Category Archives: Change

Feast on ‘Growth’ or Starve on Ego

Man&WomanMeeting1When Bob Kegan, Ph.D. spoke at the 2016 NeuroLeadership Summit in New York and said ‘feast on your weaknesses or starve on your ego’, I took special note. The topic of discussion was Feedback That Works, and the message being delivered was ‘Stop Giving Feedback’. I was intrigued.

Research from the NeuroLeadership Institute reinforces what many of us already know. Feedback, at least the way it happens in most organizations today, puts people in a threat state,  and makes it less likely that they will actually hear the feedback, and then take constructive action to: 1) contemplate the message, 2) ask thoughtful questions, and then, untimately, 3) make any adjustments that might be required as a result of receiving the feedback. They’ll be so focused on the threat, that their neural resources will be used up defending themselves (starving on ego) rather than in maximizing the opportunity to learn and grow (feasting on growth). Since feedback often only happens around Performance Management discussions, it is inextricably associated with all of the other negative repercussions of traditional PM.

There are two major concerns with the way feedback typically happens in organizations. First, it is GIVEN, not sought. Second, it is linked to the cycle of Performance Management (which for many organization, is also linked to ‘success’ in the organization, including level of remuneration and qualification for succession opportunities).

The answer is, indeed, to ‘stop giving feedback’…and to start asking for it!

Yes, you read that correctly! Instead of relying on others to ‘evaluate’ you, to indicate what is going well and what is not, why not ask for it – regularly. And, don’t just limit the asking to your immediate supervisor – ask everyone you interact with at work. Treat feedback that you hear as the gift that it is; insight into others’ experience of you and your actions, and the opportunities available for you to continue to learn and grow as a human being.

If you are asking for feedback, and you hear that feedback as critical information that will HELP you to learn and grow, then your brain will automatically be in a positive (reward) state rather than a negative (threat) state.

This will also support all of the ground-breaking research from Carol Dweck on Growth Mindset. Choosing to believe that you can continue to learn and grow throughout your life, automatically makes you more curious, more engaged, and more resilient. Feedback is simply another way to gain insight into opportunities for personal learning and growth. You win, your leader wins, and your organization wins.

Here are some simple strategies to help you to feast on growth:

  • Choose to believe that you can (and will) continue to learn and grow throughout your entire life
  • Approach key individuals in your organization and agree to engage in a two-way dialogue about feedback; ensure that each of you ask for and then share important information that is focused on helping eachother to learn and grow
  • When someone offers to give your feedback (and you have not asked for it), frame the feedback as a gift. Choose to look at the enchange as an opportunity for you to feast on growth (so you don’t starve on ego).

Bon appetit!

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, and at home!

The Three O’s of Optimism: Grow Through what you Go Through

Keri HatYou have a voice in your head. Can you hear it right now?

In neuroscience, the voice in your head is part of your Default Narrative Network. It’s the constant stream of thoughts (chatter, images, sounds, speech bubbles) going through your mind. The data in those thoughts is a record of what you have paid attention to over time, and how you have interpreted the observations around you. It is a never ending playlist of what has occurred in your life, and what assumptions, beliefs, rules, and truths you have attached to your life experience so far. Oh, and the voice also spends some time focused on the future, based on what has happened in the past and what assumptions, beliefs, rules and truths you can attach to what might happen tomorrow (or next week, next month…….you get the drift).

When you are faced with an obstacle or some adversity in your life, the ‘voice in your head’ dictates your pessimism or your optimism. In Martin Seligman’s National Bestseller, Learned Optimism, he details that the differences between optimists and pessimists is their ‘explanatory style’. In other words, the difference is what they say to themselves about the obstacle, setback or adverse situation.

Seligman describes that the explanatory style of a pessimist follows three themes, which he defines as The three P’s of Pessimism: Permanence, Pervasiveness and Personal.  Seligman notes that a pessimist is less persistent in dealing with setbacks or overcoming obstacles because when an obstacle presents itself, the pessimist believes that it will ALWAYS be an obstacle (Permanence), EVERYTHING is an obstacle (Pervasiveness), and I (the pessimist) will NEVER be any different (Personal). The result is a sense of hopelessness that negates any chance of personal growth or opportunity for change.
Seligman’s three P’s made sense to me when I read them; however, I found myself wondering – what are The Three O’s of Optimism?  Not finding them in his book, I decided to create them!

