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Why Mental Fitness Is A Competitive Strategy You Need To Implement

We’re so focused on physical fitness, health and maintaining our stress levels that we forget the impact our mental fitness has on our business. Here’s why I’m focusing on my mental fitness to build my business.

Nicholas Haralambous

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Mental Fitness

I’m amazed at how many coaches there are in the world right now. You get coaches for sprinting, coaches for strength, coaches for stamina, health coaches, food coaches and every kind of coach in between. There are coaches for every possible type of physical sport that you can think of.

Find yourself a mental coach

There are very few coaches for entrepreneurs. Sure, there are mentors and advisors and there are MBAs who will come in and tell you that they know what they’re doing and can help. I have yet to find an entrepreneur who has a mental coach.

So, I went out and found one. I started seeing a psychologist. This was the first step for me in becoming mentally fit.

Running a business is no joke and the mental pressure that you experience should not be underestimated. It takes its toll and wears on you over time. If you don’t become mentally fit, seek out coaches and get the help you need, there’s no way you’ll make it out alive.

Speak the Truth

My last business had its ups and downs. In one of the pretty bad periods I met with a close friend and he asked me how I was doing. My immediate, stock standard reaction was to tell him that everything was fine. Fine and dandy.

Meanwhile I had taken a pay cut, we were losing money and things were not going well. I chose to lie to a close friend because of my ego.

Related: Be a Mental Machine

I snapped out of it and decided to tell him the truth. It was a big emotional step for me, not hiding behind the lie of ‘everything’s fine.’ What happened next changed things for me. He opened up and told me about his tough time. We both were able to offload the burden of struggling through our tough times.

The lesson? Don’t lie to the people closest to you, tell them how you’re doing honestly. Not only did this help both of us, but we learnt something too — business isn’t easy.

Find a professional to help you

Your mom may be a good listener but trust me when I say that she can’t help you through your immense mental struggle. Your friends can be supportive and your partner can help you think things through, but the truth is that they are not trained professionals.

The people in your life are part of your anguish and struggle, so it’s hard for you to use them to help you gain perspective.

For this, I finally decided to hire a mental coach. I found a high impact psychologist who specialised in people like me; entrepreneurs, sports people and the like. I spent an hour interviewing him and when I was happy he could help me, we began working together.

I saw him for a few months, worked through my problems and then took a break. I refer to him whenever I’m battling with something that I can’t gain perspective on. He’s a coach and I use him as such.

My only suggestion when looking for a psychologist is to try someone new, outside of your circle. Don’t go to your family psychologist. Find someone who you can start afresh with and build a working relationship that isn’t steeped in personal history.

Look at the world

evaluating-the-world

One of the most cathartic exercises that I undertake is to look at the world around me. I always manage to find something that makes me feel like what I’m going through is not the end of the world. In fact, when I stop and really try to see the world I realise how small and manageable my problems are.

Force yourself to look at the world around you and then talk honestly with the people in it. You’re bound to feel better.

Starting and running your own business is scary, overwhelming and incredibly tough. Don’t underestimate it, but don’t make it as big as the entire world you live in. At Nic Harry, what we do matters.

I’m building something of value, but if someone in my business makes a mistake, it’s just a pair of socks or a tie or something small. No one dies if we make mistakes. That helps me process what I experience.

Related: 5 Sources Of Extra Energy For Entrepreneurs

Process what you’re going through

A lot of things can happen in a day when you’re in the trenches of your business. It’s often hard to take it all in, so what we end up doing is ignoring it. We ignore the ups and downs as if they just don’t happen until they become immense and unmanageable.

What I do to process the daily happenings of life is keep a journal. I write in it every day, or as often as I can. There are lots of apps that’ll help you maintain momentum and I’ve tried them all. Right now, I’m using one called Journey.

However you choose to process your thoughts, make sure you’re doing it as often as you can. Put your mental stability right up there at the top of your priority list. If you don’t, only bad things will abound.

Nicholas Haralambous is the founder of the style company, Nicharry.com. He is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer who likes to tell the honest, brutal truth at every possible opportunity.

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Self Development

It’s My Job And I’ll Cry If I Want To: The Case For Showing Emotions In The Workplace

Allowing workers to show their true selves has its benefits.

Amanda Slavin

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crying-at-work

In a society that values strength, independence and self-reliance above all else, why express yourself? Why go out on a limb to reveal anything other than the highlight reel you post on social media in any situation, let alone in the setting where it could cost you the most: At work?

As it turns out, it could pay off in a big way.

Corporate robots are a dying breed

In today’s professional landscape, people want to bring their whole selves to work, even if doing so would break from the norms of “professionalism.” Millennials want work-life integration, not just work-life balance, meaning they’re not going to leave their emotions at home and send a cold, feeling-less, in-control-at-all-times automaton to the office in their place.

The insane precedent we’ve set for employees to remove so much of themselves from their professional lives is not only unhealthy for individuals; it’s also costing their employers in huge ways, even cutting enormous chunks out of corporate bottom lines.

By creating a workplace that does not allow people to share who they are, employers are essentially ensuring widespread workforce disengagement and high turnover.

