Heavy Lifting

I recently published an article in Forbes titled “How to Cultivate Mental Toughness In Uncertain Times”. I hadn’t put up a blog about it until now because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking about this concept and how it applies all through our lives.

The primary reason I focused on this topic to begin with was that I was hearing from so many friends about how precarious they feel their balancing act is during these weeks of social distancing. People are facing brand-new professional, financial, relationship and parenting challenges—all at once, on a large scale—and it’s taking a toll.

No doubt about it, quarantine has turned many of our lives upside down. I think, however, that we have to be very careful and not forget that in the midst of all this, people are also experiencing hardships that have absolutely nothing to do with this virus, or quarantine. They’re dealing with past traumas, new illnesses, and losses of all kinds.

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So Emotional

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”– Edward Everett Hale

Emotional intelligence—sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or EQ—is the ability to recognize and manage both your own and other’s emotions. Two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, developed the concept in the 1990s, and used it to define and improve communication within marriages.

Over time, it’s become clear how emotional intelligence is critical to maintaining relationships in their various iterations, including those we foster in the business world. The concept is of such interest to employers that it’s being researched extensively to gain a better understanding of its impact on leadership and success. (Data shows EQ is the number one predictor of performance. You can see my Forbes article on that topic here.)

Emotional intelligence is more important than ever right now, because it feels a little bit like we’re living in a world under siege. It’s not just about the threat (and reality) of this specific virus. We’re all operating under new pressures. Millions of people have had to change how they function at work and are trying to juggle personal and professional obligations in a world that’s no longer compartmentalized. Millions more have lost their jobs or businesses entirely because of forced closures. How will they pay their bills?

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Mis(sed) Communication

We all suffer from the preoccupation that there exists… in the loved one, perfection. – Sidney Poitier

I come back to the topic of communication again and again on this blog, because I find its psychology and the role it plays in each of our lives to be fascinating. Communication, or lack thereof, can make or break the most significant relationships in our lives because it’s very easy to get things wrong. To misinterpret. To send or receive things in a way that was never intended.

There are so many interesting facets to communication that I’ve been reading a textbook on it over the last several weeks. (No, I’m not taking a class. Yes, I’m reading it for self-edification. Stop rolling your eyes. I happen to know I can use all the understanding I can get on this particular subject.)

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Life, Interrupted

“Be unprepared, that’s my motto. Let life surprise you.”― Marty Rubin

One of my favorite topics of discussion is communication; it’s benefits and pitfalls, and how it sometimes goes by the wayside when we’re pressed for time or exhausted by the demands of everyday life.

Point in case: this blog. I’ve not posted anything recently because life has gotten in the way, as it tends to do. This month has been full of surprises and insanely busy. It’s also been immeasurably precious, and given the opportunity, I’d spend my hours in exactly the same way a thousand times over.

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Hostage to Negotiation

I’ve spent many hours this month researching the topic of financial negotiation as it applies to women in the workplace. The data is thought-provoking, especially when you consider leadership competency and education. (If you’re interested in seeing why effective negotiation is critical to career success, especially for women, you can see that Forbes article here.)

One main concept I gleaned from this work is that most people (both men and women) express discomfort with the idea of having to negotiate things like a salary or benefits at a new job. In fact, any transaction where finances are involved becomes instantly more stressful when you add a negotiation component into the mix.

Here’s an example: In a highly scientific straw poll I conducted this week, most people said the excitement of purchasing a new car is dampened by the idea that they’ll have to negotiate the price. The effect is two-fold. They (1) hate having to haggle, and (2) always walk away feeling as though they could have done better. After all, if the other party agreed to the current terms, what else might they have agreed to?

You’d think we’d all be experts at this negotiation thing, given that we’re all doing it, all the time, in every aspect of our lives. Oh, sure, we don’t always call it that— we may call it bargaining, compromise, or conflict resolution, but it all amounts to the same thing.

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Rooted In Confidence

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – E.E. Cummings

I published an article earlier this year that discussed the idea that a lack of confidence is limiting women’s career trajectories. In short, women tend to project less confidence in their abilities than their male counterparts (even when they’re highly skilled) and are less likely to take professional risks, call attention to their successes, or ask for raises and promotions.

It occurred to me that a lack of confidence is not something that just appears in adulthood; it begins much earlier. Further research proved the idea-  a recent study finds that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%.

Our daughters’ confidence levels begin to drop when they are just eight years old. Let that sink in.

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An Ounce of Stress Prevention

There’s some really interesting research out there on stress and the physical, emotional and mental toll it takes on us. You’re not the only one feeling it’s effects: up to 90% of doctor’s visits are now for stress-related issues.

As I poured through information on life’s most stressful circumstances, it seemed a large number of them fall into three specific categories, and that’s what I’ve written about this month in Forbes: how to reduce common types of stress and feel better.

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Be Reasonable!

I came to parenting the way most of us do – knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.- Mayim Balik

The teen years. You just start to feel like you’re settling into this parenting thing, and then all the rules change. Overnight, it becomes a balancing act of keeping your kids safe while still allowing them enough independence to learn, grow and become fully-functioning adults.

Sometimes it feels like things are moving a mile a minute, and you wish life would just slow down. But that’s not how it works… for them, or for you. This is when your children get a crash course in the dynamics of relationships, and what it takes to maintain (or destroy) them.

I think that’s why a lot of parents agonize over “dating policies” for their children. For good or ill, we know that the romantic entanglements of youth provide lessons they’ll carry over into adulthood, and we want so desperately to provide the right guidance.

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Fail Safe

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” –Indira Gandhi

I’ve been thinking lately about the nature of failure and forgiveness.

The thing is, I can be selfish.  It’s not intentional, but I have introvert tendencies, and when I get overwhelmed or exhausted, I withdraw my energies… and my powers of observation seem to tank right along with them. (To be honest, they’re pretty weak to begin with.  I’m not very sensitive and tend to miss both verbal and nonverbal cues that other people seem to pick up easily.)

A couple of years ago, I got very sick with a mystery illness that absolutely flattened me for the better part of 6 months. The doctors had all sorts of gloomy predictions for what might be happening, and the stress of dealing with those ideas, along with the endless testing and overall feeling of crappiness led me to pull back on the time I devoted to making sure I stayed connected in my friendships.

I took it one step further, however, and here’s where the selfishness really kicked in: I was so focused on my own issues that I failed to see that someone I loved dearly was really struggling- and what she was going through brought a much deeper pain than any physical issue I was having. Wrapped up in my own problems, I was totally oblivious…until one day, my fog suddenly lifted, and I thought… “Wait. We haven’t really talked about anything of consequence in months. And that’s not normal.”

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Just A Note

“It went on, this lifetime in a box, one letter after another.” ― Nicholas Sparks

Imagine your house was burning, and you had only a few minutes to save the things you felt were irreplaceable. Assume people and pets were already safe, and you could only save what you could carry in one trip. What would you choose?

When I ask people this question, their responses tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Important documents
  2. Letters and/or photos
  3. Heirlooms

That “important document thing” is the most practical answer; when I ask someone to define “important documents”, they’ll list things like social security cards, birth certificates, title documents, and the like. It does make perfect sense to try to save certain paperwork for record-keeping or legal purposes, so kudos to you people who think with your heads.

Also, you’re in the minority.

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