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Five Ways to Manage Stress

by FutureLab | 08 Apr 2019

Have you ever had to carry a heavy bag on your shoulders? Well, if you’ve only had to carry the bag for a couple of minutes before setting it down, it may probably cause your shoulders to feel a little tense. Perhaps, you’ve had to run a couple of errands with that heavy bag for over an hour, your shoulders and back start to ache. Perhaps, you’ve had to carry the bag all day, the ache in your shoulders and back gradually intensify. While the weight of the bag remains, which runs in parallel to our physiological reaction and hormonal release, the difference lies within our perception and experience of the stressor – much like the duration and ways we hold on to that heavy bag. Although small doses of stress can be a great motivator, high doses of stress can cause us to feel overwhelmed and, in some cases, trigger anxiety as well as a host of other mental and physical problems. Ultimately, stress helps us survive – by changing our perception of stress, there is potential to transform your life; this is evident based on research from Harvard*, where participants who were diagnosed with hypertension due to stress and were instructed to reappraise arousal by reframing stress as helpful rather than harmful, showed improvement in emotional outcomes as well as an increase in their cardiac efficiency. Even though we can’t get rid of stress completely, here are five ways we can manage stress and handle that heavy bag more efficiently:   1. Share the load with someone No one can do it all and that is perfectly acceptable. Your perception of stress may sometimes cloud your judgement and keep you from seeing solutions clearly. Asking for someone for help or even just talking to a friend, colleague, family, mentor or even a trained professional can help you put your challenges into perspective. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but an expansion of your strength.   2. Manage your time No one can do everything at once to learn to put the bag down every now and then. There are instances when you may feel burdened to complete all your responsibilities within a short time span, don’t. Break down your responsibilities into smaller, manageable tasks spread out over a longer time frame and organize them according to their level of urgency. Note on tasks that can be delegated to others to do and remove them from the list. Remember to create buffer times for unexpected tasks and most importantly, relaxation and self-care.   3. Tend to those sore shoulders and aching back Self-care is not optional. You can’t always control the circumstances which life throws at you, but you can certainly take control of how well you take care of yourself. This is crucial for building resilience to cope with stressors on an everyday basis. Dr Rajita Sinha, director of the Yale Stress Center, in an interview for a documentary “One Nation Under Stress”, emphasizes on science-backed behavioural training that can help traumatized parts of the brain regrow. So, make time for sleep and power naps, maintain a proper diet (don’t skim on nutritious food and no, convenient and fast meals don’t count), exercise properly (taking those stairs up 5 floors count, too) and pamper yourself! Never feel guilty for taking a break because your body depends on it. Quick relaxation tip: tense and release each muscle group for about 5 seconds – starting from your feet, move up to your calves, next your thighs, continue with your abdomen, next to your hands, followed by your arms, move on to your shoulders and lastly, your neck.   4. Say ‘No’ to carrying more bags for others It doesn’t make you less nice as a person. Often, fear of conflict and FOMO become huge barriers to saying ‘no’ but the extra weight added onto our existing load can be too overwhelming to cope with. Think of some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down gently, such as ‘I’m sorry but I can’t commit to this because I have other priorities at the moment’. The people that genuinely care about you would understand.   5. Separate yourself from the bag Your challenges and responsibilities are external factors in your life, it isn’t who you are. Learn to recognize when you’re being too hard on yourself to get rid of negative self-talk that can be damaging to your self-worth. If you often compare yourself to others, stop it; you do you. If you often mull over your mistakes, stop it; mistakes are part of learning. If you often ruminate over your problems, stop it; remind yourself of your past achievements and then get creative to find solutions. There are three natural tendencies we react to stress – fight, flight or freeze; however, there comes a time when we need to actively choose to pause, breathe and take care of ourselves before we take on the next challenge head-on.   Written by: Sybella Ng specializes in Developmental Psychology and is the Founder of THINKiNT, a company that incorporates psychology in training, consultancy and resources for people from all walks of life to help individuals live purposefully. She is an author, Child Development Specialist, rhythmic gymnastics coach, and FutureLab Mentor. To book her time on FutureLab, click here.   Sources: *Jamieson, J.P., Nock, M.K., & Mendes, W.B. (2012). Mind over matter: reappraising arousal improves cardiovascular and cognitive response to stress. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 141 (3), 417-422. DOI: 10.1037/a0025719417  

