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For Health, Wealth and Creativity

Stress management toolkit: tools, tips and techniques to manage your stress for better productivity.

Richard Hawkey

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We are coming to the end of this particular series of columns and if you haven’t taken the free, confidential online stress survey yet please do so (go to www.vitalstest.com and enter entrepreneur as the ‘employer code’). We will be closing that survey soon, aggregating the results and providing feedback in the next column. For now, one last visit to the toolkit.

Exercise We know that exercise mops up many of the ‘stress’ hormones and releases others that lift our mood. There are myriad health benefits we all know about and it’s also a socially-acceptable manner for releasing frustrations physically (‘Jo’burg traffic finger’ is NOT a legitimate sport!).

Legendary American columnist Erma Bombeck said: “the only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again”. Indeed, the grimacing and pained expressions that adorn many a jogger’s face are possibly not the best advert for this method of keep-fit.

Exercise should be taken in forms and quantities that are agreeable rather than abhorrent. Each of us inhabit a shape that is better suited to certain kinds of activity – watching the recent Olympics brought that home to me so clearly; some people are just ‘designed’ to run like the wind.

The key is to do things you enjoy – exercise must not be a chore. I was clearly designed for reading, however, I have grown to enjoy extreme dog-walking, mountain biking with my children, gardening and other prosaic low-impact activities. A couple of ideas that may help you:

  • Consider a training-buddy – the additional motivation that comes with not wanting to let someone else down can help keep you going on those days when you are feeling a bit ‘flat’;
  • Little and often – it’s like the old joke ‘how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’. Don’t over face yourself – trying to go from coach potato to celebrated athlete in a few short months is unrealistic and frankly dangerous.

In summary, we are just not designed for the sedentary lifestyle cars, computers and urban commerce force us into. We should be running across the veld with pointy sticks chasing our dinner not sitting in a box, staring at a box, eating from a box. Take every second opportunity to walk up the stairs, park far away from the shop entrance, walk to pick up milk and bread, wash your car yourself.

Logging off increasingly our ‘to do’ lists merely act as reminders of what we didn’t achieve in a day. There are more and more demands on our time and energy – emails, smartphones, advertising billboards, radio, TV, sms, people – and far too often taking care of ourselves has been bumped off the list altogether.

Diet, sleep, exercise all need to be on that list, but so too does ‘logging off’. Finding some quiet time every day to just be still, and calm the riot of emotions and thoughts is hugely beneficial:

  • It promotes health – learning to be still calms your heart rate, slows your breathing and invokes the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the ‘resting and digesting’ functions in our bodies)
  • True creativity comes unbidden, when you can still all your thoughts. Thinking about stuff is not being creative – it is merely juggling with the knowns.
  • It promotes listening – calming the clamour of external and internal noise allows us to hear things that are beyond the normal range of our attention.

Some call this meditation, others call it prayer. I don’t know about that – I just call it sitting quietly and being in the moment, not asking for or expecting any particular outcome. I do it selfishly and often as I have felt the physical benefits and experienced the cognitive and emotional boost too often for it to be fluke.

Remember: small changes can add up to make significant positive impacts. Slow and steady wins the race.

**The final column in this series will present an aggregated view of the Vitals© stress self-awareness survey**

Richard Hawkey is an anti-stress evangelist, author, speaker and productivity consultant. Having suffered from a stress-related breakdown himself, he has since combined this general management and leadership experience with the profound lessons he learnt from mismanaging stress and subsequently burning out. He is the author of Life Less Lived and the founder of equilibriumsolutions – which has developed the first online stress management tool aimed at both employees an employers. Richard can be contacted at richard@equilibriumsolutions.co.za

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Self Development

9 Reliable Ways To Cultivate Creative Thinking

Some people are naturally creative. Everyone else can cultivate creativity.

John Rampton

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The benefits of creative thinking are enumerable. Having this skillset will enable you to tackle problems with unique perspectives, come up with special ideas and, overall, be a more effective performer.

One challenge to becoming more creative is the difficulty of quantifying creativity. It is much easier to learn and subsequently demonstrate skills in software engineering, for example. That being said, companies and people are drawn toward creative thinkers. The more that those around you listen to your opinion and the more frequently you propose unique ideas, the higher an indication of these skills. Therefore, over time, you can gauge progress based on how others respond to you and your work.

The other challenge, though, is that sometimes others will not recognise your creativity. They might shoot down an awesome idea because it sounds crazy unconventional. Understanding this and learning to navigate it will keep your confidence levels high so that you can continue to grow.

With these perspectives in mind around quantifying creativity, here are nine guaranteed ways that you can become a more creative thinker to better tackle your life and problems:

1. Read

People have chronicled years of their work or life experiences into books. Knowing more and having different perspectives will help you become more creative. You will be able to take others’ ideas, pieces of knowledge and individual experiences and apply them to your present situations. Reading is one of the best ways to pick up this knowledge and empathy.

It is easy to make excuses for not having enough time to read but if you make reading a priority, you will be able to find the time and undoubtedly become more creative.

