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By Nicholas Petrie   March 16, 2017  ~ Harvard Business Review

 

Nicholas Petrie is a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership and the lead researcher and creator of its Change Equation, which shows leaders how to change in ways that minimize stress and maximize results. He works with CEOs and their teams to create resilience strategies for organization.

When I was in my late twenties, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Doctors operated and told me to hope for the best. I returned to Japan, where I was working, and tried to forget about it. The tumors returned a year later, this time in my liver. After a long search, the surgeons found a new procedure to remove them, but I knew this was, again, perhaps only a temporary fix. I was a mess for the next six months. The hardest part of my illness was my constant anxiety about it coming back.

Then I met a man who changed my outlook. Dr. Derek Roger had spent 30 years researching why some people in difficult situations become overwhelmed, while others persevere. He taught me everything he’d learned, and as I started applying it, my anxiety subsided, even though my situation didn’t change. In fact, the cancer came back about five years ago and remains relatively stable in my liver. But I no longer worry about it. Derek became my mentor, and over the past 10 years we have trained thousands of leaders to overcome their stress.

The process starts with understanding that stress is caused not by other people or external events, but by your reactions to them. In the workplace, many people blame their high anxiety levels on a boss, job, deadlines, or competing commitments for their time. But peers who face the same challenges do so without stress. Derek and I often meet executives who have high levels of pressure but low levels of stress, and vice versa.

Pressure is not stress. But the former is converted to the latter when you add one ingredient: rumination, the tendency to keep rethinking past or future events, while attaching negative emotion to those thoughts. Of course, leaders must practice reflection — planning for the future or reviewing past lessons — but this is an analytical, short-term process, with positive fallout. Rumination is ongoing and destructive, diminishing your health, productivity, and well-being. Chronic worriers show increased incidence of coronary problems and suppressed immune functioning. Dwelling on the past or the future also takes us away from the present, rendering us unable to complete the work currently on our plates. If you ask ruminators how they are feeling, none will say “happy.” Most feel miserable.

To break this stress-inducing habit, Derek and I recommend four steps:

Wake up. People spend most of their day in a state called “waking sleep.” This is when you pull into the office parking lot but can’t remember the drive there, or when someone in a meeting asks for your opinion but you’ve missed the last few minutes of conversation. Since all rumination happens during this state, the first step is to break out of it. You can do this physically: Stand or sit up, clap your hands, and move your body. Or you can do it mentally: Connect with your senses by noticing what you can hear, see, smell, taste, and feel. The idea is to reconnect with the world.

 Control your attention. When you ruminate, your attention gets caught in an unproductive loop, like a hamster on a wheel. You need to redirect yourself to areas in which you can take useful action. Here’s one exercise we encourage executives to use: Draw a circle on a page, and write down all of the things you can control or influence inside of it and all of the things you cannot outside of it. Remind yourself that you can care about externalities — your work, your team, your family — without worrying about them.

Put things in perspective. Ruminators tend to catastrophize, but resilient leaders keep things in perspective for themselves and their teams. We tell people to try three techniques: contrasting (comparing a past stress to the current one, i.e., a major illness versus a missed sale), questioning (asking yourself “How much will this matter in three years’ time?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “How would I survive it?”) and reframing (looking at your challenge from a new angle: “What’s an opportunity in this situation I haven’t yet seen?” or even “What’s funny about this situation?”)

Let go. The final step is often the hardest. If it was easy to let it go, we would have done it already. We find that three techniques help. The first is acceptance: Acknowledge that whether you like the situation or not, it is the way it is. The second is learning the lesson. Your brain will review events until it feels you’ve gained something from them, so ask yourself, “What have I learned from this experience?” The third is action. Sometimes the real solution is not to relax, but to do something about your situation. Ask yourself, “What action is required here?

While struggling with cancer, it took me a couple of years to train myself to follow these steps. But ultimately it worked. My stress levels went down, my health improved, and my career took off. More heartening, I discovered that everything Derek had taught me could be taught to others, with similar results.

https://hbr.org/2017/03/pressure-doesnt-have-to-turn-into-stress

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I love to share life-enhancing quotes, here are two to think about

Irritation is something you do to yourself.

Your energy introduces you before you say a word.

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The next time you find yourself fretting about people judging you in ways big or small, remember others are way too busy or are self-involved to focus on you.

“You’ll worry less about what people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”

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The brain is on high alert when we think sleep-depriving stressful thoughts or habitually worry as soon as we turn out the light.  Night time is the worst time to sort out your life.  We only sleep when we are relaxed and in the parasympathetic calming system.  The cognitive shuffle is a technique where we think of mindless words from the alphabet that have NO emotional or meaningful connection.  The brain becomes tired and we fall asleep.

