Monday, April 27, 2020

Isn't It Ironic?

I find it somewhat ironic that this pandemic is happening in the year 2020. Think about this: 2020 is associated with vision. The Latin verb specere, which means to see, to look at, to observe, is the root of many words. Take spectacles, for example. I wear eyeglasses to correct my myopia, my nearsightedness. Without glasses I cannot clearly see things that are distant. Spectacles give me 2020 vision.

Those who wear glasses only when reading have hyperopia, farsightedness, which causes things near to them to be out of focus. Spectacles give farsighted people 2020 vision.

In many ways this COVID-19 crisis has made us feel both emotionally farsighted: things that are near to us, life as we know it, is now out of focus, and emotionally myopia: we cannot clearly see what our lives down the road will look like for we are living in the uncharted territory of unabated uncertainty. 

The word speculate also finds its root in that Latin verb. And there is a lot of speculation going on right row.
  • How long with our need to be physically distant from one another last?
  • When will the curve flatten?
  • When will we get back to work?
  • Could there be a second coronavirus outbreak if we move too soon?
While the uncertainty we are living with can be overwhelming, we do have a set of tools at our disposal: the skills and attitudes of resilience, which help us get through the difficult times in our lives. 

Our capacity for resilience is hard-wired in our brain, like the fight or flight response. But unlike the fight or flight response, it is not automatic. Our resilience is influenced by our life experiences, by what I call Habitudes, those patterns of thought and behavior affecting our attitudes towards life, and which may or may not serve you. 

We have a strong Mind-Body Connection. Our thoughts influence our bodies directly. COVID-19 is forcing us to change our perspective. Life will not return to normal we knew for quite some time. Our lives will have a new normal and what that new normal will look like is uncertain. However, we can prepare for this by strengthening our resiliency. 

The first weapon in our resilience arsenal is resilient optimism. You're probably familiar with the glass half empty/glass half full way of determining someone's attitude: optimists see it as half full; pessimists see it as half empty. Resilient optimists, however, see it as both, because that is how life’s events are. Resilient optimists take those half empty moments and bring to them other factors of resilience to 'raise the water level' so to speak.

One way this is done is through the resilience skill of flexibility. Being flexible means embracing a willingness to learn and to grow. Being willing to face your fears; to control your attitude, no matter what is going on around you. For our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. 

Another factor is our connectedness to others. This is so critical at this time when we are asked to be physically distant from one another. We need connection. We need to be communicating with one another, which is another aspect of resiliency, whether through social media, FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom. Or how about that old method of communicating: the telephone. True connection is physical. Texting and typing are not enough. 

Another resilience factor is the capacity to manage strong emotions and impulses. Situations happen that are out of our control, like this pandemic. Emotions are a reaction to how we're perceiving our experience. Learning to respond to them, rather than to react, is key. The capacity to manage strong emotions involves being able to take action without being impulsive; to put emotions to the side when clear thinking and action are required.

While it's important to stay informed as to what is going on, it is also crucially important to do so wisely. Avail yourself to those who are presenting the facts without agenda, people such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Robert Redfield, Director of CDC. These are the people who are telling us the truth of the matter, who are giving us the facts, who are trying to keep everything as stable as possible by making us aware that we must take specific actions in order to flatten that curve and keep the number of cases from spiking up. 

Another factor of resilience is being able to make realistic plans and take action to carry them out. Tackle what I call the "Iwishihads." You know, "I wish I had the time to _______)." Well, folks, now you have the time. Don’t try to rush through the list or you won’t get things done. We all are going to have a lot of time on our hands the next few weeks, and let’s be realistic, most likely even longer.

I want to mention one more factor: Being able to find purpose and meaning in one's life, which leads me to another derivative of that Latin verb, and that is introspection. What are you learning about yourself and your purpose in life? How has this moment in time changed you? Changed your outlook? Hindsight is 2020.

Lastly, there is one more word derived from the Latin verb specere. Respect. COVID-19 has raised our level of respect for doctors, nurses, first responders, and all the unsung heroes who make a hospital function – including custodians, food preparers, laundry services providers. We have gained respect and gratitude for all people who leave their homes each and every day to provide essential services -- from assembly line workers to grocery store clerks to zookeepers. (Yes, zookeepers. Animals need to be cared for too.)

