The Flourish Bulletin 10 October 2022
Updated: Oct 10, 2022
In this Bulletin… Moving into Autumn … What’s holding you back?... Personal recollections of Queen Elizabeth II.... Practical neuroscience: Are you more negative than you need to be?... Manifesting without the Bul*sh*t ... Mindfulness at work update ... Are extrovert leaders better than introvert?... Do your pets enhance your work?
Personal recollections of Queen Elizabeth II
Like many people, I was sad to hear that the Queen had died . She was an amazing human being. When I was young I grew up in Shernborne, a tiny village in Norfolk which is part of the Queens Sandringham Estate. Growing up I often saw the royal family from a distance when they visited to
shoot game. Growing up many people I knew worked for the Queens estate, or lived in houses owned by the estate. When I was around 14 I was cycling to the nearby village of Dersingham. Cycling down a long hill I saw ahead of me the figure of a woman dressed in tweed with a Corgi. It took me a few seconds to realise that ahead of me stood the queen. I wasn’t sure how to address the Queen when cycling past her so I simply gave her a nod and said “Morning!”. She smiled back at me and gave me a nod and said “Good morning” in return. Happy memories of a great woman. RIP Queen Elizabeth.
Moving into Autumn
How is life treating you as we leave the summer behind and enter Autumn? I love the sunshine of summer but am not keen on being out in bright sunshine for any length of time. Sitting under a shade I am happy to look at the sun. It makes me happy, but being out in it for a long period? No. In contrast I love to spend time outside in the Autumn. I love to observe the changes in nature. Autumn for me is a time of bounty – berries on the bushes for the birds, apples, quinces, fresh walnuts and blackberries to harvest. What will Autumn hold for you? What’s important for you right now as the days get shorter and the leaves change colour?
What’s holding you back?
I have been very quiet on social media for many months. I have been doing a lot of introspection alongside my coaching work, research and writing a new book. I am now emerging back into the world with new insights and fresh perspectives. What I discovered about myself were some patterns of thinking and behaviour that no longer served me well. In the past my tendency when I hit a barrier was to simply push through it and plough on – not letting anything stop me. My primary drive was to help my clients to achieve their desired outcomes. In the process I had become blinkered to the impact of all this on me as a human being. Slightly ironic for someone who teaches mindfulness, but it proves i am human! What’s new? I am still determined to help as many people as I can and work towards changing the way we think, behave and perform, but I am more aware of how some aspects of my work impact the human that is Juliet. I will be taking steps to care for myself and approach rather than avoid the things that in the past I ignored or supressed.
Are there any things that are hurting you or holding you back that you are reluctant or frightened to explore? In my experience the fear of exploring or dealing with difficulty causes infinitely more pain and suffering than the difficulty itself. If you have a basic foundation of mindfulness the ‘Approaching difficulty’ exercise can be invaluable. The aim of the exercise is not to make the difficulty go away, but to gain an insight into the impact the difficulty is having on you. In doing so, the difficulty often changes or diminishes, all by itself. When I teach trainers how to deliver mindfulness in the workplace, teaching them how to lead this exercise is my favourite thing. If you can go towards something you find scarey or difficult with an open mind and a curiosity you have cracked it. In order for mindfulness teachers to help their students to do this they have to experience it for themselves. Watching the metaphorical lightbulbs flash above trainers heads when they 'get it' for the first time is something I find extremly rewarding.
Are you more negative than you need to be?
A recurring theme in my coaching work is “the human negativity bias”. As humans, we tend to pay a disproportionate amount of attention to anything that we perceive as harmful or threatening, such as some harsh words from a work colleague, a missed work deadline, stumbling on your words when making a presentation, or being overlooked for promotion.
Example: you might be having a great day at work when a colleague makes an offhand comment. You find yourself stewing about this for the rest of the workday. As a result, you find it harder to focus, and you are less productive.
What’s happening in the brain?
Neuroscientific research shows that there is greater neural processing in the brain in response to negative stimuli. The brain's response to specific sensory, cognitive, or motor stimuli, have shown that negative stimuli elicit a larger brain response than positive ones. In studies conducted by psychologist John Cacioppo, participants were shown pictures of either positive, negative, or neutral images. Negative images produced a much stronger response in the cerebral cortex than did positive or neutral images.
