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A Word About Anxiety

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the word. Anxiety is based on the past or the future. We have regrets or guilt about what did happen (usually we did or failed to do or say) in the recent or distant past.  Future based anxiety is about what might happen in the next minute, day week or year.  When griped by anxiety, our mind races and ruminates about how to fight, flee, freeze or appease the perceived danger.  Our minds are trying to problem solve about something that is not actually solvable (the past) or about the catastrophe that we are anticipating.

 

Here is where mindfulness has been found to be ever so helpful!  When we are mindful we are fully present to this moment, without guilty thoughts or anticipated fears.  After all, it is only the present moment that we actually have.  Extensive research has been conducted, over the past 30+ years, since Jon Kabat Zinn developed the program called, “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.  His work has been adapted and applied to Fortune 500 companies like Google and Proctor and Gamble, government agencies like NASA and all 4-armed services, and in hospitals and schools. Why? Because when we are mindful staying in this moment, our focus improves, anxiety, rumination and guilt is decreased and we are calmer and healthier.

 

So how do we begin?  With just this moment!  Simply sit quietly, close your eyes and focus your attention to the breath wherever you sense it in our body. You may feel it in your belly or chest as it expands on the inhale and falls on the exhale. Or, you may feel  the air as it comes in and out of your nostrils or mouth.  When your mind wanders, no worries that what minds do, simply come back to gently attending to the breath. No criticism, just re-focus on the physical sensation of breathing.  There are many techniques that I teach my coaching and counseling clients but the breath practice is always there for us! We can always tune in to our breath, one breath, one moment at a time. Try it. When you do, you will find your heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers and your body and mind are a bit calmer.  Anxiety quiets along with our busy mind as we attend to this one breath.

 

Want to learn more?

My next Mindfulness support group begins in January 2018. Contact me at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net.  I’ve also trained many  company leaders in Mindful Leadership- Call (484) 875-3040 to plan a program that will boost engagement, alignment and productivity at your company or non- profit!

 

Team Facilitation and Team Building

Looking for relevant, inspiring training and team facilitation for your company or organization? Recent satisfied clients are Concilio, and The Hill at Whitemarsh,  Women in Business at Philadelphia Energy Solutions,  The Exton Chamber of Commerce, The Womens’ Business Connection and many more!

Check out more at www.ascendconsulting.net  or send me an email at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net

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Overcoming Communication Roadblocks

Mary, a valued high producer at her company, has a difficult time performing one-on-one check-ins with her staff. As a self proclaimed introvert, she is unsure of topics to discuss beyond assigning and reviewing work product. Jack, a successful, senior executive, is courting a potential new employer. He is undecided whether the company culture is the best fit for him. Sarah works in a matrixed team, where most of her staff reports to “Pat”, who works in a different department. She feels frustrated that herself and her peers are not “rowing in the same direction” Sarah is concerned her employees feel pulled in 2 different directions.

All three of these talented, conscientious leaders are challenged by a common issue: communication. Beyond talking and hearing, communication gets at two of human beings’ most basic needs: the need to connect and the need to be safe. Three of the most common breakdowns that occur in business; 1) manager- employee conflict, 2) unease about accepting a new job or 3) leader- to-leader conflict stem from communication problems. This is critical because when communication goes awry, whether due to conflict or lack of person to person sharing, people don’t feel connected, they don’t feel they can trust and they don’t feel safe! This subtle but real disconnection elevates the stress hormone cortisol which hampers critical thinking. Conversely, when people feel connected and trust is high, their brains release the hormone oxytocin which makes them feel happier and helps them think more clearly.

