Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to stay focused!

Some recent personal experiences pulled me completely off track.  A silly church - politics spat blew my deadlines and wasted valuable time and energy. It made me think hard again on how we deal with such issues and stay productive.  While we can’t run away from situations, it is important how we tackle them effectively.
Prayer and meditation are strong tools to avoid distraction and stress (my wife is a big advocate on this). I always have the intent, but fail many a time. One old theory on the topic is that meditation is just like exercise: it trains the brain as if gray matter were a bundle of muscles. You work those muscles and they get stronger. And the results are clear: it's not wanting to meditate but actually meditating that improves your brain's performance. So next time, we blame on meditation, please look inward and ask the question; have we done our part correctly?
Yet another way to deal with the situation is avoid multi-tasking. While multitasking may seem to be saving time, psychologists, neuroscientists and others are finding that it can put us under a great deal of stress and actually make us less efficient. Studies by David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues found that for all types of tasks, the participants lost time when they had to move back and forth from one undertaking to another, and that it took significantly longer to switch between the more complicated tasks. In a 2005 Harvard Business Review article, Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform, Dr. Hallowell wrote that attention deficit trait “springs entirely from the environment”. “As our minds fill with noise — feckless synaptic events signifying nothing — the brain gradually loses its capacity to attend fully and gradually to anything,” he wrote.
Can we manage our situation and stay focused? The answer is, yes. For that, we need to “recreate our boundaries” and “train our mind”. That means not looking at your messages every 20 seconds, switching off the cellphones in meetings, and not looking at your emails while talking over the phone. Sleeping less to do more is a bad strategy. We are efficient only when we sleep enough, eat right, exercise, and meditate. Focus on single tasking and avoid distractions. Finally, the result depends on how sincere you are with yourself.
See you next week!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Personal boundaries for healthy relationship

Establishing legitimate personal boundaries are essential for healthy relationship at all levels. It may find strange when we hear first about the need to have boundaries. But as I shared recently on how to keep away from emotional vampires, it is also essential to build trust based on clearly defined areas of responsibility. How do we deal with difficult people? What we can do is to set limits on our exposure to people who behave poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right. There will be several questions arising in our mind when we think of setting boundaries. Typical ones are: can I set limits and still be a loving person?; what if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?; what are legitimate boundaries?  
What are boundaries? In physical world they are easy to identify. Fences, sign walls, hedges and so forth. In spiritual and emotional worlds, it is often hard to see. If we are able to define and recognize them, it would increase the love and care, and would save your life. The boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me a sense of ownership. Knowing what I owns give me freedom, which also help me guard against encroachment. Boundaries are not walls without gates. We should let good in and bad out.
The most basic boundary setting word is no, which set apart from you and others. No is a confrontational word which is important in setting limits on abuse. We get pressured from internally and externally to say ‘yes’. If we cannot say ‘no’ to the external pressure and internal urge, we lost control of our property and not enjoying the fruit of ‘self-control’.
Parents often yell and nag instead of allowing the children to face the natural consequences of their behavior. Parenting with love (warmth) and limits (consequences), produces confident children who have a sense of control over their lives. As parents, we try to control the lives of our children beyond measure. Child researchers use the term, “hatching” and “differentiation” to differentiate the phase where children are developed from dependency to independence. We should help our children grow and avoid perpetual child syndrome where the adult child still asking, “Mom where are my socks”?
Children are typical example I stated above. Same boundary setting is applicable with friends, spouse, parents, siblings, people at work, and people at your spiritual and social organizations. For example, we should be able to identify when the spiritual leader stop preaching and start meddling. Also, we should set our own self boundaries and look internally to identify the internal boundary conflicts.
Developing healthy boundaries are good for overall wellbeing. Some recommendations from scholars in the field are: pray; read spiritual books; develop your gifts; lean on your support group; learn from a support group; have self confidence in learning; rework on past issues; be grateful; and learn to forgive. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have written a wonderful book called ‘boundaries’ on the topic. I highly recommend it.
Finally, defining boundaries are not setting limits. It is setting expectations and goals which is a win-win for all stakeholders.
Good luck and see you next week!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Leading business with a human face!

