Personal Change Management; the tools

A post entitled, Embracing Uncertainty, suggested an alternative description of the practices often recommended to support resilience.

It has become clear that the language helping professionals use, is often one of the most significant obstacles to supporting significant life and career change.

So, if you’ve embraced mindfulness, a daily meditation practice or have already found your way into a supportive recovery community – this post is not for you.

If you’ve explored mindfulness, worked with a trainer, have made multiple attempts to adopted a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, yet find it is difficult or impossible to maintain – this post is for you.

If you’re struggling with periods of malaise, outright depression, anxiety or physical symptoms which might be stress related, or if you have a sense that your work/home life could be better – this post is for you.

And if you’re living well, but have a niggling feeling that something is missing – keep reading. It can’t hurt.

Personal Change Management

Change management has been formally studied and implemented in business and industry for over half a century. In the early days it was characterised by a top-down exercise in defining goals and strategies; in recent decades the focus has moved toward ‘stakeholder-driven’ change.

This shift is important to note. Industry has determined that sustainable change and innovation follows bottom-up management by individuals, team leaders and ‘change champions’.

Boss yelling imageOur personal top-down change management system appears to need updating as well. New Year’s Resolutions are a great example:

  • I’m going on a diet
  • I’m looking for a new job
  • I’m training for a marathon

Good in theory, but arguably top-down. There’s a ring of “the boss says I should” to it.

Personal Change Champion

What would bottom-up personal goal setting look like? How different would it be when you, the ‘stakeholder’, is in charge?

  • Would you decide to diet, or would ask yourself what pain you are medicating by overeating or not exercising?
    Ask
    : What feelings are you shovelling down or numbing with sugar, carbs, drink or drugs?
  • Should you get a new job, or could you confront the stressors at this one?
    Ask: Are you bored? Is it the right field for you? Do you ask for what you need? Do you bring your best self to the workplace – or simply punch a clock?
  • Planning to train for your first or fifth marathon?
    Ask: Are you doing it to benefit from the exercise, discipline and camaraderie – or are you running away from something or for the sense of accomplishment? “Accomplishing” seems more like work than self-care.

Setting achievable goals and ultimately moving from knowing what you don’t want to what you do want, begins with more than a few tough questions.

It requires us to fine tune or re-calibrate our ‘receivers’.  Specific obstacles that have undermined us in the past, become apparent when we learn to listen in a whole new way.

Fine Tuning Receivers

Bandwidth. It’s a perfect metaphor for our attention span and focus. It’s not limitless. Which station are you tuned into? Favourite programme on 88.5? you can hear it on 88.6 or 88.4 – but through some static. In re-calibrating our receivers, it’s the static we’re out to eliminate; the noise characterised by that judging voice and negative self-talk that reinforces the message: why bother?

step.staircaseThe Method

Take one small action every day on your own behalf. The tools outlined below are designed to be adopted into your daily life and routine.

The process is fundamentally the same as the  “DMAIC” model used for Change Management in industry – Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.

If you’re in “I’ll do it myself” mode, we’re inviting you to embrace one small change at a time!

The Tools

These are modified slightly from their source for introductory purposes, links to the original work follow.

Morning Pages

The best case I can make for adopting this practice is laid out in journalist Oliver Burkeman’s 2014 Guardian article.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how powerful Morning Pages proved, from day one, at calming anxieties, producing insights and resolving dilemmas. After all, the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. And that bleary-eyed morning time has been shown to be associated with more creative thinking: with the brain’s inhibitory processes still weak, “A-ha!” moments come more readily.

Julia Cameron, who devised the practice, calls it “meditation for Westerners”. Absent our habit of embracing stillness or silence, three pages written in those early moments of wakefulness between dreams and consciousness, we can achieve the same effect. In her words –

“They are a trail that we follow into our own interior…”

After nearly two decades of doing them, I can attest that the days I write them go far better than the days I do not.

