My Best Books & Video for Inspiration & Courage

By Dr Kate Little 

Gone are the days when we stayed in the same job for 20 years. So many of us now change jobs and even entire career a few times over the course of our professional lives.

Many of us combine several jobs in our working lives, known in some circles as a “slasher” career. Not to be confused with horror movies, this term describes the ‘slash’ in the job title of someone who is a X/Y/Z – or journalist/web editor/PR, for example” or the shedding of 9-5 working and one career for life.

Re-invention has become commonplace as we strive to find the balance between work and home life. So, here are some of the books, videos & TED talks that have inspired me in my re-invention journey and given me the courage to take a leap…

 

Books

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. This book is amazing. Brene Brown is amazing. Watch her TED talks to get a feel for what is in her. Daring Greatly is about throwing off our armour and showing up in the arena. She shows us how we can embrace our vulnerability and use it as a strength.
  • 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey. This bestseller is not light reading but is truly inspirational and forms the basis for so many self-development books. The “habits” are all common sense but the way he illustrates them is incredibly powerful. He emphasises the importance of discovering your authentic self and living your life as closely to this as possible.

    The 7 habits are:

    • Be proactive
    • Begin with the end in mind
    • Put first things first
    • Think win-win
    • Seek first to understand and then to be understood
    • Synergise
    • Sharpen the saw
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  Full of interesting observations about women in the workforce, this controversial book talks of careers as “jungle gyms” which allow “great views for many people, not just for those on the top” as compared to a career ladder where “most people are stuck staring at the butt of the person above”. Many traditional careers are typical of this as we wait for people to retire or move on to further progress our own careers.I like Sandberg’s analogy. I picture a more exciting creative path. One where you follow your interests and passions. One that is flexible, where you can swing or jump from one thing to another as the desire or need arises and, very importantly, where there is opportunity to take rest in the shade when needed.
  • The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Not a book for when you are feeling low – it looks at how every decision you take however small matters and the importance of discipline and healthy habits. I listened to the audio CD very quickly. It is fairly repetitive but illustrates the core message above effectively.
  • What should I do with my life? Po Bronson. I have not read this yet but this has been highly recommended by so many people to me. It has been described as a “fascinating account of finding and following the people who have taken the ultimate challenge of self-discovery by uprooting their lives and starting all over again.”

Inspiring TED talks & You-tube clips

  • Steve Jobs address to Stanford – the 3 important things in life: connectivity (seen retrospectively), love and living each day as your last. Watching this was transformational to me. The concept that people could possibly be wanting to do their job if it was their last day bewildered me completely. I knew absolutely that I would not be doing my job if it was my last day, last month, last year or last few years. Clearly, I needed to make a change!

  • Brene Brown on shame and on vulnerability. This woman is absolutely amazing and so inspiring. A MUST for all who are questioning themselves or unhappy.

 

If you have any resources that you think that others would find useful please do add them into the comments section below or contact me here.

 Copyright © Horsley Hub ™ 2019
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Four Ways to Improve Your Interactions at Work

By Jo Henwood from Mind Filter and Life Clubs

Our brains process workplace threats the same way our ancestors brain’s processed threats from charging tigers or suspicious rustlings in the bushes. Although we still need the flight, flight, freeze response to keeps us safe from harm outside the confines of the office, it continues to work hard to protect us in our professional world. Our brain reacts the same to workplace affronts and professional challenges as it does to physical threats, so receiving feedback in a performance review or finding out a colleague has received a promotion you thought was yours, can still make alarm bells ring in our heads, our pulses race and our palms sweat.

Keeping a cool head is hard because when our brain goes into defensive mode, we are drawn to noticing and dealing with the threat rather than thinking rationally about the problem. There are many ways to control emotional reactions to today’s workplace challenges, all of which take effort and practice. These are 4 methods I find most effective – I hope they work for you:

  1. Assume the best:

Just as often as not, what we have perceived as a problem turns out not to be a problem at all. A senior colleague grimacing during your presentation could be their bad back playing up not an indication that you are about to be fired. The person staring at you from the photocopyer is worrying about being late for their meeting, not scolding you for taking a break. If you can assume there isn’t a problem until one is confirmed, you may save hours of fretting over nothing. And if not quite nothing, usually some things turn out to be much less of an issue than we initially thought. Assuming the positive until proven otherwise will save you emotional effort and time lost focussing on something that is not a bad as it seems.

