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By Ozlem, Jul 10 2015 10:33AM

We are interdependent.

We all need love, support and connection. Yet, there is a balance between how ‘connected’ and how ‘separate’ we need to be mentally, emotionally and physically. We get to decide our rules in our personal and professional relationships to be our best selves, to use our time and energy well and to remain balanced. This balance is attained by setting boundaries. But how can we set effective boundaries, without coming across as too rigid or as easily influenced? Here are some suggestions:

Know your values

Instead of always going with the flow, disturb your pattern- make time to stop and genuinely reflect on who you are and what you want. What inspires you? What are the things that you value the most in life? Integrity? Fairness? Independence? Achievement? Collaboration? Define your values clearly as your personal rules and boundaries are shaped around them.

Appreciate yourself

Enjoy being you. Know that who you are, what you want, what you need and how you feel matters. And this is why only you can decide how you would like to be treated. We protect things that we value and appreciate. If you appreciate yourself, with your strengths and flaws, you will protect ‘you’. And you will not easily let ‘you’ get mistreated.

Be kindly direct

Is being direct and kind at the same time possible? The answer is yes. This is about expressing your wants, needs and rights while considering the wants, needs and rights of others. You can let people know what you will tolerate and what you won't and do it in a sensitive way. Here are a few examples: “I understand this topic is really important to you. But we've already spoken about this many times and I honestly have nothing new to say on the subject. Could we just talk about….instead?” or “I just want to let you know when you and Jan joked about me in front of the boss- I felt hurt and undermined. I want you to know because I care about us working well together.” Kind yet direct!

Show you mean what you say

Don’t forget that articulating your rules, doesn't guarantee you communicated it all successfully. Only 7% of communication is ‘words’. The rest is ‘tone of voice’ and ‘body language’. You teach people how to treat you by what you allow. Our words and behaviour need to go hand in hand for effective communication.

A client recently told me she feels she wastes quite a bit of time talking to one of her friends on the phone almost every day. Her friend has had a few problems recently and my client tries to be there for her. But each conversation lasts at least half an hour and although she wants to support her friend she has too many responsibilities to be able to do this daily. She told me she spoke to her about this a few times with no success. The thing is if my client answers the phone every time her friend calls and lets her lead the conversation so she has no control over the duration, what is the subconscious message she gives by allowing the same behaviour over and over again (even if she told her she cannot speak with her every day)? Yes- her friend is likely to think the whole thing doesn't bother her that much. If it did or if she didn't have the time, she wouldn't take the calls in the first place.

So back up your words with matching behaviour.

Be very specific when giving feedback

Whether you feel happy, sad or frustrated with regards to someone’s behaviour, it is important that your feedback is specific. Something like ‘I felt hurt that you planned our weekend away without asking my opinion. It felt like my opinion and what I want didn't matter. I'd appreciate it if we can go over the itinerary together and if next time you remember to involve me in the process.’ is much better than ‘How dare you plan our weekend without consulting me? What’s the matter with you?’ This will also help you stay away from judgement and blame.

Respect the boundaries of others

Treat others how you want to be treated. In the same way your boundaries are central to your relationships, productivity and joy, the boundaries of others are central to theirs. Treat people with respect and understanding. Where possible try to meet in the middle, so everyone experiences a proportion of the ‘win’.

Look for support

If you find being assertive difficult especially because you end up weighting the thoughts and opinions of others more than yours, look for help. Who around you is great at setting boundaries? Could you work with a coach or a mentor to reflect on your belief patterns and behaviours? Look carefully and you will always find a few people who have mastered the very thing you’re working on.

And remember- despite all your efforts, sometimes setting boundaries will be offensive. Continue communicating yourself and your rules as best as you can. Simply because you are in charge of your own emotions, thoughts and time. And although how others feel is important, how you feel is also important. Your job is to protect your well-being and energy and only you are responsible with that.

