Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Can You Effect Change in 2018 without Resolutions?

shutterstock_753302986Ah, it’s January of a new year, a time most people reflect on the past year – what worked, what didn’t and what should have been done. Then we see our co-workers and our friends and family, and we are often asked “So what are YOUR New Year’s resolutions?” The common responses tend to be health-related, such as losing weight, quitting smoking and exercising regularly, or financial, such as debt reduction and better money management. But when we reflect, we can see why last year’s resolutions weren’t fulfilled, and that’s due to the fact that they are just that – resolutions. Resolutions have been shown to have been actualized less than 10% of the time.

So is it possible to have the best intentions for 2018 without having actual resolutions? Absolutely. Let me share with you some ways you can effect positive change in your life by simply adjusting the way you perceive those intentions.

Turning a Plan into Action – The readiness to change, or how prepared a person is to enter the action stage of changing their behaviour, has been found to be the single best predictor of New Year’s resolution success, with those who have intention to be 10 times more likely to succeed than adults who were not yet ready to put plans into action.

Unrealistic Goals and Expectations – People often make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, but if they aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, then success will be difficult to achieve. Set only one resolution to focus on, and be specific. Setting short-term goals which are attainable and realistic, such as “I am going to lose 2 lbs. per week for the next 10 weeks” vs. “I am going to lose 20 lbs. starting now”, have been found to be more effective in the long term. With systems in place that reward new behaviours, while avoiding high-risk situations that allow for a step-back, it can be easier to stay on track.

Be Accountable to Someone – Have a buddy, someone close to you, to cheer you on but also to whom you have to report to at set intervals and maintain this accountability. This person can remind you of your success achieved thus far, and help you celebrate along the way, not just at the end.

Changing the Way You Think – By focusing your thinking on creating new behaviours and thought patterns, you will be able to change your habits. This involves creating new neural pathways in your brain that set your habitual thoughts to the “new standard”, and become your default when faced with new situations, like when you are faced with the dessert menu and others are ordering from it. Your new way of thinking becomes your way of creating positive habits.

Be Present and Mindful – When you focus on the moment, and not what happened in the past or worry about the future, you can be mindful of our feelings and think of what we can do TODAY to achieve your goal. In fact, if you can visualize having already attained your goal, this will help you create readiness and intention to pursue it.

How will you make changes in your life this year? Have you found success with these tips? I look forward to hearing from you!

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Returning to Your Routine After the Holidays

k-s13-teddy-2312The holiday season is now upon us, and while this time of year is meant for us to enjoy, many Canadians struggle with the transition after the holidays. It’s no surprise why; with time off from work and school and changes to our daily routines and sleep patterns, getting back into your normal routine can be challenging.

For this reason, I’d like to share some tips to help you ease back into your normal habits, and start the New Year off stress-free.

Try A New Activity to Change Up Your Schedule

After a few days or a week off from your daily routine, many of us might dread the idea of going back to it, so now is the perfect time to add something new to our schedule to change it up! More and more evidence shows that exercise will help improve one’s mental health. In the New Year, I recommend signing up for a class at the gym that piques your interest or joining a recreational sports league. There are often deals or incentives to sign up during this time of year, and it’ll also accomplish many people’s resolution to add an active element to their schedule. 

Plan Something Exciting for the Future

Whether it’s a weeklong vacation, a weekend getaway, or even a night out with friends you haven’t seen in a while, planning a future event will bring you excitement and give you something to look forward to. At a time when your normal routine might seem a little bit gloomy, an event on the horizon is a great way to inject some positivity into your future. In fact, the process of planning a vacation actually increases your happiness!

Remember that Some Stress Isn’t Always Bad

Although your return to work or school can sometimes provoke stress, it’s important to remember that a little bit of stress can be good for you. The stress you feel now can serve as the drive you need to start a new project, or the motivation you need to adopt a positive new habit. Talk about how you’re feeling with your friends and family, because chances are that you have more in common than you realize. Knowing that others are feeling similar to you can offer relief and reassurance, and sometimes just one conversation is all it takes.