Think back to some of your previous workplace challenges; recall how you felt at the time and notice how you feel about them now. Remember that what you are feeling now is likely to subside quickly and soon enough you will have moved on and the negative feelings will have passed.

  1. Give yourself a reward:

Our brains are seeking to maximize rewards as well as minimize threats, and anticipation of a reward can distract our brain from focusing on the negative.

Rewards can be short term gains that we are used to, so thinking of something you enjoy, someone you love or something good that you have planned will start to refocus your mind. Consider also, that feeling capable, learning something new or having a sense of purpose have an even greater influence. So ask yourself a rewarding question to start to feel better. For learning try, “What can I learn from this situation?” or for capable try “When have I handled a similar difficult situation in the past?” or for purpose try “What is most important for us to achieve here?”

  1. Give yourself a break:

To keep performing at work, particularly with excessive pressure, we need energy, yet often avoid replenishing our resources when we need them most. The most successful executives take time for themselves and have routines that ensure they have enough energy to deliver; such as regular exercise, yoga or meditation. In Brendon Burchard’s book “ High Performance habits” energy is the second most important habit for achieving long term success.

Research has proven that diminishing returns can set in when we work too long without a break. Often a refreshed mind after lunch finds the answer in minutes that has been alluding us all morning. Take regular breaks, get out of the office, move around or chat with a friendly colleague. Remember breaks are not a luxury; they are essential.

  1. Be the first to step forward:

Reacting negatively to the difficult person or situation just amplifies it. You can start to resolve a negative situation by moving it onto a positive footing, but to do so you must take the lead. It takes humility to say “sorry” when you don’t feel it, back down when you are right, or let someone speak first who has said too much already. But doing so will diffuse tension and shift the energy to create a space in which to build.

Even better, use collaborative language to demonstrate your willingness to engage, such as “What I like about that is…” or “Yes, and we could think about adding to this with…” or “What could we do to make this work?”

 

There is much we can do to manage ourselves and improve our interactions at work through understanding how we react to workplace threats and learning to minimise their effect on us.

If you have found this article interesting and would like to find out more please do get in touch here.

Photo by Jim Strasma on Unsplash
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Achieving Balance: Preventing Burnout

Our lives are often frenetic leaving us little time to pause and take stock of our own health and well-being, and putting us at risk of burnout. To help develop a list of useful strategies for juggling work and life, we have broken the picture down into four key areas and want you to share your ideas over the next four months.

Four key areas to consider for achieving balance.

In each month’s HH newsletter we will collate and share your ideas, along with those gathered in a recent local business networking meeting.

podcasts IS

What I am listening to now

I love stories. One of the greatest privileges as a doctor is to listen to people’s stories. Each person we see has their own narrative and interpretation of the world. The podcasts that I want to share with you today are really just stories of people’s lives and how they got to where they are.

  1. How I built this with Guy Raz

Big thanks to Vanessa Nourtier for  introducing me to this. Guy Raz interviews famous entrepreneurs who have set up well-known brands such as Linked In, Instagram, AirBnB, Ben and Jerry’s, Zumba and Patagonia. Many of these have social purpose at their core. He delves into how they did what they did and why. It is totally fascinating and inspiring.

2. Desert Island Discs with Kirsty Young

The brainchild of broadcaster Roy Plomley, this was first aired in 1942  and celebrated its 3,000th episode in November 2014.  Castaways pick their favourite eight songs, a book and a luxury item and talk about their lives. There are too many big names to list – Sue Perkins, Guy Garvey, Bruce Springsteen and Demis Hassibis are amongst my favourites that I have listened to recently.

3. Sidehustleschool with Chris Guillebeau

With some intriguing titles such as 50 Shades of Grey inspires Bedroom Hustle, author, Chris Guillebeau, best known for his bestseller The $100 Start-Up,  interviews people who have successfully turned a hobby or opportunity into a successful business without quitting their day job. As he says:

“Starting a side hustle is like “playing entrepreneurially” without making a huge commitment. The stakes are low and the potential is high.

 

If you have a podcast that you’d like to share please do contact us.

poppies funeral IS

Mind full or Mindful?

All too often we are swept up in our busy lives, rushing from one activity to the next. We operate on autopilot; our thoughts taking control whilst we clean our teeth, brush our hair, take a shower; not really being aware of what we have just been doing.

In one of his talks, John Kabat-Zinn asks the audience an interesting question:

“How many people do you have with you in your shower?!”