Thankfully, Mary, Jack and Sarah were excited to learn about the neuroscience behind positive communication and wanted to master this critical skill set.
Mary learned to manage her feelings of anxiety (lack of safety) when chatting informally with staff. She learned simple, effective ways to begin and then navigate conversations about common human experiences, such as, family, weekends and hobbies. As she focused on getting to know her employees they felt cared about as people and became more engaged and productive.
Jack learned to clarify what he wanted in a company. I asked him what was most important about work culture. How might her get at that? What kind of culture might he want to co- create in his next company? As he asked these questions and listened to his intuition he was able to find a best fit culture and role.
I asked Sarah about her assumptions and beliefs about why “Pat” seemed to have different priorities. Together, we created a series of questions to open communication between Sarah and “Pat”. The end goal being to work together to meet the needs of both their departments and the business entity.

All three of these coaching clients learned best practices to communicate clearly, hot to listen to connect and how to work together to design an environment that was enjoyable and productive. Your company may benefit from similar coaching. For more information I suggest Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser. Call me at (610) 875-3040 or email me Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net if you want to learn more.

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Vacation Means Better Business!

vacation take it

Vacation Means Better Business!

The sound of birds early in the morning, long warm nights and the smell of food on the grill can only mean one thing; it’s summer time!  Remember how relaxing summer used to be? Remember when you used to take vacation? Have you thought about taking some time off this summer? As a leader, you’re probably asking yourself, “With all that’s going on in business, how can I find time for vacation?” Well, actually you can’t not take time off!

Americans take less time off than any developed nation in the world (working 9 weeks longer per year) and they have the highest rate of depression.  According to one World Health Organization & Harvard study, overwork is correlated with obesity, heart disease, insomnia and fatigue. We are the only industrialized nation without mandatory paid leave. “Great in theory”, you say, “but we need to get work done, we can’t afford to take time off!” In fact, research shows that more work does not correlate with more or better output! It often costs more in mistakes and accidents in the workplace.  The lack of time off costs companies in absenteeism, turnover and rising health costs.   We know that when we have too many computer programs running at once they can get hung up so we power off, wait a bit and reboot the system.  Humans, too, need to regularly power off and re boot our “computer” so it works better.

Productivity Worry

Worried about deadlines missed or mistakes that might occur in your absence? Taking a vacation can actually be empowering for your team!  When you delegate and give others authority to act it builds their confidence and forces them to take on expanded responsibilities and new tasks.  Morale is boosted when a company honors the need for time off and life balance.   This increased employee engagement more than makes up for time spent on vacation.

We only have so much time and energy to expend in our daily lives.  No one ever got to their deathbed and wished they’d worked more!  While it can seem difficult to start taking time off, the benefits of doing so (less stress, less anxiety, calmer attitude, etc.) will result in more productivity and innovation.   You may even have time for family, friends and community involvement- all those things that make for the balanced life you thought you had no time for!   Make yourself a priority and take care of you.  Your business will be the better for it.

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Three Ways to Take Charge of You and Your Mental Health this Summer!

Take Charge of Your Summer, TODAY!

The sound of birds early in the morning, long hot summer nights and the smell of good food on the grill can only mean one thing; it’s summer time!! Ah, the ease and laid back attitude that is summer.  What a nice change! It is the perfect time to dive right into living a healthy and balanced life. Sunshine and time are on your side in the summer.  The atmosphere could not be more ideal for reinventing yourself and taking the time for you.

You’re probably asking yourself, “I barely have time to shower.  How in the world am I going to find time for making a change in my life?  Spending my time reading a blog post about what I am doing wrong is not encouraging.” Well, we are not here to scold you or make you feel bad for the choices in your life.  The point is offering simple, doable options to the lifestyle choices already being made.  Think of these options as a decompressing tune-up.  The end goal is keeping things simple and engaging for even the most stressed out person.  The three suggestions below can help put you on the path for making the most of your summer and a balanced life!

 

Three Tips to Try this Summer

  1. Utilizing the Extra Daylight to your Benefit!

Using nature and summer to your advantage is the goal behind the first idea. The amount of daylight hours increases in the summer; essentially offering you more hours to work with when making plans. Pack a picnic for you and your family; letting you spend dinner at the park.  Eating dinner at the park lets the kids get out that extra summer energy, while you spend some quality time with everyone.  Sounds like a win/win!

