Blog : Retreats and Coaching

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? How to Engage Your Employees

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? How to Engage Your Employees

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

The last article in the 6-part series, How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work, speaks to engagement. What does a company look like if they have made it to this level?

Genuine engagement is the culmination of all that has been discussed. It is the result of clarity and transparency generating safety and trust within your company. It includes a thorough understanding of your own biases and taking the time to know your employees’ strengths. It is committed diligence to ensure that your employees and customers feel connected to your company’s mission and that teams are working together in a collaborative and innovative manner. It is asking if your stakeholders feel valued and heard.

Everyone wants to feel connected and purposeful. It is what numerous happiness studies reveal as primary. When employees feel satisfaction and connection to their work, their team, and your company, you have a happy and engaged company culture!

This is done intentionally, by design – not by chance. Engaged and loyal stakeholders create agile, nimble and resilient organizations. However, the ingredients of employee engagement need to be taught, modeled and practiced within a company. It requires, “harnessing the heart and empowering the minds” of your employees – at every level.

Engagement and an intentional culture that supports engagement are not static. Culture is dynamic and will grow and change with the company, and it is the responsibility of leadership to continually create the company culture you intend. It requires understanding the basic needs of humans, from the inside out, and building it into the fabric of your organization.

You, as the leader, have to decide, then define, and design. This is what is meant by an intentional and purpose-driven company culture.

Tools for genuine engagement to increase retention, productivity and reduce turnover:

  • It is a process. Learn the essential ingredients in our ACE video series – How to Become the Best Place to Work – delivered to your inbox in biz-size segments over the next two weeks.

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • So, after learning more about what is necessary to create a fully engaged workforce, how would you grade your company(A, A-, B, B-, C, C-, D, D-, F)?
  • What opportunities do you see to increase engagement?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Lasting Employees

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Lasting Employees

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

The consequence of the aforementioned steps (#1 -#4) in How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work, is lasting employees.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

Businesses are complex systems that have human beings at their core. People are the alpha and omega of business and are the true X-factor. By focusing as carefully on people as they do on products, systems, and org charts, organizations can humanize and create sustained success.

However, only 33% percent of leaders are extremely confident in their organization’s ability to motivate employees at an emotional level (Northhighland White Paper, 2018). The emotional commitment an employee has to your company equates to their level of engagement.

Engaged employees don’t just work for a paycheck, bonus or promotion; they believe in the company’s values and work toward its success.

Disengaged employees can cost your company a lot of money.

  • Decreased productivity
  • High turnover
  • Absenteeism
  • Fiscal costs of stressed-out workers (illness, etc.)
  • Poor customer service

You might not always notice that you have an “engagement” problem, but you will definitely notice the effects of disengaged employees.

Conversely, actively engaged employees are three times more productive (Rapid Learning Institute 2017). And, companies with a formal engagement strategy in place are 67% more likely to improve their revenue per full-time equivalent on a year-over-year basis (Aberdeen 2016). In today’s new economy, long-term market success is less about what you do, but who you are as a company: your mission, values, beliefs, culture, and your people. The companies that get this win.

Difficulty retaining good employees in this current competitive workforce? Quick Tips for reinforcing lasting employees in your workplace:

  • Learn how your employees feel rewarded and incorporate what you learn into a regular acknowledgment tradition (e.g. announcements in meetings).
  • Administer regular employee engagement surveys, either written or interview style, so you can get a pulse on your employees level of engagement.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to share both their personal and professional goals and brainstorm ways they can achieve those goals inside and outside of the office (e.g. professional development).

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • What is it about your employees that sets your company apart?
  • How are you going to share the knowledge of that differentiating factor with the world?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Try Creative Collaboration

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Try Creative Collaboration

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

Creativity is #4 in How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

You might be asking yourself why is creativity one of the cornerstones?

By 2020 creativity will be the third most important skill in the job market according to the World Economic Forum, and of CEO’s polled, 60% agreed that creativity was the most important skill to have in a leadership role (Fast Company, 2017). Creativity and imagination are the drivers of innovation, the keystone to differentiation.

If you remember back to #1, safety and trust and how the brain is divided, you will recall that as the brain evolved new layers were, essentially, added to the top. These additional “layers” include the limbic system and the frontal cortex, which are divided into two cerebral hemispheres, the right and the left.

