Thrivers!

On the first day of summer (June 20) I launched a new blog called Thrivers. I felt the need, not because a millisecond had gone by without some human launching a new blog and I wanted to plug that gaping hole, but because there was a crying need for a voice of optimism in this crazy world on which we all swirl.

My idea was to feature writing only by people I knew (thousands); only by those I felt were optimists (hundreds); only by those who truly loved what they do or were working hard and happily to find that professional joy (about 50); and only those who could write really well and tell a compelling, entertaining and informative story (about 25); only those who were wry, smart, insightful, quirky and candid (about 12); and only those who got the point and were incredibly excited to participate and eager to help others flourish (a handful). Yes, that is how I formed what I consider to be an incredible team of Thrivers.

The blog is self-hosted, meaning it has a cool url (thrivers.work) but as a self-hosted site, it’s not listed in the WordPress directory, and therefore not findable by someone looking for something fantastic to read on WordPress. I’m letting you know about it, because I’d love for you to take a moment to find it and see if it resonates with you. If it does, we’d love to have you reading, sharing your ideas, comments and insights, and telling us all how YOU thrive. I’ll be shifting most of my time and tips for thriving at work and life from Boostcamp Buzz to Thrivers.

Thriving is defined as “to grow or develop well, to flourish,” and one who does so is a thriver. As you might sense, this blog is all about thriving, both at work and in life, with greater emphasis on the former.

So, right, you may think “Oh goodie, the world needs yet another blog,” but I’m especially excited about this one because while roughly half the world population considers itself moderately happy overall, just 13% of people worldwide love what they do and truly thrive in their work. So, the topic is clearly crying out for ways to improve that sorry stat.

Here is a little bit about each of our contributing writers:

Hannah Goodwin graduated from Indiana University in May and this week started a full-time job in the office of Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor. I met Hannah a couple years of ago when she took my class Public Relations for Nonprofits. I liked Hannah right away. She’s sweet, incredibly sarcastic, self-deprecating, smart, inventive and determined. In her last semester, Hannah took my PR Career Success Preparation class, and she may not admit it, but given the plum job she’s just landed, apparently she learned a lot. 😉 Her first piece with Thrivers is called “It’s A Numbers Game,” which clearly demonstrates the qualities I’ve just ascribed her.

After 30+ years in fitness, Mary Yoke is pursuing her Ph.D. She is warm, lively, interested and downright sparkly. She knows more than almost anyone about fitness and is writing her dissertation on people’s attitudes toward physical activity. Mary’s also a fantastic yoga teacher, who loves music and plays the piano daily while overlooking a large, lush lake. Enjoy Mary’s first article here.

Kate Halliwell is an excellent writer who is enjoying a most enviable internship in LA at IndieWire, an online entertainment publication. She’s not exactly sitting around, filing or going on coffee runs there; she’s already garnered 45 bylines! Kate also is lively and witty, and she will be starting her senior year in less than two months. Kate’s prolific on Thrivers too! Check out her articles:

I’m also thrilled to have Kelly Bush on our team. Kelly is a 30-something enjoying a new, fabulous career in the New York art world after taking a less fitting path. I met Kelly years ago, when she worked as a Teaching Assistant for my father Tom Heslin, who was an IU Kelley School of Business professor. Kelly is brainy, clever, wise, sharp, tenacious and cultured. Enjoy her first Thrivers piece.

For the moment, our sole male contributing writer is Tibet Spencer. Like the others, he is incredibly likable, funny, focused, astute and positive. He is outdoorsy and athletic, and has a natural charm about him. Tibet graduated from IU in May and has just converted his summer internship into a full-time job with an advertising firm in Indianapolis. His two Thrivers posts have been particularly popular:

And then there’s Olivia Humphreys, who was chosen by her classmates to be the one they’d most like to hire, given the opportunity. She’s awesome. Like Hannah, Olivia took both my PR for Nonprofits class and the Career class, and she’s such a positive force. She characterizes herself as a relaxed Type A personality and is really bright, creative, organized and well prepared. Olivia graduated in May and almost immediately began working for a nonprofit called Centerstone. She absolutely loves her job, and in her post, you can see why.

I round out the Thrivers team, and I’m a Mindful Career Coach, who helps people reach their professional mountaintop. I also teach at IU and love laughing, writing, traveling, animals and yoga. I’ll cover topics ranging from hot resume trends to mindful leadership, career success and workplace ins and outs.