I don’t know about you, but I for one, am rarely alone. My virtual notepad is always with me plotting and rehearsing my tasks for the day. Friends, family and colleagues frequently pop by as I think of all the conversations and messages they require. Or I revisit and agonise over an interaction with someone, which hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked. I am mind full. 

Most of us spend much of our day absorbed in the personal narrative of our lives. We may worry about the future or obsess about the past. We rarely spend time actually enjoying and appreciating the now.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment. Feeling the drops of water on our heads as we take our shower. Noticing the tingle in our skin as we massage shampoo into our scalp.

It takes us outside our thoughts, outside that narrative that it is all too easy to get trapped in. And importantly, it allows us to gain some headspace to free up our thinking and perhaps think about some of our problems more creatively, or with a more positive mindset so that they feel less overwhelming.

What can mindfulness help us with?

There is a good evidence base for its use in depression and, more recently, anxiety. It is not a panacea for all problems – it is not appropriate for severe depression, alcohol and drug problems and psychosis. Some studies report it as being as effective as medication, with less side-effects.

Evidence also suggests that mindfulness might help us manage stress better at work.

In addition, research is being conducted into the benefits of mindfulness in schools, after reports from short-term studies of improved psychological wellbeing and attention.

How can I practise mindfulness?

Some people are put off by the thought that you have to sit still and meditate, but this is not necessarily the case.

In the many definitions of mindfulness, some highlight the importance of focussing internally, on our thoughts and body, and some on paying attention externally to what is going on around us, and some on both.

Focussing externally, by being curious, taking notice and appreciating the beauty of the things that surround us can really help us be in the moment. The vibrant colours and unexpected warmth of a sunny autumn day for example.

Or simple objects in everyday life that we normally would pay little attention to, that we sometimes see in a different light, marvelling at them in wonder as if noticing them for the first time.

The Book of Life’s chapter on Appreciation talks about a French writer from the 18th century, Xavier de Maistre, who was wounded in a duel and confined to his bedroom. He recorded a mock-serious journal “A voyage around my bedroom” in which he looked at familiar objects in his room such as a chair and the window as if they were “remarkable novelties”, and this brought him great joy. He came to realise that:

“The key to existence is not to seek out what is actually new. It is to bring a fresh mindset to what we already know but have – long ago – forgotten to notice.”

This focus externally to me represents a kind of mindfulness in action. It does not necessarily involve sitting on a mat or chair. You can be very much be awake and moving, but rather than doing on autopilot, you are fully aware and in the moment.

Focussing internally is about becoming aware of what is going on inside: the sensations in our body and our thoughts. Watching our thoughts as one might observe clouds passing – there’s planning, there’s worry, there’s the critic – helping us to see our thoughts as weather patterns that come and go. Accepting them, rather than fighting them. They, like our moods, will pass.

This can be done in a formal meditation sitting still, alert and aware, allowing the mind to focus internally, but can also be done moving in activities such as mindful walking, Qigong and yoga where the focus is on the breath and/or the body. 

Integrating mindfulness into everyday life

This is my challenge. Mindfulness requires practice, like most things that we do. We know that to keep fit, it’s best to work out regularly, and this is the same for mindfulness. We need to practice regularly to train our mind like we would our muscles.

Ways we can do this are to:

PAUSE

Stop briefly for a few seconds throughout your day. Take a few breaths and notice what is present in your body and your mind.  Small coloured stickers placed on objects around your house/place of work act as cues to pause.

Take a three-step breathing space (3 minutes)

This is a quick meditation that can be done sitting or standing. I use it to unwind or if I am feeling overwhelmed by everything I need to get done, to re-energise and de-clutter.

Do formal practice (10 minutes)

Using an app such as those mentioned below, or some guided meditations such as those here. Some of these are seated. Some are moving.

Simply take notice.

Pay attention – what is here, now? Be curious. Like our French writer, we may start to appreciate those small things in life by seeing them differently. Practising #3 Good Things can help with this.

Mindful listening

Concentrate on listening and engaging rather than letting our minds wander or think ahead to what we are going to say next.

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There are many ways to become more mindful and less mind full. Writing this has inspired me to re-engage with my regular practice. I know that it makes a difference!

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

William James (American philosopher & psychologist)

Gill Johnson of Mindful Elephant is running an 8 week mindfulness course at East Horsley village hall starting Tuesday 24 April 7-9pm. Cost £225 reduced to £200 to HH subscribers. Contact Gill atgill@mindfulelephant.com or on 07785 921950 now to book or if you would like more information. 

