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time to reflect and enrich your whole life

Erin Landells
Monday, December 21, 2015

Are you exhausted as you approach the Christmas break? Hopefully it won’t be long until you are able to relax and enjoy time with family and friends.

I always find that holidays are a great time to gain some perspective on your life. How many times have you found that you start to question whether you want to return to your job, or return to work at all?! Have you found yourself thinking about what else you could do, or even looking at courses that might send you in a new direction?

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. There is a usually a peak in job-seeking activity in January and February.

But is the grass always greener? Sometimes big changes will not bring the happiness we are seeking. Small changes might be the way to go.

You may already know that I’m a big fan of small changes. Back in September, I wrote a blog about ‘small changes to lead a big life’.
In my last blog, I wrote about ‘job crafting’ as a way of increasing your engagement at work.

In this week’s blog, I provide a link to an article that might help you work out some small changes you could make to enrich your overall life.

You’re probably not ready to start planning today – but have a read now and in a week or two, you’ll find yourself looking for this article!

Stewart Friedman, a Professor at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, has developed the Total Leadership Process.

Don’t let the title of ‘Leadership’ put you off - the Total Leadership Process is a fantastic way of working out and trialling changes that will enrich and integrate your life across four key areas of work, home, community and the self.

Professor Friedman briefly summarised this approach in a great article in the Harvard Business Review back in 2008. The article encourages you to consider what you value most and how satisfied you are with four domains of your life.

Your task is then to brainstorm possibilities of how to improve your satisfaction within these domains.

Then, you look at which of these ideas tick the boxes across all four domains and which would give you the most benefit.

And next, you trial small experiments to see what works. And you determine measures to see if they’re making a difference.

Professor Friedman provides a couple of examples that are really helpful.

I love the idea of thinking of a large number of small changes, then working out which change will make the most difference in all areas of your life – and then trialling it through small experiments.

Here’s the link! You may need to register (for free) to access the article.

I’d love to hear what you think of it!

The Find my niche book may also help you work out what you are passionate about, what energises you, and will assist you to reflect on your personal strengths. I also have a list of great books that might help on my website.

So, make a plan to live your best life where you are right now.

And have a wonderful Christmas! I hope Find my niche has enriched your year!

Warm regards,

Erin

would you like to be six times more engaged at work?

Erin Landells
Tuesday, December 01, 2015

I love to help people be engaged in and inspired by their work—in fact, that is why I started Find my niche!

Engagement has been described as putting our real selves into work (Kahn, 2010). Engagement is when we deeply care about what we are doing and are committed to doing the best we can. When we are engaged, we express our real selves, rather than defend or withdraw them from view.

So, what are the secrets to being engaged at work?

Organisations and researchers all over the world are interested in understanding what leads to higher engagement at work, and the most effective ways to increase engagement.

I have been completing my PhD for six years under the supervision of Dr Simon Albrecht, a world-renowned expert in employee engagement, Editor of the Handbook of Employee Engagement, and a Senior Lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne. Together, he and I are conducting research to find out how organisational politics affects our engagement at work—but I’ll tell you more about that later.

For now, what are some of the key things that are associated with higher engagement at work?

According to research (Mauno, Kinnunen & Ruokolainen, 2007), a strong predictor of work engagement (characterised by energy, absorption and dedication) is whether you feel you matter to the organisation as well as whether you have control over how you do your work and the pace at which you do it. This may fit with your own observations that when people are marginalised, given ‘nothing work’ and not included in organisational activities, their engagement plummets.

Other research (May, Gilson & Harter, 2004) found that people who find their work personally meaningful have the highest engagement. That makes intuitive sense, doesn’t it? Another finding that fits with many people’s experience is that people who reported a supportive relationship with their supervisor were more likely to be engaged. May, Gilson and Harter also found that people who felt a strong fit with their role experienced higher work engagement. And if their role provided significant challenge in terms of feedback, autonomy and skill variety, they were also more likely to be engaged.

Other research (Halbesleben, 2010) suggests that optimism, social support and self-efficacy are strongly related to high engagement at work. So people who are highly optimistic and expect the best, people with strong social support, and people with a strong belief in their ability to succeed or complete tasks are more likely to be engaged. Makes sense.

