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3 Mindful ways to improve productivity and reduce anxiety at work

Aixa Lopez with her daughter Andrea

Aixa Lopez with her daughter Andrea

The word mindfulness reflects the state of mind of being conscious or aware of something. In the past years, we have heard how this word has been used to describe the importance of being in the present moment and not worrying about the past or the future.

In the late 90s, I started reading about mindfulness looking for tools to manage my stress and anxiety. I was working in the manufacturing industry and in charge of a production area. Not only this area worked 24/7, but we were measured by production output, cycle time, shipments, material shortages, and quality complaints. Our year-end bonus was tied to these metrics. I felt responsible for the performance of each one of my employees, for the performance of the engineers supporting my area and releasing new products, for validation processes and for ongoing investigations to release units on-hold. I felt responsible for the equipment that broke down and how fast it was put back into service.

When you work in this industry, you learn how to multi-task and how to deal with stress in a very peculiar fashion. For instance, I remember changing my shoes at the beginning of the shift and wearing nursing shoes to walk faster around the manufacturing facility.

I learned how to focus on the end-result. That helped me later in life when I had to manage 200 construction employees and a very demanding city Mayor. I easily communicated with the Mayor to send asphalt crews to fix potholes at 6:30 am while preparing my daughter and dropping her off at pre-school. Yes, I was very “productive”; however, I paid a high price for it.

At age 32, while I was running from one meeting to another and being late for the second meeting, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I thought it was the result of my hurry. I started feeling chest pains and all of the sudden I felt dizzy. I was taken to the hospital. My blood pressure was almost 200/100. After several days of physical exams, I ended up getting a catheterization. My doctor instructed me to slow down and live a mindful life. I had read about it but never paid too much attention. At the end of the day, my life had always been measured by accomplishing tasks, and that’s what I knew better.

After that incident, I decided to start being more mindful, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing miserably. You know, women, we put tremendous pressure on fulfilling all of our roles “perfectly”. I started reading more and more about awareness, being present, working smartly, but for some reason the implementation was not as easy as it seemed on the books.

mindfulness garden seeds

Several years later, I was falling again into the old pattern. I decided to put a stop to it and make a change in my life. The decision I made has paid off tremendously and has allowed me to identify three mindful ways to work and improve my productivity without losing myself in the process. Honestly, it’s a daily effort. There are days in which I still feel overwhelmed, a sign that I have to stop and take some time off for myself to recalibrate. Here are the three mindfulness principles I practice:

  1. Identify what is important to you.  I was asked once who was the most important person in my life. Guess what I said? My daughter! Wrong answer. It should have been “ME”. Without a sane mom, there is no happy daughter. Now, I make sure I have a physical exam every year, I take time to meditate, exercise, eat healthy, read every night, go on road trips, volunteer at church, and do other activities that make me happy. All this keeps me sane and nurtures my body and my spirit. It makes me a better wife, daughter, mom and professional.
  2. Instead of trying to control the future, think about the worst thing that could happen, embrace it as a possibility and let it go.  This is a challenge for me. I always try to plan things ahead of time. Trying to control now what could happen in the future is a lost cause. It’s futile, and it creates a lot of anxiety. One of my supervisors said to me once that I had the “worry gene“, and added that most of the things we worry about never happen. If one or two of those things do happen, then we shouldn’t feel like it is only OUR responsibility to fix it.  Worrying is the most difficult thing for me to work on. I am an engineer, so my brain is set to fix things. Whenever I can’t fix something, I feel defeated. The book Dale Carnegie’s Stop Worrying and Start Living  has helped at improving this issue. What’s the worst that could happen if something doesn’t go the way I want it to? What would I do if that happened? Only then I get mentally prepared for that outcome. Believe it or not, that takes a lot of stress out from my mind, and it allows me to shift my focus into the present. When you switch your focus to the present moment, ideas start flowing easily, and you start getting the results you wanted. I can guarantee you that most of the times, the “worst” never happens, and if it does, then you already know what to do.
  3. Celebrate every accomplishment.  It is easy for me to celebrate everything. That’s part of my Hispanic culture. However, celebrating does not come easily to everyone. In the past, I would share with someone some good news; perhaps a nice small accomplishment, and I would get an “Oh, okay,” plunging me into such a bad mood.  Getting upset about it was a huge mistake on my part. We let our surroundings dictate so much of how we feel. In the past, one negative word could make my day miserable. Now, I force myself not to fall into that trap. I celebrate everything. I pat myself on the back. I value my efforts. If I receive a negative feedback, I meditate on the merits of it.  If it has merits, I put it in my toolbox for the next task, if it has no merits, I just let it go. Celebrating small accomplishments will motivate you and will allow you to produce more and better results.

Celebrate your accomplishments

As we become more mindful, we declutter our brains and souls from the burden and anxiety that everyday life brings. That allows us to connect with ourselves and with others. When you connect, you listen, you become aware of the alternatives you may have and how to make things work in a leaner and productive way.

