Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three Tips to Make Your Speech More Effective

Tips offered by Carolyn Cousins-Goldman, Distinguished Toastmaster & District Governor

Tip #1: Tell Stories!
Stories can make an otherwise dull subject much more interesting. Spoken from the speaker’s experience or that of someone else, well told stories enhance any speech. Of course, this does not mean just randomly telling tales. The stories need to make points which you, as a speaker, want to convey to your audience.
There’s an “old saying” among speakers and that is, “Tell a story, make a point. Tell another story, make another point.” The mind makes a connection between a well told story and the point of that story. Your audience will not only be entertained, but will remember your speech and the points you want to convey.

Tip #2: Use Humor!

Not only do we want our audiences to learn from us, we also want our audiences to enjoy hearing us. Humor is a way to do that. And you don’t even have to be a comedian, giving one liners. A chuckle here and a chuckle there can make people want to come back to your seminars.

Just like stores, humor can be used to make points. And just like stories, your audience will remember your points and come back for more.

Tip #3: Be Yourself!

When I first started speaking, I listened to other speakers and admired their styles. I thought, “I want to be like him! He’s so dynamic! I want to be like her! She’s so intellectual!” I soon found out that trying to be someone else, just as in everyday life, comes off as phony and not credible.

Miscellaneous Points:

  • Why not just be yourself? Look within your own personality and bring that to your audiences. People will come to listen to you because you are real. 
  • Credibility counts tremendously in public speaking. Credibility is not just having the prestigious diploma or writing the right books. Credibility is how real you are!
Author: Carolyn Cousins-Goldman, Distinguished Toastmaster & District Governor

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why do the Strengths Work the Way They Do?

Why is it that I who have accomplished so much in life regardless of challenges, worked so hard at my dream and did actually accomplish it would not be recognized at an Achiever? The answer is if we become our Strengths fully and utilize them properly and move towards ever self-actualization then we all would be achievers.  But the reason one might be identified an Achiever has nothing to do with their actual achievements.  It has to do with the natural tendency one has towards a talent, which if practiced and exhibited constantly, then that talent becomes a Strength.  It is in the way we experience our Strengths. The way we exhibit them. The way we constantly perform them with near perfect performance, that sets a Strength apart from another.

I did accomplish a Doctorate Degree and became a successful consultant and trainer but not because I was an Achiever.  But because I trusted and practiced what I was naturally good at.  This includes being a Relator, a Learner, an Inluder and a Command.  And moving forward through all the life's difficulties and having faith that there must be a better system, a system that is functional and peaceful.  That was due to my Connectedness Strength not an Achiever Strength. In fact, an Achiever is never satisfied. Always on the go, finish this and on to the next project.  It will never end.  Where as my accomplishment is enough for me and I don't have to achieve another thing as long as I live and I'll be happy.  But the Learner in me keeps me going like an Achiever.  The Learner makes me want to know more, to create more, and to pass it on to others which is the reason I still go on to achieve more.  Again, the experience of achieving through Learner is different than the experience of achieving through the strength of Achiever.  It is so fascinating how these Strengths work.  It truly is.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mindfulness in Leadership - Growth & Optimism

Jon Kabat-Zinn:Mindfulness in Leadership

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Growth and Optimism

Jon Kabat-Zinn: The Stars of Our Own Movie

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Mindfulness of your Strengths, Part II - Benefits not Considered

During an executive team training this morning, I realized some of the Strength Finder Themes could evoke expectations that may be confusing when one is trying to figure out how those Strengths apply to them. A participant asked "Why don't they sometimes work exactly the way they are described in the book?" That was a great question. For example, it‘s understood that a person with the Strength of Harmony is calm, even-keeled, capable of resolving conflicts, and certainly conflict resistant. However, in a drive for creating and/or experiencing Harmony, one may create conflict and unrest to get to it.  This may be an odd  situation, which depend on many other elements that impact one's life such as emotional and mental issues, environmental issues, etc that contribute to a sense of war before calm.  Additionally, depending on the other Strengths one has, the way Harmony is expressed might be different than expected. The fact is that none of these Strengths manifests itself completely independently. Each Strength influences other Strengths by either supporting, complementing, reinforcing or leveling out their opposite effects.

For example, a person who also has Discipline with characteristics of hating chaos, confusion and doing things spontaneously might feel judgmental towards that sort of person or environment. Thus, the effects of his or her Harmony might be reduced temporarily in order to use Discipline to resolve the situation. Visa versa, the Harmony might reduce the sometimes rigidness of Discipline.

Another aspect of the Strengths that‘s not realized is the fact that some Strengths have an unnoticed natural ability in them. A good example is the Strength of Connectedness. Connectedness, when utilized consciously and skillfully, is a great soil for cultivating ideas and strategies. It is due to the ability inherent in the Connectedness to see links that others may not see. Ideas form rapidly and, if the person is mindful enough, most of them may be viable and reliable ideas and solutions. Thus, Connectedness can work as well, if not better than, Ideation and/or Strategic. All it takes is awareness and consciousness (Mindfulness).