Other research by Gallup Inc (Clifton & Harter, 2013) suggests that our opportunities to use our strengths at work are strongly related to high employee engagement. Subsequent research by Gallup Inc suggests that people who have the opportunity to use their strengths every day at work are six times more likely to be engaged at work, and are also three times more likely to report a better overall quality of life.

So what does this mean for you?

Clearly, some of these factors are easier to affect than others. For example, we could potentially change our feeling of whether we matter to the organisation. However, is it possible to change our innate sense of optimism?

I like the idea of focusing on the things we can change, and not worrying about the things we can’t change.

So in the world of work engagement, we talk about the practice of ‘job crafting’. That is, actively looking for opportunities to shape your work to fit your personality and interests. You may wonder how on earth you might do that.

Here a couple of examples to get you thinking.

In my previous role, the type of work that gave me most energy was facilitating workshops for my colleagues at the Australian Crime Commission. So I looked for ways to add value to the agency through opportunities to facilitate workshops. This was a key part of my role so I wasn’t looking to do work that was not within the scope of my role, but my projects could potentially involve a wide range of work, so it made sense to ensure I incorporated some of this energising work into my role.

A client of mine found that one of her strengths was building and enjoying close relationships (‘Relator’ in StrengthsFinder speak). She was feeling quite disengaged and found that she wasn’t enjoying any close relationships at work—so she set about making a couple of relationships to enhance her engagement at work (and it worked – you may remember that social support is also strongly related to engagement). StrengthsFinder is a great tool for helping you understand what energises you!

You may be feeling like you can’t make any decisions without someone having to check everything. How can you increase your autonomy at work? I have found a decision tree helpful with members of my team where we talk about the types of decisions that can be made with no consultation or communication (leaf decision), communicating decisions after they’re made (branch decision), checking in for approval before decisions are made (trunk decision) and decisions that require extensive consultation (root decision). It is a great way to increase your sense of autonomy in your role.

People that find their work personally meaningful are also more likely to be engaged. Professor Adam Grant has done some great work in this area (his book Give and Take is one of my favourites). He talks of a number of studies that have shown how to increase meaningfulness at work. For example, research shows that radiologists who receive a photo of the patient along with the CT scan perform significantly better diagnoses. Bankers who watched videos of clients who felt massive relief because of low-interest loans realised the important impact of their work. From my work at the Australian Crime Commission, people were engaged with the agency because they felt they made a difference—and communication about successful results buoyed people up and provided meaningfulness to their roles.

How could you ‘craft’ your role so that you are six times more engaged? How could you make your role more personally meaningful? Could you use your strengths more at work? How could you increase your social support?

 
What are some ways in which you could increase your engagement at work? I’d love to hear what you come up with!

 
Now, I promised I’d tell you more about my research. I am interested in understanding whether both positive and negative organisational politics exist – and whether they are related to things like engagement, innovation and collaboration. If you have 25 minutes and you work in an organisation of 15 or more people, I would GREATLY appreciate if you would take the time to complete my survey!! I need 300 responses so would appreciate your help! Here is the link.

 

does Anh Do naturally have more courage than the rest of us?

Erin Landells
Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing Anh Do perform his live show ‘The Happiest Refugee’.

If you’re familiar with my recommended books or my Find my Niche book, you may already know that I’m a huge fan of Anh Do.

Seeing him perform live has only increased my admiration for him.

His show was both hilarious and moving. Anh definitely wears his heart on his sleeve!

As a three-year old child, Anh fled Vietnam during the war with his family and lived in a refugee camp in Malaysia for three months before seeking refuge in Australia (although his parents mistakenly thought they were coming to Austria, but that’s another story). His childhood was challenging with an alcoholic father who abandoned the family and his mother working incredibly hard to provide for her three children.

Fast forward a few years and Anh completed his university studies as a lawyer, but in the year of his graduation, he decided to pursue a career as a comedian instead.

Anh is an incredibly successful comedian as well as a published author of his award-winning autobiography and numerous children’s books. He is also an artist with his portrait of his father chosen as a finalist for the Archibald Prize. As an actor, Anh has appeared in numerous television shows as well as hosting his own television series. Anh also announced that Russell Crowe is going to be involved in producing a movie of Anh’s story.