             In the untimely death of Dr. CK Prahalad on April 16, 2010 at the age of 68, we lost one of the foremost management thinker and business leader with human face. I happened to have interactions with him on a subject very dear to him, the bottom of economic pyramid, a topic I wanted to pursue in my research studies. While I missed that opportunity to work him on the topic, the ideas created and shared by Dr. Prahalad would inspire the business leaders and common men alike. This is a brief sharing on Dr. Prahalad and the new ideas he presented to the business world.

            Dr. CK Prahalad was the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan. He is famous as the father of the concepts of Core competency and BoP - Bottom of the pyramid. In the 2009 Thinkers 50 listing, Dr. C.K. Prahalad was ranked as the most influential business thinker in the world. He was not only a best-selling author; he was one of the world's most highly sought-after management consultants. His work influenced millions of readers and countless major corporations.

Along with being a great thinker and consultant, C.K. was a humanitarian—in the best sense of the word. He didn't just have grand ideas about saving the world that would never get implemented. He actually got things done. He realized that for corporations to make lasting change that benefited the world, they also had to benefit their shareholders. In The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, he showed how companies could provide inexpensive, beneficial products for low-income people—and still make money for their shareholders.
Some practical wisdom on business leadership:
·         When the going is roughest, leadership matters. In times of trouble, Prahalad says, "leaders must behave like emotional and intellectual anchors. There are no external cues now. The critical issue is about faith, passion, and, most importantly, authenticity -- so that people know you are not pretending. People can see a sham."
·         Successful managers embrace discomfort. "If you do precisely what you're supposed to do," Prahalad says, "and you're boxed in, then you're going to do that very well." But if pressed to do things that aren't in your normal job description, he says, the challenge can push you to a new level of achievement.
·         Great leaders stay on message. For Prahalad, nothing is more important than reminding people what the company stands for. "I spend a lot of time talking about what we're doing in terms of strategy," he says. "You have to give the same message over and over again."
·         It's not one person. It's not the team. It's both. A painting of a pack of wolves in Prahalad's office symbolizes the combination of leadership and teamwork that pervades successful organizations. "With wolves, solidarity is first," says Prahalad. "But when they hunt, they change roles. The implicit hierarchy depends on who does what." In an organization, he adds, "one unique person makes a difference, but you need teamwork to make it happen."
·         Think? Act? Balance the two. Says Prahalad: "In a small company, you have to exercise caution and build your own personal dampers so that you don't act on everything. Sometimes not acting may be smart. But if I get the feeling that everybody's becoming so thoughtful that nobody's doing anything, I want to go and light some fires somewhere."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ABC of Life!

ABC (Avoid Bad Company) in Life. Your life’s happiness depends a lot on the company you keep. Diane McLaren, a popular holistic health practitioner, coach & trainer uncovered patterns and strategies to keep a happy life. Practice these easy strategies in order to improve happiness and become more upbeat and optimistic. The following are her recommendations to lead a healthy and happy life!

1. Avoid Emotional Vampires

Life’s success depends a lot with the company you keep. Do you attract emotional vampires or losers into your life? Are you a loser magnet? Emotional vampires and losers literally drain our batteries, slow us down and make us upset. To become happier, optimistic and energetic -- avoid emotional vampires. Emotional vampires include people who put you down, criticize or mock you, or sabotage your dreams and aspirations. Take survey of your life by making a list of people and situations you expose yourself to. Then, discard or limit people, habits or situations that keep you from feeling optimistic and happy. In other words,’ burn your bridges’ if needed.

2. Detox Your Mind

You can detox your mind just as people detox their bodies. To get rid of negative or intruding bad thoughts, remember this “Rule of Happiness”: You can only keep one thought in your mind at a time. You can focus your thoughts on either pessimistic/unhappy or optimistic/happy thoughts. It’s your choice. Happy and optimistic people expect the best. When setbacks or problems pop up, focus on finding a solution. Unhappy and pessimistic people focus on complaining, but happy and optimistic people focus on solutions.

