How many sides does a circle have & other creativity provoking statements inspired by the Maasai Mara

My morning neighbour in the Mara- a gorgeous eland

Zebra, wildebeests & elands (the largest of the antelopes) scatter as our tiny plane lands on the dirt runway. The air is heavy & loamy after the recent rains. The sky is a whorl of mauves & grays, which will soon darken to slate as the rain starts again. The safari vehicle that takes us to our camp skids sideways in the heavy mud several times, before coming to rest beside a pack of hyenas. We watch in delight as 2 adults lope off in search of something, while other adults stay behind with the fluff ball babies.

 

Safaris never get old. I’m in the Maasai Mara – Kenya’s version of Tanzania’s better known sister, the Serengeti. I’m here to facilitate a client’s learning forum.

 

I adore the Mara – something about her wide open spaces inspires creativity, a sense of awe & wonder. As the sun has now set, & the loud calls of hippos in the river beside us have been replaced with the croaks of dozens of frogs, I reflect back on the day.

 

Doing more, doing better

Most of my clients are looking for ways to do better, to do more & to leave a positive impact on their communities. Part of that equation is polishing off sometimes-rusty creativity & innovation habits & skills. Why? In order to find ways to access new & creative ideas to approach entrenched, pesky &/or intricate issues.

 

Which is why I decided to incorporate a treasure hunt at the end of our day. Teams competed to answer the most questions correctly & for their troubles, the top four were rewarded with prizes. (lovely traditional Kenyan fabric wine covers for some & chocolates for others).

 

I’ve found that asking creative questions is a gateway to overall, more creative thinking.

 

Here are some of the questions. Give them a try (and post your answers in the comments!) I’ll provide the answers in next week’s post.

 

  • Why are female ostriches gray & male ostriches black?

 

  • How many sides does a circle have?

 

  • What animal can you hear in the river by our camp (bonus points if you can imitate it) (the learning forum was at a camp – can you guess which animal kept us company in the river during the day)?

 

  • What’s this?    .

 

 

Your turn. Take action.

Here are a few fun and simple ways to get your creativity flowing.

 

P.S. Stay tuned for next week’s post where I found the perfect response to a reader’s query about how to be comfortable in our own skin.

 

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What do you do when you realize your kid’s spring break starts today & not in a week as you’ve planned?

Flashback to last week.  After a who’s on first type of conversation with a teacher, the air was sucked out of my gut faster than a cheetah chasing it’s prey & all the hairs on my arm stood at attention while I had a slight taste of bile in my mouth.

 

I had just realized I booked several international flights for family members based on the wrong dates for spring break.  School holidays started that very day, not in a week as I had planned.  My youngest was to be flying from Kenya to Canada to visit his eldest brother at university.  I had a business trip planned to London.  And my partner had booked business travel to several countries, all based on what turned out to be wrong dates.

 

(I am resisting the urge to attach the school calendar, which I frantically looked at many times, wondering if I was loosing my marbles.  Yes it said 206-2017, yes it had the spring dates I’d booked around.  Obviously dates had changed, but I didn’t know that.)

 

I’m happy & relieved to say that everything turned out.  Our youngest went from +26 Celsius to -20 Celsius & is enjoying brother time.  I’m about to head off to London & hubby has been flitting around the globe as planned.

 

But, not before major anxiety.

 

Heading: I needed a fresh new perspective & fast.

 

Check out last week’s post for how a tape measure inspired fresh insight.  While today I’ll walk you through how I gained perspective using this very messy spring break mix up as an example.  It’s based on my Life Lenses™ assessment.  Even if you haven’t taken the assessment (which I’m designing to be available online later this year), you can still get a sense of how the lenses can help you gain insight.

 

Why do we need a new perspective?  Because when something’s not working we tend to do more of whatever it is that’s not working.  We say the same thing over & over (the only variation being the level of exasperation in our voice) & don’t necessarily stop to try a new approach.

 

Here’s a few ways to look anew for fresh insight

 

First the framework.  Here are the Life Lenses™ & a brief summary of how each lens tends to see the world.  Feel free to click on the links if you want more information.

