women working

The Business of Empathy

In last week’s post, I provided a teaser about the “feeling economy.” During a Right Management meeting, the term was mentioned as a side note but not really explained. But the term intrigued me, so I did some research.

Just as machines brought us into the Industrial Age, machines, specifically computers, are setting the foundation for the Feeling Economy. The Industrial Revolution emerged as machines replaced humans in repetitive jobs. Many people were affected by this shift as they lost employment to machines. On the positive, as machines took over the easy tasks, humans became the thinkers and the craftsmen. Computers continued to handle more and more leading us into the Technological Revolution, and now computers are swiftly taking over intellectual labor. Voice recognition allowed them to handled customer service calls, and now they can even write articles. I understand that this may scare many people, but what is emerging is so hopeful and beautiful to me. What we are moving into is the Feeling Economy.

women working
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

At least for now, the one thing computers can not do is have empathy. They can not relate on a personal level with humans. Maybe they will be able to do so in the future, we’ll see. But for now, what makes me excited and hopeful is that what is finally being recognized and valued is emotional intelligence. The California Management Review and the Smith Business School introduce us to the Feeling Economy. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes on not only mechanical and repetitive tasks, but moves into analytic and thinking tasks, we move closer to a Feeling Economy where people focus on interpersonal and empathetic tasks. The next boom is with workers who focus on the feeling tasks and emotional sensibilities.

On a personal level, I feel like this frees me from being a machine and provides me the space to be fully human. My strength, and my weakness, is my Type-A drive. This innate drive has allowed me to accomplish incredible things and keep things on track no matter what. It has also made me an unfeeling task master putting projects above individuals’ needs. For much of my work life, I was a machine. I saw the project at hand and only looked at the facts, what needed to be done and by when. I was automated. I was efficient. And I was very cold, distant, and heartless. I almost never took people’s feelings into account. What needed to be accomplished was of sole importance.

Thankfully, slowly over time, I have become more human and empathetic. What has helped me learn and accept the deep truth and need for empathy is that everything is transitory. A profession, a specific job, or a current project being worked on, all of these things change. Think about your term paper for school and how important it was at the time versus how important it is to you now. Most of what we find critical in the moment, is meaningless in the future. What I regret now is not how I performed my work, but how I treated those around me as I bulldozed my way through my work.

We are not here to accomplish things – although we may. Primarily we are here to connect. We are here to give and receive compassion. We are here to love and be loved. All the stress in the world is due to deadlines, ideologies, and other man-made concepts. Peace is found in connection, compassion, and love. I am learning to focus on the experience I or my cohorts are having. When I work with people in job transition, they can learn everything they need to about the job search from Right Management’s extensive articles, videos, and even AI resume review app. My principal role is not to teach or help them complete the process. What I can and should do is help them grieve the loss of their old position, sort through the anger of being let go, and deal with the fear of being between positions. I am in the feeling economy.

In releasing my computerized ways, I am learning to let go of expectations. Expectations are based on a right or wrong, they are based on timelines, they are based on my perceptions. Where I find more joy myself and more relief for my candidates, is focusing on their progress and growth. Yes, we are still working to land them a new position, but I am thanked more for helping people regain their confidence, have hope in the face of uncertainty, and for providing comfort and support. The result, the new position, is often just the framework for their personal growth.

Daniel Goleman introduced Emotional Intelligence back in 1995. Since then Brené Brown, Simon Sinek and others have been leading the charge of evolving business leadership into the feeling economy as empathy is posed to become more important. As with many changes and rebirths, some professions may be affected as we move into the feeling economy. But the shift to focusing and valuing people, feelings, and emotions gives me hope we are headed in right direction as a species. I am pretty excited. You?

dog on tightrope

Achieving Balance

Here is a dog on a tightrope. Really. It. Is. A. Dog. On. A. Tightrope. I don’t usually share cat, or in this instance, dog videos in my posts, but better way to get your attention about what balance really means. As you watch this talented guy, you will see that he doesn’t get on the rope and stand perfectly still. He is in constant motion. He is constantly readjusting. To balance on the rope, he is moving and adapting in every moment.

dog on tightropeIt is the same with our balance. To be in a state of balance takes continual readjustment.

