Back in the early 90’s when I was in my early 20’s, I backpacked across Thailand. During my travels, I took an overnight train from Bangkok to Northern Thailand, to a small town called Chiang Mai, home to a symphony of ancient temples.
When I purchased my train ticket, I hadn’t appreciated that at that time, buying a ticket meant ‘guaranteed passage’ on the train, and that it did not guarantee obtaining a seat. I didn’t discover this until I, alongside several hundred people attempted to board the train.
By the time I had been pushed, elbowed and indeed participated in the pushing, and elbowing onto the train, there were no seats left.
This was a problem. The train journey was 13 hours. It was 9pm at night and I was already tired.
The only option available to myself as well as 20 or so other passengers in the carriage, was to sit in the aisle – the walkway between the rows of seats. Just as I was getting myself relatively comfortable, thinking that maybe the journey wouldn’t be so bad after all, a Thai lady attempted to walk through the aisle to sell small bags of freshly chopped pineapple. Since she couldn’t get past all the people sitting in the aisle, we all had to stand up to enable her to ask the seated passengers if they wanted to buy pineapple.
No one did.
After she left our train carriage, we all sat back down again, only for her to show up again 10 minutes later!! To which we all had to stand back up again and let her pass.
And this scenario proceeded to take place throughout the night.
By 3am I was madder than a wet cat.
Why the heck is she forcing her pineapples on everyone?? No one is buying them!! Can’t she see that we are all trying to get some sleep??? Can’t she see that this is such a pain in the ass forcing us to get up every time she passes through the carriage???
And just as I was thinking these unkind thoughts, I looked at her. And I saw her for the first time.
She looked tired and worn out, her face sagged with exhaustion. She was barefoot and her feet were puffy from the heat. She gave me a weary smile. I smiled back. And as we exchanged smiles, I realised that she didn’t want to be futilely selling pineapples at 3am anymore than I wanted to be sitting in the middle of the aisle in that dusty, hot, dirty train.
It’s funny how some memories you lose and others you keep. That one I have kept and carried with me throughout my life. I think I kept it because that is one of the first and clearest times, I remember noticing my ego – the voice in my head that observes, judges, criticises and provides a running commentary throughout the day.
To be clear, no, I don’t hear voices.
We all have an ego. It’s that little saboteur in our mind that is our inner critic. Or to quote the Buddha – our mind is full of drunken monkey’s, flinging themselves from tree branches to tree branches, jumping around and chatting nonstop.
On that train, nearly 25 years ago, my monkey mind was in full force. Until I caught my drunken monkey in midmotion and told it to be quiet.
I am telling you this story because we need to be mindful of our drunken monkey’s, our saboteur, our ego or whatever you want to call it. We need to be mindful of what the ego is telling us, because quite often our ego will tell us to play small and will tell us that we are not good enough, deserving enough, smart enough, small enough, big enough, fill in the blank enough. We need to listen to this saboteur and ask ourselves if what it is saying to us is true. We need to listen to this voice to see what it is stopping us from doing and achieving.
We need to be mindful of the drunken monkey.
How do you do this? Watch to learn more…. youtu.be/MnDUbQe8ETw
Several years ago, I was in the small town of Luang Prabang in Laos, the small country nestled between Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. As my husband and I sauntered through the streets, admiring the many Buddhist Temples and street markets, we noticed that we were continuously being greeted by people with smiles, a gentle bow and the words “Good luck for you”. It became such a common occurrence that I started repeating these words throughout our travels and remarked to my husband “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could bring this back to London, and before every business meeting everyone smiled kindly and said, ‘Good luck for you’?”
To which he responded… “People will think you are nuts.”
He was of course right, and I didn’t bring the expression home with me. However, this small, gentle phrase has made me think about intentions. Meaning, what if we planned our days, and set our intention for the day, rather than live in autopilot mode? And more specifically, what if we were all mindful and set our intention for a meeting before a meeting starts?
Now you may be thinking to yourself, well of course, if a meeting is set, then obviously there is an intention to the meeting. I hear you. What I mean is something different.
I am currently taking a course with UC Berkeley on the Science of Happiness at work, which includes studies on empathy, emotional intelligence (EQ), resilience, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness; and the coursework on mindfulness has really resonated with me. I have been practicing mindfulness for the past 5 years and I resolutely believe that there is place for mindfulness in the workplace.
I believe in this because in 2013 my world came crashing down around me due to burnout, panic attacks, anxiety and depression, and it happened in part because I didn’t have any awareness or mindfulness practices in my life. I was living in a perpetual state of autopilot mode. I went from one meeting to the next, from conference calls to conference calls with no time in between to just take a moment and breathe, be present and check in with myself. And because of this it was only a matter of time before burnout occurred.
And the reality is that my experience with burnout is not unique.
We live in a global environment, with many leaders and employees accommodating multiple time zones, leading them to ‘always being on’ – meaning contactable 24/7. As the norm of working the standard 9-5, Monday to Friday erodes and the expectation of always being on becomes the norm, it is imperative that we implement mindfulness practices not only in our personal lives but also in our professional lives.
What is mindfulness exactly?
To those that don’t know what mindfulness is, it can seem a bit ‘woo’ and can induce feelings of scepticism. One can conjure up images of incense sticks, chanting, hot yoga, yogi’s in sandals and robes and hippies sitting in the lotus position.
