happy holiday, a happy new year and while we’re at it…a happy life! That is an awful lot of ‘happy.’ Maybe too much. Because perhaps we can demand too much happiness of ourselves and others at this time of year. Could it be that narrowing our expectations to this one single emotion might actually not be so good for us? Could it be that other emotions might want to be part of our festive celebrations too?
So, this Christmas, at the end of this extraordinary year full of a range of experiences, difficulties and emotions…at 4D we would like to challenge the idea of it having to only be a ‘happy’ Christmas. Because while many of us might not be able to welcome actual guests into our house this holiday, we can welcome other kinds of guests…the many, many emotions that might just be knocking on our door wanting to come in and join the party.
But why would we want to let difficult emotions in? Who wants to feel sad or lonely or angry? Particularly over the holidays? Good questions. Many of us are often so conditioned to deny, avoid or push away challenging feelings, that we have lost any sense of what the benefit of allowing them in might be. But feelings and emotions aren’t simply energies to bring us pain and suffering. They are message bearers – bringing us information and insight that can guide us to a better place, a happier state, a flourishing work life, a nurturing relationship and deeper, more genuine friendships. These negative emotions are trying to help us! They need to be heard and to be understood to unlock the gems of wisdom within. As Glennon Doyle says in her wonderful book ‘Untamed’ it can be a mind-blowing revelation to realise that ‘feelings are for feeling’! Not for suppressing. Your feelings of sadness may be telling you how important something is to you that is currently missing in your life. Your feelings of grief may be reminding you how much love you had – and perhaps still have – for a loved one you have lost. Your anger will often be trying to tell you to say NO to something. That someone or something has crossed a line, that you have made too many compromises, that you are not living true to yourself, that you have abandoned yourself and what you truly want or believe in, in order to please someone else or society’s expectations.
In this very difficult year, many of us are already holding a lot of unconscious feelings around loss, change, lack of connection, financial stress and limitations to our freedom. The emotions and feelings that DO finally bubble to the surface are going to be key to let you know when your capacity bowl is just too full. And that something needs to change.
The Happy Gap
One of the big problems with not allowing ourselves to feel our negative feelings is that it can lead to a huge gap between how we feel inside and how we present ourselves to the world. Can you think of a time when you have been terrified or crying or dying inside and yet have forced yourself to show the world that you’re happy and on top of everything? In my days as an actor, I had a very memorable experience of this. I was in the West End in a colourful, happy, all-singing-all-dancing musical but, in reality, in my personal life, I was unhappy and lost. I remember one night, just before curtain-up, sobbing in the dressing room, so unhappy, so sad – and yet at the same time I forced myself to get my costume on, apply my lipstick, glue on my false eyelashes and get out on stage to open the show – to then smile, dance, sing, joke and entertain the audience. The show must go on, right? While I could of course make sure the show did go on it put a lot of pressure on my emotional well-being and my relationships at the time. Ultimately my feelings were trying to tell me something. That it was time to move on, time to make some changes, some new choices, to make some other dreams come true and create a new ‘show’ in my life that would make me genuinely happier. And thank goodness I eventually did.
In the 4D podcast episode 6 – Mind the Gap Katie and Penelope talked about this gap. How trying to show up as ‘happy’ when inside we are feeling low, sad or angry puts an enormous level of stress on our body-mind system. To the point where we can make ourselves sick. As clinical psychologist Victoria Tarratt says “Suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body.” A study from Harvard in 2013 showed that if we bottle up our feelings we have a 30% increased chance of dying earlier and a 70% increased chance of developing cancer. It’s not even that we benefit in the short term – Research at the University of Texas found that by not acknowledging our negative emotions “we’re actually making them stronger.”
By allowing those difficult feelings to be expressed we can start to close the gap and that is a step towards real happiness, not just a ‘put on’ performance of happiness.
‘Put on’ or fake happiness is becoming a very real problem both in our personal lives and in the workplace. It is being termed ‘Toxic Positivity’ and is an invisible force that pressures us to adopt pretend happiness. We can inflict toxic positivity on ourselves or we can find ourselves in groups or organisations that seem to demand it from us. On one level, of course, we all want to work in creative, positive and motivating environments but we also need to work in ‘real’ environments. In environments that express the people in it – real human beings who have all sorts of very real and very valid feelings. To be expected to meet a standard of a 100% happy culture is toxic in so many ways. It’s exhausting and puts far more psychological stress on individuals than if they were able to express a full range of feelings. It also makes us inauthentic and detaches us from reality.
