Mind Work | Personal Development
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Start the work

Here we are again, another week at work. Despite how you’re feeling this morning, being here at work is actually a good thing, and among all the challenges we face here day-day, I encourage you all to be grateful. Now I’m not saying to be thankful for the difficult people and conversations that you may face, or for you to be happy about the workload and the late-night you may have to pull to send it off. Nor am I asking you to enjoy the anxiety and stress that builds up all too frequently. But, just to acknowledge the simple fact you have a job that you’re being paid to do it, and of course, not to forget you have the ability to leave if you wish… Yep, I know that last one is pretty loaded but ultimately it’s the truth.

That being said, although you can get up and walk out if you like, that’s not what I’m suggesting here. Leaving your job is a conversation for a whole other blog post, one which would include buzz words such as ‘values’, ‘purpose’, ‘fulfilment’ and all that good stuff – But for now, we’ll keep on topic.

I have an idea to offer you that can be used to make the job less of a struggle. We all have bills to pay, which means working/having a job is a must (So let’s just accept that for now)… but before doing others work i.e. the type that is supposed to take place between 9-5 but always ends up being later – the real work needs to be done on one’s self.

That’s correct, what I’m talking about here is self-work/personal development. After all, if we spend most of our waking day working for someone else, does it not make sense that the rest should be spent working on ourselves? Invest in yourself and watch your stock grow!

Why do I need personally develop? I hear you say. In my humble opinion, it’s through personal development that true happiness and more importantly ‘fulfilment’ is found. So if our days consist of work followed by television, the pub, oh and a visit to the gym a couple of times a week to make ourselves feel better – then, of course, we’ll eventually hit the ‘Unhappy Wall’… Hard!

If you’re not looking after your mind, body and spirit (yes spirit) then work life will have a larger negative impact than necessary. I touched on this in last weeks post in Step 3 – but thought I would try and encourage you to take it a little further and approach your personal development as THE most important aspect of your life, after all, if you’re top of your game you’ll be of better service to everyone, both inside and out of the office. 

Personal development can be anything from improving a talent you already have or learning a new one, aiming for your potential, swapping negative habits and thought patterns for positive ones. It can be something simple like time management and finding a routine that serves you… for routine, a book named THE MIRACLE MORNING is a game-changer.

My question to you is ‘What do you currently do in the way of self-improvement?’ Or maybe you don’t need to improve, maybe you’ve got it all sussed out and happy to be exactly the same person you are today until the end of time? If so then I’ve wasted your time and you may discontinue reading now, BUT if you have the self-awareness to realise that some work could be done, then let’s focus on that.

When we decide to work on ourselves, external situations become less important, have less control over us, it loses its power. You become your prime objective, you are your no:1 motivation, and almost bulletproof to all the BS that we often see around us. 

The problem with ‘self-work’ is that many see it as exactly that – ‘Work’. The truth is, it’s unlucky that it will happen overnight, or even over 2 nights… studies say that it takes 66 days for a new habit to become a behaviour, but what’s 66 days out of a lifetime? Another great thing is that you do not need to go through this change alone. There are plenty great coaches out there (Myself being one of them – visit www.mdr-coaching.com for more info) that help clients stick to their goals, overcome their challenges and to hold them accountable to ensure success.

The brain is plastic, (not literally) The brains plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life. The human brain has the amazing ability to reorganise itself by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons). Therefore allowing us to lose habits and behaviours that may have been great 10 years ago but no longer serve us.

So in conclusion, please don’t let your life revolve around your work, your work MUST revolve around YOU. In order to take control of your life, you must build a relationship with yourself, your mind, your thoughts and your actions. Be active, not reactive, be the cause, not the effect.

Wishing you all a lovely week. 

Until then, Ciao for now.

