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Self Awareness

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15 Tips on Maintaining Balance

Pic credit:

Pic credit:

If trying to maintain balance in your life makes you feel like a tightrope walker, you’re not alone. Most of us have so many demands on our time and energy, life can feel like a three-ring circus. Read these statements to see how well you are meeting responsibilities, while also recognizing and fulfilling personal needs and wants. For an extra-look into your self-awareness window, think about the questions below each statement.

1. The only way I can successfully manage my life is to take care of myself physically and emotionally.

Is this true for you? How are you living this statement?

2. Nurturing myself enlarges my capacity to help others.

Does your inner voice agree with this statement? When was the last time you said, "My needs are as important as your needs."?

3. I eat healthfully and exercise regularly.

Do you sleep well? In what ways are you using food or exercise to cope with emotions?

4. I get check-ups, go to the dentist, and take preventative precautions.

Are you worried about health insurance? What can you do today to relieve that stress?

5. I set aside personal, quiet time for myself, whether I’m meditating or simply letting my thoughts drift.

How are you dealing with the need to get things done? When was the last time you did nothing?

6. I experience the gifts of each season: ice skating, sledding, bundled-up beach walks; gardening, hiking, more time outside; camping, swimming, barbecues; harvesting the bounty, gathering wood, spending more time inside.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you consider yourself in touch with nature?

7. Creativity nurtures me, too. I do what I love, whether that’s cooking, drawing, painting, writing, dancing, singing or another creative pursuit.

Writing counts! Imagination counts! If you haven't bought a little journal to doodle in, go out and get one today!

8. Reaching out to others enriches my life. I spend quality time with family and friends.

Are you an introvert who gets his energy from the inner world of thoughts and ideas? Your point of view is valuable, please share it with others close to you.

9. Contributing to the world provides connection and purpose, so I give my time, energy and experience where it is most useful.

How much time can you set aside for volunteering? You might be denying yourself the opportunity to experience pure bliss and happiness for giving without expecting to receive.

10. I notice and heed the emotional signals that tell me I’m out of balance: irritability, overwhelm, resentment.

What are your triggers? How do you get out of your funk the fastest?

11. If I feel that I’m catching a cold, I realize I may have stressed my immune system with over activity, so I stop and take care of myself.

What are your thoughts about adults napping? How many pills do you take a day? Would you consider swapping out pills for foods richer in vitamins and minerals, and have one cold shower per week?

12. When I need or want to, I say no to requests for my time.

Which strategies do you use for setting your boundaries?

13. I listen to and honor the requests my body makes for such things as a nap, a walk, green vegetables, hot soup.

When was the last time you stopped to listen to your inner voice?

14. I’m busy, but I find time to do the things I want to do.

How are your organizational skills? Is the calendar you're currently using doing its job?

15. I’m happy. I regularly experience well-being, contentment, even joy.

Look at yourself in the mirror and say this statement out loud. What does your reflection tell you?

If you felt some of these questions were too personal or sounded accusatory, it means they've probably hit a nerve. I invite you this week to try and incorporate the message of the statement that most bugged you into your life.

Please don’t hesitate to call if you’d like to explore any of the questions further, and leave a comment below to share how you're maintaining balance in your life.

(Re-post from the archives, first published in April 2010.)

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Be who you are...

Pic credit: Stuart Miles

Pic credit: Stuart Miles

everyone else is already taken.

- Oscar Wilde

and say what you feel, because those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter. 

- Bernard Baruch, also often attributed to Dr. Seuss

not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.

- Henry David Thoreau

What's holding you back?

You'll never please everyone all the time anyway. 

Does being who you are give you carte blanche to do whatever you want, wherever and whenever you want it? 

I don't think so.

The Bhagavad Gita says, 

All living creatures, even wise sages, behave in accordance with their own nature. Everyone's behavior is rooted in the thoughts and tendencies that predominate them. The answer is not to restrain your nature, but to progressively improve your nature. You have to live by your inner truth rather than your selfish desires.

