Self-growth

coaching faq

Coaching: Frequently Asked Questions and Short Answers

Coaching: Frequently Asked Questions and Short Answers1280720Manolis Stratakis

What does a coaching session look like?

In essence, a personal coaching session is a systematic discussion between two people: the Coach and the Client. Coaches support their clients to think in an open, innovative and inspiring way. As a result, they will find better solutions to the problems they face. More importantly, they create important awareness.

Every session is a powerful experience. Usually, it is enjoyable although sometimes, it can be a bit tough. Coaching takes courage as a new, intense realization is not always pleasant. In any case, a successful session is not fading away in the next few hours. Most often, it will linger in our mind for days, weeks or even months, maturing and creating new awareness.

What kind of issues are discussed in a coaching session?

The potential topics to discuss in a coaching session are limitless. Any issue related to work, family, relationships or self-improvement is rightful and applicable.

Clients usually bring on the table:

  • a problem they are struggling with and seek the best solution
  • an aspect of their personality they would like to enlighten
  • a change or transformation they need to go over in an effective way
  • any complex situation would like to simplify
  • a business idea they want to implement, or
  • a new project they are planning

Our first concern is that the client becomes aware where they stand now and where they wish to be in the future. The second is finding how. That means, we identify all our options, and choose the best. The third is to start deploying our plan and secure its successful implementation.

What is the approach used in Coaching?

Coaching helps discover new knowledge about ourselves and our environment. It stirs our mind to find better solutions to our problems. Moreover, it equips us with new skills, to continue our journey through life in a more efficient and self-sustained manner.

The coach asks questions, doesn’t provide advice. Coaching creates awareness. Sheds light upon all invisible aspects. Clears a good part of our brain fog and this brings clarity. Provides inspiration and encouragement. Helps us understand the why which hides behind what and how. This increases abruptly our motivation.

coaching faq

Coaching is not therapy. It considers the person to be integral and naturally creative. The point is to find the best we can do, as we are. We focus more in building on our strong points and less in fixing our weaknesses.

Also, in coaching we are not so much interested in the past. We focus on the present and future. We create powerful awareness about who exactly we are and who we can become. Then, we look for ways to achieve this transformation.

How is a coaching session conducted?

It can be conducted over the telephone or via video-conference. It can take place in a park or during a nice walk. And of course, by meeting in person at the office, at home or in a quiet café. The place is not that important, as long as there is not a lot of noise or other distractions. We need to be calm and quiet, so we can help our mind operate to its fullest!

What is the Coach doing exactly?

Coaches act more as experienced conversationalists than experts. Initially, they will ask ample, targeted questions until they get the juice running. Subsequently, they shed light on unseen aspects or propose different viewpoints. They will not hesitate to bring the discussion out and away of the client’s comfort zone.

Good coaches avoid “knowing” what is right or wrong for their clients. They simply help them realize themselves what is right or wrong. The two of them, together, create valuable awareness, as of what works and what isn’t.

Finally, they create clarity and provide interesting food for thought until the next session.

How can I find an appropriate Coach for me?

The right choice of a Coach is very important for the successful course of coaching. To some degree, it is a matter of luck to find an appropriate coach right away. However, if you are not lucky, then you need to search patiently, until you find the one with whom you have the perfect chemistry. When you find him (or her), you will realize it straight away!

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Try to have a first, simple realization about your life, with the exercise in the article: Improve your Life Quality starting with the Cantril Ladder tool!

 

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pyramid of needs

Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs and the path to self-actualization

Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs and the path to self-actualization25601789Manolis Stratakis

The pyramid of needs

Abraham Maslow, one of the most renowned psychologists worldwide, devoted an important part of his career searching for the meaning of life. After many years of research, he managed to deliver a consistent map of human needs, first in a paper titled “A theory about human motivation” and later in his book titled “Motivation and personality”. His works led to the famous Pyramid of Maslow.

All human needs are categorized in a five-level hierarchy: physiological, security, social, self-esteem and self-actualization. He classified the first two as basic needs, the next two as emotional needs and the fifth as self-fulfillment needs. These needs dictate the rules of all human behavior.

pyramid of needs

Diagram 1: Maslow’s pyramid: Hierarchy of Human Needs

Material and spiritual needs

The general concept behind the pyramid is that lower stages host mainly our material needs, while in the higher ones, we find the spiritual needs. Also, as it happens in a ladder or a pyramid, it is difficult (although not impossible) to climb in the higher steps without first pass through the lower ones. Therefore, the physiological needs have priority over the spiritual, without this being absolutely necessary.