I have a (somewhat) radial recommendation to overcome this massive issue: Cry at work.

Related: How to Harness Your Emotions

So, you want my employees to be crying – in the office?

Yes and no. In a perfect world, your employees would be perfectly balanced in their workloads and satisfied in their roles. They would never feel overwhelmed or dejected, and the need for showing negative emotions in the office wouldn’t exist.

We all know that’s not the world we live in. With the insanely fast pace of business these days, it’s likely that your team is going to feel frustration, anger, sadness and a whole host of other unpleasant emotions in the office.

I firmly believe that allowing, and even encouraging them to process these feelings outwardly is essential to having a successful business.

Here’s a personal example so you can see that it’s not as scary as it seems

One experience during last year’s holiday “break” led me to the brink of exhaustion. My team and I thought most people would be offline, but instead, our clients were in need of assistance, and I ended up picking up a heavy load because we hadn’t planned accordingly. I was working until the late hours every night during a week I had planned to spend with my family, and I was frustrated. This was directly impacting my health, and I was putting my professional success in front of my own personal and physical health.

After the holiday, during our weekly check-in, I expressed this frustration with the entire team. I cried during this call, explaining that I had felt really alone and like I could not really depend on anyone. I empathized that I knew everyone worked so unbelievably hard and that we all needed this break, but ultimately we hadn’t set ourselves up for success. We had to work harder and smarter so that we could truly take a well-deserved break and be present with our loved ones and ourselves.

The team responded immediately, and not only understood my perspective, but jumped into shape to do the work. In the end, we were able to satisfy our clients’ needs and set aside a time of rest for all of us, including myself.

Sometimes tears are the most productive solution, because they show your humanity and rally your colleagues to support you.

Related: 10 Ways Smart People Stay Calm

OK, I get the picture; now what do I do?

encouraging-emotional-expression

There are so many strategies you can try to create an expressive, engaged workplace in which everyone can show how they really feel, but the ones I recommend starting with are:

1. Encourage expression

Create an environment where people can openly share their emotions, whether that’s an all-team happy hour when a new client is won, or encouraging employees to vent their frustration on a tough day. Sometimes, this even means encouraging crying in the office.

2001 study by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steve B Wolff found that teams who score high on tests for emotional intelligence (or emotional quotient, EQ) perform markedly better than those who score poorly. “Our research shows that, just like individuals, the most effective teams are emotionally intelligent ones.”

And they aren’t the only ones preaching the EQ gospel. Their findings have been replicated by hundreds of workplace and emotional researchers and published in dozens of peer-reviewed journals.

One of the most effective strategies that my company, CatalystCreativ, has used to help businesses create a more empathetic and expressive culture is teaching ways to foster traditionally “feminine” traits above more “masculine” ones. By valuing and expressing traits such as receptivity, surrender, vulnerability and tenderness, employees of all genders show higher rates of engagement and job satisfaction, and companies themselves perform better.

Think your male managers won’t go for it? That would objectively be a bad choice. A 2011 study conducted at Stanford examined feminine and masculine traits in male and female employees, and compared these traits to their rates of promotion compared to their peers. The results were surprising: “Feminine” men got two times the promotions of their traditionally masculine peers.

Those workers able to blend feminine and masculine traits in the workplace tend to excel beyond their peers, and companies that encourage this expression among all employees will reap the financial rewards.

2. Reduce stress

Although all workplaces today are somewhat stress-inducing, those that discourage emotional expression are particularly problematic.

By not crying and sharing emotions, employees are bottling in stress. I could site literally thousands of sources explaining that stress is horrible for health, and everyone is now aware of its awful effects, which extend to harming work productivity.

Professor Roger Baker, a clinical psychologist and professor at Bournemouth University in the U.K., claims that “crying is the transformation of distress into something tangible, and that the process itself helps to reduce the feeling of trauma.” And he’s not the only one who feels this way.

William Frey, a biochemist at St Paul-Ramsey Medical Center, found that tears contain the stress hormones prolactin and adrenocorticotropic hormone, meaning that crying literally flushes stress-causing chemicals out of the body.

If you’re still unconvinced about allowing, and even encouraging, your employees to cry in the workplace, consider this: Stress costs U.S. companies $300 billion per year, due to health care and missed work days alone. And while eliminating all stress is impossible, allowing employees to process and express it is the only way to reduce its negative effects on your business.

So, if you’re reading this as an employee, go big. I encourage you to show up to work as your whole self every day. If you’re an organisational leader, I hope you recognise the absolute necessity of creating a more open workplace for your employees. One in which they can celebrate, laugh, talk about their real selves and yes, even cry.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

The 5 Gut-Check Questions Confronting Entrepreneurs Every Day

The day you forget why you began is the day you’re done.

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https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/314209

Entrepreneurs make an astounding number of decisions daily. They are faced with choosing which opportunities to move on and must solve problems big and small.

By setting up a framework of questions to ask yourself daily, you’ll give yourself some markers to help guide you through these difficult situations. Knowing where you stand on these questions will empower you to make good choices that ultimately lead you to your desired outcome. It will give you a deeper understanding of your motivations and your feelings about your business, and can help you clarify future plans.