We’ll cover jobs, internships, bosses, challenges, insights, career goals, job searches, travels, dreams, inspirations, motivations, doubts, fears, frustrations, fun, friendships, and of course, their particularly thriving places, projects, activities, things, strategies and moments.

So far, Thrivers is off to a flourishing start, with more than 1500 visitors in its first two weeks.

I launched Thrivers on the first day of summer because it’s a good time to remember that we, like the sun, contain the power to nurture and sustain, and that we have a responsibility (and opportunity) to burn as brightly as we can. This is the time to invite fire into our lives; fire to burn away all that we have outgrown and no longer serves us and fire to ignite our inspired creativity, excitement and passion, for which our inner selves so desire.

Thrive along with us!

Maria

 

How To Leverage Today for An Amazing Tomorrow

sadie-desk

Like my little chihuahua Sadie, have you ever found yourself behind a desk in a workplace that made you wonder why in the world you were there? And wondering what in the world to do next?

Maybe you’re in a job you’ve outgrown. Or one where the culture is too stifling creatively. Or where you’ve accomplished what you needed to, but you’re not quite ready to make a leap because your skills aren’t as sharp as they should be for your next step. Or you’re still wondering what type of job or career would be better for you.

If you’re one of the few and the fortunate, you have a job you love, and you knew you wanted this job all your life. If that IS you, stop reading now and bask in your bliss!

On the other hand, if you’re like most of us, it takes awhile to find your professional place to be.  Then keep reading because you’re definitely not alone. Whether you love, like or hate your current work, you can leverage it into big, future success pretty easily.

Identifying what you love to do and actually getting paid to do it is ideal. Some might see that situation as a luxury, some as a necessity, and the closer you get to achieving it the happier you may be. Either way, relish the journey because each stop can bring its own education, enjoyment and long-term benefits.

My own winding professional path has included everything from selling shoes and being a server at several restaurants in my teens to running my own marketing communications business, freelance writing, working in the corporate arena and serving as deputy mayor in the world’s greatest college town (really, I’m not biased!).

The positions I’ve held throughout my career(s) have been diverse and fortunately, largely satisfying. They’ve fulfilled different aspects of my personality and enhanced dozens of skills.

The variety of that journey actually paved the way for me to lovvvve what I do now: teaching at Indiana University and coaching individuals along their career and success paths.

The key is getting the most out of one’s work experiences and making a mental note of them so that the practice gained, mistakes made, success attained or lessons learned can be integrated into our future work. By consciously doing so, we add and hone more and more skills that make us invaluable to whatever we pursue.

For example, in my own experience some time ago, I was charged with planning and executing a direct mail campaign. Not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and not something that initially thrilled me. And managing such an effort may sound simple enough, but look at all the steps involved.

Until that time, my role in such projects had been just to design such mailers, but this time I was responsible for: identifying who was going to receive the pieces; conceiving the mailers in a way that met overall project goals; selling stakeholders on my concepts; writing, laying out and designing the mailers; and finding out what the requirements were from the post office in terms of quantity, postage, bundling by zip code and allowable dimensions.

I also had to work with others to ensure the mailers conveyed the intended messages with the right images, colors, layouts, and fonts and that they furthered the goals of the other elements of the larger marketing campaign.

Finally, I had to identify how much money we should spend; find a printer who could keep us within budget; get the pieces to the printer in the right electronic format; figure out how we were going to create mailing labels; identify who was going to label the pieces once they were ready for me to pick up from the printer; and determine by what date and time they had to be delivered to the post office and postmarked in order to meet our deadlines.

Phew!

Now, the individual tasks weren’t horribly challenging, but look at all the skills that project required: time management, creativity, sales, communications, strategy, organization, project management, budgeting, process layout, marketing, writing, design, negotiation, decision making and leadership. (And as it turned out, the campaign kicked major bootay!).

At the time, I doubt I was terribly aware of just how many of these skills were busily being sharpened nor how very much they’d help me out down the road as transferable skills, but over time I took from that experience – and many more like it – the confidence that I was able to handle multiple aspects of almost any given project.

If you’re in a work situation that doesn’t seem to be the finest fit for you or one that isn’t your ultimate calling, try to resist being bored, bummed or my personal favorite, bitter. Instead, I invite you to consider how you might make the most of your experience. Doing so will make you happier and actually help prepare you to make a switch or gain a promotion much faster.

What projects can you tackle to broaden your skill set or fine-tune specific strengths? Can you lead a team? A project? Add a new twist to an old approach? Can you boost teamwork? Find a way to save the company money? Deliver better client value?