 

Where to look Which Life Lens™ does this speak to? Details
1.    Look up Mountain Life Lens™ Take a bigger, broader view
2.    Look down Carrot Life Lens™ Take a focused, detailed look
3.    Look around Journey Life Lens™ Take a look at the process, the ‘how’
4.    Look forward Destination Life Lens™ Examine where you’re headed, what your goals or objectives are
5.    Look within Stop Life Lens™ Pause, reflect, ruminate
6.    Look without Go Life Lens™ Get going, take action, try something new, jump in
7.    Look to the intangible Heart Life Lens™ Focus on what your intuition, your gut is telling you
8.    Look to the tangible Head Life Lens™ Focus on the facts, logic, information

 

 

Here’s an example of the Life Lenses™ views in action

Remember, I’d just found out that multiple international trips had been planned based on my understanding that spring break started in a week, not that very day.  Here’s how I used the lenses to help.

 

A fast call to hubbie & some heated invectives later (for the complex family plans have been as carefully orchestrated as a complicated algebraic equation) & involves the 4 of going to 3 different countries separately. So what did I do? How did I look out and beyond the situation I was in? I’ve broken it down for you:

 

Where to look Which Life Lens™ does this speak to? Details What it looks like in my example
1. Look up Mountain Life Lens™ Take a bigger, broader view When I was cursing on the phone to my hubbie, I was careful to tell him that no one was hurt, no one had died & while I was thoroughly frustrated we’d figure this out – while this was not a great a situation, the big picture was that everything, in general, was ok.
2. Look down Carrot Life Lens™ Take a focused, detailed look He took on the details– contacting airlines to see what was possible to change at this late date.
3. Look around Journey Life Lens™ Take a look at the process, the how Our original plan involved all of us traveling so the change was a pretty big deal. We needed a new plan so my husband took on contacting our other son in Montreal, to see if a longer visit would work (our younger son is visiting our older one; yeah for brother time!)
4. Look forward Destination Life Lens™ Examine where you’re headed, what your goals or objectives are I drafted an email to the school to figure out how we got to this point to make sure it doesn’t happen again (my goal)
5. Look within Stop Life Lens™ Pause, reflect, ruminate I was reeling & pretty angry so I elected to pause & not send the email right away.  I’ll come back to it later & then send it.
6. Look without Go Life Lens™ Get going, take action, try something new, jump in I’ll send the (likely edited) email in a few days – I’ll be ready to take action and move on.
7. Look to the intangible Heart Life Lens™ Focus on what your intuition, your gut is telling you My youngest doesn’t always react well to last minute change so I was careful how I frame this ‘opportunity’ to him and I had faith in my abilities to convey this news in the right way to him.
8. Look to the tangible Head Life Lens™ Focus on the facts, logic, information The tickets will get sorted & everyone will have a great spring break.

 

Your turn. Take action

 

  • Review the lenses & determine which ones you’re most comfortable with
  • Pick a sticky situation, something you need to get new insight on.  Then try looking the opposite way you normally do.  For example if you’re a big picture, Mountain Life Lens™ try looking down & examining systems & details.  If you tend to look to the tangible, Head Life Lens™, try seeing what your intuition has to say.
  • Please let me know how it goes, in the comment section below or by emailing me.  I’d love to hear.
  • I invite you to send me three words that describe how you feel about conflict. One reader said: polarized, tense, pressure cooker.  What are your words?  Simply click on this link to submit your 3 words.  And feel free to share the link if you’ like.  I’ll turn the responses into a spiffy piece of art in an upcoming post.  (And don’t worry, it’s all anonymous.)
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How can a tape measure inspire insight & a fresh perspective?

It smelled like a pungent, loamy forest encased in a single, mysterious room. To this day I remember the smell of sawdust in that forbidden room of my childhood memories.

 

My dad was a master hobby woodworker – he had a magical room chock a block full of electric saws, nails & screws in all shapes & sizes. The wild & wonderful hand tools dangling from a pegboard on the wall looked like puppets eagerly waiting to be picked up & played with.

 

Only girls were most decidedly not allowed in this kingdom. So I’d wait for quiet, surreptitious moments to sneak in & take a look around this place, so close yet so far, in our family basement room.

 

Maybe I was drawing on his DNA, while moving about with stealth, as he was a spy for his day job. Who knows? All I knew is that I loved being in that room.

