Maximise Your Potential

Amrit Sandhar

With breakdown you get breakthrough…

In our hectic lives, many of us are juggling being the best at work, being parents and partners, as well as feeling ‘connected’ with the rest of society to fulfill our innate feelings that we must be here for a higher purpose. Food is eaten on the go, feeding our children is a military operation that needs them to ‘chuck it down’ them, so we can get on with the more important things like getting them to school. Ask many people whether they feel they are getting enough sleep and the answer will be a unanimous ‘NO!’.

It was my son’s birthday yesterday, and I was working. It took my over 4 hours getting home because of an accident on the motorway. How did I make this up to him? I spent money on more toys!? I’m sure on a superficial level, my son was pleased. But deep down, he didn’t need any more toys. My guilt had driven me to do the only thing I felt I could.

When will this running around end? I sat up this morning and heard the wind chimes I had bought recently, tinkling away in the garden. They seemed to ‘ground’ me. I felt I was finally ‘here’, in the present. So much of our lives are spent worrying about the past or worrying about ‘what will be’ in the future. This thought of finally being ‘grounded’, reminded me of Mindfulness, and a training course I had attended a few weeks ago. The joy and satisfaction of the here and now is so often lost.

Things will not always go the way we want them to. Sometimes things will just keep going ‘wrong’. ‘Grounding’ ourselves in the present can take us away from the ‘what will be’ phase, to the present and a more calm and relaxed state. In this state, answers to our problems will come and what was breakdown, will very quickly become breakthrough and a new solution will bring the hope and clarity you were after….

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No pain no gain…

We’ve heard this phrase so often when exercising the body. The thought of going to the gym, can become such an effort. Once you’ve been, you feel invigorated and glad you made the effort. The same is true of our minds. I attended a course a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those courses where you don’t know what to expect and I was cynical of what I would get out of it. Well, this course turned out to be the best course I have ever been on. My brain was hurting, trying to comprehend the information that was being shared. It was exhilarating and painful all at the same time. The three days of the course was a roller coaster of a journey for my mind, and challenged my thinking in so may ways.

I couldn’t remember the last time my brain had hurt in this way. I couldn’t remember from all the years in management, the last time I was challenged to review the foundations of my thoughts. When was the last time you faced such a challenge where your brain actually hurt? Are you playing too safe? If you cannot remember the last time you were challenged, it’s worth considering what you can do to put your mind through some pain. Our greatest challenge these days is a lack of time meaning we don’t always get time to plan or think in advance. As hard as our working lives may be, we rarely walk away feeling mentally challenged where we feel the joy and pain of the challenge. Just as going to the gym, it hurts initially. And just like going to the gym, we feel the exhilaration after the challenge.

What can you do to really challenge your thinking? How can you break down the barriers of your conventional thoughts? When you put up puzzles in canteens, you find people naturally want to solve them. We are problem solving machines, for no reason other than to solve problems. There are so many puzzles around us that need solving. Challenge your mind and feel the pain….because it’s true, until you feel the pain, there really is no gain…

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Dreamed a dream….but did nothing about it?

How often have you had thoughts of wanting something or doing something, only to put the thought out of your mind, thinking it will never happen? How often have you explored the possibility of what would need to be true to make it happen? At what point does the dream become an action plan?

I have for the longest time, been aware that I have needed to strengthen my inner core. By this, I mean my stomach muscles and upper back. I have been frustrated with not having enough time to look after myself. I found that I had tension building up and I had no release. It was a conversation with my wife that made me think about why I was holding off doing something about it, despite being convinced this would help me. It was her wisdom that made me take action.

Well, I took the plunge and decided to get Pilates training. Yes, I am a man who now undertakes Pilates and guess what….I am loving it. When you take time out and listen to your body, you know deep down what you need, whether this is more sleep, a massage or a specific exercise. I knew my body needed Pilates. My trainer has been brilliant and I am releasing tension and building core body strength making me think I should have done this years ago.