Simply put they are three hand written pages of whatever comes to mind – think of it as a stream of un-consciousness. Some mornings they flow, other mornings they look like a petty list of gripes, a to-do list for the day or a silly unreadable scrawl. They are meant to be private and not shared. They are rarely even re-read.

There is no wrong way to do them. Put your inner critic to the side, take pen to paper and focus on the fact that “done is better than perfect”. Perhaps you can consider them “mourning pages” –

“…a farewell to life as you knew it, and an introduction to life as it’s going to be”

Still skeptical? For more in the author’s own words you can listen to a brief description on her site .

It may just be simpler to try it!

Walking

Introduced in Cameron’s subsequent books, with this tool, she reminds us that

“…walking is a time-honoured spiritual tradition. Native Americans walk on vision quests, Aborigines go on walkabouts…Walking brings a welcome sense of connection…optimism and ….a sense of health and well-being.”

Make it a point to take a walk of at least 20 minutes, twice a week.

“Walking is a luxury, an escape from our frantic pace. When we walk, we experience the richness of the world”.

Time Out

Relax. It’s doable – it’s only five minutes!

Once in the morning and once at night – sit quietly for five minutes. Check in with yourself. It’s an opportunity “for self-appraisal and self-approval”.

Set a timer, make an appointment, silence your inner critic and listen. Simply ask yourself, “How am I feeling and why?”

Play DateCoasteeringPlay

Yes, I know Cameron calls it an “Artist Date“, but it is the single most resisted tool, usually while clients are emphatically insisting they are not “artists”. We’re taking liberty in describing it, as even Cameron calls it “assigned play”.

And to make the case for calling it a “Play Date”, consider this:

“What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around,” he says. “You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.”

That from Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the U.S. based National Institute for Play.

Once a week, imagine “what sounds like fun?” – then allow yourself some time alone to try it. Focus on the word “date”.
Cameron’s genius is never subtle – she is inviting you to “woo” yourself into doing something fun.

“Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play.”

And they need not be adventurous – a hour or two at a gallery, take in a film or a play, head off to an antique show, gaming convention or go berry picking. Just a few hours away, on our own and without a phone or technology is good for re-charging.

Techniques

The process is simple, but not necessarily easy. So choose one of the tools above and try it. If it serves you well, make a habit of it and add another. If you are struggling with one, add a different one and come back to it. And don’t go it alone!

The method, tools and techniques described are outlined in a series of books on creativity, resilience, perseverance, writing, abundance, money and starting over. Published over the last 3 decades and grounded in Julia Cameron’s own recovery, the techniques have evolved over the years, been embraced by millions worldwide and reflect much of the mindfulness based interventions for emotional well being.

You can find all of them from her first, The Artist’s Way to her most recent It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again online and in most bookshops.

Her intention was that small groups would come together into “creative clusters” and work through one chapter a week for 12 weeks at a time. There is information available on forming a cluster, joining a facilitated group, or individual coaching here.

For inspiration you can follow the hashtags #morningpages #artistdate on Twitter.

Thank you to our friends at CoasteeringNI and Firewalking Ireland for challenging us to play and push outside our comfort zone.




Embracing Uncertainty, the space in-between

OptimistAdjustSailsNavigating the space in between what was, what is, and what will be, can be daunting.

Yet, in those days, weeks, months or years, we conceive and create our future.

“Choose to live in the present moment” is fine advice. Living mindfully, embracing self-care and a sense of prosperity requires skill building and support. But where to begin?

Might I suggest that we take a lesson from the business world. Just for a moment, let’s not think in terms of a therapeutic or spiritual journey. Consider it a “personal change-management” program.

“The Quest for Resilience” (Hamel & Välikangas), got my attention a few years back. Originally published in the Harvard Business Review (2003), the paragraph headed, “Zero Trauma” was captivating. This followed:

“The quest for resilience can’t start with an inventory of best practices. Today’s best practices are manifestly inadequate. Instead, it must begin with an aspiration: zero trauma. The goal is a strategy that is forever morphing, forever conforming itself to emerging opportunities and incipient trends. The goal is an organization that is constantly making its future rather than defending its past… In a truly resilient organization, there is plenty of excitement, but there is no trauma.”