 

How a tape measure inspires insight

 

Today I’m nowhere close to being a master carpenter, but my toolbox does include a couple of tape measures.

 

Which made me sit up & pay attention when I saw this video about unusual, oft undiscovered features in said tape measures. Who knew the jiggly metal end bit of a tape measure is both a way to mark your measure when no one’s around to help or you don’t have a pencil at hand & that same loose, jiggly bit when pulled taut, creates a precise measure.

 

There’s a lesson there – insight is to be gained from taking a new look at an old itch, scratching it to gain a new view.

 

Take your own measure & look for new insight

 

Ever feel like you’re stuck in the same old, same old? Spinning your wheels with no time to research, take a course, or pay for therapy (or a massage for that matter)?

 

Here’s how the metal, jiggly bit found on tape measures just might help.

 

Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective – a new way of viewing the situation & low, the solution is right there in front of your face. (Insert a dusty poof of magical sawdust here.) Like looking anew at the jiggle end bit on tape measures with a new perspective.

 

When something’s not working we tend to do more of whatever it is that’s not working. We say the same thing over & over (the only variation being the level of exasperation in our voice) & don’t necessarily stop to try a new approach.

 

So give it a go.

 

What’s bugging you in your life that could use a fresh perspective?

 

Need some prompts?  Here are some examples, based on issues a client raised at a two day team building retreat I just designed & delivered for them:

  • Challenges with transparency at work
  • Lack of communication with stakeholders (people &/or organizations that have an impact on or impacted by, your work)
  • Poor communication (e.g. between work teams)
  • Giving & receiving feedback
  • Lack of accountability

 

For now, it’s enough to simply identify 1 or 2 things that are bugging you & could use a fresh perspective. Next week I’ll give you some simple ways to bring on that insight.

 

And, in the meantime, if there’s a particular example you’d like me to use next week, please leave a comment below or email me.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Conflict resolution scripts designed to reduce overwhelm & amp up your ease

Photo Credit: raganmd Flickr via Compfight cc

To throw, catch & keep in the air, several things simultaneously.

Recognize what word that’s a definition for?  Do you recognize yourself in it?  I hope so because you’re probably a master at doing it.

That’s the definition of juggling.

Overwhelm with a capital O

Juggling all you need to do for your work, your family, your community & yourself can be overwhelming.  Enter Overwhelm, with a capital O.

And when differences & misunderstandings arise, it can make the overwhelm ramp up faster than the monkey who visits my yard from time to time, can shimmy up to my second story kitchen through an open window & steal my mangos if I’m not careful.

Differences & misunderstandings can also make us drop the balls we’re juggling – because it’s hard to keep your eye on the ball when you’re freaking out (whether or not anybody can tell you’re having a meltdown based on that sarcastic comment from your so-called colleague, the multiple & conflicting deadlines you’re facing, the uncomfortable shoes you wore to work today, the call you just took saying that your kid is sick etc.)

A recipe for ease – some helpful scripts for conflict resolution

Enter some ease.  Pluuuueeze.

That’s why when I came across some scripts for conflict resolution from HBR’s (Harvard Business Review) Virtual Collaboration 20 minute manager series, my brain snapped to attention.

The next time you’re juggling multiple things & on top of it all facing conflict, with your supervisor, a colleague or someone else, think about using one of the following scripts, which are aimed at understanding differences:

  • I’m sensing a gap in how we think about ________.  What’s going on there?
  • You seem concerned about _______.  Can you help me understand what’s driving that?
  • I’m concerned about _______, but you don’t seem to be.  Can yo help me understand why not?
  • The _____ aspect of this work is the most challenging for me right now (or is taking the most time).  What about you?

And just how can this make life easier for you? How can you expect to feel with practicing these tips? I’ll leave you with these words from a reader who emailed me recently.

Hey Lee Anne,

Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed this post and the two step suggestion on conflict resolution as well. It is an art and these simple tools are invaluable – just need to remember to breathe, think and then speak in times they are necessary (minus road ranting of course..)

Wish you well.