Cognitive Shuffle – Good Night, Toast – Oprah Mag By Kelly DiNardo – Oprah May 2017

 

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Lessons on Aging Well, From a 105-Year-Old Cyclist

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS FEB. 8, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/well/move/lessons-on-aging-well-from-a-105-year-old-cyclist.html?_r=0

Robert Marchand, age 105, in Paris on Jan. 5, 2017, a day after setting a new one-hour cycling record. Credit Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse

At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.

The study, which appeared in December in The Journal of Applied Physiology, may help to rewrite scientific expectations of how our bodies age and what is possible for any of us athletically, no matter how old we are.

Many people first heard of Mr. Marchand last month, when he set a world record in one-hour cycling, an event in which someone rides as many miles as possible on an indoor track in 60 minutes.

Mr. Marchand pedaled more than 14 miles, setting a global benchmark for cyclists age 105 and older. That classification had to be created specifically to accommodate him. No one his age previously had attempted the record.

Mr. Marchand, who was born in 1911, already owned the one-hour record for riders age 100 and older, which he had set in 2012.

It was as he prepared for that ride that he came to the attention of Veronique Billat, a professor of exercise science at the University of Evry-Val d’Essonne in France. At her lab, Dr. Billat and her colleagues study and train many professional and recreational athletes.

She was particularly interested in Mr. Marchand’s workout program and whether altering it might augment his endurance and increase his speed.

Conventional wisdom in exercise science suggests that it is very difficult to significantly add to aerobic fitness after middle age. In general, VO2 max, a measure of how well our bodies can use oxygen and the most widely accepted scientific indicator of fitness, begins to decline after about age 50, even if we frequently exercise.

But Dr. Billat had found that if older athletes exercised intensely, they could increase their VO2 max. She had never tested this method on a centenarian, however.

But Mr. Marchand was amenable. A diminutive 5 feet in height and weighing about 115 pounds, he said he had not exercised regularly during most of his working life as a truck driver, gardener, firefighter and lumberjack. But since his retirement, he had begun cycling most days of the week, either on an indoor trainer or the roads near his home in suburban Paris.

Almost all of this mileage was completed at a relatively leisurely pace.

Dr. Billat upended that routine. But first, she and her colleagues brought Mr. Marchand into the university’s human performance lab.

They tested his VO2 max, heart rate and other aspects of cardiorespiratory fitness. All were healthy and well above average for someone of his age. He also required no medications.

He then went out and set the one-hour world record for people 100 years and older, covering about 14 miles.

Afterward, Dr. Billat had him begin a new training regimen. Under this program, about 80 percent of his weekly workouts were performed at an easy intensity, the equivalent of a 12 or less on a scale of 1 to 20, with 20 being almost unbearably strenuous according to Mr. Marchand’s judgment. He did not use a heart rate monitor.

The other 20 percent of his workouts were performed at a difficult intensity of 15 or above on the same scale. For these, he was instructed to increase his pedaling frequency to between 70 and 90 revolutions per minute, compared to about 60 r.p.m. during the easy rides. (A cycling computer supplied this information.) The rides rarely lasted more than an hour.

Mr. Marchand followed this program for two years. Then he attempted to best his own one-hour track world record.

First, however, Dr. Billat and her colleagues remeasured all of the physiological markers they had tested two years before.

Mr. Marchand’s VO2 max was now about 13 percent higher than it had been before, she found, and comparable to the aerobic capacity of a healthy, average 50-year-old. He also had added to his pedaling power, increasing that measure by nearly 40 percent.

Unsurprisingly, his cycling performance subsequently also improved considerably. During his ensuing world record attempt, he pedaled for almost 17 miles, about three miles farther than he had covered during his first, record-setting ride.

He was 103 years old.

These data strongly suggest that “we can improve VO2 max and performance at every age,” Dr. Billat says.

There are caveats, though. Mr. Marchand may be sui generis, with some lucky constellation of genes that have allowed him to live past 100 without debilities and to respond to training as robustly he does.

So his anecdotal success cannot tell us whether an 80/20 mix of easy and intense workouts is necessarily ideal or even advisable for the rest of us as we age. (Please consult your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise routine.)

Lifestyle may also matter. Mr. Marchand is “very optimistic and sociable,” Dr. Billat says, “with many friends,” and numerous studies suggest that strong social ties are linked to a longer life. His diet is also simple, focusing on yogurt, soup, cheese, chicken and a glass of red wine at dinner.

But for those of us who hope to age well, his example is inspiring and, Dr. Billat says, still incomplete. Disappointed with last month’s record-setting ride, he believes that he can improve his mileage, she says, and may try again, perhaps when he is 106.

