Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

A 5-Minute Writing Practice to Help You Express Gratitude

When it comes to appreciation, how many times do you say thank you to a clerk or at the end of an email because it’s out of routine, habit, or social norms? It’s not that you’re not appreciative. It’s just that your brain falls into certain patterns of working, and you don’t necessarily notice the details of your experience. The human brain is wired to work fast and well, but to do things quickly, it uses familiar thinking pathways. The practice of appreciation will help you slow down the thinking process long enough to notice what’s around you.

Appreciation is about deepening the connection you feel for what you are grateful for. One of my favorite examples is being grateful for having food to eat. If you’re grateful for the food, you can then be appreciative of what you’re eating, if you consciously pay attention and take the time to notice the flavors, odors, and textures of the food and how it feels to nourish yourself. You can be grateful for things or people in your life without really appreciating them, but it’s difficult to appreciate them and not be grateful. That’s where mindfulness comes into play.

Mindfulness helps bridge the gap between gratitude and appreciation. When you are paying attention to the present moment, with authentic purpose, you can internalize and savor the true value and significance of your experience. The following mindful writing practice will assist you in expressing appreciation.

1. Set a timer for five minutes.

2. Identify an item, person, or concept you rarely notice and write it down. It can be how certain bodily functions work so seamlessly; it can be a person, like the security guard where you work; or it can be the process by which your food got to your table. There are many possibilities.

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Why We Should Welcome Emotions at Work

“To thrive in this uncertain world,” notes Jen Fisher, “we could all use a little more emotional agility.” As Deloitte’s Chief Well-Being Officer, Fisher hosts the WorkWell podcast series featuring interviews with leading experts from across the spectrum of work, health, and self-development. In this episode, Susan David explores why our emotional life can’t (and shouldn’t) be put on pause when we clock in. David is an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist and author of the bestselling Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. 

Jen: There is a myth that positive emotions are obviously good emotions and difficult emotions are bad and we should avoid them. Is this true and is it even possible to avoid difficult emotions? 

Susan: I think there could be nothing further than the truth. [The idea that] Good emotions are about joy and happiness, and bad emotions are somehow about anger or anxiety, frustration, and they should be pushed aside. This is one of the largest misunderstandings of emotions and really, this has real cost. It has cost to the individual because when people see their emotions as good or bad, what they start doing is engaging and hustling with their emotions. I shouldn’t feel that, that’s a bad emotion, I should be grateful for my experience. And this, in the longer term, is actually associated with lower levels of well-being, high levels of mental distress, and also feeling stuck and being stuck, because if you are in a situation where for instance you are feeling bored in the workplace, and you said to yourself I shouldn’t feel that, at least I have got a job, I should be grateful, then what is that doing? It’s not allowing you to actually recognize that you need greater levels of growth and learning at work, and so then you are not going toward that thing that’s important, that value. So, you are actually not able to be agile and to be fruitful and to bring the best of yourself forward. 

[The idea that] good emotions are about joy and happiness, and bad emotions are somehow about anger or anxiety, frustration, and they should be pushed aside. This is one of the largest misunderstandings of emotions.

When we look at the workplace, this similar principle is operating. If we think about organizations that say things like “We want people to be innovative” or “We want people to be collaborative”, there is no innovation that is possible without potential failure and without the difficult emotions that come with potential failure. There is no true collaboration that takes place without conflict or dissenting views, and the emotions that come with that. So, for all of those organizations and leaders and teams that say “We want these outcomes,” whether it’s collaboration or agility or creativity, what those organizations need to be doing is then opening themselves up to the reality that those often tough emotions are part and parcel of being effective in an organizational setting.

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Being Mindful About Physician Culture

People who are immersed in a culture, any culture, including physician culture, seem sublimely unaware of its existence and its powerful influence. As they go about their lives, making decisions that they assume are independent of external forces, they view themselves as autonomous, rational thinkers. In doing so, they fail to notice or consider an important fact. They’ve been culturally conditioned to behave just like those around them. 

To outsiders looking in, this failure to notice something so evident may seem impossible. Can people really overlook such a dominant force? Research from Harvard University answers this question in the affirmative. Let’s go there now. 

It’s 1999, and in a large classroom located on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, researchers are showing students a grainy VHS video. In it, six students are split into opposing teams of three: one team is dressed in white, the other in black. Both squads have a basketball and are standing in a vacant elevator bank. Those watching this video are instructed to count the passes of the team in white as all six participants weave about in a formation that loosely resembles the warmup routine for the Harlem Globetrotters. 

After about a minute, the tape ends, the lights in the classroom come back on, and the students are asked to report the number of passes. Most get the answer correct: thirty-four, or maybe thirty-five—it doesn’t really matter for reasons that will soon become clear. The students are then asked the following question: “Did you happen to notice anything unusual while you were doing the counting task?” 

As researchers Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois and Christopher Chabris of Harvard explain it, “We weren’t really interested in pass-counting ability. We were actually testing something else.” That something else appears at about thirty seconds into the video while test takers are diligently following the bouncing balls. From the right side of the screen, someone enters the picture wearing a cheap-looking gorilla costume. This person—a female Harvard student, according to the study’s authors—walks directly into the middle of the passing frenzy, thumps her chest, and then exits to the left of the screen after about nine seconds. 

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4 Steps to Becoming a More Self-Aware Leader

For companies to succeed, they need self-aware leaders. But the deck is stacked against leaders developing that self-awareness.  

That’s what Daniel Goleman found in his book The New Leaders. Goleman quotes research that distinguishes the leadership of a number of highly successful US healthcare companies from the least successful ones (based on return on equity, share price over a 10-year period). He found that self-delusion was associated with poor performance, and self-awareness with company success:

Tellingly, the CEOs from the poorest performing companies gave themselves the highest ratings on seven of the ten leadership abilities [outlined in the study]. But the pattern reversed when it came to how their subordinates rated them: they gave these CEOs low ratings on the very same abilities. On the other hand, subordinates saw the CEOs of the best performing companies as demonstrating all ten of these leadership abilities most often.

In separate research, Goleman also found that the more senior the managers, the more likely they were to inflate their own ratings. He wrote that “those at the highest levels had the least accurate view of how they acted with others.”

Let’s recap that research, because it’s important.

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Can’t Stop Procrastinating? Here’s How to Break the Cycle

Time runs out on a task you’ve been putting on the back burner and you begin to feel the pressure that could easily have been avoided. Situations like these typically bring on a slew of difficult emotions. Blame. Anger. Frustration. Anxiety.

As you scramble to complete the task, you might find yourself asking, “Why do I do this?”

Well, you’re not alone.

The term procrastinate was adapted in the 16th century from the Latin word, procrastinatus which means, to put off until tomorrow. So as a word that pre-dates the invention of smartphones and Netflix, it seems a more accurate question would be, “Why have we always procrastinated?”

“At the core of it, we are an impulsive species, and we value the now so much more than the latter,” explains Dr. Piers Steel, professor in the Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources department at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “Typically, what you’re putting off is the opposite. It’s hard now and it’s giving its rewards later and that’s what we don’t like. We like to be given the rewards as soon as possible.”

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