Jana

Take action

  • If you find yourself facing a conflict, try one of the scripts.  Which one did you use?  How did it go?  Feel free to share in the comment section below.
  • As with last week, I invite you to send me three words that describe how you feel about conflict. One reader said: polarized, tense, pressure cooker.  What are your words?  Simply click on this link to submit your 3 words.  And feel free to share the link if you’ like.  I’ll turn the responses into a spiffy piece of art in an upcoming post.  (And don’t worry, it’s all anonymous.)

 

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Understanding differences – 5 simple words that can lead to conflict resolution

Photo Credit: Fiorelisa Flickr via Compfight cc

I leap out of my seat involuntarily while clamping my teeth together only slightly less hard than I’m pressing my lips together because I’m afraid what I’ll say if I open my mouth. My throat feels like it’s narrower than a pin though, so I’m not sure I could speak.  My breathing is shallow & fast.  I fear my face is fiery red.

 

Conflict.  It leaves a long trail.  Even though decades have passed, I still remember how I felt when I was having a meeting with my (insert various descriptive invectives) colleague & boss.  My colleague, who was anything but collegial, had just let loose with a whopper of a lie about me.

 

Are you facing some conflict or uneasy, unnamed tension at work & feel like you wish you had some better tools for managing those conversations?   Conflict often gives us what a friend of mine calls ‘sick pit’ – that awful feeling in your stomach that makes you want to run & hide under the covers. Read on for 5 simple words that can help you stay strong & lead you towards conflict resolution (plus a much better feeling in your stomach).

 

5 words that can lead to conflict resolution

Conflict – love it or hate it – it’s inevitable.

 

I often use these 5 words to help me wade through differences. For example when I’m working with a client trying to understand what type of training they’re wanting or with a participant in a workshop, these simple words open a world of understanding & tend to build bridges instead of walls.

 

The 5 words are simply ‘can you help me understand ______?’

 

Here are some examples:

  • can you help me understand how you see the situation?
  • can you help me understand how you think we got to this place?
  • can you help me understand what role you think I’ve played in the conflict?
  • can you help me understand how you’d like to move forward?
  • can you help me understand what a successful resolution would look like for you?

 

It’s effective because it doesn’t place blame & it comes from a true sense of curiosity.  Enquiring minds want to know.

 

Next time you find yourself in a situation where things feel awkward, uncomfortable or you’re trying to get past a roadblock try it.  And let me know how it goes.

 

Stay tuned for some conflict resolution scripts from the Harvard Business Review

Need a bit more help?  Stay tuned for next week’s blog post which will introduce you to some helpful scripts for conflict resolution – straight out of the Harvard Business Review Virtual Collaboration book.

 

And remember, the next time conflict rears it’s head take a deep breath & try one of the scripts from the section above —> ‘can you help me understand _______?

 

Then listen.  Really listen.

 

And keep breathing.

 

How does conflict make you feel?

I invite you to send me three words that describe how you feel about conflict.  Simply click on this link to submit your three words.  Feel free to share the link if you’ like.  I’ll turn the responses into a spiffy piece of art in an upcoming post.  (And don’t worry, it’s all anonymous.)

 

 

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What needs birthing by you? What needs midwifing?

Photo Credit: torbakhopper Flickr via Compfight cc

‘There are some types of victories that need to be midwifed, good things come from very far’ says Peninah, in response to a recent post of mine.  Another reader Vera, recently wrote me about being intrigued with the magic & miracle of birth.

Voila a theme plus an idea for a blog post.

Birthing.  Midwifing.

Birthing

Late last year I organized a small group of creative, entrepreneurial colleagues & friends for an in-person planning day which was virtually led by the ever-helpful Lara Wellman.  It was a great way to reflect on the year that had just passed & to plan for what each of us wanted to create & birth in the year to come.

I was, & continue to be, inspired & energized to plan a year that is tailor-made for me.  From genesis to fully formed – thinking about the seeds I wanted to plant & the projects I wanted to grow.

Birthing’s super power partner –> midwifing

A midwife is someone who ‘assists (a woman) during childbirth.’  To midwife also means to ‘bring into being.’

I used the services of a midwife for my second pregnancy.  Some 15 years after my son’s birth I still remember how important those visits with her were, especially as shortly before my son’s birth, both my beloved Nana & my dad passed away.  I vividly remember the feel of the soft red velvet covered couch where I could lay my large, pregnant body as she coached, supported, listened & focused on me having a safe, healthy birth.

