Monthly Archives: July 2015

Interrupting the art of feeling guilty

By Jennie Sze, contributing writer and friend of Simple Intentions

I have mastered the art of feeling guilty. When I eat every chip in the bag, I feel guilty. When I’m late to a meeting or to responding to text messages or emails, I feel guilty. When I skip the gym, I feel guilty. When I don’t get done what I expect to in a day, I feel guilty.

I’m not alone in mastering this art of feeling guilty. My friend, a mother of a one-year-old, told me she feels guilty for not doing more in life. For example, she does not paint anymore. She thinks she should be doing more because her baby is so easy — she does not fuss and happily entertains herself most of the time. (This friend is also one who falls instantly asleep when we get into the car at 2:30 in the afternoon. She admits she is always tired, yet thinks, “I should be able to do more because I have such a good baby. I SHOULD NOT be tired.”)

It’s so clear to me why my friend should not feel guilty, yet, when it comes to my own guilt, I always think my behavior is a reflection of how lazy, irresponsible, careless, (insert any other negative adjective) I am.

Thankfully, I experienced a moment of awareness recently that enabled me to shift my thinking from “shoulds” and guilt toward productive self-discovery.

For some time I’ve wanted to improve my coaching skills, so I recently picked up a book on coaching. Three weeks in a row, on my weekly call with my accountability partner, I found myself repeating the same objective: “I will finish reading the book this week.” I read some over the three weeks, but always had an “excuse” for not finishing the book. Initially, I went down the usual path of feeling guilty for not being disciplined, for disappointing myself.

Then, awareness kicked in with a question: Why do I keep putting the book down? The answer was so clear: The book was not engaging! The content did not resonate with me. I couldn’t recall much of what I read. Aha! So, what to do? I determined I need to find a different book or learn coaching skills in another way.

When I applied this same lens to my other “guilty” behaviors, I gained awareness of a path that would lead me to the success and result I want. For example, I now realize eating chips is stress relief for me. The solution is not to take away this vehicle for stress relief and punish myself for relieving stress; rather, the solution is to find other ways to relieve stress – and better yet, ask myself what is the cause of stress every time I reach for chips.

I have learned to be kind to myself. For me, the key is not asking why I am not “better” but instead asking: “Why do I put the book down?”


Going tech-free one day a week

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

A key concept we teach in our Mindful Life Program is presence with technology; that is, awareness of the devices around you and their impact on your life. We ask you to ask yourself such questions as: When and why do you use technology? And: What would your life be like if you limited — or eliminated — technology?

Tiffany Shlain, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards, genuinely knows the answers. For the past six years, Shlain and her family have been observing “Technology Shabbats,” 24 hours of sweet unpluggedness from Friday to Saturday evenings. As Shlain describes in the video below, the one screen-free day each week is now a sacred ritual that boosts her appreciation not only for her family, but also for technology itself.


Anonymous surveys promote more feedback

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

One of my greatest frustrations working in a corporate setting was the lack of valuable feedback that truly helped me improve my performance. I yearned for constructive coaching from my managers, peers and direct reports, but often got some version of the wimpiest of all responses: “You’re doing just fine,” which on the spectrum of valuable feedback, falls just below exceptionally not helpful.

On the flip side were times when I wanted to share a piece of my mind about a strategy or senior management. But in my experience, feedback tools such as the annual poll provided only marginally directive data and rarely an action plan. Worse, when the environment turned especially competitive, I often kept feedback to myself for fear of retaliation.

And so I read with great interest a recent article about companies that use short “pulse surveys” to gather anonymous employee feedback at various times throughout the year. The surveys are sent to employees’ mobile devices, which anonymously capture data on everything from a team’s happiness to a manager’s readiness for an expanded role.

One of the companies, Fair Issac Corp., uses a tool created by Glint that pushes quick surveys to an app on workers’ mobile devices. As reported in the article, Fair Isaac uses the data to assess whether or not to promote someone, with one metric being the level of engagement of that person’s team. Survey data showing someone’s team is unhappy and disengaged may give management pause when considering an expanded role for that person.

No matter we call feedback a “gift,” it’s still sometimes difficult to give – and often tough to receive. For companies at which direct, face-to-face feedback isn’t routine or part of the culture, I see a lot of value in such anonymous surveys. Most employees truly want to do great work, improve their performance and make an impact, and having more data – whether it’s coaching from a manger or feedback from a mobile survey – can only help to raise employee awareness and improve organizational health.