I think the pain many of us feel is that we expect to one day reach a state of perfection; to find the perfect way to be and handle our day – and that it is repeatable in the same way every day. We believe there is one perfect state of being and once we find it life will be steady.  This steady state of perfection does not exist. As life constantly changes, so too do we need to continually shift. Balance is not a point on a graph, it is not a timetable to be adhered to, it is not the perfectly planned execution of our day. Balance is our ability to constantly shift and adapt to the ever-altering and ever-changing way of life. When things are not shifting and changing, they are dead. To be alive is to be constantly moving, shifting, changing, and growing.

Somewhere along the line, work-life balance was assumed to be a steady-state. It was assumed there was a mythic point were the needs of our personal lives meet perfectly with our work responsibilities; 8.75 hours at work, 10.2 for personal care, and 5.05 for our family each and every day, not shifting, but uniformly working like clockwork. Sorry folks, a perfect ratio of time does not exist. Work-life balance takes constant readjustment. Child gets sick – life needs a bit more time. Deadline for your work presentation is tomorrow – your career gets the focus. Unexpected guest pops by – plans are dropped and redeveloped. Throughout the week, day, and each hour we are constantly adjusting our focus and efforts to maintain balance based on the changing world around us.

To gain balance sometimes we need to add one thing, sometimes another. As I tend to lean towards being a stressed-out Type A, I often write about bringing calm and self-care to my life. But sometimes I need deadlines, focus and concentration. Perfect balance is not just adding one thing. It is the pendulum swinging from surrender/peace to concentration/effort. Back and forth, and back and forth, in a continuous state of movement.

As you head into this new year, do not set resolutions to bring you what you think is perfect balance. No one formula exists which will work every day and in every situation. Instead, set a resolution to go about your day in a state of constant readjustment. It is in the moment by moment choices we make that we find happiness, good health, and success. The plan you make now for the rest of 2019, will be foiled by the gifts, glitches and unexpected changes which will happen over the next 365 days. Focus on the next 24 hours, not the next 12 months. See how focusing on the moment will give you the power to find as much balance as you can each and every day.

Wishing you all the best in the new year!

from type a to type me: how to stop "doing" life and start living it

A Call for Type Me

We have been through a lot this year. Political issues, #MeToo, depression awareness, border issues, and aggression. Everything from the NFL to classic Christmas songs have been called into question. Many times it is a little too much. I want to, but know what I can not change all of these issues. Instead I take solace in the fact that I can fix me, or at least improvement myself and my experience of life bit by bit. And so can you.

For decades I searched for ways to improve myself. How could I reduce my stress, my passive aggressiveness, my anger and frustration? I knew I could, should live a better life but I didn’t know how. I wanted to release the physical and mental pain I was in. I searched high and low for solutions until I found what worked for me – then spent a decade sharing these tools to help others release their pain and ease into a more joyful life.

from type a to type me: how to stop "doing" life and start living itFrom Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It turned four years old this September. It is a chronicle of how I turned my life around. How I moved out of stress, overwhelm and depression to take back a joyful and positive life. And I hope that it will do the same for you and all its readers. The book provides insights, stories, and tools to help release you from overwhelm and into a better life through awareness, acceptance, alternatives, and action.

Awareness

We can not change anything until we are aware of it. The first step toward a more joyful life is to be aware of how we are currently perceiving our current life, those around us, ourselves, and the world as a whole. We need to become aware of our thoughts, beliefs, actions and reactions and how those are affecting our experience of life.

Acceptance

In acceptance there is peace, and the power to change things based on reality.  We need to accept the reality of life and others, even if we do not agree with them or like what they are doing. We need to accept the truth of the current reality. We need to accept others, circumstances, and ourselves. In seeing things as they are, we become empowered to make changes to the true issues.