Anh’s story is inspirational and motivational. His family clearly provides so much motivation for him. He spoke of his motivation to earn money from his career in order to buy his mum a house. He also spoke of his motivation to win a comedy competition to pay for his sister’s braces. He also shared his pride in his younger brother, Khoa Do, who was the 2005 Young Australian of the Year and is now a movie producer. His father, who he was estranged from for many years, continues to inspire him. He often recalls his father’s advice to ‘give it a crack and see what happens’. Anh has ‘given it a crack’ in so many different areas and his courage is an inspiration.

Anh’s show made me think ‘does Anh Do naturally have more courage than the rest of us?’ It certainly takes great courage to be a stand-up comedian. It takes a lot of courage to abandon a more traditional career path as a lawyer to pursue a career as a comedian. It takes great courage to become an artist and display your artwork when you’re already an established comedian. It takes great courage to write your own autobiography.

Or does it? Does Anh just ‘give it a crack and see what happens’. Does he just take action and see where it leads him?

I think we could all benefit from this type of thinking—are there times where you can take Anh’s father’s advice and ‘give it a crack and see what happens’? How could this help you pursue your dreams?

what is your joy? Local Food Loop

Erin Landells
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Yesterday I met with the inspirational Patrick O'Callaghan from Deliberate Impact Consulting and Local Food Loop.

He is doing amazing things with Local Food Loop. It's a free app and Facebook page that showcases producers and retailers who grow and support local produce. (Well worth a look and a download!)

All of Patrick's work is about making a difference. Making a difference to business and the environment through Deliberate Impact Consulting, through which he has been consulting to non-profit and government organisations for many years.

Making a difference to individuals and communities through Local Food Loop as well as Nosh Planet.

I wanted to find out about Patrick's work as I am passionate about supporting local business, good food choices, the impact food has on our minds and bodies, as well as the significant changes in modern foods. I love that “Local Food Loop helps to strengthen the connections between real people and real food.”

However, meeting with Patrick made me think so much about finding my niche—and making a living doing the work you love—that I wanted to share it with you!

Patrick has worked as a consultant for many years. Prior to that, he worked for Parks Victoria, Vancouver Aquarium, the Marine Discovery Centre at Queenscliff, and as a teacher. He is passionate about sustainability and has been actively involved in sustainable seafood campaigns in Australia, the US and Canada. His latest projects focus on local produce and sustainable produce—and making a difference! His consulting work aligns with his passion for local projects and sustainability.

My meeting with Patrick made me think of so many things!
1) How what gives us joy is apparent in our choices to date—if we take the time to look
2) About defining our contribution - what difference do we want to make?
3) How starting small can lead to something big
4) About making a start and then learning as you go along
5) About pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone
6) About the importance of word-of-mouth in business
7) About giving ourselves space and time to invest in our 'passion projects'
8) Of having an abundance mindset  – there is enough for everyone and let’s be generous!
9) About the impact our food choices have on our lives and the environment
10) And why I love a strengths-based approach so much!

What does this mean for you?

Patrick's story is a great reminder to reflect on your own career and purpose.

• What gives you joy?
• Who are you inspired by?
• What do your career and study choices to date say about you and what you love to do?
• Can you see any patterns or themes?
• What would you do to make a living if you could do anything you wanted?
• How are you going to make a difference? (What is your contribution?)
• And, are you working to your strengths?

If you have time to reflect on these questions, I’d love to hear about who inspires you. I love to share inspirational stories of people who are making a living doing the work they love—so keep the ideas coming!

Erin Landells is a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the author of Find my niche, available through our online shop as well as online bookstores including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Booktopia and as an ebook through Itunes

is intuition our unrecognised strength?

Erin Landells
Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about intuition. Intuition has been described as ‘gut feelings’ or ‘hunches’. I like the definition of intuition as ‘the knowledge from within’. It has also been described more scientifically as ‘the brain’s ability to pick up on certain recurring patterns’, and this happens at a sub-conscious level BEFORE our conscious brain is aware of it.