Let’s see how Maslow himself describes it:

“It is true that man can live with bread alone – when there is no bread. But what happens with human needs when there’s plenty of bread? At once, new higher needs emerge and take the place of the physiological. And when these have been satisfied, new even higher ones emerge, and so on”

To a large extent, success in life depends on whether we manage to climb to the top of the pyramid and reach self-actualization. We could think of it as a video game, where we must complete one challenge in order to go to the next, however it doesn’t work exactly like this. Our life allows us to pass to the next step, even if we haven’t yet completed fully the ones before.

The five steps of Maslow’s pyramid

So all our needs can be split in five categories. Let’s look at them in detail starting from bottom to the top.

BASIC NEEDS (Reptilian brain)

First level: Physiological needs

This stage contains all the absolutely necessary for survival needs. These are whatever our physical body demands to continue living and reproducing. Oxygen, water, food, shelter. Sex is also placed in this category.

Second level: Safety needs

As soon as the physiological needs are satisfied, humans will pursue to live in an environment with greater safety. To this purpose, they seek a job and a stable income, they try to obtain more and more resources, protect their property and save or invest for the future.

Diagram 2: Maslow’s pyramid: Basic, Emotional and Self-fulfilment Needs

EMOTIONAL NEEDS (Limbic system)

Third level: Social needs

As humans are the principal social animals, their purpose is to find a good place in the society. So, they connect with others in relationships of friendship or cooperation, take part in groups, develop an identity and empower all their social skills. They also learn to be useful. Perhaps, they start a family and create a familiar and pleasant environment around them that provides love, interest and a sense of belonging. They seek to participate in something bigger than themselves.

Fourth level: Esteem needs

Given their social nature, humans wish to have good fame, esteem, respect and recognition by others. On top of that, they want to feel confidence, freedom and independence. These needs are also called egoistic needs as they are driven by our ego.

SELF-FULFILMENT NEEDS (Creative brain)

Fifth level: Self-fulfillment needs

This is the higher step in the ladder of human needs. It is our wish to find a place in life, to give meaning in whatever we do, to find a higher purpose, to leave our footprint in our trip through life. However, in order to succeed in all these, we will first need to upgrade our self into its next, advanced edition. We need to make quality changes in our character, acquire new skills, exploit our talents, make dreams and chase them in every way possible. We need to become better.

Growth needs versus Deficiency needs

Needs in the first four steps are referred to as deficiency needs. This means that those needs stem from our wish to get rid of our weaknesses or acquire things we lack. As we acquire more and more adequacy, our motivation decreases.

Diagram 3: Maslow’s pyramid: Growth and Deficiency needs

The top need of self-actualization is referred to as a growth need.

It is nothing else than our desire for self-development. As this desire is satisfied, instead of decreasing our motivation, the opposite happens: it is amplified. As we become better, our self-confidence increases and we wish to become even better.

Obstacles on our road to self-actualization

As Maslow stated:

“Whatever a man can be, he must be”

He called this esoteric human need, self-actualization.

For an artist, it might be an extraordinary piece of work, for an athlete, it might be an important new record, for a visionary it can be a big dream coming into reality.

For each one of us, it can be the satisfaction of our need to feel happy.

It is obvious, that only a few of us can reach the top of the pyramid. Maslow estimated that only 2% of people can reach the state of self-actualization. Not because of some genetic advantage, but mainly because self-actualized people manage to focus clearly to the top. Also, they manage to overcome or ignore most of the main obstacles which stop all the others.

Such obstacles can be:

  • Lack of quality education
  • Fixed mindset (the wrong perception that people do not change)
  • Low motivation (inability for self-motivation)
  • Lack of a suitable example (parent, teacher, friend, mentor)
  • Too much attention to the non-important
  • Inability to see the big picture

In the list above, we could add life’s adversities (financial, health or others) which can get us stuck for years in the lower steps of the pyramid. However, life is full with examples of people, which despite the amazingly difficult circumstances they faced, managed to reach their self-fulfillment. Adversities not only stopped them, but on the contrary they helped them take-off.