If you have any questions on anything discussed, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Contact me direct via mason@projectmindwork.org   

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Less stress in 3 simple steps

Lovely people! If you’ve read my last few posts, you’ll know that I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on what ‘wellbeing-at-work’ really is and should be – especially as I am seeing more and more that ‘employee wellness’  is being disguised with or replaced by a half-hearted ‘one-off wellbeing day’ or ‘one-off wellbeing week.’ What will a short term wellbeing initiative achieve, not sure?!

Anyway, it’s Monday, YAY! Another week of early starts, ‘motivating meetings, juicy deadlines, exciting emails, time-saving lunches at the desk, office politics, lovely late nights in the office…all the ‘delights’ of corporate life!

How does this make you feel? Totally fine, I hope. Or does it bring on that knotty feeling in the gut…you know the one! Or does your chest start tightening, and maybe you’re little short of breath and your mind is racing? Some would call this anxiety!

Ok, so I know this is all a bit heavy for a Monday morning, but I can assure you, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. I will help those feeling the fear by planting a few seeds that will grow into feelings of calm, peace, acceptance –  making the rest of the week (almost) a doddle.

How though? I currently work with people on a one-one basis or in a team scenario to reduce (in the aim of elimination) the stresses and anxiety levels that many experience on a daily basis and not just on a Monday, the whole week, month, year.  We work together to find simple ways in which de-stressing practices can be assimilated into your average day without any dramatic changes needing to be made.

Before I go into the practices that are designed to make your (let’s say) week a little easier, I’d really like to emphasise the point that those feelings of stress and anxiety are NOT normal, they are NOT part and parcel of a job and they should NOT be accepted as so.  We often hear clients say things like ‘…yeah I’m stressed, buts that’s normal.’ This mindset is dangerous and a fundamental cause of the increase in avoidable mental health issues.

This mindset keeps us holding on to ‘little stresses’ that may seem so minor, or little that you think you can deal with easily. But, all of these little minor stresses got stored. They are the straws piling up eventually breaking the poor camels back. Don’t be the camel.

So, here are three easy steps to make the week a little more, erm…. for now, let’s just say manageable.

  

Step 1

Is to mindfully acknowledge the feeling of stress. recognise it, tell yourself  “it’s ok,” sit with it for a bi,t and understand that whatever the external cause was, it’s now your choice on how you deal with it.

You have a few options. You can let the stress lead the way and dictate a response (which 9 times out of 10 is an emotional one), or you can bring a little calm back to the mind, logically think about the situation that’s causing the stress. If it is something you have to do… either do it or don’t. All the stressing in the world won’t change the outcome. If it is something that has already happened,  it has already happened. You can amp up your stress x10 if you like, but I c guarantee it will not resolve anything. So, you choose how you wish to proceed.

The list of possible stress triggers to some may be obvious or if I listed them here, would be too long and stressful for some to read, but the same principle remains.

The mindful acknowledgment of our stresses is a powerful tool. It allows more control over our actions, our reactions. This positive behaviour change will be noticeable almost immediately. It reduces the size of the ‘thing’ that would usually trigger the stress, but most importantly it will reduce the amount of time your body/mind spends in stress-mode, and lessen the risks from the myriad of health symptoms that stress can lead to.

For more on this, have look back on my post from a couple of weeks ago.

 

Step 2

It is all about you, it really is. So step 2 is – ‘time for YOU’. Why wait until the pressure is unbearable before you decide that you need to step outside and take a breather? Try setting a reminder for a 5-10 minute break every 90 – 120 minutes.

You will be amazed at the increase in focus and productivity this brings. Give your mind a break, just like you would need to sit down after running around for hours on end, don’t make your brain do all this leg work without any break, let it take a seat before you put it back on the treadmill.

Remember, this is your mental health we’re talking about, so it’s not to be taken lightly.  Here, Debbie Hampton discussed this beautifully ‘Why you need to give your brain a break

 

Step 3

Dare I encroach on your personal ‘out-of-office’ time? I do because this really is where the magic happens, but also where a little graft is needed. At Mind Work, our ethos is the ‘Mind Matters Most’, and we all need to understand that it must be treated as so if it’s to be kept fit and healthy.

