Overwhelmed? Help is on the Way!

HandAlthough you vowed that this year would be different and charged into 2016 with the best of intentions to take control of your life, you’re right back where you were before the holidays. Overwhelmed. Overworked. Overscheduled. Most days you dread going to work because you just don’t see yourself making any progress. If one more perky person smiles and says “It is what it is,” you’re going to scream.

The feeling of overwhelm is a common state of mind that looks like it’s coming completely from our circumstances. To make matters worse, conventional wisdom reinforces the misunderstanding about the source of our emotions. The “experts” say overwhelm is the result of relationship problems, career demands, financial difficulties, life transitions, and so on.

When it looks like you’re drowning beneath a huge wave of conflicting priorities and unrealistic expectations, it’s hard to make decisions and move forward. You’re stuck. The more you think about how much you have to do, the less you get done. It’s a vicious circle. Here’s how to stop the madness:

First, realize that your feelings are coming from your thinking 100% of the time. No person or circumstance can ever make you feel anything. Sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t. But it’s always true; it’s just how the human mind works. When you’re telling friends about your best vacation ever, I’ll guarantee you’re not feeling stressed and overwhelmed, no matter how many emails are in your inbox. Being open to this possibility will pave the way for insights, the fresh thinking that spontaneously emerges when our minds are free and clear.

Second, have faith in your innate wisdom and potential for insights. You’ve been having new thinking and seeing different perspectives and alternatives your entire life. The capability has always been there, but the more you know the less you’re open to seeing something new. Then you’re stuck with what you have, so to speak, and it makes sense try to find a new time management tool, get better at multi-tasking, and when all else fails, complain about the inefficiencies of senior management. You churn and grind away, clogging up your mental pipeline and stopping the natural flow of thought.

Just like a 3-year old in the time out chair, your mind will automatically settle down when you stop focusing on external circumstances as the source of your frustration. From a state of focus and mental clarity, you’ll be able to make decisions and move forward. Your wisdom and common sense will guide you in the right direction.

So the next time you want to scream like a toddler, put yourself in the time out chair and see what happens.

If you want to hear more on this topic, join me in my Supermind -sponsored webinar on February 29th. http://threeprinciplessupermind.com/Events/cheryl-bond-04.886/

Happy Friday!

    30524810_s Why is it that the work and relationships that plagued you all week look so different on Friday afternoon?  The issues and challenges haven’t changed, but somehow you don’t get so riled up about it on Friday.  You’re in a great mood, looking forward to a weekend with your family, maybe doing some gardening or camping.

     Sometimes you notice that Friday afternoons are incredibly productive.  You make decisions and cross tasks off your to-do list.  You don’t get caught in loops of overthinking.  You make the phone calls you’ve been putting off all week and they go far better than you expected.  You feel energized and confident.  During the weekend, thoughts about the week ahead or the past week drift through your consciousness, but you don’t dwell on them.  It’s easy to let them go and get back to the present moment.

     Now fast forward to Sunday night.  The Friday afternoon feeling is long gone.  You’re feeling anxious and pre-occupied.  You might even have trouble sleeping.  Nothing has changed from Friday afternoon to Sunday night in terms of your workload or the people you need to influence and manage.  Yet your mood shifted.  Back to reality – or so you think.

     Here’s another scenario.  It’s Friday afternoon, and you’re tired and frustrated.  In your mind, the week didn’t go well and you didn’t accomplish all you set out to do.  You have a conversation with your boss that turns into an argument.  What happened to Happy Friday?  You stew about it all weekend long.  You try to put it out of your mind but you keep replaying the tape and beating yourself up for how you handled it.

Confusing?  Sound familiar?  Welcome to the Human Race!

   The only way to make sense of these ups and downs is to realize that your mind is always creating your experience of life in the moment through thought from the inside-out.  Regardless of the circumstances, the only thing you are ever feeling is the feedback of your thinking.  Thoughts are always flowing through your mind — sometimes you pay attention to them and sometimes you don’t.  