Mindfulness training can provide the awareness needed to realize what is happening in the mind and body so that one might know which Strength is present in order to optimize its effects and benefits.

….. more on this topic on future blogs.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Management of Self-Views

We had an amazing session last Tuesday night at our regular Mindfulness sitting group.  As I led the group to meditate I asked them to try and recognize how many "I"s showed up in their meditation.  I gave a brief explanation of what I meant, which was to see how our mind forms an identity, owns it (by attaching to it) and then suffers because of it.  This "I" identity is obvious when you think of different roles you play in life, such as wife, sister, mother, brother, father, teacher, student, etc.  Even if those are all you could think of during this meditation, that's fine.  I continued instructing them that as they paid attention to their breath to watch the content of the mind and see if they could tell who was present at each moment.  As we went around checking-in after the meditation, for many noticing who was present seemed to be hard to grasp or stay with.  Many reported that thoughts were emerging so fast and fleeting so rapidly that it would be difficult to pinpoint who was present at each moment.  In fact, it is  very hard to fathom how many hundreds and or thousands of selves we've encountered throughout our lives and continue to encounter.  

The concept of "Self-View" from the Buddhist psychology and teachings is an idea that unless one can experience it through meditation and mindfulness would be abstract and hard to grasp.  Nonetheless, an important teaching. Understanding it can help reduce a lot of mistakes, loss of resources, stress, and dissatisfaction.  It is in the becoming of each of these selves and roles that many leaders, managers or any other individuals get lost because they see the world around them through the "I" lens (subjective) and possibly miss opportunities and/or create a lot of suffering for themselves and others.

Let us explore this idea a bit more before leaping into its effects.  Self-View is one of the first concepts that I came across when I was still new to the practice of mindfulness. In a ten day silent monastic retreat, as we tended to our daily meditations we also attended evening talks by Ajhan Amaro, a prominent Buddhist monk and master/teacher, now the Abbot of  Amaravati Monastery in England.  In one of his talks he introduced the idea of "Self-View", this idea that we have many identifications for many conventional purposes.  As we cling or attach to  any one of these self-views and identity ourselves with it as if it were an absolute reality, we are bound to suffer.  Ahjan Amaro instructed us to contemplate this during the next walking meditation.  This was too vague for me at the time, but somehow it was one of the points in his talk that caught my attention.  During the walking meditation I kept watching for self-view, self identity to arise but couldn't really see anything.  His instructions were to ask the question, "Who is it?" and not really look for the answer but rather listen for it to appear.  He explained that mere questioning of this is enough.  The question brings awareness to some possible space in the mind between all the thoughts and believing that they were mine as opposed to just some thoughts passing through.  This was fascinating, but I had no idea what that meant in actual experience.

As I left the retreat after ten days of absolute silence, I realized that so many seeds had been planted in the soil of me (my mind, heart, soul, and body) and that they would be sprouting as time would pass and as I accumulated more and more mindfulness practice.  Ater a few years and consistent practice I have finally got the meaning of "Self-View" and its impact on my success, failure, illness or wellbeing.  As I presented my understanding of this concept to our regular Tuesday night class, I invited them to look into how many ideas of who we are would constantly form and constantly pass.  We don't  however, seem to see the passing of each self-identity.  As some sort of feeling arises in our internal experience about any event our mind clings to it and owns the event as if it were solid, permanent and reliable.  Then a chain of expectations follows and pushes us into the pit of discomfort, dissatisfaction and suffering.

The way I came to see and understand the workings of self-view in my own mindfulness practice was through observations, reflections and eventually discernment.  Staying long enough with the experience with a curious and objective mind, I was able to see that as soon as an "experience" comes to be, an "I" identity rises with it simultaneously and the "I", if not neutral, attaches itself to the feeling that accompanies the experience.  The mind goes for explanation of what the feeling means and the reasons for it, causing another chain of events to follow in response or reaction to the way the "I"experiences it, (good or bad), as opposed to the actual experience or event without the "I".  Because these chains of events are founded on the subjective aspect of the experience any response or reaction is most often not as wise as it could be.  They are not objective.  And of course, being objective is easier said than done, when as humans we constantly have subjective experiences.

So, what are the effects or benefits of seeing that we are clinging to an experience or owning it as ours?

Because our mind is constantly producing perceptions of events through feelings in combination with assumptions, interpretations, opinions and judgments (which are all created by self-views) our response is to the interpretation of the event, not the actual event.  For example, we may keep some employees around even though they are low performing, not honest, etc.  We feel a lot of discomfort about this and keep coming up with reasonable reasons why we do this.  "Well she is really a good person." or "She does work hard, not consistently, though," or "Only if she ......" We try to analyze and over-analyze and nothing changes until things are completely out of hand.  In this case, we can begin to look at what it is that is causing us to continue this ineffective strategy. Or better yet, ask the question "Who is it " that is continuing to allow this employee to continue not performing and being dishonest with his or her time?

