Archive | February 2013

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge and tell us how you said thank you.



Happy Pink Shirt Day!


What if the kid you bullied at school, grew up, and turned out to be the only surgeon who could save your life? Lynette Mather

Today, Pink Shirt Day is a bullying awareness day celebrated in Canada. The pink shirt symbolises society’s zero-tolerance to bullying anywhere (schools, workplaces, homes, over the Internet etc).

The idea originated from two Nova Scotia high school students – David Shepherd and Travis Price. They chose to wear pink shirts, and offered 50 pink shirts to other students, after witnessing a ninth grade student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt.

Stop bullying! For more information, click here.


How to control your thoughts and be more positive


The mind is everything. What you think you become. Buddha

At a time when things appear to be going wrong, or we’re particularly stressed, we tend to take things more negatively than usual. It’s easy to be irrational and blame our circumstances, but it doesn’t make us feel any better. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can control your thoughts in a positive way.

1. Accept it – everyone has bad thoughts every now and then
Acknowledge that everyone has bad thoughts. Everyone has been kept awake from negative thinking, or kept in a state of fear because they can’t switch off. You are not alone! Speak to someone, generally you will find someone who can relate to the way you’re feeling.

2. Thank your thought for coming and send it on its way
Psychologists say (and I have heard this in an introductory session to Landmark Forum, though I never pursued it) – if you have a negative thought, you should listen to what it has to say, thank it for saying its piece (it’s there to protect you and keep you safe) and then send it on its way. It’s like an annoying child: if you listen to it, acknowledge it, and then send it on its way, the child is more likely to leave you alone quickly. Whereas if you ignore it, it will keep annoying you until you have taken action. Our thoughts are similar.

3. Swap the negative thought for a positive one
When you have a negative thought challenge yourself to come up with a positive thought about the exact same thing. For example, someone rudely crosses your path and knocks you without acknowledging you and you think “That person doesn’t like me” – you could think “Wow, they were in a hurry! I hope they get to where ever they are going quickly!” It sounds a bit like something AA Milne would write, but if you continue to think positively about things, other positive thoughts will follow. This isn’t as easy as it sounds – practise makes perfect with this one!

4. Distract yourself until you can talk to someone
When your thoughts get overpowering, you sometimes need an immediate distraction. Go on a brisk walk, keep a list of contacts of your most supportive friends and call through until you find someone that will meet up with you or spend some time doing something you enjoy. Sometimes we need to ignore our negative thoughts while they are hurting us and come back to them later. Generally this is where you need to distract yourself until you have someone you can share your thoughts with that will act as a sounding board and offer you calm, rational advice.

5. Consider the worst scenario
What would happen if your negative thought came true? It’s generally not as scary as it may have felt before you thought it through. Try to be rational as you consider your options. For example, if you stumble when public speaking – a dinosaur is not going to eat you. Someone may laugh, you may lose your place momentarily, but ultimately you will be able to carry on with your presentation or speech. Once you have considered the worst case scenario, accept it for what it is and prepare for it as best you can.

6. Write it out
Negative thoughts generally generate more negative thoughts, then another one, then another one and it’s like a racing track in your mind. It’s easy to panic and let it overwhelm us, but there are things you can do to slow down and start thinking rationally again. Write a letter to yourself as though you’re your best friend and telling yourself about this negative thought you have just had may also help. Generally writing is like meditating; it slows us down and helps us to connect with our rational thoughts. If you feel strange writing a letter to yourself, write it to your best friend – but read it as though your best friend wrote it to you. You could even reply with suggested solutions!

7. Before listening, consider what you want
Before taking a negative thought on board, consider exactly what you want. Start thinking about what you need to do to get what you want. Is this negative thought blocking you? Then you can send it on its way. The trick is to focus more on what you do want than what you don’t want, take control and encourage yourself to maintain a positive thought process.

8. Concentrate on positive affirmations
Tell yourself you can do it, you are positive, you will be great – you are your best cheerleader. Have confidence in yourself, no one can do it for you. Be mindful of all the good things you already have in your life. Follow your positive thoughts with positive actions. Choose to hang around positive, supportive people. Read success stories and things that inspire and motivate you.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Your turn – how do you control your thoughts in a positive way?

