Thursday 22 March 2018

Overcoming adversity to achieve your goals

Life is full of ups and downs. Indeed some people say we need to experience the lows to really appreciate the highs; but what happens if we have trouble bouncing back when something bad happens?

The good news is that we have all we need within ourselves to get our lives back on track!

The recent Paralympics are a great reminder of the resilience we all have within us to overcome most of the problems that life throws our way. They show what we can achieve when we believe in ourselves and refuse to be constrained by other people’s expectations of us.

Often we feel inhibited by what other people think, or what they say about us and our abilities and -let's face it - there always seems to be somebody with a critical eye when we're lacking in confidence. However, there are ways to keep going to achieve your goals. Read our tips below.

Positive mental attitude

Positivity is key when it comes to achieving our goals. We have to believe we can do something – truly trust in ourselves and our own ability – in order for us to accomplish what we set out to. Self-doubt has no place in our psyche. Unfortunately, in times of disappointment or when faced with adversity, the self-doubt can become consuming. When this happens, it’s time to reframe your thinking and focus only on the positives.

Be prepared to try harder

All of our lives we have faced challenges. It starts as a child, at school, when we are asked to try something new or given a new topic to learn. We managed the situation then without thinking about it too deeply, but do you remember how our parents and carers helped us through at the time? By telling us to try harder. They weren’t far wrong. We get used to putting in only the minimum level of effort needed to get us through our adult life. The truth is when we’re faced with adversity we do need to dig a bit deeper.

Let go of things you can’t control

It’s common during difficult times to focus on what’s going wrong and hone in on the negative aspects of our lives, rather than look at the big picture. We lose sight of our goals and get stuck in negative thought patterns which are not helpful. We need to be become aware of the aspects of our lives that we can control and consciously free ourselves from those that we can’t. Worrying about something uses up valuable energy – and this energy should be redirected to take us closer to our goals, rather than pontificating about things we have absolutely no influence over.

Stop being your own worst enemy

Be honest, who is it that is really stopping you from achieving your goals? Chances are you have a big part to play. Self-sabotage is not unusual – it manifests in the excuses we tell ourselves to justify our situation, especially during times of stress. When we break these excuses down – really examine them – we usually find that they are ungrounded and the biggest hurdle we have to overcome to achieve our goals is ourselves. Whatever you tell yourself, often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overcoming adversity is nigh-on impossible until you stop making excuses and start to be your own champion.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Flexible working – making it work

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow (8th March) and the theme of this year’s campaign is to #PledgeforProgress. It’s about joining together in the fight for gender equality at work and supporting the continuing global movement towards gender parity.

The theme of this year’s campaign got us thinking about how much things are changing in the work place for women and how employers can better support people at work.

For a range of reasons, although often parenting related, many people choose to apply for flexible working. Flexible working can help enable people to manage the different demands in their lives. Indeed many women (and men) apply for flexible working when they have childcare needs to consider. It can be difficult to balance the needs of children or dependants with a full-time 9-5 job and this can lead to employees feeling stressed out or 'torn' between different demands on their time and attention. 

When it works well, flexible working can help employees manage their time and the expectations of their employers and this can lead to reduced stress and improved wellbeing. 

And there are multiple direct benefits for employers too. Flexible working has been shown to lead to an increase in staff morale, lower absenteeism and better staff retention rates.

If you're thinking of applying for flexible working, whatever your reasons, here are some tips to consider:

Think about your personality and your working style

Research carried out by First Psychology in 2015 on work-life balance, concluded that not all styles of working suit everyone. Some people find it helpful to be  'contactable' during their time off, while others find it stressful. Make sure you tailor your request around your working style. Don't say in your request that you're happy to check emails on your 'days off' if this stresses you out. The whole point of applying for flexible working is to help you manage your life better.

Do your research

Find out if your company already has a policy for flexible working. If they do, have a look and see what it says. There are lots of different definitions around flexible working, they include different shift patterns, cutting your hours, term-time only working and the option of working from home. Do any of your colleagues work flexibly already? Does it work well? 

Be clear about what you want

Be clear about what you want and the impact it will have on you and your employers. Think about what you want to get out of flexible working, the hours you want to work, how you want to work them, and how the impact on your employer can be minimised. Make sure you are realistic about what you can do and understand how that will affect your take-home pay and your other benefits. Once your request has been accepted it will be more difficult to make changes so think everything through carefully.

Draw up a plan

Once you know what you're asking for, develop a business plan for your employer in support of your request. Demonstrate to your employer that you have thought about the impact your request could have on the business and outline a plan to minimise this. For example, you could outline aspects of your job that could be done better at home with no other distractions around or you could identify peaks and troughs in your workload and tie these in with your working schedule. Your employer has the right to refuse your request if they have a genuine business reason for doing so, it’s up to you to state your case positively.

Bring out the benefits

As we’ve already said, there is lots of research that shows the benefits of flexible working. Build those into your request and help your employer see that approving your request will not only help you, but also foster a more positive, agile work environment for the rest of your colleagues too.

You’ll find the official guidance on applying for flexible working here. You can also find some useful additional information from ACAS here

Friday 2 March 2018

Evaluating your self-worth

Talking up our skills to other people and shouting about our achievements is not very British! As a nation we have a tendency to be understated and reserved. However, it's important that we have a reliable appreciation of what we're capable of so that we have a fair evaluation of our self-worth.

As this article in PsychAlive outlines, the key to appreciating your self-worth lies in not comparing your journey to that of others. It talks about the difference between self-worth and self-esteem and how they’re intrinsically linked. In a work situation, having a realistic view of your own self-worth is key to getting the recognition you deserve.

We all have some sort of measuring stick that we use to determine our value. We feel good when we feel we’re measuring up, but our self-worth can plummet if we feel we’ve fallen short. There are different measures that people use to measure their self-worth at work – and they’re often very different to how we measure ourselves in our personal lives.

The people we mix with

If you’re someone who needs the validation and praise from others to feel successful, your choice of who you associate with can have a big bearing on your own self-worth. Measuring your own self-worth on the basis of other people’s opinions is a risky situation. You can’t control other people and you can’t please everyone all the time. If you base your self-worth entirely upon how others perceive you, you’ll never be able to receive enough praise or positive reinforcement to feel good about yourself.

The title we connect with

Basing your self-worth on the job you do is also a big risk. Have you noticed how some people focus on job titles? Perhaps you're one of them? But just think about it. All it takes is a health problem or unexpected shift in the job market before your self-worth takes a hit. Even a planned retirement or career break, to have a child for example, could wreak havoc on your self-worth if your identity is wholly tied to your job title.

The achievements we’re associated with

Sometimes people want to be known solely for their accomplishments. Conversely, other people can’t stop beating themselves up about the one time they failed or didn’t achieve what they set out to do. It’s normal to want to celebrate and share our accomplishments with colleagues, however, basing our entire self-worth on them is a shaky practice. You’ll need to repeat success in order to feel good about yourself – and that’s hard to maintain.

The Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES), developed by sociologist Dr. Morris Rosenberg is a measure widely used in social-science research. It uses a scale of 0-30 where a score less than 15 may indicate a problematic low self-worth. You can try a free version of it here.

Regardless of your results, the best advice would always be to measure yourself according to who you are, not what you do or your external actions. That’s the only way to ensure consistency and make sure that you stay in control. We like the tips shared in this Psychology Today article to boost self-esteem.