Tag Archives: Work-Life


Questions to Discover, Communicate Personal Mission, Brand

Tina Su

Tina Su, former software engineer at Amazon.com and author of Think Simple Now: A Moment of Clarity blog, shared self- assessment questions that have helped her and others focus on life purpose and mission.

From these, she developed a personal vision “to ‘never work again’, by living a life following one’s inner calling, exploring one’s potential, generating massive value, and living fully in every moment.”

• What activities, people, events, hobbies, projects make you smile?
• What have been your favorite activities in the past?
• What have been your favorite activities now?
• What makes you feel great about yourself?
• Who inspires you: family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, historical figures?
• Which qualities inspire you?
• What are your natural skills, abilities, gifts?
• For what do people ask your advice, help?
• What would you teach?
• What would you regret not fully doing in your life?
• What would you regret not being in your life?
• When you are 90 years old, what achievements will matter most?
• What achievements relationships will matter most?
• What are your 3-6 deepest values?
• What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming?
• How did you do it?
• What causes do you strongly believe in or have personal meaning for you?
• What message would you like to effectively convey to a large group of people?
• How can you use your talents, resources, passions and values to serve, to help, to contribute to people, beings, causes, organization, environment?

The answers to these questions can answer the questions addressed in a personal mission statement, as Tina demonstrated in her bold direction.
• What do I want to do?
• Who do I want to help?
• What is the result? What value will I create?

Randall Hansen

Randall Hansen

Randall Hansen offers a different, but compatible The Five-Step Plan for Creative Personal Mission Statements.
• Identify Past Successes
• Identify Core Values
• Identify Contributions
• Identify Goals
• Write Mission Statement

Like any self-assessment process, developing a personal mission statement is an investment of time and attention spanning several days or weeks.

-*What questions have been more revealing in developing your personal brand?

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Two Approaches to Following-Through on Plans, Adapting to Changes

Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal

Stanford University lecturer Kelly McGonigal integrates cognitive psychology and neuroscience in her book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It

She argues that willpower can be developed by:

• Paying attention to situations that undermine willpower
• Managing stress and mood, maintaining exercise, sleep, and healthy eating habits to maintain willpower
• Practice small willpower challenges to build the willpower “muscle”
• Expect willpower “slips” and plan for alternate responses
• Associating with others who have strong willpower habits
• Recognizing that willpower is not easier in the future, and now is the time to begin practicing
• Disputing thoughts of shame and guilt, and re-interpreting them more optimistically, hopefully, and forgivingly

M.J. Ryan

M.J. Ryan

Several years before McGonigal, M.J. Ryan wrote simply and compassionately about life’s challenges, including responding to unplanned changes and following through on commitments and plans.
Her books include self-assessments, succinct notes of encouragement and de-stigmatization, and practical suggestions and resources.
Several are self-published and though out-of-print, remain available online:

This Year I Will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True

Another of her books deals with managing unplanned changes:
AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For

See related post on McGonigal’s twin sister, gamer Jane McGonigal, whose TED talk discusses the value to games to improve the quality, duration, and experience of life.

-*What practices have helped you develop and exercise “willpower” to change behaviors and thoughts?

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Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

Carol Dweck

Stanford professor Carol Dweck distilled Salvador Maddi’s three mindsets into two mindsets in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

She differentiated:
• Fixed Mindset – Belief that personal capabilities are given, fixed, limited to present capacities.
This “nature” mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.
• Growth Mindset– Belief that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes. This “nurture” mindset enables teamwork and collaboration.
K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

Research by K. Anders Ericsson demonstrated that highly skilled experts in nearly every field are distinguished from their talented peers by practice.
Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell asserted that expert performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice.

The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games

Expert Performance in Sports: Advances in Research on Sport Expertise

Although mindsets consist of relatively stable beliefs, they can be modified by reinforcing, praising, and rewarding performance strategy and process, not the resulting outcome.

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland introduced a practice of “vetting emotions” using a three step process to investigate and manage emotions

• Validate – Name the emotion
• Explore – What is the broader context?
What are the familiar reaction patterns?
• Tolerate – Transform limiting emotions into information and intelligence to move forward

“Cognitive appraisal” refers to evaluative elements of thoughts, and can provoke emotions.
This type of appraisal is based on three factors, outlined by eminent researcher

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman in his book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

• Personalization of cause, responsibility: Internal control vs External control
• Pervasiveness of event and impact: Specific vs Global
• Permanence of event and impact: Temporary vs. Continuing

Kivland suggested that mindsets and related attitudes can direct individuals to either of two paths:

• Surviving Path, based on reactive, fearful protecting from anticipated danger

• Hope Path, proactive, thriving, growing, able to let go of fears, observe emotions as information for decision-making rather than as unpleasant experiences to be tolerated

Kivland, Dweck, Maddi, Ericcson, Seligman, and other advocates of Emotional Intelligence practices suggest benefits of the Hope Path.