Intuition has been shown to help people make amazing decisions, including beating cancer against all odds, and helping race car drivers narrowly avoid car crashes.

It’s been a very interesting year for me, and I’ve been learning to listen more to my own intuition.

I’ve been learning to turn down the sounds of the world and turn up my internal feelings.

I believe life teaches us to ignore our intuition. To keep taking action. The pace of life prevents us from listening to our gut feelings. If you’re not feeling well, go to work anyway. If you’re feeling low on energy, have another coffee. Anything to keep moving and ignore how we really feel.

Some people talk about stepping out of the rat race of life, or off the hamster wheel. I think the hamster wheel is quite a good analogy. The hamster wheel captures that need to keep taking action and keep running—that feeling that we have no choice.

Except that we do have a choice.

We have a choice to listen to our intuition. To turn up the messages that come from inside us.

And I believe this is a key to finding our niche and living a more engaged and meaningful life.

Listening to our intuition is about tuning out the messages of the world around us, and tuning in to our true selves.

In my book, Find my niche, I encourage a lot of self-reflection. I encourage people to think about who inspires them—and then to reflect on that and see if there are any themes. I encourage people to develop a better understanding of their strengths and to examine the alignment between their work and their strengths. I encourage people to imagine their 100th birthday party and think about what they want people to say about them. All of these activities are designed to support people to take some time out and uncover their innermost desires.

Is it easy thinking? Probably not. But it’s important thinking that may take time.

In a recent post, I also spoke about the importance of working out your most important values as a way of shaping and guiding your life. This activity is also about slowing down and listening to our heart’s desires. And then honouring these values in the way you live your life.

All of these activities are designed to assist you to listen to your intuition, and to turn up your inner voice.

What do you think? Is intuition our unrecognised strength? How has intuition helped you make important or surprising decisions?

small changes to lead a big life

Erin Landells
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How many of us hope for a big change to dramatically alter our lives? We buy a tattslotto ticket in the hope of suddenly doing something drastically different. Tree-changers move to the country with the dream of suddenly living a better life. Sea-changers move to the beach to change the pace of their life. People move to sunny Queensland where a change of weather and pace of life is hoped to enable them to feel more fulfilled and content. Or we hold out hope for retirement where we will finally have the opportunity to realise all of our dreams.

You might guess that I believe there is a better way than these kind of large-scale changes.

We all have an opportunity to change our lives where we are, right now.

And I believe in small changes as a way of realising our dreams, or at least trialling them!

Many of us have dreams of doing something different—of studying, of starting a business, of changing careers, of living a simpler life, of living a quieter life, of writing a book, of building a house, of sailing around the world, or travelling in your own country, or [insert your own dream here]. I truly believe that taking action and making a start on these dreams will lead to a much greater sense of fulfilment.

I might be making this sound easy—but it is not as easy as it seems.

Making a decision to reach for your dreams and go against the status quo is challenging.

You might decide to work three days each week instead of five to give yourself time to pursue your dreams—a decision likely to raise some eyebrows.

You might pour your heart and soul into writing a book—and then really put yourself out there by self-publishing it, or submitting the manuscript to publishing houses and receiving the likely rejections.

You might start a blog and expose your most personal thoughts and feelings. What if people don’t like what you have to say? What if no-one cares?

You might take 12 months leave (or quit altogether) from your safe, secure job to travel the world to research, or to pursue your dreams. Check out the Facebook community which was started recently by a good friend of mine who has given up her job at the zoo to pursue ‘A Good Life In The City’.

You might decide to start a home-based business. Starting small might give you an opportunity to work out whether you are truly passionate about it—and whether it could be successful.

You might decide to be a stay-at-home dad to your young children.

You might decide to be a stay-at-home mum until your children are school age, or even (shock, horror!) secondary school age.

Stepping out of the traditional model of working Monday to Friday, 9-5 (or likely more!) takes courage, but it also enables you to live a life without regrets. (Bronnie Ware's blog post from 2009 about The Top Five Regrets of the Dying is still incredibly popular).

So, how do you work out what you most want to do?

