Part of a team

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We all have a need to belong. Whether it is in our personal life or at work. We want to feel that we are part of a group of like-minded people. We don’t just want to be connected to them on a virtual basis. We want to experience meaningful real-life connections. We want to build personal relationships and feel each other’s presence.

Research indicates that more than a quarter of people feel they don’t belong, despite the fact that they have many social platforms to connect with others. A possible reason for this is that the feel-good hormones of the body (like oxytocin) need face-to-face interaction to stimulate production. Our moods improve and we feel more socially connected when we can see and hear one another.

There are different ways one can experience a sense of belonging. Being part of a community or tribe, a group of close friends, a division at work or a sports team are some of the ways. The Iceland soccer team that is currently playing in the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament reminded me how a team sport can bring people together and create a sense of connection. It made me think back to the times when I used to play team sports.

I started to participate in team sports when I was about 11 years old. At first I played netball and later (in High School) switched to hockey. The wonderful thing about a team sport is that every member of the team has a specific role to play. Knowing that my contribution counts towards the team gave me a sense of belonging. I experienced a deep sense of connection during a match. When we all played towards a common goal it really felt hat we were in it together.

It has been many years since I last played in a team sport. Being self-employed I’m also not working with others on a daily basis. Only now that I’m not part of a ‘team’ anymore I realise the sense of belonging that it gave me. I recognise the importance of engaging with others in meaningful ways such as physically spending time  and conversing with them. When last did you really connect with someone? Where do you feel you belong?

Learning: Being part of a team gives one a sense of belonging.

Healing question: How can the way I interact with others translate into meaningful, real-life connections?

Be life curious

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Photo: unsplash.com

When last were you curios about your life and all its aspects?

Curiosity is an inherent quality that we all have. It is our innate explorative behaviour as well as our desire to know and understand. Studies show that when we are curious about something we learn far easier at a deeper level and remember what we’ve learned longer.

When you observe 2-year old children you see that it is in their nature to be curious and inquisitive. They have a healthy fascination with their beautiful world. They explore with all their senses and a feeling of wonderment. According to Jean Piaget (a Swiss psychologist) children are intrinsically interested in novelty and motivated to improve their understanding of the world. Children actively seek problems to solve and do not wait for others to present problems to them. Their curiosity is the tool with which they acquire information and develop their intellectual and creative abilities.

Unfortunately, as we grow older we tend to express our curiosity less. A possible reason for this is the way we are schooled. The full curriculum does not always allow time for kids to ponder and enquire. We also become less tolerant of wonderment when the focus is on accomplishment and performance. Later when we start to work we are constantly reminded that ‘time is money’. The time pressure and heavy workload hinders our curiosity. Which is sometimes exactly what is needed to unlock new energy and possibilities.

 Research indicates that for the brain to develop new connections we must allow ourselves to curiously and playfully enjoy novel experiences. We must make time to ask questions, ponder and reflect. Albert Einstein said: ‘ I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.’ If you struggle with a difficult situation at work or maybe want to change a personal habit, I would like to invite you to become ‘passionately curious’ about it this week. Foster an environment that is curious and not judgemental. Look at the situation through the eyes of a 2-year old. Reconnect with your sense of wonderment.

Learning: When I become curious about life, new learnings open up.

Healing question: What will I learn about my work or life if I become ‘passionately curious’ about it?

Make time to be

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Are you afraid to slow down? What will happen if I slow down or sit quiet for a few minutes and just be? No, the thought of that is just too scary I’ll keep on doing.

Keeping busy allows us to avoid things we don’t want to face. We know if we slow down one of two things may happen:

  1. The critical voice in our heads will say things like – How can you sit still you must be working? People don’t like people who are lazy. If I don’t do something you’re not productive or competent…
  2. The calling voice will start to speak up. It’s the voice that you are trying to avoid. The one you are saying to ‘I just want to do this first then I will listen to you…’.The one that you keep busy in order to distract from it. According to Jennifer Louden a calling is:‘That which is so alive, so urgent, so blissful, you must shield your eyes from it… It is that which you may think you do not deserve and certainly are not capable of giving birth to.’

Whatever voice it is that you are trying to avoid by keeping busy. Know that with everything we do in the world there is a doing and a being state. Check in with yourself. What state are you mostly operating in? Who will you need to be for the desired things to happen in your life?

Even though the thought of just being might be scary. The good news, according to Rick Hansen, is that the more we practise to just be with ourselves. We develop new neural pathways. Over time we create a felt sense of a core being that is intact.