What’s your meditation? Find it. Sitting in quiet crossed legged for periods of time has tremendous benefits, but let’s just take it one step at a time. Find your meditation, find your zen, walk in a park, workout, read something that makes you feel good, build that brain muscle. Going home and watching junk TV like Love Island is literally like taking a dump in your head. Avoid this.

We always hear the term ‘you get out, what you put in’ the mind is no different. I encourage you to think about this seriously. This also means that what goes in needs to come out, like pretty much everything else. So I’m sorry to say that a trip to the pub won’t do you any favours in clearing out the mental negative-junk that your poor brain has consumed throughout the day.

Everyday stresses are stored, and they build up gradually without you noticing, and by the time we do realise we’re stressed/ anxious or unhappy, we’re often already in the hole with an uphill to climb ahead of us.

Look, I have helped many people out of some really deep holes, so if you feel that’s where you are then fear not because it is impermanent. I promise, there is a way out and it is within your power to get you there.  However, prevention is better than cure right? Why wait for the shit to hit the fan before you start taking steps to improve your mental health, to personal development, to being able to live a happier, better-balanced life?   

 

Make the decision to make the change and look into employing these three simple practices into your days. So, lets recap:

Step one

Mindfully acknowledge the stress/anxiety. Sit with it, understand its cause, react with rational thought.

Step two

Give yourself a mental break. Rest the brain often, avoid overworking the mind.

Step three

Find your meditation out of the office – take your mindfulness home with you, find your release, not your suppressant.

 

Wishing you all a less stressful week ahead. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

You can email directly via mason@projectmindwork.org

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Who’s to blame – Employers or Employees?

So this is officially a weekly word from Me the founder of Mind Work… I’ll mainly be talking about wellbeing (obviously), but also touching on the daily challenges many of us face, the questions we have around them, and most importantly, ways we can navigate through this (sometimes overwhelming) thing we call life.

Last weeks post was kind of a mini-rant where I touched on what I thought was wrong with the way we approach Wellbeing at work. Although the topic is on the radar for most companies in the west, it is taking its time in becoming ingrained into the culture of the workforce.

But my question is… If we had to lay the blame – because everybody like to point the finger – Who is guilty for the lack of attention given to the physical and mental wellbeing of us all?

The Employer – Or the employee?

The employer, employs to make the company profitable right? Right! Their ideal aim would be to have the strongest team firing on all cylinders all of the time. Yes? Because a company can (and often is) be referred to as a machine. So why the hell does the employers not consider the maintenance of the machine, to be the MOST important aspect of ensuring its performance?

So I’ve got a little analogy – Imagine your boss is driving home from work after announcing a new project deadline to an already tired team (something we hear A LOT at Mind Work) and their petrol light comes on. What do they do? They give the car fuel, they ensure it’s got what it needs to go, to move, to perform.

You get the picture, and this is quite a nice segue to the other party who may be responsible…

The Employee –

Taking it back to the car thing… What is the difference between the machinery and the employees? Well, the car lets its boss know when it’s needing something, oil, water, petrol, etc. Now I’m not suggesting you ask your bosses to pour you a drink, but if you’re allowing yourself to burn out without having the conversation… who is to blame?

For me, this goes across the board. You or I may be feeling fine and in tip-top condition, but if our collogues are struggling, it’s our duty to bring this up, and NOT use it as an opportunity to climb the ladder. Not use it as a chance to compare ourselves thinking how in control we are because I can tell you… Burn out, chronic stress, depression… it can get us all. 

So, what do I suggest? Something that we all know how to do… Talk! But the caveat is to talk honestly, and bravely, to your peers, your colleagues, your bosses, anyone. Just start talking about it. Plant the seed. It may not be for you directly but with the 85% are experiencing a clearly recognisable level of worry regularly, there are a number of people you work with that you’ll be helping.