Characteristics and behavior of people who can reach self-actualization

  • They have high moral standards. To a great extent, they accept their self, but also life in general. They tend to focus less on their selves and more outside of themselves. Almost always they have innovative thinking and a somewhat unusual sense of humor.
  • They follow a responsible and objective life approach, taking responsibility for their actions and decisions. In addition, they are honest and never fake.
  • Exceptionally creative: they enjoy trying new things, instead of choosing the known, easy paths and they are reconciled with uncertainty.
  • They are authentic and develop their own views, instead of adopting the dominant standpoint of tradition, authority or majority.
  • They appreciate deeply the small pleasures and live life as if they were small children with supreme concentration, amusement and devotion.
  • Privacy and personal time are of top importance to them: they often choose loneliness so they can think and create without any interference.
  • Finally, they have a clear sense of what is important to them and what isn’t. They are ready to pay the price, in order to enjoy more of their time with what’s important and less with all the rest.

Welcoming discomfort

So there seems to be another, safer way to self-actualization and this is nothing else than make friends with difficulties, welcoming instead of avoiding them. The hard way seems to go there much more efficiently than the easy one.

Therefore, perhaps self-actualization is the predominance of our creative brain over its two partners, the reptilian and emotional. It takes many years of fermentation and negotiations among the three of them, in order to get along and reach a smooth state of balance and harmony.

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Read also the article: Step out of your comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development

 

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comfort zone

Stepping out of comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development

Stepping out of comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development18141598Manolis Stratakis

What exactly is a comfort zone?

The comfort zone is the known, the familiar, this which we can do automatically, without too much thought, without too much difficulty. It is where we feel comfortable, sheltered and pleasant. Wherever we feel that we are not in any danger. Where we do not need to try, therefore we do not need to spend any energy.

Although it is often blamed, there is nothing wrong with the comfort zone. It is essential and sometimes indispensable. It often provides us with an oasis of tranquility, relaxation and replenishment. It is the charger we are all looking for when our batteries are going low.

So why can we not stay there forever?

If our mobile phone always needs to be plugged in, it is not a mobile anymore!

There is a reason why we cannot stay for long in our comfort zone. That is, that human needs are much more than just having food and fun. Give a rabbit some carrots every day and it will never ask you for anything else for the rest of its life. Humans however, are equipped with imagination and creativity. Imagination gives birth to ideas and as soon as a good idea sparks, the need to bring it into reality arises. A quick look around, reminds us of all the miracles human civilization has achieved: science, constructions, technology, socialization, art. All these, could never have been made possible by people locked inside their comfort zones.

A cost-benefit relationship

There is an obvious cost-benefit relationship in the process of moving out of our comfort and into our growth zone. Generally, we take the leap whenever the benefit is higher. Whenever the cost is higher, we stay where we are.

As we remain in our comfort zone, the benefits are small but guaranteed. We are having a good time and we are in no danger. Yet, we cannot expect anything spectacular to happen. If we linger there for long, boredom will inevitably strike. People get bored eating crisps and watching TV all day. If they are solving the easy crossword for months, sometime they will feel the urge to try a harder one.

When our comfort zone becomes practically identical to our boredom zone, then there is no more joy. No satisfaction. No benefit. When there is no more benefit, we start feeling the desire to move towards our growth zone. The comfort zone is a pleasant place to be, however, not much is growing there. When we have eaten all the grass around us, we will need to search a little farther away.

Stress, fear and resistance

Usually, we have to pay something in order to buy something. Accordingly, there is a fare to pay in our trip from the comfort zone to the growth zone. Eventually, we have to pass through the zones of fear and learning. The fear zone makes us anxious, lowers our self-confidence and increases procrastination. There are two forces within us. One wants us to move while the other wants us to stay still. One is pushing us forward, the other is pulling us backwards. The first is our creative brain which pushes for changes and improvement. The second is our animal brain which fights to make us stay where we are. Excuses are the way the two of them negotiate. The creative mind provides logical arguments for the potential benefits of change, whereas the animal brain brings up all the excuses, difficulties, problems and obstacles.

Any attempt to depart the comfort zone poses a risk and can lead to an adventure. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to be accompanied by an increase in fear and stress.

In other words, whenever we intent to go out of our comfort zone and try something new or difficult, we have to expect with absolute certainty that stress will step in. Consequently, we have to reassure our mind that everything is fine. In this way, our mind will not be taken by surprise and will be less resistant.

Transform your stress into enthusiasm

A nice trick to use, is learn to perceive stress asenthusiasm. These two seemingly different emotional states are in reality one and same. Stress and enthusiasm cause almost the same chemical reactions in our brain. The actual way however we perceive them, our attitude, makes a huge difference. Stress is blocking us up as it tries to protect us from defeat and failure. Enthusiasm opens us up so we can pursue success and win.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure, without losing your enthusiasm”

Winston Churchill

Enthusiasm is a pleasant feeling of emotional excitement. It is the active interest, the mood for adventure and risky behavior. Isn’t it very similar to stress? We all know the difference between creative stress and pathological stress. The first is pushing us forward, the second is holding us back.

