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Any of you who have/care for/know children of exam age will be coming towards the end of a relatively stressful and intense period for the teen and possibly you too. At that age, weeks of revision and exams does seem like an impossible task  (“How will I ever remember all of this?”) and messing up a question in an exam can feel like the end of the world (“There’s no way I’ll be able to do what I wanted now!”).

 

Fortunately we develop coping strategies for difficult situations over our life time by filing and categorising information in our brains so we can respond quickly to a variety of situations. The problem is that these categories are often over simplified and our resulting habits and interpretations can stop us finding new perspectives and ways to respond when we are stuck in a rut.

 

According to Srini Pillay MD - founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and a pioneer in brain-based executive coaching - by giving your brain a break your subconscious will work harder at finding a solution for you. Research also suggests that focusing on the negatives effective frazzles your brain and makes it less effective at doing its job ( a colleague and I call this “whizzy head”) – whereas focusing on positives releases opiates that stimulates your brain to work for you – all while you think about something else!

 

These simple techniques might help you to put things in perspective, see things differently and break out of that rut. At the very least they will improve your mood.

 

  • Park your worries – write down the things that are bothering you and stopping you from finding a solution or taking positive action. Put the paper in a sealed envelope and move on to something else. When you read them at a later date make a note of what actually happened to start storing making new neural connections for future reference
  • Change your physical state– go for a walk, stretch, phone a friend, play a game, listen to music – all these things will positively change your mental state
  • Count your blessings – make a note of anything that you appreciate, makes you happy, is going well in your life – then read it before you go back to tackling the current issue or situation
  • Believe it is possible – even if you don’t know how you will change something, do something, believe something – tell yourself that it is possible and your brain will work to make it so

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In my experience any request to ‘do a psychometric profile’ seems to cause an increase in anxiety levels and a slight feeling of unease. I rarely get people calling me to express their delight at having to complete one.

Part of the nervousness usually stems from some unknowns around ‘what are they looking for?’ and ‘what if it reveals I’m no good’.

Psychometrics can be really useful to give us a perspective and vocabulary around personality, habits, patterns and behaviours. However, what’s really important is to understand what the focus is and what to do with the output. Here’s my attempt to untangle some of the more commonly used types.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests: these measure our ability to learn, not to be confused with the amount of knowledge we have. It’s thought that our IQ is fairly stable in adulthood.

IQ tests tend to be used as part of recruitment processes to get a sense of our ability to process and sort information. There’s a school of thought that says we can increase our IQ by finding mental tricks and tools to sort information.

Trait or Personality tests: these look at how we like to do things and what’s important to us in a situation. Do we focus on people or task first? What does success look like to us; getting the problem completed quickly or coming up with a new way to approach a challenge.

Trait tends to be fairly static, it would, quite frankly, be odd if you suddenly woke up with a new personality! The power of these tests is being able to recognise your own habits and patterns and being aware that we’re not all the same. You don’t need to be fluent in other trait types but being able to speak a few words of your opposites language can be really useful. Commonly used trait tests include Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and Insights Discovery.

Emotional Intelligence (EQi) tests: these look our level of awareness and ability to deal with emotions in ourselves and those around us in a positive way. Essentially ‘do I know what I/others are feeling and how do I feel about that’.

EQi is determined by habituated thought patterns and useful to think of it like a piece of elastic. Left alone it’ll stay as it is, but put some energy and work into forming new patterns and awareness and you’ll change it. Logic will get you so far but if you want to be able to deal with the complexities of situations which are charged with emotion (which, let’s face it, many work situations are) having a high level of emotional intelligence can be extremely powerful.

We’re usually the harshest critics of the results which these tests generate, even when we’ve provided the input ourselves. We encourage clients to look at them as a starter for 10 to help other people understand how to help you be at your best. As one client said to me ‘I’ve just given this to my wife of 2 weeks and told her that this is basically my user manual!’

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I wouldn’t say the highlight of my year so far has been breaking my leg (Bike + ice = A&E), but I have learned a lot about how to heal quickly and oddly it has been a remarkably positive experience. To the extent that 5 weeks on I am crutch free, swimming and walking for several hours at a time.

