Organisation Design is what I do but I'm a Frustrated Writer too.
A board member of the governing body of the European Organisation Design Forum. A Harvard Business Review council. A V-Day Activist, a non-profit organisation to fight violence against women and girls. A world citizen, lover of languages, photography hobbyist, yoga enthusiast and specialty coffee lover. If you are in Amsterdam, visit us at Scandinavian Embassy for great coffee.
We live in a world full of noise and chatter, and it can be hard to find a break from it all. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, give this mindfulness exercise a shot. It’s called the Sphere of Silence, and it’s a 60-minute routine to help you collect your thoughts, stay grounded, and decide how you want to enter your day. There’s one important ground rule: Complete the steps below in silence.
The first half hour is broken down in three 10-minute segments. Spend the first segment writing your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Then, dedicate the next 10 minutes to assessing your progress on your goals from the previous day. Use the final 10 minutes to take note of unmet goals and assess why you haven’t achieved them. This will motivate you to focus on moving forward.
Spend the next 10 minutes reading something — an article, a book, maybe even a poem — that teaches you something new or enriches your mind.
Then, spend 10 minutes writing. Maybe you’ll jot down a reaction to what you just read, or a poem of your own.Use the final 10 minutes for self-reflection. This part of the practice allows you to harness your calm during stressful situations and mindfully choose to stay out of negativity.
I am sorry that the world wasn’t always kind to your heart. I am sorry that you gave so much of yourself to people who made you feel like you were difficult to love, to people who made you feel like you had to apologise for the way you cared. I am sorry that you experienced certain things at the hands of love that caused you to stop believing in its kindness. I am sorry that love wasn’t always your safe place, I am sorry that love wasn’t always compassionate.
I am sorry that the world sometimes failed to protect your soul. That the Universe sent you certain human beings who were hurt, and in turn, they hurt you. I am sorry that you had to carry all of that weight inside of yourself. I am sorry for the things you had to endure, for the ways in which the world met you with experiences you were not prepared for, circumstances you could not weather on your own.
I am sorry that the world took so much from you. That it made you experience things you were too young to experience. That it took away your father, your first love. I am sorry that the world challenged your courage. I am sorry that the world took so many pieces of you, that it walked away with so much of your hope when you needed it the most, when you were just looking for a soft place to land. I am sorry that you were not held there. I am sorry that you had to do it alone.
I am sorry that the world wasn’t always kind to you. I am sorry. But I am proud of you for being here. I am proud of you for trying to heal in the midst of all that felt unfair and cruel. I am proud of you for fighting to stay here. I am proud of you for the person you were, for the person you became, for the way you dug yourself out of the dark, for the way you pushed through the shadows. I am proud of you for your hope. I am proud of you for your belief in the goodness, for the way you focused on it when so many aspects of your life tried to convince you that it did not exist. I am proud of you for choosing to survive. I am proud of you. You did not deserve what happened to you. You did not deserve what you experienced. But here you are. Here you are.
Brilliant reminder from Ray Dalio on Pain and Reflection.
This somehow reiterates my old blog on Baggage. (Go on and read it if you haven’t yet)
There is no avoiding pain, especially if you’re going after ambitious goals. Believe it or not, you are lucky to feel that kind of pain if you approach it correctly, because it is a signal that you need to find solutions so you can progress. If you can develop a reflexive reaction to psychic pain that causes you to reflect on it rather than avoid it, it will lead to your rapid learning/evolving. After seeing how much more effective it is to face the painful realities that are caused by your problems, mistakes, and weaknesses, I believe you won’t want to operate any other way. It’s just a matter of getting in the habit of doing it.
Most people have a tough time reflecting when they are in pain and they pay attention to other things when the pain passes, so they miss out on the reflections that provide the lessons. If you can reflect well while you’re in pain (which is probably too much to ask), great. But if you can remember to reflect after it passes, that’s valuable too.
The challenges we face will test and strengthen us. If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximising your potential.
The challenges you face will test and strengthen you. If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential. Though this process of pushing your limits, of sometimes failing and sometimes breaking through—and deriving benefits from both your failures and your successes—is not for everyone, if it is for you, it can be so thrilling that it becomes addictive. Life will inevitably bring you such moments, and it’ll be up to you to decide whether you want to go back for more. If you choose to push through this often painful process of personal evolution, you will naturally “ascend” to higher and higher levels. As you climb above the blizzard of things that surrounds you, you will realize that they seem bigger than they really are when you are seeing them up close; that most things in life are just “another one of those.” The higher you ascend, the more effective you become at working with reality to shape outcomes toward your goals. What once seemed impossibly complex becomes simple.