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge and tell us how you said thank you.


How to give criticism constructively


Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. Dalai Lama

After a few knocks to my confidence, I mustered up the courage to go for a job interview. The recruitment consultant wrapped up by sitting back in her chair and looking at me with eagle-evil eyes. She concluded our meeting by telling me that my answers were “fluffy” and the managers wouldn’t have a bar of it. I must admit, the way she approached it felt very … “corporate”. Isn’t that sad that the corporate world has become so hardened, serious and political that it can actually be used in a way to describe such an ugly vibe?

I returned home and spent the entire afternoon in a pit of despair. My confidence was shattered and my thoughts were negative: I’m unemployable. (Although technically I had a job at the time – just not the one I wanted.) At that time, the “feedback” had been crushing. It should be noted that generally I don’t take criticism so badly – in fact, I usually get excited by criticism and see it as an opportunity to grow – but when what is said is lacking the constructive element, and the person is already run down and lacking in confidence for whatever reason, it makes it difficult to put into perspective.

What that recruitment consultant didn’t know was that I studied for that interview for three days straight – I’m simply just not that great at interviews! That’s what disheartened me the most. I didn’t lie in the interview, I didn’t make up any answer, I just … didn’t have the polished responses she was after. Not that it mattered. Judging by the way the feedback was managed, she was too busy making me feel as though I had wasted her time rather than considering what may have been going on in my life at the time and how her words may have impacted me. So what could she have done differently?

It’s important when offering critical feedback to remember that everyone has their own issues at any given time. Life isn’t a talent show – you are not Kyle Sandilands! Upon further thought I concluded that perhaps recruiters could be more helpful by looking at their clients and having suggestions for helping them: sending them to interview coaching, recommending job training or courses to assist polish up their skills and build confidence.

Something I don’t understand is that recruiters, and even people in positions of power to hire, often overlook people because they are bad at interviews. Thing is – they can still do a really good job! People that are good at interviews, with all the correct responses, may be well trained and rehearsed rather than actually confident in what they can actually do in a job.

How can recruitment consultants give criticism more effectively?

– Communicate better: if you receive a “fluffy” answer, probe further, explain at the time why you think it is unsatisfactory at the time of receiving the answer – give the person a chance before assuming the worst

– If you don’t receive the answer you are after, say what is wrong with it

– Ask more in-depth questions. If your candidate is struggling to take the lead, help them out, you can always tell them what areas they need to work on for the next stage of the interview

– Don’t be so sceptical. While some people do lie on their resumes, others honestly don’t – and honesty should come across in the interview. If the person appears honest, give them a chance to prove themselves – it’s the job of the recruiter to ask the right questions

– Don’t be negative! You don’t know what you don’t know, remember that people always have their own problems in their life without you adding to the hurt. If you don’t think the candidate is up for going forward, tell them honestly that you won’t put them forward or offer to retract their resume if they wish. Give the applicant options

– Quit thinking of yourself! Life isn’t all about money and your commission. It costs nothing to be kind to someone. Don’t say “you have no confidence” and not follow up. Giving suggestions, for example, “Perhaps you would come across as more confident if you did this, or if you tried this…” etc.

– Send the candidate everything they need for the interview, if you forget to do it, then you’re incompetent, not the candidate. Do you know how many times I’ve walked into the interview and the recruitment consultant goes “Oh? Didn’t I send you that?” Like it was my fault? It just leaves me feeling frustrated, helpless and feeling as though other candidates had the upper hand as they had more information to help them prepare.

How can YOU give criticism constructively?

– Try to understand the other person, consider your expectations and work out why or why not that person may have said or acted the way they did

– Tell the person what they’re doing wrong, and give some options and examples of how they could improve

– Give positive feedback as close to the event or accomplishment as possible and for negative feedback, consider timing. Don’t overload the person with more stress, wait until their in a position to listen to you by setting a meeting, outlining the content of the meeting and allowing that person to prepare properly

– Give as much information as you can, to assist the other person with how they can improve. Consider if you want to give feedback that’s successful and helps someone or if you want to give feedback that will hurt them. Consider the person and their wellbeing, and then consider how to best present the feedback. Sometimes being blatantly honest hinders a person more than encourages them. Consider their feelings when dealing with them and be sensitive – everyone has their own problems