Exercise: trick your brain by changing hat

Whenever you feel the stress building up, takeoff your stress hat and wear the hat of enthusiasm. Remember that both hats are almost the same, only their name differs. Now, just act as you are full of enthusiasm rather that stress. After you do this for a few times, you will see that it’s not so difficult. Τhe result on your stress levels is quite impressive.

The four zones in detail

The Comfort zone

We already talked a lot about this zone. Here, we have a sense of safety and control. As nothing really interesting is happening, there is not much we need to control. This is the area of relaxation but can also be a stagnation place. If we stay in this area for long, we will eventually feel boredom and apathy.

The Fear zone

As soon as we open the door and step out of our comfort zone, we find ourselves in the zone of fear. The further we walk away, the stronger our fear gets. Often, we are so frightened that we regret and return back. At the same time, we usually start complaining, focusing on problems and obstacles and finding all sorts of excuses so we can ease off the embarrassing retreat. Our self-confidence hits rock-bottom and our procrastination celebrates.

comfort zone

The Learning zone

If we managed to come any close to the learning zone, we have already achieved our first win: we passed through the fear zone. Here, we are facing our challenges, we focus more on the solutions rather than problems, spot new opportunities and acquire new skills. Most importantly, we have expanded our comfort zone and feel more comfortable and secure than before.

The Growth zone

The more time we spend in our growth zone the more our comfort zone expands. Old fears slowly fade away. On the other hand, some new ones may appear. We have increased our resilience and we are setting more ambitious goals. We honored our talents and developed our skills. As our personal development continues, our life gains a lot more meaning. Progressively, we find our higher purpose and start to create a long-term vision. Our self-motivation ability is also considerably improved.

Baby steps

The most effective way for growth seems to be leaving the comfort zone in baby steps. Expand your boundaries in a progressive, gradual manner.

If anxiety comes sharply or in a high dosage, it may block you. But if it comes smoothly in smaller dosages, you can use it to build a healthy immunity, which in turn will help you drive further away, more often and with more confidence. With practice, you can do with ease, what some time ago seemed impossible.

The concept of Desired Discomfort

Let’s look at it backwards. We could say that leading ourselves purposefully through adversities, will help us develop and grow faster. No-one has ever excelled in too much convenience.

The lack of difficulties makes us soft and weak, while discomfort in healthy dosages will make us strong and resilient.

Get used to welcome the difficulties which you will inevitably meet. Learn to make peace with discomfort. Understand that anxiety is just a normal emotion which we feel as we grow. Then, passing through the fear zone will become quite straight-forward.

The theory of plasticity of the brain coming from neuroscience, confirms that our mind is a program which continuously learns, changes and improves. It creates new neurons, new paths, new subprograms. It self-upgrades daily depending on our thoughts, actions and behavior.

Therefore, walks away of our comfort zone helps us develop new skills and grow.

How do we move out of our comfort zone effectively?

Here are a few tips:

  • Reading and gathering new knowledge
  • Asking ourselves clever open and challenging questions about what we can improve
  • Trying every day something new even if it’s not easy, expanding our limits
  • Taking trips and meeting new people
  • Acquiring new skills or exercising those we have new line creating and make a note
  • With systematic self-reflection
  • Creating art and innovation
  • Soothing our animal brain and relieving our fears
  • Replacing our perception for stress with enthusiasm
  • Establishing a better relationship with failure and disappointment
  • Learning how to welcome discomfort and life’s inevitable adversities

Exercise: Epic Failures

  1. Write a list with your biggest life failures so far.
  2. Can you think of something positive in each one of those?
  3. What lessons have you got?
  4. In what ways have you become better after each failure?

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If you want to delve deeper into how you can transform the stepping out of comfort zone into art, read the article How often do you experience Flow?

 

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Pareto

Pareto Principle: Get rid of the less important, using the 80-20 rule!

Pareto Principle: Get rid of the less important, using the 80-20 rule!25601389Manolis Stratakis

The Pareto Principle (80-20 rule)

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist realized that 80% of his country’s wealth was held by 20% of the Italian population. It didn’t take long for him to understand that this was true, not only for Italy but also for the rest of the world. On top of that, it was not only true regarding the distribution of wealth but it was valid in a much wider context. All that, led to the Pareto principle.