Now try re-reading it. Substitute “individual” for “organization”.

The human condition is unlikely to allow for “no trauma”, but when one frames this process as the “avoidance of pain”, we’re returned to the discipline of living one day at a time, mindfully and to its fullest.

The article continues:

“Sound impossible? A few decades ago, many would have laughed at the notion of “zero defects.” If you were driving a Ford Pinto or a Chevy Vega, or making those sorry automobiles, the very term would have sounded absurd. But today we live in a world where Six Sigma, 3.4 defects per million, is widely viewed as an achievable goal. So why shouldn’t we commit ourselves to zero trauma?” 

6sigmaPyramidAnd in the business world  the SixSigma process is the gold standard.

What would a “Personal Six Sigma” process look like? Pretty much the same.

Existing interventions and methodologies such as 12-Step Programs, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and self-help programs all employ similar methods.

Which makes a powerful case for skill building in support of well being. Particularly when taken out of the realm of pathology and treatment, while delivered as fitness training and education. To begin –

Define the problem

Consciously or unconsciously we have all adopted rituals and habits in our daily lives that either support or undermine well being.

  • Perhaps there isn’t a problem that is easily named, just a sense of wanting more, a feeling that we’re not “firing on all pistons”.
  • Perhaps we are struggling with a weight problem, issues around drink, gambling or drugs.
  • Perhaps we are in transitional relationship, work or academic situation or a life stage.

Measure

As you map your current processes, ask yourself:

How are you sleeping?

How stressful is everyday life?

Are you living within your means?

Are you satisfied with your career?

Are you passionate about your work or your hobbies?

When was the last time you found yourself “the zone” – entirely immersed in an experience?

Analyse

Choose to identify the cause of the problem. Don’t go it alone!No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. copy

Ask for help. Join a group, find a coach, a trainer, a therapist or consult your GP – because analysis requires perspective.

Going it alone means you’re working with an often undermining ‘committee in your head‘ .  It repeats and reinforces your doubts and your negative self-talk.

To quote the linked article:

“Like any healthy organizational board, you should consider a term limit and invite new members to the committee.”

Asking for help is not about diagnosing a problem. It is simply about defining and isolating causes and effects.

Begin by asking yourself: What pain am I self-medicating when I’m over (or under) eating, sleeping, exercising, drinking, drugging, spending, etc.?

Improve

Implement and verify the solution in a supportive environment. One process at a time. This does not involve grandiose schemes or major life changes.  Isolate a single sentiment – “I’m miserable, I’m going to quit my job, leave my marriage, or move or whatever”.

Then isolate a small, simple, discrete change. It will make a difference. Choose one – or suggest another.

            • I’ll take to my bed at 9pm with a good book, leave the phone and tablet in the next room and get more rest.
            • I’ll reduce my caffeine, alcohol, drug, and or sugar intake.
            • I’ll monitor, chart or list my eating, drinking, gambling or spending.
            • I’ll keep a mood chart and note my periods of irritability, exhaustion, high energy, sadness or lethargy.
            • I’ll walk for 20 minutes three times a week.

Control

If an intervention or changed behaviour works, map it out, monitor it, make it a habit, and embrace a new ritual.
1

Then start again. You’re training for resilience.

Nothing succeeds like success with each incremental change you’ll be energised.

That’s it, simple but not easy, and achievable.

If “Personal Change Management” seems like a good approach, get in touch.

Introductory sessions, six and twelve week groups are forming to help you navigate the process.




On…Continuing Education

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste” images

So goes the very powerful fundraising campaign launched by United Negro College Fund in 1972. It’s one of the most enduring tag-lines Madison Avenue has brought the world. It endures because the sentiment is universal.

