Review of Search Inside Yourself

Search Inside Yourself is a book that makes big claims – a guide to achieving success, happiness and even world peace.  It is based on a self-development course created  by Google engineer turned personal development expert Chade-Meng Tan.

I was delighted to review the book because it focuses on using development of mindfulness techniques and emotional intelligence to find success and fulfilment at work.

It is rare that the link is made between spiritual development and corporate success and refreshing that this is endorsed by arguably the world’s most successful and ubiquitous organisation.

Overall, this book provides a wide range of thought-provoking evidence and practices based on some of the latest scientific research into the way our minds work.  There is no doubt that any reader will benefit hugely from committing to growing their self-awareness.

In reviewing this book for TLC Book Tours, I thought I’d adopt the approach of “Searching Within Myself” to see how I felt about reading it, so here goes (see I did learn something):

Excited – this a book about important ideas of mindfulness, presence and emotional intelligence.  It is exciting to hear how they have had a real impact on the course participants at Google, in the corporate world and beyond.

There is a genuine passion and commitment in the writing that is infectious – an underlying belief that small inner changes can have huge outer world impact – that is exciting to read.

Challenged – there are some great ideas and practical exercises to help develop myself and grow.  I certainly benefitted from the mindfulness meditations which have helped me become more aware of my thoughts and feelings and how to manage them.

I loved the reminders on treating people with compassion and empathy – particularly approaching every person with love and kindness.

This book challenges the reader to grow and the simple exercises have wide-reaching impact.

Impressed – by the scale of ambition of this book – to spread world peace.  It can feel embarrassing and foolish to make the case that inner change can stop wars happening.

Although there isn’t really a practical blue print for world peace in the book, working on being a compassionate leader, developing empathy, listening and managing afflictive emotions will help the world be a much better place.

Frustrated – As a believer in these ideas, this book was preaching to the converted.  I’ve always found it hard to inject real humour and levity into the ideas of mindfulness.

Although Search Inside Yourself sets out with this intention, it is packed with (in my opinion) bad jokes and rather unnecessary cartoons.  This bit falls into the “nice try” category but doesn’t really add to the book.

One day I’m sure the secret of how to be mindful and funny will emerge.

Happy – I learnt a lot things about myself that genuinely do contribute to a sense of well-being.

The section on stepping back from our emotions and not letting them control really hit home.  Understanding the feelings and sensations and how they drive emotions and thoughts allowed me to step back and avoid riding the emotion train.

With more choice over how to react, I can avoid grasping and aversion and that has helped me feel more content and balanced.

Overall, this is a powerful and useful book.  The series of exercises are great to work through on your own and can also be effective in groups or organisations.

The investment you make in buying this book and following through with developing your inner self will certainly pay off many times.

So, job done and most of the claims are backed up by the content – great work and a great read.

This review was written as part of a TLC book tour for Search Inside Yourself.

Review of Situations Matter by Sam Sommers

Does context matter?

As a TLC book tour host, I’ve just been reading Situations Matter by Sam Sommers in an attempt to find out.  If you’d like to find out too, you can find out more and purchase the book here.

On the face of it, it quite common sense that things can change depending on the surrounding circumstances.  For example, I used to read 20 to 30 of these psychology books every year as I’m fascinated by how research and science can help us be better and more effective.

Since my situation changed and I had my son in November I’ve read approximately 5 pages of one book.  So situations do matter!

My acid test for this kind of book is

1) Is the book fun to read?

2) Does it offer a new angle on something obvious and common-place? (think Malcolm Gladwell or Freakonomics)

3) Will it help me with some practical advice to live a better (less ordinary) life?

Fun to read

Sommers is a psychology professor at Tufts.  He has created a witty and articulate read.  He covers a wide range of topics including love, gender differences, the power of crowds and the challenges of conformity.

This is no po-faced route march through the psychology of context and influence.  There are plenty of good personal examples to show how context can alter a situation for the better (for example getting a shirty airline clerk to give him a hotel room after a missed connection by revealing his wife was pregnant).

The book engages you throughout with things to try and learn from and it will put a smile on your face.  So far, so good.

Well researched

Situations Matters covers the idea of context from a wide range of innovative angles.  Each one is backed up by some scientific evidence as witnessed by the extensive notes at the end.  This feels more than simple conjecture.

The section on self-help and improvement provided some fresh insight for me.  Sommers notes that our self-perception can shift depending on the context – we have multiple, complex and shifting personalities (for example our corporate warrior work self, parent self and all alone self).

Remembering that we are a constantly evolving and changing entity helps a lot.  The book reminds us we have the power to develop, grow and change and that is a hopeful and worthwhile conclusion.

The section on finding love is particularly insightful.  A good reminder that love is much more complex than getting hit by cupid’s arrow and finding the one.

So, definitely some credible and useful new angles on context.  Strike two!

Will it make my life better?

At the end of each chapter is a summary of the key points and an attempt to look at the applications in real life.

The conclusions on the chapter on the power of crowds and conformity encourage the reader not to use the context of a crowd as a reason not to act.  Sommers uses the example of the Liverpool 38 who all saw Jamie Bulger with his killers before his murder and took no action.  Having the bravery to step out from cover could have saved his life.

He also notes that if you need help in a crowd or more generally you need to be very obvious about your need and make a clear request.  A lesson that most of use need to hear in one way or another.

