The dark side-effects of high performance

I am an overachiever. I set high standards, break boundaries and am driven to succeed. Over the years I started noticing a pattern, a dark side-effect of this behaviour. At first, I thought it was just me. But through questioning individuals with the same approach to life and work I made a startling discovery. High performance can lead to some nasty side effects.

 

The attitude of winners

High Performing individuals have a strong desire to succeed. This desire drives our determination and attention to results. It is energy intensive and our relationship with time is stretched, we want results now. ‘Later’ is a concept that only applies to others. We make sure that we squeeze every possible minute for the potential to produce better outcomes. The pace of the working world has definitely increased – but performers struggle to wait for results, whether it is getting a new client to sign a contract or producing new marketing material for the website.

Sounds great – what’s the problem?

My findings are NOT scientifically validated but I will share them – and you can decide whether it makes sense. I have identified 3 main challenges to this approach to work:-

  1. Pace – our desire for results can ‘alienate’ us from people who prefer a slower pace. We can come across as aggressive, a trait that may cause others discomfort and lead them to say ‘no’ – just to get away from us. This negatively effects relationships with co-workers and clients.
  2. Authority – we have a tendency to justify overstepping authority to get the results we want. To us, the ends justify the means, to others it is destructive and negatively impacts their ability to trust. Trust, in the workplace, is very important for success.
  3. Energy – being ‘us’ is energy intensive. The wins are great… but when we don’t experience frequent wins we can become almost frenetic in our actions to create them. It is easy for us to become ‘addicted’ to wins and, like any addict, when there is no win, we experience withdrawal symptoms. We can even become desensitized to winning which leads us to pursue bigger and bigger goals. Our internal drive increases stress and the greater the stress, the more likely that we produce results that fall short of our expectations.

Oh Sh*t… I’m stuffed!

Not necessarily. There is no need to seek medical intervention just yet. Awareness of this dark side of performance can allow you to challenge the way you approach work and life. If you are happy to continue making these trade-offs, then there is no need to adjust your work behaviour. If, however, you feel exhausted, out of control or down in the dumps on a regular, ongoing basis… perhaps it is time to encourage a healthier approach.

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

What if we’re wrong?

dunce kidIt starts at school. Our pathological fear of being wrong. We are taught that being wrong is embarrassing, undesirable and will get us into trouble.  We learn that being wrong is bad. Our desire to be right has some pretty nasty consequences.

 

What’s wrong with wrong?

Absolutely nothing! As a species we are obsessed with getting it right, seeking perfection and avoiding mistakes at all costs. This is simply not possible. I’m not advocating that we deliberately give up… I’m suggesting that being wrong about something isn’t an indication of your value or worth. It is a part of being human. The only thing wrong about being wrong is how we fear it, avoid it and punish ourselves and others for it.

Challenging assumptions that make us right

Even when we are wrong, we will justify that we are right. This introduces some assumptions that can play havoc in our lives. When people disagree with us it is natural to assume some things…  like they are ignorant; they are idiots and just can’t connect the dots; or they know the truth but disagree because they are bad. Thinking that other people are wrong, and we are right, can cause us to treat people unfairly, not to mention some indignation, irritation and unhappiness. It can also prevent us from experiencing some great learning that introduces new possibilities! Imagine your reaction if you were to realize that you were wrong about something. Now imagine that instead of beating yourself up, feeling miserable and retreating into a cocoon of isolation; that being wrong opens a door to possibilities you didn’t even know existed. That isn’t so bad, is it?

Help break the stigma of wrongness

The next time you catch yourself, or someone else, (and especially your kids) doing, thinking or lose the fear of being wrongbehaving a way that you decide is wrong – pause! Instead of trying to correct them, challenge yourself to see it from their perspective. If we work out how to separate the doing, thinking or behaviour from the person, it becomes possible to provide a learning experience for ourselves and others. This approach is only effective when we address it without anger, frustration, irritation or contempt. I invite you to try this just ONCE. Really give it a go. I’m pretty confident that you will be surprised at the results –  if not, does it matter if I’m wrong?

There is nothing wrong with trying to get it right. It drives our intention to improve, push boundaries, innovate and grow. Being right isn’t a bad thing… it’s just not the only thing. The message is that we are all going to be wrong, sooner or later, and that is ok.

If you are interested in learning more find an inspirational TedTalk video by Kathryn Schultz on being wrong in our video inspiration section. She uncovers some surprising consequences and inspires us to embrace our very human nature.