After the celebrations and festivities come to an end, the New Year offers you the chance to add some fun and revitalizing excitement to your routine. Remember that with just a few proactive steps, you’ll be excited and ready to get back into the swing of things come January. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


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How to Get Employees Motivated After a Long Weekend

With the long weekend fast approaching, many managers worry that their employees will experience a “lull” in motivation, which may result in a drop in productivity. One of the great challenges with long weekends is not only are we coming back to a four-day work week, but “vacation mode” typically kicks in before the long weekend begins. By Wednesday afternoon you’ve probably noticed water cooler chatter about long weekend plans. And, you can expect an early, mass exodus on Friday afternoon. In anticipation of the lack of productivity and early departures many large companies let employees go at 2pm the Friday of a long weekend. The company appears to be providing a great perk, when in essence, they’re not losing anything. Once the long weekend is over, it’s time to get back to work and I have some great tips to get your employees motivated, revved up and back into “work mode”.

 

Ask your employees what they did

Instead of your employees walking around daydreaming about their weekend adventures, ask them what they did. Allow them some space to talk about and relive the events of the weekend so they can mentally move forward. Once they talk about it they can get it off their minds and get down to business.

Help them set tasks

Even your most dedicated employees may have some trouble getting back into work mode. Take some time in the morning to review any ongoing work and clearly define the steps required to move forward. Discuss anything new that’s come up and set goals for the week.

Invite your employees to a brainstorming session

Brainstorming sessions get the creative juices flowing again after a long weekend. And, employees feel that their ideas are heard and valued and that they’re an important part of the team. It’s a great way to motivate your employees.

Praise your employees

Positive reinforcement is a great motivator. Spread positivity around and you’ll see an increase in motivation and productivity. 

Lead by example

As a leader it’s important to set the example. Let your employees see that you’re refreshed, recharged and raring to go. They’ll feed off your energy and mirror your positive attitude.

Give your employees something to look forward to

Right after a long weekend is an opportune time to talk about great events to look forward to –company picnic, summer boat cruise, potluck lunch, softball or Frisbee league, volunteer day… this changes the focus from the past to the future.

 

Do you let your employees leave early before a long weekend? Have you noticed a lull in employee motivation after a long weekend in the past?


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Positively Productive

think-positiveAs we begin a new year, there is a sense of hope instilled in all of us. There are countless opportunities ahead, and a fresh beginning can inspire us in all aspects of our life. A lot of people make resolutions, and after a tumultuous year, I have as well: to be positive.

Positivity is a state of mind. It encompasses all elements of our life. So how can we be more positive, not only in our personal lives but at work as well? More specifically, as managers, how can we encourage this attitude amongst our employees when things get tough at work? Studies show that positive employees are more productive and exhibit more signs of motivation. So if you are looking to boost morale in your workplace this year, here’s a list of ways you can incorporate more positivity into your organization:

Be Social

In the workplace, we are often so busy working on projects and tasks that we forget to interact and be friendly with our employees and co-workers. The need to socialize started as an evolutionary method of survival. Not much has changed today; a study by UCLA researchers outlines the health benefits of social interaction, stating that social contact with others has a greater impact on overall health than cholesterol levels do.

So how can you create more of a social community in your workplace? While I am not suggesting creating a “party” atmosphere amongst your workforce, a simple “hello” to employees from higher-ranking staff each day, organized social events within the company, and encouraging employees to socialize and get to know one another are actions, among others, that can significantly boost morale in the workplace, and therefore increase job satisfaction and productivity.

Change your schedule

Most office employees work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. While this may be the overall average workday, it doesn’t always work for each employee. For example, a single mother may need to drop her children off at daycare by 6 a.m. and pick them up by 4 p.m. at the latest. The daily struggle to find the time to manage both her job and parental duties could create a large amount of stress.

While it’s not always possible, try to work around your employee’s personal schedules. Maybe they would prefer to come in earlier and leave earlier or start later and leave later As long as you are satisfied with the work being done, making these changes can increase employee’s job satisfaction while reducing stress levels. Additionally, according to an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology, workers who can produce their own schedules are more efficient and less likely to call in sick than employees who work a strict schedule.

Allow employees to control their space

A 2013 Workplace Study by design and architectural firm Gensler found that employees who had control over their own workspace were not only more satisfied in their roles, they had higher motivation and productivity rates.

For example, their study reported that tech firms had a higher happiness rate in an open-concept office space. Facebook, in particular, has found success this way by allowing their employees to customize their workplace layout based on the project at hand. By allowing employees creative control of their workspace, studies show an increase in organizational productivity.