Dust off the cobwebs, turn off the talking heads and find out what real people working on the front lines of social, political and educational change, are up to.

The season of “Summer Schools” is underway. It’s a glorious opportunity to surround yourself with the intellectually curious, to have your thinking challenged and be infused with a dose of positivity.

We are sadly lacking mature leadership on the island of Ireland and it has never been more important for all of us to develop ourselves into an active and engaged citizenry.

The McGill, Merriman & xChange Summer Schools are now behind us. There is ample coverage of all available and still time to consider The Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford  which will address “D’Arcy McGee, 1916 and Revolutionary Republicanism” and Tangible Ireland’s Ambassador Summer School which covers “Business & Civic Leadership”.

10438192_10152972256463206_6277862567984746412_n

Don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children and grandchildren. Education doesn’t end with “qualifications“, it’s a life-long process. Model it!

Why? Frederick Douglas sums it up perfectly: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men

 

 

*(per the 2014 post – and an excellent incentive to mark your calendars for the 2017 events…)  The McGill Summer School will stream its programming on “Reforming and Rebuilding our State”. And there’s still time to plan an outing to Glenties. Audio highlights of the xChange Summer School about “Changing Conversations” are available. Still ahead are the Merriman Summer School where “Emotional Life in Ireland” will be explored; The Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford  will address “The Famine in Ulster”; Tangible Ireland’s Ambassador Summer School covers “Business & Civic Leadership” and there are many more.

 




Career Check-Up

What is a “Career Check-Up”?

Careers are like relationships – the more you value them, the less you take them for granted.

Whether you are in your “dream job” or working at something that covers expenses, pay attention!

Ask yourself:

  • Are you putting your best foot forward every day?
     If not, what would that look like?
  • If you interviewed for your job tomorrow…
     Would you get it?
  • Have the job requirements or responsibilities changed since you assume it?
    Does your supervisor/manager know?
  • Are your accomplishments, awards and new qualifications acknowledged?
    Have you brought them to the attention of your supervisor/manager?

imagesNot sure of the answers? Get in touch!

We can help you focus on what’s next.

Skeptical? Book a preliminary appointment. The 1/2 hr consultation is free.




Paying it Forward in the Digital Age

Never has it been easier! Resolve to be a “Digital Media Mensch“* in 2015.

It costs little and you’re out there anyway.images

A great recipe for money management is saving 10% of what you earn. Some folks with a charitable mindset strive to contribute 10%. Seem steep? Give of yourself, give your time!

Even just one percent of your work week. Work an 8 hour day? That’s 480 minutes. Consider adding 5 minutes on line, 5 days a week. A gift of 1%.

Now:

  • Recommend a business that served you well
  • Congratulate a Startup, SME or Micro-business on whatever platform you favor
  • Thank your tribe – tell your followers & connections what benefit they’ve brought – even if just a smile
  • Introduce a service professional to a potential customer
  • Like, favorite or comment on discussion – engagement helps everyone

Could give more? Up it to 2% -10 minutes and you’ll have time to ask folks what digital media support they could use. Be available to open doors.

  • New menu at a local cafe you frequent? Tweet about it – help drive traffic
  • Refurbished premises? Sale on the High Street, Award Winners? Spread the word
  • Repost, retweet or recommend an event – help an organizer fill a room

Creating community begins with one relationship at a time. You don’t have to love your neighbor, you don’t even have to like them. If you like what they’re doing, and if they’re adding value to the community – help them along.Churchill-quote-on-giving-300x225

 

*In Yiddish, mentsh roughly means “a good person.” The word has migrated as a loanword into American English, where a mensch is a particularly good person, similar to a “stand-up guy”, a person with the qualities one would hope for in a friend or trusted colleague. (Wikipedia)




Creating Community

Neo Ireland is all about growing a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem regionally.  We do that by creating community.images

We provide a physical and virtual space for curious and interested people who want to experiment with entrepreneurship and social enterprise. We inspire by telling the “good news” stories and letting entrepreneurs lead by example. It’s an incubator and a “launchpad”.

