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The real ‘bottom line’ for businesses today

3 years ago · · 2 comments

The real ‘bottom line’ for businesses today

“Discover the secret reason why great businesses fail”

You may not realise how much society and its educational systems selectively reinforce the rational and concrete over the emotional and symbolic.

And the huge impact this has on our lives.

Some of us had parenting that was sensitive to deeper emotional realities and consciously allowed us the ‘appropriate space and boundaries’ to give it healthy expression.

Most of us, however, were taught to ignore our emotional lives – as if it were a sign of weakness – and were ‘told’ by our parents, our teachers and other authority figures to simply get on with things.

As we grow older, our ways of dealing with emotion continue to impact on our experience, particularly our experience in the workplace.

Think about it. An organisation has all the elements of our family of origin: authority or parental figures in the form of management (with the ‘boardroom’ possibly taking on the symbolic significance of the ‘bedroom’ – where the secrets are kept and discussed), as well as all the competition and conflict with colleagues who parallel the siblings and associated rivalry that we may have grown up with.

The picture is further complicated by the overlaying of our own particular personal histories, unresolved negative experiences, and associated stress-responses and triggers that are forever present.

Nobel Prize Laureate William Faulkner put it well: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past!”

In businesses, ignoring the deeper emotional realm can be an expensive lesson.

When a company is under pressure and stress levels spiral, management tends to overcompensate by becoming increasingly closed and even hostile to the underlying emotional forces that cause us to react and behave the way we do.

In fact, most organisations implicitly believe that emotions don’t belong at work at all, and most managers are ill-equipped to deal with the emotional dimension in any shape or form.

When emotional undercurrents are ignored, or even opposed, cultural dysfunction follows. Communication is clouded, relationships deteriorate, trust is eroded, destructive power games surface and most importantly – creativity and innovation are stifled.

In our global, competitive and ever-evolving business world, companies can’t afford to throw out creativity.

Doing so may literally sow the seeds of their destruction.

The solution lies in self-awareness, being attuned to the power of the emotional realm within yourself and others.

The good news is that emotional self-awareness can be developed and strengthened. It is like an internal ‘muscle’, heavily atrophied and in need of some serious flexing and development.

But this kind of training may prove a lot harder than a gym workout…

Self-awareness demands real courage, authenticity and integrity. It requires you to slow down, reflect and also open yourself up to feedback.

And it is critical to actively seek out honest feedback, as many will sugarcoat or withhold it, fearing and believing that somehow it may ‘hurt’ the recipient, which blocks much development and honed growth.

Becoming more self-aware is definitely bound to involve uncomfortable and vulnerable territory. Which explains why we naturally avoid it – some of us for our entire lives.

And given how busy and distracted we are these days, it is incredibly easy and convenient to unconsciously engineer such avoidance…

We are masters at cluttering up our lives, to the point of it becoming an addiction. And technology is just one example.

Some motivation that can help here are the rich benefits and value for those willing to put in the effort: empowering and liberating shifts will begin to unfold in all spheres of your life.

But what does this mean for companies?

The deafening roar of quarterly reports and daily pressures cause us to forget the emotional reality of human beings – the most valuable assets and capital of any business.

The research findings are clear: authentic, human leadership and emotional self-awareness are what underpin the most healthy, thriving and integrated companies.

These workplaces have the highest levels of trust. And trust leads to openness and engagement, both indispensable for sustainable peak-performance.

When businesses finally wake up to this, they can start to take the brave but necessary steps that will ensure that their real bottom line does not continue to sustain a loss.

Attuned Self-Awareness: Integrating your inner and outer worlds.

3 years ago · · 3 comments

Attuned Self-Awareness: Integrating your inner and outer worlds.

Imagine if you could be truly free and awake in today’s complex, pressured and evolving world?

What if you could flexibly manage yourself and your environment with a well-developed capacity for self-awareness? What if you could process your emotions, so that you consciously choose your response in any given situation and experience real self-mastery? Even (and especially) when you are stressed, triggered and fatigued?

This may sound too good to be true, but with focused and consistent work, it is possible to live this way and doing so will significantly enrich your life.

When you become attuned to the unconscious internal forces driving your behaviour, you break free from the shackles of your automatic and repetitive response patterns. Such habitual pathways of reacting are like deeply ingrained ‘software-programs’ creating frustration in your life without you noticing them.

The great psychologist Carl Jung called these blind spots the ‘shadow’ realm, because we can’t see them. They hide stubbornly in the background and trip up our decisions and relationships.

As human beings, our limitations are mostly self-imposed and self-perpetuated. So how then can we change ourselves?

Ironically, people often misunderstand EQ (Emotional Intelligence) as the ‘fluffy’ stuff. But the truth is that EQ – which has self-awareness lying at its core – is central to getting results.

In fact, EQ is directly linked to ‘response-ability’: flexibly increasing your repertoire of behavioural choices so you can respond in the most appropriate way and create your desired outcome.