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

How we sabotage our own success

self sabotageWhether you ride a bicycle or a Ferrari you are able to experience success. I posed a question to the founder of the Neurobusiness Group, Dr. Srini Pillay, on whether he experienced what I perceived to be ‘the height of success’. His response was humbling, with far reaching implications.

Depth – not height – of Success

When asked whether he experiences, from my perspective, the ‘height’ of success, he responded “I don’t think success has a height – maybe an endless depth.” Once again I am struck by the power of words and meaning on our experiences in life.   All of a sudden, success becomes accessible to everyone. Think about the word height. Does it feel far away, reachable only with effort, almost like something you have to ‘do’? Now think about ‘depth’. Does this feel easier, deeper and almost like a natural consequence?

Mine your own Success

Many of us feel that success is a consequence of achievement. Very often it is measured in wealth, status and power. The very measure is enough to trigger our ‘that’s impossible’ internal dialogue, and once we believe that it is impossible – it becomes impossible. But what if we could adjust the way we measure success? What else could success look like? What else could success mean? This allows us to explore internal frames of reference for success. We are looking at how we are able to experience success, as opposed to what we have to do, to achieve it. Where we are isn’t as important as how we feel about where we are.

A little goes a long way

Dr. Pillay prescribes ‘imagining’ our way to success. Imagining strengthens our brains GPS system to navigate toward the things we want. Feel lost, stuck, blocked, empty or just ‘off track’? Harness the power of your subconscious mind to steer you where you want to go. All you have to do is uncover what you really want. It sounds simple… but it is pretty challenging. Are you clear on what you really want? Can you imagine what it will look, smell, feel, taste and sound like? If you believed that anything was possible – what would you dare to allow yourself to want? Unless you send your subconscious GPS clear signals of the destination, it is not able to direct you there.

We are all navigating an uncertain and turbulent future. We are expected to improve results under increasingly complex conditions. It is very easy, under these conditions, to lose sight of our own ability to influence our direction. Decide what success means to you and go for it!

For more information, find this Tedtalk by Dr. Srini Pillay on Wired for Success – The Science of Possibility in our collection of inspirational videos. Dr. Pillay is the founder and CEO of The NeuroBusiness Group, a part time assistant professor at Harvard and author of ; Your Brain and Business; The Science behind the Law of Attraction and  Life Unlocked.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

How are you ‘showing up’?

show upI had an insightful conversation with a new client about ‘showing up’. It was a refreshing take on leadership development, not from the perspective of training leadership skills, but empowering individuals and teams to ‘show up’ in a way that is meaningful, relevant, inspired and engaged.

What is ‘showing up’?

How do you perceive your value in the workplace? How do others see you? What difference does your presence make? Showing up is about owning your space. It is about standing up for the value you are trying to achieve. It is easy to get distracted by meetings, office politics, reports, productivity and many other things – but how much do you allow these things to influence your purpose within your role?

What if I’m not ‘showing up’ the way I want to?

Congratulations. Awareness is the first step to ‘showing up’ the way you want to. It means you can see a gap – and where you can see a gap, you can close it. It’s helpful to go ‘back to basics’ here. Where is the possibility in your role? What are you delivering that has personal value to you? When you connect with what you are doing, when you believe in why you are doing it, it has a tendency to motivate and inspire you, as well as those around you. Passion is key here. Find your passion and ‘showing up’ powerfully becomes possible.

Why does this matter?

When we are personally invested in what we do, we find work more meaningful and rewarding which has impressive results on performance. It is the difference between doing a job you get paid for and doing something that provides learning, enjoyment and an extension of purpose.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give – Winston Churchill

So, what now?

Once you have made a choice to ‘show up’ more powerfully there are several things that you can focus on to build some momentum. The first is to gain clarity on your current reality. How engaged are you on a scale of 1 – 10? The second step is to decide where you would like to be. How engaged do you want to be on a scale of 1 – 10? Once you know the gap you are able to experiment with various ways to close it. Find what works best for you and prepare yourself for a little discomfort on the way. It really helps to develop a ‘possibility’ mindset here. Another great motivator is to surround yourself with people who are ‘showing up’ the way you would like to.

How we experience the workplace, and our lives, is a choice. Our attitudes, perceptions and assumptions all play a role in the quality of our lives. Remember – reality is just a construct of the meaning we associate to everything, to our predisposition toward potential and the way we choose to see the world.