So, how does one do it?

  • First find out what ‘activity’ allows you to connect with the ‘being’ part of you. It can be meditating, praying, walking early in the morning, yoga, being in nature, and breathing deeply…
  • Then make time for ‘being’ in your life. It does not need to be long – it can be 1 minute a day.
  • Practise regularly. Don’t underestimate the power of little things. It builds over time.

I want to close with one of my favourite mindfulness phrases by Mark Williams:May you have ease of being. Allow yourself to be just as you are: complete and whole.

Acceptance

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Acceptance, as a noun, can be defined in different ways. For the purpose of this blog I’m interested in the definition of acceptance as a ‘process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable.’  We are constantly encouraged to improve, excel and exceed expectation. These messages from the media, our loved ones, friends and ourselves can be encouraging and motivate us to achieve our goals. But the downside is that one can internalise these messages and easily fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I am not…. good, thin, rich, fit, beautiful, smart, successful, etc.… enough’. This type of thinking can have detrimental effects and lead to a un-acceptance or even an estrangement of yourself. Robert Holden wisely indicated that ‘no amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.’

In my personal life, as well as my coaching work, I experience and see that acceptance is easier said than done. We would rather criticize than accept ourselves. After some thinking and working on accepting myself more, I want to share with you what I think acceptance stands for:

A –  Aware. The first step is to become aware of the voice of self-criticism, the judge within as Byron Brown refers to in his book ‘Soul without shame’. According to him self-judgement is based on the ‘accumulation of all the knowledge you believe you need to be successful, safe, supported, recognized and loved in this world’. Luckily this is only a part of who you are. You are not the inner-judge. You are not your thoughts or mind. You also have an inner-guide. As you focus more on your inner-guide or inner-voice you become more aware of your soul nature, your potential and how the inner-judge can limit you.

C – Compassion. Show compassion and kindness for yourself. Research indicates that humans function best when we feel loved. We can cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves by cultivating a desire to be compassionate towards ourselves. So that when we fail we treat ourselves with warmth and understanding rather than criticism. These compassionate and soothing thoughts calms the inner-critic voice.

C – Curiosity. Start to become curious about you. Explore the amazing different parts there is to you. Be curious about what is actually going on inside you? What are you thinking, feeling and experiencing through your body?

E – Enough. Embrace the fact that you are already enough just as you are. We live in a world that either focuses on scarcity or abundance. Media that always tells us what we have or who we are is not enough, we need to strive for more.

P – Practice. Accepting our circumstances and us is not something you do once. It is a daily practice. The more you practice acceptance, the more you will become aware of other possibilities to be. It is important to remain patient with yourself through the process of acceptance.

T – Trust. Start trusting yourself and the truth of who you are.

A – Allow. You have to allow yourself or give yourself permission so to speak to approve and appreciate who you are just as you are, right now. Not when you are 3 kg lighter or when you’ve finished another degree or when you have a management job or live in a fancy house or drive the fastest car.

N – Non-judgement. Acceptance can only happen if we become less judgemental with ourselves and stop believing the self-judgement. The act of judging underlies the need for everything to be in a certain way. When you become more non-judgemental you stop running away from yourself and start walking towards yourself.

C – Centredness. In order to accept oneself it is important to be able to centre your attention and connect to your inner truth. When we constantly focus our attention on others and their approval or acknowledgements of us, we become uncentred and sometimes compromise ourselves. But when we practice the ability to centre our attention we cultivate our capacity to be without doing. We slowly stop needing the affirmation of others to feel good about ourselves.

E – Embrace. Embrace your uniqueness and stop comparing yourself to others.

By proclaiming that we must start to accept others, our circumstances and ourselves more, I am not advocating that we must not want to change. Change is important but as Bryant McGill said ‘Acceptance is the road to all change’

Pope Francis and the Golden Gate Bridge

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Last week Pope Francis was in the USA for a six-day multi-city tour. During his visit he emphasised, among other things, the importance of love, inclusivity, and equality. The reaction of the people was very interesting. Tens of thousands of people flocked together to get a glimpse of the pope. No matter what their religious beliefs or background was, it seemed as if everyone wanted to be close to him and be a part of the event. It felt to me as if the people craved for something. It was as if there was a hunger for what he spoke about. His message touched their hearts, it made them feel heard and part of a group. In one of his speeches he said,

“Building a nation calls us to recognise that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility,”

As humans we have a fundamental need to relate to others and feel that we belong to a group. Research indicates that this need is as strong as the need for food. According to the neuroscientist, David Rock, people feel threatened if they feel they can’t relate to others. The brain will then activate either a ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response. On the other hand if people feel they are part of a group they show more empathy and trust towards those in the group.