Can’t seem to squeeze in time for a workout during the day; switch your workouts to an early morning time slot or make it a late evening affair.  Allow yourself time for a late snack or cocktail with friends.  Making the most of the additional hours of light can help you check some things off your daily to do list. Being able to check things off your to do list and getting creative with what to do in extra daylight will ultimately begin taking stress off.

For more ideas of things to do with additional sun light, check out these great lists: http://www.windsweptwriting.com/10-things-extra-hour-daylight/http://www.thepartnerstrust.com/blog/12-things-to-do-with-an-extra-hour-of-daylight/https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-things-to-do-with-the-extra-sunlight-we-get-from-daylight-savings.

2.Enjoying the Plentiful Healthful Food Options during the Summer. 

What better time of year then summer to start thinking about the type of food you eat. The variety of fruits and vegetables available during the summer months makes it hard not to reevaluate food being ingested.  Since availability of healthful food increases during warmer months, the cost of the same type of food tends to decrease. There are so many options to make eating healthy in the summer easy.  Many farms and orchards have “pick your own” days, where you visit and pick the latest offering. The amount of farmer’s markets open to the public increases during the summer months as well. What better time than summer to start your own garden.  There is nothing like a fresh homegrown tomato!

The opportunities for garden fresh food are endless in the summer. Plus the healthier of diet you practice, the better your body handles stress. These links can help get you started on the path to fresh and healthful eating: Farmer’s Markets – http://www.localfarmmarkets.org/, Local Farms and Orchards  http://www.pickyourown.org/, https://www.localharvest.org/organic-farms/ , Home Gardening – http://www.bhg.com/gardening/vegetable/vegetables/planning-your-first-vegetable-garden/, http://www.almanac.com/vegetable-garden-planning-for beginners

3.New Summer, New You!

Instead of claiming the New Year as the start of a new you, why not proclaim the summer of 2017 as the summer of “YOU”! There is definitely something about the summer months that brings out motivation and happiness in people.  Start today with the mindset, “If it doesn’t serve me, I will learn to let it go”. We only have so much time and energy to expend in our daily lives.  Why exhaust this energy on things, places and people that do not serve a purpose in your life.  Yes, it can seem difficult to start saying no and releasing your time for other things, but the benefits of doing so (less stress, more time, less anxiety, calmer attitude, etc.) are the trade off.  Make yourself a priority and take care of you.

Try new activities this summer you have always wanted check out but could not seem to find the time to do so.  You may surprise yourself and like something you never thought possible. When you choose yourself, it is amazing how time seems to be added to your day.  Step outside of your comfort zone and meet some new people.  Aligning yourself with individuals who share in the same mindset and goals are an instant morale booster.

Check out the links below for more ideas of making the change towards a new you: https://www.livingsocial.com/, https://experiencelife.com/article/50-ways-to-make-the-most-of-summer/, http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/take-time-for-yourself-this-summer.aspx

 

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April PowerPoints 2017

The April PowerPoints newsletter is out! Take a moment to read about my upcoming events and how I can help your business and life through my coaching. A brief excerpt from my newest blog “How do you Plan?” will hopefully entice you to read more at my website. Have a great spring and remember, “It is not where you start that matters, it’s where you are going, who you become, and the positive impact you have along the way.”

April PowerPoints

Daily routine

Change your life daily routine

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How do you Plan?

How do you plan?

By Marjorie R. Johnson LCSW, PCC

Most of us know that our best chance of achieving any goal is to plan for it. We need to have a clear SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time sensitive). We know the importance of planning for our business or team’s yearly goals. This process is required. However, how often do we approach our personal lives with the same strategic planning? Yet, without being intentional about how we want to spend our days, and indeed our lives, it is up to chance whether we will become our best selves.

Think about the past 24 hours. Where did your time go? How much of your time was given to social media, zoning out with television or compulsively checking e -mail? In his book, Shine, Edward Hallowell, MD (noted ADHD psychiatrist and author of the bestseller: Driven to Distraction), comments on the overloaded, over busy and overwhelmed brain of today’s workers. We are working harder and longer yet achieving less because we feel we cannot allow time for rest, recreation and personal relationships.