Creativity targets both the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain – bypassing language and “rational thought and logical assumptions” (left brain attributes). Therefore, creativity gives expression to that which cannot be spoken, due to the structure of the brain.

This provides the opportunity to re-imagine concepts – the very core of innovation. However, as a leader, you need to be prepared to sustain the creative process in its various stages, some of which look very different than detailed gantt charts or profit and loss statements.

Quick Tips to increase creativity in the workplace needed to differentiate and harness your competitive edge:

  • Encourage doodling at your next meeting. Yes, doodling! Be the example. Draw or sketch ideas at the whiteboard. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist and if your circles don’t even look like circles. Just the act of sketching your ideas will engage a different part of the brain, which will foster new ideas!
  • Find times and ways to “zoom out”. For instance, go outside and go for a walk. Insights, those “aha moments”, occur when we relax our focus and become receptive to see the whole. (Brain tidbit: Insights are associated with the right hemisphere of the brain that can detect anomalies and occur when not highly focused on them.)
  • Welcome opposites. The tension of opposites is part of the creative process and can produce results that are greater than the original parts! (Brain tidbit: The right hemisphere has the ability to hold dichotomy. It does not categorize things as opposites, but rather sees them as connected and in relation to one another.)

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Refresh your understanding of the creativity cycle.
  • How do you practice creativity in the workplace?
  • Do you feel it is important to do so?

Imagine for a moment, if you could unleash and realize a fully-engaged and innovative company culture. What would be different in your company culture, what would be different in productivity and motivation and what would be different in your ability to use innovation and creativity to make the best services and products for your clients?

To transcend a current situation, we have to be able to imagine it differently. To understand and change the way we think is to change the way we form our lives – and businesses.

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes.

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Effective Communication is Key

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Effective Communication is Key

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

Our teachings are founded in neuroscience – what we’ve come to term the ACE model of employee engagement and leadership and include: awareness, alignment, communication, and creativity, which lead to lasting employee engagement.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

Open, respectful and effective communication, once considered a “soft skill”, is increasingly being understood as a key ingredient to the success of a business.

This type of communication and emotional intelligence are not necessarily “intuitive”. Rather, the building blocks of effective communication need to be continuously taught, modeled and practiced within a company.

Additionally, our need for safety must be satisfied before we can consistently practice effective communication. As mentioned in the brain integration article and safety video, when we traverse our way up the brain we move from the brainstem to the limbic system (area in pink in the image below). triune brain

The limbic system includes a variety of structures such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. It is the part of the brain we share with other mammals and is responsible for deep-seated emotions, learning, and memory. Its basic need is satisfaction, beyond the survival of self and to rewards found within groups (Me to We).

And, let’s face it, as humans the best way to have our needs met within groups is to communicate effectively.

Here are some simple, but not always easy, strategies for both the listener and the speaker. It’s important to remember that communication can be both verbal and nonverbal (e.g. eye rolls, walking away) and even though asynchronous communication sometimes seems easier, some conversations really should be had face-to-face.

Listener

  • Listen attentively. Look at the speaker with open body language.
  • Do not interrupt. Take a breath instead!
  • Accept silence.
  • Clarify what you hear. What and how questions versus why.
  • Reflect on what you hear, including empathic responses. (What you think they were feeling.)

Speaker

  • Speak attentively. Direct communication without being harsh.
  • Use “I” statements. Versus “you”, which sounds blaming.
  • Accept silence.
  • Do not overspeak. Take a breath instead!
  • Avoid cross-examination.

Dr. John Gottman, one of the foremost couples’ counselors, identified “the four horsemen” within communication styles that can predict that end of a relationship.

It is important to identify if any of these are a familiar way of interacting so that these types of negative communication patterns can be targeted and reduced.

  1. Criticism: When a complaint about something specific becomes global/general.
  2. Contempt: Exemplifies a sense of sarcasm and/or mockery.
  3. Defensiveness: Self-protection when an attack is perceived, but the effect is to blame.
  4. Stonewalling: The listener puts up a wall between herself/himself and the speaker and is perceived to be emotionally detached.