However, I have found that merely asking the question is not enough.  First, I  had to settle the chattering mind enough so that I could actually hear a reliable and wise response to the question of "Who is it?"  I realized the mind that's going a hundred miles an hour with constant opinions and assumptions could not point me to the truth.  The truth is that an uncomfortable feeling arises in the example above where an employee is not being honest with their work habits.  The mind immediately sees itself as the victim, "I cannot believe she does that....,"  and instantly owns the experience, by attaching and clinging to it as "me" or "mine," then it looks for other unreliable perceptions such as, "But she is a good person," and becomes confused about a proper course of action; that may include providing more training, moving the employee to a different department, or letting her go.  As the person is wallowing in their own  sometimes conflicted perceptions, discomfort, stress and suffering persists.  In this way management of agenda is negatively impacted by our perceptions and self-views.  Practicing to settle the mind and cultivating mindfulness of what is real in the moment can intercept the unnecessary and rapid formation of perceptions and self-views and eventually lead to reliable success and well-being.

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Providing Mindfulness At Work training to your employees can reduce the  loss of important resources such as time, money, supplies, and prevent the failure of expensive projects.  Practicing mindfulness can enhance the quality of your employees' performance, communication, attendance,  attention / presence and overall well-being.   Contact us for mindfulness training To Optimize Success and Wellbeing at: Or  Visit:

To learn more about how a faulty perception is formed see Dr. Motaghy's Process of Perceiving diagram.  Send us your questions and comments through this blog or via email,

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Control Urges and Exhibit Self-Discipline - My Guru, The Pita Bread!

My Guru, The Pita Bread!
I have a somewhat regular and sincere contemplative mindfulness practice that helps me understand why I experience life the way I do, both internally and externally. I've been able to see my own urges, those I'm not really aware of such as the urge to multi-task. Practicing mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness practices I've learned to become in touch with my own urges, how they've controlled my life and work and how now to control them through awareness and self discipline. So, here are a few reflections for your coffee time. As you sip on your deliciously made aromatic coffee, tea or hot cocoa, accept these thoughts for your own reflection.

At the third mindfulness class I took with Daniel Davis, I finally decided to do the homework he had suggested, which was to do one thing we do routinely during the day, mindfully. That is, to be with the experience of it and fully give it our undivided attention. For example, if we chose brushing our teeth, he said to brush slowly, feel every stroke as the brush moved around the mouth, what it felt like, the taste of the tooth paste, what the mind was doing; observe everything about that experience, while also focusing on our breath. This was our mindfulness exercise, which to me didn't sound too exciting. It took a lot of self discipline to be able to stay with an activity and not wander off in the mind.

So I never did the toothbrush exercise.

Until that final day of having burnt my 1967th pita bread and screaming to myself, "this is so annoying. It's not acceptable anymore!”

Aside from running my business, tending to clients, raising kids, continuing to graduate school, etc., I also managed to lead a life of arranging parties, cooking for anywhere from 25 to 70 people, for my kids and family and for different occasions. I'm considered a very good cook by those who enjoyed flawless dishes over the course of 25 years. With one helper at my side to help prepare I could cook and prepare up to 10 dishes for a party all in one day and have everything come out perfect with beautiful presentations. That takes self discipline, so I thought! I also viewed myself as very accountable and responsible.

So, why did I burn nine pitas out of every ten that I tried to warm up? That had to do with some kind of an urge that I wasn't aware of, an urge that was controlling my life in so many ways and now I saw it as causing me to burn so many pita breads.

You see, for we Persians, using the toaster or microwave or even an oven to heat up the pita is a no-no. At least that's how my grandma taught me. So, we have to heat our pita bread over the fire to cook it to perfection. This takes anywhere between ten and thirty seconds. I know. I've timed it. So, for a competent cook like me burning nine out of ten pitas is really absurd and very annoying.

Why was this happening? I had to find out. Hence, this became my mindfulness exercise for my homework. Oh boy, was I in for a huge lesson in getting to know how I went about living life. While I stayed with my pita bread to heat it up, I followed the instructions of my teacher, feeling all my feelings, being with the experience, being with my breath, etc. I observed how absolutely difficult it was for me to just do one thing at a time. I saw how I could not stay put for twenty seconds to finish this task. The urge to run and do other things was overwhelming. I'd leave the stove to get something from the fridge, to wash vegetables, cut them, put on music and so many other things while leaving the bread on the fire and rushing to turn it over in between all those other tasks. And of course, it would burn needlessly.