Once you explain to people what toxic positivity is, the majority of individuals say they have experienced it recently and that they sometimes, often or very often ignore their real emotions in favour of appearing happy. But there are very real dangers to succumbing to this force of toxic positivity. By ignoring your negative feelings they can build up – until you explode- and find yourself raging at the wrong person about the wrong thing at the wrong time. You will ultimately increase your feelings of sadness. And what’s more, you risk being a ‘fair-weather friend’ – unable to support a colleague in need, as often if we cannot tolerate negative feelings in ourselves then we won’t be able to tolerate them in others. In the long-term, fake positivity will negatively impact your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Which means if you are a leader or business owner insisting on fake positivity, you will be leading your people to greater unhappiness, poorer work relationships and potentially psychological burnout. If we aren’t allowed to feel our feelings – our feelings will find a way to be heard in a different and more harmful way.
The positivity in the negative!
There is, though, an antidote to toxic positivity – and it is encapsulated in the title of positive psychology expert Dr Tim Lomas’ book ‘The Positive Power of Negative Emotions’. Dr Lomas acknowledges that most people see negative emotions as…well…negative. But through his ground-breaking research, he has shown that negative emotions are not only normal to experience but can be very good for us. They “may in fact serve as pathways to the very happiness and flourishing that we seek.” His research shows that anger, for example, can signal that “you’ve been treated unfairly and push you towards change. Guilt suggests that you have let yourself down, and drives you to be better. Envy can motivate you to improve yourself and your life. Boredom can be a gateway to creativity and self-transcendence. Loneliness allows your authentic voice to be heard, and teaches self-sufficiency.” By embracing the power and positivity of negative emotions he believes we can radically change the way we think about our feelings and our emotional life. That through having the courage to start feeling our feelings we can become empowered to understand and use our negative emotions in positive ways.
As Susan David, PhD, author of Emotional Agility, says, “Our raw feelings can be the messengers we need to teach us things about ourselves and can prompt insights into important life directions.”
Renowned psychologist Dr Paul Eckman did some wonderful research into the basic emotions we all feel at some point: anger, disgust, happiness, fear and surprise. He pointed out that sometimes there are other emotions underneath one of these 5 emotions and that we need to dig a little deeper to recognise and understand them. And we can only do this by allowing ourselves to sit with and really feel our feelings. For example, when we feel anger, anger may only be the primary emotion. There may be other feelings that lay underneath the anger that are perhaps even harder for us to face such as disappointment, sadness or feelings of not being good enough. Learning to understand anger as a protector of other difficult feelings can be incredibly powerful and very healing.
Even for the most self-aware human-being, anger flashes happen and can be directed to those you love most – including yourself! But before you go for a run, meditate or do yoga to get rid of it – stay with it, sit with it and explore WHY you feel so angry. Look for key phrases you have used to your loved one or that are floating around in your head. Words said in anger like “I hate you, you make me feel so small” or “I can’t breathe” – will tell you a lot about what is underneath your anger. Like that your self-esteem has been trampled and you feel small or you feel you don’t have the space or voice to truly express your feelings so you feel like you can’t breathe. This is not about blaming yourself or another, it is about exploring and excavating the message in the negative emotion. Once you understand the message in the difficult feeling you can go from “gridlock to dialogue” as psychological researcher and relationship expert John Gottman says. Now you know what your NEED is beneath this anger. So now you can make what Gottman calls a “repair bid” – which will be either compassion to yourself or a bid for understanding and connection to the other person. Communicated not with rage but with a more self-aware, conscious attitude – allowing your heart rate to come down so you can process, share and benefit from what just happened!
Finally – there is a very real and true gift awaiting you if you dare to welcome in and explore your negative emotions. Inside that negative emotion will be your dream. A dream that at that moment has been threatened or squashed. Hence your anger. If you imagine your fists clenched with anger or frustration, now uncurl those fists as you explore your feelings. Inside the palm of your hand is the dream that wants to live and breathe and be brought to life. When you can see past the anger and rediscover the dream and hope that felt threatened – then you can communicate that dream to your partner, colleague, boss or yourself. Now you are giving yourself the gift of moving from flight or fight to flourish. Now you have moved from crisis to creativity. Because you can tear down your world by avoiding negative feelings and letting them unconsciously control you…or you can listen to the message, the gift, inside your negative emotions and from there you can start to cherish your needs, build your dreams, create the life and enjoy the relationships you truly want and deserve. For me, this is one of the most liberating and joyous discoveries ever. Imagine seeing negative emotions not as taking away your happiness, but as the gift of future happiness. The gift that keeps on giving!