I never thought we’d still be in this crisis situation by June but looks like it’ll stay this way for quiet some time.
How have you been handling the current situation? Sharing this tip from Harvard Business Review on how we stop our mind from imagining the worst case scenario:
When you feel anxious about losing things that are dear to you, your mind may imagine the worst. To calm yourself, return to the present.
Start simple. Name five things in the room: There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. Breathe. Realise that in the present moment, this room is your reality. In this moment, you’re OK. Use your senses, think about how these objects feel. The desk is smooth. Feel the breath come into your nose.
The goal is to find balance in your thoughts. If you feel a negative image taking shape, make yourself think of a positive one. Let go of what you can’t control. And be compassionate and patient with yourself and others. Being generous in your thinking can help brush aside some of your negative thoughts.
Loneliness is grief, distended. People are primates, and even more sociable than chimpanzees. We hunger for intimacy. We wither without it. And yet, long before the present pandemic, with its forced isolation and social distancing, humans had begun building their own monkey houses.
You can live alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely without living alone, but the two are closely tied together, which makes lockdowns, sheltering in place, that much harder to bear. Loneliness, it seems unnecessary to say, is terrible for your health. In 2017 and 2018, the former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy declared an “epidemic of loneliness,” and the U.K. appointed a Minister of Loneliness. To diagnose this condition, doctors at U.C.L.A. devised a Loneliness Scale. Do you often, sometimes, rarely, or never feel these ways?
I am unhappy doing so many things alone. I have nobody to talk to. I cannot tolerate being so alone. I feel as if nobody really understands me. I am no longer close to anyone. There is no one I can turn to. I feel isolated from others.
In the age of quarantine, does one disease produce another?
“Loneliness” is a vogue term, and like all vogue terms it’s a cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix. Plenty of people like to be alone. I myself love to be alone. But solitude and seclusion, which are the things I love, are different from loneliness, which is a thing I hate. Loneliness is a state of profound distress. Neuroscientists identify loneliness as a state of hypervigilance whose origins lie among our primate ancestors and in our own hunter-gatherer past.
In the new book “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World” (Harper Wave), Murthy explains how Cacioppo’s evolutionary theory of loneliness has been tested by anthropologists at the University of Oxford, who have traced its origins back fifty-two million years, to the very first primates. Primates need to belong to an intimate social group, a family or a band, in order to survive; this is especially true for humans (humans you don’t know might very well kill you, which is a problem not shared by most other primates).
The loneliness epidemic, in this sense, is rather like the obesity epidemic. Evolutionarily speaking, panicking while being alone, like finding high-calorie foods irresistible, is highly adaptive, but, more recently, in a world where laws (mostly) prevent us from killing one another, we need to work with strangers every day, and the problem is more likely to be too much high-calorie food rather than too little. These drives backfire.
Loneliness, Murthy argues, lies behind a host of problems—anxiety, violence, trauma, crime, suicide, depression, political apathy, and even political polarization. Murthy writes with compassion, but his everything-can-be-reduced-to-loneliness argument is hard to swallow, not least because much of what he has to say about loneliness was said about homelessness in the nineteen-eighties, when “homelessness” was the vogue term—a word somehow easier to say than “poverty”—and saying it didn’t help.
In “A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion” (Oxford), the British historian Fay Bound Alberti defines loneliness as “a conscious, cognitive feeling of estrangement or social separation from meaningful others,” and she objects to the idea that it’s universal, transhistorical, and the source of all that ails us. She argues that the condition really didn’t exist before the nineteenth century, at least not in a chronic form. It’s not that people—widows and widowers, in particular, and the very poor, the sick, and the outcast—weren’t lonely; it’s that, since it wasn’t possible to survive without living among other people, and without being bonded to other people, by ties of affection and loyalty and obligation, loneliness was a passing experience. Monarchs probably were lonely, chronically. (Hey, it’s lonely at the top!) But, for most ordinary people, daily living involved such intricate webs of dependence and exchange—and shared shelter—that to be chronically or desperately lonely was to be dying. The word “loneliness” very seldom appears in English before about 1800. Robinson Crusoe was alone, but never lonely. One exception is “Hamlet”: Ophelia suffers from “loneliness”; then she drowns herself.
Modern loneliness, in Alberti’s view, is the child of capitalism and secularism. “Many of the divisions and hierarchies that have developed since the eighteenth century—between self and world, individual and community, public and private—have been naturalized through the politics and philosophy of individualism,” she writes. “Is it any coincidence that a language of loneliness emerged at the same time?” It is not a coincidence. The rise of privacy, itself a product of market capitalism—privacy being something that you buy—is a driver of loneliness. So is individualism, which you also have to pay for.