   3. Optimism and Happiness by the Numbers

Are you obsessed with negative thoughts that lead you to a bad mood? A simple way to become happy and optimistic is to count your way to more positive thoughts. It’s easy to become an expert at switching your negative and bad thoughts to more positive and upbeat thoughts and feelings. Each time you have a negative thought, immediately switch to a positive thought or solution to your woes.

    4. Change your body posture

Happy and energetic individuals take big steps, walk faster and stand taller. They seem to exude an endless supply of energy. In sharp contrast, pessimistic, unhappy and lifeless people shuffle their feet, take tiny steps, walk slowly and slouch. They appear lifeless and have burned–out their batteries. Watch how you carry your body. Use the body-posture of happy, optimistic people, such as taking big steps, walking faster and standing taller. Using these techniques will help you become happy and energetic. They are easy to carry out, and will create a positive domino effect with people in your life.

   5. Watch what you say -- and never say words such as “try”

To start acting like happy and optimistic people, you need to learn what they do. Optimistic people act and talk in certain ways and use certain words. The words people use can affect their moods and energy levels. Changing your words can actually change your attitude and feelings. Use “upbeat” words, instead of “upsetting” words. For example, “I feel overwhelmed” can seem upsetting. So instead say, “I feel challenged …nevertheless I can do it” which is more upbeat. One of the most interesting differences between happy and unhappy people is that happy people rarely or even never use the word ‘try’ or ‘but.’ These two words leave people feeling hopeless and not in control of their lives. Happy people feel hopeful, and take tons of responsibility for their lives.

6. Focus on What You Want & Not On What You Do not Want

Worry is the #1 happiness and energy zapper. The fastest way to fill you with endless joy and energy is to stop worrying. How can you do that? Each time you have a negative thought, immediately switch it to a positive thought such as a solution to your woes. People who focus on solutions rather than problems are optimistic, happy and very high energy.

    7. Pursue What You Love To Do and It Will Light Your Fire

The best way to start your day and jump out of bed with an enthusiastic mood is to find your passion. Find out what thrills you and you’ll find boundless new energy to jump out of bed and start the day with a great mood. People who have no energy in the morning or even during the day are really lost souls. They do not have a real reason to get out of bed each day. Finding your passion or what thrills you in life can turn you on each day, light your fire and boost your mood. Anyone can become more upbeat and optimistic. When people use these techniques, they invariably feel a heavy burden lift off their shoulders. They feel positive, upbeat, and confident.

You only need a few minutes to put these tips into action. They can be your key to enhanced life including your health, wealth, and career success.

Remember: Optimism is the hidden key to your personal success. Optimists possess a clear vision of an exciting life, confidently work on goals to achieve their vision, and take self-responsibility. In contrast, pessimists have no clear vision of a fantastic life, and they love to complain, blame, and moan.

So which do you want to be ---- happy & optimistic or unhappy and pessimistic? Finally, follow the ABC; Avoid Bad Company, keep away from the Emotional Vampires!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thoughtful prayers and prayerful thoughts

I am a Christian and I share my views from a Christian perspective. Since I was born and raised in India prior to migrating to U.S., my thoughts are also deeply influenced by the Eastern and Hindu spirituality.

What’s prayer? Prayer is a communion and communication with the higher being. And, why we pray? Prayer heals. The more we learn about technology and develop our skills, we also learn about the uncertainties and human limitations. Prayer and faith can remove human limitations. It helps one accept reality without pains. Holy Bible says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

In the Eastern and Hindu culture prayer and meditation plays a central role. One of the oldest forms of medication reported in human history is in Hindu Vedas dated back in15th century BCE. Subsequently, meditation spread in the Taoist China and Buddhist India around 5th and 6th century BCEs by the influence of the Vedas.

The repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings have its own healing power. Religious practices like Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Taoists follow this tradition. There are several references on mediation and prayer; hāgâ (means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate) in Hebrew Bible, dhyaana in Buddhism and in Hinduism are two typical examples.

Atheists may have a concern on prayer to a higher being. But they can always focus on meditation which is generally an inwardly oriented, personal practice, which individuals do by themselves.

This is Lenten time for Christian around the world; preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Let it not be a ritual.

Let’s offer the best to the world, selflessly.