I invite you this week to pay attention to your thoughts and behaviors as they shape your interpersonal interactions. For example, you could set a timer on your handy-dandy smartphone to remind you two or three times throughout the day to stop and think about what you were thinking, doing, and the last person you interacted with beforehand.

If you don't want to set a clock, you can also set an intention to reflect about it every time you eat or drink something. This exercise will increase your awareness of thoughts and tendencies that make up your nature bit by bit. As we can all hopefully agree, awareness is the first step.  

See if you can also take the point of view of those you interact with; what might be motivating, aggravating, inspiring, or saddening them? This would not only exercise your empathy muscle, it will also help understand the part you play in every interaction you have. If there's a conflict, can you soften your tone? Ease up on your way of inquiry? If there's a misunderstanding, can you explain yourself more fully using different words or gestures? Modify your facial expression? This might go a ways in identifying how and where you might "progressively improve" your nature. As a bonus side-effect, your relationships will blossom. 

Let us know how it goes in the comments? Thanks! :-) 



3 Tips to Improve Your Professional Wellbeing


3 Tips to Improve Your Professional Wellbeing

copied from Pinterest
copied from Pinterest

I have worked with dozens of expats and accompanying partners over the years, and I don't know a single one who has seamlessly adapted to the new culture's leadership, team work, and communication style. The hiccups may be minor, but there will be hiccups.

To improve your professional wellbeing no matter where you are, start thinking about the tips below. If you're accompanying your partner on assignment, and you don't have a work permit in your new country, you might think about how these apply to your past jobs, or if you can use these for volunteering.

1. Ideally, you love the job you were hired for. Loving your job will help with motivation, getting up on Monday mornings, and persevering through tough times. If you don't love your job, list at least 5 things you like about it, e.g. the commute is short, your office space is comfortable, your colleagues are friendly, the benefits and salary support your family, etc.

We sometimes tend to see only the bad things. Focusing on what you like will help you feel gratitude and satisfaction; integral elements to wellbeing.

If you can't find anything you like about your job, knowing your strengths might help you find a new one.

2. Know your strengths and what you're good at Many of us don't have time to stop and think which parts of the job we love and which ones we don't enjoy. Generally, when we perform tasks that play to our inherent strengths, those tasks are easy for us. They come naturally, we do them well without having to concentrate too hard, and that often makes them enjoyable. If you're someone who loves a challenge, you will find enjoyment in problem-solving or having to work to achieve a level of competence. In that case, you may be good at various things, but after a while stop enjoying them, because maintaining the level of competence you want to show becomes more and more difficult to maintain since you have to keep working at it.

Continually working outside of our comfort zones increases stress. Learn more about yourself and take time to reflect what triggers stress for you. Personality Type instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® help you figure out what your inherent strengths are. Armed with that awareness, you will be able to devise strategies on how to bring them into your work more effectively, which will help improve wellbeing.

3. Maintain positive and supportive relationships with your colleagues Very few jobs today operate in complete isolation. You don't have to be in sales to come in contact with other team members, customers, or vendors. To understand the cultural differences of your new colleagues and professional network, you must first become aware of your own cultural preferences. Only after understanding your own programming and framework will you be able to compare what is different to you, and contrast what is different among them. Think of your culture as wearing glasses you were never aware of. Moving to a new country will force you to take those glasses off and see people and things differently.

As with the second point, you have to know yourself before you can start understanding others. Learn about your culture and the one you are now living in. Ask yourself, your friends and family how they would describe your home, and then ask your new colleagues about how they do things. Asking why-questions may be seen as accusatory or condescending, so it is most helpful to come from a place of genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.

Being cut off from your usual cultural cues will be disconcerting and cause anxiety. All of a sudden you're the odd one out. If you start questioning your identity, your wellbeing will suffer.

You don't have to change who you are. But when the way you've always done things back home does not yield the same results, you have to adapt and add new behaviors to the mix. Well - only if you want to be effective, that is. Over time, seeing progress in how successfully you're fitting in will improve your well-being.

