January 26, 2022
The Power of Attention
I invite you to invest a few minutes reflecting on the following questions. Please be honest with yourself and regard your responses with kindness and curiosity, rather than with judgement and disapproval. How would you rate your ability to pay attention? In what moments are you fully present? How do you feel in those moments?
December 29, 2021
Darkness and Light
Winter in the northern hemisphere is a time of darkness. The days grow shorter until the winter solstice on December 21. The skies are often gray, and we tend to feel less energetic and spend less time outside. It’s easy to slip into a gloomy mood. Many of us think of long, sunny days as easier and of summer as a happy time of year. Our associations with darkness tend to be negative—evil, frightening, dangerous—and we seem to want to avoid it or even eliminate it. With the rise of electric lighting, we have driven back the darkness to such an extent that light pollution is having a negative impact on wildlife and nature and, I believe, on us as well. Though most humans seem to prefer the light, we need darkness too. Darkness invites us to slow down, to rest, and to be humble.
November 24, 2021
What are you grateful for? Take a moment right now to get a piece of paper and write down at least 10 things for which you’d like to give thanks. Now look at your list. (If you are trying to do this in your head or are promising yourself you’ll do it later, I strongly recommend that you make the 2-minute time investment to write a list now. I guarantee that it will be worth your while.)
October 27, 2021
Take a moment to think about a task that you have been putting off. How do you feel when you think about it? Motivated? Stressed? Energized? Guilty? Heavy in your body? Most of us feel bad, physically and emotionally, when we procrastinate.
September 29, 2021
Speak Your Heart
When someone’s actions bother us, whether it’s a work colleague or a loved one, we often put off addressing the issue, hoping they’ll correct their behavior on their own, until it’s really getting on our nerves. Then we decide to give them a piece of our mind, meaning that we are going to tell them off, detailing the ways in which they are wrong and we are right. In training programs on resolving conflict or giving feedback I regularly suggest to participants that speaking their hearts — by openly stating their feelings — might lead to a more constructive outcome. The responses range from “Oh-no!-we-can’t-do-that!” to “feelings have no place in the business world” to “I know that would never work because I know how my boss wouldn’t understand.” We seem to believe that if we displayed our feelings openly it would jeopardize the relationship or that our competence would immediately be called into question. What makes us so afraid of expressing our emotions?
August 25, 2021
Living with Perfectionism
When I started middle school at age 11, I realized that I was a perfectionist and that, if I didn’t learn to keep my perfectionism in check, it would cause me tremendous stress and possibly take over my life. I found myself making lists of what I had to do, combined with unachievable daily plans timed to the minute. I was trying to survive on six hours of sleep a night and needed multiple alarm clocks to get myself out of bed in the morning. If those failed, my mother came and woke me with a cold washcloth.
July 26, 2021
Naming What is
Among all creatures, humans alone have the gift of language, yet ironically, we often squander this gift by not speaking up, speaking our truth, naming what is. We thereby miss the opportunity to make progress in resolving difficult situations or conflicts. What hinders us? It’s usually fear—of conflict, of being judged, of hurting someone else’s feelings, of not being liked, of being thought a fool, or of putting our job at risk. In Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, everyone but a child pretends not to see and dares not to say that the emperor is naked.
June 23, 2021
Emerging from the pandemic
Over the past 15 months most of us have spent a lot of time cocooning and now, at least in most of Europe and the US, it’s time to gradually emerge. We haven’t turned into butterflies, but many of us feel that we’ve changed during this challenging time. We are longing to return to “normal life”, but what is normal? Life is one-directional; we can’t just erase what we’ve experienced and go back to how things were. Many of us are feeling fragile and vulnerable and need time and space to discover how we want to engage with the wider world. Transformation can be painful; we are often leaving parts of ourselves behind or have experienced losses. Some of us may need to go through a process of grieving, but it’s important not to get stuck there.
May 26, 2021
The Child Within
The phrase “inner child” has been so trivialized by pop psychology that we often use it without thinking about what we mean. I’ve heard people refer to their inner child with a disdain and flippancy amounting to inner child abuse, disparaging one of their most precious inner resources. Each of us carries within all of the memories of our childhood experience. Though we are conscious of only a few of them, they together form our personal internalization of being a child: all of the joys, delights, hurts, frustrations and fears. How we treat this part of ourselves can have a powerful impact on our well-being.
May 12, 2021
Space, according to the New Oxford English Dictionary, means “a continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied.” I find something tantalizing and liberating about the word “expanse” in that definition. I don’t usually think of my space in those terms. Do you? The second definition reads: “the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.” Along with time, space is the medium of our existence, but how aware are we of its importance?
April 28, 2021
An Antidote to VUCA
How to create more predictability, certainty, simplicity and clarity in your life. Especially in large international companies, the acronym VUCA is frequently used to describe the world we live in. It stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Coined in 1987, the acronym became popular in the early 2000s as businesses realized that a different type of organizational structure and leadership style were necessary to succeed in the increasingly unpredictable and rapidly changing environment resulting from globalization and digitalization. Organizations needed to become more flexible and responsive, and started moving away from fixed, hierarchical structures. Leaders were challenged to lead by providing vision, inspiration and support to their people, empowering them rather than telling them what to do as in traditional command and control environments. Matrix organizations, agility and transformational leadership are all examples of responses to VUCA.
April 14, 2021
A Crash Course in Vulnerability and Resilience
After a diagnosis of bone-on-bone osteoarthritis in early January, I decide not to delay the inevitable hip replacement surgery, but to take the first available date the surgeon offered, ten days later. Since Switzerland was in lockdown, it made sense to take advantage of the pandemic, in the hope of being fully fit/recovered? by summer. I naively thought that the hospital stay and recuperation period would be restful, giving me lots of time to read and write. Although I have had surgery before, I “forgot” the harsh reality of being consumed by pain and nearly 100% dependent on others.
March 31, 2021
Consider the lilies of the field
Every spring I am amazed anew at nature’s unfolding display of color and beauty: first the snowbells peeking out, followed by crocuses and primroses bringing the first color, the magnolias sensuously opening on bare branches, then the tender green leaves in the trees, followed by the scented blooms of lilac, wisteria, and lilies of the valley. Regardless of how grey the sky may be, they share their ebullience. I know that if I don’t take the time to enjoy them, right then when they present themselves, it will be my loss. Yet again and again I realize that I am walking by, too absorbed in my thoughts to notice the abundance that surrounds me.
March 17, 2021
Listen from Your Heart
Think of a time when you were listened to wholeheartedly. How did it feel? Perhaps you sensed a deep acceptance of yourself and your feelings from the other person. Perhaps you experienced the expansiveness of freedom to be yourself. For most of us, this experience is rare. Especially when we want to express difficult feelings, we are afraid of being rejected or brushed aside. As children, we may have had our feelings negated by an overwhelmed parent saying, “Stop crying” or “You shouldn’t get so upset about that.” We may also have experienced this as adults, perhaps from a defensive partner, boss or colleague. If we think back honestly, we have all been closed-hearted listeners at one time or another. Where does this inclination to block out what someone else is saying come from?
March 3, 2021
The Life Worth Living
Socrates warned us that the unexamined life is not worth living; the oracle at Delphi exhorted us to know ourselves. Since the dawn of consciousness, people have sought answers to life’s essential questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the purpose of my life? What is truly important to me? How can I lead a happy and fulfilling life?
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