How To Be Happy: Founder Of The Authentic Life Company Shares His Secrets

Most of us want the same thing in life - to be happy. But sometimes, when you're working long hours, understanding what your dream even is can seem impossible.

But one organisation is trying to make happiness a little bit easier to comprehend, then achieve.

The Authentic Life Company provides life coaching, helping people to identify what will make them truly happy before suggesting the steps they can take in order to move towards their goal.

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, founder of the company Robert Hutchinson said: "I think the idea of not understanding who we are is quite a universal problem.

"A lot of people could really help themselves by taking time out to look at how they work and what’s important to them."

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The Authentic Life Company was formed after Robert underwent a process of re-evaluating his own happiness and wellbeing.

After years of working in television for major stations like the BBC, Channel 4 and The Discovery Channel, Robert began to feel dissatisfied with his job.

"I was director of media planning, looking at the strategy of on-air communications," he explains.

"Working hours were a good eight or nine hours per day plus I had a one hour commute to work, so I didn't have a lot of time for myself."

As Robert approached his forties, he began to find the job "unfulfilling" and knew it was time for a change.

"I wanted to work for myself and I was looking at the next 10 and 20 years and considering how I wanted my life to be structured. I wanted to focus on something I was really interested in and passionate about," he says.

Robert believes it wasn't just his mind telling him it was time to leave the entertainment industry, but his body too.

"Sometimes I’d be sitting at my desk and it would feel like I was suffocating or drowning. I just really felt very visceral need to get out of there," he says.

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After taking three months off to re-connect with himself, Robert founded The Authentic Life Company to help others make the transition into happiness.

"I had been coached previously myself and had a great experience, so I knew how powerful it could be," he says.

According to Robert, most of our problems stem from us not understanding who we are or what we really want.

"People just don’t time to take stock of who they really are, to consider changes in their personality and their circumstances.

"As you get into your 30s, 40s, even 50s, life has changed a lot, but you don’t really get chance to step back and think about what your life currently is and what you actually want it to be like," he says.

This idea of not being "real" or "genuine" with ourselves is what inspired the name of The Authentic Life Company.

Robert tries to help people re-discover a more "authentic" way of living by stripping things back to their true desires.

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"I start by really bringing everything into the client's consciousness, getting them to think about how they tick and what's important to them.

"Once they've got a clear picture of themselves and how they want things to be, suddenly a lot of the confusion that clients come to me with goes away," he says.

Robert works with clients to create a plan that enables a "managed transition" into a new life. This limits the risk of a client reaching breaking point and losing their job (perhaps due to stress) before they are able to financially cope.

So what advice does Robert give for anyone feeling dissatisfied with their life?

"Firstly, listen to that voice in your head – if the voice is saying change, then take it very seriously and start to make plans towards the change as soon as you possibly can.

"The second step is to notice when you are being genuine – if we’re specifically talking about work, notice those times that feel right and feel good and notice those times that feel bad, awkward and inauthentic. When I used to network it would feel awkward and staged – it wouldn’t feel real.

"Then, talk abut how you feel with friends, family and colleagues and get some professional advice yourself," he suggests.

Robert is certainly a man who practices what he preaches - since leaving the world of television, Robert says he feels more "like himself" than he has in years.

"It’s a different league of happiness to what I was feeling before. I don’t have that feeling on a Sunday evening of dread and not looking forward to the week coming up," he says.

"I’m now defining success beyond power and money and status – what’s now important to me is working in a field that I’m passionate about.

"I go on holiday but I don’t feel that need to – I go on the holiday, enjoy the holiday but also look forward to coming back and continuing the work I love."

Click SOURCE below for the original article on The Huffington Post

Learning to drive your mind.

We all have a standard human brain and they’re all exactly the same. Any one human brain is capable of doing and behaving in exactly the same way as any other human brain, and this includes the best and the worst of human endeavours.

This was how Prof Paul Gilbert opened a talk on Evolution, Compassion and Happiness this week arranged by Action for Happiness. Starting from an evolutionary angle provided an interesting perspective which makes total sense if you think about it. The higher human brain functions which evolved over the last two million years or so created a step-change increase in intelligence, logic and reason, but the new functionality also brought a unique set of downsides such as self-criticism, fearful imagination and shame. These downsides combine with an inbuilt negativity bias that’s common to all animals (it’s better to be safe than sorry and to assume the worst) to create the negative self-talk and rumination that plagues many of us.