You can change the voice in your head to be more optimistic (hopeful, positive) by changing your explanatory style – by changing what you say to yourself in times of adversity or challenge.

The Three O’s of Optimism are: Occasion, Opportunity, and Ownership.

Occasion is a reminder that the obstacle before you is just that, an occasion… a moment in time. It is not ALWAYS bad, it just happens to be bad right now. The catastrophic language like EVERYTHING, ALWAYS and NEVER, which are used by the pessimist, will by themselves make you less persistent!  You will give up before you even start.  Really, think about any circumstance in which this generalized language is true, or even remotely useful.  It is disengageing language; if you believe that something is permanent, then it shall be permanent – because you will have made it so.  You can look at all the moments in your life as ‘occasions’ or occurrences: some are positive and some are not.

Opportunity is a reminder that setbacks or obstacles are just that – blips in the road, diversions along the way – which are often opportunities for greater learning and insight.  For example, if your relationship with your manager is becoming strained (an obstacle to your performance) that is an opportunity for you to pause, think about what you want from that relationship, and plan what you want to say to your manager.  The strain (‘problem’) is actually an indicator that you need to have a dialogue about how you work together.  This is an opportunity to go deeper to enhance your working relationship and make it better. At the end of the dialogue, you will undoubtedly have a stronger connection – impacting performance for you both. Unlike the pessimists dialogue about pervasiveness, the optimist knows that every occasion is an opportunity for learning and growing.

Ownership is a reminder that sometimes a setback or obstacle is a direct result of your personal actions, and sometimes it is not.  Sometimes, the setback is due to the actions of others. You are, of course, responsible for your actions along the way – and those actions will be easier choices for you when you realize that the setback or obstacle is not permanent or pervasive! As an optimist, you take responsibility for your experience, and you allow others to take responsibility for theirs.

Tune in to your explanatory style.  What do you say to yourself when you are faced with a setback or an obstacle? Are your thoughts helping you to grow through what you go through, or are they keeping you stuck in the muck?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, and at home!


Why You Need to Write A Letter To Yourself

New Year 2017Lately, I have closed my keynotes by writing a letter from the future to the audience. The idea was inspired by Matthew Quick‘s book, “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock”. Like George Bailey in the holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Leonard is contemplating suicide, and a caring teacher encourages him to write letters from the future to himself to remind him that he matters, to give him hope to live his life.

In both the book and the movie, we are reminded that life can be hard. There are challenges and obstacles that will continually confront us. And, there are beautiful moments, incredible people, and important lessons that can truly, positively, change our lives for the better. Life is hard, and we can live this life well if we pay attention to what’s really important to us.

Here’s a sample of a letter that I have shared with an audience. This one was a part of a keynote I had the honour of delivering to CAPSI’s PDW 2017 (Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns, Professional Development Week). The room was full of pharmacy students. and I chose in this letter to write it from me to each of them. The theme of their conference was ‘Beyond Boundaries’ and my message was filled with strategies for psychological resilience and positivity.

Dear (insert your name here):

You might not remember me – I was the keynote speaker at PDW 2017 in Winnipeg.

Over the years, I have heard such wonderful things about the work you are doing in Pharmacy. You have truly embraced the message of ‘Beyond Boundaries’ … you know that the biggest boundaries in life are those that exist in your own mind … you also know that is the same place to find the greatest opportunities awaiting your creation.

You clearly know what is important in life…it’s not the grades you got in school, but the people you worked with to get them; it’s not the material possessions you acquired when you started working, it’s the small moments sharing a laugh with a friend or helping someone in need that add the most to your life. You know that life is not a contest to be won but is instead a beautiful dance to create and enjoy with people around you. You know that with every boundary there is a pathway through, over or around – if you just pay attention – and remember why you are here.

On behalf of all the people you touch – the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the young adults on their own for the first time, and the senior citizens fearful about a changing world – I offer you our heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for caring, and thank you for connecting.

You will never know how important one smile, or one moment of kindness and compassion can matter to another person. It mattered to me when I visited your pharmacy the other day. You did not recognize me…I am much older now …but I recognized you and you made a difference to my day…and to my life.

You  Matter. Please continue to believe that.