What to do? To achieve healthy, well rounded lives, I recommend the following process. Set aside 60- 90 minutes of uninterrupted time, when you know you won’t be disturbed. Breathe deeply, and begin quietly reflecting as follows: Consider your “Essential” or “Higher Self” in the middle of a circle with several spokes going out from the center. These spokes represent areas of your life that affect you and contribute to your life. (Adapted from “Wheel of Life”, Co-Active Coaching, 2011.) You might include family relationships, friends and social network, career, spiritual/ personal growth, recreation, finances, health & fitness and your physical environment (home or office). Consider “how content” you are in each area. Which area might you like to improve? Where is your time going? Is it in balance and contributing to the Self you want to be? Now set specific, SMART goals (refer to my SMART Goals Blog series starting here: https://ascendconsulting.net/goal-setting-intention-business-life/) for balance in some of these areas. Identify one or two specific actions that will gradually bring these goals into reality.

Now it’s time to make the goals from above happen. Our goals for balanced fulfilled lives need active care and attention to become reality. Take some quiet planning time each day to intentionally build into your routine those actions that are in alignment with your goals. Note: This might mean doing less! Without this daily time of reflection and planning it’s impossible to bring your daily actions in line with the life you want to live. During this process, be compassionate with yourself. Change often occurs by taking two steps forward and one step back. Mindfulness, intentional planning and daily reflection make all the difference in becoming the Self you want to be.

I specialize in coaching executives and professionals into achieving their goals with life balance. Contact me if you’d like to begin the conversation.  Marjorie@ascendconsutling.net

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Who is Your Customer?

Who is Your Customer
By Marjorie R. Johnson LCSW, PCC

Business owners and leaders want to grow their business.   To get more business more customers are needed, right?  The question is: who is your customer?    Some experts say one needs to identify their ideal customer and market to that consumer.   Others say a business should serve a variety of customers by offering a wide range of products.  Still others define customers in a more broad sense, including both internal customers (those working in the company) and external customers (those purchasing products or vendors of the company). Well, what if we were to broaden the definition of customer still further to include everyone and anyone with whom we come into contact throughout the day?

How might approaching everyone we meet, from the barista to the bus or Uber driver, as a customer affect our business?   I ‘m reminded of the Ghost of Christmas Present*, when he said to Scrooge that, “Mankind should be our business.”  The fact is we never know when or from where our next customer is coming. We never know how a kind word or hasty critical remark will spread and cost us potential business.   If we are respectful, polite and mindfully present to all people no matter their role, whether on company time or off, it’s far more likely that we will attract and keep customers.  When we treat people with this kind of dignity and warmth, they are naturally attracted to us and open to our business.  When we listen with attention, more customers will pay attention to us.  People are naturally drawn to work with those they like and respect. As we practice this behavior all day every day, this kind of civility and compassion becomes a habit – not something we drop at the close of business.

So, on which “customer” do you most need to practice?  Is it your employee with whom you’ve become frustrated or the peer on whom your department depends but whose consistency and dependability you take for granted?  Is it the faithful customer, who you know will always be your client, so you no longer strive to “wow” them?  Is it your family member or best friend who is supportive, loving, and always has your back? When did you last say a heartfelt “thank you”?

Exemplary customer service is something that every person deserves by their humanity.   Our commitment to treat others to the best of our ability is what makes exemplary service possible.   How would your customer base grow if everyone in your company treated all “customers” that way?  It’s a worthwhile experiment!

Marjorie Johnson, LCSW, PCC is President of Ascend Consulting, Inc.  an executive coaching and counseling firm

*Scrooge (the 1970 Albert Finney version)

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It’s All About Relationships!

It’s All about Relationships
By Marjorie R. Johnson LCSW, PCC

Jane was a key contributor and leader in her company. She worked harder and longer than everyone else in her division. She was referred to executive coaching to improve her people skills. Colleagues and senior team members found her brusque and irritable when stressed. At another company, Bob was referred to me for similar challenges. A valuable, developing executive, he needed to learn to influence his CEO without lapsing into angry outbursts when they disagreed.