Let’s see this principle under the prism of personal development. We can say that 20% of our effort is responsible for about 80% of the desired outcome. The rest 80%, accounts only for the 20% of the outcome. The more we apply this principle in our everyday life, the more we realize that it is an invaluable tool for clarity and self-awareness. After all, it helps us distinguish between the vital few and the trivial many. In other words, between the few important and the many unimportant.

Pareto

Some examples of the Pareto Principle

  • 20% of our clients bring 80% of our revenues
  • 20% of advertisement accounts for 80% of sales
  • We wear 20% of our clothes in the 80% of the time
  • From 20% of our friends we get 80% of support and satisfaction
  • In 20% of our home we spend 80% of our time
  • 20% of emails contain 80% of the important information
  • 20% of a meal contributes to the 80% of calories we take
  • Also the 20% of a dinner gives us the 80% of enjoyment (those eating their dinner indifferently, while eagerly waiting for the desert to arrive, are probably resonating with this example)
  • A 20% of illnesses is responsible for the 80% of deaths in the world
  • 20% of our experiences provides the 80% of our satisfaction
  • The 20% of a book contains 80% of most important knowledge and also 20% of the books we have read, contribute to 80% of our present education
  • 20% of the code running on a computer takes 80% of the CPU time

Of course, the ratio 20-80 is only approximate, it could be 30-70, 10-90 or anything similar. However the principle is valid in many different occasions. You can surely come up with your own examples from your personal experience.

What matters most, is the exact composition of the 20% and 80%. In other words, what falls under the 20% and what falls under the 80%.

Examples

  • Which part is the 20% of your Garde robe that you use 80% of the time?
  • From which 20% of your activities 20% you receive the 80% of your satisfaction?
  • In what do you spend 80% of your money which only contributes a 20% to your happiness?
  • Which 20% of your work brings the 80% of your results?
  • What 80% of the time you spend on the phone is not important?
  • Which 80% of your luggage contents is really necessary?

Pareto’s principle can be applied again and again in an iterative manner. After we have decluttered our wardrobe by throwing away or giving out the 1/5th of our clothes which we do not use often, we can apply the same principle again so we achieve an even finer outcome. The same can happen with our clients, our diet, our appointments and generally the management of all our critical resources.

The Pareto Principle in time management

Applying Pareto’s principle in everyday life can free up a lot of time, which was – until recently – spent in not important activities. For each activity filling up your day, ask yourself how useful it is. Then, use Pareto analysis in order to identify whether they belong in the important 20% or in the unimportant 80%.

Do more by doing less!

Finally, think how much time and energy you would free up after you stopped worrying about the last 20% (the least important), i.e. all those activities which return almost zero results. By doing less you end up doing much more! The trick is knowing which part to get rid of.

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See also our article “Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool

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Time management

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool25601784Manolis Stratakis

Is the time in our day enough?

Time is one of the most democratic things on the planet. Not intelligence. Neither money. Not even health or beauty. Not happiness. Time! Everybody has 24 hours. If you think about it, time is our most important asset. We start off as babies, having all the time of the world and as we grow up we come to a point when every single minute of our day is occupied with something. Then we complain we don’t have time. Wrong! We still have 24 hours. But our day is now filled with stuff. Now, it’s time for.. time management!

The Matrix as a time management tool

“When you don’t have time, make time”. It may sound counter-intuitive, but perhaps it is a perfect advice. The Eisenhower Matrix is the tool we need to make time.

US General and President Eisenhower once said:

I have two kinds of problems: Urgent and Important.

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important

Eisenhower Matrix

A common pattern in businesses but also in our personal life is that we often move insanely from one urgent matter to the next, having practically no time to attend to the important issues. Like a never-ending queue of urgent things which, no matter how many we complete, new ones continuously appear. We are at a constant war with a modern Lernaean Hydra. We cut one head and two new heads spring out of nowhere.

Let’s dive deep in time management

If we analyze the four areas of the Eisenhower matrix, it will immediately become clear how it will help us in our time management:

Quadrant 1: (Urgent and Important): Do First!

This is the most critical area, it contains tasks that are both urgent and important. These are “do first” tasks because they are critical for our life or career. Typical Q1 activities include important problems, deadlines and crises.

Quadrant 2: (Important, but Not Urgent): Schedule!