– Don’t overload the person with criticism. Give a criticism, say a solution, say what you will be looking for going forward (give your expectation). Then start on the next criticism. If you hammer someone with your criticisms without stating a suggested solution to the problem (no matter how obvious) and what you are looking for going forward (expectation), then you’re bound to do more damage than good

– Sandwich your feedback. Give positive criticism, negative criticism, positive criticism… always ensure you leave on a positive. An old industry standard is to say two positives to every negative. And before you let anyone leave the room, ensure that the other person feels that the meeting went well and is satisfied. Give them an opportunity to offer you honest criticism

– Ensure your criticism is specific, useful and helpful. Avoid being rude, condescending or hurtful. If there is any part of what they are doing that is correct, then make sure you tell them.

At the end of the day, it’s simple – just make sure you offer the RIGHT criticism:

R – Respectful: If you don’t respect the person, they’ll pick up on it and it will be harder to take on board. Always expect the best, and that the person you’re offering criticism to was doing their best before providing harsh feedback. Ask if you can provide feedback before offering it to the person.

I – Issue-Specific: Stay on topic. Centre your feedback on the issue or performance that needs correcting, don’t bombard the person with criticism.

G – Goal-Focussed: Provide something practical and constructive to focus on by providing targets the person can work towards while trying to achieve their goals.

H – Helpful: Ensure you maintain a helpful tone and show your support when delivering feedback. If you often point out the good things people do and encourage them, they will be more receptive to your feedback.

T – Timely: If it’s positive feedback, give it to the person as close to the event as possible. If it is negative feedback, give it to the person once everyone has cooled down and at a time convenient to everyone. If it is something worthy of dismissal, give the person warning to enable them to prepare some notes.

When was the last time you provided someone with criticism? How did you present it? Was the message received in a positive way? Give examples of how things improved.

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge and tell us how you said thank you.


10 ways to make a big life change


If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Mary Engelbreit

It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory. W. Edwards Deming

My friends recently acknowledged me for being able to make really big life decisions. Each time I transform a little bit more and step up just a little bit more – and I always land on my feet. So this week, Happiness Weekly is looking at how you make those big life changes

1. Make up your mind to change
As with any decision making, start with weighing up the pros and cons of the situation. In the past, I have had cons far outweighing the pros, but still followed my heart and gone with it. I have no regrets and I’ve never looked back, so it is possible to go against the logic in front of you and still succeed. If anything, the pros and cons list just helps you to know what you want. Once you know what you want, you can go and get it. When your mind is made up, the rest should follow. The trick is not to change your mind until you’re at least three quarters into the big life change, and then you just need to make slight tweaks and adjustments.

2. Focus on what you want to change and remove all the blocks
It’s really important that you keep in mind what you want to change any why, rather than the how. Start removing anything blocking you from getting where you want to go. Keep a photo of your goal in your wallet or close by illustrating what you want to achieve. If you’re moving interstate for a big job and leaving your life behind, then keep a photo of what you want your success to bring you. If you are overweight, then keep an image of someone, with a similar build who you admire, in your wallet. Keeping your goals as visual as possible with trigger you to stay on track and self-motivated.

3. Expect the best but prepare for failure
Build yourself up to expect the best, know that you can do anything you want to – it’s very important to believe in yourself every step of the way, leave the doubts for other people. But the fact of the matter is that every now and then you will suffer setbacks – that is part of the process in being successful. Always remind yourself that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that’s important.

4. Take chances
Don’t be afraid to take chances along the way, and be flexible with change. One of my closest friends said to me the other day: “I’m disappointed only because things are not turning out the way my mind saw them … in reality it is what it is and nothing more”. Don’t stop when you get a setback, look for your next goal and keep going. Life’s too short to be wondering “what if” – if you’re curious, follow it and see where it leads you.

5. Review your friends
This doesn’t mean you need a fall out with all your friends, but just stop keeping in touch with the wrong ones as often. The people you need to associate with at this time are people that have been successful in whatever change you are making, or the people who support you 100% and will help you where they can. Anyone that makes negative suggestions or thinks or acts negatively will have to go. Take care of yourself and put yourself first where ever possible. If you have difficulty doing this, start treating yourself as though you were your best friend.