There are parallels with creating & birthing.  New ideas, projects, areas of focus, learning etc. can easily get mislaid, off track or plain forgotten about if they’re not midwifed throughout the year.

It’s one thing to figure out what you’d like to have unfurl this year, it’s another thing to stay focused & make that happen.

 

Enter tools to help you midwife your project, idea etc.

After the planning day, I realized I was going to need some support tracking my priorities & my progress if they were going to be born & flourish.

So I started playing around with creating some simple, customized tracking tools.  At least that’s what I’d started to call them.  Now, thanks to Peninah, I think of them more as midwifery tools.

Tools to help me continue to grow & develop my business &  myself.

 

Tell me what you’re birthing &/or midwifing & I’ll send you some tools to help you

I’d love to hear what challenges you face with midwifing (bringing into being) your ideas & projects.  What comes easily?  What’s challenging? Do you use any tools for midwifing / tracking your progress?  If so which ones?

Comment in the section below or send me an email (laragan ‘at’ rpsinc.ca) & I’ll send you the daily & weekly midwifery tools I’ve designed.

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You & your supervisor … meh, yeah or wah?

I’ve used the blob tree (pictured above) for years.  It’s a great tool to get feedback & initiate dialogue in a creative way.  It’s critters (or blobs) represent all types of feelings & are jumping off points for stories.

Last week I responded to reader Miriam’s comment (below) with a 2 part statement to help you resolve conflict (yep, it can be that easy)

At work I sometimes find it hard to talk to my supervisor especially when I feel like what he will say really is unnecessary and could easily have been shared via email. I don’t know whether I lack the patience or what, because in the end I might not even listen to what he is saying, which could be important.

Which got me thinking ….

What’s your relationship like with your supervisor?

I work with a lot of teams & have plenty of interesting dynamics.  Some teams are led by fabulous supervisors – who are wonderful leaders that support & bring the best out of their staff.   Others – not so much.

What’s your relationship like with your supervisor?  Is it meh, yeah or wah?  Is it supportive, easy, open?  Or frustrating, unclear, disruptive?  Or better or worse?

Here’s a fun, fast way to think about your relationship with your supervisor via the blob tree (yep, that’s really a thing)

Simply click on this link to draw an arrow on the ‘blob tree’.   After you click on the link, place an arrow pointing to the blob character that best represents your relationship with your supervisor.

And don’t worry, it’s anonymous.

Added bonus: you get to see what other’s think of their relationship with their supervisor.

Thanks for playing.  I’m curious to see what you’ll say.

P.S. Interested in using the blob tree yourself?  Make sure you purchase a copy from their site & then you’re free to use it.

P.P.S. I’ve given myself a challenge to think of creative ways to use technology to engage you.  I’d love to hear how using the arrows in the blob activity went – too hard?  Too easy?  Totally understandable?  Confusing?  Do tell.

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A 2 part statement to help you resolve conflict (yep, it can be that easy)

Photo Credit: dno1967b Flickr via Compfight cc

Conflict can be wrenching (pun intended).

When we’re in conflict we tend to do more of whatever’s not working.  We can get into an endless cycle of repetition saying the same thing over & over, the ‘he said – she said’ saga.  Can you relate?

We’re not exactly wired for conflict resolution

To make matters worse our brains aren’t exactly wired automatically for effective conflict resolution.  When we feel threatened, overwhelmed, scared, angry etc. our bodies are focused more on fight, flee or freeze than on staying calm & responding with our poise & dignity intact.

Which leads me to Mariam O., who wrote me about a sticky communication issue. 

Thanks for the continuous updates.

At work I sometimes find it hard to talk to my supervisor especially when I feel like what he will say really is unnecessary and could easily have been shared via email. I don’t know whether I lack the patience or what, because in the end I might not even listen to what he is saying, which could be important.

There are no cookie cutter solutions, however …

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think every conflict can be resolved by the same techniques, far from it.  However I do think having a few openers that can begin dialogue are a handy thing to have in your hip pocket.

Openers have two parts:

  1. A well placed statement of the issue,
  2. A well-framed question

When you put the two together it can do wonders to ease tension.   So ditch the wrenches for the openers.