By Ozlem, May 31 2015 06:37PM

On Saturday 1st September 2012, I experienced maybe one of the most fascinating moments of my life at the main stadium during the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London:80,000 people from all around the world giving a standing ovation for about 10 minutes to one of the competitors in men's 1500 metre race, in the T46 category.

No, the 35 year- old, one- armed runner Houssein Omar Hassan from Djibouti wasn't the winner. In fact, the winner had finished the race about 8 minutes earlier. But the spectators united for this man who literally 'fought' with his soul to complete the race. At first there was some confusion amongst the crowd and it took us a little while to fully comprehend what was going on. All contestants but one had finished the race. And this single runner, continued on and on...The cheers and applauds of the crowd became a roar in unison and people started rising section by section each time he passed by. Many including my husband and I had tears in their eyes. It felt like 80,000 of us were reaching out to him but also to each other. We were from different parts of the world, from variety of cultures, but at that moment we were ONE! This was much more than a great moment in time. Maybe a spiritual moment or a moment that cannot be boxed into the 5 senses. And the energy in the stadium was incredible! We were stunned, exhilarated, humbled and totally happy.

Unfortunately, when we bring our awareness to everyday moments, we inevitably recognise how judgemental our world is. And the media shaping our cultures only perpetuates this further with the way they broadcast and publish their stories- mostly directing the audiences to the differences of genders, religions, cultures and societies rather than the similarities. Still, what we were all reminded on that Saturday was that our core is ‘ love’. We have the full capacity to drop all judgement and be open and acceptant of one another.

So, how can we try to implement a non-judgemental attitude in our lives? Here are a few ways:

1. Catch yourself judging

The first step is to be consciously aware of the fact that you’re passing judgements on people. Imagine this scenario for a moment: As you are waiting for your train on the platform, you realise there’s a young man near you. When you notice him, the immediate thought in your mind is: “This guy is seriously overweight!” followed by “He’s too young to be this heavy!” And then… “Does he not have parents, family or friends who care- why didn't they stop him from putting all this weight on?” “Those trousers look don't look right on him!”…We all know how thoughts work. They go through our minds one after the other every second. When judgement crosses your mind, especially for no reason (i.e. nobody tried to approach you in an inappropriate way, or said/ did anything to you or someone you cared about etc….) the first thing that you need to do is to catch the negative thoughts and the emotions they evoke. When you catch your judgemental thought pause and take a deep breath. Time to focus on the positive or the ‘helpful’ which will enhance your relationships rather than creating distance!

2. Be reflective

Judgement is actually never about the others- but about us. The key thing is to identify what's going on inside of us that triggers the judgement- which means we must take a good look at ourselves and check the state within. Going by the example above you can ask yourself a few questions: “What does this person being overweight has to do with me? Does he remind me of someone who was unkind to me in the past or someone who I knew in a negative way? Am I often judgemental to myself and particularly around my weight? What does this have to do with my beliefs about weight and particularly my weight? What message does this emotion give me about myself?"

Reflective questions like these will help you understand what’s going on inside you better and allow you to refocus your attention. More often than not, when we suddenly feel negatively towards others- especially towards people we don’t know well or we don’t know at all, it’s about our past experiences, disappointments or fears. Maybe you once had an overweight acquaintance who was unkind to you. Maybe you were raised in an environment where being overweight was frowned upon regardless of the reasons behind it and you adopted those beliefs and behaviours without questioning them. Negative emotions are powerful and they stick in our minds more than the positive ones.