Alberti’s book is a cultural history (she offers an anodyne reading of “Wuthering Heights,” for instance, and another of the letters of Sylvia Plath). But the social history is more interesting, and there the scholarship demonstrates that whatever epidemic of loneliness can be said to exist is very closely associated with living alone. Whether living alone makes people lonely or whether people live alone because they’re lonely might seem to be harder to say, but the preponderance of the evidence supports the former: it is the force of history, not the exertion of choice, that leads people to live alone. This is a problem for people trying to fight an epidemic of loneliness, because the force of history is relentless.
Before the twentieth century, according to the best longitudinal demographic studies, about five per cent of all households (or about one per cent of the world population) consisted of just one person. That figure began rising around 1910, driven by urbanization, the decline of live-in servants, a declining birth rate, and the replacement of the traditional, multigenerational family with the nuclear family. By the time David Riesman published “The Lonely Crowd,” in 1950, nine per cent of all households consisted of a single person. In 1959, psychiatry discovered loneliness, in a subtle essay by the German analyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. “Loneliness seems to be such a painful, frightening experience that people will do practically everything to avoid it,” she wrote. She, too, shrank in horror from its contemplation. “The longing for interpersonal intimacy stays with every human being from infancy through life,” she wrote, “and there is no human being who is not threatened by its loss.” People who are not lonely are so terrified of loneliness that they shun the lonely, afraid that the condition might be contagious. And people who are lonely are themselves so horrified by what they are experiencing that they become secretive and self-obsessed—“it produces the sad conviction that nobody else has experienced or ever will sense what they are experiencing or have experienced,” Fromm-Reichmann wrote. One tragedy of loneliness is that lonely people can’t see that lots of people feel the same way they do.
Putnam’s influential book about the decline of American community ties, “Bowling Alone,” came out in 2000, four years before the launch of Facebook, which monetized loneliness. Some people say that the success of social media was a product of an epidemic of loneliness; some people say it was a contributor to it; some people say it’s the only remedy for it. Connect! Disconnect! The Economist declared loneliness to be “the leprosy of the 21st century.” The epidemic only grew.
Living alone, while common in the United States, is more common in many other parts of the world, including Scandinavia, Japan, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, and Canada, and it’s on the rise in China, India, and Brazil. Living alone works best in nations with strong social supports. It works worst in places like the United States. It is best to have not only an Internet but a social safety net.
Then the great, global confinement began: enforced isolation, social distancing, shutdowns, lockdowns, a human but inhuman zoological garden. Zoom is better than nothing. But for how long? And what about the moment your connection crashes: the panic, the last tie severed? It is a terrible, frightful experiment, a test of the human capacity to bear loneliness. Do you pull out your hair? Do you dash yourself against the walls of your cage? Do you, locked inside, thrash and cry and moan? Sometimes, rarely, or never? More today than yesterday?
As I’m starting to write about emotional resilience, Dr. Robi mentioned the other night about Gary Keller’s book, The One Thing. I’ve read it quite recently and the key take away for me, which I cant wait to share today is the 5 areas or he calls it the 5 balls critical in our lives that we shouldn’t ignore.
The 5 balls are family, health, friends, integrity and work.
Work, ladies and gentlemen, is made of rubber. It’s a rubber ball. If we drop it, it will bounce back. The other four however, are made of glass. Once we drop one of these, it will be irrevocably damaged, scratched or even shattered.
⠀⠀ A fundamental truth that comes up time and again in my life, in our lives. Something we shouldn’t turn a blind-eye on. I hope you know what matters most in yours.
I don’t know about you but the effect of having to live in major cities such as London, New York, Amsterdam, Manila and so no, is that I have to turn my phone notifications off regularly. Most of the time I get my news through my phone and not sure if you noticed this but the news we receive these days seem to be bad news all the time. And I mean all the time! In many cases the news that I read are worthy of tears but if you are like me, you won’t even have the time to cry. I want to process it but I don’t have time for this. I often end up saying, let me get back to that. Somehow I think that our souls are deteriorating very very slowly. I’ve just decided to add, Don’t Watch the News, to my not-to-do list for now.
How do we then find calm in this storm? This storm of super-fast-paced, bad-things-happen-all-the-time society?
I’ve recently been to one of my favourite clinical psychologist’s seminar on emotional resilience. It’s nothing new to me being a psychologist myself but it’s just made an iteration that is well worth the share to everyone I know. I’ll have the write-up by end of this week. In the meantime, keep well everyone. Keep well.
