The New Formula for Success in Business

canstockphoto16449710The new research I am about to summarize could not be more important to a company’s
success. Taken as a whole it tells us that the more stressful the job, the lower the employee engagement; the lower the employee engagement the less efforts succeed.

By extension, if a company is not focused on resolving stress, it’s not succeeding fully. Resolve stress in a floundering business unit and it’s more likely it will begin to thrive. Resolve stress in a unit that’s just hitting its numbers and it’s likely to double the expected result.  Resolve stress where employees excel and they’ll likely achieve what’s never been done.  Here’s the research that supports all this.

Finding #1: Companies that achieve high employee engagement outperform their competition across all business metrics. Those in the top half of employee engagement nearly double their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half (Gallup, 2016).  Those at the 99th percentile have four times the success rate of those at the first percentile. Business units that measure high in employee engagement generate 20% more in sales and are 21% more profitable than business units who measure low in engagement.  Add to that, the fact that employee engagement is positively correlated with job satisfaction (Bin Shmailan, 2016) and employee retention (Lado and Wilson, 1994).

Finding #2:  Only 24 percent of nearly 600 managers surveyed by the Harvard Business Review considered most of their employees highly engaged (HBR, 2013).  Yikes! Add to it the finding that business units with disengaged employees suffer nearly twice the absenteeism and 31 percent more turnover (Harter, 2006). This suggests that 3 out of 4 business units are either failing or lackluster, falling well short of the level of success they would achieve if everyone was fully engaged.

Finding #3: It turns out that stress and disengagement are highly correlated. Nearly 60 percent of employees experiencing high levels of stress are disengaged. That means if you’re on a project team of ten, only four are swinging for the fence; the rest are striking out. It’s even worse with sales people, who research shows are much more likely to be chronically stressed (Sagar, 1994).  In contrast, only one in ten employees with low stress levels are disengaged and half of this group claimed to be highly engaged (Willis Towers Watson, 2014).

So here is the million-dollar question: Is there something that can be done quickly and effectively to cut the stress employees experience.

Finding #4: There is now a solution to stress that neuroscience has identified that goes far beyond conventional stress management. Here is what science now knows.

  • During three decade of stress management programs, stress in America actually went up 30 percent. This was largely due to the fact that much of stress management focuses on changing stress-related behavior, and most of these behaviors are hard-wired into the brain.
  • There are biological factors associated with stress, meaning if we have a problem with stress, it has more to do with genetics than the job. Genetics and past traumas can wire our brain for a hyperactive stress response system, meaning fight, flight or freeze reactions, the latter two of which lead to disengagement. Thus, the solution to the problem of stress requires changing the way the brain is wired.
  • Breakthroughs in neuroscience over the last 15 years have established the capacity of a human being to down-regulate the stress gene and rewire the brain, through a mindfulness approaches that change mental attitude, and in as little as 8-weeks The technical term for the rewiring process is positive neuroplasticity. It not only quiets stress reactions, but also amplifies the higher brain function that predicts success.  “Mindfulness” simply refers to a definable practice that facilitates the fundamental shift in attitude that relates to stressors with the level of calm, creativity, and optimism that solves problems, instead of reacting stressfully.

ProAttitude, a human performance firm with programs that facilitate positive neuroplasticity has trained more than 4,000 people in high pressure companies, cutting stress levels by 40% and raising people’s performance, creativity, and well-being.  Clearly, positive neuroplasticity should be on every manager’s agenda.

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Stress is contagious and kids are catching it at the expense of their developing brains

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) study on stress found that nearly half of America’s kids are stressed.  This is bad news because it means unhealthy amounts of stress hormones are coursing through the developing brains of these children and that causes learning and behavior problems. The area of the brain most vulnerable to stress hormones is the prefrontal cortex. It generates intelligence, learning, and the top-down regulation for impulse control, which means that a child’s stressed brain will struggle with learning and be prone to acting out. Stress hormones also dampen the immune system causing more frequent and more intense colds and flu.