3. Refrain from "generalisation"

We can see many examples of how “generalisation” or “stereotyping” actually is damaging to relationships. Generalisation is categorizing people and it’s a massive barrier to open and positive communication. When we put people in various boxes and decide who they are before even getting to know them, we really are not giving them a chance. Thoughts or sentences beginning as follows sound quite unfair: “All artists are…” “Rich people are…” “Poor people…” “All women…” “All men…” “People from the south are....” The list goes on... How can we possibly know everyone from a certain locality, group, gender, culture, country or religion? Each and every human is unique with their experiences, ideas, challenges and dreams. And each and every individual deserves at least one chance. Yes, our conditions or environment have an influence on us but this doesn't mean we are all affected in the same way or end up learning the same thing from similar experiences. So the best thing is to keep an open mind and give a chance to get to know people for who they are -without any labels. If you want to find out more about someone, ask them questions. And most importantly “listen” to the answers!

4. Focus on the ‘similarities’ not the differences

Psychologists claim although we may notice differences from a young age we do not judge during the early years of our existence. However as we grow up we are taught to do exactly that by the societies we live in- which once again are increasingly influenced by the media as mentioned before. Of course in a small number of instances this is necessary so we can be away from harm. But in order to train our brain to be less judgemental we need to train ourselves to find commonalities with others. One thing you can do when you notice differences about another person is to shift your attention to ‘similarities’. When you come across people you need to interact with and you find yourself repelling, ask some simple questions: What is common between you and them? What brings you together? Similar taste in fashion? Similar haircut? Reading the same newspaper? Living in the same area? Once you begin this process you might be able to find many commonalities. However, the two factors that will always be the uniting ones are that we are all 'human' and we all have 'challenges'. In these, we definitely are joined together. So whenever you catch yourself judging someone and you do not want to, just remember they are valuable because they are here on this earth and they too have challenges that you have no clue about.

5. Activate empathy

Could you at least try to put yourself into someone else’s shoes? Understand first, then do your best to be understood? When I catch myself being judgemental, I make up a story about the other person or the situation that would help me adapt my perspective. If someone is being rude or unkind for no reason I can think of, I predict a challenge they might be going through at that moment that’s causing the behaviour. Even if I'm not entirely accurate, activating my empathy helps me be in control of my own response and behaviour. After all, my thoughts, emotions and behaviours are the only ones I need to be and can be in charge of.

In similar situations a few questions you can ask yourself are: What might be the back-story of this person? What types of challenges might they have right now? How might those challenges be impacting their thinking and behaviour? How can you best respond to their behaviour?

6. Don’t give in to ‘gossip’

'Gossiping' is focusing your attention on the negative and at times possibly going into a 'fantasy' world. Not only is it unkind and unfair, as the person being talked about is not there to give their side of the story, but it is ever so time and energy consuming. It doesn't bring anybody any good. It doesn't solve any problems - in fact it generally makes them worse. Even more importantly: What positive things could the time and energy spent on gossiping be dedicated to instead?

7. Look for role models

Most of us do have at least one person in our lives who seems to be able to not judge but understand instead. Who are the people around you that seem to never pass judgements on others? Who are the most understanding people you know? Who are the ones that managed to have mastered what you’re trying to grasp? Observe their attitudes, behaviours and relationships. And decide what you can learn from them that will help you to be less judgemental.

It might take a while for practice to make “perfect” but it won’t be too long before practice makes “better”.

Until next time, wishing you fun and growth!


By Ozlem, Apr 13 2015 01:42PM

If I was to use a metaphor to depict the past few years of my life as an entrepreneur I would say it’s been a ‘mostly joyful crash course on personal and professional development’. Meeting and working with many people on the same boat, has taught me that each entrepreneur’s path is individual and unique- as every single one of us have our own experiences, circumstances, expertise, skills and approaches to challenges.

That said, we all unite in our desire to make our dreams happen, however varied our methods may be. And there are some striking commonalities in the basic principles of businesses that achieve great success.

During the last year, alongside my personal experiences and awareness, I've had the privilege of being a part of live audiences and tapping into the wisdom of some outstanding entrepreneurs- such as Kelly Hoppen, Guy Kawasaki, Josephine Fairley, Vernon Hill and Piers Linney…

So, here are the top 10 principles for business success:

1. Make a habit of taking risks.

“Take the plunge and go for what you want” is a strong message form successful entrepreneurs. There will always be thousands of reasons for not starting your business- fear being the number one reason.But there will also be worthwhile reasons why you should. We wouldn't be enjoying many wonderful inventions and comforts we have today if it wasn't for the people who decided to take risks. Take calculated risks so you have a plan for failure and a solution for every single problem you foresee can be in your way.