The truth is that when you are triggered or in a reactive mode, you only need to build in a tiny window of time and reflection to create some space that will open up a lot more possibility in your responses. As David Rock (author of ‘Your Brain at Work’) wisely said: “Subtle, internal changes, which happen within a fraction of a second and may not be noticeable to the outside world, can sometimes change everything.”

But this is no easy task at all. It will be unnatural and very challenging to break your deeply embedded response patterns. Ultimately, however, response-able and adaptable choices are far more likely to achieve your intended goal in a way that best serves you and others.

And this is vital for leaders who need to make critical decisions with high impact and leverage relationships.

To live as an excellent leader, a conscious leader, the most vital relationship is really with yourself…

Think about it: all leadership is essentially self-leadership. If you can’t manage yourself, how can you ever expect to manage others? And expect them to respect you as a leader?

True self-leadership will require sustained effort, courage and commitment. Self-awareness is one of the most difficult things to develop, and yet it is also one of the most enriching and rewarding pathways in the journey of becoming more fully human.

There is a general principle at play here: what we struggle with most is usually our greatest teacher and source of growth, balance and integration.

To illustrate this principle, consider the following: The word ‘Psyche’ is Greek for ‘Soul’. Now think how often the Psyche unconsciously seeks a ‘soul partner’ with very different or even opposite personality qualities (as the saying goes ‘opposites attract…’). Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense to choose someone similar to us for a partner, resulting in much less struggle and tension?

To answer this, we need to appreciate that we can only really understand who we are (and what we need to work on) when we discover ourselves through the mirror of relationship. Only then are we challenged to confront and own our unconscious patterns that distort our capacity to engage effectively with others.

But the problem is that we usually don’t make self-reflection and working on ourselves a priority. In addition to the challenge of slowing down, it requires being vulnerable and open to feedback –and acknowledging that we aren’t ‘perfect’. For a leader, this can be immensely hard. And the research around the ‘imposter syndrome’ prevalent in many leaders attests to this. Yet, the most effective leaders always make sure to ask the right questions and then listen very carefully to the responses to maximise their learning and adaptability.

Whether you’re a leader or not, when you start to develop Attuned Mindfulness, you anchor and embed a mode of being where listening, openness and growing are valued, practiced and lived to the degree that they eventually become fully embodied and integrated.

And this is what true mindfulness is. It’s an overarching attitude to life, not just a tool or a discipline.

So in summary: If you want to be more fully connected with the world around you, then you first need to become attuned and connected to the world within you!

Eating Disorders: Model Alexis Ren Shares Her Story & We Share The Hard Truth

4 years ago · · 0 comments

Eating Disorders: Model Alexis Ren Shares Her Story & We Share The Hard Truth

Instagram star Alexis Ren, recently opened up to Cosmopolitan about her battle with anorexia, which she says she hid for years. In April, the 20-year old model started tweeting about her mental state, saying that she was ‘in a toxic state of mind’, ‘suffering from food guilt’ and would overexercise as a way to punish herself. She says these tweets reveal that the happy pictures on her Instagram profile masked the truth.

“I would look at my profile and think, ‘Look at this girl! She has the most perfect life!’ and I would feel so guilty for not feeling blessed all the time.”

Ren says she is now an advocate for educating young girls about the fact that the images they see on social media do not show the whole truth. This is an important step in raising awareness regarding eating disorders.

“Looking up to girls for ‘inspo’ is a beautiful thing, but comparing yourself is what creates anxiety and self-hatred. It’s really important that young girls know the difference.”

What Lead To Her an Eating Disorder?

Alexis was 17 when she lost her mother to breast cancer. The two were very close and her mother’s death left Alexis feeling like she needed to live for both of them. When she turned 18, she went to Australia for several months to further her modelling career. Whilst abroad she picked up some weight, a fact her modelling agency was quick to point out on her return to Los Angeles.

“They said, ‘You did gain weight and if you could start working out a little bit more…’” she says, trailing off. “I just felt so out of control.”

She started doing things she knew she shouldn’t be doing, such as dieting and overexercising. “I felt bad because I knew I was letting my mom down by doing everything that she wouldn’t have wanted me to do.” But, it would be a while before she started on her journey to recovery.

Under Close Scrutiny

Ren and Jay Alvarrez started dating around the time she developed her eating disorder. A well-known model and music producer. Alvarrez managed both of their careers during their two year relationship. In retrospect, Ren shares that she was attempting to replace her mother with another person.

“Which obviously doesn’t work out, especially when you’re young and you put your faith into a person who has different intentions,” she says.

He booked them modelling jobs in exotic locations. And finally, landing them the opportunity to film YouTube lifestyle videos. Though one of these projects, a highlight reel of their summer received more than 22 million views. It forced Ren to be on camera constantly.

“I was my worst critic ever,” she says. “The only sense of relief I had was to be able to monitor my eating and my workouts. Everyone around me was like, “Alexis, what are you doing?’. But I felt like my body was the only reason why people liked me.”

Getting Help

Ren shares that it was only after she and Alvarrez broke up that she began listening to the concerns of her friends and family.

“I just got to the point where I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to change because this is not working.’” She also felt a responsibility to her fans to start practicing healthy habits and become someone worth looking up to.