So before you go off and start the much-needed conversations. I have another question – That I guess (for now) is rhetorical as you can’t reply is – Do we even know what mental health is?

I’m not so sure as many still believe that if we’re not hearing voices that tell us to do things or feel like jumping off a bridge, then we can just put it down to a bit of a mood. If someone is quiet at work and unengaged it may be thought that ‘He/she just doesn’t have the motivation.’  – And with that being the narrative of a large amount companies in this day and age, then it’s no wonder that He/She doesn’t feel too comfortable sharing the fact that the “lack of motivation” actually stems from something a little deeper than just a lull job satisfaction.

I’ll leave it there from now, but in essence – and of course, these are just my views that some may agree or disagree with. What’s important is that we give this topic the respect it deserves.

Have a lovely week.

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Wellness, Are Companies Really Getting It?…

Credit where credit is due, there are many companies attempting to give this wellbeing malarkey a go. They’ll have the yoga sessions, a workshop, maybe even an app for some reason? Although we do not think this is enough, Mind Work we are still happy to see as it shows a degree of awareness. It’s undeniable, wellness for employees is a hot topic.

 

That being said, it seems that many have not yet quite grasped the whole reasoning behind the “wellbeing for employees movement”.  A ‘Wellbeing Week’ once a quarter simply won’t cut it. As with anything, commitment is a necessity if you want to see beneficial results for your company and more importantly, your employees. We know that a happy workforce will reflect on your company’s overall output so why do so many fall short when it comes to giving wellness programmes the respect it deserves?

 

Company wellness programs are failing, and one of the reasons are that they’re not ‘Programmes’ at all. Similar to the new years resolution of going to the gym and taking one spin class per week and jumping on the scales to be met with the 2 lbs you added, before declaring it’s not working. Don’t get me wrong, the employees (whom of which the programmes are designed to serve) themselves must also take their fair share of the responsibility with an attitude that seems to imply that they feel like wellness at work is something done to them rather than for them. These programs are often superficial/for show – they don’t elevate company culture, inspire commitment, or even tie to the company’s business goals. Any program that alienates, annoys, and distracts those it means to serve will fail to deliver results in the long-term.

 

Here is a great example of this from Henry Albrecht – Founder, CEO & Board Director at Limeade

“There’s no shortage of “wellness gone wrong” examples, starting with the programs that held people accountable for achieving biometric values but never gave anyone a hint that the company understood or cared about their lives. And frankly, for every egregiously punitive approach, there were (and still are) 10 programs barely skimming the surface of their potential. They’re feel-good distractions embraced by those already in the club. As corporate investments and priorities, they rank somewhere between the company party and bean bags in the conference rooms. Do they even matter?

Most corporate wellness (now often called “well-being”) programs have so far failed to deliver on their potential. But the good news is, with a more holistic well-being and engagement model, employers can achieve much bigger results than companies and employees have envisioned to date – results that go well beyond health and health costs to something richer: true work engagement.”

 

There are a number current reasons to why programmes don’t seem to be working. Three of which Henry Albrecht highlighted as being ;

 

1. Wellness Programs Don’t Work the Way Our Brains Work

Although the narrative indicates that the health of employees seem to be the driving force behind the reason of implementation, I think it’s safe to say that the main reason that these programmes have found their way into companies is in order to reduce the costs that poor employee health, both physical and mental rack up i.e. make the company more money (which is totally fine of course).  On one hand we have the fact that healthier people will cost less to insure and less likely to take days off. The influencers embraced this, and the idea spread. There was a second and more suspect premise embedded, though: that you can pay people to comply. Those who don’t participate won’t get the same insurance benefits, effectively shifting costs from willing participants to unwilling ones. And it worked… in a short-term way.

Ultimately, however, this punitive Industrial Revolution mentality often created more resentment than value. It sent a clear message of accountability, which on the upside saved some lives and caught some serious issues early with its focus on important preventive care protocols. No one wants to be told that they need to improve their health to avoid financial penalties; that message absent an immersive cultural commitment to whole-person well-being breeds resentment and won’t help companies with long-term engagement and retention.