To sum up here are some strategies for managing stress:
  • listen to your body and remember to practice mindful breathing several times a day
  • remember that your greatest weapon against stress is your ability to choose one thought over another
  • acknowledge what you feel and don't deny your feelings
  • accept what you feel and don't judge yourself
Strategies for building resilience:
  • develop an attitude of optimism
  • establish and maintain connections
  • limit media coverage
  • accept change as part of life
  • engage in opportunities of self-discovery
Questions for reflection:
1. What steps will you take to manage your stress?
2. What is on your "Iwishihad" list? What 3 things from that list can you do now that time is more available to you?
3. What are some ways you can engage in opportunities of self-discovery?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

That 4-letter "F" Word . . .

Do you sometimes find yourself spewing that 4-letter "F" word?

No, not THAT one . . . I'm talking about that other 4-letter "F" word -- FEAR.
Fear is a distressing negative emotion brought on by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that triggers your 'fight or flight' response. Our fears, however, can often take on a life of their own and stop us dead in our tracks.

Rejection is an irrational fear that others will not accept us for who we are. Fear of rejection is one of those insidious, perceived threats that can hold you back, keep you from achieving your goals.

Fear of rejection pervades our minds, often rendering us incapable of doing or saying anything for fear of others' rejection, lack of acceptance, or disapproval.

Yes, there will be times in your life when you will face rejection. How will you handle rejection if it does happen?

To start, be prepared. Identify your limiting thoughts, such as...
  • People dislike me
  •  I am a failure
  • I am not worthy of their approval
. . . and then dismiss them one by one. To do so effectively you need to build your self-esteem. And you build self-esteem by understanding your self-worth. So make this list instead . . .
  • People like me because...
  • I have been successful in...
  • I am worthy of others' approval because...
Work on your self-worth list everyday by adding just one good trait about you. Remember my equation: Self-confidence + Self-worth = Self-esteem

Embrace joy, be mindful, live a flourishing life.
~ Rita

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Under-performing Employees . . . Bad For Business

Did you know . . .
  • Managers waste an average of 34 days per year dealing with under-performance. (Future Foundation)
  • Costs of lost productivity easily reach 150% of the annual compensation.
  • Average salary $35,000 per year; cost of turnover 150% of salary, is $52,500 per employee who leaves the company.
  • The cost will be significantly higher (200% to 250%) for managerial and sales positions. (Bliss & Associates Inc.)
  • The cost of hiring and training a new employee can vary from 25% to 200% of annual compensation. (American Management Association)
Employee Attitude Problems? I Can Help!
"Rita helped me identify areas of improvement and gave me guidance on how to develop better time management."
Most of us have been there . . . preparing a performance review for that employee who, on the one hand, is good at his/her job, but on the other hand, whose attitude causes undue disruption, lost time, and even the loss of good employees.
Managing staff comes with many challenges that can test even the most seasoned business professional. Difficult employees engage people in an emotional tug-of-war, which is stressful for the manager and employee alike. And the damage to office morale and overall productivity is great.
Strategic Coaching -- Right For Your Business
Employers and employees alike have discovered the added benefits of coaching:
  • increased job satisfaction
  • improved communication skills
  • improved relationships
By providing individual coaching, you send a powerful message to your employees: Your progress is valued and encouraged.
  • Coaching programs have been shown to increase employee retention and engagement, boost productivity, and overcome performance issues. (Zappos Insights)
  • Companies that have used professional coaching for business reasons have seen a median return on their investment of 7 times their initial investment. (PricewaterhouseCoopers and Association Resource Centre Inc.)
"Rita is wonderful. She has a way of explaining things and guiding us to understanding by using real-life examples we can grasp."
How Strategic Coaching Works
1. We begin the process by examining the current conflict(s) to uncover long-standing attitudes and habits that influence their reactive behavior.
2. Armed with this insight, we develop strategies to manage the challenges that come their way.
"Rita taught me to awaken positive traits I see in myself or have exhibited in the past. This insight will help me manage current and future stressors."
Personal coaching can focus on one or more of these areas:
  • Personal and professional development -- Focuses on helping you perform and execute better at work
  • Health and wellness -- Breaking down the habits that serve you and the habits that don't, understanding stress and its effects on your health, building resilience skills and attitudes
  • Interpersonal relationships -- Improving communication, conflict and emotional intelligence to enhance your relationship skills
  • Work/life balance -- Establishing healthy boundaries between work and personal life
  • Achieving success -- Developing the skills, mindsets and strategies needed to succeed and achieve their goals