Sincerely, Deri Latimer

Whenever I have done this for the audiences I have the privilege of working with, it has been a highlight for them. I add in some humour – generally reflecting on something that I shared in the keynote; but overall, people like the idea of the letter from the future. Many audiences ask me to send it to them after the event. We all need a reminder that we matter in this world; that we make a difference by the thoughts we think, the feelings we generate and the actions we take.

I encourage you to do this for yourself. Write yourself a letter from the future.

It’s the beginning of a new year. 2017. Bright, shiny and new. Why not write a letter to yourself from your future self; yourself on this day in 2018. What will you say to yourself…what has transpired, how have you lived, why are you grateful, who has mattered to you, and how have you impacted others?

Notice what happens.

(I am so saddened to hear of 12 year old Katelyn Nicole Davis‘s suicide on December 30. Perhaps a letter from the future might have helped her choose differently that day.)

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, and at home!


5 Strategies to Make it a Jolly Holiday

Feeling Numb?

Feeling Numb? Chilly? Out of Sorts?

The holidays can be stressful. There’s alot to do, and the pressure is on to prepare food, entertain, and decorate your home. That’s all on top of the shopping!

Many of us love the holidays! We relish in the merry songtrack playing in the malls (with all the online shopping, isn’t it amazing that the malls are still full!!). We notice and respond to the warm and happy demeanour of the people we meet. We get excited about visiting friends and family.

Some of us dread the holidays. As Ray Williams reports in Psychology Today, “For some people, they get depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities. Other get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a “victim” mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more.  Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.”

Whether this is a tough time of year or not for you, you can always benefit from some strategies to engage positive emotion. And, the bonus is…these strategies work all year long!


Strategy: Think Gratitude

Thinking Questions:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What makes me smile?
  • What are my blessings?

Body Exercise:

Start a Gratitude Journal. Each day, write down three things for which you are grateful. What do you notice in a week? In a month?


Strategy: Focus on Breathing

Thinking Questions:

  • How can I let go?
  • What images/sounds help me feel content?
  • Where does calm reside in me?

Body Exercise:

  • Relax into a favourite position. Touch your thunbs and forefingers and interlock them to make two rings. Rest here for 1-2 minutes.


Strategy: Focus on Pleasure

Thinking Questions:

  • What is the source of my delight?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What uplifts me?

Body Exercise:

  • Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. As you breathe out, allow the sound ‘Haaaaa’ to come out. Experiement with sounding softly and loudly.
  • What else happens in your body as you do this at least 8 times?


Strategy: Observe and Honor the Other

Thinking Questions:

  • What emotion am I noticing in the other person?
  • What does the other person need?
  • Where do I feel connected to the other?

Body Exercise:

  • Step into the other person’s shoes by experimenting with mimicking the person’s standing, sitting, walking, gestures. Put yourself in their posture. How does it feel? What thoughts come up?


Strategy: Focus on Now

Thinking Questions:

  • When do I feel most free?
  • What do I do to let go and be in the present moment?
  • What opens me up?

Body Exercise:

  • Stand tall, balanced on both feet. Place your hands behind your head, fingers laced together. Press the back of your head into your clasped hands. Notice the sense of uplifting and opening in your chest and upper back.
  • Choose a strategy, or try them all. The key is….pause and notice the small shifts that might be occurring…and then appreciate and allow them to integrate within you.

As an added bonus, check out a wonderful book written by Kevin Rempel, Paralympian and Founder of the Sledge Hockey Experience. In his book, Still Standing, Kevin tells a compelling and authentic story of overcoming adversity. In one of the final chapters, he says “I get it. I’ve lived it. We all have down days. It’s part of human nature. I just want you to know you can take control of the situation. Here’s how I did it. 1) Accept everything. It allows you to look forward. ; 2) Get your priorities in order. Sleep. Exercise. Eat. Socialize.; 3) Journal. Get it out of your head. ; 3) Reach out for help, then accept help.

So, now…go out and create the kind of holiday (and life) you would like to create.



The 5 Habits of Psychological Resilience

Resilience…when you look at or hear that word, do you find yourself thinking ‘What is it?  And, how can I get some of that??’  The word conjures up incredible images of strength and flexibility, of being adaptable, of possessing the ability to bounce back from the challenges of life.

Resilience is the ability to absorb high levels of change, while maintaining your personal resourcefulness.  It is more than stress management.  Stress management is about ‘managing’ or getting rid of something that is negative (that you don’t want).  Developing or building resilience is more about creating something positive (that you want).  Focusing on what you want to create provides you with opportunities and ‘answers’ that will not come to you when you focus on what you want to eliminate.