Related: Creative Thinking 101

2. Pick up an art

creative-art-hobbyHaving some sort of artistic outlet in your life will dramatically help with creativity levels. Albert Einstein came up with many of his famous revelations while playing the violin.

In the book Originals, Adam Grant – a researcher and professor at Wharton – found that “Nobel Prize-winners are twice as likely to play a musical instrument, they’re seven times as likely to draw or paint, 12 times as likely to write fiction or poetry, and… 22 times as likely as their peers to perform as actors, dancers, or, yes, magicians.”

Whether it be an instrument, drawing, acting or anything else, finding an artistic outlet will fire different parts of your brain. Those spark serenity and a stillness that will make you a more creative person.

3. Surround yourself with a wider range of personalities

Empathy is a huge key to creativity. Most people surround themselves with others who are similar to them. While doing so is comfortable, it is not beneficial when working toward creativity.

There are others within your vicinity who have lived dramatically different lives. Meeting them, understanding their backgrounds and learning how they think will widen your perspective about the world. That will, in turn, increase the creative vigor you can take through life.

4. Spend more time in nature

nature-walkBeing outdoors also sparks creativity. Escaping from the stresses and routine of life, even for brief periods, can get your head out of a rut. Finding short times to be outside throughout your week will give you a chance to get away from all of the technology and noise in our daily lives. Plus, it is an excuse to go have fun and explore.

Related: Shift To Strategic Thinking Free Of Limits

5. Meditate

Mental stillness allows you to eliminate many of the thoughts that constantly ruminate in your head. When you are always thinking about a past or future event, for instance, it takes your mind away from tackling the current situation. Meditation is a great way to develop this stillness.

With a meditation practice you can learn to let your mind be entirely in the present situation. Doing so will allow you to exert more concentrated effort on the tasks at hand. You can pull in more knowledge from different parts of your brain. Consequently, you will be more creative in each moment.

6. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can kill creativity. Although we feel the urge to always be on the move, when we are tired, we are not able to use as much of our brain. Plus, exhaustion makes it harder to retain information upon learning it. Therefore, with less sleep, we learn less that we can apply to situations and we cannot perform as effectively on any given task. Making sleep a priority will help your creativity, without a doubt.

7. Exercise

exerciseFeeling healthy is a great way to have more confidence throughout our days. This confidence often leads to less worrying and more mental energy being exerted at the task at hand. Plus, while actually working out, people tend to be hyper-present. This might trigger an idea or a thought you had not considered before.

8. Do more of what you love

There is a correlation between happiness and creativity. The better that our spirits are, the higher functioning we act on a daily basis. Subsequently, a great way to increase happiness levels is to do what you love. This could be hobbies, spending time with loved ones or anything else.

Additionally, when doing what we love, we tend to be in a very present state. Some have called this state ‘flow.’ As mentioned above, being in a present state pays large dividends toward creativity. Not to mention that doing what you love might spark additional ideas and help you find new interests where you can be creative.

Related: 7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

9. Take more risks

Taking risks will boost creativity by giving you a larger set of life events. When you have experienced more things, you will be able to apply those memories and lessons to each new situation that you are in. While you can do more in life without taking risks, fear is often an inhibitor toward trying something new. Therefore, be open to taking more chances. By going out of your comfort zone and doing what others might be unwilling to do, you will develop a deeper breadth of memories and past experiences that you can apply to new problems.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

3 Wonderfully Uncommon Reasons To Form Better Habits

As we race away into 2018, consider these very personal and fundamental bonuses to making and sticking to your resolutions.

Entrepreneur

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Eat healthier. Exercise more. Be more productive. Read faster. Be friendlier. Sleep better.

Welcome to the New Year, a time when people set resolutions to form better habits and lead better lives.

Understandably, a lot of the articles, videos and other resources about starting off the New Year focus on which habits are best and the steps you need to take to achieve them. They outline the goals, plans and actions we need to make our resolutions a reality.

If you’re looking for 10 tips on how to lose 100 pounds in 90 days, then this article isn’t for you. Instead, why not consider some of the underlying and lesser-talked about benefits of kicking bad habits and forming better ones this year.

1. Challenging your norms

Why is it that you sneak sweets and junk food so often? How come you’re always so tired in the morning? Why can’t you get your butt to the gym?

Related: 7 Motivational Habits That Drive Millionaires

If your answer for poor habits is “That’s just the way I am/the way things are” then you’re probably underestimating yourself. Stop. Think about your actions and why you’ve taken them perpetually over time. You might learn a lot.

Take personal finance advisor and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi for example. When he stopped to analyse himself and why he wasn’t going to the gym, he realised something simple that he’d never considered previously: His closet was in a different room, separate from his bedroom. Instead of getting up in the cold to put on clothes, it was easier to just stay in bed.

“Once I realised this, I folded my clothes and shoes the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I would roll over and see my gym clothes sitting on the floor. The result? My gym attendance soared by over 300%.”

Forming a new habit is your chance to examine your life — or at least one important aspect of it — and figure out why you’ve been making the decisions that lead to the habits you want or need to change.

