August 21, 2016

5 Conscious Techniques for coping with the Startup Grind.

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Eighty hour work week. Seven day work week. Feeling relief when your phone rings and it’s your mom calling at 8:00 p.m. and not your coworker.

Feeling dismay when your phone rings and it’s your mom calling at 8:00 p.m., because you have another three hours of work to tackle. Hurried meals—or missed meals—and all of the coffee. Rise and shine, rinse and repeat.

If any of these scenarios ring true, you’re deep into the grind of a startup.

We justify these habits in our pursuit of our company’s goals and visions. While hard work is an admirable quality, we can reach a point where we’re neglecting our self-work, causing ripples of disorganization, miscommunication and, frankly, being a total a** to our own selves and our relationships.

1. Economy of Language

Consider paying one dollar for every word you speak or type throughout the workday; if you’re as loquacious as I can be, your debit card would get declined at the coffee shop the day after payday. As humans, we adhere to the narrative, to the story. While this is ideal around a campfire, company-wide meetings are not the appropriate setting. Be the company that strives toward “Yes or No” communication; it leaves no room for “maybes,” so that accountability and ownership is crystal-clear, and eliminates the otherwise-inevitable backstory and roundabout answers to a simple question. This is equally true in smaller team meetings and in emails.

Only when we hone in on what we’re saying, and what we’re willing to pay for, can we become aware of what we’re spending time talking about that we aren’t willing to spend money on. In the business world, time is money; in the startup world, time is a precious gem that, if spent efficiently, opens up time for yourself and relationships outside of work.

Note: expletives do not apply to this rule.

2. Deep Listening

How often do we find ourselves caught off guard when a question is posed to us during a work meeting? Perhaps we were responding to an urgent email, creating our to-do lists for the day, or daydreaming about pizza because we didn’t have time to eat breakfast…or lunch, and now it’s 2:00 p.m. and our faces are flushed because we have no idea what the CEO just asked us.

How often do we interrupt our team members during a conversation? How often do we tune out someone speaking to us in order to plan our replies, our reactions? How often do we make a commitment, then realize a week later we didn’t follow through because we weren’t fully listening?

We are all guilty of these scenarios.

We spend a lot of time learning helpful ways to communicate clearly, but neglect the other 50 percent of a discussion: listening. And there is a difference between hearing and listening.

Deep listening is rooted in being present; it begins with our ability to settle in, focusing on what is being said, then articulating back what you perceive you’ve heard. This eliminates any confusion on what is being conveyed. Then, allow yourself the time to appropriately respond. This is called “active listening,” per Carl Rogers, an American psychologist. Deep listening requires our compassion and trust in what the other person is saying, regardless of how it’s delivered, and “trust” here doesn’t necessarily mean agreement, but trusting the speaker’s experience.

3. Power of Language

Being mindful of the language we choose carries so much opportunity—a subtle shift of wording can alter our entire outlook, in either a positive or negative capacity. Be mindful to refer to each other as a team or a team member, rather than a company or a colleague. Instead of “Why wasn’t this completed?” what if we offered compassion and said, “Hey, I noticed this hasn’t been completed. Is there anything I can help you with?” Rather than getting frustrated with obstacles, consider it a challenge to overcome and an opportunity for growth.

“Your words matter. Literally. Meaning: Whatever you say materializes itself. When you open your mouth to speak, there are limitless possibilities of what you could say. There are limitless ways to describe the experiences you’re having. But beware…language is like clay in a sculptor’s hands: words will shape your life, for better or for worse.” ~ Niurka, author of Supreme Influence

4. What Feeds Your Soul?

Not what feeds your wallet, or what feeds your startup, or your relationships—what feeds your soul? If a multitude of activities that you love aren’t springing to mind, make a list:

>> Being outside: camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, climbing
>> Creative writing and research-based writing
>> A good bottle of red wine (or boxed wine)

Then identify why you love those activities:

>> Wilderness is my church; this is where I find clarity and peace of mind
>> Creative writing lends to my love of language, whereas research-based writing feeds my desire of knowledge
>> A good bottle (or box) of wine means I’m spending time with those I care about, or treating myself at a lovely dinner or calming bath

What does identifying my love of these activities provide? An understanding of what I care about: the natural world, adventure, health and happiness, creativity and learning, spending time with those I care about and #treatyoself time.

Then identify the last time you carved out personal time to pursue these activities you love. How long has it been that you’ve enjoyed every activity?

Startups are based on a team-player mentality, but we can only bring so much to the table if we’re losing ourselves in the workday process. This is the point where I give you permission to be selfish; if your soul isn’t being refilled regularly, it’s easy for negative emotion to quietly sneak in: resentment, feeling undervalued, utterly depleted.

Because the team depends on your best self showing up to work, carve out time in your day to #treatyoself and feed your soul; that is crucial to being your best self.

5. Give Gratitude: Naikan Therapy

In December’s issue of Tricycle Magazine, I encountered a practice of therapeutic self-examination, an essay written by Gregg Krech. Grounded in Japanese practice, Naikan means “looking inside,” and was developed in the 1940s by Ishin Yoshimoto. It is grounded in asking yourself three questions:

i. What have I received from _____?
ii. What have I given to _____?
iii. What troubles or difficulties have I caused _____?

Rather simple questions; that’s the point. Take a few minutes to consider each question, based on your past 24 hours.

We quickly notice when something isn’t going our way—but expanding our perception to note all that we’ve been given can cultivate gratitude. “We often live our life as if the world owes us,” writes Krech. When we take a moment to examine our taking (debits) and our giving (credits), we start to understand our offerings—or lack thereof—to each our teammates, our relationships, and strangers we encounter in the world.

The final question is the most challenging, but necessary. A clouded mirror cannot reflect accurately; this question requires humility and examination of the self, but does not ask for self-judgment or criticism. It is simply putting a mirror to the self, and clearing away our illusions in order to reveal our movements throughout our days.

Humans are imperfect; to claim that I practice each of these ideals daily, or even weekly, would be untrue. But it’s the process of cultivating these practices on an individual level that transcends into our team, and what aids our growth as a company, comprised of brilliant and mindful individuals.

It takes around 60 days to cultivate a habit. Let’s call this day one.


Author: Jaclyn Hawkins

Image: Instagram

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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