A version of this article appears in print on February 14, 2017, on Page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Lessons From a 105-Year-Old.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/well/move/lessons-on-aging-well-from-a-105-year-old-cyclist.html?_r=0

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Taking the easy way, just won’t cut it…. so doing crossword puzzles is the not the route to longevity. The key to Superaging is to exert effort mentally and physically, push and challenge yourself.

How to Become a ‘Superager’

Gray Matter By LISA FELDMAN BARRETT DEC. 31, 2016

Think about the people in your life who are 65 or older. Some of them are experiencing the usual mental difficulties of old age, like forgetfulness or a dwindling attention span. Yet others somehow manage to remain mentally sharp. My father-in-law, a retired doctor, is 83 and he still edits books and runs several medical websites.

Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. My colleagues and I at Massachusetts General Hospital recently studied superagers to understand what made them tick.

Our lab used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan and compare the brains of 17 superagers with those of other people of similar age. We succeeded in identifying a set of brain regions that distinguished the two groups. These regions were thinner for regular agers, a result of age-related atrophy, but in superagers they were indistinguishable from those of young adults, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time.

What are these crucial brain regions? If you asked most scientists to guess, they might nominate regions that are thought of as “cognitive” or dedicated to thinking, such as the lateral prefrontal cortex. However, that’s not what we found. Nearly all the action was in “emotional” regions, such as the midcingulate cortex and the anterior insula.

My lab was not surprised by this discovery, because we’ve seen modern neuroscience debunk the notion that there is a distinction between “cognitive” and “emotional” brain regions.

This distinction emerged in the 1940s, when a doctor named Paul MacLean devised a model of the human brain with three layers. An ancient inner layer, inherited from reptiles, was presumed to contain circuits for basic survival. The middle layer, the “limbic system,” supposedly contained emotion circuitry inherited from mammals. And the outermost layer was said to house rational thinking that is uniquely human. Dr. MacLean called this model “the triune brain.”

The triune brain became (and remains) popular in the media, the business world and certain scientific circles. But experts in brain evolution discredited it decades ago. The human brain didn’t evolve like a piece of sedimentary rock, with layers of increasing cognitive sophistication slowly accruing over time. Rather (in the words of the neuroscientist Georg Striedter), brains evolve like companies do: they reorganize as they expand. Brain areas that Dr. MacLean considered emotional, such as the regions of the “limbic system,” are now known to be major hubs for general communication throughout the brain. They’re important for many functions besides emotion, such as language, stress, regulation of internal organs, and even the coordination of the five senses into a cohesive experience.

And now, our research demonstrates that these major hub regions play a meaningful role in superaging. The thicker these regions of cortex are, the better a person’s performance on tests of memory and attention, such as memorizing a list of nouns and recalling it 20 minutes later.

Of course, the big question is: How do you become a Superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort. My father-in-law, for example, swims every day and plays tournament bridge.

The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment. The Marine Corps has a motto that embodies this principle: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That is, the discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline. Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.

This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.

In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

So, make a New Year’s resolution to take up a challenging activity. Learn a foreign language. Take an online college course. Master a musical instrument. Work that brain. Make it a year to remember.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/31/opinion/sunday/how-to-become-a-superager.html

 

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You don’t have to believe your negative thoughts!

Nope.

You don’t actually have to believe your thoughts. It’s as simple as that. Sort of. No, it is, but let me explain.

Your mind would like you to believe that all of your thoughts are correct. One of the ways it does this is by having you think that you and it are one. The truth is your mind is just one part of you; it isn’t you.

Being able to separate your thoughts from your sense of self is one of the most useful things you can do. Try this: think of yourself as being made up of four parts.

  1. Mind
  2. Physical body
  3. Heart
  4. Spiritual aspect

This means: You. Are. Not Your. Mind. Your mind is just a tool for you to use.

All of your thoughts and perceptions are filtered through your unique belief system, and it’s this filter that causes negative thoughts. The negativity is in the filter.

When you try to “heal” and “grow,” what you’re trying to do is change the filter; you’re trying to change your belief system. You are the bit underneath your thoughts, and you will never change. You can’t—nor would you want to. You’re perfect.

You don’t have to analyze your nasty critical thoughts or worry about them. They’re just thoughts. If you really want to have fewer of them, stop listening to them.

Feeling solidly peaceful and contented occurs when your mind is quiet, or in the moments, no matter how small, when you remember that you don’t have to believe your thoughts.

Or, as I like to say, ”I don’t feel bad; my mind does!”

One thing I find helpful for dealing with a long held critical belief is to treat it like a game.

I think to myself, what if I didn’t believe this, even for a few seconds? The result is always strangely exhilarating. I can actually feel what it’s like to not believe it. (And sometimes it does only last for a few seconds!)

http://tinybuddha.com

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