Resources

Books

There are many books about mindfulness. Two that I have found useful are:

Finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams & Danny Penman. This has an 8 week course that you can do using a CD and the book. I have completed it and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sitting still like a frog by Eline Snel (mindfulness for kids). I have tried this when teaching in schools and on my own children. They really love it, finding it very calming and relaxing. It starts to give children an awareness of their bodies and the changes that can happen depending how they feel. They learn to use the breath as a means of grounding themselves.

Apps

What does happiness mean to you?

by EMMA PETITT

I have been on an amazing journey these past 8 weeks.  Admittedly physically not very far – to Esher and back every Wednesday evening to attend an Action for Happiness course.  But emotionally……

Before you switch off and think oh, no not another happy clappy post; just spare me a moment and have a think about what happiness means to you? Not just about you as an individual but how we can make the world a happier place.

Needless to say on the 1st evening I blurted out the stock answer “family and friends” and of course for some there’s loads of others too; a big house, fast car, designer handbags, 5* holidays, money but do they really make you happy?  Think about tolerance, acceptance, belief, understanding, loyalty, openess, friendships and the communities you are part of e.g. work, home, friends, family, online, sports clubs, dog walking – they don’t even have to be particularly profound relationships but they can make you and your environment a happier place.

Just to cite one example….I woke up the other morning in a right huff about my husband (again I hear you shout), life and the world in general (I’ll blame it on those darn hormones).  I stomped off with my dog for a walk and on it I chatted to 2 other dog walkers – who I will probably never see again – about inane stuff.  Walking back home I felt much chirpier and on reflection realised it was all because I had struck up a conversation.

The things I really got out of the course were:

  • Be outward looking – the more egocentric and insular we are the more miserable we feel
  • Say hello and smile at everyone you pass (perhaps not always possible on a crowded commuter train when everybody might think you’re a little potty shouting hello to one and all) – it will make someone’s day and make you feel happier too. As an aside there’s a lovely 90 year old man who pops into our local Budgens at least 2 or 3 times a day.  If you see him, please stop and chat as he would love to have a natter.
  • It’s in our nature to dwell on the negative so at the end of every day jot down 3 good things that happened to you.  Could be the smallest things such as noticing the cloud shapes in the sky or singing along to your favourite song but it will help change your mindset.
  • The importance of communities in supporting and bringing people together.  One thing we discussed is the decline of intergenerational families and communities and how important they are in society. What can we do to address this?
  • How we treat and perceive others – we’ve all been there.  You take umbrage about somebody’s behaviour.  But take a moment and think what might have gone on with that person moments before.  Are they having a particularly bad day; is there something not quite right at home etc etc.
  • Reflect what things make you happy and take some time for yourself to do those things.  My two loves before children were tennis and film neither of which I do enough of.  So I’m going to try and go to the cinema once a month (matinee please as it’s so indulgent) and play tennis once a week.  For one of the other participants in our group it is having fresh flowers in the house. The simple pleasures…
  • Let’s start small.  The conversations with my Action for Happiness group are continuing as we all want to contribute to our local communities and spread the word.  But it doesn’t have to be anything radical….watch this space!

Finally, I wanted to share a three videos and a podcast with you which are worth watching/ listening to if you’ve got the time.

Before I go I want to share this little poem (Anon) which a dear friend at school taught me and rings so true:
Laugh and the world laughs with you
Weep and you weep alone
For the world has need of your mirth
But has sorrow enough of its own.
Read more of Emma’s musings here.

# My 3 words. Reword yourself for the year ahead.

How often do you start the New Year with optimistic resolutions, which you never see through, despite good intentions?

Last year, I discovered a different way to think about what you want for the year ahead. A way that is flexible, creative and fun. And that works!

In his blog, Dr Jason Fox describes this as rewording yourself. He suggests choosing one word that encapsulates everything that you want for the year ahead.

This word can be something abstract like joy or balance, something active like create or connect, or an archetype like warrior or tiger whose qualities you want to emulate for the year.

It is important that this word applies to more than one dimension of your life. For example, if I chose the word “Tiger”, I would want to bring all the qualities of a tiger, such as power, self-confidence and elegance, to the different parts of my life. This might mean that I choose more elegant clothes when shopping or going out or that I choose activities that build my self-confidence and hence my presence.

So looking at Dr Fox’s grouping of word choice further, abstract words could also include words such as courage, lean, and mindful.