The gift of emotions
So here’s to a Happy, Sad, Joyous, Angry, Contented, Frustrating and Exciting Christmas. Here’s to a Christmas where all your feelings are welcome – each one a gift under your Christmas tree. And just like our actual Christmas presents, it is not enough to simply look at the wrapping paper to decide what it contains. We have to unwrap our gifts to see what surprise is inside. It is not the wrapping paper but the treasure inside that is the true gift. The greatest gift we can give ourselves this holiday is to welcome in all our feelings. And the biggest gift that you can give to someone you love is to be with and accept their difficult feelings. That for me is one of the greatest gifts one human being can give to another. To let them know that “I will accept and love all of you. All your emotions are welcome here.”
So all of us at 4D wish you the courage to let your feelings in, to break through the fear that your feelings will destroy you and rather, to wonder whether they might actually have a very special, very surprising and maybe even life-changing festive gift to offer you. And whatever feelings you are feeling we wish you as much sparkle and spangle, glitter and glimmer, tinsel and twinkle as you can handle. Because whatever our emotions, a little shine and shimmer can do wonders – not just for the Christmas spirit but for the human spirit in us all.
For more information on 4D Wellbeing programmes, Team and Leadership Coaching and Cultural Change programmes do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, we leave you with the beautiful gift of Rumi’s poem The Guest House.
Here are some practical tools to try over the holidays to help turn your negative emotions into beautiful gifts that may well hold the real key to your happiness inside.
2. Comfort your inner critic – Your inner critic may well have been working hard all year stirring up difficult emotions in you and sending you spinning into negativity. Rather than trying to push them away, you can even welcome them in too. Imagine letting that critical voice into your house, sit them down, appreciate how very hard they’ve been working and tell them just to relax for a bit. You’ll get them a mince pie and a glass of something sparkly and then tell them that they can take some time out – you and your inner cheerleader can take it from here.
3. Manage your emotional state – and set a conscious intention by putting a word in your head. But mind the gap. If you’re feeling sad, don’t aim for ‘excited’ or ‘enthusiastic’ – try something more gentle and closer to ‘sad’ like open or curious.
4. Yes AND – Allow your negative emotions at the same time as balancing your difficult state with something more positive by using the word AND. “I’m feeling sad and I’d love to come and meet you for a coffee.” “I’m anxious AND let’s channel that into something creative or active”. “I am angry AND I still love you.”
Autumn is the time to plant bulbs in the knowledge that in the Spring those actions will be rewarded with wonderful colour and new life. And we also ‘take stock’, we create the conditions for how our gardens can thrive next year and we take time to rest.
This October, join 4D’s Matt as he looks forward to Autumn and opportunities for new growth…
On the 30th September 1859, Abraham Lincoln recounted this story: It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words:
“And this, too, shall pass away”
How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
It has been a very tough year for all of us. An extraordinary year in many ways. And whilst you MAY have used this time to be creative, learn five languages and become a sourdough-baking-genius, the chances are that you may have had quite enough of home-schooling, one-way systems and mask-wearing and have been looking forward to the steady return of normality.
So, if you are living in a country that is experiencing ongoing, or the recent re-imposition, of restrictions to our lives this can be a disheartening experience. It is easy to slip into melancholy, perhaps even despair, that hope, happiness, frivolity, joy – some of the emotions that really make life worth living – will ever come again. The challenges may not be so much the specific constraints on our life (my time of going out with ‘the lads’ until 2am are long gone) but that when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel it now seems much further away.
And this is also literally true as we enter Autumn across the Northern hemisphere – the days are getting shorter, the temperatures cooler and (certainly in the UK!) the promise of grey and rainy days to come. Autumn is a time that can be disheartening for all sorts of reasons, the darker evenings and mornings encouraging us to hunker down for the months of dark and gloom ahead of us.
At the centre of the 4D2C model is the Intentional Dimension. That dimension that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom – the ability we have to act with an awareness of the likely impact of our actions on our future selves and those with whom we interact. This is our blessing as well as our curse – being the only species on the planet with a heightened consciousness about ourselves, our actions and our future.
As Dean Buonomano tells us on the first page of his book, Your Brain Is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time.