Our first outreach was BizCampNI since 2012, we’ve run in them Newry, Belfast & Craigavon.

BizCamp provides an entire day of inspiration and education as volunteer speakers, accomplished in some aspect of running an SME or microbusiness take to a podium to share their experience. It’s continuing education to teach what we didn’t know we didn’t know about marketing, PR, finance, innovation and business development.

Beyond that it has created a community of “BizCampers”. When you leave a BizCamp you don’t just have a pocket full of business cards. You have potential relationships.

We offer a microbusiness support group in Newry. Moms that Work and Women that Work were the original day and evening groups. Merged into one and meeting monthly, on line and now informally over the course of three years, relationships have been established and new businesses formed. More importantly the group now exists as a safe place to ask for help and advice, test new ideas and get the word out about new products, opportunities, craft fairs and available business development courses.

The Drone Academy and After School Coding Club are perhaps the best example of what happens when you simply make the space available. This ground up effort by a resident programmer with little more than his ambition to teach young folks to code – has resulted in about thirty people through the doors and 3 full time programmer/app developers added to the region.

10511220_317915241715885_7337605097432165033_nNewry Creates is our latest endeavor. Re-united with BizCamp co-founder Chris McCabe we’re happy to support this bi-monthly, evening meeting at Amplified Bar. Chris is leading with his same passion for building community as when he helped introduce BizCamp 5 years ago. Local entrepreneurs, creatives and technologists are invited to give a 10 minute lightning talk on their success story. The ups & the downs.

We’re a dynamic and entrepreneurial region already – come find out who is making all that happen and how! Perhaps become inspired to take a leap yourself.

2015 promises to be a banner year continuing these endeavours and adding more. We’ve moved to smaller quarters, created a “hacker space” to invite more techies to hang out and share their wisdom. There’s a regular Coderdojo back on the roster. We’re taking the Women that Work group to a new level, rebranding as Microbuzz.biz in order to offer a crossborder reach to men and women.

Let us have your feedback, add your name to our mailing list, or just let us know how we can help you make 2015 a prosperous one.

Email: eve@neoireland.org




Code Space Newry

The incubator and co-working space that was once Emerald-Valley, continues to evolve.

Growing a digital infrastructure on the border was the mission, a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem the dream.

Attracting startups to a co-working space was the intention, but as it turns out, only half of what was required. Our earliest tech residents were reliant on developers overseas and elsewhere. There was little engineering and software development happening “in house”.

An obstacle which mimics the age-old “chicken & egg” dilema. Which comes first?

Growing a local talent pool is critical. So as we struggled to fill the space, we created Neo Ireland Ltd, a social enterprise with an educational outreach.

We preached, we evangelized, we partnered with anyone willing to roll up their sleeves and help out.

Then we got lucky!

Seneca luck green

A resident put us in touch with his son’s IT teacher at the Abbey Grammar. James Downing is not just any IT teacher, he has a passion for entrepreneurship as well. He recruited 10 students interested in coding and they joined us once a week. Absent engineers, the hope was that with the aid of programs like Codecademy, MIT App Inventor, GameMaker the students would be able to teach themselves with online support.

Two months into the program a volunteer mentor arrived.

For two academic years, Brian Cleland worked with James and his students to introduce them to programming. In 2013 two more students joined 10 from The Abbey. One was an adult learner re-skilling for a career change and a student from St. Coleman’s College.

What happened next?

CodeSpace Collage rev6

We ran a one day “Drone Academy” event garnering much enthusiasm.

Student coders organized two LAN parties. They’ve volunteered to demonstrate the Drones in local schools. All of which attracted attention to the space, new start-ups and a few small grants.

Colin Masters found us and his passion for tech, Newry and teaching young people was infectious. He’s relaunched CoderDoJo Newry; it will be in full swing during the Fall, so watch this space.

