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Op/Ed

Don’t just survive, find mental toughness and thrive

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Strength training doesn’t just pertain to muscles and weight lifting but also to mentality and brain training.

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Strength training your body is a pretty common goal for folks, but what about strength training your willpower? Whether you’re an entrepreneur, civil servant, a student, or somewhere in between: resilience is something that we all need to be successful.

Adversity comes at us in a lot of different forms, and without that resilience even the most talented professional won’t be able to accomplish their goals. We have a lot of different words for resilience – grit, mental toughness, fortitude – and it’s the subject of research and a fascinating piece by James Clear.

The most important takeaway you can pull from Clear’s writing on toughness is that it can be developed. This is something you can build. Some ways to help you build that toughness include:

Command your expectations. In many ways, our expectations fuel our motivations, but too often our expectations get away from us. Everything is a surprise and an emergency – and that lack of control compromises your ability to stay resolved.

Know yourself. Know your motivations and seek to find out who you are. How does your mental resilience connect to your real world success? Define who you are and what the resilient you can accomplish. Your reasons need to be something that you own and that represent who you are – “just because I should” is not a motivation to sustain you to excellence. Do things that can help you get to know yourself better – Psychology Today has some suggestions.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. This US Navy SEAL quote is one of the first things I learned getting ready for graduate school. We often face challenges we aren’t’ comfortable with – ask any HR or Management professional having to have a difficult conversation – but it’s how we endeavor through those challenges that defines our victories. If building resilience is like working a muscle, working out of your comfort zone is adding more weight. You can’t grow any stronger without working out of what’s easy and familiar. #comfortablyuncomfortable

Manage your resources. Burnout is real and it’s the far side of stress. Your personal resilience is not an infinite resource and stress can take its impact on you emotionally and physically. Continuing our gym metaphor – burnout is injury. You cannot build your grit if you’re so emotionally burnt out – you have hurt your emotional “muscles”. Find out what you need to do to emotionally recover and build those resources back up. Practice that #selfcare.

I’ll touch back on Clear’s piece again – habits are an important part of all these building techniques. Make it a habit to practice self-care.

Make it a habit to frame your expectations. Make it a habit to write down your goals and connect them to your life. Make it a habit to always embrace the difficult and the uncomfortable. Create a mental foundation that can take you not only through the extreme, but the day to day. Stay consistent, and stay focused.

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Op/Ed

1 in 5 agents on your team are at risk of burnout – how to retain them

(EDITORIAL) When your productive team members are at risk of burnout, you may lose them to another brokerage or another industry altogether.

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A recent Gallup poll shows that seven out of 10 employees feel unengaged with their work. And while researchers and HR departments have put a lot of energy into figuring out how to increase employee engagement, less attention has been focused on how to best support those employees who are already engaged. You may think being a broker or team leader is different than a Fortune 500 CEO, but in the sense of employee engagement, it’s the same.

Workers who are less engaged are actually less likely to quit (or switch brokers) than those who are engaged, but are stressed out about it. These losses are also harder for companies to bear, as highly engaged workers are generally the most productive and valuable to the team.

A study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence surveyed over 1,000 U.S. employees to learn about engagement as it relates to burnout – burnout being, of course, the point of no return when an employee or team member is so stressed and exhausted that they can’t take it anymore.

Burnout has both physical and emotional symptoms and can lead to sleep problems and depression. Once an employee is burned out, they may need a lot of time to recover to previous levels of productivity, or worse, may give up and quit altogether. They may float to a different broker, franchise, or even another industry.

The study found that two out of five employees are highly engaged, but with low levels of burnout stress. These employees, categorized by the researchers as “optimally engaged,” had positive emotional health and contributed positively to the company. Unfortunately, one in five workers had high levels of engagement, but were at high risk for burnout. These workers represent the “engaged-exhausted” group,” and while they were very interested in their work, they were also very frustrated and stressed. This group had much higher turnover than even unengaged employees.

This means that all brands are at risk of losing some of their very best employees because they are overworked (and unsupported).

While some companies have helped their employees to reduce stress through wellness programs that encourage exercise, good nutrition, and mindfulness practices, the Yale researchers say that these programs may not do enough for highly-engaged workers.

Highly-engaged workers (or agents), across the board, reported having access to crucial resources such as supervisor support, rewards such as good pay, and recognition for their work. The biggest difference between optimally engaged workers and exhausted-engaged workers was the demands of the work itself.

In a nutshell – workers at risk for burnout simply had too much on their plates.

So while a company can expect to increase engagement, or reduce stress for engaged workers, by being supportive and offering resources and fair pay (or a better percentage), the make-or-break-it factor when it comes to burnout is the sheer volume of work.

Keep demands realistic and goals moderate. “Stretch goals” tend to stress people out more than motivate them.

If you give someone extra assignments or put more on their plate, re-delegate some of their other work to someone else or provide more assistant support. Encourage breaks and lunch breaks if someone is spending too much time at their desk.

In corporate life, the takeaway is to not overwork your best employees. But in real estate, it takes an experienced team leader or broker to spot impending burnout and address it by offering better support so another brokerage with better support doesn’t swoop in and snatch your most productive team members.

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Op/Ed

Using filters to ignore contrary opinions creates dangerous echo chambers

(EDITORIAL) We limit our growth when we accidentally create echo chambers – and most of us are guilty as sin…

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I don’t know if you remember the big to-do a couple of years ago when Lifeway Books removed Jen Hatmaker’s books from their inventory. Apparently, Lifeway Books decided that Hatmaker’s affirmation of same-sex relationships went against their doctrine.

I’m not here to argue the merits of Hatmaker or Lifeway’s decisions. At the time, I remember wondering why Lifeway was so scared of an alternative point-of-view. Lifeway is not the first company to ban a book because the ideas go against their own beliefs, it’s just the first company I could come up with as a starting point.

That brings us to today. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the newest social media filters. You are now allowed to filter out unpopular topics or opinions on your social media feeds. Personally, I love this feature. I purposely turn off pages that say, “I bet I won’t get even 1 share.” I turn off other pages that always share very questionable news. I’ve even turned off some friends who have very different political philosophies than I do.

But in some ways, I worry that I might be living in an echo chamber. An echo chamber is defined as “a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.”

Am I creating a system where I only hear people who don’t challenge my beliefs?

I especially worry about some of my friends who can’t see any way but their own. They won’t admit that they might be wrong or that someone else might have a solution. In our current political environment, there seems to be an attitude of not willing to give up an inch, just in case we lose our rights. With an attitude like that, neither side will be able to get anything done.

When did it become okay to stop listening to the other side?

Why are Americans (society?) so willing to only listen to ideas that are comfortable to them? We have become so polarized that no one wants to hear contrary opinions. Sometimes, it takes contrary opinions to find the media via, or middle road.

I encourage you to open your social media feed to people who think differently.

No, not your racist uncle or cousin who only posts fake news. But people who do talk about ideas and politics who may not be in your corner. I want to know what my representatives in Congress are thinking, even though I disagree with much of what they do. Let’s talk about our differences and try to find middle ground.

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Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(PRODUCTIVITY) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help with time management.

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My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to them.

Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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