When you are mindful, things flow and results are accomplished.  Have you wonder why sometimes you have outdoor plans and all of the sudden it starts raining and you don’t know what to do. Then, you suddenly decide to try something else and the day turns out better than you ever imagined. Why? Because you just surrendered and allowed new ideas to flow. That’s the concept behind all this.

I urge you to try any of these mindful ways. You’ll see the difference. Go for it!

 

Strayer Portraits -Dr Zoppi Rodriguez

5 Latina Superpowers Dr. Zoppi Rodriguez

COL Zoppi CMD PictureLast October, I was honored to write an article about the Borinqueneers, a battalion formed by thousands of young Puerto Ricans that served in the US Army during World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict.

Their major struggle was not so much related to their bravery in the battlefield –they were known for their fierce and relentless fighting spirit– but for being victims of discrimination within the US Army.[1] They were all men and all Puerto Ricans, and they faced the most perilous battles in each war. Women were not allowed to sign up for the Army at that time.

“Fortunately, not only women participate in the Army today but we also have leaders such as Brigadier Commander José Burgos, who understands that giving women the opportunity to take charge of leadership positions empowers them, inspires them, and allows and helps them to grow,” said Dr. Irene Zoppi Rodríguez, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and the first Deputy Commander in the U.S. Army Reserve in Puerto Rico.

With more than four decades of military, academic and professional experience, Dr. Zoppi also facilitates graduate courses in education and business for Strayer University. As a college professor, she brings her passion of empowerment and thought leadership to her students.

“As a teacher, I try to inspire young women and encourage them to grow to be ‘more’,” she said.

More, I asked?

“Every human being has a purpose in life. Many discover it at the end of their lives, when it is too late, becoming a wasted opportunity. We cannot put time in a box so it is up to us to realize our purpose in life as soon as we can. By discovering that purpose, we can fulfill our destiny within that purpose,” Dr. Zoppi said.

She explained that most people understand they need a roadmap for a vacation or a trip but many do not have roadmaps for their lives, their education and all the challenges that come with discovering that purpose. Most expect other people to tell them where to go or how to get there.

“Latinas particularly have Superpowers they are not aware of, and they need to find them soon in life. We don’t dress with ‘capas’ like Batman or Superman but we wear our confidence to confront many personal and professional challenges,” she said.

These are Superpowers Dr. Zoppi believes Latinas have:

Strayer University at Festival PEOPLE en Español

Strayer University at Festival PEOPLE en Español

  1. Tenemos audacia (being audacious): Our internal fire overshadows all expectations of how we “should” be by breaking barriers and pushing up to face challenges, such as those trying to reunite their immigrant families.
  2. Somos fatales (being fatalists): We love watching telenovelas with our mothers, grandmothers and daughters, crying and understanding the struggle of the protagonist.
  3. Somos multifuncionales (being multifunctional): Without fear, we perform our functions at the best level and all at once. We cook, we dance, we sing, we work, we ask for permission and we apologize; and we do it in different languages too!
  4. Tenemos esperanza (having hope) We have the ability to do things with hope, always thinking what is next in our journey. We come to this country with the hope that we will find more for our families,
  5. Somos serviciales (fulfilling the needs of others) We are always making sure there is food for everybody, and that is not only in our kitchens!

All these superpowers make Latinas transactional and transformational leaders, according to Dr. Zoppi. “Not only we do the work, giving ourselves totally, but also we pass on those skills to everybody around us, at work, the family and the community.

So, she recommends, the sooner the better, discover your Superpowers and use them!

[1] To know more about the Puerto Rican battalion part of the 65th Infantry Regiment, see the Borinqueneers.

 

Embrace life even when it sucks

How to embrace life even when it sucks

Embrace life even when it sucks

 

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it,” wrote M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled. “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it then life is no longer difficult.”

I recently ran across an old professional acquaintance. I originally met this person around 15 years ago. At the time he was on a professional trajectory that I figured would get him to retirement by 40. To be completely honest, I was a little jealous of him at the time and I recall frequently comparing myself to him to find out what made him so much more successful.

I lost touch with him for many years as he moved onward and upward. Several years ago we reconnected on Facebook. Unlike me, he is not a social media freak. As such, I didn’t learn too much about his personal life other than information gleaned from the occasional post – usually made by someone else.

Read:    10 Inspirational tips from successful people

After a networking event not too long ago I bumped into him and we decided to grab a drink. I wasn’t planning on sticking around after the event but I figured I would wait out Los Angeles rush hour traffic with a glass of cabernet.

In speaking with Joseph (not his real name) I learned that he had in fact done very well in the 10 years or so after I lost touch. He became a “player” in his area of expertise. He made a lot of money and was a known entity.

Unfortunately, like so many, he became a victim of the Great Recession. His business was flattened and after so many years he found himself standing on the ground with the rest of us.

It had been a few years and Joseph had not recovered his mojo. After hearing his story and the manner in which he conveyed it I could tell that the recession affected not only his business portfolio, but also how he viewed himself. His entire self-worth was tied into his business success. This was probably because all he had experienced was one success after another.