And of course there's never something for nothing. You've got to be prepared to pay the necessary price for making your dreams happen - whatever you decide this price should be. But in the end the journey, the learning and the success are worth it.

2. Don't do it alone! Find a partner or put together a team to execute your vision & ideas.

No one does it alone. And 'creativity' is an essence of being human- so entrepreneurs or not, all of us have fantastic ideas now and then. Remember all the times you thought of a brilliant idea, did nothing about it and within a year or two you noticed an established company or a startup executing it...So the key thing is whether we put our ideas into action! And for the best execution of ideas, teaming up with at least one other person is imperative. When ideas, collective energies and experiences are concerned 1+1 doesn't make 2, it makes 3,4,5... Human creativity and potential is vast. And unless you have a co-founder, partner or a small team, you are never really a business. Another key ingredient is for your partner to have the same vision and values as you, but ideally to possess a different set of skills and expertise. This way you complement each other and you both lead on different aspects of the business.

3. Make sure the problem you're solving for your customers is actually a 'real' problem that people want solutions for.

A very simple yet crucial point: An idea being interesting to you, doesn't make it an area of service that's meaningful and helpful to others. So before launching any product or service finding out that it's needed is extremely important. Research, surveys, interviews with your target market will help you find out if your product or service is or would be in demand. Look for a problem that needs to be solved and make sure you and your co-founders have the passion, desire, expertise and determination to solve it.

4. An absolute passion and a sound strategy are the non-negotiables of a successful business.

Without the passion for what you do, there is no sustainable future for your business because that is the source of your enthusiasm and the main reason why you serve your customers with such dedication. Passion creates faith and resilience and becomes the driver of persistence in the face of failure.

But there is also another very crucial element: a sound plan and strategy in order to execute your ideas. While the passion and the purpose should be at the heart of your business, the plan and the strategy can be adapted and changed according to the feedback you receive and your results.

5. Execute your ideas- fast!

Having momentum and moving fast is essential. Once you know the product or the service you offer does solve a necessary and meaningful problem, trial it out quickly. Find out if the product or service you provide is really working for you and your target market. This way if things don't work, you know it sooner than later which gives you the opportunity to change and adapt plans. Getting feedback from customers early on, helps you perfect your product and guides you to make those essential decisions and choices in the initial stages of your business.

6. Establish shared values very early on and hire the right people.

Be very clear about what your business stands for very early on. Decide on the values of your business and communicate them well. You, your co- founder, your team- anyone who works within your organisation must absolutely swear by those values. For instance if your business has the core values of positivity, accountability and creativity- everyone involved in it, regardless of their role must fully reflect and live by them! Be assured that when you radiate your values, you'll attract the customers who have those exact values too. And do not hire people just because they happen to be available at the time you need someone. You must hire the correct person who is right for your business, your team and the job.

7. Be guided by your intuition.

Listening to your higher self, acting according to your instincts, following your gut feeling or tuning into your 6th sense- however you define it, this is an important advice from many successful entrepreneurs. They all say if instinctively they sense something is not right about a deal, project, situation, opportunity or a person- no matter how good or logical something might appear, they do not go for it... They also add some of their best decisions were intuitive- a worthy advice to implement. Meditation and quiet time for reflection are some of the ways successful people use to tap into their intuition.

8. Build genuine relationships with the people you serve.

Managing to turn your customers into fans of your business is one of the keys to business success. You must love, understand and care for the people you serve which will only ignite your passion and faith further. Listen to your customers, work hard to connect with them, regularly ask for feedback and do more than they expect to bring them results.