Quick Tips for effective communication in the workplace to increase retention and detoxify workplace bullies:

  • Co-create communication norms and print them in black and white for all to see. (If you want help in facilitating this co-creation, contact ic3!)
  • Model, model, and model some more. As the leader, it is up to you to make these a part of your company culture.
  • Try rephrasing “why” questions to become “what” of “how” questions. You will notice that people immediately are less defensive and, instead, partners in finding a solution.

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Do you currently employ any of the “four horsemen” speaking styles?
  • What communication strategies do you use that work well within your company?
  • Is there an area within your company where communication is less than optimal?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to make your company the best place to work? You Need to Align Your Workforce

Want to make your company the best place to work? You Need to Align Your Workforce

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

It is one thing to be aware; the next step is to be aligned – #3 in this 6-part series, How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work.

Not only do you want your team to be aware of self and others and of the company culture, mission and values, you need them to be aligned.

When all of your employees and systems are working towards the same goal, mission, and values, your company, products, and services become an unstoppable force.

Conversely, picture cogs in a gear. What happens if one of those cogs is out of alignment? Friction builds, your machine slows downs and, eventually, stops. But now, imagine the power of a laser beam. A laser is created when light waves are coherent and “aligned” – generating high focus and impact.

A coherent, aligned and engaged workforce will save your company money by reducing turnover, absenteeism, and healthcare costs while improving customer services and increasing innovation. You will also be doing your part in creating happier, healthier employees, which has a ripple effect on their friends, family and the community at large!

Tips to create alignment in the workplace to tackle high turnover and burnout and increase productivity.

  • Offer an all-company retreat, where leaders and teams co-create the set of cultural values that drive your company.
  • Use those cultural values to hire. When hiring potential hires, make sure they are a good fit for what you and your company have established.

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • What is your personal North Star?
  • What is your company’s North Star?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement. ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to make your company the best place to work? You Need Awareness at Work

Want to make your company the best place to work? You Need Awareness at Work

IC3 Consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

In this 6-part series, How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work, #2 is awareness.

The ACE Model
awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

Google is doing it. Intel is too. By this point, you have certainly heard of mindfulness in the workplace. But, what does it mean to be mindful, especially at work? To be mindful is to be conscious, awake – aware of what is happening now, in the present moment, without a knee-jerk emotional reaction (aka judgment).

Ok then, what does it mean to be aware? Awareness is knowledge, or an understanding of the whole – not just particular biases or schemas. Just like every person, every business has strengths and vulnerabilities and knowing these is imperative. Knowledge is power and awareness is at least 50% of the solution.

And, primary, even prior to awareness of your employees, is awareness of yourself. As a business leader, we understand that you are self-aware. You had to be in order to excel. So, how do you continuously put this practice into practice and remain aware of your internal biases and schemas?

There are multiple ways, but a foundational one is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is one of the key skills to create an integrated brain, leading to optimal functioning not only on an individual level but systematically as well. When your staff and managers are operating from this state, you will establish thriving teams that systematically innovate and collaborate with one another.

Quick Tips to increase awareness at work and overcome high turnover and achieve greater productivity and less burnout:

  • Employee assessments such as StrengthsFinder
  • Create opportunities where teams interact to co-create goals, objectives, and the values of the company.
  • Regular employee engagement surveys (Here is a quick 3-minute assessment you can take to begin to get a pulse on engagement within your company.)

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • How do you practice self-awareness?
  • What tools are already in place that helps you keep a pulse on the level of your employees’ engagement?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement. ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Safety & Trust First

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Safety & Trust First

iC3 Consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

When you see those annual rankings of the best places to work, do you find yourself wondering what it would take for your company to make the list? In this 6-part series learn the necessary ingredients that we’ve come to term the ACE model of engagement and leadership, which include awareness & alignment, creativity & communication, and lasting employee engagement, with a foundation of safety & trust.

Each article and video is short and sweet with quick tips and actions steps so you can start implementing these strategies today.

The ACE Model
safety & trust
awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
lasting employee engagement = intentional culture

Why are psychological safety and trust the starting place? They are the building blocks that are needed for people to bring their whole selves to work – necessary for a fully functioning and engaged workforce.

When employees feel safe, they feel like they can share their ideas – even the ones that aren’t always implemented. Trust is established through transparency, or clearly defined expectations and established communication patterns practiced by all. These are the launching pad for happiness at work.

(Want to learn what is happening in the brain that necessitates safety being the starting place? Click here.)