Coaching Jane and Bob drew on my counseling expertise, as we identified the stress and anxiety that was driving their outbursts. As each leader’s self-awareness increased, so did the ability to recognize the presence of inner tension in their body. This allowed them to pause and come to a calm place. A few moments of slow, even breathing afforded them the thinking time to choose an effective response. Coaching helped them to learn and experiment with new communication tools. Jane and Bob were now able to build bridges instead of creating barriers.

Relationships at work and home succeed or fail based on practicing self-control and the ability to be mindful of how we express our emotions. Despite how rational we as humans strive to be, science demonstrates that we are emotional beings, who need to feel a sense of belonging and connection to others. When we don’t feel that connection, when we are in a harsh or disrespectful disagreement, we don’t feel safe. Hence, the visceral fight or flight reaction in boardroom meetings, even though the “saber-tooth tiger” is nowhere to be found.

How can we improve relationships? It all boils down to being mindful (or intentional). First, we need to be aware of our own emotional state. The body is the first part of to the brain to respond. The ability to detect when our own stress chemicals (the cortisol spike felt by the knotted stomach or rapid heartbeat) start to rise is the key. We must take the time to pause. Then, we can sense the emotion(s) (limbic brain) we are feeling. Lastly, the thinking brain (neocortex) comes online and we can self-manage. Only the ability to pause and become self-aware will allows us to choose how best to communicate in the moment.
Second, we need to be more mindful of others. We need to really listen to them all: colleagues, spouses, employees and customers. Rather than thinking we know what they mean, take the time to ask for clarity, so we know for certain what they mean. This open-hearted listening makes it possible to find agreement and understanding amidst the conflict.

So yes, it’s all about relationships: first with oneself, then with others. All relationships rely on how mindfully we listen and communicate. This takes patience and compassion for us and others. Today, how and when could you take time to practice mindful awareness in your communication?

Marjorie R. Johnson is President of Ascend Consulting, Inc. an executive coaching and counseling firm. www.ascendconsulting.net  www.ascendcounselingpa.com

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Mindfulness is the Secret to Success!

“Mindfulness is the Secret to Success”

By: Marjorie R. Johnson, LCSW, PCC, President of Ascend Consulting, Inc.

“How do you stay present in the midst of your busy day?” asked a client, who is a successful executive. Through coaching, the client began to recognize the importance of staying present during day to day interactions. Acknowledging the need to listen instead of speak and ask instead of tell was the first hurdle. Now, the client wanted strategies.  Staying mindful requires discipline in order to listen with openness, instead of being in your head, thinking up a response. Recent findings in neuroscience show that when we don’t fully listen, when we focus on telling, the other person will tend to become defensive and shut down. (see, Conversational Intelligence, by Judith Glasser) This neurological response is not in our conscious mind, but occurs at a hormonal, biological level. The reaction is based on a primitive fight, flight, freeze or appease response system deep in the brain. None of those behaviors are the response we want.

How did I finally answer my client’s question? I told them, keeping a present mindset is challenging! For me, and many of my clients, mindfulness is both the path and the practice that again and again, helps guide us back to the present moment all day long. As an executive coach and therapist, I see Mindfulness as the organizing force that helps us to establish high emotional intelligence, to be resilient in the face of stress and to lead and communicate effectively. Practicing mindfulness meditation is not some panacea- ask anyone who knows me! But, it is a simple method I use to calm down, be open and become more aware of my thoughts, emotions, choices and surroundings. A great benefit; Mindfulness helps us to manage common problems like anxiety, insomnia and ADHD.