     You didn’t do anything different or magical that productive Friday afternoon – that’s how the mind works in its natural clear and present state.  OK, so what happened on the other Friday, when it got ugly with your boss?  You were tired and in a low mood, you felt like a failure, and it looked like your circumstances, boss included, were to blame.  From that state of mind, of course it didn’t go well.  And I’m willing to bet that a little voice in the back of your mind was trying to tell you to back off, but you didn’t listen.

     So what’s the takeaway?  Life is always an inside-out experience — the day of the week has nothing to do with your state of mind.  It’s another misunderstanding that we’ve adopted as truth.  What is true is that the human mind is designed for success – it will always give us what we need in the moment.  Wisdom and common sense are built in to every one of us.    

Why People Don’t Take Your Advice

This topic comes up frequently in my coaching sessions – clients are frustrated when their peers and direct reports don’t take their advice.  Conversations go like this:

I tell her all the time that she has to say “no” more often.  I’ll support her decisions – but she still overcommits and then disappoints.

 He’s got to realize that taking the time to talk things through with people is worth the investment.  Argh!  He continues to send out abrasive e-mails!

Why is it so hard for people to listen to reason?  The answer is simple.  What looks reasonable and proven to you does not look reasonable or even possible to them.  No matter how well we explain what makes sense to us, it has to make sense to others in order for them to act on it.  The key to influencing others is to get curious about what makes sense to them.

We all do what makes sense to us in the moment.  No one comes to work and decides to overcommit and then disappoint people!  No one thinks it’s a great idea to send out a flaming e-mail!  To understand why people do what they do and don’t take your advice, you must see the situation from their perspective.  Keep in mind:

We create our experience of people and situations through our thinking – thinking that is filtered through our personal values and beliefs.

Our feelings or emotional state are a direct result of our thinking in the moment – not the situation.

The human mind is designed to give us insights and ideas – all we have to do is be open to seeing something new.

For example, I have a client who prides himself on his work ethic – he works very hard and is passionate about what he does.  In his mind, saying no means he doesn’t care about the business.  So he’s stuck in a habit of overcommitting and then disappointing the very people he wants to please/help.  Here’s how a better understanding could help him:

  • He could realize that his work ethic, while admirable, sometimes overpowers his common sense.  He could see he’s making up the idea that he cannot say no – and that this belief actually works against him.
  • He could begin to recognize that feelings such as urgency and concern are indicators that he is losing his perspective and common sense.
  • He could see something new and different — that makes sense to him — about his habit of over-committing.  Only a personal realization can change behavior in a sustainable way.  

insightSo what’s the take-away here?  The key to helping your people change unproductive behavior is to get curious about what makes sense to them.  When we realize that the root cause of our unproductive behavior is how we think about a situation and that we have an endless supply of new thinking at our disposal, we set ourselves up for insights.  It’s only through insights that we can change behavior in a sustainable way.

Problem Solving 2.0

14224761_sIn the late 1990s when I began teaching the 3 Principles in business, it was leading edge to talk to leaders about the effect their state of mind had on their ability to solve problems and make decisions.  Most participants had multiple insights and valued the training, but as I reflect on what they saw (and how I was teaching), it was just the first step to a deeper, more powerful understanding — Problem Solving 2.0.

 As a result of that training, leaders realized that a clear, focused state of mind left more mental space available for insights to effortlessly emerge from their innate wisdom. They felt a sense of confidence and certainty in what to do when, and they stopped second-guessing themselves.  It was certainly helpful but it wasn’t the whole story.

It’s one thing to appreciate that you will solve problems more effectively from a clear, focused state of mind, but understanding that the problem itself is a product of your thinking in the moment is significantly more leveraged.  When you see that your perception of any problem is created via your thinking — thinking that can change in an instant — you get curious about the nature of the problem itself and less rigid about what you know. You’re inclined to take a second look at a more essential level.  Often, it’s the new thinking inherent in that second look that shifts your perspective ever so slightly. What looked impossible only minutes ago turns out to have multiple avenues for success.