Imagine a workplace bully. (Unfortunately, this usually is not too hard to conjure.) When employees start to feel threatened by a co-worker, especially if the company is small, they begin to dread coming to work for fear they will be insulted and provoked, or that their job is in jeopardy if that person is in a position of power. Suddenly, you no longer have a team that is working together. Employees do not feel safe or trusting. Rather, they are working from a place of fear and anticipation.

Take this moment and truly pause. Reflect. How many people and/or teams can you identify that are currently operating from a place of fear – not having their needs for safety met? (If this question is difficult for you to answer, click here for more information about awareness at work.)

Quick Tips for safety, transparency and trust in the workplace to address high turnover, low productivity and lack of innovation.

  • What would your employees need to feel more secure at work? Ask them. Not feeling secure often leads to a dramatic reduction in engagement.
  • Are there established methods for effective communication that are practiced and reinforced regularly within your workplace? If not, use this as a starting point.

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Make note of what you do in your company to instill safety & trust?
  • What is one thing can you do to increase safety & trust within your company this week?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes.

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ic3 consulting is an engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve stakeholder engagement. ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices. 

Why the Creativity Cycle is Like an Outstanding Cup of Coffee

Why the Creativity Cycle is Like an Outstanding Cup of Coffee

If you’re like most people, your standard cup of “morning joe” is okay. It serves a function by helping you go from barely functional to getting you through your routine each morning.

However, the standard cup of coffee is very different from a fantastic cup of coffee that’s so good, it makes you stop and savor each sip. So, what separates an okay cup of coffee from a superb one?

It begins with intention — the desire to make a great cup of coffee. Allowing yourself enough protected time to go through the process is important, too, as is your knowledge and understanding of the steps involved. This knowledge can include far-ranging topics such as the quality of the beans and how to store them properly, roasting types and preferences, timing of grinding, filtering techniques, water quality, and temperature and equipment standards. This is a far cry from scooping some coffee grinds into a machine, pouring in water, and turning the button from black to red. And, so is the result.

Similarly, there is a large divide between producing an adequate product or service and creating something that awes, inspires, disrupts — or all of the above. Like making a remarkable cup of coffee, you need to know each specific ingredient and step required to make a great product or service.

There are distinct stages in the creative process, which we will dive into in our next article in this series. First, let’s examine the concept of creativity itself.

Creativity is a word that has an almost magical connotation because it’s often assumed that it’s an attribute of only a select and chosen few. Many people believe that you have to be an amazing visual artist to be creative. Some also believe that creativity cannot truly be defined, because of its utter uniqueness. But the good news is, all humans are creative. Our earliest ancestors had to be creative in order to survive, and it’s still hardwired into our brains.

So, the question isn’t “How creative are you?”, but rather “How are you creative?”

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the key ingredients of creativity is constraint. Creativity functions best when it is understood and practiced within a framework, and it blossoms within defined boundaries.

For instance, when making a cup of coffee, the equipment, steps, ingredients, and processes are pretty well-defined. Within that structure, it is possible to create something anew, as well as to question what had been previously assumed as “obligatory”. A great example of this approach is the recent popularity of nitro cold brew coffee. All that said, you still need coffee, liquid and and equipment, and you’re still working within the structure of “coffee making”.

Furthermore, there is a risk of getting lost in the creative process once you are in it. Think of how many brilliant ideas never made it beyond the brainstorming phase. Not because it wasn’t a great idea, or because funding wasn’t available, or because of functionality questions; but rather, because the person who generated the idea became too bogged down in the details — or in their personal “stuff”, which will inevitably surface. So structure not only provides perspective and clarity, it protects fledgling ideas and supplies energy for the long haul.

Different skill sets are needed at each stage of the creative process, and it’s wise to plan for this. If you know where you are at any given stage, you can seek assistance to close any gaps in knowledge that might arise, and then continue with the process, rather than giving up or going back to the drawing board. This is how you turn your idea into an original new product, service, or methodology that can set you apart from your competitors.

Another critical ingredient in the creative process is fostering a culture in which it’s supported — in all of its stages. Feelings of fear, loathing, and failure are inevitable parts of the process and can arise anew in each stage. If you want to create a work environment that encourages creativity, it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether or not your current culture welcomes these challenging feelings as signs of growth and the arrival of something new. If they are considered taboo, you will need to plan on how to address them when they come up.