This negativity bias is the result of evolution. In ancient times it was essential to pay lots of attention to threats. Failure to do so could lead death. Humans who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive. As a result, the human brain has become hard wired to constantly scan for danger. It pays up to 10x more attention to anything which can be perceived as harmful or threatening while positive experiences such as praise from a boss, getting a job done well, or a beautiful sunset can pass us by unnoticed.
How to overcome the negativity bias
The human negativity bias is hardwired into your brain as a survival strategy. You can overcome it with a little time and practice.
Recognise when the negativity bias comes out to play
Acknowledge that you are having a thought. For example, “I am having a thought that my colleague thinks I am bad at my job”. Doing this helps you detach from the thought and stops you from stewing over it. Remember that thoughts are not facts, but our brain routinely treats them as facts and then builds on them, triggering emotions and can lead to a negative spiral.
When something nice happens, like getting work done well, or being praised or finally clearing your email box, pause for 10 seconds to appreciate the good. Doing so will help your brain to register that something nice has happened and can trigger a dopamine hit in the brain.
Recognising that both good things and bad things happen each day will help you to correct the negativity bias and gain a more balanced perspective on your day
If the human negativity bias interests you, you might like to read neuroscientist Rick Hanson’s book: Hardwiring happiness. If you are interested in research, you might like to read: Negative information weighs more heavily on the brain
Manifesting without the Bull*h*t
During the summer I have been busy working on my latest book. Its working title is “Manifest: The science of turning intentions into reality in three steps”. Its written for my core audience: busy working professionals looking for smarter ways to work. It builds on my last book “Intention Matters: The Science of Creating the Life You Want”. When you ditch the bull*h*t the active ingredient in manifesting is intention. To make anything happen in your life you first need to have intention. In ‘Intention Matters’ I provided a neuroscience based cognitive model to explain how intention works. In this latest book I broaden the subject and provide some additional science and more ways to work with intentions.
In the four-year period leading up to the publication of Intention Matters in 2019, I researched the mechanisms that turned a persons dreams and aspirations into reality. To simplify the process, I developed the IDEA model® - a four step process to help people to be more successful in turning ideas into a reality. Since 2019 I have tested the IDEA model on over 100 people and used the data gathered to refine the model further.
Manifesting is a hot topic now, but despite all the articles, blogs, podcasts, and celebrity endorsements its still much misunderstood, especially in a business context. In psychology, manifestation generally means using our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to bring something to our physical reality. In neuroscience its about understanding how the mind tasks the brain which triggers both conscious and subconscious cognitive processes and motor responses to make the things you desire happen.
The active ingredient of manifesting is clear intentions. My new book, based on the science of how manifesting works will offer a Bull*h*t free, evidence informed, practical guide to manifesting aimed at busy people. When you strip away the myths and magic, manifesting is about becoming clear about your intentions and using your mind, brain, thoughts, emotions, and belief systems to create your new reality.
Manifesting done right is much more effective than goal settings for multiple reasons too complex and lengthy to share here. I have already interviewed 56 people who have used manifesting in all its guises to get the things they want from life including new careers, houses, social change, and even finding new partners.
If you or someone you know are willing to share a manifesting story – what worked and what did not, I would be very happy to talk to you. I am also looking for people to review the book. Let me know if you'd be intrerested to become a reviewer, pre launch.
Please contact me via my website contact form or email me using link at the top left of the page.
Mindfulness at work update
Over that last few months, I have been working 1:1 via Zoom with a number of clients to teach them the basics of Mindfulness using the WorkplaceMT 6 week MBCT based curriculum. I have also been working with clients who have more experience of mindfulness but have ‘got stuck’ and needed to understand the subject better to move forwards. It constantly amazes me that so many people go through a 6-, 8- or 10-week course without seeming to understand the basics of mindfulness. Its a real pleasure to be able to help people to truly understand mindfulness and make it part of their lives. When you understand the fundamentals, mindfulness improves your focus and concentration and reduces time spent ruminating about things that its pointless to worry about. It increases your self-awareness and gives you the tools you need to manage yourself better. Research into mindfulness in a workplace context shows that as little as 10 minutes practice a day can transform multiple aspects of productivity, improve relationships at work and at home and can enhance your health and wellbeing.