Here are five powerful questions all entrepreneurs should ask themselves daily to ensure they are consistently moving toward their goals and making the best decisions for themselves and their business. Ask yourself these questions with an honest and open mind, and see where they take you.

1. Why are you doing this?

What makes this one little question so powerful is that it forces you to examine your desires and impulses, and helps you chart how those motivations change over time. It forces you to look at things from a different perspective. Asking yourself this question every day reaffirms your ambitions and the mindset behind why you are doing what you’re doing. If you don’t know why, you’re in trouble!

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

Asking this question opens the door to a plethora of other questions that will give you food for thought. What is the reason for launching your business? Why are you passionate about doing this? Are you the right person to run this business? These answers may change over time. At first it may seem difficult to truly nail down the “why” behind your motivations. Maybe there are competing interests that are driving you. But when you really think about it and drill down into this question, there’s probably a simple answer. Just be sure you’re being truthful with yourself.

Why you do something also gives rise to the question: what do you hope to achieve? You need to know what your end game looks like, and what success means to you. Is it about attaining a certain level of wealth? Is it about being the top in your market? Is it about earning respect? Are you looking to rule the world (or at least a niche market), or are you simply hoping to earn a living doing something you love?

Start your day by asking yourself this question and see where your answer takes you. By spending a few minutes pondering this, you’ll gain clarity that will help you steer your career in the direction you want it to go.

2. What is your company’s purpose?

purposeSee if you can answer this question in a single sentence. A good place to start is with your mission statement: what are the formal aims, goals and values of your company or organisation? This should be clear and concise – it should get to the heart of what your business is about.

Your company’s purpose is the foundation that all else is built on. It should have enough flexibility to grow and allow for change, but be specific enough to be meaningful and relevant. Ultimately, this question should help you understand what the heck you’re really doing here.

This question should be at the forefront of your mind when making important decisions. Ask yourself whether this new venture or idea would reinforce or logically contribute to your company’s overall purpose. Are you staying true to your calling?

That’s not to say that your purpose can’t change over time. However, if it does, the change should be purposeful and executed with care. Thinking about this will help you identify your long-term business goals and may lead to bigger questions, such as: What do you want your company to mean to your customers, what is your company’s place in world and what is its ideal market?

3. Where is your business at right now?

The goal with this question is to take both an analytical and emotional assessment of your business. This is a chance for you to take a hard look at where your company sits. Is it on the right track? What seems amiss? What is going right and how can that be reproduced throughout your business?

It’s also important to acknowledge your emotions and to be mindful of how you are feeling about your business. What is your gut instinct saying? Are you feeling anxious or excited about the business? Whether you are having negative emotions or positive ones, it’s important to recognise what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way.

This will give you a chance to better understand your mental state and how that may be influencing your decision making. It’s also about understanding what kind of vibe you are putting out. Are you feeling clear-minded and balanced? Or are you feeling off-kilter and out of sorts?

Being in tune with your emotions and having a clear view of what’s going on with your business will ensure you’re on an even keel. It will help you avoid overreacting or under-reacting to situations.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

4. What lessons are you learning?

Every entrepreneur faces an uphill battle to achieve success. Every day you should be learning and growing, and the best way to do this is through a great deal of reflection on the lessons that present themselves each day.

Ask yourself whether you’re learning from your mistakes. Failure is a part of every entrepreneur’s journey. The question is, will your mistakes allow you to learn and grow? If not, you’re liable to fall into the same pitfalls and missteps. Conversely, are you learning when to jump at an opportunity and when to let it go? This is the ultimate lesson every entrepreneur is trying to learn, and it’s never an easy one.

The next time you’re weighing whether or not to take a risk, try asking yourself: “When I’m 80, will I feel sorry if I hadn’t gone for it?” Jeff Bezos does this as a way to crystallise whether he will regret not taking action on something. In the big picture, it’s often what we fail to do that we see as our biggest mistakes in life.

5. What’s next?

If you ask yourself one question every day, this should be it. As an entrepreneur, you always need to be anticipating what’s next. You need to anticipate what’s coming down the road and formulate a plan to take it on. This is the question that forces you to look up from that pile of work on your desk and think about the big picture and next steps for your business.

What strategies will you need as you keep pushing your business into the future? What trends or shifting interests are coming up that may affect your business? How will new technology impact the way you manage the company?

Disruption will happen in every market because change is inevitable. Businesses that survive see that wave coming and start making adjustments early on. So, in a way, change is predictable because it will always come. Innovation and ingenuity will always be the key to success – and those who seize opportunity will ride the crest of the next wave.

So when you ask yourself “What’s next?” make sure you have your blinders off and are looking at things with a curious and open mind. Make sure you’re staying open to new ideas and embracing creative solutions. Keeping looking for the “wow” factor.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba To Stir You Into Action On Mandela Day

In honour of Mandela Day, here are 5 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspiring quotes.

Casandra Visser

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Prev1 of 5

Bouncing Back

nelson-mandela

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

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