The most important thing is to take time for reflection. If your first reaction is ‘I don’t have any time!’, how can you make time? Can you take a day of annual leave? Can you watch less tv? I highly recommend finding space away from your home or place of work to think through what you truly want to do—and what you will most regret not doing. And work out how you can start small, where you are right now.

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of values in helping shape your life. I highly recommend taking the time to think about your values. Work out what is most important to you, and then shape your life around that.

The Find my niche book may also help you work out what you are passionate about, what energises you, and will assist you to reflect on your personal strengths. I also have a list of great books that might help on my website.

Once you start looking, you will likely find plenty of people who have done something similar to you—and who are only too happy to share their experiences of how they made it work.

 
So, make a plan to live your best life where you are right now.

how to avoid a mid-life crisis (and how minimalism can help)

Erin Landells
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Minimalism is about paring back your possessions to meaningful, essential things. It's about obtaining and retaining things that give you joy and enhance your life. It is about being intentional about everything you own or purchase - and freeing up time and money to do the most important things. (One of my favourite blogs is Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker).

Minimalism encourages you to determine what you value most and to devote energy to it. You have choices. You can go against the status quo.

And this is precisely how minimalism can help you avoid a mid-life crisis. I’m talking about the mid-life crisis where you begin to wonder: ‘Is this all there is to life?’ ‘What am I doing with my life?’, ‘What is the point of my job?’, ‘Am I making a real difference?’, “What do I have to show for my life of hard work?’

The jury is still out on whether a mid-life crisis is real, avoidable or unavoidable*. However, you can see your ‘mid-life’ as an opportunity for growth and reinvention, or as a time of reflection on your unmet goals and expectations.**

So, let’s take a positive approach and look at it as an opportunity for growth—and let’s see how minimalism can assist with the growth process.

Minimalism encourages you to forget about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. It is about looking inward and shining a light on your own values. Your personal values highlight what is truly important to you. Do you most value Love? Family? Independence? Achievement? Recognition? Loyalty? Travel? Adventure? Passion? Spirituality? Religion? Wealth? Altruism? Knowledge? Health?

Defining your values is the first step. Then examining the match (or mismatch!) between your values and your life is the second step. Finally, the third step involves intentionally living your life so that your day-to-day life and long-term direction reflect your values. Not living your values is a sure path to unhappiness (and the dreaded mid-life crisis).

Have you ever taken the time to think through your personal values? A ranked list of personal values gives you a sense of control over your life and helps you make choices. Limiting the list to your top five or six values ensures you have focused on what is most important to you.

Minimalism highlights that every action is a choice. A choice about what is most important. A choice that reflects your values. Yes, a promotion may come with more money and more status. It may also come with more hours in the office, and potentially more travel. Which would mean less time at home with your family. And less time to devote to your hobbies and social activities. How does that choice align with your values? Yes, that shiny new car may look fabulous for a short time and you may be the envy of all your friends—but is the extra money (and therefore work) worth the temporary bling and status? (Your values will determine whether the answer is yes or no!)

Your personal values can also assist you to determine what you want from your career. Do you highly value Creativity? Does your work give you an opportunity to exercise your creativity? What other creative outlets do you have?

Do you highly value Recognition and Acknowledgment from others? How does this influence your career choices? What about Autonomy? Achievement? Family? Relationships? Competence? How do each of these values influence your career choices? How do your values align with your current work?

Your values will also help determine which work you will find most meaningful. Dr Simon Albrecht, an internationally renowned expert on employee engagement***, defines meaningful work as when “people feel they make a positive, important, and useful contribution to a worthwhile purpose through their work”. What does ‘useful' look like to you? What does ‘worthwhile’ look like to you? This will differ according to your values.

So, take the plunge now. Make a list of your top 5 values—and then see how they are aligned with your life now—and what it might look like in the future. Many of us wait until retirement to do that which we value most. Work out what is most important to you—and make sure your life reflects that now!


Erin Landells is a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the author of Find my niche, available through our online shop as well as online bookstores including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Booktopia and as an ebook through Itunes.