At this point I would be lying if I didn’t say that the conversation was making me completely uncomfortable. Sitting in rush hour traffic was sounding better and better. I was not Joseph’s close friend. I don’t consider myself the “touchy feely” type that likes this kind of stuff. All I could think about was my wife’s words of wisdom to me when she has a similar moment – “I don’t want you to solve my problem. I just want you to listen and acknowledge me.” So I did.

After Joseph was done sharing some fairly heavy stuff he asked for my advice. I really wasn’t prepared – nor trained to give advice. I was actually a bit shell shocked. But I managed to offer the two bits of advice:

  1. Life Is Difficult. One of the few memories I have of my high school theology class was a book by M. Scott Peck.

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it,” wrote Peck in this book The Road Less Traveled. “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it then life is no longer difficult.”Something Wonderful Is About To Happen

I’ve had some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows. At times I have equated my life to a roller coaster. The one thing that has kept me from going insane, and what I thought Joseph needed to recognize is that Life IS difficult.

Life is not supposed to be a linear upward ride of success and good times. It just doesn’t work that way. Some people, like Joseph, have great extended periods of success. Others have more typical ebbs and flows. Regardless, if we are to remain sane in business, and in life, we must acknowledge that system is made to challenge us.

Once you understand how the game of life works then setbacks are not viewed so much as failures but instead they are just a part of the game. And while setbacks may not be fun, they are normal – even with the most successful business person. So long as you are upright and in the game you have another shot at success and scoring another point.

  1. It’s Another Day in Paradise. If you have ever worked with me or met me somewhere and asked me, “how are you?” chances are 99.9% that you have heard the following response from me: “Another day in paradise!”

I’m not sure at what point I picked up this habit. But I have become known as the Paradise Guy. Every day that we wake up we have a choice. We can make it a good day or we can make it a crappy day. Which would you prefer?

Back in May 2014 I wrote about the importance of smiling when making sales calls, whether in person or on the phone. The concept of emotional contagion generally states that good vibes create more sales. As such, the key to a day of productive sales calls begins with the right attitude. On top of having more sales or a more productive day, who doesn’t prefer good vibes over bad vibes?

Today, regardless of how tired I am, how much stress I am under, how well or how horrible the day’s events have gone, it’s just Another Day in Paradise. And that seems to help.

 

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5 Most read articles on LatinasInBusiness.us

social media iconsJust to start the year with the right foot –or the left one if you feel more power on that one, like many soccer players do-, I took the time to analyze what articles were doing best on our platform and why, so I can give you some tips on how to use our platform. Here are the winners:

 

  1. Modern Day Latinas have a story to tell on Merrick Park

The inspirational story of an accomplished Cuban-American entrepreneur, Aymee Zubizarreta, the idea and message behind the new series aims at changing the traditional image of Latinas in TV series and movies into who they really are: accomplished professionals, well-educated career driven and family oriented women having big dreams, facing and overcoming their challenges and most importantly, thriving on their own in a bicultural and bilingual world. She is now on the funding efforts stage, so we will continue to support her cause!

2. Empanada Fork makes a mark for Latina entrepreneur

Hipatia Lopez “idea” began around the kitchen table during the holiday season when her family was making 100 empanadas. She envisioned a tool that would help with closing the empanadas easily and quickly; found an architect who helped her with perfecting the drawings to make it come to life on paper and patent tool. From the kitchen table to main supermarket chains and wholesalers, for Hipatia the rest is history!

3. SHCC of NJ Awards Luncheon Photo Gallery

This fabulous annual event featured the who’s who in New Jersey Latino entrepreneurs, included awards, workshops and an exhibit floor with over 250 expositors. Well done, Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and Carlos Medina, Prezi!

4. Talent and innovation at Latinas Think Big™ Summit

Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin, a top national influencer devoted to advancing and supporting Latina innovators, is leading Latinas Think Big™. Dr. Perez-Litwin’s intention is to bring to a national debate the disparities in Latinas’ career development in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), with an emphasis on technology, and to address the digital divide in this country. Congratulations, Angelica!

5. Monica Taher when crisis sets the path to financial freedom

Monica Taher, a Latina in business who defines herself as a serial entrepreneur, faced the turmoil of splitting with her lifetime partner in 2011. Today, she shares some tips on how she came back from the ashes and acquired financial freedom doing what she loves. Fabulous come back story, all the best to brave Monica!

 

All these articles were successful readers not only because of the value of their stories but also because the Latinas featured on them understood the value of the tool we provide and took the time and effort to share with their communities and social media.

LatinasInBusiness.us has been designed to provide a space, a window of opportunity, a platform for Latinas who want to share their concerns, expertise, strategies and achievements. We also want the site to be a productive possibility for those who would like to promote their product or service, attract customers to their businesses, learn about social media, give business advice or ask for business advice, be a “madrina,” become a minority vendor or find business to business trade opportunities. Thank you! Sign up for our exclusive newsletter

We will continue to do so by bringing excellent tools that you can use to promote your story, your business or your cause. Watch out, 2015, here we come!