Sessions held in person or via Doxy.me, Skype or Facetime

Sessions can be held at my office conveniently located at 511 Main St. in Sturbridge, or onsite at your business location. Sessions can also be held via Doxy.me, Skype or Facetime.

Don't Let Employee Difficulties Hurt Your Business

Contact Me Today!

Call Rita at 774-230-5670 or via e-mail: rita@ritaschiano.com to discuss how Strategic Coaching may be right for your organization.
About Rita: As a personal strategic coach, Rita helps clients focus specifically on their most important goals, interests, challenges, and needs, offering insight and assistance that guides them towards actionable, positive changes. Rita received her Strategic Intervention Coaching Certificate from Robbins-Madanes Center for Strategic Intervention.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Thoughts About Ambition, Achievement, and Fulfillment

A few weeks back a colleague said to me, "I admire how ambitious you are." Her words stopped me.

"Ambitious? You see me as ambitious?" I was puzzled. I never thought of myself in that way, so I had to ponder what she meant by that.

I turned to my internal dictionary and thesaurus -- the one my grandmother had drilled into me as a child by insisting that I learn the list of spelling bee words she tore out of the Sunday paper each week.

Ambitious: a go-getter, power-hungry, zealous. That's not me. Determined. Hmm. Determined. Now that is me. I am determined, purposeful, motivated, and an enthusiastic learner. I am an achiever.

This got me thinking about what is achievement? Achievement is the experience of accomplishment, of attaining the goals you set for yourself. While ambition is the chief driver of achievement, it seems to me they are variables in the equation that equals fulfillment.

Fulfillment is the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted; it is the feeling of satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character. You may have all the success and money in the world, yet be internally bankrupt and feel that life has no meaning.

Fulfillment is accomplished by two things: continuous growth and continuous contribution beyond oneself. It comes from living a life of meaning, of significance. Achievement, however, is pleasure; achievement is of and in the moment.

In my studies in strategic intervention, I learned that the strongest drive in human beings is the "drive for fulfillment, and that all human beings share this need to experience a life of meaning and purpose" (Robbins-Madanes).

Fulfillment can only be achieved when we focus our lives on the need to grow continuously, and the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way.

My desire to grow continuously and to contribute beyond myself in a meaningful way is fueled by an inner ambition to do so. Perhaps my colleague was right. I am ambitious.
~ Rita

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Practicing Gratitude

Psychological research finds that people's happiness levels are remarkably stable over the long-term. A possible explanation comes from studies in the psychology of gratitude. Yes, you read that correctly -- being thankful just may be the secret to happiness.
The study* cited that people who were in the gratitude condition felt fully 25% happier -- they were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives.

The words "gratitude" and "grace" share a common Latin origin, gratus, meaning "pleasing" or "thankful." When you are in a deep state of gratitude, you may feel the presence of grace. Reflect on this. As we become more mindful of the present moment, we begin to recognize the things around us that we may have taken for granted.

Learning to practice gratitude is one of life's most valuable lessons. As Aristotle taught us, all virtues have value and the virtue of gratitude helps to increase feelings of satisfaction with our lives and keeps us from falling into the excess of a greedy or entitled frame of mind.

There are many simple, yet powerful ways to practice gratitude on a daily basis.
  • Thank, separately, both the cashier and the bagger at the grocery store.
  • Send a hand-written thank you note when you receive a gift, however small.
  • Make "thank you" a common phrase in your vocabulary.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Each night write 1-3 things for which you were grateful during the day.
And remember to live a gracious and flourishing life.
Rita

*Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389