Watch this Tedtalk by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who talks about show up, speak up, look up, never give up and lift others up as a way to positively effect change.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

The Uncertainty Effect – and how to overcome it

free your mindYou’re inspired… now what? As humans we crave certainty in just about everything we do. We will even stay in god awful situations because it is ‘the devil we know’. Find out how to turn inspiration into action that helps you move forward.

Possibility VS Uncertainty

There is a frightening duality at play in our thinking. It is a place where anything is possible, but at the same time, it is the place where we get stuck. The possibility force sees potential and is inspired toward a better future. In the other corner we have uncertainty, which hamstrings us. Since social media is teeming with inspirational quotes and messages, I would like to focus on its opponent – uncertainty, and its sticky consequences.

The Uncertainty effect

We avoid uncertainty. It’s the programming we are built with. Some people can tolerate more uncertainty than others (people who aren’t afraid of a little risk) but ultimately, as humans, we like to KNOW, to be able to predict an outcome. But that isn’t the end of the challenge. On top of this, we are wired to move away from threat (and uncertainty is a threat). This is a double-whammy. We are wired to stick to what we know and move away from anything that threatens our ability to know. Our default is to do nothing and it takes concerted effort to overcome this challenge.

 In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.- Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome to nowhere… how long will you be staying?

So, we want a better future, to make a difference and to leave a positive mark. But because we don’t know how to start, we do nothing. This is nowhere. Where possibility goes to die. We spend too much time in this place – dreaming about what we want without being able to turn this dream into reality. It is a place of demotivation, isolation and regret. This is where you are if you feel ‘stuck in a rut’. This is where you are when you catch yourself wishing things were different.

The Great Escape

Everyone is capable of escaping nowhere. All it takes is action. Stop thinking and DO something, anything! The first actions you take are not important because they get you where you want to be, they are important because they help you break the status-quo. They help you move forward. Take any decisive action and it breaks the ‘thinking’ stalemate. It is important to overcome the fear of uncertainty by doing something you wouldn’t normally do – the ‘what’ is not important. The ‘what’ will come later – once you have strengthened your commitment to leaving nowhere. STOP thinking and START doing.

By taking action, any action, we confirm to ourselves that we are in the driving seat. It confirms that we are prepared to face a little discomfort in order to achieve the things we want. It proves that we are able to influence our lives. Best of all, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

What small action can you take, today, that will help you move forward?

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Are you feeding your hungry mind?

a hungry mindEverything starts with an idea. What you see in the world today – businesses, architecture, fashion, movies, technology, books …. literally everything was born into the world because someone had an idea. Turning thought into reality starts with a great idea. We all have ideas. We are wired to make connections and solve problems. Great ideas are the brains way of having fun, of expressing creativity.

Is my mind hungry?

Our brains are uniquely suited to making connections – it is called learning. It’s not just about learning new skills… all information received – what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and experience forms new connections in our brains. If I ask you “what is a car?” you will think about your car, all your old cars, that time you had an accident, the car dealer who gave great service, what the car sounds like. We’ve connected a million things to cars – and to everything else. Learning these things didn’t require any effort – it was done through experiencing. So… YES… everyone has a hungry mind.

Automatic and Deliberate learning

We are all learning, all the time. Most of what we learn is automatic (through experience, our senses and the meaning we give to things). When we choose to learn something it is deliberate learning. This learning is a little more structured – because we are learning to accomplish a desired outcome (like speaking a foreign language). It feels a little (or a lot) more difficult because we are controlling the outcome of the learning.

Consequences of deliberate learning

You’ve mastered being able to drive a car. You can get from point A to point B safely. But you learned a lot more than that. You learned how to pay attention on the road, to look out for danger, you learned that driving a car gives you a sense of freedom, you learned a preference for the kind of car you enjoy driving. No learning happens in isolation… everything is connected. By having more connections you have more ideas. You enjoy driving so much you decide to design a seat that is more comfortable, or start a transport company.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.                                                                                                                                                         Alvin Toffler

I’ve noticed that a lot of companies have embraced a learning culture. In fact, many companies will pay for you to learn something (some even go as far as paying for things that are NOT work related). The business world is starting to understand that your ability to out-perform the competition depends on making the strongest, most creative connections. It is a thing of beauty!