We hold off looking after ourselves so often, even when we know the value it will add to our lives. It took my wife to make me realise that I had to stop complaining and do something if I really wanted it. It’s the same with the rest of life. Wanting something is no good without then taking action to get it. We so often, look at other people, wondering how they have what we yearn for or how they achieved their dreams. Whilst we occupy our time dreaming, we need to have a point at which this converts to action, if we really want it. So, if like me, you have been holding off, whether it is a life long dream or doing something you know you need, take action and make it happen. Until then, a dream is just a dream…

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How will they cope?….

During these holiday months, many of us will have taken some time off from work, whether it was to spend time with your partner, children or just time away from work to recuperate. It can take a few days to finally get work ‘out of your system’. When you finally do, it’s a great feeling to be able to absorb yourself in your life again and switch off the Blackberry. For some though, this need to have holiday, to take it because we are allocated it, can be an inconvenience. ‘If I am not at work, how will they cope?’ Ever heard yourself say that? Others may take holiday, but not really be on holiday. They may see this as a great opportunity to finally ‘catch up’ on everything without the distractions of e-mails and meetings. They end up replying to e-mails, whilst they are ‘catching up’ and hey presto, they are at work, whilst being sat at home.

You may think that what I have described is not you, but we all go through situations like that where we do not switch off from work. Now, I want you think of yourself as one of your employees . Your manager is going on holiday. Your manager is probably a bit of a control freak, likes to do everything and sometimes this means things do not get done the best way or are completed, but not as quickly, because your manager wants to be involved in everything. Hooray! Your manager is going away! Finally, you can get things done the way they should be, the best way they can be. Finally, you can sort things out whilst the boss is away.

Your colleagues are probably more capable than you in many areas. I remember when I was working as a Pharmacist, my dispensing technician used to push me out of the dispensary, as she could do things far quicker than me. She used to tell me where she needed my skills and I listened (I had no choice!). The place worked like clock-work! Whilst you are away, this is a great opportunity for your team to do things their way. Diversity is the key to innovation and success. Holidays allow you to come back fresh, re-energised and with your wall of resilience, built up from any knocks it might have had, ready to take on anything. Holidays, are also a time for your team to demonstrate how fantastic they are.

When you look back through your life, the most informative moments came from mistakes made. If mistakes are made whilst you are away, remember, the learning in this will be valuable, approached in right way. When you do finally get back to work, open yourself up to the idea that they coped without you, in fact they coped very well indeed. Then think about how you can be on holiday more often, meaning how could you let your team take more control, whilst you are there. Let your team dictate where they need you, just like my dispensing technician used to do. The question is, how would you cope with that?…

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Is life passing you by?

Image 1Earlier this week, I took my kids to see my favourite tree, at the end of Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa. Yes, my favourite tree. So what is so special about this tree? It is majestic and stands like a soldier who has survived many battles and has grown stronger from each one. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been in complete admiration of this tree. It is like a wise member of the family, like your Grandfather. As you approach it, your head naturally lowers, in respect of its magnificence.

It is only when I took my kids to see it that I realised, it had been too long since I had last visited. We sat as a family, in the shadow of this magnificent being. I couldn’t help but place my hands upon the trunk, close my eyes and wonder what changes it had witnessed. How many families like ours, had passed it by? How many births and deaths had occurred whilst it had stood silently to witness the ever changing world? How many hundred of years had it been here?

A few days previous, I needed to get my children away from the TV. I turned it off and got them into the garden, to see what different wildlife we could spot. Immediately we spotted this beautiful Dragonfly. We spent the whole afternoon, spotting things in the garden that I hadn’t seen. We had so much fun and went in with the knowledge that our garden was teeming with life, full and vibrant in all its colours.

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How often do we go through life missing amazing things all around us? How many people walk past life, preoccupied with worries? Nature has a wonderful way of grounding us, making us realise that our little world is not the whole world. Standing, staring at the ocean makes you realise the power in nature.