Alternatives

Often, we are stifled because we only see black and white, this or that, good and bad. We feel we can not act because we only see the horrible situation we are currently in or a situation that is worse or impossible. Open your mind to all the possibilities available to you at all times so you too can start seeing how you can create your ideal life.

Action

Growing our awareness, accepting truth, and seeing alternatives only leads to a changed life if we take action. Learn how to get off the couch, out of your fears, and begin taking the baby steps toward a better life.

This book was seven years in the making and is a testament to the changes I was able to make in my life and in the lives of my clients. If you are looking for a last minute gift for your overwhelmed friend or a tool for changing your life for the better in 2019, why not download a free chapter of From Type A to Type Me and see if it is right for you.

water under the bridge

Stop Pushing the River

Did you know me in my 20’s or 30’s? If so, you would have known a very different person than I am now. To put it mildly, I was a crazy controlling Type A. Never accepting help from others. Taking on more than was my responsibility. Feeling like the world would stop spinning if I was not in control. Needless to say, I was not the best person to be around. I was constantly doing, constantly anxious. I thought I was the one responsible for everything that occurred, responsible for those around me, and let’s face it, I thought I was responsible for the world as a whole.

water under the bridge
photo by Benjamin Davies @bendavisual

How I acted was a torment to those around me and no picnic for me as well. The amount of responsibility I heaped on myself was Herculean; way more than anyone could stand. As you know if you have read my blog for a while, this desire for control and taking on too much led to a physiological breakdown. I was not only running myself ragged, but I was also hyper-demanding of all those around me. I expected them to take on the overwhelm that I did. I expected them to premeditate my needs or just “what had to be done.” I tried to control those around me; barking orders to anyone in earshot. I was so focused on what I thought had to get done that I wasn’t truly living.

Truth is, through all this effort, I wasn’t truly controlling anything. Some of what I wanted to control was uncontrollable (weather, traffic, others’ actions). Some of what I tried to control, would just pop back to how it was before; my effort did not create lasting effects. The only thing my desire to control did was to create stress in my life. The futility of my controlling efforts, just added to my frustration, anxiety, and worry. I was Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill each day only having to start again the next day. Instead of getting off the hamster-wheel of pain and futility, I reached for quick fixes in the form of food, caffeine and alcohol. At times these gave me moments of peace, but they were not long-lasting and my “solutions” actually started to become a problem of their own.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. Here I was trying to control things to feel safe, secure, worthwhile and loved, but each and every attempt was a failure. If I did manage to control something, it usually angered those around me distancing me from their love. Other times, being able to control the situation was just impossible. I needed to try a new way.

For decades people told me to relax, chill, or “go with the flow” in one way or another. This was terrifying to me. My stability, my security was control. Giving up control surely meant pain, uncertainty, and oblivion. It took me years to learn the power of surrender, have the courage to live in acceptance, and to have the vulnerability to allow myself to embrace letting go of control. Today I may not feel “in control,” but I do experience the support, confidence, love, acceptance, and security I had hoped to get through control, but which can actually be found in surrender.

If you would like to find the peace of surrender, the first step is for you to admit and embrace that you are ready to try a new way; that you are ready and willing as you can be to release some or all of your control. Then every time you are presented with a challenge, instead of jumping in like a bull in a china shop trying to control the uncontrollable, trust that things will work out how and when then need to. This trust does not mean you do not act; instead you are acting by intuition instead of brute force. Soon you will enter a new peaceful, flowing rhythm of life.

three leg stool

Three-Legged Stool

Yoga is part of my current daily practice. I have been learning many new lessons through the practice which I am bringing into my daily life. Today I would like to share with you three elements of yoga which can be the foundation of how you approach your challenges – on and off the mat.

A decade or so ago, I went briefly to a weekend workshop focused on finding your “one thing.” After the opening two-hour introduction, it felt like a cult and I high-tailed it out of there. The basics of the book and workshop were that if you found your “one thing” then you built your life around it. What I found funny was that some of the participants had been attending these workshops for years and either could not find their one thing or had changed it many times.