Making the most of the present moment is pretty zen, and when fully embraced, can reap loads of benefits. Savor your journey and maximize its opportunities for your amazing future success.

Four Ways Mindfulness Will Improve Your Conversational Outcomes

This was originally posted on HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellevate/four-ways-mindfulness-wil_b_8957450.html

Communication

Communicating effectively and persuasively while maintaining integrity, honesty and calm is one of the trickier art forms most of us humans aim to master.

Its a challenge for so many reasons because an incredible number of factors impact how we communicate with others. When two people engage in conversation, they bring everything from their mood, intentions, body language, speaking style, awareness level and listening skills to their previous life experience, sense of humor, penchant for metaphors or more concrete language, relationship construct, levels of confidence and patience and much, much more.

Given those factors, it’s pretty amazing that clear, pleasant and effective exchanges ever happen at all!

Learning how to connect well with others is an incredibly worthwhile pursuit, of course, as strong communication skills dramatically enhance our personal and professional relationships and outcomes.

Learning how to communicate mindfully is one of the most effective paths to communications success, providing numerous tangible benefits. If you’re all that familiar with mindfulness, the quick story is that it’s a skill that can be learned through the practice of meditation, yoga and dozens of other techniques. While its traditional definition is “Paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment,” mindfulness is a way of being — an attitude or an approach you possess as you move through life.

The benefits of mindfulness are endless, as more than 3,000 scientific studies show. In terms of approaching communications mindfully, here are four of the biggest ways it can make our efforts far more successful. And this approach is all the more critical and powerful if you are attempting to engage persuasively because that intention adds a layer of challenge other conversations lack.

Mindful communication:

Enhances our awareness.
When we are mindful, by definition we are in the moment, paying attention only to what is before us. With our mind not drifting to our to-do list, our lunch plans or our response to the speaker’s next statement, we are able to pay close attention to what the speaker is saying, how he is saying it, what his body language is expressing, and the fact that he is bringing a lot of those other factors we outlined above into this conversation. Just being aware of the fact that everyone (including ourselves) has dramatically different approaches, experiences, styles and sarcasm levels can allow us to respond in a more understanding, genuine manner.

Helps us focus.
Related to the point above is the ability mindfulness provides us to engage in active listening rather than drifting off into an internal conversation. By focusing acutely on what the speaker is saying, we allow exchanges to be more coherent, respectful and on point; we save time by not having to ask the speaker to repeat herself (we listened the first time); and we allow for freshness and spontaneity to enter the conversation.

Increases our equanimity.
Being a mindful participant in a conversation makes us uber cool. By that I mean we are much more prepared to respond in a way that is even-keeled and temperate, even if the speaker has just said something obnoxious, mean or inaccurate. Now, this doesn’t mean we are passive, wimpy, uncaring or lacking passion! Nor does it mean we bottle up our feelings and blow a gasket a la Seinfeld’s “Serenity now, insanity later.” Instead, it means our mindfulness has allowed us to build up the part of our brain that provides us with a little extra space to respond vs react. This brief moment allows us to generate a response that’s not clouded by excessive emotion nor fettered by major desires to lash back.

Boosts our empathy.
A mindful person has a significant level of empathy and therefore in a conversation has the ability to understand the perspective, needs and situation of the speaker. This comprehension may not alter how much we agree on an issue or how alike we are in other ways, but it allows for less judgment and conflict and better give and take on a topic. Through empathy we consider how we’d like to be on the receiving end of actions or comments. This helps us do unto others as we would like to be treated in return.

So, the next time you’re chatting with someone you know, like, love, enjoy or are inspired by or even someone you just met or share strife with, pause for a moment and consider how mindfulness might make the exchange all the more positive, satisfying and fulfilling for both of you. If you like the possibilities you envision, consider adding mindfulness to your repertoire.

Stress & Produce Less

Investors in People survey: Most managers don’t believe productivity is affected by stress. Yikes. In fact, stress is one of the leading contributors to poor health, lack of work engagement and productivity, and employee turnover. #bigmistake #stressbuster #mindfulness #stressmanagement #relax #holidaystressbuster
Bad-boss-e1432171850403

Empathy Strikes Back: How Animals Can Help Us Redefine & Attain True Economic Success

dog money

In celebration of yesterday as World Animals Day and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, I dedicate this blog with much love and respect to all the creatures of the world.