And these are much bigger, higher-value goals than lowering health costs.

Even when messaged positively, telling people the “right” thing to do and holding them accountable for doing it “or else” is fundamentally out of touch with how people think, work, and act  – and what they want. What exactly do employees want? Barry Schwartz and others have shown that people crave a sense of purpose at work, as well as community, belonging, value, autonomy, and mastery. The science of motivation is the relevant science for voluntary programs. Prioritising these things has the potential to boost the bottom line while making employees happy, too. What’s more, creating caring and supportive companies – with high expectations – will help us take on the widespread isolation and suffering we face as a society.

 

2. “Wellness” Is Largely Irrelevant to the CEO

If you ask a Fortune 500 CEO about corporate priorities, you’ll generally hear a standard list that includes increasing revenue, profit, market share or stock price, serving customers well, globalisation, technology disruption and maybe winning that Great Company award. Some might even go out on a limb and mention attracting great leaders, retaining top talent, or even creating a great culture as a way to achieve these other goals.

Where is employee well-being on the CEO list? Is it even in the top 20? Is it “a given” but not explicitly measured or managed? Wellness isn’t seen as a strategic part of culture creation that can increase engagement and ultimately lead to a company’s success. It’s a check-the-box, unimportant thing that ends up buried at the bottom of a long list of employee perks. For many companies, it’s program number 21 from one of the least influential departments: benefits.

I see this disconnect every day with our customers, both in under-appreciated human capital functions and in the C-suite. And it’s not surprising given the way we’ve sometimes done these programs. But there’s no reason for this to happen anymore. Consider these findings from Limeade:

  • 88% of employees with higher well-being are engaged at work, compared with 50% of employees with lower well-being.
  • 98% of employees with both higher well-being and a higher perception that their company supports their well-being say they want to be working at the same company in one year.
  • 99% of employees with both high well-being and organisational support would recommend their employer as “a great place to work.”

It seems like focusing on an energetic and engaged workforce has potential, but…

 

3. Wellness Programmes and the ROI issue 

Wellness programs have historically been chartered with lowering healthcare costs – but proof of their results has been tough to nail down. One reason is that health costs fluctuate for reasons unrelated to health – like network design, unnecessary surgery, generic drug strategy, economic incentives for hospitals to do more procedures, and other “supply-side” issues. The second and third reasons are the ‘how our brains work’ and ‘irrelevant’ reasons outlined above. But there’s an important fourth reason, too: we have been looking in the wrong place.

Research shows that employee engagement and turnover are much bigger drivers of a company’s financial success (or lack thereof) than medical costs. And well-being has a direct connection to these outcomes.

Taking a broader look at the results associated with an engaged and energised workforce should have the potential to convince a CEO or CHRO to take a more strategic approach to employee well-being. Having a model to help the C-suite see these connections is the key to breaking through the noise.

 

In Summary 

So with all that being said, why is it still such a struggle/almost controversial for companies to invest in wellbeing programmes along with engagement? CEO’s and decision makers should be putting this stuff at the top of their agendas instead of continuing to subscribe to the ‘old-school’ systematic protocols that have been ingrained into the both the companies and the individuals running them.

A new approach from the forward thinking C-Suite is the only to build sustainable businesses in a time where burn-out is on everyone’s lips and more people are quitting their jobs than ever before . Just like that start-up culture prides itself on being ‘agile’, your wellness programmes should be strategised in the way.  Actually including them into the model and the culture of the business instead of a nice-to-have add-on. A genuine focus on not only employees physical health, but mental states of wellness that encompasses their purpose at the company, community, belonging, work well-being, emotional well-being, autonomy, mastery, their energy, and even financial well-being. These are the true pathways to enjoy continuous innovation, loyalty and keeping companies happy in good times and bad.

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