OMG, I could not, and I mean could not for the life of me stay put. I saw how absolutely uncomfortable it was for me to pay attention to one thing and wait until it finished. As if it was not worth my time or something! As if I had to prove I could do more or as if having accomplished heating a few pita breads was too low of an accomplishment! I couldn't figure out what this was all about. It was one of the most bizarre experiences I encountered with myself. At that moment it hit me, "Where else in my life do I behave in this way? Where else do I not pay attention where it might be so much more harmful than just burning a few pieces of bread?" I thought about my kids, my relationships, my business. I had to sit down with that overwhelming thought and start practicing loving kindness, acceptance and gratitude for myself or I would have felt like a total failure. The pita bread had become my mirror!

In that moment I saw how I reacted to events in my life through urges and the need to satisfy them. Now, I'm not an addict or alcoholic, but this sure felt like addiction to me, my not being able to stop running around. I also understood why my teacher had given us such exercise and what mindfulness meant. I had believed I was a self- disciplined person, but realized that at least that behavior was nothing more than being a slave to my urges of producing, entertaining, running to fix and to achieve.

After that aha moment passed, I tried heating my bread as an only task and it was not easy. It was as if I were a smoker or an addict who had to quit multi-tasking. At first, I tried to impose control over my behavior, like a chain smoker trying to quit smoking but couldn't do it all at once. As I put another pita bread on the fire, I stayed close by, opened the drawer next to the stove to get forks and knives out, and the cabinet above to get plates out. I needed a great amount of self-discipline and didn't have it.

How I learned to control my urges and exhibit self-discipline:
1. First I had to feel my urges, which took self- discipline and tolerance to be with something that was very uncomfortable.

2. Coming back to the task at hand made it easier and easier to feel the urge to control by doing one thing at a time.

3. Seeing clearly. I realized that only a fraction of my attention was applied to any of the tasks I did while multi-tasking. Control was not the right strategy because it wasn't sustainable. I needed to be aware of the underlying urges that activate my choices and actions and by acknowledging them not become a slave to the urge to multi-task.

4. Training the mind was what I needed to enhance my self-discipline. I needed the skill and ability to stay in one place and to finish one task at a time with excellent quality and the least amount of stress. Boy, this has really helped minimize a lot of humanly mistakes that I could easily brush under the carpet or just find some justification for.

Practicing mindfulness has helped me control my urges, increase my self-awareness and self-discipline and has enhanced my results dramatically (I burn one out of ten pitas, a 90% improvement). I clearly see the connection between my efforts, desired outcomes and my serenity. I've learned that the quality of time and outcomes definitely depend on the quality of my awareness.

By meditating routinely, bringing my attention to my breath and back to the task at hand I am so much calmer, so much happier and more accomplished. The quality of life is all in the way I experience things.   And this, simply, is how the pita bread became my guru.
First published in Nov 2008

Dr. Manijeh Motaghy is the founder of Mindful Business Institute an Organizational Effectiveness, Management Consulting, and Employee Training Firm. For workshops on Mindfulness at Work, Mindfulness in Time Management, Mindfulness in Your Strengths and other mindfulness training Visit us at:

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mindfulness of your Strengths, Strength Finder 2.0 - Part I

In the past few years I've been including the Strength Finder 2.0 test in my training and consulting sessions. I have found knowing clients’ talents and Strengths to be quite valuable in helping them create solutions to enhance their outcomes. As the Strength Finder 2.0 promises, living through strength rather than weakness enhances handling day to day interactions and tasks as well as creating a more fulfilling work-context. Knowing my own natural talents and Strengths has certainly worked wonders for me. I no longer obsess about what I'm not good at, rather I employ my Strengths to work with every situation effectively and with ease. I've also learned that these identified Strengths work the same way as any tool might and that we cannot rely on them as an all purpose tool.
For example, when it's time for me to get home I would use my car as the tool to get me there, and when I arrive at home I need a different tool, a key, to open the house door. Obviously, if I were to use the same tool that helped me arrive there, the vehicle, to open the door it could cause a lot of damage to the door and the walls and prove to be the worst “tool” to use. It works in the same way if we are not aware when we are being in a specific Strength, such as let’s say the “Includer” Strength, which is my own top second Strength. The Includer does not like to exclude. Everyone has to be included, and she can easily sense gaps between the haves and the have-nots and has a lot of tolerance for diversity, etc. This Strength is very useful to me when I am teaching a class or running a meeting. I am quickly able to sense who may not be included and make sure everyone's voice has been heard. However, I have found myself needing to include people without considering the appropriateness of it. The more I have worked to notice and be aware that I am naturally and automatically doing that, the more I've been able to exclude those that need to be excluded without feeling uncomfortable about it. This has helped me cultivate healthy boundaries without judging myself for having the Strength of “Includer”.
Other Strengths need more explicit skills such as the “Strategic” Theme To be effective as a Strategic Theme, one needs to learn the "how-to" of developing strategies, i.e. learn how to do a SWOT analysis. We cultivate these natural talents by accumulating skills needed so that we could utilize them effectively and in a timely manor.
Working with various clients regarding their Strengths has been an interesting journey. Some turn out to be quite skeptical about their Strength Finder test results and others quite excited. Some relate to them right away by identifying their past experiences through the lens of their Strengths and others struggle quite a bit. Some managers think that simply because they know their employees' Strengths, all they need to do is to place them in the right position and the person will perform magically well. They go through the process with certain expectations and often face the fact that it doesn't quite work the way they thought it should. The fact of the matter is that even though our Strengths have great influence on the quality of our performance and experience, there are several other factors that influence the purity, sharpness or power of our Strengths. These factors include faulty perceptions, lack of skill to use the talent, which means it has not become a Strength yet and lack of awareness that the person is actually in one or more of their Strength modes. Here are three ways we can enhance the quality and outcome of our Strengths:

Three Ways To Enhance Your Top Five Strengths:
  1. Mindfulness: The first factor is mindful awareness. It is important to be aware of ourselves when we are actually exhibiting our strengths. Lack of awareness of our own mental processes and what drives our behavior negatively impacts the success of our top five Strengths. For this, you have to practice awareness of thoughts, perceptions, bodily sensations and our reactions to circumstances as they arise. The ways you can cultivate mindfulness include: Mindfulness meditation and applying a mindfulness training in your daily activities... See Thich Nhat Hanh's daily mindfulness Gathas. If you can't find it through Google, let us know and we will send it to you.
  2. Practice: The second factor is to evaluate your Strengths and note if they are really strong or still in the stages of developing as merely core-talents. In the book, "Outliers", the author indicates that one of the most important factors that contributed to the people of extraordinary talents (the outliers) and made them successful is an enormous amount of time in practice. 10,000 hours of practice is what their studies have shown to distinguish a genius from an ordinary talent. Their studies include geniuses such as Mozart, Steve Jobs and the Beatles. For all these characters a crucial element to their success was the opportunities they found and/or created to put their talents into practice. Then suddenly the tipping point happened and they became noticed for their skill and talent. Of course, this is not to suggest that we all have to become geniuses and extraordinary off the chart people. However, by knowing our core-talents we can become the best at the one thing we can do that no one can do better than us. “Practice makes perfect.” The opposite is also true. When we do things unskillfully, we can create harm and conflict instead of success and well-being. An example would be, a person who possesses the Strength of “Individuation” (who is able to see the potential in human diversity and identify best placement for employees). If the person is not skilled at this Strength, she may make comments to others about their uniqueness in a way that may seem critical and judgmental rather than encouraging and acknowledging. Knowing your top five Strength types is one thing, having consciously practiced them is another.
  3. Using the Right-Tool at the Right-Time, Right-Context: Assuming that our Strengths are all-purpose tools, and that when we are in them we are happy, productive, and successful and can resolve any issue can be a pitfall. The reality is that there are many other tools, both soft and hard-skill tools that one needs to develop for these top five Strengths to manifest properly. One of these soft-skill tools is having healthy boundaries, as I explained in an example above. Another aspect of this would be right-time, right-context. An example of this would be if a person with the “Woo” Strength (who's aspect is the talent to inspire others) keeps wooing people without the tool of healthy boundaries or at the wrong time with wrong people. They can run into a lot of problems when wooing the wrong people or the right people at the wrong time. It takes awareness and skillfulness in order to utilize your top five strengths properly.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Breaking the Fear Barrier - How to Bust Corporate Barriers

Breaking the Fear Barrier is a book by Tom Rieger published by Gallop.  The article printed on Gallup Management Journal on Aug 18, 2011 explains "The biggest threat to an organization's success: the fear that lives within its own walls."