Rob Ellis, one of our student coders has found full time employment. A second, Carl Brown is working as a freelancer, and we’re looking forward to preparing others for the industry.

We have three jobs available in house at two different start-ups. We’re ARE growing the ecosystem.

Nothing so grand as initially imagined, but ever so much more satisfying.

So where are we now?

Code Space Newry replaces the Business Hub on Canal Street.

Our resident Code Space companies are limited to tech. Programmer/developers in-house are available to mentor students and take on interns.

We’re planning events, hot desks for a “hacker space” and a conference room for CoderDoJo, LAN parties, Hackathons and other other gatherings.

Leave us your details and we’ll keep you informed!

Want to put your 2¢ in? Join us for a planning meeting on Thursday, 24. July at 7pm. Contact Eve to RSVP.

Oh and one more thing!

HubNewry Collage

Are you a non-tech entrepreneur in need of workspace?

We’re referring enquiries to The Hub Newry.

It’s a traditional co-working space on Hill Street. Suzanne & Patrick Murdock offer a dynamic community of entrepreneurs, great space plus networking, support and educational events.

We’re pleased to be associated with them.

 

 

 




Skilled or Educated; Re-Valuing the Currency of the 21st Century

“The Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals”

A frequent challenge to my work with clients re-entering the job market is confidence. Otherwise skilled, even expert in their field, I am met with: “But I don’t have a degree”.

Sir Ken Robinson, renowned educator, education policy advisor and author, describes college degrees as currency.

A university education was once a guarantee of a job.  Why?  Because a relative few attained the distinction.  Greater numbers now achieve graduate and post graduate degrees.  Few would question the benefit.  Even fewer would discourage their own children from pursuing one.

This “over supplied” currency is, nonetheless, devalued.   A degree is no longer a guarantee of work.  Perhaps not a bad thing.  Education, like the pursuit of any skill set, is just a process.

Let’s learn to value skill, not the degree, as currency.noah's ark2

Proven results are the only measure of value. Nearly every banker, regulator and complicit government official responsible for the recent economic meltdown had a degree.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college dropouts.  They are admired as “self made” men. After the fact.  Let’s choose to suspend judgment before the fact; no one needs a degree to excel.

Employability needs to be the currency of the 21st Century.  What has greater value: employability or a degree?

Education often happens “at home”.  Do we devalue second language fluency because it was learned there?

Computers, smart phones, games and medical devices are now an integral part of our lives.  More importantly they drive our economy.

They are run by a language.  We think of it as complicated.  It is not.  Fluency and proficiency in this coded, binary language can be achieved by 6 & 8 year olds.  They learn to think, develop and create in that language.

Their computer ceases to be a time trap of numbing games.  It becomes the canvas on which they can create their own game (or hack the one they are playing to win).

These skills can be self taught.   Apprenticeships in this field are simply trial and error. They rely on a community of peers, on and offline.  There is a vast shortage of programmers and developers on this island and worldwide.  There are lucrative jobs to be filled.

Self taught fluency or competency is not limited to programming or web design. Leadership, sales, logistics – these are all skills learned “on the job” by experienced workers who started employment and rose through the ranks.  No degree.

Collectively a community needs skilled joiners, plumbers and electricians to build our homes, farmers to see that we are fed, and merchants to procure the goods we require. Most learned from masters and mentors, formally or informally apprenticed.

Physicians “practice” medicine.  Their skills are developed after their studies, in training best described as apprenticeships.

The artists, artisans, musicians and writers who enrich our lives are judged simply by their work product.  It is the only measure of success.  Their distinction is  excellence.

titanicMy point about the Titanic?

Simply that the loss of so many lives was owed to the judgment of experts that “enough” lifeboats would be redundant.  Her sinking was owed to a series of failures by the professionals into whose hands she was delivered.

What do we honour 100 years later about the ship herself? To quote the locals, descendants of the skilled tradesman who built her well and to spec:

 “She was fine when she left here”