Yes it can sometimes be that easy.

In Mariam’s case that could look like this:

  1. Statement of the issue: I feel like we may have some differences in what means of communication we prefer using (email, face to face meetings etc).
  2. Well-framed question: What are your thoughts on that?

Over to you.  Find a time this week to practice this technique.  How did it go?  I’d love to hear.

And stay tuned.  In upcoming posts I’ll share a fun tool that demonstrates your relationship with your supervisor, plus I’ll give you some simple, short scripts for understanding differences.

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A simple, easy tool to help your blender brain (& your emotional hygiene)

Photo Credit: Imahinasyon Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Blender brain.  It’s what I call the state of having so many things whirring through my mind that it’s hard to focus or move forward.

Can you relate?

Last post I wrote about the intriguing concept of emotional hygiene – a concept coined by Guy Winch – which is being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.

This week I’m offering up a simple, free tool to help you with your own emotional hygiene.  A tool to stop the whirring, whizzing state of your brain for a few moments.

 

M.F.M. – Mini-for-me (& you)

Years ago, with the intention of meditating a few minutes a day, I created an M.F.M. – a ‘Mini-for-me’ – a tool that helps me press pause & simply reflect.  Why mini-for-me?  Because I wanted something easy to do for myself that would help me relax.

Each day has a different theme for how I want to feel / what I want to reflect on.

(Don’t worry, no master origami skills needed – you can get yours up & running in just a few minutes.  All you need is: a sheet of cardboard, scissors, & if you want to make your own themes, felts or markers.)

Instructions for your own emotional hygiene M.F.M. tool

Want to try it? Want a copy?

Here’s your detailed instructions to achieve a few moments of custom-made peace & well being:

  • If you want to use mine download my ‘Mini-for-me’ & print onto an 8 1/2 x 11 or A4 sheet of cardboard.  If you want to create your own simply start with a blank sheet of cardboard.
  • Fold according to the instructions here (essentially fold it lengthwise into 4 equal sections).
  • Overlap two of the sections so you have a triangle.  Here’s what it looks like from the side when it’s folded (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Make a cut between each day of the week, up to the first fold line (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • For each day of the week simply tuck the flap behind the word you’ve written (or my word if you’re using mine).  Here it is from the front – notice how Thursday’s flap is back so you can see the word I intend to think on today …. serene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tip: if you are using regular paper instead of cardstock or if you use your mini-for-me a lot, it may need a little support.  I simply put paper clips (yes in the shape of rock, paper & scissors) on the edges of mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Now go forth & Mini-for-me.  Each day simply change which word is facing out.

Enjoy some peace of mind.  Literally.  And let me know how it goes.

 

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Emotional hygiene – we pay more attention to our teeth than we do our minds (Guy Winch)

Photo Credit: yourbestdigs Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I was listening to the NPR Ted Radio hour podcast recently when something Guy Winch said struck a chord.

 

Emotional hygiene.   My noggin’ perked up, as I’ve been known to suffer from what I call blender-brain-itis (I can have a hard time shutting the whirring, churning of ideas, to-do’s etc. off).

 

We’re not talking feather dusters for your brain.

Say what?   Hang in there with me. I don’t know about you but when I think of hygiene I don’t necessarily think of my psychological health.

 

So I dug a little deeper.  Guy says:

In much the same way that dental hygiene involves brushing our teeth and flossing every day… emotional hygiene refers to being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.

He goes on to say that currently, our general neglect of our emotional hygiene is profound. How is it we spend more time each day taking care of our teeth than our minds? We brush and floss but what daily activity do we do to maintain our psychological health?

Connect emotional hygiene with your values

It got me thinking that when my emotional hygiene is good, I’m following my values – which include the humour, diversity, social responsibility & creativity/innovation.

For example I feel fabulous when I’m designing new ways to teach something (creativity/innovation), I’ve created a safe place for participants to have a great time learning (humour) & I’m opening my mind to new ways of thinking (diversity).

What about you?  How do you take care of your emotional hygiene?  Take moment to leave a comment below.

P.S. Next week I’ll include a nifty little tool that will help you focus & improve your emotional hygiene.  Promise.

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