In school we’re taught facts, history, languages and maths. We might be taught about the physiology of the human brain from a Western perspective, but we’re not taught the practicalities of how the brain works, how to get the best out of it and how to be happy. We never learn to drive our own mind!

It turns out that mindfulness and compassion together help us learn to detach from an over-active mind and in so doing to harness the full potential and power of the human brain.

This is powerful stuff, in fact Prof Gilbert went on to explain that true compassion consists of sensitivity to the distress of yourself and others along with a deep commitment to try to relieve or prevent it. So compassion is both an awareness of suffering or distress and an active desire to do something about it. Far from compassion being a ‘soft skill’, true compassion is incredibly courageous. You may have to think about this connection between compassion and courage for a while.

A quirk of the human mind is the ability to generate emotions and physical bodily reactions on demand. If you choose to think about a recent argument you can actually make yourself physically angry; your body will prepare itself to fight! If you think erotic thoughts you can even stimulate your body to be sexually aroused! As far as we know, no other animal has this ability to consciously affect the mind and the body, and it’s this curious feature of the human mind-body system that is developed through mindfulness practice.

We’re actually pretty familiar with the idea of getting ‘psyched up’ for say a meeting or a sports game, but what we’re not so familiar with in the West is the exact opposite response which is our ability to make an active choice to ‘psych down’ the mind and body. Mindfulness trains us to bring the mind to a state of rest and to connect into a state of being rather than doing. Then by adding kindness and compassion practices to mindfulness we can learn to self-generate compassion for ourselves and others.

The final piece of the jigsaw is what’s called eudemonic happiness, which means long-term happiness or human flourishing, and eudemonic happiness is grounded in positive emotion. So mindfulness and compassion practices work together to stimulate the brain’s relaxation response to create a sense of happiness and wellbeing. This calms the body and opens up the brain’s higher functions of intelligence, intellect and creativity.

So from evolutionary psychology we understand that the brain has a stress response and a relaxation response, and that crucially we are able to consciously trigger these responses. Every human brain is more or less the same so we understand that the mind is generated, and it has the capacity to be re-generated or re-wired. We practice mindfulness and compassion to trigger the relaxation response and to create a habit of calming the mind and the body.

Prof. Gilbert took us on a fascinating story from evolution and ancient meditative traditions through to modern physiology, psychology and long-term happiness. He encouraged us to detach from the mind that drives us on autopilot and to learn to take control and drive our own minds, or as he put it “To become mindful of nature’s mind.”

Stepping through my invisible door.

After a couple of rocky years in which real life happened in the form of our home being wrecked by a water leak, my partner being out of work and a bereavement, all at the same time as establishing my business, I was pleased to turn the corner at the start of this year which I began with a feeling of renewal, optimism and energy. 

In Praise of a Slow Ride

There I was on a hot summer evening in Soho having just finished a great coaching session with a client, heading to the nearest tube station to take the London underground home and thinking to myself how much I didn’t want to get into an unbearably hot, stuffy and overcrowded tube carriage. So I stopped in the street, thought for a moment and hit on the idea of cycling home using the public cycle hire scheme we have in London. It would be a lovely way to enjoy the great weather and as it’s pretty much downhill all the way the ride wouldn’t be too taxing!

The bikes are normally blue but this summer there’s a limited number of yellow bikes to celebrate the Tour de France coming through London and as I arrived at the bicycle stand there was a special yellow bike among the blue bikes. I felt like Charlie finding the golden ticket in a chocolate bar and took it as a good sign.

As soon as I set off I immediately felt a joyful freedom as the hot evening air caressed my skin. (You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a hot weather summer person!) London does have hot weather in the summer but you never know when it will arrive or how long it will last, so it always feels like a special treat. I cycled through Trafalgar Square taking in London at her best, the spectacular architecture luxuriously framed by soaring, majestic London plane trees. Although I was surrounded by people in the busy city I was a self-contained bubble; it was time out by myself without any distraction from mobile devices which were safely out of reach in my bag.