Sweet, but what’s that have to do with business or the economy?

Everything.

It also has to do with the public health, personal safety, the environment, global terrorism, crime, international trade, plus the more obvious factor of doing right by the things we as humans have been entrusted to steward.

But back to business. First, some not so great news.

Every year in the United States about 10 billion animals — that’s 30 million cows, 106 million pigs, 8.6 billion chickens and more — are raised for food in an industry dominated by factory farms. (Over the past 30 years the U.S. population has increased by 33% while its meat consumption has more than doubled). FYI, it is estimated there are 65 billion animals crammed into factory farm facilities worldwide.

In the U.S., the animals produced now come from 2 million farms; in 1950 there were 6 million farms because the family farm was a large part of American life and animals weren’t the mass-produced commodity they are today.

In case you haven’t heard, the conditions of factory farm facilities are generally horrific. Egg-laying hens are crammed into cages so tiny they can’t even spread their wings; sick animals are thrown onto a pile left to die a slow and agonizing death; pigs are kept in crates so small they can’t turn around and their tails are chopped off sans anesthetic to prevent them from maniacally chewing on one another, and the list goes on.

Factory farms also pose threats to the environment and human health in order to maximize agribusiness profits. Climate change advocates state that meat production is one of the biggest sources of pollution. Animals are bred to grow unnaturally fast and large, and unnatural feeds, hormones and excessive quantities of antibiotics put humans at risk for chronic disease, obesity and drug-resistant bacteria.

There are troubles too of course for dogs, cats, laboratory animals, animals killed for fur, and wildlife, but because of their numbers, no one category of animals has such an overwhelming impact economically, ethically and environmentally than factory farm animals.

Now for the good news and some great opportunities.

Over the past several years, consumers, legislators, volunteers, some very special ranch owners, and most of all organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Farm Sanctuary, have made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of animals. These positive changes also extend to human health, the environment and the economy.

For example, in response to consumer pressure, retailers and restaurants have been strengthening their animal-welfare policies, with companies such as Nestlé and Starbucks recently committing to tougher standards for their suppliers.

Just over the past few months, McDonald’s pledged to go 100% cage-free in its U.S. and Canadian supply chains within 10 years; the Cheesecake Factory became the latest major food company to make a cage-free pledge this year; and the world’s largest food service company, Compass Group, embraced the Five Freedoms of animal welfare, pledging to address the major sources of farm animal suffering. Also, the FDA issued a new rule providing the first food safety protections for pet food.

The efforts of these organizations, businesses, volunteers and consumers should be applauded and appreciated. Making a buck just because you can may be the definition of opportunity and success for some people, but more and more individuals and corporations are realizing and embracing that there is another way – that plenty of money can be made without causing misery, sadness, unsafe conditions, damage and exploitation.

The notion of a “humane economy” has existed since the late 1800s and just recently has started to extend beyond its ideation stage. Staying with the farm animal theme, top investors such as Bill Gates and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams recently invested big dollars into new companies producing fake meat and eggs; sales of plant-based meat alternatives is skyrocketing, exceeding $500 million annually; and the U.S. vegetarian market as a whole is a $2.8 billion a year industry.

As a volunteer Indiana State Council member, I attended the HSUS’s Volunteer Leadership Summit just last week. The conference brought together more than 300 leading volunteers, and featured sessions on farm animals, food safety, faith-based initiatives, coalition building, legislation, compassion and economics.

As part of the conference, we had the chance to lobby on Capitol Hill about several different pieces of animal-welfare related legislation, all of which feature significant opportunities economically. Some of the bills we discussed include:

  • S. 1214/ H.R. 1942, The SAFE Act, which would prevent horse slaughter plants from cropping up in the U.S. and end the current practice of exporting our horses abroad for human consumption (seriously people, eating a beautiful horse??). More than 80% of the U.S. public supports this legislation – do your representatives? Our Federal debt clock already running out of breath at $18.4 trillion, and allowing such plants would cost taxpayers millions of more dollars.
  • S. 27, H.R. 2494 and H.R. 1945, Wildlife Trafficking legislation that would strengthen penalties for wildlife offenses (crime networks and terrorist groups use poaching to finance their military operations).
  • H.R. 2858, the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit the use of live animals to test cosmetic products and ingredients within the U.S. More than 30 countries have passed similar legislation so it behooves the U.S. to do the same even just for the sake of remaining competitive in the global cosmetics market.