“The human brain is a time machine that allows us to mentally travel backward and forward, to plan for the future and agonizingly regret that past like no other animal”
And when the future is highly unpredictable it can be extremely disorientating. Our life normally consists of a degree of predictability, of exciting plans and hopes for the future so when we are robbed of this it can affect us profoundly. Buonomano goes on:
“And it’s the ability to see the long-term future that I think is distinctly human. It’s impossible to overestimate how important that is, how much of your life is future-oriented….And one of the most transformative inventions humans have ever engaged in was agriculture. The notion of planting a seed and coming back a year later is something we take for granted now, but it’s hard to think of anything more important than that ability.”
Farming provides rich metaphors for many aspects of our life, from the building of healthy habits to the ability of leaders to patiently enable autonomy and time to grow.
Indeed, many of us have found joy connecting with simple things during this period – whether that’s baking, cooking or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, time in the garden.
Autumn is the time to plant bulbs in the knowledge that in the Spring those actions will be rewarded with wonderful colour and new life. And we also ‘take stock’, we create the conditions for how our gardens can thrive next year and we take time to rest.
As a keen gardener myself I follow the methods of British expert Charles Dowding. Dowding’s philosophy rejects the use of fertilisers and chemicals to feed plants. Instead he focuses on feeding the soil to create the conditions in which plants can flourish. In the autumn we spread a layer of compost on the beds and allow the worms to do their thing, drawing it into the soil and breaking it down. According to Dowding by not digging over the soil we preserve its structure enabling it to nurture our plants better. And it’s a lot less hard work!
One of the other things we also know about Autumn is that Spring will come again… That, despite the cold, the darkness and the drizzle, there will be daffodils once more, sunshine, lush grass, and new growth.
And it’s not just about looking to the future and ‘getting through’ the next few months. Some of the cultures that face the harshest winters have adapted their mindset to embrace the opportunity that winter brings. Health Psychologist Kari Liebowitz spent the Winter in Tromso, Norway in 2014/5 and found that she could predict the ongoing wellbeing of residents during the winter based on the way they responded to statements such as…
There are many things to enjoy about the winter
I love the cosiness of the winter months
Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes
Our mindset makes an enormous difference to how we see the world and respond to the challenges that new seasons, political decisions and tough environmental challenges present us with. By being more conscious of our mindset we can also be more conscious of the behaviours and actions that will bring us solace. That doesn’t mean we have to learn Russian or write a novel, but that we take greater control of our attitude and focus on the small actions that can bring us growth and comfort.
What can we nurture now in ourselves, and those we love, to carry us through these next few months? This year more than ever might be ideal for fully embracing the Danish quality of ‘hygge’ as we spend even more time than normal at home.
One of the challenges of this period is the lack of control we feel over our own life and the future. If, as Buonomo argues, we are ‘prediction machines’, then the inability to predict the future, let alone a future of happiness and joy can be very damaging to us.
Francesca Gino and Michael Norton in their 2013 research, Why Rituals Work, explored how human beings respond to rituals. According to Gino and Norton:
“Humans feel uncertain and anxious in a host of situations….Creating personal rituals can help people take control of otherwise out-of-control seeming situations.”
Whilst you may not quite want to go as far as creating full blown rituals, concentrating on small things that you can predict and control can increase our sense of agency and leave us feeling less buffeted by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that are affecting us all.
When other people and the environment are impacting on us like never before, how might we employ our physical, intellectual and emotional choices to maintain control over our lives?
Whilst the future remains so unpredictable it can be hugely valuable to concentrate on the now. To bring the torch beam in from a hundred metres away to what is right in front of our feet so we can navigate one step at a time.
What Intentional activities and behaviours can you commit to through this time? Consider all three dimensions. For example:
Physically – your diet, exercise, rest and time outdoors to stock up on Vitamin D
Emotional – who are you spending time with, how are you finding joy? Can a discipline like conscious breathing, meditation or mindfulness help to keep you on an even keel?
Intellectual – how are you spending your precious attention? How is your work/life balance? Notice how what you consume impacts your mood – especially in the news and social media.
As well as helping to bring you through challenging times these ‘seeds’ that you plant now may help you to flourish more in the Spring.
As we at 4D have said throughout this pandemic it is also worth remembering not to be too hard on yourself or expect too much. This is an unprecedented period, the most extraordinary of our lifetimes, and, taking care of yourself and your relationships really is enough.
Spring will arrive, joy will return, Covid will no longer be front page news.
We’ll all have been changed by this period, for better and for worse… but this too shall pass.
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As many of us experience the restrictions of lock-down opening up, 4D’s CEO Philippa Waller asks how can we step back into our busy lives at a different pace?