 

My first fear of course was how am I going to cope, given that I am very active and the idea of being confined to a sofa for 6 – 8 weeks was my personal idea of hell. However, deciding to be positive and use the time in a different way meant that time flew and I actually quite enjoyed it.

 

And if you are finding it hard to be positive after a setback, then I looked at some research on positivity and well being, and here are some compelling facts. Positive people:

-          live 7.5 years longer than others

-          have a 77% lower risk of heart desease then pessimists

-          experience 50% less symptoms and pain for the same illness

 

In my own experience, what helped me was:

-          Focussing on what you can do, not what you can’t do. As a weird spin-off I now find I own and can play a Ukelele

-          Use the time to re-energise and set future goals for the year

-          Enjoy the “now”. All too ofter I’m looking for the next thing, rather than enjoying what I have right now.

 

I hope you don’t become ill, but if you do, enjoy confounding the experts with your positive mindset...............

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I had a conversation with a friend the other day about some career choices
he was facing. He was wondering how to make the right choice to guarantee
his future success. Whether to stick with the type of role he knows and has
been successful in - or to take a risk and try something new. It's bothering
him to the extent that he's not enjoying his current success - or the fact
that he is lucky enough to have choices.

This conversation coincided with the sad news about David Bowie's death. A
man and artist  who tried it all, constantly took risks both professionally
and personally, deliberately stepped away from some of his most successful
creations and constantly experimented with who he was and what he did. Some
experiments were more successful than others - at least from an outsiders
perspective - but I imagine he probably lived by his own set of rules - so
who is to judge?

I always resist making new year's resolutions, but I don't mind a bit of
gentle new year reflection, so both of these things have made me wonder

* Do I stop, enjoy and live in the moment often enough?
* Which of my rules do I need to rethink?
* What would happen if I released my inner "Ziggy"?

I know the answer to the first two questions - but the third is going to
take a bit more thought..........   

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This time last year I took a leaf out of Santa’s book and made a list. It wasn’t a list of big audacious goals or hopes and dreams for the future, it was a list of all the little things. Small simple pleasures which I keep meaning to do but never quite get round to; dinner in a particular restaurant, tickets to a sporting event, swimming at a local beach. I stuck it up on the wall with every good intention of ticking off most of it, and guess what, tick it off I did!

On the occasional blissfully agenda-less weekend I’d glance over my list and go and do something. I’ve had the pleasure of the wonderful West Somerset Railway, seen a cricket match at Somerset cricket ground, spent a fabulous Christmas evening at Dunster by Candlelight, delighted in Marwood Hill gardens and walked some sections of the South West Coast Path amongst many other things.

Curiously, the more I ticked off the more I added, filled with confidence that things on the list will happen I’ve created the magic porridge pot of the list world!

We’re often encouraged to focus on big goals and dreams and forget the small stuff, I beg to differ!

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We had the pleasure of working with leading sport psychologist Bill Beswick this week as he shared some of his stories and tips with a group of young leaders at a leadership development programme we are running. Bill is unique in having England/Great Britain international experience across three major team sports -basketball, football and rugby. He has also worked with the British Swimming team and with English Premier football clubs including Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Derby County FC.

Bill clearly derives a huge amount of satisfaction from helping people manage and change their mind set in order to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Everything he talks about from his experience in elite sports is equally applicable to anyone seeking to be, and perform, at their best in any arena. Amongst other things Bill talked about the importance of...

  • Adopting a positive attitude - demonstrating a “fighter” rather than a “victim” mind set
  • Methodical preparation – exceptional performance rarely happens by accident and preparation is a key factor in building confidence
  • Never giving up – focusing on what you can control i.e. your own performance, because you don’t know (and can’t control) what will happen around you

He also talks about the importance of asking for help from people we trust. He refers to himself as a “thought partner” offering challenge and support to people who need him. Unfortunately only a few people are lucky enough to have Bill as their thought partner – but we all need them. Have you found yours?

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