PARENTS TAKE NOTE

The same APA study found that 91 percent of kids say that what stresses them most is how stressed their parents have become, and that 69 percent of parents were oblivious to the impact their level of stress is having on the kids. This finding corroborates a previous study by the Families and Work Institute that found what kids want most is “stress-free parents.” In this study, interviewers asked children to make one wish for a change in their parents. Parents were then asked to guess what the children wished for, and most parents guessed it was for more quality time. It was the wrong answer. The majority of children wished for their parents to be free of stress. It turns out that kids are very good at detecting subtle cues about a parent’s stress, such as their down-turned expression, heavy footsteps, and fatigue.

SCHOOLS TAKE NOTE

Teaching school is a highly stressful occupation and now a study in Canada, the first of its kind, has found that a teacher’s stress is also impacting kids. In this study, researchers examined the connection between teacher burnout and students’ cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone and a biological indicator of stress. Researchers collected saliva samples from over 400 elementary school children and tested their cortisol levels. They found that in classrooms in which teachers experienced more stress or feelings of emotional exhaustion, students’ cortisol levels were elevated. Higher cortisol levels in elementary school children have been linked to learning difficulties as well as mental health problems.

THE KEY TAKE-AWAY

The same APA study I cited earlier found that 83 percent of Americans are doing little or nothing to lower their stress level. These new findings should help motivate us to take stress seriously.  Stress is not something we should someday do something about.  It needs our attention now, especially parents and teachers. A child’s ability to tap their full measure of brain power depends on it.

FREE STARTER KIT FOR BUSTING STRESS

But don’t stress. Take heart. The picture the research paints is something we can change. It’s simpler than you might imagine and results can accrue faster than you might think. It takes a commitment to understanding your pattern of stress that a painful past and genetics wired into your brain, and then learning the shift in mindset that rewires your brain to instill more joy in your work, more peace in your life, and more harmony in your relationships.

We can change our brain in ways that achieve a better day and turn each and every day into a better life. The studies that prove it are now piled high.  Click here for a free starter kit that begins the process of making you, your home, and the classroom happier and more peaceful.

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The End of Stress

See if you can remember a time that perhaps lasted only a minute, when nothing came to interrupt your peace of mind. Perhaps you were on a beach or walking in a groove of trees, and suddenly you felt safe, whole, and loving, and for that moment all was well and your future was not in doubt. If you can’t remember such a moment, imagine it. Experience how quiet and at ease your mind would become, how expansive you would feel, and how clear and present you would be.

Now picture what it would be like to have that moment extend until it became your day. This might give you a hint of what it would be like to be free of the fearful illusions that a brain chronically under stress generates. Without these illusions, there would be no fear, no stress, no doubt, and no need to attack or defend.

“Who you are,” states Eckhart Tolle, “is the very sense of being, or presence, that is there when you become conscious of the present moment. You and what we call the present moment are one.” In the quiet of the present moment, the false image of yourself fades. The image of a threatening world fades. The judgments you project onto people and events fade. Your fear of failure fades and what takes its place is the happiness you can experience right here, right now, when you are not afraid of anything. Merton-large-2 copy

Peace is powerfully positive and yet some people equate it with complacency. To the contrary, inner peace is the mental state that drives the emotional intelligence that predicts success at every level of life. The poet W.B. Yeats said, “We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” Growing up, the person who fit Yeats’ description in my life was my Irish godmother. She was wise with a face that was lit from within and a quality of presence that was kind and calming. Our home was full of the pandemonium that my siblings and I could make, but when Genevieve came to visit we all quieted down and behaved ourselves. We loved being in her presence. Her way of being had a way of inspiring us to want to do something good with our lives.

Thomas Merton wrote, “All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear.” Which is to say, what matters is the quality of your inner experience as you face the outer world. One way to bring a little more peace to a stressful day is to take an occasional time-out to give peace the chance to change your day. It’s simple and only takes a minute. Here’s how.

  • Stop what you’re doing and step away from the world for a moment.
  • Let go of what you were thinking or doing, and allow your mind and body to relax.
  • Let go of everything. Feel your brain relax as you let go.
  • No worries, no problems, no goals, no one to please, nothing to change or fix.
  • Take a slow, deep breath and as you do, let your mind and heart open wide and allow peace to emerge as your experience, all by itself.
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10 Brain Discoveries You Should Know

Listed below are 10 discoveries about your brain that hold out to you the possibility of turning a brain wired for stress into a brain wired for the Good Life, which is a life of being well and doing well on the way to flourishing. Actualizing this change is simpler than you might imagine and change can happen quickly.  It’s called positive neuroplasticity and its the key to the health, wealth and love we desire but has eluded us.