As I read the Q&A with the author about how this fear is developed throughout organizations and how leaders are responsible for eliminating it, I realized he had not considered the one human factor, perception,  present in all human experiences regardless if one is a leader, manager or a follower.  Perception is what gives power to any type of feeling, sense of urgency or lack thereof.  
Last night, during the third session of my Mindfulness at Work Class, I presented a model of how perception is developed and how perception is almost always faulty, not factual and a root cause for stress, dissatisfaction, mistakes and failure.
As it turns out we are constantly forming perceptions.  Perception is formed when an event happens and combines with the way we feel about the event. Perception can be faulty or true.  In the case of organizations, and Rieger's perception that fear is the underlying factor for a lot of issues in organizations, while I might agree I would have to add that our relationship to the way we experience phenomena has precedence over the impact of fear itself.  Fear alone has no impact on anything.  It is the way we experience fear and generate more of it that is the issue.  Consider the following process as faulty or true perception is formed.  First,  Faulty Perception because it is much more common.
Faulty Perception:
  1. An event represents any ordinary or extraordinary phenomenon that happens every moment of the day. This could include receiving an email, witnessing an accident, taking a walk, breaking a dish, watching a movie, talking to a friend, finishing a project,  counting inventory, signing payroll checks, etc.
  2. The first thing that happens after the event occurs (which could change from moment to moment) is that a category of feeling or a mixture of feeling categories arise: Pleasant, Unpleasant or Neutral. Based on our relationship to the present feeling thoughts immediately come up to explain it. See the diagram above.
  3. When thoughts come up to explain the feelings they change the actual event from its pure form to the version of one's own understanding or better yet, one's own liking. In this way Faulty Perception is formed.
  4. When this happens the original event is contaminated and one's reaction or response in that moment is no longer to the original version but rather to the version one has created, the Perception.
  5. What's more harmful is that the perception about the event goes on to be stored in the memory system as fact, which one draws on at later dates.
  6. Hence, one is constantly responding either to a faulty perception one forms in the moment or the faulty perceptions one has stored in their memory system.
True Perception:
  1. True perception is created by acceptance. Acceptance means not being in conflict with any event as it arises no matter the feeling tone that arises with it. It does not mean one has to agree with it and it does not mean not to feel anything. And it doesn't mean not to do anything about it. It simply means responding directly to the event and not to the interpretations of the event.  Which there may be many interpretations depending on how many parties are involved.
  2. Of course, this is easier said than done, because perceiving happens so fast it is hard to notice what is true and what is an interpretation of the truth. This is why Rieger's view that leaders could eliminate fear is not realistic. Perceiving happens as fast as if one were falling off a tree. During the fall the person is not able to notice how many branches they passed, or how many leaves they might have seen. All they notice is one minute they're up and the next minute they're experiencing contact with the ground and really bad pain in parts of the body that hit the ground first. However, it is possible to cultivate the skill in the mind to be able to catch it at the feeling tone and not add to the event. This cultivation requires cleansing the mind by teaching it to settle down so it can see more clearly what is going on before rushing into interpretation, opinion and judgement.
  3. The way to keep one's perception clean and truthful to the actual event is to practice developing a non-judgmental mind through Mindfulness Meditation.
  4. As one practices mindfulness of the breath meditation their mind becomes more and more accepting and less and less argumentative about what is happening in the moment. In my consulting and training work I always include mindfulness training. There is no better way to retain the learning gained from training and sustain changes made through strategic planning.
  5. The practitioner of Mindfulness Meditation builds the skill to recognize the feeling tone before their mind has a chance to contaminate the event via the ego's attempt to explain and own it. As soon as the feeling is recognized and acceptance is present the ego lets go of taking ownership of the event and handling it. Thus, managers, leaders and department heads become more attentive, more wise and less reactive to the underlying fear that drives their decisions.
  6. As a result of True Perception, appropriate response is given to reality as opposed to what's made up by the mind.
  7. When one is in acceptance they are realistic rather than idealistic. The view is "It is what it is," and the question is what is the one best solution that takes into consideration the benefit of all involved towards accomplishing the mission of the organization.
If you are a human being, you are constantly forming perceptions and must evaluate or have the skill to detect how accurate you are in your perception. Otherwise, your response could cause a lot of waste in resources, time and money. This explanation about perception can be helpful for organizations to understand why there may be so much misalignment between departments, leaders and /or between members of any department.
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Dr. Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD. OMC is an Organization Management Consultant who is a Mindfulness practitioner and trainer.  For her full bio visit:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pathways in My Brain Have Changed!

Our mind is in charge of all our affairs, personal, professional, all of it.  How reliable is your mind? Can you trust it to make wise decisions for you?  With all the constant interpretations,  assumptions, opinions, judgments, and a faulty perception, how could it manage your life and profession optimally and to your satisfaction.  If you look at your life and your own level of satisfaction, you will see what I'm saying is true.  Of course, we always blame the outside elements and forces to be the cause of our unhappiness and our mind has plenty of reasons and stories to justify this theory and perception.  The truth is that our dissatisfaction is mainly due to the habitual way our mind is grown to perceive and rule.  We assume something to be true about any event and respond based on our assumptions.  Often, not true.  Brain experts tell us that with long term meditation we can cleanse the mind and re-train it to see things as they are and respond to event appropriately.  In fact, we can change the habitual ways of the mind by creating new pathways in our brain that integrate with the rest of the brain in an optimal way, hence enhance our lives dramatically.