Here we place the tasks that are important, but not urgent. This is where we need to invest most of our time. These are usually our personal and professional long-term goals and activities relevant to the significant areas of our life like education, career, family, recreation or personal growth. Put these tasks in suspension until you find enough time to work on them carefully. Beware, these tasks may not be urgent, but if left neglected, sooner or later they become urgent.

Quadrant 3 (Not Important, but Urgent): Delegate!

If a task deserves to be in this quadrant, then you don’t deserve to perform it. It is most likely a distraction and you better pass it to someone else or postpone it. Many tasks appear to be urgent when actually they are not. Most messages and telephone calls fall into this category. If you answer every call or text you receive immediately, then you will not be able to do anything that requires undistracted attention. The same is true with business meetings. You don’t have to participate in every meeting you are invited, you can choose if you need to be present or not. A common source of Q3 activities is other people. Saying “no” politely or encouraging them to solve the problem themselves usually does the trick.

Quadrant 4: (Not Important, Not Urgent): Eliminate or Keep to a minimum!

These tasks that are neither important nor urgent are simply time wasters and they should be eliminated, or cut down to a minimum. If you drastically reduce the amount of time spent in quadrant 4 tasks, you will free up lots of precious time for your quadrant 1 or 2 tasks. Mindlessly watching television, playing games or surfing the web are only some of the typical ways for wasting time. This does not mean of course that watching a good movie or resting is a waste of time. We need to be very careful when distinguishing what is and what isn’t important for us.

Procrastination and time management

Sometimes, procrastination kicks in when we are not very clear about what is important or urgent. It causes confusion and leaves us standing still while trying to decide what to bring on the foreground next.

When you first try this tool, you may have some difficulty labeling your tasks. It may be frustrating and you may feel you are wasting your time. You are not wasting time, you are investing some of your precious time learning a great skill that will empower you with precious focus and self-awareness. It will save you way more time for the rest of your life.

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Increase your awareness by reading our article: Awareness Sharpening Games

 

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Happiness Cocktail

The Happiness Cocktail

The Happiness Cocktail25601789Manolis Stratakis

Is there a recipe that determines how happy we will be?

Why some people seem to be happy while others aren’t? What is exactly that makes us happy? Is it money, beauty, health, education or genes? Unquestionably all of these play a role.

Do we have a saying in our personal happiness?

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research in identical and fraternal twins has shown that all people are born with a baseline of happiness. In other words, they come to life with their happiness programmed at some initial value. This initial value refers to the temperamental and affective traits everyone inherits from their parents and for every person is different. Higher in some, lower in others.

However, this genetic set point does not exclusively determine the overall level of our happiness, but only about 50% of it.

But wait, there are two more factors which play a determining role:

  1. the critical events happening in our life (positive or negative) and
  2. our own, deliberate, intentional activity: our actions

Therefore, in one hand we have what life brings us and on the other, what we do with that. What happens to us and how we tackle it.

Circumstances alone, do not determine our happiness

Most people believe that circumstances, such as our life events or our wealth and health, is the single greatest factor influencing our happiness. But as it turns out from the theory of Adaptation to Pleasure and other positive psychology theories, external circumstances contribute only around 10% to our overall happiness. On the other hand, the way we handle these circumstances influences our life by 40%, that’s 4 times more!

So life deals the card deck for us, but then it is up to us to play the game well.

Looking at it at another angle, we see that genes and circumstances account for a 60%, while our own actions account for the rest 40%. So, we have a 60% which is not under our control and a whopping 40% which is under our influence. Our thoughts, behaviors and actions control this 40%!

Happiness = Genes + Circumstances + Intentional Actions

As everything we consider important, our personal happiness requires some effort, enough commitment and absolute consistency.

So, where do we start?

A few first steps which will lead you towards this goal can be the following:

  • Understand what is good for your body and mind
  • Reduce overthinking
  • Stop social comparison
  • Invest time in your personal development
  • Cultivate your relations with people who are already there
  • Strengthen your resilience
  • Place goals and go after them
  • Increase your flow experiences

Last but not least, begin to feel happy, even if – at the moment – you aren’t! Just like when you start a journey and you still haven’t arrived at your destination.

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See also: Gratitude Jar: Empower your gratitude muscles!

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johari

Johari Window: A strong realization towards Self-knowledge

Johari Window: A strong realization towards Self-knowledge25601957Manolis Stratakis

The Johari Window

The Johari Window is a great self-awareness tool. It is named after the first names of the two psychologists who have invented it, Joseph Lufft and Ηarry Ingam.

This tool can help us discover important aspects of ourselves with emphasis in critical skills such as behavior, empathy, team cooperation and personal development.