The next landmark was Waterloo Bridge which affords the most spectacular panoramic view of London across the river Thames. Now one thing about the public bikes is that they’re heavy and the gears are slow so it’s absolutely impossible to ride fast. As I lumbered over Waterloo Bridge I became aware of dozens of cyclists whizzing past me on their super-fast racers, heads down missing the view and the experience, their minds focused on reaching their destination as soon as possible. I felt lucky that I was on the slowest bike, head up, enjoying the slowness and the wonderful view. I felt physically elated by the experience and by how fortunate I felt in that moment.

Soon enough I was home where the utopian journey did have an imperfect sting in its tail; the bike docking station was completely full! But I was in such a great mood from the ride that I wasn’t going to let this inconvenience ruin it. I took a deep breath, checked my frustration and set off towards a nearby docking station with an open mind; what more might this magical journey be about to give?

Sure enough the forced detour took me up the local high street; there was a launch party in the courtyard of White Cube the local art gallery and the street was buzzing with people enjoying the summer evening. After I successfully docked at the next docking station the short walk back to my apartment took me through the local park: the final gift of the journey had been to remind me how much I love my local neighbourhood.

As I walked through the park I thought about the combination of factors that had contributed to the wonderful experience I just enjoyed:

  • Spontaneity in seizing the moment

  • Switching off auto-pilot and breaking a habit by not catching the tube

  • Enjoying time out by myself

  • Being forced to slow down by the cumbersome bike

  • Being removed from the distraction (or temptation!) of mobile devices

  • Fully appreciating my surroundings by being present in the moment

  • Seeing that a small set-back added to the overall experience

Click SOURCE below for the original article on The Huffington Post.

An Authentic Life Without Fear

The moment I knew I really was on the right course towards creating a more authentic life was a Sunday evening last year at a small and intimate Frankie Knuckles gig. (Sadly it turned out to be his very last performance in London.) It wasn’t the fact that the iconic father of house music was spinning the decks a few feet away from me or that as far as I’m concerned dance music doesn’t get any better than his infectious dirty-disco mixes, what I noticed was an absence and that was an absence of fear.

I’d never actually thought about being fearful before that moment. It’s not as if I’d been living in a high state of terror, in fact what I noticed was an absence of low-level background fear.

Before setting up my coaching practice I had a successful career in broadcast television. Despite being in a ‘safe’ corporate job I felt increasingly unfulfilled inside; I wasn’t being authentic in my role and I wasn’t being true to myself. My fear wasn’t around whether the job would end (I knew it would) but rather: when and how would it end, what would come next, what could I do that would be more fulfilling, and how would I support myself without my corporate income? It was a dull, deep-seated fear that never went away; it was a fear based on the ‘not-knowing’, it was the fear of change. In that moment at the Frankie Knuckles gig I realised that a low-level fear I’d been subconsciously living with for a number of years had disappeared.

It’s easier to describe the presence of something than the absence of something but the feeling I had really was an absence; I noticed fear wasn’t there. I listened for it, I tried to feel it, I waited for a fleeting thought to come and it simply didn’t appear. It was the first time in years I was able to enjoy the moment without those nagging doubts in my head.

I realised that I’d travelled a long way on the journey I had embarked upon over a year before when I left a job that was no longer working for me. What I had found in coaching and founding The Authentic Life Company was a vocation, a passion and a purpose in life. Although I still have many challenges to overcome and of course some fear around being self-employed, that background hum, that background ‘what next?’ fear has gone.

I’ll be sharing more about my journey as well as insights into being real at work and in life on this blog. In the meantime, wherever you are in your life or business here are six ways you can begin to create an authentic life you love (without fear!)

  • Notice when you are and are not being authentic

  • Think about letting go of what isn’t serving you any more

  • Instead of depleting energy in a situation that no longer serves you, think about creating a balanced life that you love

  • Seek advice from friends, family, trusted colleagues or a qualified professional

  • Align what you do with who you are

  • Listen to your inner voice, if it’s telling you to change listen carefully

Which of these steps resonates with you the most? I’d love to hear from you, comment below and let’s chat!