9. Continue to learn and develop yourself to stay in the game.

Now that you are not a part of someone else’s organization but building your own and working hard to make your dream happen, you might overlook the importance of continuous personal and professional development. Personal reading, attending seminars, taking courses and networking should be an important part of your development and that of your team’s. To know your competition well and the need to be ahead of them is an additional factor for this investment. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are self- aware and who know their strengths but most importantly their weaknesses. They are leaders who dedicate time and effort to develop themselves and their teams.

10. Work with a mentor.

Having advice from a critical friend who has been where you are and has achieved what you’re trying to achieve can be essential for your success. Having a mentor helps you identify and close the gaps in your knowledge and pushes you further to create the right habits, attitudes and relationships for success. The right mentor can help you implement your ideas and run your business more effectively then you otherwise would. They also help you become a better leader and a more effective team player.

By Ozlem, Jan 28 2015 04:27PM

A few years ago when I decided to leave the 9 to 5 employment, I was continuously warned, reminded, told, explained - by literally everyone I know, that going solo or starting a business with a partner would be very hard. I’m sure every entrepereneur, solopreneur, start -up team, SME founder etc… has heard this before.

What almost everyone points out is how much ‘hard work’ being your own boss entails and how one would need to work 7/24 with high levels of stress and under pressure.

Of course for someone who has many years of inner London teaching and school leadership experience, ‘hard work’ was already quite familiar to me. And the same goes for some other sectors too: ‘Hard work’ on its own would not stop many people from starting their own businesses as they are already used to getting great results under stress and they’re very familiar with working long hours.

But despite being an experienced hard worker, I struggled. No, not because ‘working hard’ was at all a problem. The tough part was ‘who I needed to become’ in order to be my own boss and accomplish my goals. Well, somehow ' You need to become that person who achieves what you would like to achieve' was never mentioned to me by anyone! I assume that’s because most people, even the ones who are in business are sometimes not fully aware of it themselves and even when they are, they just don’t know how to articulate it. Therefore, I needed to discover it myself.

So dear Mentors, Business Coaches and Business Owners: When you tell your mantee or coachee to be prepared for ‘hard work’ please make sure you clarify exactly what that phrase entails! Please let the new start-ups/ entrepreneurs/ solopreneurs know that the hardest part of creating your business & wealth is becoming fearless! Becoming a person who continuously tries to overcome their fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism etc… every day until they conquer them all… When it comes to living one’s passion, it is not really the hours one has to put in that’s hard but to eliminate what holds one back from making that cold call, writing to that potential client, attending that networking event, giving that presentation…

Please remind them to recognise their weaknesses, shortcomings, lack of knowledge, lack of experience, lack of connections and help them make a firm decision to take immediate action for improvement. Encourage them to work day in and day out to become the confident, self-assured and resilient person they need to be to put themselves out there and get results…

Finally- remind them that while they should continue being a caring person, they also need to learn not to care about what others think or say about them!

By Ozlem, Nov 30 2014 11:51PM

One of the cornerstones of emotionally intelligent living is the ability to manage moods and emotions.

Whether we wake up with a bad mood or find ourselves grabbed by one as our day unfolds, we all experience unwanted moods now and then. And of course some of us have them more often than others.

It is important to acknowledge our emotions. They are there to protect us as well as carrying messages about us and our environment.

Still, altough negative moods are a part of a healthy mind as well as positive moods, they can be pretty draining and distracting at times- eating into our time, energy and creativity. Inevitably, if we don’t figure out how to manage them they’ll demotivate us and lead us to procrastination- and in the long run even to depression…

Meanwhile, there is quite a bit of research pointing to the fact that people who manage to stay in positive moods are more productive and happier.

So what can we do to snap out of bad moods?