In you are interested in research I recommend you read:
For a workplace focused overview of mindfulness and to view the full WorkplaceMT training curriculum you might like to read Mindful Leadership for Dummies
Do introverts or extroverts make better leaders?
Another theme that regularly emerges in my coaching work is an individuals tendency towards extroversion or introversion.
In simple terms, introverts gain energy from time alone and can lose energy in social gatherings. Extroverts gain energy from social interactions.
I am a borderline introvert. I can get up on a stage and talk to hundreds of people, I can spend a day training a group of people, I can lead a group of people but I NEED time alone and solitude each day to recharge my energy banks.
Neurological and biological differences
Recent neuroscience research has concluded that the difference between introverts and extroverts is biological, linked to how we unwind after social situations. In terms of their brain chemistry, introverts have a lower threshold of dopamine sensitivity than extroverts. (Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter associated with reward because it makes us feel good). Essentially, the lower your dopamine threshold, the more easily stimulated you are. In simple terms, introverts can tolerate less dopamine than extroverts. Social situations can be very highly stimulating for introverts, triggering a dopamine overload, and a desire to withdraw. Extroverts have a higher tolerance for dopamine, so the same or even a higher level of dopamine will stimulate and enliven them.
Introverts can be powerful leaders because of — not in spite of — their introversion.
Our world tends to be built for extroverts, and this is especially true in the workplace. Some examples:
Employees often have to sit through meetings that are built around verbal exchanges of ideas. Introverted people may prefer to reflect and share their ideas later in written form.
The open plan offices many of us work in are set up to promote interaction. Too much interaction can reduce the productivity if you are introverted.
Many employers arrange opportunities for employees to interact in a social setting to build working relationships. This does not always bring out the best in introverted staff, who can find it a real trial and might prefer to socialise with collegues on a one to one basis.
Its common for introvert leaders to force themselves to act as an extrovert because they think who they should be in order to gain social acceptance as a leader, a colleague, and a friend. This can prevent them from performing at their best.
Some the worlds most successful leaders are introverts. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer and Elon Musk are all introverts. Historical leaders who were introverts include Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Both Introverts and extroverts have the capacity to be excellent leaders, they simply lead in different ways.
Tips for introvert leaders
To be successful, bring your most authentic self to work. Don’t waste time and energy trying to show up for work as an extrovert. It won’t make you more successful – it will just be a strain. Many successful influential leaders attribute their success to their unique and different approach.
Credibility is built through thoughtful contributions, inside and outside of meetings. Dont feel pressured to give an immediate answer if you don’t have one. Saying things like “That’s a great question. I’d love to give that some thought and come back to you tomorrow with some ideas” will give you time to think and be at your best.
To create influence, you need to advocate for your unique ideas. Introverts have subtly changed the way we think by writing brilliant novels, inventing innovative world changing technologies, and more. Influence is not about who shouts loudest, its about sharing great ideas.
If you are interested to discover if your natural tendency is towards introversion or extroversion, I have some free diagnostic tests. Please contact me if you would like a copy.
Do pets help you to work better?
As I conclude this months newsletter, sitting in my home office overlooking Ely Cathedral in the distance, out of the corner of my eye I can see Bonzo. Bonzo, pictured here, is my cheeky 10-year-old Bengal cross cat. Bonzo has catitude. At this moment he is trying to use mind control to lure me downstairs to fill his bowl with biscuits.
Like many people I am working from home now more than before. I am lucky to have the house to myself with no interruptions except from the cats and postman. Cat based interruptions like this one create mini punctuation marks in my day reminding me its time to step away from my desk, stretch and move, returning to my desk a few minutes later feeling refreshed and ready to start work afresh.
This set me thinking. Do your pets help or hinder your work? A number of research studies suggest that pets can buffer stress, boost productivity and help keep you healthy while you work from home.
Whats your experience? Do you agree or disagree? Use the buttons below to vote. I will share the results with you in my next newsletter.
Do your pets help or hinder your work?
- Having pets in my house helps me to work better
- Having pets in my house distract me and detract from my work
Heres my take.
If you get glued to your desk for too long, your productivity will dip. A two to 5 minute mindful pause will result in enhanced activity when you return to work. If you don’t have a cat or dog to persuade you to take a mini break, how can you add in some regular pauses in your working day?
Here are some suggestions
With best wishes, Juliet