6. Set goals and rewards
Make this one big life change the major goal and focus on it. You can also set mini goals, timeframes and rewards when you achieve something to help you along the way. You need to reward yourself for your achievements to help stay on track. You also need the mini goals because generally major life changes don’t happen overnight. It’s a marathon not a sprint, but once you’re in a routine it will get easier.

7. Challenge yourself
Get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Do things you wouldn’t usually do. Focus on doing the things you want to do. Take yourself to an event on your own, you’ll surprise yourself with how many people you come out knowing. Try a new food – you may like it.

8. Get a makeover
Go to the hairdresser and change your hair, change your wardrobe and generally get a makeover. Change yourself to look exactly how the final you will look. Changing things on the inside is one thing, but you still need to dress where you want to go. There is no doubt a makeover pushes things to happen faster.

9. Trust your instincts and be accountable
Telling a few close friends your plans, and then proving that you can do it will also help you along your journey. You may need people that are there for you when you suffer a setback. Trust your instincts with your decisions. Ask for help if you need it and avoid doing things you don’t feel aren’t right. You may also hold yourself accountable by documenting your progress in a diary or a blog.

10. Be persistent
Don’t give up! Be confident in your decision, think of the end result, continue to take action and keep going. No one can do it for you. Stick with it even when the going gets rough, because once you achieve your goal, it will be worth it… and you’ll have some great stories to tell that you’ve collected along the way!

Remember, change is as positive as you make it! What major life change have you made? How did you make it and what was the result?

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge

Thursday Thank You – enjoy the challenge and tell us how you said thank you.


How to focus in difficult times (and get back to work!)


The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure. Stephen Richards

Sometimes we go through difficult times when we really need to concentrate on what’s ahead of us. For example, we just receive a promotion and our spouse leaves us. Or we’re trying to go for job interviews and just before we walk in, we found out someone close to us has died. Two major events and it’s very easy to let the second one affect the first in a negative way. This week, Happiness Weekly looks at how you can get back to work and focus during trying times.

Before you have a breakdown, try the following to get you through:

Find a quiet place away from everyone, you may need to drive somewhere in your car and park for a while, and think everything through. This gives you a chance to think without distractions and process the events.

It’s really important to keep breathing when things are bringing us great stress. If you take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, even practise meditation, you will feel calmer. Getting oxygen to the brain will assist you thinking more clearly.

Ask yourself how much worse the situation would be if you also lost your job. Motivate yourself as much as possible to push through this hard time, because if you consistently fail to make your performance at work a priority, you risk finding yourself unemployed. Also watch how you treat people at work, remind yourself that your stress is not their problem.

Unclutter your life as much as you can with any other complications. Stay off Facebook and away from the news while you process what’s happening in your life. Remove temptation where ever possible. Studies show that each task you complete makes you less effective at the next task, which is particularly true for things like self-control and decision making.

Make sure your goals are easily attainable during this hard time, but still drive you forward. Try to break up your essential tasks into smaller pieces. Keeping focused on what you do want will assist with keeping you going in the right direction.

If you know that you will have trouble staying focused, make sure you make a list of all the things you need to accomplish during the day and ensure that you stick to it. This will act as a guide for the day’s activities and keep your mind on the task at hand.

Go for a walk, read a book or magazine, get a massage, have a bath, watch your favourite movie… Sometimes it’s important to be your own best friend. You know the whole truth of what is going on, if you can’t be there for yourself, then no one else will be.

Surround yourself with people that make you feel good about yourself. Spending time with vibrant, upbeat people will help you to be successful. If you’re hanging around someone particularly successful, ask them how they did it – remember: these people have also faced challenges, suffered set-backs, handled criticism and overcome difficult times. Take advantage of their experience.

At times of stress, you are better off eating healthy foods including lots of fruit and vegetables. Drink plenty of water as well. Raw and unprocessed foods help you to be calm and relaxed. Eat your salad before you eat your main course. Limit alcohol as much as possible.

Concentrate on things that make you happy. Funny memories, a calming holiday destination, a childhood memory. Visualisation will help you feel as though you are without danger or threat.

We hope these tips are helpful and would love to hear from you – how do you focus during difficult times?

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