I think it’s fair to say, we all want to take-off…fly, get on, and move on in life. Soar high without anything holding us back.
Should be easy, right ? But no, no. I will blatantly admit it’s a struggle…for me at least for this past year.
I fly often for my job and sometimes it’s no fun anymore, I get grumpy and stubborn in the plane especially when I have to edit a few slides on a presentation, read through cases before a meeting, reviewing budgets, and the list goes on and on and on… a flight attendant would so often ask me to close the laptop and stow my baggage under the seat in-front of me as we are getting ready for take-off. On the last flight to London for the last conference I’ve presented and attended this year, I didn’t listen to the flight attendant, I kept on working and I shushed her away. I know, I know, that was very rude of me. But she called me out for it and said, “I’m sorry, Madame, but you don’t seem to understand. The plane can’t take off until you have dealt with your baggage.” Boom. Burn, right?
You would have expected me to roll my eyes at her, but no. I smile because I had a light bulb moment!
What a great metaphor for life! If you want to take off, you cannot take off until you have dealt with your baggage. We so often just run up and down in the runway of our lives but there’s something that’s holding us back.
What is it that’s holding me back? What is holding you back?
Most people nowadays just say, “It’s so hard. I gave it a go. It didn’t work. I give up”. I recently had this. But then I thought and I thought.
If you want to take off in life, get on, move, fly, soar… you have to free yourself of this baggage. Free from the bondage of destructive behavioural patterns, poor choices or moral failures, that’s been holding you back. So here I go again and let me tell you what I’ve come up with. There are 3 key things that may just help on on dealing with the “baggage”:
First is being able to identify your high risk situations.
In order to do this and be able recognise the times when we are most vulnerable to giving in to temptation, let’s have a look at our brain and how it works.
The frontal lobe! We are the only one in the animal kingdom that has this part of the brain. In our frontal lobe we find our prefrontal cortex. And this is where wisdom lives. Where we make executive decisions for our life as we understand that our behaviour doesn’t just affect us but it also affects the people around us. And not only that but the decisions we make today they will also affect our future self, our life in the future and so we need to make wise decisions.
The only problem is that this mammalian brain of ours also has a part called the limbic system, found in the middle. It’s where all our primal drives are stored, all about our urges, all of our emotions. So, all too often, there’s a bit of a tug-of-war taking place between these two different parts of the brain. In other words, there’s something that you want to do but your logical wisdom brain says, “But that’s probably not a wise thing for you to do.” It’s kind of like the experience you have at around 10:00 in the evening and you feel a bit hungry then you go to the kitchen open the fridge and see the last piece of that chocolate cake you love and you’re like, oh yes, I deserve this. I’d like to think of it like the scene in the cartoons The Flinstones where Fred would be in a situation where there’s an angel on his right ear and a devil on his left ear saying, “Go ahead, you know you want that piece of chocolate cake.” But the angel says, “Hang on, you’ve already had 2 pieces of the cake earlier today and if you go for a third, then it’s gonna go to your waist.” So there’s this conflict going on, this tug-of-war between your emotional brain and your logical brain and let me just tell you, if you are not aware of the high-risk situations in your life and if you don’t have an action plan pre-established in place so as to deal with the emergencies when they arise, you will give-in to temptation almost EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s so essential that we identify the high-risk situations.
In understanding this limbic system part of our brain, this emotional one that bothers us in making logical decisions, it has three primary roles. The first is called Survival. So in other words, we can’t just do a lobotomy and cut that part of our brain and kick it out as it’s essential for our survival. Second primary role that the limbic system play is that it processes the experience of pain… and the third is quite confusing but the third is that it processes the experience of pleasure. Then we think, hang on, why is pleasure and pain being processed in the same part of the brain, surely they should be processed in different parts of the brain.
There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. You know this to be true. Just like when you go to that Indian place you really love and order that super hot hot vindaloo curry extra spicy and catch yourself saying hang-on, why am I doing this… you’re asking for more pain but you keep on eating. Which means, yes, you like the pain! You just do!
You see, pain is considered to be a threat to our survival so the fastest way to overcome the pain is to engage in some kind of pleasure which is why the day you decide to give up donuts is the day you find yourself in the bakery ordering three extra serves because the moment your brain which is eavesdropping in on your subconscious’ dialogue saying no more donuts, the brain goes wait wait… hang-on for a second, “You’re taking away my pleasure!? I need that pleasure! It’s essential to counteract the pain which is a threat to my survival.” Meaning, this pleasure is essential for future survival. That’s how addictions form. You are tricked by your brain into believing that you need SOMETHING or that you are SOMEONE because the feeling or the urge is so strong!