Positive emotions make you smarter. Positive emotions broaden thought, refine behavior, increase mental flexibility, and facilitate creative problem-solving. Attaining a positive emotion state takes practice.  Rx: Use the Start Your Day Positive Tool. It only requires five minutes of time each morning but it pays dividends for the investment. People who start the day mindfully experience more positive emotions during the day, exhibit more interest in their work, are more likely to feel connected and supportive toward others, and are more likely to sleep better that night.

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Reacting to stressors with negativity invites long-term mental health problems:  If chronic, negative emotional responses to daily stressors predict psychological distress and emotional disorder ten years later. Yikes! Rx: Most emotional negativity begins in negative thinking, which is largely fear-based.  Use the Thought Awareness Tool to bust your negative pattern.

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Happiness leads to success, not the other way around: Happy people are in general more successful across the board than less happy people, and their happiness is in large part a consequence of having cultivated a positive state of mind. Rx: Count your blessing periodically. A mountain of research has shown that gratitude promotes a happy attitude. Give attention to what’s right in your life. Practice noticing moments when you feel happy, or peaceful, or connected, or expansive in any way. When your heart opens, even for a second, mark the moment. Tell yourself this moment matters. Tell your brain, This is how I want to feel, so please wire me for it. Then enjoy the moment for as long as it last. Neurologically, marking the moment makes the experience a reward and the brain cues on rewards in forming habits.

Stress and depression can shrink the brain: Major depression or chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment. Rx: Stress is serious. It’s not something you should someday do something about. Alleviating the stress in your life and accentuating an attitude of peace needs to be at the top of your to-do. Read my book, The End of Stress, or find a stress coach, but don’t continue to ignore stress.

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Financial stress can temporarily lower IQ: People who are worried about having enough money to pay their bills can experience a temporary decrease in their IQ, reducing the brain bandwidth needed to solve a financial problem. It ends up producing a mental state called “scarcity.” Yet research shows that 85% of what we worry about never happens.  Rx: Use the Clear Button tool to quiet your worried, stressful thoughts so you can focus your mental energy on the solution instead being trapped in the problem.

Your brain needs a 20 minute break every two hours to sustain peak performance: The brain cycles every 90-120 minutes. During the first phase brainwaves oscillate at a fast rate, using sodium and potassium ions to generate electrical signals that enable you to perform at a peak level. But fast brain waves burn through the ions, which means your brain needs to refuel with new ions. That’s the second phase, which necessitates a 20-minute break. Rx: A walk under the trees is the best way to take a break, weather permitting. If the weather prohibits, walk around the office. Stop at windows and look out at what’s happening in the world around you.

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Zinc may relieve depression:Two corroborating studies found that depressed people tend to have about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than most people, and the deficiency was greater among those with more severe depression. In addition, people with the highest zinc intake reduced the odds of developing depression by 30 to 50%. Rx: It’s self-explanatory.

The more you think on a problem the more you block the creative insight that can solve it. Pushing the brain’s higher-level, cognitive centers into high gear to solve a problem impairs, rather than enhances, creativity.  The more you think about a problem, the more you mess it up. Rx: If a problem stumps you, take a quiet walk under the trees and let your mind relax, but keep a mental window open for a creative insight to come through.

Exercise may slow brain aging by 10 years for older people: Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise. Rx: Hike, walk in a park, or go to the gym at least three days a week. Walking around the neighborhood is a good way to get started if you haven’t been exercising.

Sitting for more than three hours a day can shorten your life by up to two years:We need to pull away from the computer, stand up, and move our bodies. Rx: The prescription is simple. At least every hour, stand up, stretch, do some movement, or take a walk to see if your brain offers a creative insight.

Study identifies State laws that ‘substantially reduce’ gun deaths: Gun-related deaths in the US could be reduced by more than 80 percent if three laws implemented in some states were extended nationally. Rx: If gun deaths worry you, check out this study.