One of the most challenging aspects of creativity is the temptation to take feedback personally. Creativity feels extremely intimate, like shining a bright light on our most soft and vulnerable parts, so we can be very sensitive when it comes to hearing comments and criticism from our peers. It can take a tremendous amount of self-awareness to manage the emotions that can come up. In general, it’s a good idea not to take yourself too seriously, and to do your best to keep a sense of humor throughout the process. Training your team or staff on how to provide feedback in a compassionate and constructive way is also very helpful.

To recap, some of the necessary ingredients of the creative process might seem antithetical at first, such as:

  • Protection (for instance, of time and culture)

  • Universality (We are all born creative!)

  • Constraint (Including understanding the various stages of the creative process. Stay tuned for our next article)

  • Fear (and a whole gamut of “negative” feelings)

  • Not taking it personally (What can be born from the creative process has the potential to be life-altering, but if you start taking yourself too seriously, the creativity is already doomed)

You might not always choose to journey through the creative process — just like you might not always choose to make that outstanding cup of coffee. However, once you taste and experience the difference, you will truly understand how it is hard to go back to just “okay”.

Stay tuned for part two of this series, in which we’ll we describe the cycle of creativity and its relationship to our current understanding of the brain.

 

IMG_7126 Small

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

As an employee engagement consultant and professional psychotherapist and coach, Dayna combines out-of- the-box thinking with solid scientific research, so her clients get the best of both worlds.

Dayna is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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The Pain of Gratitude

The Pain of Gratitude

There is something fundamentally challenging about gratitude that goes beyond remembering to practice it. If I truly admit how damn fortunate I am, I usually experience a myriad of feelings: pure love, then guilt, and then sheer terror.

Guilt and terror? That might surprise you. After all, we practice gratitude to help us become more positive and serene, and more appreciative of the good things in our lives. But sometimes, when I’m thinking about how grateful I am for the people, places and things in my life, I can become paralyzed by the thought of all of it just…vanishing. And that’s a terrifying thought indeed.

I don’t believe this stems from a fear of abandonment, or an attachment disorder issue. Rather, it comes from a deep understanding that everything is temporary. My four-year old daughter, jumping up and down naked on the bed, laughing with pure glee, will soon be a memory. My almost-seventeen-year-old cat, who likes to snuggle in the mornings, will also be gone. As will my partner someday.

So, the question becomes: how do I allow myself to fully open and experience the absolute love and gratitude that abounds in these moments, while also fully comprehending that it will never be the same again?

This is not a rhetorical, philosophical question. Really, how do we receive and embrace the good, when we know it can’t last?

I’m reminded of a Carl Jung quote regarding dichotomy (the division between two mutually exclusive or contradictory situations): “But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites…”

When I practice tools that help me become more comfortable with dichotomy, I’m better able to sit with this tension without reacting. These reactions typically take the form of any number of distractions and unproductive behavior, including negativity.

While our brains are wired for negativity and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it kept our ancestors alive, we now know we can actually rewire our brains. Ironically, gratitude is one of the best ways to accomplish this. (See Rick Hanson’s work for more on the brain’s negativity bias).

However, if the experience of gratitude can be painful, then where does that leave us?

There are a few mind/brain hacks you can use to hold dichotomy or, as I call it, brain integration. To give an oversimplified description, our brains have two hemispheres, the left and the right, and they quite literally understand the world differently. The left hemisphere sees things in black and white, yes or no, one way or the other. But the right hemisphere allows for a multitude of shades and colors. It can tolerate the tension of division, and can begin to detect webs, or patterns, that are impossible to see when viewed only in a linear fashion (e.g., yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.).

So how do we facilitate the integration of these two parts of our brains? Well, we have to start by flexing the hemisphere that is most atrophied, which is – unsurprisingly – the right hemisphere. When we have an awareness that these right-brain experiences are 1. available, and 2. valuable, we can bring back the subtle, yet powerful, knowledge of the right hemisphere into our everyday experiences.

How do we begin to “listen” to the vast amount of information offered to us from the right-hemisphere?

First, we have to listen in a different way, as the messages we receive will “sound” different from what we’re used to. For instance, our bodies speak volumes and are directly connected to the right hemisphere. We can start to become aware of the ways our bodies “talk” to us. You might feel queasy when you’re about to give a presentation at work. Or you get goosebumps when watching a scary movie.