Image by tdlucas5000, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



Self Awareness

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Carl G. Jung says, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”In today’s understanding, self-awareness is a term that ties in with self-confidence, self-acceptance and social awareness. Namely, it signifies the knowledge you possess about yourself, your place in the world and your relationships with the people around you. The knowledge about what motivates you, what your likes and dislikes are, what you feel, why you feel it, how you influence and are influenced, what makes you tick.

I invite you this week to become aware of your feelings and your physical state in different situations, then take a moment to think about what happened and why.

  • Do you always react the same way?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • What goes through your mind when you’re upset?
  • Is there anything else you could think that would be more productive?

There are no wrong answers if you are open, honest and without judgement. Remember: you are the only person you will have to live with for the rest of your life, so you may as well know who you’re dealing with.

Self-awareness is the first step for taking responsibility for your life. You can’t know where you want to go if you don’t know where you’ve been, where you are now and how you got there. Your experiences made you who you are, take the time in finding out exactly who that is and the benefits are guaranteed!

The more you know and accept who and what you are by your very own definition, the less other people’s comments will faze, influence or break you. Once you are self-aware, you will be able to listen to other people’s comments without feeling obliged to believe or be defined by them. You will learn to try feedback on for size with the power to reject it with no hard feelings, or accept it without judgement. You will recognise it if there is something you want to change and be able to take the necessary steps to get to where you want to be.


Be true to yourself and ace that job interview


Be true to yourself and ace that job interview

Vulnerability is... worrying if they'll like / hire / marry / call / promote you.

Do you want to ace that job interview?

Here are 5 simple steps, written from my NF perspective:

1. Know yourself

If you're not sure where or how to start thinking about your strengths and skills, there are plenty of assessments that can help. Please please please always talk with a certified professional to debrief the results and don't just believe everything you read black-on-white.

Email me for any of these, investment is about $120 to $150 for extensive material and debrief:

Myers-Briggs MBTI(r)



Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument TKI


or try

StandOut - $15

Strengthsfinder 2.0 - $9.99

Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be analyzed in combination with the MBTI(r) tool, again, email me if you're interested in a thorough conversation.

2. Only apply for jobs you truly want to do

Yes, we all live in the real world and have bills to pay.

It's also true that what the world needs is happy. You'll be a better leader if what you do makes you happy. You'll have more energy at home to care for the people you love when you're happy. If criticizing and gossiping and bad vibes make you happy, give it a couple sessions with a shrink to see if you're not actually compensating your shitty childhood. You can defend your country and protect your community from a balanced happy place without playing into the tough-guy stereotypes. I dare you.

3. Get clear on what you need

Know your expectations for salary, benefits, work environment, team work, and individual freedom, and be prepared to discuss them. Be equally clear on what environment you want to work in. Does your ideal company have community outreach, charity components, a people policy? Does the industry align with your values? Will you be proud to hand over your business card for them? You'll make it easier for the HR rep and hiring manager to say "yes" to you when they get the feeling you know what you're getting into.

4. Research the company

At the very least, know their facts, figures, values, vision, mission, major portfolio and competitors. You'll stand out, because you'll be able to knowledgeably discuss what's happening in the industry and the challenges they're facing. It's not just what they can do for you, it's also what you can do for them. You'll get the vocabulary to describe your skills and contributions in a non-sucky way from Step 1.

5. Be yourself

Go in and have a conversation. By consciously acting and showing them what you think they want to see, telling them what you think they want to hear, you are making yourself vulnerable. You are placing your own worth and value on a lower level - theirs is more important. Don't fall into that trap, no matter how seductive. Show up. Be yourself. Dare greatly! If they hire you based on a show, you'll have to keep performing and risk feeling like a fraud.

OK, that last one is geared towards FJs, those of us who lead with extraverted Feeling, because we tend to adapt to our surroundings and the people we're with. I've done that in jobs and relationships too many times, and am here to share it's not sustainable in the long run.

Other advice you have? Leave a comment!