Click SOURCE below for the original article on The Huffington Post

Smartphones Are The New Cigarettes

Smartphones are The New Cigarettes is a great article on Thrive about how addicted we’re all becoming to smartphones, developing a constant need for information and attention stimulation.

I’ll hold my hand up, smartphone addiction is something I struggle with. Although I could get through a class at the gym without checking my iPhone, I’ve noticed how I look forward to getting off the Underground in London so that I can be “reconnected” with the world. (Where ‘world’ really means internet!)

 In fact as I was writing this blog, I’ve just been distracted by an incoming text that caused me to lose my train of thought!

I love the idea of ‘attention pollution’ which I can really relate to, especially the idea that attention pollution spreads, so another person’s lack of attention can so easily interrupt your attention.

I also agree with the writer’s dream about a future where we come to respect attention once again and limit the use of distraction-creators in situations where distraction is unwelcome.

Attention pollution is something still working on. Solutions I’ve found that work for me are:

  • Installing internet blocking software (I use SelfContol on Mac) to block distracting sites

  • Switching off all notifications on my laptop and my iPhone

  • Using Steven Covey’s Time Management Matrix which helps me recognise when I’m distracted into non-urgent and non-important distractions

Click SOURCE below to read the full article on Huffington Post

Authentic Leadership for the Post-Trump Post-Brexit Age

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In Hans Christian Andersen’s short tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, two weavers claim they will create the best suit of clothes from an incredible fabric but there’s a catch in that the fabric is invisible to anyone who is stupid or incompetent. The swindlers successfully fool the emperor’s ministers, the people, and of course the Emperor himself who parades naked through the city. Throughout the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election a critical aspect of leadership was missing and that was authenticity. As they stand before us right now Donald Trump and the Brexiteers appear quite naked. So what does authentic leadership look like and what future direction does political and organisational leadership need to take?

Authentic leadership is a style of leadership that builds legitimacy based on an ethical foundation, and honest relationships with people whose input and diverse opinions are valued. We can say there are four pillars to authentic leadership: knowing yourself, being genuine, being fair-minded and doing the right thing. The result is leadership that is based on a secure identity, tolerance, decency and a sense of common purpose.

Against the pillars of authentic leadership Donald Trump fails all four. When the New York Times stated that “authenticity is Mr Trump’s brand” what they may have meant was the Trump brand is authentic, in that he successfully plays a role and he’s stuck to the brand values of that role for years. But authenticity is definitely not Trump’s brand. As the Trump inner circle is filled with lobbyists, family members and questionable characters it becomes clear that Trump’s leadership will be based on anything but an ethical foundation.

It’s widely acknowledged that Hilary Clinton struggled with authenticity, and with hindsight it’s easy to see that a lack of authentic leadership in the Democratic Party led to the ultimately flawed choice of Clinton as presidential candidate. Simply because someone is next in line is evidently not a strong reason to select a candidate.

In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron spectacularly failed the authentic leadership test by calling a mis-judged Brexit referendum, not to serve the best interest of the country but as a risky gamble conceived as a gimmick to silence UKIP and right wing elements of the Conservative party. In doing so he played into the hands of the English nationalists.

The aftermath of the referendum saw the victorious Brexit leadership all quit as they backtracked on headline campaign promises and confirmed that they had no plan. If their objective was to win, they won a battle. If their objective was longterm leadership, they will fail. And now Theresa May has to push through some kind of Brexit plan (as yet to be revealed) that, as a Remain supporter, she cannot in principle agree with.

Trump and Brexit may have won a battle but a lack of authentic leadership leaves them critically exposed to future failure. In fact what the Trump and Brexit results attest to is a crisis of leadership. Across politics there is “a huge, untapped, unexplored kamikaze scream of “ANYTHING BUT THIS”. In this post-truth world, the ultimate leadership challenge for Trump and the Brexiteers will be that the truth will out.

The impending challenges of the 21st century will be too complex for the mind of Donald Trump to solve. They will require genuine, fair-minded and ethical approaches developed from fact-based consensus. Qualities such as intelligence, fair-play, humility and honesty will be key. This will require a huge change of mindset from politicians. More than ever, voters will not only need to believe in their leaders, they will need to know that leaders are operating for the common good. This is not being naive; the leadership qualities that will be needed to get us through this century will very different from the qualities that got us through the last century. Business as usual will become untenable as the accelerating impact of climate change in an increasingly VUCA world will demand major changes in leadership mindset.