Fueling the Fire — or Not

fireAlthough we can’t control what we think about life’s ups and downs, we do have some say over where we invest our mental energy, where we focus our attention, the level of attachment we have to our thinking in the moment.  When we see the nature of thought rather than the content of thought, it gives us a level of objectivity, a distance that makes room for a different perspective.

 For example, before the holidays I sent an e-mail to a friend and colleague to summarize my thoughts on a contract I’d finished.  I followed it up with a phone call that went to voice mail.  At the beginning of this month, I still hadn’t heard from him. Of course, I started speculating as to why – and you know it didn’t have a positive spin.  I could actually feel my stomach drop as I’d pour energy into the scenario I was creating in my head.  Then I’d catch myself and back up.  I’d stop feeding the mental bonfire and it would go out.

 When people start to learn about the role and nature of thought, they catch on quickly to the idea that they are creating their experience of life in the moment via thought.  As they get more savvy, they see the connection between their thinking and their feeling.  And then they want to know what to do when they have thinking they don’t want.

To me, it’s helpful to think about choosing where to invest your personal energy.  Use whatever metaphor works for you – feeding the fire works for me.  I get a chuckle out of picturing myself frantically throwing logs on the fire or stepping away and letting it go out.  It’s not about thinking up a better scenario or coming up with a more hopeful perspective.  When we become less attached to the content of our thinking, our minds clear and we return to our innate well-being.  We feel ourselves filling up with the creative energy of life and the beautiful feeling of peace and hopefulness that’s our birthright.  We automatically renew our source of personal energy when we stop wasting it. 

A Peaceful New Year

Happy New Year!  Let’s make 2013 the year we make peace… with ourselves.  I know it’s tempting to see the clean slate of the new year as an opportunity to re-start all those self-improvement initiatives, but what if we resolved to give it a rest for a while. peace sign

We fool ourselves into thinking that happiness is a journey or some kind of contingent give and take. I’ll be happy when I finish my degree, when I lose 10 lbs., when I get more clients….  And when we meet those goals and we’re still not content, we decide that must not have been it; there must be some other key to happiness out there.  Or, we see the flaw in that cycle and decide we’re going to “work on” accepting ourselves and being grateful for what we have in life.  We redirect our critical self-thinking and make lists of everything we have to be thankful for or all of our positive traits.  We vow to practice loving ourselves until we get it right.  What?

 We’ve all had the experience of solving problems when we stopped working on them.  Answers just appeared.  We’ve been flooded by powerful feelings of joy and gratitude while driving to the supermarket. This is what happens when we let our essential resilience, our innate wisdom and common sense, bubble to the top of our consciousness.  It’s always there if we have the faith to stop doing and just be.

Testing my own Essential Resilience

Recently, I’ve had to practice what I preach in my training and coaching – on myself!  After 14 years in a job I loved with a company whose patriotic mission was a source of inspiration and pride, I was laid off due to a centralization of HR services. It took two years to complete the reorganization, and during that time, I continued to teach and coach others to be resilient in the face of uncertainty and change. 

I can’t say that I didn’t get angry and sad, but my understanding of where those feelings came from kept me from dwelling on them.  It wasn’t about the circumstances; it was my thinking about those circumstances.  I also knew that whatever I was feeling was a product of my thinking.  So I had a choice – put more energy into my anger and resentment (which felt terrible!) or have faith in the amazing human potential for new thinking.

I’ve never been so grateful to have learned about the role and nature of thought from Mr. Sydney Banks.  His books and lectures about three simple, yet profound principles helped me realize that we are all essentially resilient — that we have an unlimited potential for new thinking that instantly brings us a different experience of life in the moment.  Those tough times tested my own faith and understanding but at the same time, my teaching and coaching jumped to a new level.

My goal for these posts is to share my experiences in training, coaching and consulting based on a foundational understanding of what Mr. Banks referred to as the 3 Principles.  I invite my business colleagues and the practitioners in the 3 Principles Global Community to share their experiences, questions, and thoughts for future post topics.