The four selves in Johari

This tool divides our Self in four areas:

  • Open (known to us, known to others)
  • Hidden (known to us, unknown to others)
  • Blind (unknown to us, known to others)
  • Unknown (unknown to us, unknown to others)

Let’s now explore each of them in more detail:

📖 Open Self

This is the public part of our self, the part which is visible both to us and the others. It comprises everything that we freely disclose and share, like some of our experiences, knowledge, opinion, emotions, character traits, wishes and problems.

People with a large open self possess a high degree of self-awareness, clarity, self-confidence and authenticity. They feel comfortable with themselves. They have a good knowledge of both their strong character traits and their drawbacks. As a result, they set their own path to life. They possess a high level of confidence. They are comfortable taking decisions and they rarely feel the need of approval from others.

🔒 Hidden Self

This is the part of our self which is visible to us, but invisible to the others. In this area we keep our very personal information, all those things we are not willing to share with others, since they might be our weak points, dysfunctions, fears, emotions, motives, desires, mistakes, secrets or guilt.

Nevertheless, this area may also contain some of our positive traits which we still do not disclose out of modesty or shyness. The degree of trust we have in other persons, guides us to decide what amount of information we share with them. Consequently, people with an over-sized hidden self tend to be more introvert and secretive and may often seem distant or lost.

🔮 Blind Self

It is that part of our personality that is invisible to us but visible to the others. It contains information such as non-verbal communication, our peculiarities and all those characteristics which others see in us, or possibly translate different than us. Through well-intentioned criticism we will become aware of certain things, therefore moving them from the blind to the open (or hidden) area. People with a large blind area can be extremely naive and this creates trouble in their professional or social relations.

🔬 Unknown Self

This is the part of our self that neither we, nor the others can see. It contains all those things which are out of our awareness. That is, depressed feelings and experiences which have been stored deeply in our subconscious. They can reside there forever and remain unknown, or we may discover them at some moment later. Subsequently, they will move to another area (hidden, blind or even open).

Those with disproportionately large unknown self are persons for whom self-knowledge is an unknown word. They have never invest in their self-improvement. They usually have troubled relationships with others but also with themselves. Likewise, they generally have a vague picture of the world they live in.

The rest of the Johari iceberg

While the three first areas are only the tip of the iceberg, the unknown self is the rest of the iceberg. It is the part which contains the biggest chunk of information about who we are. Most people never dare to dive in the cold blurry waters of their mind. Even when they are convinced that there is a treasure hidden in there. Those who take the chance, after the first shock, they realize that self-awareness is an art. The more you practice, the better you become, and the better you are at it, the greater the benefits you enjoy.

Self-observation, introspection and meditation

These techniques can help us get acquainted with an important part of our unknown self, with amazing long-term results. In addition, Psychoanalysis and Coaching will also open the door for us and guide us hand by hand in the path of self-knowledge.

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Response style in communication

What’s your Response Style?

What’s your Response Style?25601784Manolis Stratakis

Response Style in Communication

Our response style plays an important role in our communication with people. Builds or destroys our relations in work, family or friendships. Finding our own, gives us the necessary awareness in order to change it, if we need to. It also helps us understand other people responses to us.

There are 4 different response styles:

  • Active Constructive
  • Passive Constructive
  • Active Destructive
  • Passive Destructive

Response style in communication

Response Style Example:

Let’s take for example a response at the good news of someone else. In this particular case it is our spouse. Of course, it could be our partner, friend, kid or colleague.

The husband/wife returns home at the afternoon:

  • Honey! I got the promotion!!

Spouse: (Select one of the following to find your current response style!)

ActivePassive
Constructive
  • Excitement
  • Eye contact
  • Authentic smile
  • Joy

Welldonebaby! Amazing news, I knew you will do it! How do you feel now? (looks into her/his eyes)

Wait for me to open a nice bottle of wine to celebrate this!

  • Low energy
  • Delayed response
  • Quiet

Ah ok… [pause of several seconds] That’s very good for you.

(Gazing at his/her shoes)

Destructive
  • Quashing the event
  • Dismissive
  • Demeaning

Well, we have so many problems and you only care about yourself…

  • Avoiding
  • Ignoring
  • Turns focus inwards

And now we are going to see you even less? Are you sure you can manage with more obligations?