If you want to have more options, more choices and express more of your potential I would ask you: how much time and effort are you taking to feed your hungry mind?

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

What if I’m a really terrible leader?

bad leaderLeadership has taken on dimensions that require a full time focus. Unfortunately, there are other requirements in the workplace – and almost no time to concentrate on becoming ‘the best leader that ever lived in the universe’. So what now? Do we pack up our stuff and resign ourselves to the cubicle next to the toilets? I think NOT.

 Play to your strengths and OWN your weaknesses

If you are in a senior role that supports a team there is likely something that got you there. Whether this is technical ability or problem solving genius… you’ve done something that stands out. That doesn’t go away just because you can’t ‘motivate’ others to jump into the fountain at the company year-end party. If you struggle to nurture or develop people, if you struggle to empathize or support – it doesn’t make you a bad person, or a useless employee.

Lower the bar

Overachievers don’t accept anything less than ‘the best’. When we set standards that are virtually impossible to achieve, we aren’t doing ourselves any favours. In fact, the pressure of achieving ‘The Best’ status prevents us from acknowledging improvements… because we are still so far away from where we want to be. I’m not advocating giving up – I’m saying ‘get real’. What is really possible?

Don’t be a jerk about it

Just because we aren’t able to achieve our goals of being a super hero leader, doesn’t mean it is ok to act like a jerk about it. Admitting that you struggle with something might just allow people to see that you are human. They might even be willing to go the extra mile for you. Don’t mess up this kink of human nature (cheering the underdog) by becoming a tyrant. A boss can get things done by power – don’t be THAT boss!

It’s not about you

Being a great leader is not about you – it’s about your team. It’s about their goals, their abilities, leadershiptheir experience. For people wired to ‘win’ it is a challenge to put away the ego. It’s amusing to watch people pursue ‘leadership’ the same way they would for presentation skills or reading financial statements. Leadership is about the results you achieve through others (because they want to).  We are leaders when our teams are engaged, developed, heard, supported, stretched and willing. We don’t learn leadership, it is a result of our behaviour. What effect does your behaviour have on your team?

 

Some people are natural leaders – for the rest of us it’s about taking it one step at a time. We don’t have to go from one extreme to the other. We can improve gradually by making small tweaks. It’s about eating the elephant one bite at a time.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

How to ‘Fail-Proof’ your life

i can i willFailure – it’s a very FINAL word. It’s demotivating, depressing and avoided at all costs. The problem is: if you aren’t failing – you aren’t trying. If you aren’t trying… what results can you really expect? I would like to invite you to look at failure in a whole new light. Imagine viewing failure as nothing more than a feedback mechanism. Imagine what you could do…. if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Find a new meaning for failure

How we feel about anything is dependent on the meaning we give it. If failure means we are useless, stupid and weak then it makes sense that we will avoid anything that could end up that way.  We naturally want to protect our self-worth. What failure really means is that we haven’t achieved the results we set out for. It means we are working on achieving something. We are stretching out of our comfort zone. We are daring to do something we aren’t certain of. How wonderful! Our self-worth is actually increased when we invite risk, try new things, push our boundaries and challenge ourselves.

Embrace ‘Not Yet’

Traditionally, failure is like saying “The End” after a story. It means there is no chance of success. You can only fail when you stop trying. If you’re still trying – you haven’t failed yet. As long as you can say ‘not yet’ it means you haven’t given up finding a way to achieve your goal. By saying ‘not yet’ we introduce potential, we encourage growth and keep the focus on moving forward.

Mix it up

A single minded approach is bound to cause trouble. When you focus on a single thing, at the expense of other interests, it is bound to be more challenging to keep positive and motivated. The brain is a connection machine – it functions best with variety. How many great breakthroughs were achieved when the individual wasn’t actively trying to solve the problem at hand? AHA moments are more likely when you aren’t trying to ‘force’ your mind to come up with a solution. Give your subconscious space to work on the issue – it is vastly more powerful than our prefrontal cortex (where conscious thinking and problem solving takes place).

Uncover Possibility

Often, when we don’t succeed at something, we learn things that end up being even more important than the original goal. Sticking at something builds resilience, tenacity and strengthens your ability to delay gratification. Delayed gratification is rated as the highest indicator of whether children will grow into successful adults. The skills you learn while TRYING are the skills you need to succeed – in every aspect of your life.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Our Greatest Challenge: Hopelessness

newsThe news bombards us with violence, economic and environmental crisis and events that inspire fear. While empowering us with knowledge, it is also the cause of a wave of hopelessness that is prevalent across the globe. In this post I invite you to become aware of the impact that all this bad news has on our thinking and to join our movement of hope.