It’s week eleven of lockdown and I find myself calling roofers, builders and carpenters to get the home improvement projects going that I had to put on hold since moving house at the start of the year. It’s definitely time to get cracking, get going and get creating. Time for businesses to accept the ‘new normal’ – whatever ‘normal’ even means – and to stop waiting for this time to pass, but rather build from here. Innovate with new projects, hire the right staff, and from our perspective at 4D human being, get going with training and developing executives and teams to be resilient, adaptable and super impactful when leading and communicating online. In times of ‘uncertainty’ we have a choice how we respond. We can wait, stagnate or we can create. And as researcher and educator Joe Dispenza says, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
And as the wonderful Carla Harris says it’s no good hunkering down in the trenches for too long. Far better to get your head above the parapet, get a look at the terrain, see what’s going on and make some good, creative and strategic decisions about how you’re going to respond to the situation. How you’re going to make the best of your current circumstances. Or even how you’re going to innovate your way into a new situation. Go Go Go. Let’s do it. Which for me means stacking up the appointments with every craftsperson going and blitzing the home improvement plans as quickly as possible.
Or does it have to…?
Sound of screeching brakes.
What about all I have learned through lockdown about not rushing around and not getting any more speeding tickets! The one thing I’m hearing from so many friends, clients and colleagues – is a desire to hold onto some of the lockdown habits they’ve created. To not let the elastic ping back when lockdown eases – and plummet back to the manic rushing around, packed out diaries, squeezed weekends and exhausted Monday mornings.
And while many of us have been busy during lockdown I’m sure we have all had a little more space or at least moments of a gentler pace due to no travel or socialising. As the old adage goes there is only space and things and things in space, and we need a balance of them both. We need space to be able to see and appreciate the ‘things’
So, let’s take a look at how we can take control of our choices and dreams without constantly feeling like we have to compromise our health or time with loved ones. How can we be smart and focused about building our lives and creating new experiences without feeling stressed or not good enough? Let’s explore ways in which we can live the lives we want to live, create relationships that will bring us happiness, work in a way that will bring us joy and build successful businesses with conscious cultures… without working 20 hour days and never getting a chance to truly enjoy the fruits of our labour.
The 80/20 Rule
So how do we create and build our lives in a new way? How do we move ahead with projects, with business, with life plans, business strategies and all our hopes and dreams? All in a more efficient yet still inspiring and joyous way? We can turn to Pareto’s law to start. 20% for 80% of the result. The law is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who, in 1906, found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. What is important about this law is that this distribution- 80/20- occurs extremely frequently. For example, 80% of your profits will typically come from 20% of your customers.
In an article for Forbes, entrepreneur Dave Lavinsky writes that: “The Pareto Principle, or “80/20 Rule” as it is frequently called today, is an incredible tool for growing your business. For instance, if you can figure out which 20% of your time produces 80% of your business’ results, you can spend more time on those activities and less time on others. Likewise, by identifying the characteristics of the top 20% of your customers (who represent 80% of your sales), you can find more customers like them and dramatically grow your sales and profits.”
In his book, 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More, Perry Marshall write that: “80/20 applies to almost everything in business that you can count. Almost every frustration you have in sales has something to do with ignoring 80/20.” Pareto’s law applies equally to our home and personal life. Start noticing it everywhere. What is the 20% of your wardrobe that you wear 80% of the time? What are the 20% of your possessions that you get far more joy from than the other 80%? Who are the 20% of people in your life that make you the happiest? What are the 20% of conversations with your partner or friends that create the most connection and meaning? What are the 20% of behaviours that cause the most problems in your relationship, your team or your organization? And, to reverse it…what are you doing with 80% of your time that is neither bringing you fulfillment OR moving your life in the direction you want it to go?
If you find yourself feeling ‘stuck’ and taking one-step forward two-steps back, take a look at how Pareto’s principle might be impacting the situation. Could you be focusing the majority of your time, energy and resources on the wrong clients? Or the wrong hobbies or activities? As Timothy Ferriss who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek says about Pareto’s Law “Doing less is not being lazy. Don’t give in to a culture that values personal sacrifice over personal productivity.” So, take some time to evaluate your ‘output’ and ask yourself if it’s yielding the results you’d expect. If not, start to think about what creates the 80% of the success and enjoyment in your work and your personal life and start focusing more of your time and attention there.
In his book ‘Atomic Habits’, James Clear talks about focusing on 1% increments. Clear calls these tiny changes ‘atomic habits’ and believes they are “the compound interest of personal development.” Over time these tiny improvements build up and create long-lasting sustainable change. Ultimately, as Clear says, “you get what you repeat.”