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Five Ways To Start Building Your Career While At University

by Jeremy | 29 Mar 2019

    Like it or not, what you currently do now in university is extremely important. You should treat this phase of your life seriously if you want to set yourself apart from all the university graduates. Did you know that there 173,457 fresh grads with a bachelor degree, and only 98,514 highly-skilled jobs available? Furthermore, you only have a 5% chance of securing an interview. To really stand out from the crowd, you need to start doing these five things: 1.  Join volunteering activities Volunteering experience goes far beyond helping out in a pet shelter for a day or visiting an orphanage for a short period of time. Go above and beyond by providing your skills and expertise to help the organisation. You’ll be able to improve your skills and teaches you how to deal with people through the experience. Furthermore, employers value volunteering experience as it shows empathy and dedication.   2.  Gain more experiences through internships and apprenticeship As you enter university, you should start looking for opportunities to gain professional experiences relevant to your course of study. However, you can also use internships to explore different industries as well. Internships provide opportunities to be trained by professionals, which accelerates your learning for specific skills that will help you during your career.   3. Take up leadership experiences At some point in your career, you would have to manage a team and deal with people. By taking up leadership positions in clubs or global student organisations, you will be able to gain experience working together in teams to achieve a goal together.   4. Create an online presence Your digital footprint is everything in these days and age. It becomes even more important when you apply for a job as your social media profiles will be checked by recruiters. By having an unprofessional profile, it could affect your chances of landing an interview with the company you have applied for.     5. Find a mentor It is crucial to have some guidance in your career and life. The most successful people have mentors from all walks of life. Your mentor will guide you, inspire you, and most importantly avoid the mistakes that they’ve made. You could easily find a mentor through your university alumni network or use FutureLab to find a mentor from different industries. Your career and future is entirely your responsibility, and it is never too early to start preparing for your future. University is the best time for you to learn about anything, it’s all down to how proactive you are.   Source:

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How to Decide Your Career Path?

by Jeremy | 18 Mar 2019

The framework consists of 3-step-process for you to follow: Create your hypothesis – develop a career hypothesis that you might be interested in testing. This could be an industry, job, or function that sounds interesting to you. Test your hypothesis – read articles, speak to people working in the space, join competitions or programmes, or even landing an internship. Evaluate your hypothesis – after you test, take a step back and reflect on it. Then it is your decision to refine and continue testing your hypothesis or pivot to a completely new hypothesis.   Creating your hypothesis In this first step, it is important that you come to the first interesting idea to get yourself started. Chances are you probably already have some workable interest. There are many ways you can arrive at your interests. This can come from classes, conversations, and readings. Some common example from our mentees expressing their interests: “I enjoy sciences but I don’t see myself working in research or a laboratory setting.” “I don’t have an interest in business school, but I love applying visual designs.” “I enjoy solving business problems for different companies with new technology.”   As you’ve noticed, your interest statements can be general or narrow. That depends on how much thought you’ve put into your career aspirations. But the most important part is translating them into “I think I want…” statements. “I think I will work in the business function of sciences” “I think I want to work in UI/UX design within a company” “I think I want to work in consulting”   Test your hypothesis With your career hypothesis in mind, it is now time to test whether it is something that you would want to pursue. It is important that you are able to quickly test your hypothesis and decide whether to refine or pivot your hypothesis. Here are some ways you can do to test your hypothesis, ranking from easiest to hardest: Reading online – this could come from online articles and forums, or even taking relevant classes. Joining a programme, competition, or event – competitions and programmes that specifically tailored to the industry or function that you’re interested could fast track your decision. Talk to people working in that particular industry – reaching out to people through your university alumni network, LinkedIn, or simply book a FutureLab mentor to know more about the industry you’re interested in. Intern in a company in that particular industry – basically mimics very closely to the day-to-day activities of the industry that you’re interested in.   For example, If you think you want to in consulting. It is important that you start by googling about the industry first. Highlighting the top companies within the industry and what kind of services do they offer. In the process, start refining your hypothesis as you look for information. After some research, you find that strategy consulting (Find out what’s the difference between Big 4 vs MBB) is particularly interesting to you. So your new hypothesis should be:  I want to work in technology consulting If you’re still interested, start pouring your efforts attending events, consulting programmes, or even competitions to validate your interest. Then taking a step further by reaching out to people who are already working in that industry. All in all, the goal is to constantly test and refine your hypothesis. Always remember to dig deep and focus on higher effort ways like networking, and internships. Evaluate your hypothesis So after putting in the time and effort, you actually went for a summer internship with a consulting firm. Then there are two possible outcomes:  You LOVED your internship experience You HATED your internship experience   You LOVED most of the internship experience This means that you can continue to build a specific hypothesis to explore the industry and truly understand where do you want to start off in the industry. So thinking about what you liked & disliked in-detail during the internship. Taking our consulting hypothesis as an example, you might be able to derive some interesting insights into technology consulting. You found that consulting is quite high paced and enjoyed the nature of it You enjoyed the high-level problem solving of consulting – working with directors You enjoyed solving business problems with cutting edge analytics for clients   Then, you should take a step back and evaluate your hypothesis. Your refined hypothesis could be:  “I think to want to work in technology consulting focusing on analytics”   You HATED most of the internship experience Though it is the opposite of the positive experience, you learn a great deal about what you clearly don’t want in your career. It is extremely crucial that you reflect WHY you didn’t enjoy your internship and start refining or pivoting your hypothesis to move forward. Taking our consulting hypothesis as an example again, you might arrive at the following insights after your internship in technology consulting: You didn’t enjoy the unstructured and face paced environment of consulting You found it quite hard and technical to keep up with technology   Then, you should take a step back and evaluate your hypothesis. Your new hypothesis could be:   “I think I want to work in a slower pace environment in a commercial firm”   Then you repeat the process over again, testing your newly refined hypothesis until you find you.   In Conclusion Throughout the process, it is beneficial for you because you are able to learn about yourself at a much greater rate. Furthermore, this also helps you to systematically maximise your potential through experimentation and filling up your resume with solid experiences. Source: 2by22