Likewise in business organisations a similar change in leadership mindset will be needed. The vertical command-and-control approach which led to the financial crash and other corporate scandals, is becoming increasingly out-dated as more collaborative management models such as the Results Only Work Environment or Teal Management are shown not only to be more productive, agile and effective but also more closely aligned with global challenges. Crucially, an authentic leadership style which adopts a wider purpose including social and environmental wellbeing within more horizontal structures also aligns with Millennials’ mindset and their world view.

As a leader will you want to be surrounded by “Yes-men” or will you want to encourage constructive debate from a gender-balanced range of expert advisors? As an organisation will you want leaders who are playing the short- or the long-game? Narcissists or altruists?

Of course in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” it?s a child who eventually exposes the Emperor by crying out “But he hasn’t got anything on!” In the US and the UK, the lack of authenticity around Trump and Brexit will eventually be called out most likely by younger rather than older people. The Trump presidency won’t last forever and whatever compromised form Brexit eventually takes, the UK will emerge into some kind of post-Brexit future.

Authentic leadership is not the kind of infallible, all-knowing The Apprentice-style leadership that’s been encouraged since the late 20th century and that’s great for TV ratings. Instead, authentic leadership is to be visionary, inspirational, creative and innovative. It is to create a cult of ‘all of us’ not ‘me’. It encourages risk, and in doing so it must embrace failure. A shift from celebrity leadership to servant leadership will position politics and organisations to face into the future not into the past; to tackle the known and as yet unknown challenges that lie ahead in the 21st century.

Click SOURCE below to read the original article on LinkedIn

Kindness Starts with Yourself

It seems as though we could all do with a generous dollop of kindness right now, and despite what some may think, there’s evidence that kindness is alive and well in the UK. The UK Kindness Report, from postcode lottery website PickMyPostcode.com and researcher Dr Carol Haigh, has looked at how people across the UK carry out kind acts to loved ones or strangers.

The report shows that two thirds of Brits (66%) volunteer their time for free for a community event or charitable cause on a regular basis and that one in three (33%) aim to carry out an act of kindness each day. Making an extra effort to be kind is especially important during stressful times because stress triggers us to act in unkind ways, so we can become more self-focused. In times of stress, the very idea of being kind can seem like a luxury at best. At worst, it just seems foolish, but this is to overlook the magical so called “cascade effect” of kindness. Researchers have shown that kindness is contagious because it passes from person to person to person, so a small act of kindness can reverberate far more widely than the sphere of influence of the originating kind act.

So I want more kindness in my life, where do I start? Well, counter-intuitively authentic kindness starts with being kind to yourself. Sure you can just go out and do good or volunteer but if you’re judging yourself harshly or not forgiving yourself for past mistakes then any act of kindness will be conditional, the real incentive will be to make you feel better about yourself. Authentic kindness is much more powerful because it’s unconditional; it is kindness without any strings attached and without looking for any pay-back.

Once you start being kind, truly kind, to yourself then your capacity to give out kindness will greatly increase. So this means forgiving yourself for past mistakes. An example for me is that I still sometimes beat myself up for leaving Channel 4 TV to join a start-up LGBT TV channel that didn’t ultimately get off the ground. It takes a conscious effort to remind myself that I made the decision at the time with the right intent to further my career and to serve the LGBT community. My decision was based on the best information I had at the time. So I have a choice, I can criticise myself because things didn’t turn out the way I wanted or I can treat myself with compassion and kindness. Neither choice changes the past but being kind to myself allows me to draw a line, to learn and to move forward with confidence and self-respect.

Being kind to yourself means speaking less harshly to yourself. I encourage you to notice your self-talk after reading this blog; is it mainly positive self-talk or negative self-talk? Notice the negative self-talk and ask yourself “would I criticise a friend as harshly as I am speaking to myself”? If the answer to the question is “No” then start making an effort to speak to yourself with more respect and kindness. It can be helpful to consider that at any point in time everyone is muddling through life with the best intention given the hand they have been dealt and the information they have available at the time. We’re all imperfect leading imperfect lives.