Dweck model and the mindset of positive psychology

Dweck’s Brainology software for students

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset to increase Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 1

-*What “mindsets” help you achieve optimal performance in work and life activities?

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Developing a SMARTER Mindset to increase Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 1

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland, author of Smart2Smarter: How Emotional and Social Connections Bring Humanity into the Workplace: Seven Skills Every Smart Person Needs, reviewed research-based models that suggest ways to increase resilient attitudes and behaviors.

Her “Smart to SMARTER” model is based on interviews with “smart and competent” people in a variety of fields.
Kivland developed a mnemonic device highlight important elements of Emotionally Intelligent or “Emotionally Smart” people:

S – Self – Optimize strengths via self-efficacy
M – Mastery of emotions
A – Attraction – Positive energy, optimism, confidence to attract the best to self, others
R – Resilience – Adapt, reinvent oneself to overcome setbacks
T – Tolerance of emotional experience, changing circumstances, diverse people and beliefs
E – Evolve – Innovate, improve new ways to manage emotions, reactions, behaviors
R – Reciprocity – Lead, be lead; teach, be taught, give, receive

She noted that positive psychology research demonstrated that positive emotions help people endure and grow from life’s changes and adversities.

To help cultivate positive emotions, she suggests three practices:
• Emotional engagement
Schedule fun, enjoyable experiences and opportunities for positive emotions
• Emotional responsiveness
Be present, attentive, and engaged during pleasant moments
• Emotional savoring
“Evolve” by intentionally enjoying positive moments and emotions of joy, contentment, satisfaction, and carrying positive memories into future situations

Salvatore Maddi

“Mindsets” consist of attitudes that can facilitate or impede executing these three recommendations, based on early workplace research by Salvatore Maddi, who studied people affected by organizational change.

He distilled effective coping skills he observed among affected employees as three “Emotional Hardiness” Mindsets:

Commitment vs Alienation – Active involvement with people, life events
Control vs. Powerlessness – Persistence in trying to improve life situations
Challenge vs Threat – Viewing change as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and craft a fulfilling life

In addition, Maddi found that these employees demonstrated two Emotional Resilience Skills:
• Community vs. Isolation – Engaging with others to mobilize social support, feedback
• Proactive Coping (Thriving) vs Reactive Coping (Surviving) – View adversity in context to deepen awareness

Kivland’s Resilience tools

See Part 2 of this post

-*What practices and “mindsets” help you cultivate “emotional hardiness” in your work activities?

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Career Resilience in Managing Job Loss, Unexpected Changes

Mary Lynn Pulley

Mary Lynn Pulley

Mary Lynn Pulley, a Center for Creative Leadership adjunct faculty member and author of Losing Your Job – Reclaiming Your Soul: Stories of Resilience, Renewal, and Hope, shares practical recommendations to respond to change or hardship:

Resilience enables people to recover from adversity and is characterized by some of the same attributes as Emotional Intelligence:

• Flexibility
• Durability
• Optimism
• Openness to learning.

The flipside of resilience is burnout, fatigue, malaise, depression, defensiveness and cynicism.

Pulley asserts that resilience can be developed by modifying thoughts to broaden personal outlook and adapt to change.
The second step is modifying actions based on modified attitudes, beliefs, and concepts.

She suggests developing resilience by:

Embracing continuous learning
• Learn and apply new skills to more adapt more quickly during changes
Finding purpose
• Develop a “personal why” to provide meaning and context to work
• Take responsibility to direct your personal and career development
• Separate who your self-definition and core identity from your work tasks and job title. “Who you are is not just what you do.”

Cultivating relationships
• Maintain personal and professional relationships for support and feedback, to develop perspective, achieve goals, deal with hardships

Questioning and modifying self-definition and career
• Reassess awareness of personal skills, talents and interests, and personal narrative
• Consider new work opportunities to align with current skills
• Practice new behavioral competencies to align with current situational requirements

Re-thinking money
• Live within your means to remain flexible during unexpected change

Keeping a journal
• The Center for Creative Leadership suggests that writing in “learning journals” or “reflection journals” enables reflection, self-awareness, learning, adaptability, and insight.

Three recommended journal sections include:
1. Event or experience
Describe the occurrence in factual, objective, quantifiable terms:
Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?

2. Reaction
Describe your reaction to the event in factual, objective, quantifiable terms. What did you want to do in response to the event?
What did you actually do?
What were your thoughts?
What were your feelings?