The new psychology of leadership indicates that one of the principles of a good leader is to be perceived as ‘being one of us’. Leaders are perceived as part of the group when they present qualities and values that are important to the group. When Pope Francis visited inmates, lunched with the homeless and proclaimed relating to others he managed to create that feeling of inclusivity. This reminded me of the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Nelson Mandela wore the green-and-gold Springbok jersey and cap at the Final in South Africa. With that gesture he was perceived as ‘one of us’ and unified the nation. If we reach out and relate to others we enhance empathy and equality.

Studies indicate that when we foster more social contact we increase the relatedness between different groups. In connecting with others we are building bridges. The photo that I took last week of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (see top of blog) symbolises for me the message of Pope Francis, that in order to build a nation we need to relate to others. When we relate to others we connect. I want to encourage you to reach out and connect with others. As Isaac Newton said:

” We build too many walls and not enough bridges”.

Saddle up!

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For the first time in my life, I went to a Rodeo. It was not any Rodeo it was the Pendleton Round-up! After 105 years the Pendleton round-up is still very popular with a crowd of 16 000 on the last day. The participation and involvement of the Native-Americans (Indians) emphasised the respect for tradition and different cultures that was evident throughout the rodeo. A rodeo is a sporting event in which cowboys show their various skills such as roping calves, riding bulls, riding broncos (wild horses that habitually buck).

As a South African the Cowboy culture is something we only see on the movies. I’m used to farmers (‘boere’ as we call them in Afrikaans) who wear two-tone khaki shirts, Hi-Tech boots and drive in their Toyota ‘bakkie’ (the Afrikaans word for a pick-up). So, when we entered Pendleton and saw Cowboys riding on their horses with their Cowboy hats, long-sleeved check shirts, jeans and genuine Cowboy boots, it was like stepping into a movie scene. The difference was that it was authentic.

The Rodeo opens with the Round-up Queen and Princesses (cowgirls) riding in with their horses and ended with cowgirl barrel racing. Seeing them riding so freely on their horses touched me deeply and stirred something inside me. I could sense the connection and companionship that they had with their horses. The nurturing partnership between the cowboy and his horse was ever present.

I was quite surprised by my emotional reaction. After some reflection I came to the conclusion that we all have a cowgirl or cowboy inside of us. Most young boys dream of becoming cowboys. I also recall fond childhood memories of horse riding with a close friend on their farm. Horses draw us into a relationship with them. Riding them symbolises freedom, courage and a mysterious union with nature.

Throughout most of human history our relationship with horses is a particular close one. The sight of the interaction between horse and man riding together was enough to activate this affection that lies deep within me. Winston Churchill described it best when he said ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man’. Nowadays, for most of us, our interaction with horses is limited. Yet the horse remains ever waiting…

What contributions are you making?

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What is a contribution? What contributions am I making? These are questions that I’ve reflected over the past week.

Contribution can be defined in different ways depending on the context. According to the Free Dictionary it can be defined as a ‘voluntary gift made to some worthwhile cause’. I don’t know about you but I feel that the best gifts to give others are usually the ones we won’t mind receiving ourselves. I think it is the same with contributions. It is the act of giving something you value to someone else without expecting anything in return. This something can include; giving money, sharing ideas, or providing a service to someone for free. The funny thing is that when we make contributions we usually do get something unexpected in return. For example, I tend to get so excited about the gift I’m giving that just the act of giving brings me joy. In giving something I’m receiving joy.

The dictionary also defines contribution as ‘the part played by a person in bringing about a result’. The result can be to help others to enhance or reach their goals. To inspire them to believe in their unique abilities. To support others in times of difficulty. To assist in a community project or to improve the living conditions of others, etc.

When I think about the contributions that others had made to me (knowingly or unknowingly), I recall times when; someone supported me financially, told me they believed in me, held me when I was sad, and gave me advice when I needed it. Other contributions I also recall include observing a great leader, listening to beautiful music or appreciating a piece of art.

The word contribution originates from the Latin word contribuere that means to bring together, to add. In contributing we are bringing people together. We are connecting on a shared purpose level. When we contribute our unique qualities and expertise we are adding value to others. We are voluntary sharing the gifts that had been given to us.

What people made the biggest contrition in your life? In what way have you contributed to others? In the following week think about the contributions that you want to make?