And, that is precisely what Habit #1 encourages.  Decide What You Want.  Every moment of every day, focus on what you want.  What do you want to attract to your life at work and beyond?  What do you want to experience more often?  What words would you like to choose to describe your day?

Once you decide what you want, develop Habit #2, Be Mindful.  In order to be mindful, you need to move out of autopilot and away from the default narrative running through your mind (that’s the little voice in your head, that’s always on, although you might not even be aware of it).  When you purposefully STOP and PAUSE for a mindful moment, you have the opportunity to access information from your environment that you might not have noticed otherwise.  You also, during moments of mindfulness, will become aware of your thoughts and emotions.  This increased awareness helps you to self-regulate (rather than being hijacked by emotions that seem to ‘sneak up’ on you).

Habit #3 is Choose Positive.  Your brain’s primary purpose, in addition to being an amazing logic-processing machine that helps you make decisions and solve problems, is to keep you alive.  Every moment it is assessing whether to move away from danger (negative) or to move toward reward (positive).  While we know that positive yields far better results, your brain is by default, negative.  You need to, mindfully, ‘choose’ positive thoughts. And what we are discovering is that when you get in the habit of choosing positive thoughts (beliefs, expectations of yourself and others), and getting the positive results that go along with that choice, you can create new neural circuitry – you can actually change your brain.

And that is exactly what Habit #4 encourages: Integrate the Experience. You can create new pathways in your brain that move you toward what you want (rather than away from what you don’t want).  When you mindfully notice the benefits of moving toward what you want, and choosing positive thoughts, pause again and integrate that experience.  One NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) strategy is to anchor the experience physically.  As you are noticing the sights, sounds, feelings and behaviors of the positive results you are achieving, touch a part of your body (make it a body part that you can easily access in public!!) for a few seconds.  You might choose to place a finger on your wrist, for example.  Choosing an anchor point, and then using that same anchor point each time you are experiencing this resilient state will help you to build new memories in your body and brain that work FOR you.

Finally, Habit #5 is Take Action.  I love the quotation from Elbert Hubbard ‘People who want milk should not seat themselves in the middle of a field in the hope that a cow will back up into them.’  It’s one I’ve adapted to ‘People who want resilience should not read a short article and hope that their brain can suddenly read their mind.’  If you want different results, you need to ‘do’ something different.

Let’s look at the example of Ted, who was finding that he was continually stressed and tense when he was at home with his family.  ‘It really bothers me’, Ted said, ‘they are the most important people in the world to me, and I am miserable and uptight most of the time I spend with them.  The kids are growing so fast and I don’t want their memory of me to be of a guy who could not relax.’  Ted worked his way through the 5 Habits of Resilience, and this is how it came out for him.

What do you want?

I want to be calm at home with my family

When you are calm, what is happening?  What does it feel like? Where do you feel it in your body? What are you thinking? What are you doing? What are you noticing around you?

I see my wife and kids smiling; I attend fully to what they are each saying and doing; I feel relaxed, my face is loose and my body is open and light; my breathing is at a regular rate; I am thinking about how much I value each one of them, I am smiling

What positive thoughts can you choose to ensure you create this experience more often?

I can choose to believe that this is possible for me every day.  I can choose to believe that my children will benefit far greater from a father who is calm and present than from one who is uptight and over-worked.  I can choose to believe that being ‘in the room’ with my family is not taking away from my effectiveness as an executive, and is in fact making me an even better leader.

How will you integrate this?

Each time I experience this sense of calm – at work or at home – I will pause and take note of it, and I will touch my thumb and middle finger together for a few seconds.

What will you do so that you can have more ‘calm’ in your life?

I will breathe deeply to slow my rate of breath; I will shake my shoulders to loosen and relax my body; I will clear my mind so that I can focus on the other person; I will take note of extraneous distracting issues to look back at later; I will focus my attention on the other person; I will smile; I will remember my anchor.

Start each day by asking ‘What do I want today?’ (#1) Start each meeting by focusing on what you want to notice from your team, and what you want them to notice from you.  Decide, like Ted, what you want from your time with family and friends.  Pay attention to what you notice (#2) when you have what you want, choose to focus on what’s positive (#3), integrate the sights, sounds, thoughts, and emotions (#4) and continue to move toward (#5) creating the life you desire.