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From Stressed to Inner Peace to Flourishing

from Don’s Huffington Post article

Neuroscience has become quite adept at mapping the brain and they can actually measure your level of inner peace. And here’s what they found. We are at our creative cognitive and emotional best when we are at peace. By simply accentuating qualities of a positive peaceful attitude you produce positive changes in your brain that enable you to flourish.

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As a result of all the above, you are more likely to succeed at life, with greater subjective well-being.  A mind at peace generates the brain power to achieve the Good Life, which is  a state of flourishing, achieving the health, wealth and love we all desire.

So what does it mean to be at peace?

Let me start by defining what it doesn’t mean. Peace doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise or hard work or problems. There is a Buddhist parable about a farmer who goes to the Buddha in hopes that the saint can miraculously remove all of his problems.

“I cannot help you with that,” the Buddha said. “Everyone has problems. In fact, everyone has eighty-three problems. You may solve one now and then, but another is sure to take its place.”

“How is that supposed to help me?” the farmer retorted in frustration.

“Perhaps,” the Buddha said, “this understanding will help you with the 84th problem, which is the problem of not wanting any problems.”

Peace is not about taking away our problems; it’s about engaging problems and stressors fearlessly, with the calm, creativity, and optimism that generates the brain power to solve them.

Some people think that a peaceful attitude makes us complacent, but inner peace is a vibrant, dynamic state of mind. It fosters in us an open, curious vitality that is fully present and able to engage life exactly as it is.

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Inner peace is having a calm clear sense of our own power in any situation without the need to overpower others.

By definition, being at peace means we are unafraid, unhurried, kind, and resilient.

Inner peace is an end to worry.

It’s a disinterest in judging ourselves or others or events.

It’s an end to the need to change anyone.

It’s a compassionate understanding that is not codependent, and a willingness to forgive.

It’s a heartfelt connection with others and with life itself that engenders a sense of the sacred.

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Inner peace is a dynamic choice that leads to a dynamic way of being in the world that literally changes the brain to tap its full potential. But peace of mind doesn’t happen all by itself; not in our fast paced modern world. Peace develops out of that voluntary state of mindfulness called choice. The more mindful we are about choosing to be at peace, the more we experience it.  The more we experience it, the more we come to treasure it.  The more we treasure our peace of mind, the more expansive it becomes.

Peace takes practice and practice takes discipline, which is simply knowing what you want to experience, and then choosing it consistently.  The core choice is basic; it’s between fear and peace. It begins with mindfully asking ourselves, what do I want to experience as I face people and events each day.

Mindfulness asks: What do I want to experience?

Do I want to be stressed or calm and clear … Afraid of failing or creative … Critical or empathic … Think negative or positive … Worry or have faith … Remain stuck or let go … Angry or composed … Condemning or forgiving … Self-righteous or happy.

Byron Katie, author of Loving the Way It Is, says this about the way practice works. She says once a stressful, anxious perception is understood for what it is and met with the feeling of understanding, the next time it appears you may find it interesting. What used to be a nightmare is now just interesting. The next time after that you may find it funny and after that you may not even notice it.

The stressful fearful perception has left your mind making room for you to be peace, and your brain will reward you with the higher brain function that enables you to sustain your best self, achieving your best day, every day.

If peace has alluded you, here’s a tool that can help establish it in your daily life. It’s called the 30-Second Time Out for PeaceUse it for a couple of weeks and then add taking walks in nature two or three times a week, leaving all your troubles and problems behind you as you take the first step.  A walk in the park quiets the mind and gradually rewires your brain to raise your IQ and generate great mental health. The experience from taking both of these simple steps will prove to you the power of inner peace. How could that not motivate you to move forward to develop a mindfulness practice that deepens your peace of mind. In my book The End of Stress, I present a simple step by step process that helps you build such a practice.

 30-Second Time Out for Peace

  • Stop what you’re doing and step away from the world for a moment.
  • Let go of what you were thinking and allow yourself to relax a little.
  • Now allow yourself to relax a little more.
  • Let go of everything. Feel your brain relax as you let go.
  • No worries, no problems, no goals. Just let them all go for a moment.
  • Take a slow, deep breath – and as you do – let your mind and heart open wide.
  • Allow peace to begin to emerge as your experience, all by itself.  

You can do this short exercise just about anywhere: standing in line, walking to a meeting, or looking out a window. Try it a few times throughout today and see what happens to your day.

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