And that ladies and gentlemen is how you fall back to your poor choices, addictions and destructive behavioural patterns! You were tricked by your brain! DON’T FOLLOW YOUR FEELINGS! Inform your feelings! Who’s in-charge here!? Are you the boss of your brain or is your brain running the show here!?
At the end of the day, research have shown that we can exercise control in the prefrontal cortex that dominates the limbic system, those urges can be controlled and we regain a triumphant freedom that is not common in our current hour.
It is amazing! In fact, it is exciting because research is suggesting that you’ve actually got more power than what you thought. You can actually be do become whatever you want! Not in the same way that the millennial generation were told by their parents. HAHAHA. But in an authentic science backed way….but it takes a little bit of hard work and insight. The insight that was loaned to me by Dr Gordon Brun is that, there’s an acronym that we can easily follow to understand when those high-risks situations might occur, where our brain is leading us into temptation.
The acronym is simply, BLAST.
B, stands for Boredom. That whenever you are experiencing a little bit of boredom, your brain interestingly is processing it as pain.
L stands for Loneliness. Loneliness is both a pre-cursor and risk-factor for depression as well as a symptom thereof. So in other words, if you’re lonely, you’re more vulnerable to experiencing depression but if you’re depressed you don’t feel like socializing.
A stands for Agitation. Any kind of anxiety or anger, well the brain processes that as pain.
And S, stands for Stress. And that’s a no brainer, that’s painful to the brain.
Lastly T, stands for Tiredness.
Look, people respond to these things in different ways. You and I when tired, we do different things. We respond in different ways because the brain processes it as pain. But if we understand this and have a look at these things. Being aware of these high-risk situations, then we can have an action plan in place. How can we respond to these high risk situations.
Be aware of these high risk situations so you have action plans in place. Because it’s too late for you to figure out “what is my action plan here” when you’re suddenly in the situation of being tempted. It’s like the emergency services, when the alarm goes off, no one panics! They have planned and been trained, they’ve got a plan and process that they’ve been disciplining themselves in. So when the siren goes, they move with calm. Just like that same statement when there’s an emergency, the first thing people say is, “Please everyone, remain calm.” Because the slower you go, the faster you get there. Only possible if you recognise the high-risk situations and you have a plan in place before it happens.
You want to give-up candy? Stay out of the candy store! Easy 😉
Second key is, develop a vision for your freedom.
When you let go of that baggage, you are free. So what are you going to do with this freedom? Because freedom is not just freedom FROM SOMETHING, but it’s also that, you’ve now got freedom TO DO SOMETHING. You have to replace the junk, the addiction, the poor patterns of behaviour, the unwise choices and say, “This is the reason why… so that I can…” Develop a vision for your freedom. Make that plan, work towards a strategy around your freedom. Do it with meaning and purpose. It may be that this is the freedom to live well, promote health and be an example to others.
Third key is… have the FAITH to fly. It takes great courage but also great faith to get off the ground, to believe that you can actually fly. Remember the scripture where it says, all things are possible. Well, yes it is, as long as you believe in it. See…. I don’t just stick to science, I’ve got faith too. 🙂
1. What are the 3 things you want to stop doing? 2. What are the 3 things you want to start doing?
3. What are the 3 things you want to continue doing?
Have you noticed that young people these days tend to change paths and careers all the time? They change or stop or move on because they don’t like the circumstances that they are faced with. I wouldn’t deny that I’ve been one of them at some point as I have changed paths quite a few times myself. But sometimes we also tend to hold on to things where we’ve invested so much in for many wrong reasons. Key take away for me is that there are benefits to change but there are also benefits in perseverance.
A research in neuroscience has proven that perseverance is a predictor of success. A more recent study adds the influence of emotions. One of the findings revealed that the more the individuals in the study experienced “negative” or “unwanted” emotions when faced with challenges, the less they persevered towards goals. In contrast, the more they experienced “positive” emotions, the more they persevered. There’s more around this research but I don’t want to get too scientific on this. My point is, we’re all going to face obstacles and challenges as we progress towards our goals and choosing to stay positive about it, with perseverance in place, will more likely lead us to success.
Choosing to be tenacious and persevering is good. Make a decision today on how you’re going to face your next challenge. Go back to the three questions I asked in the beginning and stay in that path. Stay positive, choose to be tenacious, persevere… How you respond to this world determines your path and everything in your life will come from that response or decision.
Now, some of you might disagree but I’ll stand firm on saying that perseverance, tenacity and resilience are key to success 🙂
Scriptures to back this up: James 1:2-4 Ephesians 6:10-17 (I’ve got faith as well…not just facts and research though I tend to lean on the latter)