 

*Evidence for a mid-life crisis is mixed—but there is significant evidence that it is a real phenomenon

**Evidence that we can take a growth and reinvention approach, or a regret and remorse approach: http://www.idealessaywriters.com/essay/what-is-midlife-crisis-and-who-is-affected-by-it-more-men-or-women/ 

*** Dr Simon Albrecht, Handbook of Employee Engagement: http://www.elgaronline.com/view/9781848448216.xml

what is your contribution?

Erin Landells
Tuesday, September 08, 2015

At find my niche, we believe work should be energising and meaningful. Dr Simon Albrecht*, an internationally renowned expert on employee engagement, defines meaningful work as when “people feel they make a positive, important, and useful contribution to a worthwhile purpose through their work”.

Being connected to a worthwhile purpose is a critical element of being engaged at work. I recall participating in numerous workshops at Zoos Victoria (many years ago) discussing our core purpose, our vision, and our mission. Zoos Victoria’s mission is to “galvanise communities to commit to the conservation of wildlife and wild places”. Zoos Victoria’s vision is to be the world’s leading zoo-based conservation organisation. As part of that vision, Zoos Victoria is committed to fighting extinction locally and globally. If you visit Zoos Victoria, that purpose is clear throughout the presentations, interactions and signage. I think it is no coincidence that so many people dream of working at Zoos Victoria. People want to work somewhere that makes a difference—somewhere that has meaning.

When I worked at the Australian Crime Commission, again there was much discussion about the core purpose of our work. The ACC’s mission is to “reduce the impact of serious and organised crime on Australia and the Australian economy.” People work at the ACC because they are passionate about that purpose and they feel they personally contribute to the mission.

SEEK is a thriving Australian business that has a compelling purpose: to help people live more fulfilling and productive working lives and help organisations succeed. I really like that (and it reminds me of my personal purpose). I also really connect with their promotional campaign with the motto of ‘make it count’.

What does the organizational purpose mean for us as individuals? We stay with an organisation because we see how our work is connected to a bigger purpose. We feel we are making a difference. And effective CEOs share good news stories with their staff that demonstrate how this purpose is being achieved. They also talk about how the work of teams contributed to these achievements.

Many of us spend hours helping to articulate the mission of our organisations. But how much time do we spend thinking about our personal mission? Our personal contribution?

Perhaps the closest we come is when we prepare our resumé (or when we have a mid-life crisis!). You may have a ‘Career Objective’ at the top of your resume. Mine used to read: “To influence strategic direction and foster the development of a learning organisation that attracts, retains and develops talented people, whilst increasing individual and organisational effectiveness”. Maybe a bit convoluted, but it was true!

Starting your own business really focuses you on understanding what you want to achieve and why you are doing what you are doing. Even the most seemingly routine business may have a higher purpose. For example, a dog poo clean-up business may have a purpose to give people more freedom in their lives, or more time to spend with family and friends.

After much thought, my personal mission and that of Find my niche is “to help people understand their strengths, and be engaged in and inspired by their work.”

This mission guides my work and influences my choices. How can I help people understand their strengths? How can I help people use this knowledge to be engaged at work? Is that opportunity aligned with my purpose?

So, what about you? Why do you do what you do? What is your personal contribution? And what difference do you make, or want to make?

Take some time to reflect on your personal mission. It doesn’t have to be lovey-dovey. It doesn’t have to meet with other people’s approval. It doesn’t have to change the world. But it needs to be motivational to you. What drives you to do what you do?

P.S. If you would appreciate some help, the Find my niche book provides a guide to working out what inspires you and what value you provide. It is available from my online shop (as well as Amazon, Booktopia and Barnes and Noble), and as an ebook from iTunes.

P.P.S. Thanks to Jess of Essentially Jess for hosting IBOT (I blog on Tuesdays).

*Dr Simon Albrecht is my PhD supervisor

30 days of luck - day 30

Erin Landells
Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The final day of the 30 days of luck challenge! A fun challenge for today - make a list of all the reasons you're lucky!

At the end of the day, reflect on three things that went well today, and why.

If you're keen, post your reflection here.

30 days of luck - day 29

Erin Landells
Monday, August 24, 2015

An opportunity for reflection today. Think about the past 29 days of challenges - what changes have you noticed? What do you think has made a difference to you?

At the end of the day, reflect on three things that went well today, and why.

If you're keen, post your reflection here.