I think I have created new pathways in my brain via constant meditation and mindfulness practice, like the scientists at the Nova Brain institute suggest we could do. Sitting at our regular Tuesday night sitting group my entire body felt in alignment with my mind in a space of deep concentration and alertness. As I sat in meditation, all parts of my body were locked-in together like a solid building structure. I felt no urge for movement, no pain or discomfort in the body meant anything. Even when the teacher rang the bell, and it was time to get out of meditation, my mind and body which were completely at ease, alert and stable did not wish to stop meditating. I think I sat there for the rest of the night with my eyes closed and without much movement. It just felt right. I was alert. I heard every word of the dharma talk and every word that our sitters shared. I wasn't tuned out. I was right there, stable, present and solid.

After we left the session, I reflected on this perfect experience of ease and strength both in the mind and the body that I had not experienced in quite the same way before. I realized it was all due to the love of the practice I had developed during this week at the Abhayagiri Monastery. As I participated in all the meditation sessions and listened to the dharma talks and asked questions about my own practice and my understanding of it, I felt a leap into a different level of ease and knowingness. I can't tell you how effective the response to all my questions was as the smiling monk, Ajhan Sanyamo, answered them. I had been there before, cherished my stay and experiences, participated in all the work meditation, talks and events, but hadn't before voluntarily done extra meditation. This time, I did extra sessions of walking meditation and sitting in my room, all afternoons and evenings. My mind wanted to. I was looking for that ease, comfort and stillness. All agendas of why so and so does this or doesn't do that or all the desires of the heart to have this or that have faded away. It must have been the effect of the monk's responses! I was curious, why this sudden shift of no effort in my meditation? My mind feels like a dutiful, loving and responsive child who has gotten the routine down and is not in conflict with sitting or being in silence. It must be the tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, the "Tipping Point.”

Similarly, this must be what scientists and experts of brain development mean when they say that with consistent and long term meditation the brain's elasticity develops new grooves and pathways. According to Dr. Daniel Siegel, with longterm meditation, the frontal cortex, which is responsible for managing our lives, integrates better with the rest of the brain and becomes a collaborative chunk instead of being fragmented. And that seems to be happening with my brain. Every time my mind tries to travel the old pathways of constantly interpreting, expecting, assuming, judging, etc. , it gets nowhere, because with the new pathways the map of my brain has changed. Negative thoughts and expectations of things to be different no longer stick for long because there is no groove for the mind to fall into. The mind is now craving for peace, concentration and equanimity and it knows where to get them. It has a clear address and route to them. Just follow the breath and let go of all thoughts that are not relevant to what's happening now. This is the new groove in my brain!

I shared with a sitter last night that my stay and practice at the monastery felt as if I had gotten a very strong dose of a peace and concentration vitamin shot. Of course, this experience was not only impacting my love for meditating and wanting to sit more, but, as a result, has enhanced the way I am experiencing everyday difficulties particularly when the results of what I do turn out contrary to my wishes or expectations. In a way, expectations seem to be slowly fading away. The need to plan perfectly and expect my plans to work out is also slowly and effortlessly falling away. The pain that came from holding on to fantasies of how life should be, how my man should treat me and how my kids should turn out or how my name and fame should go, and many other fantasies have dissolved into acceptance, kindness and joy. What is taking place is ease, comfort and wisdom that create more of what I really want at the core and less of what I really don't want. I'm also better able to transfer the insights I gain from practicing Mindfulness to my students and clients.

I am grateful to all the teachers and practitioners of mindfulness. May the blessings of all your efforts benefit all beings.

Dr. Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD.OMC
Mindfulness Business Consultant and Trainer 
Mindful Business Institute

Monday, August 29, 2011

3 Secrets & 3 Tips to Effective Time Management

Does anyone know the secret to time management? I think I have figured it out. In a discovery process, looking for what's actually manageable and what is not, I realized that time itself is NOT manageable! That's right. In fact, time manages us and not the other way around. Time is indifferent to our needs or agendas. It passes as it would whether there is chaos, productivity or lack thereof. Time as it relates to our human activities is influenced by the moon and the sun and other known or unknown elements far beyond our reach and control. Here are three secrets & tips to more effective time management.

Secret #1. We are not powerful enough nor resourceful enough to manage time. It is no wonder that we keep feeling a sense of failure when we try to manage time. So, shift your view from "time management" to "life or work management.” Let’s examine more closely what it is that we are trying to manage when we seek to "Manage Time." I put this question to a group of 65 GSOA staff and volunteers who attended my Mindful Time Management Workshop. Their responses included: Our tasks, events, life, week, agendas, work, kids, juggling, headaches, etc. Several moaned about never having enough time in a day to do the things they had to do. So, then what does time have to do with it? Other than meeting some imposed deadlines, time is of no relevance to our moment to moment experiences in life. Also, it is important to consider that we constantly react to what we perceive to be real as opposed to what is actually happening.

Secret #2: By aligning ourselves with the reality of what is taking place from moment to moment, we can actually find more time than we need. This means that many events occur during the day that if we saw them for what they were and not through our interpretations of these events, we might realize we do not need to engage or respond to them all. Hence, saving ourselves a lot of wasted time. Additionally, how we choose to spend our time is the key to managing our lives properly, effectively and with full satisfaction. And then there are the things that happen that are, or feel as though they are, out of our control.