We are connected to nature and the earth. The moon influences us in ways scientists are still discovering. If you are stressed at work, finding it hard to balance work and home, and would love to go for a walk in the woods to ‘reconnect’ yourself, then listen to your intuition and make the time to do it. Just as when you are hungry or thirsty, your body is telling you of it’s needs. When we listen and follow through, we will make the most of life and we will not let it pass by…

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Being present in the present…

I went for a walk this morning at 6am. The world seemed so still. As I walked, I saw the sun blazing gloriously in the bright blue sky. I felt I was immersed in sunlight and somehow it having magical powers making me feel good. Half way through my walk, I noticed how still the trees were. It was as though I was looking at a photo of them, no movement whatsoever. This got me thinking…

We spend our lifetimes reliving the past. If things were so bad the first time around, why do we spend so much energy and effort reliving it?! But we do. When we are not reliving the past, we are absorbed in trying to achieve for the future. I was recently reading The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. A brilliant book that cites work carried out by Christopher Kayes on destructive goal pursuits after analysing why in the 1996 Everest disaster, so many climbers died. The climbers reached a point where they should have turned away from reaching the summit as they would have run out of oxygen and daylight and the extreme weather would have killed them. They decided to press on with horrific consequences.

How often are we in the present…being present in the present, to enjoy it? How often do we end up eating lunch at our desks, ‘throwing it down’ in a rush before the next meeting? How often do we savour the moments in the present?

Today, right now, after reading this, ask yourself, are you reliving the past or fixated on the future, where at a certain time, you will be able to begin living? The future will be created by the present. By enjoying the present, making the most of now, doing something about the things you care about, can we make the most of being present in the present…

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What are you fearing?

Stress in the workplace is now the new norm. You look around the office and those who are not stressed stick out a mile. They are the ‘odd’ ones. What is stress exactly? How or why do we get it? What are we doing to ourselves?

Fear of what might happen, is the underlying driver for our stress. When we are up against a deadline, we are stressed. Why? Because of the consequences. Now, let’s just think about that. The consequences….What might happen? What might happen if you miss the deadline? What might happen if you share your opinions because you know the path being taken is wrong? What indeed might happen???

So, you could get told off. “Don’t do it again!”. You could be reprimanded more severely, resulting in a note on your unblemished record. What else might happen? You could lose your job. You might have to start again.

My wife was recently taken into hospital in an emergency. Guess what was on my mind….yes! I was planning to catch up on loads of my work and now we were in hospital in A&E, with my wife in severe pain…..but what of all the work??? Life has a way of correcting the balance. It might take a little time for us to acknowledge but we all do eventually. By the end of the weekend, the last thing on my mind was my work. Was my wife well? Everything I do is for her and my family, my parents and my children. The reason I work is for them, not in spite of them! When you are in hospital, you become more aware of the flippant remark that is heard across many offices, but rarely thought through enough. ‘No one died’. If you are in an office environment, could people die? As dedicated as we all might be….no one will die, even if we miss a deadline!

Fear at work needs to be placed into context. Whatever we might be fearing, no one will die. Early this year, I found myself in a place where a complete stranger asked me to help, as a man had collapsed and he had stopped breathing. I gave him mouth to mouth and CPR whilst the paramedics arrived. I did not want him to die. I tried so hard, no appraisal awaiting me, no one assessing my performance, just me and this stranger that had to live. 25 minutes and with everything I had in my body, I didn’t give up. The man died.

When you are at work, do your best, enjoy the journey. The ups and downs are what give life it’s flavour. But remember, in work, no one will die. Once you realise that, you will liberate yourself to truly do your best. When you live life without fear of anything, other than the realisation of death, you will realise life is so much more than we make it. One day, we will all die and the thought of that may fill you with dread. That is reality. Knowing that one truth, what are you going to do to make the most of your life today? How good could you make work? What if you shared your ideas and thoughts? What if no one dies and you produce the best work ever and go home to live your life the way you always wanted to…what if???

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The pursuit of happiness…

How happy are you? What is happiness? Think back on your life and remember a time when you were last truly happy. Did you know at that moment that you were happy? Is happiness something that you can experience in the moment, or only when you look back on your life?

We are working harder than ever. We have ever increasing costs and demands to keep up with the latest of everything, whether it’s clothing, gadgets or the best super foods. We want our children to be the best they can be, so we spend vast sums of money so that they can have the best advantage in life. In amongst all of this, we have to continue to demonstrate the value we add at work to ensure we do not fall behind and somehow put ourselves at risk. We eat food on the go, and the family unit is a 24 hour operation with various members of the family, living like strangers, renting rooms in a house. Cooking separately, if at all, sitting separately and hardly seeing each other. Thank goodness for social media!