Our intuition is also talking to us all the time. Intuition has gotten a bad rap over the years, with many people feeling it’s “airy fairy” or “woo-woo”. However, our intuition is actually “the ability to understand something immediately”. It’s a sense of knowing. And it’s the way the right hemisphere works: by instantly taking in and comprehending the whole picture. Think about the feeling you get when you know someone is lying to you. You might not have proof, but you just know. Or when you get a really good “feeling” about an interview candidate. Eureka moments are possible in this state!

I’m not suggesting that analysis and mental dissection, which are classic left-hemisphere attributes, are not valuable. They absolutely are. However, we tend to get “stuck” in this way of knowing without allowing or acknowledging input from the right hemisphere. As a result, we miss out on the opportunity to understand the situation from a different perspective; one in which the whole (or gestalt) can be understood.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually “speaks” without words – you get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram pops into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So, we have to listen in different ways:

  • Making art

  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)

  • Spending time in nature

  • Stepping back to see the whole picture – what I call “zooming out”

  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)

  • Listening to music

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere.

Bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust. However, when we begin to consciously listen and make the effort to become familiar with what might at first feel very foreign, uncomfortable, and maybe even undefined or wishy-washy, and then implement this knowledge, more will follow.

The right brain can become a storehouse of valuable wisdom. And, it can be really fun (humor and wit are also right-brain attributes!). With a bit of practice, we can become more familiar and comfortable with the opaque and the dichotomous. And getting comfortable operating from this place can feel like coming home.

Ultimately, we’ll be able to more easily manage the sometimes terrifying feelings that can come up when practicing gratitude. And that’s something we can be truly thankful for.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

How are Purpose, Universal Flow and Dirt Related?

How are Purpose, Universal Flow and Dirt Related?

I recently watched an excellent documentary on dirt – or soil, to be more precise – called Symphony of the Soil. The film offers a different way to think about agriculture, challenging the “rules” of the past 7,000 years and presenting a true paradigm shift. It was definitely worth the watch!

The film got me thinking about all the ways that humans have devised to dominate, engineer and take from the land. Farming is one example. The Industrial Revolution is another. In short, we’ve lived with this paradigm of dominating and taking for a very long time.

So it’s no wonder that many of us, if not most, came to believe that in order to get what we wanted out of life we had to “take it”. Follow the rules. Climb the ladder. But do we really feel happy and fulfilled as a result?

Study after study shows that happiness and fulfillment are not a result of unlimited wealth and health. Rather, they are the byproduct when our focus is elsewhere – on a broader empathetic attention on things we care about.

In Symphony of the Soil, they suggest that if life as we know it is to continue, we must stop behaving in the ways we’ve been conditioned to behave.

For example, farmers could choose to cultivate their crops in ways that are actually sustainable and healthy for the soil. One way to do this is to “give back” to the soil, in forms such as compost. Similarly, if we want to live truly happy lives, we must make a mental shift in order to go from a life of dominating and taking to one of giving back.

Our entire universe is a web of interconnectedness. It makes no sense for us to impose our desires on nature without taking nature into account. In embracing a cooperative role, rather than a ruling or dominating one, we will, as Flow author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi so beautifully states, “feel the relief of the exile who is finally returning home.”

So then…what if happiness is actually a dichotomy? What if it’s the delicate balance between reflection and focused attention, and the immersion in a chosen set of goals? And if, as suggested by Csikszentmihalyi, those goals are truly aligned with our purpose, then we can actually merge with the universal flow. It’s in this “sweet spot” that we find focus, as well as openness and the ability to be fully present.

Therefore, consider the idea that happiness and fulfillment are a result of experiencing life right now, of growing and learning and giving back. This is the vow of the bodhisattva.

If you’re curious about how you can get back in touch with – or discover – your purpose, and how you can live from your sweet spot, join us for our Imagination Intensive! From October 13 -16th, we’ll lead you through a transformational weekend on Anna Maria Island, filled with activities, exercises and meditations to help you reconnect with your intuition and creativity, and get clear on your authentic purpose. And there will be plenty of beach time, too! Visit www.ImaginationRetreats.com to learn more and register.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!