Mindfulness is not this.
Mindfulness is quite simply paying attention to the present moment. It’s not about emptying the mind and attempting to ignore and push all thoughts away. It’s simply taking a moment to understand what you are thinking and feeling in the present moment with no judgement about the thoughts or feelings.
So, going back to my original point. What do you think would happen if you introduced mindfulness to your working life? And specifically, what do you think would happen if you spent 5 minutes before each meeting focussing on your breathing, feelings and body sensations?
There is no doubt in my mind that by implementing 5-minute mindfulness breathing, alongside more formal mindfulness training, that it will decrease stress, and increase both personal and social wellbeing.
And what about going one step further and being intentional before each meeting? For example, breathing deeply and calmly and saying to yourself ‘It is my intention to show up and be fully present in this meeting and to purposely listen’.
I suggest that if all of us attended each meeting with this intentionality, the workplace would become a kinder, more compassionate place.
No time for mindfulness? Give yourself 5 minutes:
Until next week, Good luck for you....
Last November I was asked to be a keynote speaker at a 6-day conference in California in April 2019. The conference organiser advised me that the audience size would be 2,000+ people and that previous headline speakers had been Jessica Alba and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Wow! I thought. This will be taking my speaking career to the next level.
The only catch was that none of the 100 speakers that were invited to speak would be paid. It was positioned that no speakers would be paid because it was an honour to be invited to speak and that the exposure alone would be beneficial to the speakers.
I took a few days to consider invitation and ultimately decided it would be a good idea to speak at the event.
Fast forward to a few months later and I was beginning to feel perturbed about the whole thing. Poor communication and inadequate information from the conference organiser was becoming the norm, and the limited e-mail’s I was receiving was making me feel like the conference organisers were doing me a favour by having me speak at the conference. As a result, I was feeling decidedly uneasy, and, I had a feeling in my gut – a feeling I couldn’t quite place, which told me that something wasn’t quite right.
On the 3rd of March, on my 45th Birthday, and 3 weeks before the conference, I received an email from the conference organiser stating that they had decided it would be ‘fun’ to change each speakers keynote speech duration from 60 minutes to 15 minutes. The rational being that they wanted to do ‘speed dating’ type speeches.
My heart sunk.
I have in the past reduced my keynote speech down to 20 minutes for other events and it just doesn’t work – it doesn’t land. It’s impossible to tell a story about panic attacks, anxiety, depression and corporate burnout in 20 minutes plus offer tangible solutions for the audience.
Whilst my heart was sinking, the familiar feeling of something not being quite right, kicked in, but this time I was able to identify the feeling – the feeling was powerlessness. I had given my power away by allowing myself to be treated poorly by the conference organiser and I was feeling powerless.
Until I decided to take back control and take my power back.
I emailed the conference organiser and stated I would no longer be speaking at the event and that when dealing with speakers in the future they may wish to consider how they treat their speakers especially when they are expecting speakers to prepare, write and memorise speeches for free, when they themselves were making $3 million dollars through ticket sales.
Boom! Happy Birthday to me! I had taken my power back by saying no, and I felt like a million bucks for doing so.
Sure, there was a part of me saying ‘But what about Jessica Alba, Benedict Cumberbatch or one of the other headliners you could be associated with’? But the other side of me – the side of me with a strong sense of self-worth told me it didn’t matter even if the Queen herself was headlining with me. It wasn’t worth giving up my power and self-respect. Nor was it worth doing a disservice to the audience by cramming a comprehensive topic into 15 minutes.
So how did I have the self-confidence to put myself first? I'll be honest - I wasn't born with or raised to have self-confidence, it's a learned behaviour. Watch this weeks video to learn 3 ways you can start to build your own self confidence: https://youtu.be/NLgJ6XIHk7c
The key message I want you to take away from my story is this:
Until next week, I wish you all great health and happiness.
In last week’s blog I discussed how the average person has between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day, of which it is estimated that 80% of the thoughts are negative. On top of that, 98% of our thoughts are the same thoughts that we had the day before.
I created a video on where negativity originates and how we contribute to our negative thinking. In case you missed it, you can watch it here. https://bit.ly/2Kb7uPz
In this week’s video I discuss how we can work to change our thoughts from negativity to that of positivity.
Watch here: https://bit.ly/2wzd4Dg
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to let me know.
Are your thoughts negative or positive?
Research shows that the average person has between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day, of which it is estimated that 80% of the thoughts are negative. On top of that, 98% of our thoughts are the same thoughts that we had the day before.
If the research is indeed correct, is it any wonder that many people in society are unable to have the right mindset to change their lives and pursue their dreams?
I started to research this subject and noticed that Google Auto Complete (Google’s algorithm which predicts and displays search queries bases on other users search activities) shows that negative thoughts and mindset is something that people are interested in understanding.
See the above Google Auto Complete screenshot for your reference.
So how do we change our thoughts from being negative to positive, if our thoughts are primarily negative?
I have researched this and have come to conclusion that before we can start to think about changing our mindset to be positive, we first must understand where our negative thoughts are coming from.
This week’s video is about where negativity originates and how we contribute to our negative thinking. In next week’s newsletter I will share with you the second part to this subject, which is how we can change our thoughts from negativity to that of positivity.
Watch this weeks video here: https://bit.ly/2Kb7uPz
Love Claire xx