With these, you need to be clear as to how you will relate to them in everyday life. For example, will they help guide your choices? Such that if your word was courage, you would consciously think “This takes me out of my comfort zone. Doing this will be courageous, therefore I will take on this challenge.”

Or, if you chose “lean” you could intend this to be reflective of losing some weight, getting fit and perhaps being more efficient with your time and spending time with the people you really want to be spending it with.

Active words, which include verbs like unleash, refresh, renovate and build, can also be powerful.

Again, these work well if you can relate the word to more than one aspect in your life. For example, you could choose “Do” and this could mean that you aim to be proactive and opportunistic, and give things a go; it could mean you are more efficient and do your tasks as you go along; or it could mean that you finally get fit, something you have promised yourself every year.

Choosing an archetypal word is to capture the qualities conjured up by that image or a role, like tiger, hero or warrior. You perhaps already identify with being a warrior or hero who is battling on, and who will hopefully emerge victorious, but what other qualities do these words reflect and how could they be applied to other areas in your life?

# My 3 Words

Some like business strategist, Chris Brogan, who has promoted the # My 3 Words concept, feel that one word alone may be too simplistic. Three somehow works better. Any more than that becomes too vague.

I too prefer the 3 words.

Last year (2017), my 3 words were Courage, Presence & Appreciation.

Courage in returning to clinical practice after a 14 month break. Courage in launching Horsley Hub, stepping totally out of my comfort zone.

Presence with my kids and in a wider context through work.

Appreciation of those close to me, the small things, of nature and life.

As you can see, none of these have any hard outcomes attached, so I was not setting myself up to fail. I had fun and can look back positively at what progress I made on all three.

For me, this concept brings you back to thinking about your values. It is all too easy to lose sight of these when we work hard in jobs that demand so much of us at every level, and when we perhaps don’t get any respite at home either. We can lose who we are, who we want to be and how we want to live our lives.

Perhaps starting the year with 3 words, might be an alternative, fun and flexible way to help us make positive choices in the year ahead.

So, what are your 3 words for 2018?

3 good things

# 3 Good Things

Holiday season: half-term. We are stuck in traffic at a standstill on the A303. Overhead grey cloud heavy with rain and the promise of more. Bickering kids competing with “Daft Punk” our defiant holiday music. We will enjoy this holiday…

And then, a pause. The rain and noise stops. I notice the autumn leaves swirling around the steel railings in the central reservation. Orange, yellow, gold and red, glinting in the sunlight – beautiful. A small moment of intense joy and pleasure. I feel happy and savour it. I promise myself to do this more.

Going on holiday is often a time of reflection. A respite from our hectic plugged-in lives. A time for optimistic, well-intentioned resolutions.

I will eat more healthily”.

“I will exercise more”.

“I will read one a book a month”.

It is a space where we often take the time to stop and appreciate our surroundings and the people that we are with.

Practising gratitude is about taking the time to notice the good things in our lives. All too often we spend our time worrying and ruminating about what is wrong and forget about the small things that might have brought a smile to our face or that made us feel good. Research shows that focussing on the positive helps boost us psychologically and socially.

Finding three good things each day is one way to do this. Keeping a gratitude journal,  or what I prefer to call a “see the beauty in life” diary would be another.

The idea is that by writing down the good things that have happened – and writing them down is important  – and why they made you feel happy, you start to appreciate the good things as they happen more often and dwell less on the negative.

Happiness and misery are like waves that rise and fall. Mindfulness teaches us that and as mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zin notes:

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

So doing this practice is not about clinging on to those good things, it is simply about noticing them and appreciating them.

The good things don’t need to be of great significance. It is simply about noticing the small things that we usually just take for granted. A conversation that makes you feel uplifted, or makes you laugh. The birds singing in the trees. The light at a particular time of day.

This is clearly easier to do when on holiday, when we have less “must-do” things clamouring for our attention, and we have more time to be curious. I constantly struggle with going slow, and keeping myself in the present, so my promise to myself on this holiday is to take notice and to bring this into my day-to-day life when at home.

So here goes, my # 3 Good Things” from today are:

  1. Listening to @sueperkins on Desert Island Discs – her wit and song choices made me smile
  2. The leaves in the central reservation in a brief moment of sunlight – warm natural beauty in the middle of steel and fumes
  3. Seeing a Nespresso machine in the holiday cottage we have rented…

What are yours?

 

I now practise this regularly and we ask the children every night to share their # 3 Good Things – they often surprise you! 

Resources

  1. The Gratitude Garden App
  2. Action Happiness – Find 3 Good Things a day