There are plenty more gems throughout the book for you to enjoy.  Sommers has hit the mark on all three counts.

A Great Read

As I’ve learned, context is key with this summary.  This book is well worth a read If you enjoy popular psychology and want to use the power of context to be more influential and happier.  It may not be for you if you like your self-development to be a bit more hard edged and instructive.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the book, or purchasing it, follow this link.

Why I quit my six figure job to find work I love

I’ve written a book called “How to Find Work you Love”.  Read on to find out why and get a discounted copy…

Have you ever done something that makes everyone you know shake their heads in disbelief?

For me the first one that springs to mind was when I put the kettle on the stove and lit the gas.

I only remembered it was an electic kettle made of plastic when it set on fire.  Shake shake.

This is closely followed by my decision to quit my job as a senior manager at Deloitte to start my coaching business.

“What on earth are you thinking about, leaving behind all that security?”

“You’re mad, completely bonkers”

“I know you don’t like it, but really?”

One friend simply burst into tears.

If you’re thinking about leaving behind your safe job that makes you miserable you’ll be worried about the same reaction.

To join the waiting list for the How to Find Work You Love e-book (and get a discount) – please click here.

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How to Get More Done

On a scale of 1 to 10, how productive were you last month?

If you think that number is too low, this article is all about how to get stuff done without making life into a route march.

We all have things that we want to achieve – from making real our beautiful dreams of an ideal future through to changing the lightbulbs in the hall (why do they keep burning out?).

Last month saw me reach new peaks of personal productivity (starting from a low baseline).

Somehow I’ve managed to market and sell our flat, find a house to buy, get plans and a builder to renovate this house, find a place to rent, start moving our flat, prepare for our baby to arrive, write my first e-book and keep growing the coaching practice.

I’ve probably been somewhere between a 7 and 8 out of 10 for most of this time.  It’s felt like quite a trek and fun has gone a bit by the wayside.

Frankly I’m a bit knackered now, and this week, productivity is probably down closer to a 4.  More time has been spent sitting in the park in the sunshine, or looking at a blinking cursor (it took 28 minutes for this article to get started).

This period of frenetic productivity followed by a lull has taught me a couple of important things about getting things done:

1) Action leads to confidence (leads to action)

I’ve never felt very confident about picking up the phone, particularly to ask someone to do something they might not want to do.

Our house move couldn’t happen without calling virtually hundreds of estate agents, lawyers, surveyors and other people.  It forced me to take action.

Each call got a little less horrendous and by the fiftieth one, I was quite enjoying it.  My mobile phone bill testifies to the fact that I now love picking up the phone.  Taking action built my confidence and allowed me to do even more.

2) Self-discipline feels good

Self-discipline is a slippery creature to pin down.  It allows us to do the dirty work and tough challenges that can move us forward to our goals.

Yet it can disappear in the blink of an eye.  Suddenly the Come Dine with Me omnibus becomes the most important televisual event of all time, certainly more important than sending those vital documents to the lawyers.

I’ve found that self-discipline is like going to the gym.  You have to start where you are and you can’t suddenly lift three times your own body weight.  By building up slowly and getting a little more done each day and week (and forgiving yourself when you screw up), self-discipline can get stronger.

Like exercise, it also feels good.  When you make a commitment to yourself and keep it (despite the temptation to read the sport section of the newspaper again), your self-esteem takes a little boost.

3) All work and no play makes Phil a dull boy

Having spent a lot of my life doing just enough to get by, it was intriguing to be a super-achiever.

Frankly, it probably made me into quite a boring person.  When you are building gant charts for moving your stuff at 11pm, you know you have a problem.

I think I may have neglected some of the activities and people that bring fun into my life over the summer.

Finding this balance and time to recharge can actually make you more productive (and certainly keeps you sane).

If you want to get more stuff done, here are some suggestions for ways to build up your productivity:

1. Identify your number one time-wasting tactic.  Tomorrow morning when you wake up, make a commitment to yourself to reduce or eliminate it from your day (eg I won’t check Facebook today).  Keep this promise to yourself and you’re showing respect for yourself.
2. Set yourself three monthly goals for October that you’d really like to achieve (be discrete and tangible).  Identify your reward for doing them.  Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable.  Commit and make them happen.
3. Commit to something new and fun – a course, time with friends each week, just reading a book for 30 minutes each evening.  Keep that promise to yourself.
4. If you are being held back by an untidy office or house, put together a plan to clear it up.  Even 10 minutes a day can clear a problem quickly
5. Keep track of how much real work you do in the office this week.  Aim for a 10% improvement the week after.
6. Set and commit to some goals you’d like to achieve before Christmas and make a plan for making it happen.  Keep your goals somewhere prominent and tick them off as they get done.
7. If you’ve been overachieving for a long time and it’s starting to wear you out, think about what you can de-prioritze and replace with something more fun.

Go take and action and get stuff done!

Photo courtesy of orcmid (Flickr Creative Commons)

Secrets to a successful job search

You might be finding that one of the most frustrating parts of a career change is finding the right opportunity.
If you have a good idea of what you want to next, it can feel like trying to find a needle in haystack to track down the perfect job.
This post will arm you with a job hunting strategy and tactics that work.
The great news is that the right opportunity IS out there – with a good plan, dedication and the right attitude you can find it.