 

Introspection questions

Spend some time to think the following questions:
  1. Which of the four styles looks more attractive to you?
  2. How would you feel when facing someone with an Active/Destructive response style?
  3. Which style do you prefer to see from your spouse? Your boss? Your colleague?
  4. What is your own typical style?
  5. Do you have the same style at work, home or with your friends?
  6. In what ways you could perhaps improve it?

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Also check out the article: How emotionally intelligent are you?

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flow

How often do you experience Flow?

How often do you experience Flow?23512126Manolis Stratakis

The state of Flow

We have all been involved in activities where we have intense concentration and total commitment. During these activities we feel that we are very competent. We have complete control of the situation. Our skills operate to the fullest. The sense of time, as well as any negative emotions disappear. We are overwhelmed by a wonderful sense of transcendence. Whenever we have experience this situation, we are in a state of flow.

The phenomenon of flow, was first referenced by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. He describes it as follows:

“the mental state of flow is being completely absorbed in an activity, for the activity itself and only. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought inevitably follows the preceding, as if playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”.

Our Growth, Stagnation and Flow zones

Stagnation zone

We all have to deal with various daily activities. Some of them are simple and easy. We have repeated them over many times, so they have become automatic. They do not pose any difficulty for us, so they often result in a loss of interest. Dealing with them may be comfortable, but we will soon find them boring. When we stay for long in our comfort zone, it will sooner or later transform into a stagnation zone.

Growth zone

There are some other tasks which are new to us, therefore unknown, or they may be familiar but tough. These tasks take us out of our comfort zone. Usually, they can cause discomfort, anxiety or fear. However, these are the ones that help us develop and grow. That’s where our growth zone is.

Flow zone

Finally, there are those tasks whose difficulty is almost matching our level of skill. When we are in this kind of activities, we are in heaven. We engage completely. Time disappears. We feel we are in absolute control. We can continue those activities for hours, without feeling hungry or thirsty.

Flow, therefore, is the mental state we experience, when we perform an activity, in which we are completely absorbed with a sense of active concentration and complete immersion, while enjoying the whole process.

Note that, it is not simply the balance between task difficulty and skill level which causes flow, but the balance in higher levels of difficulty and skill. In lower levels even when balance exists, we may be in a state of apathy or lack of interest.

Flow: the optimal experience

The Optimal experienceas Csikszentmihalyi named this mental state – usually occurs when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits, in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

“Optimal experience, when flow is realized, is thus something we make happen”.

Flow’s eight mental states

The flow model recognizes eight emotional mental states:

  1. Apathy – there is no interest, we are apathetic
  2. Boredom – we are bored and maybe run-down
  3. Relaxation – we have a feeling of calmness, but also lack of excitement
  4. Worry – if our focus is on worry, our problems grow and become harder
  5. Control – we have a feeling of dominance. Our activity is hard, but we are in command of the situation
  6. Anxiety – if we are anxious, we may freeze or shut down
  7. Arousal – in this state we approach our surroundings more attentively
  8. Flow – we focus completely on the task or activity, leading to the most successful results

Generally, people who masterwork life, art, sports or a hobby, all have flow experiences. From the outside, it may seem like they are doing the task with great ease. However, if you look at it from within, they have completely devoted themselves to what they are doing in order to achieve this level of mastery.

The Order of Mind

The best state of our inner experience happens when there is order in our minds. For this to happen, we must have realistic goals and our skill level has to match the challenge. The pursuit of a goal brings order to a person’s consciousness, as they have to concentrate on the task at hand and forget about everything else. The times when we struggle to overcome various challenges are the happiest of our life. Thus, the persons investing in consciously chosen goals can only grow into higher beings.

Characteristics of Flow

We all had flow experiences, therefore it is not difficult to recognize some of their characteristics:

  1. We have clear, specific, demanding but feasible goals
  2. Our concentration is in the present moment and in the actual activity, with no room in mind for any other information
  3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding
  4. There is a sense of tranquility
  5. Usually time passes much faster than expected
  6. We have immediate feedback on the progress
  7. We feel a balance between the task difficulty and our skill level. There is a feeling of assertiveness and self-confidence
  8. There is a sense of control over the activity, with no worries about failure
  9. We lose awareness of our physical needs

Theoretically, athletes and artists are more likely to experience flow. However, flow can be hiding in simple everyday activities, like housekeeping or reading a good book.

Electronic games are probably the most characteristic example, as they lead to flow by design. This is the main reason they cause strong addiction to teenagers and adults.

The following skills can help us achieve a state of flow:

  • curiosity
  • interest in life
  • persistence
  • low ego

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Read also the article: Step out of your comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development

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