2. Taking control

We don’t have to be the sum of randomised actions and results, based simply on moral and civil codes. It’s up to each one of us individually to take control of our actions and maximise the results.

It’s the same in business. There’s nothing you do without careful research and consideration in order to maximise productivity, profits, etc.

You’re your own boss. You control your thoughts and actions; these things aren’t up to chance. Having the ability to make significant changes to your life is empowering, so long as you seize the opportunity.

Take control. Be the entrepreneur of yourself, 100 percent.

Related: 7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making

3. Achieving clearer self-awareness

Some people say it takes only 21 days to form a new habit. Others say that just isn’t true. However long it takes, habit formation is a personal journey; one that requires desire, motivation, dedication, perseverance and change.

Habit formation takes you out of your comfort zone, to a place of self-discovery. If you’re getting into shape, how far can you push yourself physically? If you’re trying to eat better, how much temptation can you withstand?

Figure out what was required to succeed or why it was that you failed. Either way, you can obtain a clearer sense of your personal limits and, hopefully, how to achieve your goals — and sustain them — within your constraints.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” Not only to the world, but to yourself as well.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

How To Build A Disruptive Attitude

What does it mean to navigate a disruptive world and succeed in a market – place that is changing faster than it’s ever changed before?

Nadine Todd

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What do you need to know to be a success? What resources and support do you need? How do you need to feel and think to be a success in a disrupted world?

According to Malcolm Gladwell, who spoke at the 2017 BCX Disrupt Summit, you need three key things to succeed in a disrupted world: Resources, knowledge and the right attitude.

The First step towards innovation and disruption is your mind. Your attitude.

For Gladwell, Malcolm McLean is the single biggest disruptor of the 20th century, in that he implemented containerised shipping. Without this fundamental shift in the way we ship cargo, the modern, connected world as we know it today would not exist.

Crucially, McLean did not invent containerised shipping, but no one had been able to make it work before a trucker from Ohio came along, and got irritated by how long he had to wait at the docks to offload his cargo (roughly 24 hours).

Related: How to Build Your Network Like a Super Connector

But McLean had an idea and he presented it at a conference of maritime shippers in Amsterdam. They laughed him off the stage. Normally, when we are treated with this type of derision, we get discouraged and give up. McLean didn’t do that. He possessed a fundamental trait that all entrepreneurs need: He didn’t require the approval of others to do what he believed was right. Entrepreneurs are open, creative, and see solutions to problems that others don’t; they are also — crucially — highly conscientious, which means they follow through on an idea in a detailed, disciplined way.

This is rare. You get creative people, and conscientious people, but it’s not easy to find both traits in the same person. Add to that the third trait of disagreeableness, in that they do not have to follow established norms, and you have a real game-changer.

McLean didn’t look at the problem as a shipper did. He came from an entirely new angle, and not only found a way to make containerised shipping possible, but affordable too.

Ikea is a similar example. In a nutshell, Ikea is furniture shipped flat from Poland. Ingvar Kamprad pursued outsourcing on an aggressive level, had an extraordinary amount of creativity in solving problems, and was very conscientious. Consider how difficult it would have been to build a world-class manufacturing plant in Poland in 1961. The country was a post-WW2 mess, in the grip of Soviet Russia, known for shoddy workmanship and actively hostile to free enterprise.

And then Kamprad waltzed in from Sweden and pulled off the impossible because of his single-minded grit and attention to detail. He is the epitome of conscientiousness and obsessiveness.

Now consider Steve Jobs.

By the 1970s, Xerox was the most important tech company in the world. They were the richest, most innovative and profitable company, and they invested in a state-of-the-art R&D centre and filled it with 100 of the most brilliant computer scientists from around the world, and told them to be brilliant.

And they were. As per Xerox’s request, they reinvented the office. They invented the laser printer, the world’s first word processing programme, interfaces — and the list continues.

And then a 23-year-old Steve Jobs visited the centre. At that stage, his company was making traditional kit computers out of a garage. He was blown away by what he saw at Xerox Park and all the incredible things they were doing — particularly when he was shown the mouse and interface the Xerox team had developed for personal computers. He immediately saw how icons and a mouse changed everything. This was the future of computing.

Related: 10 Innovators On What They Learned From Steve Jobs

Leading the charge

Here’s why Apple is the world’s biggest tech company four decades later, and Xerox is not: While the Xerox team understood they had changed computing forever, there was no urgency to be the first to market.

Jobs left that day, immediately told his team to stop what they were doing, because it would soon be obsolete anyway, and started working on a new product based on what Xerox had developed.

His team told him he was nuts — they’d spent millions on what they were doing. Jobs said it didn’t matter. It was obsolete. He didn’t have more resources. He didn’t have smarter guys. He didn’t even have a wiser and better vision.

But he was in a hurry. And he was able to execute on his vision.

If you can get your mindset right, you can gather the resources and knowledge that you need to be successful. Learn as much as you can. Be open to new ideas. And if something is soon going to be obsolete, walk away. Find the next big thing. Because you’re either being disrupted, or you’re the disruptor. Which would you like to be?

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