While a major change in workspaces may not be possible for all employers, talk to your employees about their workspace needs and evaluate how you can make this work for them. If they require focus and attention to detail, a walled cubicle may make sense. If they need to interact with employees more frequently, an open-concept plan would be more efficient.

At the end of the day, we spend a majority of our lives at work. If we want to make sure our employees continue to perform well, have high levels of job satisfaction and are motivated, it’s our responsibility to create a positive and enjoyable workplace environment year round.

What other ways can you think of to improve the positivity of your workforce?


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8 Tips to Changing Your Work and Life Habits

Changing-HabitsNew Year’s can serve as the “reboot button” for many of us who are looking to make changes whether personally or professionally. We all know we have the power to break bad habits, change our lifestyles, and create new habits but getting it done is another matter.

Although we are creatures of habit, changing habits is no small undertaking. Studies show that if you can repeat an action every day for 21-28 days, it will become habit. If you continue the habit for 66 days it will become a well-ingrained habit.

When you create a new habit, whether good or bad, your brain changes. These changes can be undone to stop a bad habit. They are also easily resumed because the foundation for the pattern is still there. This is very good news if you want to resurrect a good habit from your past. If you want to eliminate a bad habit, it can be more difficult.

After you pass the 21-day mark, you are over the most difficult part. Your new habit will be so easy to continue that you may reach the 66-day mark without even realizing it.

Knowing how difficult changing or initiating a new habit is, I have outlined 8 tips to keep you on track, but remember consistency is the key to your success.

  1. Make it easy and specific. It is much easier to form new habits than eliminate bad ones, so focus on starting a new habit. Choose something simple to begin with. For example, if you are looking to enhance the collaborative environment at work, establish daily team meetings at 9am or if you already have team meetings, change the format up by having different staff members facilitate each meeting. On the personal side, instead of planning to lose 40 pounds, set a measurable goal of losing 1 pound a month.
  2. Choose one habit at a time. No matter how simple the habit is, don’t complicate your efforts. Stay focused on creating one habit.
  3. Take it seriously. You must be fully invested to make a change. The change must be important to you. For example, if staff members are looking for a more collaborative culture in the office, creating a regular morning team meeting to foster collaboration is a great idea. Don’t decide to create a habit on a whim. If you are not committed to making a change, you won’t. Get excited about your new habit by listing the benefits you will experience.
  4. Be committed. Quitting is not an option. Put a calendar on your wall and mark the start date that you will begin to make a change and the 28-day mark when you will be “over the hump.” Mark off each day that you are successful and watch your calendar become a page of “X”s.
  5. Keep the time consistent. Make sure that your new habit takes place at the same time EVERY day. Don’t put it off. If your new habit is part of a routine, don’t change the order. It must be the same every time.
  6. Create visual reminders. Visual cues are reminders that you can see. Put notes in places where you will be when it’s time for your new habit. Use Outlook reminders, or put a reminder on your mobile device.
  7. Stay positive. You’ve made a long-term commitment to making a change, and there are bound to be setbacks, but try to stay positive so that “I can’t do this,” becomes “I can’t do this yet, but I will soon.”
  8. Ask for support. Outside support helps you be accountable. Explain to your colleagues or other managers why you are implementing your new habit and get their buy-in to help support this change. For personal habits, get your friends and family involved and let them know what they can do to help.

By following these steps you can look forward to having your new habit run on autopilot. Imagine how much more smoothly your life will run. Once you have one new habit in place, you can move on to others. As time passes, your new habits will take very little effort to maintain.

 


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3 Tips to Achieving Your Unfinished Goals for 2015

Picture for Aspiria blog Sept 22The world’s focus is set on the global refugee crisis as tens of thousands of displaced refugees and migrants make their way across Europe. It is a stressful situation for both the thousands of displaced people, as well as for the residents of the countries taking them in.  With so much attention focused overseas, it can be easy to lose focus of our own goals at home.

Goals allow us to point our lives in the direction we want to. They can bring us a strong sense of accomplishment, and thus satisfaction and happiness that is much needed in stressful times.

With a little less then four months left in 2015 how can we accomplish the goals we set forth in the beginning of the year?

I’ve outlined below a few tips to help you accomplish your goals for the remaining year.