So, where to begin? Start small! Allow yourself 10 minutes a day to simply be still, in a quiet place if possible, and focus your attention on your breath. A simple pattern to use is the 4-7-8 Breathing Pattern taught by Dr. Andrew Weill. Inhale for the count of 4, through the nostrils, hold the breath for the count of 7 and exhale slowly out rounded lips for a count of 8. The counting keeps other thoughts at bay and helps us stay focused. The body’s natural relaxation response begins to settle in after 3-4 rounds. What a nice, calm respite from the day! Then, simply try to keep your attention on the breath wherever you feel it in the body.  Focus on the rise and fall of the chest or the belly. Even try focusing on the sensation of air flowing in and out of the body.

Your mind might wander. That’s ok! The mind is constantly thinking. Just the fact that you become aware of your mind wandering means you are aware, or mindful. Keep returning to the breath again and again as you sit for 10 minutes. Practice makes better, not perfect. As you expand your daily mindfulness to 15 , or even 20 minutes, a change is noticeable. You will begin to become aware as your mind wanders when simply speaking with someone, in a meeting or even leading a meeting.  You will start to listen better, improving your relationships. All of these steps will allow the process of becoming present in the middle of your busy day.

The next Mindfulness Meditation group begins on January 17, 2017 at 7:30pm. I welcome you to join me and we can practice being more mindful together!

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Intention, Now Action! Goal Setting Boot Camp – January 20, 2017

Last month I introduced the first three steps for clear, actionable goal setting.  Let’s review; Step One: Begin with Mindful Reflection, Step Two: Assessment, Step Three: Create a SMART Plan-Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic with steps assigned to a specific person and Time sensitive.

This month we turn to the next two steps in creating a failsafe Strategic Plan:

Step Four: Refine Goals and Develop Strategy– 
This is the step where a complete and detailed inventory of every area of your business is done. You will want to assess your product or service, marketing, advertising, finances, your employees, your market and your ideal client. Are the messages aligned to who you are attracting? To those who you want to serve?

Right now is an excellent time revisit your dream. Why do you want to succeed in this business? What will the business do, be or have for you? For your customer? During our January 20, Goal Setting Boot Camp, we’ll take the time to really drill down to the core passions and dreams that drive us to succeed. Do you really want to sell what you say you are delivering or are you delivering it because you think it will sell? Passion paired with excellence and knowledge is what brings sustainable sales! The most sensational marketing  will not reach your customers or sell products, unless your devotion to the business is evident. There can be no doubt that you really care about the product or service you are delivering and know the customer who is benefiting from the purchase.

Assure your entire strategy is consistent and supported by processes. If not, take the time to create new ones that better address your keenest challenges.  Define what success means to you and the benchmarks by which you choose to measure reaching your goals!

Step Five: Create your Weekly/Monthly Action Plan– The rubber meets the road during this step. What will you do when and what will be first? Who owns each task, how will they be monitored, held accountable and supported? Assess the work flow and the timing for each phase of your operation. Review the action plan with your team. Take the time to sit down with your team. Create an open dialogue for them to share their input and discuss what is realistic. (SEE STEP TWO)

Are you excited for creating your Strategic Plan? Are you a bit overwhelmed? Maybe both?  You do not have to go at it alone!!!

As a Certified Professional Coach with 16 years experience, I’ll help you achieve clarity about what is possible and tap into the passion that drives your dream. Together, we’ll brainstorm about the obstacles and challenges that may arise. Come up with a proactive plan to move around, over or under the challenges for you to SUCCEED at your BIG GOAL!!!

Make GOAL SETTING BOOT CAMP on January 20, 2017, the beginning of your goal ACHIEVEMENT!!! Join 14 like minded business and non profit leaders, who just like you, are serious about working together to make 2017 the YEAR OF UNSTOPPABLE SUCCESS!!!!!!

Register and pay by January 6, 2017 to take advantage of $100 off your registration fee. With this amazing discount, that’s only $749 for five hours of group work and two hours of one on one coaching! AN OUTSTANDING VALUE!!

Register by visiting https://ascendconsulting.net/contact-us/ and complete the contact form. Or visit our other website http://ascendcounselingpa.com/contact-us/ .

We look forward to helping you reach for the sky!

 

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