1. Check your physiology!

The first thing you need to bring to your conscious awareness when you’re in a bad mood is your physiology. How are you sitting or standing? A bad posture-a slouched back, hunching over desks and computers etc… is likely to put you in a negative state. Sitting/ standing up with a straight back, avoiding sitting in the same position more than 30 minutes (or avoiding standing in the same position for a long time) and holding your head up should immediately begin to move you towards positivity.

How tired, sleepy, hungry or dehydrated you are also plays a big role in the way you feel. So make sure you take care of your body by consuming enough liquids and food. But be aware! Nutritionists state that too much sugar or meals filled with fatty ingredients will also put us into a negative state.

Drinking water regularly and having a healthy snack / meal will massively improve your mood.

2. Think of the moment just before you got into a bad state.

The moment you realize you’re in a bad mood, remember what you were doing, who you were talking to or what exactly you were thinking just before feeling that way? It’s most likely that you focused your attention on the negative. What were you thinking? Where does that thought or belief come from? As it’s not a helpful one, what can you do to change that thought and focus your attention to the positive? Decide how you’d like to feel instead and take immediate action to feel that way.

3. Practise mindfulness.

Similar to number 2 above, when you suddenly felt bad, were you focusing on a negative experience or evidence from the past? Or were you rushing ahead and worrying about something you do not want in the future? Either way-just stop. Come back to the only real moment- the one you’re in now. Take a deep breath or a few. Whether you are at your desk at work or at home, just try your best to still your mind and think of nothing. Focus on your breathing, the expansion of your chest, the air that fills your lungs and nothing else. If it’s appropriate, try to meditate for about 5- 10 minutes.

4. Break the pattern with a piece of music you like.

Yes, put an energizing, uplifting track on. And listen to it to break the bad mood. Focus on what a great piece it is! Think of a fun memory attached to it, if you have one. Even dance to the tune if you can;)

5. Smile or even better “Laugh”!

Research shows that even putting a fake smile on your face improves your mood. So just smile, even if you don’t feel like it. You’ll see the positive effects within minutes. Even better- if it is possible, watch a short clip or a short video you like which makes you laugh. You will be breaking the pattern by laughing and immediately will feel positive.

6. Get some light & oxygen!

If you can- get out! Whether it is a sunny day, a rainy one, or a bitterly cold one, the light outside and the fresh air will help you switch your mood. If it is dark outside, the air will still help. If you aren’t able to leave the space you’re in, you can always open the window and allow in the air and light by taking a deep breath and feeling the breeze on your face.

7. Exercise!

Exercise is another useful way of breaking the ‘bad mood’ pattern. Even if you’re at work, you can always stand up and walk around. However, it is even better to take a 20 minute walk. If you can - go for a run or head to the gym. Physical activity will help you manage your mood. And you still have that song to dance to ;)

8. Talk to someone.

Talk to someone but choose wisely. Who around you is generally positive and energized? Who do you know to be managing their own emotions well? You can give them a quick ring if you’re not able to see them- and you don’t even have to talk to them about your mood. You can just talk about something random. Research shows that even talking to strangers -for instance in queues or at the till of the grocery store, about something as trivial as the weather, has an uplifting effect on us.

9. Remind yourself at least 5 things you are thankful for.

Psychologists suggest that it is beneficial daily practice for us to write down the things we are thankful for every day. We are advised to do this before going to bed, the first thing when we rise or both- in order to develop a positive mindset. And when in a bad mood, focus your attention on the things that you cherish the most about your life. These can be your personal strengths and passions, family/friends/colleagues who inspire you, your health, your job, your flat… The list goes on…

Developing ways of managing your moods and emotions will make you more resilient. You’ll be able to bounce back from challenges and set backs easily. Moreover, studies show that people who generally know how to hold on to positive moods and manage the negative ones, are healthier.

Understanding and managing our emotions is also the gateway to understanding and managing the emotions of people we interact with, hence an important step to healthier relationships.

Please feel free to let me know about your own strategies of snapping out of bad moods!

Until next time, wishing you fun and growth!


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