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Peak Performance – How To Become A Strong And Legendary Business Leader

by FutureLab | 12 Mar 2019

  ‘Leadership is a potent combination of Character and strategy’ – General Norman Schwarzkopf Leadership has long fallen into the category of the enigmatic. It is no longer the case considering the ‘deep dive’ neuroscientists, psychologists and industrial psychologists have taken into understanding the brain and human behaviour in general. For those that have a deep and driving desire to understand themselves better volumes of highly beneficial research are available to you. How willing you are to seek for and apply the infinite amount of knowledge out there is dependent upon your priorities, your ‘grit’ and your level of desire to personally transform and be impactful in this world. Most of all a strong belief in your own abilities to become a legendary business leader is a basic requirement for the alchemy from follower to a leader to take place.   The human nature guru Robert Greene describes a strong character as follows: “Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal – it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks” A character is who you really are, not what you want others to think of you. Who you truly are is especially revealed under the most challenging circumstances. How your investors, co-founders, employees and clients view you is highly dependent upon your actions during times of business crisis, failure or when you as an entrepreneur are faced with turbulent personal circumstances. The ability to authentically and empathetically (towards yourself and others) take a stand for your beliefs, admit (to yourself most of all) to your mistakes, rectify them (the highest and truest form of an apology) within times of strife and difficulty leads to a strong and unbreakable character. Through this writing you are strongly urged to reflect on the fact that a strong character will not fall from the sky and simply be bestowed upon you, instead, a strong character, akin to steel, is moulded and shaped by fire meaning that your character is mostly shaped by challenging times.   As the late master poet Leonard Cohen said – ‘There is a crack in everything that is where the light seeps in’ Nothing is perfect and when you truly learn from failures and mistakes your wounds can become blessings, your tests can become testimonies and you can lead others to achieve the same. Those that have a slight and very determined smile on their face and maintain belief and even dramatically increase their levels of performance the moment they recognise that they have arrived within a highly challenging space are the ones that have trained for that exact moment.   The Navy Seals say: “You do not rise to the challenge you fall to your level of training” All external information gathered within each moment enters the brain and is processed through the Amygdala first – that part of the brain that provides housing for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Information is first filtered through your very own doubts, fears and insecurities. If you have not worked on your own fears diligently and instilled habitual mechanisms of effective action triggered by fear your re-actions of lack of action (procrastination) will not be optimal at all. ‘Grit’ is born at the intersection of passion and perseverance and can be trained. Bravery can be trained. Leadership can be trained. Character although influenced by genetics can be trained. All tools to succeed at the aforementioned subjects are within us all, in a lot of cases lying dormant and anxiously awaiting your increased levels of awareness which will empower you to use the tools required effectively. As a practical example I coach my ‘Peak Performance’ clients to train for Grit in the following way – Choose a day of the week when you are especially tired and not in the greatest of moods force yourself to the gym and train the toughest muscle group for you (usually legs) and where you normally do three sets of squats do seven and make those sets harder than before in every way. Or again choose a day of the week again where you are very tired and instead of taking a plunge onto the couch to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever it is, go and hike, a long tough hike that will really test you. It does sound harsh but you will thank yourself when the tough times occur and they will, that you have willingly trained yourself for grit. On to the subject of Strategy which forms a potent combination with character and results in Leadership. Dictionary.com defines strategy as: A plan, method, or series of manoeuvres or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result. For a strategy to be effective a basic requirement of many requirements is that a clear and highly specific end vision and/or goal, and/or result must be defined. Visions, goals or desired results are often vaguely defined because the often subconscious fear of clearly defining our failures by setting clear and measurable goals plagues us. The mind struggles with finding solutions, answers and strategies when vague goals are set. It is also very hard to retain focus on anything that is very vague. As the importance of an effective plan to achieve your well-defined Vision and goals cannot be overstated I strongly recommend getting expert help to facilitate a future session. Once the desired end result, goals and vision is crystal clear we can ‘reverse engineer’ an effective plan that can actualise our dreams. We need to create a metric system that constantly, consistently and visibly measures our progress and success of our plan. The metrics will notify us of challenges and will signal a need for adjustments within our strategy. The very good news emanating from this article is that anyone can be a legendary leader should they not only sincerely wish to be a leader but also take effective action on becoming one. The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.   Written by: Dirk Coetsee is an international Peak Performance coach, published business author, entrepreneur and FutureLab Mentor. He combines and creatively incorporates time tested Leadership and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques to coach his clients towards success and fulfilment. Dirk is a qualified Master life and NLP coach. Click here to book his time on FutureLab.

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