What are we doing this all for? I used to laugh every time I drove down the M40 at the junction of the M25, just outside London. There was a sign on the side of the motorway, someone had painted stating ‘why do I do this every day?’. It did make me think!

What do we truly value? Are we living in accordance with our beliefs? True happiness may be, being content, being detached from wants. I remember when I had just qualified as a pharmacist. I was in London. I had much less money than I have now and I had no mortgage, no debts and no ties. I was at my happiest. As we go through life, we seem to add more and more shackles and then wonder why we are not enjoying life.

So ask yourself, what shackles do I have in my life? Is it the mortgage? Car loans? A yearning for a bigger house? An addiction to the latest gadgets? Now ask yourself, What could I do to free myself of these. Create a plan, so you know, by when, you will be free. In the meantime, you cannot add more.

True happiness, is contentment in life. This is not the same for everyone. How will you know you have got there? When there is no yearning for materialism, when your life is a demonstration of your values and beliefs. This is the best education we could give our children. For they may have the best foundation, but they will end up living the life the same way we have, unless we teach them the true meaning of contentment, for that is the pursuit of true happiness….

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What you see…is what you get…

So as we are now in the second half of 2013, you wonder where oh where did those New Year’s resolutions go? We started the year full of hope and optimism. We left the previous year behind and draw a line in the sand, to make this year better in so many ways. So what happened? Were those dreams we created, just that, dreams that would never be fulfilled?

It is a well-known fact that many athletes, when training, spend as much time practicing mentally, of the moves they will make, how they will take each step and how they will succeed, as they do perfecting their physical moves. I remember many years ago, I had joined a Karate club. Within 6 months of joining, our club was entering into the National Championships. I had only achieved my first belt. I came back from the tournament, winning the Championships in my category. Before the finals, I remember sitting in the corridor with my eyes closed, I visualised every move, every block and attack…everything. I knew nothing about the workings of the mind. I was only 16 years of age. That act of visualising my moves, sealed my fate.

We are creating pictures in our minds all the time. We may not even be realising it. These pictures can be very powerful. Ever heard of anyone say ‘I cannot see how we could achieve that?’. If we cannot see the picture of us achieving success, how then do we generate the motivation to achieve success? Think back to an amazing moment in your life. You will probably recall the situation and images of that moment will come to you. You will probably be flooded with the emotions from that moment too. This is the power of pictures.

How does all this relate to New Years resolutions I hear you ask? How vivid were those images when you sat there deciding what you wanted this year to be for you? Were they vague? Can you recall if you had any images? Maybe those resolutions were what you think you should have been going for rather than following your dreams? When you truly want something, your mind and body join together to create the future so vividly, you can see it, taste it, feel it and that emotion penetrates every cell in your body. So take time out and ask yourself, do you really want what you thought you did in January? If so, lock yourself away and bring the future into focus. We always find what we are looking for, especially when it is so clear to us…because what you see, is what you get…

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Bask in your glory…

Ever had one of those weeks, you knew in advance, that you would be tested to an extreme level and no matter how much you knew it was going to test you, this provided little comfort? My team have just been through this just last week. We knew 6 months ago that the week just gone would be our most challenging.

What a week! At the end of it, I felt like a proud father, having watched my children wipe the floor with the competition in a sports event! We delivered and to the highest standards! You would think that after this, we would probably have a week off to recover and reflect. Like every organisation, the work never ends. As human beings, we ourselves, can start to focus on all the things that could have gone better. It’s like when you come out of an exam, instead of remembering all the questions you might have got right, you focus on the ones you might have got wrong.

Times like this, when you pull off ‘miracles’, albeit with loads of effort, planning, dedication and commitment, we should take time out to bask in the glory. There is a huge part of Engagement which involves overcoming challenges and celebrating. We want worthwhile work, we also want work that stretches us and the satisfaction  that comes from delivering everything and more.

Next time you are facing the impossible….deep down, you will know that you can deliver. We are nothing without the people we work with. These challenges strengthen a team, make you realise how good you are, and then allow you to focus on the impossible, knowing it might just be within your grasp…

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