Image by photologue_np, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


When you have to Chart-the-Course™


When you have to Chart-the-Course™

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the Chart-the-Course™ style:


  • We have a plan
  • We know what the goals are
  • We know where we're going


  • Sometimes it's difficult to get people on board and see our plans make sense
  • It can be hard to explain our vision to others

How to work with us:

  • Let us know what you need and what is expected

Common misconception:

  • We're bossy

This group of Chart-the-Course™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: a plan, structure, and results. We were also able to clarify that their plan isn't always set in stone: we're open to tangents and explorations, but we'll be aware of when we're deviating.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the Chart-the-Course™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

Interaction Style booklet
Interaction Style booklet

The theme is having a course of action to follow. People of this style focus on knowing what to do and keeping themselves, the group, or the project on track. They prefer to enter a situation having an idea of what is to happen. They identify a process to accomplish a goal and have a somewhat contained tension as they work to create and monitor a plan. The aim is not the plan itself, but to use it as a guide to move things along toward the goal. Their informed and deliberate decisions are based on analyzing, outlining, conceptualizing or foreseeing what needs to be done.

Image by mikeyskatie, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



Working from Behind-the-Scenes™

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the Behind-the-Scenes™ style:


  • Consensus with good result


  • Many ideas
  • How to reconcile different views

How to work with us:

  • Communicate with Us
  • Listening but may not use input
  • Be patient

Common misconception:

  • We do not get the results needed

This group of Behind-the-Scenes™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: quality, considering unusual sources of input, and making connections where others may not. We were also able to clarify that their decision-making style is consultative, i.e. we'll listen but may not use your input.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the Behind-the-Scenes™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

The theme is getting the best result possible. People of this style focus on understanding and working with the process to create a positive outcome. They see value in many contributions and consult outside inputs to make an informed decision. They aim to integrate various information sources and accommodate differing points of view. They approach others with a quiet, calm style that may not show their strong convictions. Producing, sustaining, defining and clarifying are all ways they support a group’s process. They typically have more patience than most with the time it takes to gain support through consensus for a project or to refine the result.


Thanks to for the free pic!



Type and Culture

type and cultureThis is what keeps me up at night and gets me out of bed in the morning: What are the best ways to prepare expats for their assignments? How can I help make the experience of culture shock they will eventually go through as smooth as possible? Which tools can I share to facilitate increased self-awareness and open-mindedness towards people and practices in the new country, so expats become comfortable and effective as soon as possible? In other words, big picture: how can we make it easier to understand each other? Since going back to the roots of our misunderstandings in the history of sociology and anthropology is not in everybody's interest, I believe the fastest way to learn how to effectively deal with change and other people (in everyday life and especially expat situations) is to be self aware. What makes you tick, what ticks you off, how does your mind work, how do you make decisions, how do you fall in love, etc. Being self aware will allow you to anticipate potentially challenging situations, find ways to best deal with them if you can't avoid them, and generally play to your strengths (i.e. keep out of potentially challenging situations as best you can).

When talking about our "self," there are several levels we can analyze: our inborn preferences and our learned preferences. The inborn predispositions are what Jung identified as our personality preferences. Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs made Jung's research accessible to the larger audience with their MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) assessment tool. After my certification next week I look forward to adding many more profiles to their database that is already holding nearly 1 million responses.

The learned preferences refer to the culture we grew up in. If the MBTI theory holds, the personality type indicator should be applicable to people around the globe, which research so far seems to corroborate. For example, the US and UK reportedly have the same 50 % of Extraverts (respondents who get their energy from and focus their energy on the outside world). Given the different cultures those same personality preferences developed in, however, the expression of extraversion might be different. In our example, and extravert US American might be not recognize and extravert Brit as such. I definitely look forward to finding out what you, my expat clients, will add to these thoughts.

In short, we can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at our personality and inborn preferences as well as our cultural and learned responses, and how they influence our values and behaviors. I would be remiss not to mention the fact that in some cultures, the "self" is not nearly as important as the group, and that tools like the MBTI or chats about self-awareness in general will elicit different responses altogether. That is also something I look forward to exploring more deeply.

If you have any questions or experiences with learning about your self, please share them here!

Til next week, have a good one!