As the ancient Greek story-teller Aesop observed, “No act of kindness now matter how small, is ever wasted”. So I invite you to start practicing self-kindness right now and you’ll find kindness gets easier with practice. Try opening up your world to kindness and notice what happens; notice how you see the world from a different perspective and notice how the world reacts differently to a kinder you.

To kick off here are four simple steps to bring more kindness into your life:

  1. Start by being kind to yourself

  2. Treat yourself to a Loving-Kindness guided mediation (you?ll find plenty on Google or Youtube).

  3. Aim to carry out at least one Random Act of Kindness every day

  4. Get out into nature which boosts kindness (as well as happiness and creativity!)

Click SOURCE below to read the original article on The Huffington Post

The future of good work.

I recently attended two events on good work and leadership with some of the best experts in the field. At a publicity event for his new book Together is Better, author, speaker and top TED Talker-er Simon Sinek spoke about his brand of servant leadership and a few days later I was at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to hear Chief Executive Matthew Taylor give his annual lecture, this year on the theme of ‘Good Work For All’, alongside a panel of eminent guests. This article is in the form of a report which covers the most interesting themes that stood out from the two events along with some context of my own.

The consensus was that in many ways the future of work is already here, the challenge for business and leadership is to catch up with the technology and the unequivocal evidence on working best practices from the fields of psychology and neuroscience. The benefits for businesses that are early adopters are that they will take first mover advantages in productivity, effectiveness, recruitment and retention.

Matthew Taylor outlined the starting pain point as the well-documented productivity issue in the UK relative to other major economies. In the time that a British worker makes £1, a German worker makes £1.35. Layered on top of this is the high cost to business and to society caused by stress in the workplace. According to the UK government Health and Safety Executive, stress is the number one cause of absence from work accounting for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health. However things don’t need to be this way; as Simon Sinek commented, “The way we’re doing business is old fashioned and outdated.”

So what does good work look like? 

As we move from the manufacturing age into the information age, and as the 3rd industrial revolution gets underway, Matthew Taylor described good work as “fair and decent with scope for fulfilment and development.” The world of work is changing fast with globalisation, de-industrialisation, automation and technology all having a disruptive effect on traditional jobs and working practices. The challenge is to improve the quality of work in this era of rapid change.

Speaking on the RSA panel Peter Cheese Chief Executive of the CIPD was bullish about the need for a radical “shift in mindset” necessary to keep up with the pace of change and in line with established research on effectiveness at work; he called for a “move towards evidence-based management.” Matthew Taylor advocated a “shift from focus on pay and conditions to meaning” while work and health researcher Professor Dame Carol Black made the point that “we should be talking about good work and good workplaces” where businesses take a holistic approach to “total worker health and not just health and safety.” Other key elements of good work were described by the panellists as engagement, community, safety, trust and autonomy.

Creating a productive environment

There’s huge scope for improving productivity by applying evidence-based insights from positive psychology and neuroscience. Speaking on the RSA panel Sandra Sands – she’s the new editor of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 – discussed “creating an environment in which people feel safe to fail” citing the evidence that a benign workplace improves productivity.

Continuing to deliver a progressive message, Peter Cheese stressed the importance of recognising the disconnect between hours worked and output. He encouraged greater use of empowered flexible working based on trust and autonomy as a response to “the scourge of presentee-ism” and the clear evidence that working long hours is not good for businesses or people. He also questioned how productivity should be defined in the knowledge economy of intellectual capital. In knowledge based and creative industries in particular, businesses need to be increasingly aware that the relationship between hours worked and productivity is not linear. This reflected Matthew Taylor’s view that a “shift away from a Protestant work ethic” will benefit productivity, mental wellbeing and the bottom line.