3. Lessons
What did you learn from the event and from your reaction to it?
What did the event suggest as a development area?
What common reaction patterns occur in similar situations?
What different reactions patterns have occurred in the past?
What do these different reactions suggest about progress in developing resilience?

The Center for Creative Leadership suggests that learning comes “reflecting on the doing,” and not just on the “doing” of specific actions.

-*Which of Pulley’s recommendations seem most applicable and feasible to rebound from unbidden changes, like job loss?

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Three Factors Affecting Women in Corporate Leadership

Sara King

The Center for Creative Leadership’s Sara King and Northwestern University professor Alice Eagly examine the obstacles, pressures and trade-offs women face at every stage of their careers to analyze the reason that only three percent of Fortune 500 leaders are women.

Alice Eagly

King’s and Eagly’s research identified three factors affecting women in corporate leadership roles:

•    “Walking the narrow band” of acceptable behaviors: tough and demanding to be credible and effective but “easy to be with”; demonstrating the desire to succeed but not appearing “too” ambitious

•    “Owned by the job”, with the expectation of availability and productivity 24/7

•    “Traversing the Balance Beam” of conflicting role demands and limited time to fulfill them

They provide familiar suggestions:
•    Seek out mentors and advocates

•    Take risks, accept challenges to demonstrate adaptability, versatility.
Communicate willingness to change jobs and take on special projects to gain experience.
Learn from research findings that women are not viewed as promotable if they stay in one area of expertise or have a narrow functional role.

•    Communicate decisions, demand results, even if unpopular or requiring change management and persuasion

•    Project confident. Projecting an effective leadership image requires confidence. Don’t undermine good results with a weak or too modest self-image

Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders.
Alice H. Eagly  Linda L. Carli, 2007 Harvard Business School Press.
The Center for Creative Leadership showcased related research that identified five themes among high-achieving women: agency, authenticity, connection, self-clarity and wholeness.

Agency, taking control of one’s career:
•    Analyze career steps
•    Set realistic, specific goals and develop a plan for achieving them
•    Ask for challenges outside your current functional orientation
•    Seek recognition
•    Ask for what you deserve

Authenticity, being genuine, being yourself by developing self-awareness to clarify   values, preferences, skills, acceptable trade-offs and acceptable sacrifices.

Connection, by taking time for people, to build personal and professional relationships, networking, finding a mentor, establishing a personal “board of directors” to provide support and feedback.

Self-clarity from seeking feedback and reflecting on one’s values, motivations, behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, impact on others.
This is a continuing process of evaluating changes in your needs, motivations, goals, values, while observing patterns, and being open to possibilities.

Wholeness from seeking roles beyond work or to unite different life roles, by prioritizing commitments and saying “no” to low-priority roles or obligations.

-*What solutions have you seen most effective in navigating the challenges facing women seeking leadership roles?

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Six Neuropsychologically-Based Emotional Styles

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson, professor at University of Wisconsin’s book, The Emotional Life of your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way you Think, Feel, and Live–and how You can Change Them suggests that people favor one of six “brain styles.”

• Resilience – speed of recovery from adversity

• Outlook – duration of positive emotion

• Intuition – accuracy of decoding others’ nonverbal signals of emotion

• Self-awareness – accuracy of decoding internal signals of emotional reactions: heart rate, breathing, sweating, muscle tension

• Context – modulate emotional response tailored to environmental demands, constraints, options

• Attention – ability to focus, modulate emotional stimuli

These categories represent interacting elements that form an integrated cognitive-emotional processing pattern, rather than a discrete “style” as Davidson suggests.

He offers a quick assessment of your “brain style” via these surveys and other resources on his website and related locations.
Related Post:
“Contemplative Neuroscience” can transform your mind, change your brain

-*Which Emotional Style is most prevalent is your work organization?
-*Which Style is more effective in your workplace?

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Making Magic Meaningful as a Life Metaphor

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman is Principal Research Scientist at Apple, and holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Cambridge University.
Before his academic credentials, he sharpened his skills as a magician and cultivated an appearance similar to that of Hogwarts’ Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
He is a president of the Society of American Magicians (Palo Alto), and a Magician Member of the Academy of Magical Arts.

He describes his “hobby” as “performing magic in a meaningful way that gives people something they can take away with them, to make them feel better about themselves and their lives, and thereby thrive more effectively.”

Silverman believes that magic can change the way we think about our lives:

-Things that seem impossible may be possible
-Things that are separated and broken may be rejoined
-There is always a way
-We can get free from something that holds us back
-When we feel trapped by a problem, it is just an illusion.

He asserts that magic provides a change of perspective from negative thoughts, and provides a broader perspective.
He acknowledges that suffering is an intrinsic part of human life and that it brings us together, and through it all, we can experience magic through our relationships.