I think one of ththree leg stoole issues of the program was the focus on results and the physical world. The idea was to find a singular purpose, something tangible and achievable, and then create your life around that making it happen. Instead, what I have found in yoga and in my own life, is that a focus on ways of being allows a purpose to be revealed, evolve, and lead us on an amazing journey.

The three ways of being I am learning through yoga are: strength, balance, and flexibility.

Strength

For me, this one is easy. My Type-A personality is all about strength, perseverance, and making things happen. What I have had to come to accept about strength, is that I am not strong in all areas and that leading with strength is not always the best choice. I am learning my limits; where can and should I be strong, and what is not in my ability. As I flow more into Type Me, I also am releasing strength as my go-to tool and am learning to find other ways to approach life.

Balance

I write a lot about work-life balance, but balance is more than juggling the things in our lives. It is also about being centered. I am learning to be physically centered in my body on the yoga mat and out moving in the world. I am also returning to being centered in my mind and thinking. Balance is an inner strength and confidence no matter what is happening outside. It is calming the mind.  It is remaining still in the center of a storm.

Flexibility

When I think about flexibility, it is not giving in and bending over backwards for others. Flexibility is about remaining open; it is being a young branch swaying in the wind not an old brittle hardened stubborn branch susceptible to damage because of its rigidity. To be flexible is to be open to what we know and what we don’t know; being open to new opinions, personalities, and ways of living.

Strength, balance, and flexibility work together to create a powerful way of being. If we are only strong, we may become exhausted or rigid. If we only focus on balance, we may never move forward. If we only choose flexibility, we may be swayed too much by the wants and needs of others. When we use all three legs of the stool, strength, balance and flexibility, we create a strong foundation for living.

yoga as a daily practice

The Necessity of Routine

After transitioning from Type A to Type Me, I found that practicing a regular routine helped me from sliding back into my Type-A ways. Originally, the practice was reading inspirational works daily, meditating, focusing on active gratitude, and walking. I diligently engaged in these things daily to lay a strong foundation and center myself.

Two and a half years ago, I arrived in paradise. Breaking out of the rat race, I landed in a beautiful location surrounded by calming water and a culture of loving caring individuals. Things were perfect. I let my daily practices slide. Why would I need to have a daily practice now that I had the sun and the surf every day?

Wrong.

yoga as a daily practiceI did not notice the impact right away. Things were good. I didn’t have to maintain my practice to feel centered. Life was amazing. But then it started. Little issues. Little conflicts. Small and big challenges. Without the foundation of my practice, I found myself unconsciously and negatively reacting to these trials. I did not approach them with calm centeredness, but with blinding emotion. The result was the same horrible feeling I had when I was in the deep despair of my Type-A days.

Thankfully things are on the mend. I have committed to creating a new Type-Me practice. And by practicing daily, I am slowing down and being more conscious of my thoughts, actions, and beliefs. I am not allowing my emotions to take a hold of my reactions. And I am finding more peace in my daily life.

Having a regular practice is very important. Times will be good. Times will be bad. The consistency of our practice is what bridges these hills and valleys. It gives us support during tough times and creates even more ease when things are good.

Doing a daily practice is more important than what the practice is. What is important is finding what you need to help keep you centered. Look into practices like meditation or yoga that clear your mind. Find the texts that feed your soul whether they are from religious books or your favorite blog. Engage your body in the movement it desires. Add in practices of gratitude, intentions, and affirmations. Maybe you want to have a bit of a creative outlet daily. Many different tools are available to you to create your own practice. Find the ones that best serve you.

You may also find that your daily practice changes over time. As your life changes, you may find that you need different types or means of support. Just like any diet, your personal practice may change overtime, and if you don’t change your diet you may find yourself stuck in a rut or not getting all the nutrition you need. Every so often look at your practice and evaluate what is working and what is not. As we grow, it makes sense that our practice grows with us.

Do you have a daily practice? Are you faithfully executing it? How do you feel when you practice a few days in a row? How do you feel when you skip your practice a few too many times? What would it take to gift yourself with a practice?