The future of good leadership

Matthew Taylor’s view was that bad work is the result of weak leadership and management, and the UK’s productivity issue is a result of a historic lack of investment in training. On leadership Simon Sinek had also been clear that “companies need to invest in soft skills as well as hard skills.” From a leadership perspective the general view was that there’s a huge opportunity to improve the quality of work by improving the quality of leadership; at senior level the task is to enable engagement by instilling authentic principles and purpose into corporate culture from the top down. This needs to be servant-leadership from Simon Sinek’s perspective that “real leadership does not equate to rank or authority, the real leader is in service.” Peter Cheese picked up the empowerment message with a call to shift from rules to principles; instead of controlling “bad robots” with rules, empower people with principles. Empowerment and engagement were also picked up on the RSA panel by Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI who spoke in positive terms about encouraging businesses to appoint employee representatives to the board.

At management level the call was for a step-change in management training based on evidence-based best-practice to equip managers to counter under-employment (ineffective use of the workforce) and very often simply to equip people to step up into a management role. For people at all levels Simon Sinek spoke passionately on self-leadership giving the advice that “you have to be the leader you wished you had” with encouragement to mentor or teach someone as the best way to learn.

The question of measurement was tackled by Carol Black who asked “Who is paying attention and how are they measuring health and wellbeing?” Her suggestion was for a member of the board to be charged with reporting back on measures of health and wellbeing in the way that other figures are reported back to the board.

Good work for all

It was great to see the topics of good work and leadership approached from different angles with Simon Sinek coming from the millennials’ perspective and the RSA event providing insight into the latest thinking from eminent captains of industry and top government advisors. In his position as Chief Executive of the CIPD Peter Cheese stood out; I was encouraged to hear such a clear message of progressive and disruptive thinking from this organisation along with a sense of urgency that the changes are happening now and businesses need to adapt now.

How well positioned is your business for the changes that are coming down the line and what jumped out for you? How can you install a culture of “Good Work for All’ in your organisation?

You can watch a video of the RSA ‘Good Work For All’ event here and Matthew Taylor’s review into Modern Employment Practices for the UK government will be released in summer 2017.

Simon Sinek’s viral interview on Millennials in the Workplace is here and his Ted Talks on ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’ (the 3rd most viewed Ted Talk ever) and ‘Why Good Leaders Make you Feel Safe’ are here and here.

This article was first published on LinkedIn

Mental Wellbeing Is The Next Human Frontier

Last week was a gruelling news week in which the consequences of poor mental health were splashed across TV screens and newspaper headlines around the world. The week began with the massacre of 49 LGBT Americans in the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando and here in the UK the week ended with the brutal murder of a popular Member of the UK parliament Jo Cox on the street of a small Yorkshire town.

The narrative in Orlando is undoubtedly complex as there appear to be numerous contributory factors including the lack of effective gun control in the United States, religious extremism, homophobia (probably external and internalised) and online radicalisation, as well as evidence of mental instability. The murder of Jo Cox may also turn out to be directly related to the issue of mental health if early reports prove correct that the suspect has a history of mental health problems.

Both cases are extreme examples of the consequences of poor mental health and wellbeing, however mental health problems are common in modern society. Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and in the UK it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. The issue extends even further beyond clinically defined mental health problems to poor general mental wellbeing which it could be argued is endemic.

In recent decades we humans have been incredibly clever at inventing powerful technologies to help us connect, communicate and do things. We can access almost the entirety of all human knowledge ever created in a quick Google search. We can instant message anyone almost anywhere in the world and we can even shoot an HD video using our mobile phone then immediately edit it on the same device. In the workplace, the advent of email and powerful software packages facilitate the generation and sharing of vast amounts of data and information.

We think nothing of this technological wizardry, but we seem to brush over the negative impact of the technologies we have created on mental wellbeing. Where information overload leads to feelings of overwhelm how do we manage that? Where data sharing becomes a frustrating orgy of ineffective collaboration what do we do? And where the constant barrage of notifications, IMs, texts, messages and emails leads to depression and anxiety how do we switch off? In life we sacrifice our own wellbeing at the altar of busyness and in the workplace the wellbeing of employees is placed secondary to the holy grail of ever increased perceived “productivity”.

What is known about wellbeing is that it is founded on a sense of satisfaction based on the need for social connection and the need for social contribution. The major world religions and philosophies all attribute happiness and fulfilment in life to giving, helping and contributing to others. The evidence-based benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing anxiety and depression are well documented along with significant benefits to mental wellbeing.