Change doesn’t have to be stressful for it to be successful. We don’t have to desperately sprint towards our goals. It can be very different. It can be intentional and emerging, all at the same time. It can be a daily sowing of seeds, a daily becoming. A daily enjoyment of the next atomic step towards…well towards the next atomic step of your journey!
In life and in business we can often be incredibly ‘goal’ orientated. Businesses set annual or quarterly targets and personally we can have goals of our ultimate weight or dream house or chunky bank balance. And sure, goals are great to have. But they only take us so far. They are in a sense, a push in the right direction. But, the path to get you there, is built out of a system of daily habits that will support you towards your goal… and beyond. And this involves focusing on the process – the how – as opposed to the end result. To quote Clear: “It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”
When we are focused on the process, or the system, we are working with the HOW. HOW are you building your journey rather than just getting to the end of it? As Clear write: “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.” Instead of living our lives like one massive tick list, we can pay attention to the space in-between. The journey TO results. From this systemic perspective we can start to shape the process that gets us there, make it more efficient, and perhaps even discover that we enjoy the journey along the way. As Clear writes: “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” For me this means enjoying the conversations and collaborations with the builders, carpenters and plumbers about to work on my home improvements. Relishing the creativity, the possibilities and the new ideas they bring each time we speak. It also means enjoying the PROCESS of building a home, of creating my dream environment full of warmth and welcome, love and laughter.
As I write this article and reflect on our choices of HOW to live in each moment, I’m reminded of professor Morrie Schwartz. As 78-year-old Morrie came to terms with his slow, debilitating and paralysing death from a motor neurone disease called ALS, he became even more aware of what was really important in life. What really counted. When asked what he would do if he only had 24 hours left to live, Morrie replied that he would do what he might do on any ordinary day. He would eat lunch with some good friends and go for an evening walk. His point being that there is perfection in ordinary joy, in the atomic gifts life can bring. And at the same time, in his final months of life, through gentle, unhurried conversations with his old student Mitch Albom, Morrie was sowing the seeds of the international best seller and inspirational book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie.’ A book that to date had sold 14 million copies and been translated into 45 languages. What an incredible ‘goal’ to achieve, but in fact it never started with a goal. It started with WHO Morrie and Mitch were and HOW they chose to be together, to talk together and to create together. Moment by moment, in only 20% of the time left to Morrie, 1% by 1%, atomic moment by atomic moment, enjoying the process of life and appreciating the journey that remained. Morrie gave us some wonderful life lessons and he certainly believed in living life to the full.
So yes, let’s get going, let’s create, let’s not wait. But let’s not rush unaware to a larger house, a bigger business or a leaner body. Let’s get going with living our lives fully every day. Let’s create Moment by Moment. Atom by atom. Breath by breath. Choice by choice.
Because Morrie, through the soft, meaningful and slow sowing of seeds, the daily 1%, the ability to be fully present and be who he wanted to be and live how he wanted to live in each moment, showed us all that we can create an extraordinary, beautiful, inspiring and generous life through small, daily choices and gentle, even atomic seed sowing…starting right now.
All of us at 4D are thinking of everyone in these critical and very tough times and it feels important to say…
As we put together this month’s 4D newsletter we are desperately aware of the context we are writing in, with the social injustice protests in America. It brings to mind countless similar events and incidents. Too many to name and just too many full stop. We can’t sign off this article without touching on the pain and anger that so many of us are feeling throughout the world. And what comes to mind in line with this article is the deep sense of confusion and helplessness that so many of us are feeling. What can we do? What action can we take? How can we get to the goal of social equality? Yes, we can donate, we can black out our social media feeds, we can write letters, we can protest. But nothing ever feels enough. And it is here I come back to this article. As feelings of overwhelm risk plunging us into inertia and helplessness, let us ask, what can I do each day to build towards justice for all. What act of kindness, what words of support, what choice to include, what act of solidarity, what courage to call out injustice wherever it may be, what bravery to step up and use our voice or help others use theirs.
What 1%, what daily choice, what 20% that will make the difference, what atomic habit can we build that feels possible and do-able. The goal is clear but it is the PROCESS each day is what will get us there. The daily choices to be proactive in our support, compassion and love for each other. And finally, to be part of this process, to join in the daily journey, we don’t have to identify as a protester or a demonstrator or as an activist. We simply have to identify as a human being.