So, she took a break from traveling for eight months. Her godmother, Joni Lerner, a life coach who’d been close with Alexis’s mother, introduced her to Maggie Tanielian, a certified personal trainer and health nutritional coach.

Slowly the two worked through her food guilt until she got back to a healthy mindset. Now, Ren exercises every second day and is no longer obsessive about it. She also enjoys a well rounded diet and has put on several pounds – something she has learnt to embrace. “It scared me at first, but I had the right people around me.”

Eating Disorders – Here’s What You Need To Know

Eating disorders have been shown to cause premature aging, illness and even death due to their associated medical complications. Their are four types of eating disorders. Namely Anorexia nervosa (AN), Bulimia nervosa (BN), Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified and Binge Eating Disorder.

Interestingly enough, another fatal eating disorder that is gaining rapid recognition is Diabulimia. Where individuals who suffer from diabetes withhold their insulin to manipulate their own weight.

What Are The Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa?

There are a number of negative health concerns that occur as a result of the weight control habits of individuals with AN and BN.

Nutrition expert, Linda Drummond, elaborates, “Protein-energy malnutrition and loss of lean body mass, in patients with AN, is linked to cardiac complications such as a quickened heart rate, low blood pressure and an abnormal heart beat. Protein-energy malnutrition combined with deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals can also result in heart failure.”

She adds that there are also gastro-intestinal complications, such as; delayed emptying of the stomach, less small intestine movement, and constipation. Bone loss also occurs often and early in the course of the illness. To the extent that these individuals have a bone mineral density consistent with osteopenia or even osteoporosis. AN has also been shown to result in lack of menstruation.

“If AN occurs in childhood and adolescents, the medical complications can also include growth retardation and structural abnormalities in the brain,” Drummond explains.

What About Bulimia Nervosa?

The clinical signs and symptoms of BN are more difficult to detect, as these individuals can have a normal weight and hide their behaviour.

“When vomiting occurs, there may be scarring of the hand used to cause a gag reflex, there may also be erosion of teeth enamel and increased dental caries as a result of frequently having stomach acid in the mouth.”

“Chronic vomiting can also result in dehydration and changes in the body’s acid base balance. A sore throat, inflammation of the oesophagus, vomiting of blood and abdominal pain can also be experienced. More serious gastrointestinal complications such as tearing of rupturing of the stomach or oesophagus can also occur.”

She adds that there are specific complications associated with the use of laxatives, diuretics and other substances, which also include a negative effect on heart function. BN has also been show to result in menstrual irregularities.
Why Do Certain People Develop Eating Disorders, When Others Don’t?

Yochi Ress, a clinical psychologist, elaborates, “Eating is such a basic and fundamental human need, but it is also one that is heavily coloured and shaped with complex and invisible layers of cultural, religious and other influences and conditioning.”

He explains that, psychologically, eating fundamentally involves a component of self-soothing or emotional nourishment. As well as a being a way of taking control over our life. Providing some structure and regularity, which can promote feelings of safety.

“All of us at one time or another will either eat a lot more or less when we are highly stressed, anxious and vulnerable. But what causes a relatively more innocuous pattern like that to shift into very dangerous territory like Anorexia or Bulimia? Well, it is usually the result of a complex interplay of factors, which could include: personality, early life-experiences, major current stresses (usually in the family and/or school system and often in relation to parents and authority) and very importantly, cultural lenses which would mediate all of the other categories.”
How Do You Treat Eating Disorders?

The nature of the damage will determine whether it is reversible or not. Treatment involves a multi-disciplinary approach, “using both psychological management therapies and nutrition rehabilitation and counseling,” Drummond explains.

How Can You Help Yourself?

Ress shares, “If one is officially diagnosed with the condition of Anorexia by a competent and appropriately qualified mental-health professional. Then the best way that you can help yourself is to ensure that you receive the appropriate length and level of specialised care and intervention.”
He adds that eating disorders are highly complex and notoriously difficult to treat. However, there are several clinics and mental health professionals who do specialise in these conditions.
“Another important way that you can help yourself is to not be overly self-critical and beat yourself up over the fact that you have this challenge.”
A very empowering technique that can help you gain some kind of hold over the situation, is to start journaling (as a mindfulness technique).
Ress elaborates, “This helps to observe and interrogate your internal narratives and beliefs around yourself and around eating. This can enable you to become more conscious of what triggers you into certain eating patterns, and show you how distorted, false and limiting many of those mental ‘scripts’ or programs can actually be.”
If you have an eating disorder, you are not alone – and you are never too old to ask for help. It is not exclusive to teenagers, or women. Taking that first step towards recovery will do wonders for your health and your self esteem.

How Can You Help Your Loved One

Ress shares that the most important thing you can do to help someone who has an eating disorder is to be non-judgmental, nurturing and supportive. “You should encourage them and ensure that the person gets the right level of treatment. People with such a condition often have a very low self-esteem, and so it is important to be mindful to the fact that they can be particularly sensitive to criticism, even if well meant.”

He adds that you should make sure to check carefully with the professional or centre involved regarding the exact treatment approach and design before leaving your loved one in their care.