We also now know that humans feel psychological pain or social pain in the same way that we feel physical pain so the psychological effects of religious intolerance, homophobia, prejudice and social isolation are experienced in the brain in exactly the same way as pain from physical injury or torture. Psychological injuries such as internalised homophobia can fester for years destroying a person from the inside out, until that person snaps. Reports of a drunk and belligerent Omar Mateen being thrown out of the Pulse nightclub on a regular basis tend not to paint a picture of a radical Islamic terrorist quietly scouting a potential target. Instead they point to a deeply troubled man with poor mental health who was struggling with significant personal issues.

What the tragic events of last week bring into sharp focus is the need for greater awareness and understanding around mental health. If we continue on the ever faster, ever busier, ever more complex technological trajectory we are currently on without significantly improved understanding of mental health and wellbeing, things are only set to get worse. We’ve become so clever at doing that we’re not looking at how we are being. When we are too busy or unaware to notice that the mental health of our family, friends or colleagues is suffering what dangers can that expose society to?

Imagine what more we could learn about how our minds work if we applied the same inventiveness and enthusiasm we show for developing technology to exploring, understanding and improving our mental wellbeing. Instead of being overly focused on our external appearance and our technology it’s time for us to fall in love with our minds. Mental wellbeing is the big new frontier opening up ahead of us, it will be the next big step on the human journey because the wellbeing of society depends on the mental wellbeing of individuals.

Click SOURCE below for the original article on LinkedIn

Don’t Wait For New Year, Start Now!

You’ve probably been there, it’s New Year’s Day and you’re suddenly faced with a brand new year so you make some half-hearted New Year’s resolutions and then go back to nursing your hangover. The problem is those half-hearted New Year’s resolutions probably relate to something really important in your life. As a professional coach you might be surprised to hear this but come January 1st I’ll be boycotting New Year’s resolutions for myself and my clients and that’s because I know that making a real commitment to change requires determination and hard work.

There’s a trite futility to making it through the orgy of consumerism and over-indulgence that is December and THEN deciding to commit to improve your health, make that important life change you haven’t quite got round to making yet or just to start being nice to people. It’s ridiculous! The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that no-one really takes them seriously. When did you last hear someone say something like, “I started my successful business as a result of a New Year’s resolution?” or “Who knew my resolution to learn something new would lead to my PhD in astrophysics!” Life changes simply do not happen this way. Serious resolutions or goals usually require some change in unhelpful behaviour; this takes a load of effort and it’s best done with help from a professional who can identify unhelpful thought patterns and keep you accountable to new behaviours over a period of time.

According to a study carried out at Southampton University only 8% of people in the UK who make a resolution achieve them. That means a whopping 92% fail and of that 92% when asked about their resolution in November of the same year, 31% can’t even remember what their resolution was! New Year’s resolutions fail because however well intentioned they are often just wishful thinking.
At this time of year we’re putting off thinking about changes until the new year, but making big life changes is too important to leave to the frivolity of New Years resolutions. Most of the people who resolve to lose weight or get that six pack at the start of the new year are consciously procrastinating before they even start, which is hardly a precursor to massive success.

If you can identify a problem, why wait to fix it? If your toilet is blocked, your natural reaction is unlikely to be “I need to find a plunger to unblock it. There’s no point looking for a plunger now, tomorrow is the next daily milestone so I’ll start tomorrow.” No, you fix the problem immediately.

Breaking habits involves retraining the brain, and this takes a great deal of effort and determination. Big changes take time, patience and commitment. Relying on a calendar change to give you a boost of commitment and determination is not the smartest strategy. If you’re serious about change you need to find the drive to change deep within yourself. Your problems are yours and yours alone, as are your dreams and the motivation to change yourself. Don’t wait to take action, you’re way too valuable to delay making a commitment to your well-being and success at a later date. As Gandhi wisely advised, “The future depends on what you do today.”

Take your future self seriously and ask “what can I start doing differently right now?” A new year provides new opportunities, sure, but so does a new day. Start today. Start now.

(Look out for my blog in December in which I’ll share what I WILL encourage you to do at the beginning of the year to make the big change you really want in 2015.)

Click SOURCE below for the original article on The Huffington Post