Silverman concludes that things might not be as they appear, so there is hope, and this is an idea worth sharing.

-*How can the metaphors of perceptual illusion accelerate problem-solving in complex situations?

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Leadership “From the Inside Out”

Kevin Cashman

Kevin Cashman

Kevin Cashman provides a leadership development frame that complements Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence concepts and Jim Collins’s delineation of Level 5 Leadership, in his book Leadership from the Inside Out.

He is Senior Partner, Korn/Ferry International, and Leadership From the Inside Outhis research and experience indicate that leadership effectiveness originates in the individual’s personal character.

If individuals wish to develop leadership skills, they must apply “learning agility” to acquire new perspectives and skills, then deploy them under new business circumstances.

Cashman reviewed the four elements of “learning agility”:

Mental agility, characterized by questioning solutions, consulting others, demonstrating openness

Interpersonal agility, based on effective, precise listening, using questions to elicit clarification

Results agility, or developing new approaches to achieve results, incorporate new ways to resolve problems

Change agility, which includes flexibility and adaptability

Cashman found three steps in leadership development, common across many approaches, and recommended these elements in any leadership development program:

Building Awareness – Self-discovery of strengths, development areas

Building Commitment – Developing emotional engagement to act on developmental needs and to apply strengths

Building Practice – Undertaking new actions such as journaling to build awareness, commitment and reflection on learnings.

The goal of these steps is to develop three aspects of leadership:

Authenticity, characterized by integrity, alignment between words and actions that is recognized by others; continued striving toward authenticity in future potential

Influence, involving the self-expression and application of personal strengths to create value

Value creation in work and community

Leadership from the Inside Out outlines seven related pathways to leadership mastery, with related practices.
Many of these recommendations may sound spiritual, philosophical, non-specific, and difficult to translate into specific actions.
One element of self-reflection in Cashman’s process may be to operationalize these recommendations into concrete, measurable actions:

Personal Mastery, based on developing self-awareness

Purpose Mastery involves applying talents to serve values and add value through authentic self-expression in leading others

Change Mastery, incorporates acceptance of uncertainty and impermanence to learn from these changes and demonstrate agility in adapting to new circumstances

Interpersonal Mastery relates to human connection, the second element of Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. Collaboration is a foundation to create contribution and long-term value

Being Mastery represents a spiritual dimension, however the individual defines it, to connect one’s depth of character to support effectiveness and contribution

Balance Mastery refers to building, maintaining energy to foster resilience, effectiveness, fulfillment. It moves beyond time management, a practice to manage a limited resource, to generate and regenerate energy to lead

Action Mastery practices leading by coaching others and self to create value.

-*What actions have helped develop leadership from the inside out?

Related Posts:
The Considered “Pursuit of Less”
Whom Do You Serve as a (Level 5, Level 6) Leader?  
“Contemplative Neuroscience”: Transform your Mind, Change your Brain
Developing “Big 8” Job Competencies

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Considered “Pursuit of Less”

Jim Collins

Jim Collins

Jim Collins in his book How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, outlined how once-successful companies failed, and discovered that one significant contributor was what he labeled “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”  It is true for companies and it is true for careers.
“The Pursuit of Less” can be easier after separating “The Trivial Many from The Significant Few, as Vilfredo Pareto‘s

Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto

principle outlines.

Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown, co-author with Liz Wiseman (former VP at Oracle Corporation) of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, suggests the following steps:

Liz Wiseman

Liz Wiseman

Use more extreme criteria:

  • Do I love this career?
  • Do I love these career activities?

• “What am I deeply passionate about?
• “What taps my talent?
• “What meets a significant need in the world?

These can be organized as a Venn diagram of Talent x Market x Passion to reveal an intersecting area of optimal contribution.

  • What is essential?
    Eliminate the rest
  • Conduct a life audit.
    Eliminate an old activity before you add a new one.

Beware of the endowment effect or divestiture aversion, the self-confirmation bias of valuing something more once we own it.

Kahneman, Knetsch and Thaler found that when coffee mugs and pens of equal value were randomly distributed to volunteers, people were less willing to trade the item they were given for the other item.

The researchers concluded that “owning” either the pen or the coffee mug decreased the volunteers’ willingness to part with their objects, contradicting

Ronald Coase

Ronald Coase

Nobel prize winner Ronald Coase’s economic theorem which predicted that 50% of the objects would be traded.

To break this cognitive bias, Tom Stafford, psychology professor at

Tom Stafford

Tom Stafford

University of Sheffield and author of Mind Hacks, suggests asking “If I did not own this item, how much would I pay, invest, or sacrifice to obtain it?”

Similarly, McKeown argues for considered minimalism and simplicity in organizations, careers, and life.

-*How are you selective about your pursuits in career and life?

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