You can find out more about these pieces of legislation, their status and how your representatives vote here.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be “an animal person” I hope you see how the impact of animals far exceeds the lives of the individual creatures. Even if you don’t really care much about what animals endure, I bet someone you know and love does care a great deal.

Keep in mind that one of the hallmarks of a successful businessperson, company, product, culture or society is the empathy we show others. And to be a true success, this care must extend to humans and nonhumans alike.

Mind Over Scatter: Boosting Your Professional Success Through Mindfulness, Part 2

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One of my favorite mindfulness tools to help me relax: looking at a pic of two of my silly dogs, Abbey and Bobby.

In Part 1 of this post, we looked at why learning to manage your mind can be an incredibly powerful tool, delivering perks both personally and professionally.

In the workplace, becoming more mindful – more aware, calm, centered and focused – can benefit just about everyone. It is especially helpful to those who experience a constant bombardment by email and social media posts; interruptions by coworkers; deadline pressures; unrealistic performance expectations; a micromanaging boss; concerns about the lack of money you are earning; or stress related to that promotion you’ve been gunning for.

In fact:

  • More than eight in 10 employed Americans experience stress at work, and 67% of employees feel overwhelmed.
  • One-third of employees experience chronic stress related to work. Chronic stress has been associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, and can magnify many other health problems.
  • More than 50 percent of Americans say they are interrupted so frequently that it is difficult to get their work done.

Those factors are not exactly conducive to an inspiring, creative, healthy or productive work environment. Engaging in the practice of mindfulness can have a dramatic impact on all of that noise.

While the most popular and best known methods of cultivating a mindful state are meditation and yoga, there are a host of additional tools that can help you achieve similar, mindful benefits.

After all, while you’re at work and the boss is reprimanding you for not doing it his way, it might not be prudent to unroll the yoga mat to find your peace. Instead, here are five of my favorite tools to implement in the office. Like yoga and meditation, (and just about any other worthwhile pursuit) they require practice, patience and commitment to realize their full, often amazing impact.

Take A Two-Minute Mini Vacay
Choose one of your favorite vacation memories and recall it in as much detail as you can. Reliving the best moments of a trip can make you feel like you did when you were there because your brain and body aren’t too sure if you are really there right now or not. This tool works because it slows you down, flushes your being with happy thoughts and endorphins, helps you realize you can choose how you feel in a stressful moment, and stimulates feelings of calm, pleasure and joy. Sign me up!

Breathe In, Breathe Out
Perhaps the easiest way to become more mindful at work is to treat yourself to a three-minute breathing retreat. At your desk or in a quiet space, stop what you’re doing and gently close your eyes, inhale for a count of five, pause, then exhale deeply for a count of seven. Focus your attention fully on your breath. Doing this exercise two or three times daily can be transformative.

Gimme A Break
There is massive evidence that taking regular breaks during the workday can boost your enthusiasm, energy, productivity, creativity and mood. Instead of scarfing down lunch in front of your computer while plowing through email, try taking a tech-free lunch break; take a 15-minute walk, outdoors if possible; stretch; read something unrelated to work; hang out with someone who makes you laugh. Breaks give your mind space to process, digest and reimagine information so you can give ideas new life and problems new solutions.

Disconnect To Reconnect
With 24/7 connectivity, it’s simple and alluring to stay plugged in all day at work and home. This is noxious to our well-being, not to mention to our abilities to communicate and connect with the world around us. Research shows that inordinate reliance on technology can make us more prone to making mistakes, and more impatient, distracted and forgetful. Start by identifying the best time every day you can tear yourself away from your phone or computer even just for 30 minutes, and stick to it. Add a little time each week. Your brain will appreciate this gift of time to reset and recover, ultimately boosting your mental acuity.

Tap Your Pause Button
Taking a 30-second pause from a tense moment is enough to turn down the stress response in your brain, allowing you to react more calmly and wisely. The key is to tap your personal pause button during whatever stress, drama or anxiety you’re experiencing and remind yourself you’re in control. You can do this by: looking at a picture of your family, pet or your favorite vacation spot; actively listening to the sounds around you; counting to 10 or 100 depending on the level of stressor; or visualizing a big barge floating down a river, carrying away your distressing thoughts.

There are loads of other helpful tools you can explore as well; finding what works best for you is the key.

There are 98 days left to this year. How are you going to use them, and are you going to embrace them eagerly, approaching them with joy, vibrancy and mindfulness? Best wishes on your journey!

#booster #boostcamp