  1. Refocus

It can often be easy to lose track of the goals we set in the beginning of the year as after the pressures of work, life, and relationships, we forget why we set out those goals in the first place. Review your list and ask yourself why it’s important for you to complete these goals by the end of 2015.

  1. Re-prioritize

Ask yourself how realistic is it for you to accomplish these goals by the end of the year? If timing is not essential, then re-prioritize so you have time to accomplish the ones that are most relevant to you, and reflect where you are in your life today. The fact is that you had more time at the beginning of the year, than you have now, closer to the end of the year, so being realistic is key to accomplishing the goals you really can attain in 4 months.

  1. Break it into bite-sized chunks

So often in our excitement we try to tackle something all at once. Sometimes in our quest to be productive, we try to do too much all at once, but instead accomplish so little. Perhaps the reason some of your goals are left unaccomplished is because they were not realistic. You are better off doing small things more often, rather than big things less often. Try breaking down your goal into smaller bite sizes that are more realistically accomplishable.

Of the many clients I have counselled in my 25+ year career, I have never met a single individual who accomplished all of the goals they set out for in a year – so give yourself some slack and remember the “goal of goal-setting” is to be better, grow, and move your life in the direction you want.

Have you accomplished all of your goals for 2015? If not, how do you plan on realizing your goals?


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In This Month of Love, Let’s Celebrate RAK Week

“If every person spent one minute of every day committing a random act of kindness, we would change the world.”   – http://www.randomactsofkindsness.org

free-hugsThis week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, and I thought of no better way to celebrate as we lead up to Valentine’s Day, the ultimate day of spreading love around. When we act kindly, we are doing things that help others, with no expectation of something in return. It means taking a moment or two or three to make someone’s day, whether they be a family member, friend, co-worker or stranger.

Why bother? There have been scientific studies that indicate a strong link between random acts of kindness and overall good physical and mental health. It’s not just about “being nice” in the moment, but there are long-term benefits in that one becomes happier over time – feeling more optimistic and positive. And it’s not just you that reaps the rewards: sure, you enjoy the “helper’s high” from giving, but you also help the recipient lift their spirits, and another who happens to see the act and potentially passes it on. Change can happen!

When we look at the physiological benefits of helping randomly, they can include:

  • an improved immune system
  • enhanced cognitive performance
  • an increase in energy
  • reduced stress hormone levels, lower blood pressure, and heart rate
  • feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth

Where can you start? Here are some simple examples of random acts of kindness that you can do today:

1. Compliment someone:

Whenever you see someone wearing a nice outfit or sporting a new haircut, giving her/him a compliment can really light up their day.

2. Pay it forward

If you go through the drive- thru, pay for a cookie or coffee for the person in the car behind you. An unexpected treat can make bring on a smile, and hopefully, they will pay for something for the person behind them.

3. Let someone take your place in line:

Take a look at the person behind you – are they looking at their watch? Are they with kids? Are they elderly or disabled? If you are not in a rush, give away your space in line. Those few minutes can make a difference, if you have some to spare.

4. Free Labour:

We don’t think about doing jobs like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house or babysitting as ones we could do for free, so imagine surprising someone by not accepting their payment. If you have a friend or family member who is struggling financially, offering to do their house or yard work is a great help that doesn’t cost you money, either.

5. Find A New Lunch mate:

Invite a classmate or co-worker you don’t know to sit with you at lunch. They will appreciate it if they tend to eat alone. Chances are, you’ll find something you both have in common and they’ll feel included.

6. Visit or Call the Sick

Being sick can make you feel lonely, and concerned about not being able to do your routine tasks. A phone call asking how they are, visiting them, or even just sending flowers or a card can go a long way. Offer to take care of some of those tasks they can’t get to, like making a meal, walking their dog, bringing in their mail or picking up some items at the grocery store can take some pressure off and speed healing.

Or, you can…

  • Open a door for someone
  • Offer your seat to someone on the subway or bus
  • Say “thank you” when someone opens a door for you
  • Help someone take their groceries to their car
  • Offer to remove the snow from your neighbour’s driveway with your shovel or snow blower
  • Offer to push the button for someone in the elevator, say “good morning” or “hello”.

And if you choose to do one RAK this week, why not smile? After all, it is the universal language of expressing warmth!

What does kindness mean to you? Do you think if everyone did more random acts of kindness, we could effect change? Please share your comments below.