 

Bad News is Everywhere

Television, radio, cellphones, newspapers, computers. We have access to news 24/7 and 99.9% of it is scary. It makes us worry about our physical and financial security. It paints a picture of a future that we have no control over, that is bleak and hopeless. Even if current events don’t make us consciously afraid, subconsciously it effects our decisions, behaviour and choices.

The Subconscious effects

Human beings are designed to survive. In order to do this, we have to be aware of threats to our survival. Our brains are very efficient at scanning for threats, which we do as often as 5 times per second. This ‘scanning’ happens automatically. Threats don’t need to be processed by our conscious thinking unless there is an immediate threat to our safety. News sneaks ‘under the radar’ because it doesn’t threaten us in the moment. This means that it ‘plugs in’ to our subconscious, where it drives our behaviour without us even being aware of it.

The brains response to threat is to re-direct our mental energy to survival mode. This has a negative impact on our judgement, decision making skills, ability to tolerate risk, creativity. In short, we are no longer able to perceive a wide variety of solutions.

Join the Movement to inspire Hope

Awareness of how the brain responds to news is the first step to regaining some control over our thinking. It isn’t likely that we’ll stop reading or watching the news, so the best we can do is be aware of its effect on how we think.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor Frankl

The ability to experience hope in the face of hopelessness is a critical skill to overcome this challenge. We have no influence over what is going on in the world, but we have a choice about our perception and how we respond to it.

What positive behaviour, attitude or initiative can you adopt to help you achieve a positive impact? What can you do to support a better future for yourself and others? Paying attention to this type of project can go a long way to reducing subconscious fear.

Our message: Spread hope by doing something selfless and meaningful. Join us in our movement for a bright tomorrow.

 

 

 

Get un-stuck with coaching

get un-stuck

Thousands of people turn to coaching to help them improve performance, get un-stuck, set and reach great goals and ultimately experience life, and work, in a more positive and meaningful way. In this post I would like to shed some light on what coaching is all about. 

What’s the problem?

We’ve all experienced being ‘stuck’ at some point in our lives. It is a dark and frustrating place to be. Most people try to ‘push through’ these tough patches. The process is long, uncomfortable and demotivating.

Another common problem arises because of the many demands on us, on a daily basis. We are very good at being busy. The problem is that we are able to be busy on ‘autopilot’. We may be really productive, but we have lost our sense of connection or purpose.

” Telling someone to ‘snap out of it’ is about as effective as telling a blind person to ‘look harder’ “

Why is coaching a solution?

Whether you need to get un-stuck or want to re-connect, coaching gets powerful results.

Coaching helps you move forward in the direction you want to go, by focusing on the thing that is holding you back: your thinking. The process helps you focus on solutions and new ways of thinking.

Our coaching methods are aligned with scientific discoveries of the brain and it’s impact on behaviour and learning – neuroscience.

What excites US about neuroscience is that it confirms that no two brains are alike (your parents weren’t lying when they said you are special!), it’s relatively easy to ‘re-wire’ our brains (you are able to learn and change for as long as you live) and the way we think creates our reality (our perception dictates our reality). This means that everyone has the potential to make a difference.

” You can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking you used to create them ”                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Albert Einstein

What can I expect from coaching?

There is no denying that coaching stretches you. A great coach should keep you challenged – but not so challenged that you feel stressed. By the end of each session you should feel motivated to take action. After you have been coached for a few weeks, you will notice that your internal dialogue changes. Questions will replace ‘I’m such an idiot’ or ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘why am I so stupid’. Instead you will hear yourself ask ‘what can I learn from this?’ or ‘who could help me with this?’ or ‘what else could this be about?’.

 

How long will it take for me to think differently?

The answer here is dependent on so many things. Do you want to change some habits or do you want to change how you see the world? Remember what neuroscience taught us – no 2 brains are alike… this means that how quickly you adapt your thinking is a personal journey. Most people feel confident to move forward after a single session – but long lasting motivation and change can take a whole lot longer. We prefer coaching as part of a 3 month series. This has produced significant results for our clients.

Contact us if you would like to explore what coaching can do for you.

We coach with Skype, which means we can coach anyone, anywhere, any time.