Secret #3: Recognizing our time wasters, time savers and obstacles and properly working with them can create as much space and time as is needed in order to be successful.

Three Tips to create more time and space:
A. Create More Time: That's a good one you might be thinking, but how do we do that? Here is how: Develop a list called: Time Waster

Here are three examples of a list of 20 Time Wasters
  • Talking too much. Telling long stories to make a minute point - just because we want to prove we get it. Instead we could say, "I get it." or "I understand." and leave it at that.
  • Obsessing over past events. This is a big one, and we don't realize how much time we waste by repeatedly thinking or talking about what has passed over and over.
  • Disorganization, spending too much time looking for files on our computer, in our closet, in the kitchen, on our desk, etc.
How much time can you save by just adjusting these three things? For some people it could be hours.  What else wastes your time?

B. Create More Time: What? Isn't this the same as part A? Yes, but it's different. Create another list called: Time Savers.

Here are three examples of a list of 20 Time Savers:
  • Aim instead of Blame. How much time do you waste by looking for someone or something to blame when something is not going your way? Stop, get over it. Unless it is to make corrective actions, move to solution and intention rather than spending time defending yourself or persecuting others. Accept what's your part. It helps others accept their part instead of defending their case.
    • Set clear boundaries with those who tend to interrupt you in the middle of projects. And that goes for your own distractive mind. Figure out how much uninterrupted time you need and communicate it firmly and with kindness. Again, that goes for your own distractive mind as well. Keep returning your attention to the task when you are distracted.
    • Take mindful breaks. Breaks are definitely time-savers. Mindful breaks help replenish both mental and physical energy. Mindful breaks mean taking time to walk away from the task to feel your body, pay attention to your emotions and get in touch with all kinds of urges that drive you. Even a few moments of doing so will help you complete tasks without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about mindful breaks visit:

    How much time can you save by adjusting these three areas?

    C. Know your obstacles: Obstacles are both internal and external phenomena that get in the way of reaching our goals and desired outcomes. Some of these obstacles are manageable and some are not. Create two lists that identify and distinguish the manageable from the unmanageable. Be realistic. Let go of what you cannot manage and tend to what you can.

    Contact us for a Three 3 Hour workshop and learn How to Resolve Your Time Management Difficulties Through Mindfulness:
    For other mindfulness at work workshops visit:

    9 Tips To Improve Management

    1. When evaluating your strategic plan, be sure to understand if you took your orders from your organization's mission statement or from the chaos of the environment.  This is one of the most crucial elements missed by organizations who dont' feel as successful as they want to be and it applies to any size organization, even  to a one man or one woman show.  Our mission is to Optimize Success and Wellbeing.  Everything we do must support this mission.
    2. Take time to discover your employees' and your own natural Talents and Strengths.  This way you can engage in and be involved in what you all do effortlessly.  When you love what you do and do it effortlessly, you won't want to stop, you won't get tired and you won't complain about not enough pay or benefits.   Studies show that focusing on natural strengths results in happiness and fulfillment, which increase quality of work and level of productivity.
    3. Be sure to include training needs in your evaluation.  Often companies provide performance reviews and focus on positive or negative behavior and outcomes, but  they often forget to offer any training or ways to improve the skill or behavior.  First you must use a systematic way to evaluate them properly in order to have a clear and accurate picture of areas of need for improvement. Our consultants work closely with Strength Finder tests and provide mindfulness training to optimize your employees' utilization skills of their Strengths.                                                      
    4. This one will never get old.  Practice mindfulness meditation daily to enhance your mental and emotional clarity, feel calm in the midst of chaos and improve all your results.
    5. Develop a Mindful Time Management Process.  That means figuring out what elements cause you to waste time and other valuable resources.  These could be too many distractions, lack of attention, lack of direction, or lack of healthy boundaries etc.
    6. Before you spend valuable time, money and other resources to invest in social media, take the time to understand Social Media, its relevance and how effective it can be for your type of business.            
    7. Understand new laws that impact employee privacy protection in regards to Social Media.  i.e. Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel, Inc., 172 Ca. App. 4th 1125 (Cal Ct. App. 2009) (no cause of action for Invasion of Privacy where information was posted on a Myspace page).
    8. Create Social Media Policy that clarifies boundaries for the type of Social Media activities that impact your business negatively.  This can include controlling the use of company sponsored sites.
    9. Unite your Vision with all your stakeholders.  Everything in this world is connected. Find those connections and create a link to other people's or organizations' vision.  Your chance of success will increase dramatically if you can create alliances to share resources with one another.
    Our trainers at Mindful Business Institute are mindfulness practitioners and expert in shaping the mind and views of your employees so they can work stress-free and productive.

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