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Steve's Life And Business Coaching Notes - January 2010

Winter Snow

There are few things as fresh and inspiring as mountains in winter.
Photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

Dear Friends,

A new year begins!

I hope 2010 will bring great things into your life, career and business.

Here are two articles to start you off towards more success and happiness this year.

All the best,



1) In 2010 - The Perils of Too Much Multitasking (in your life, career, and business).

2) Your Health - Breathing Your Way to Less Stress And More Success This Year.

3) Practice Building On A Budget - January's 6-Figure Practice Mentor Program Is Here At Last.

4) Listen to My Talk on The 10 Habits of Highly Successful (And Deeply Happy) Coaches.

1) In 2010 - The Perils of Too Much Multitasking.

It would make a pretty good plot for a Sci-Fi thriller. Aliens flood the world with cheap new technology that allows everyone to access unlimited information, stimulation and pleasant distraction. The information opium overloads people's ability to think, act and engage each other in conversation yet alone reproduce - civilization grinds to a halt.

Well maybe it's not a great movie plot, but there is a growing body of evidence that our skyrocketing predilection for multitasking is taking its toll. And I am not simply talking about the folks that drive their cars into ditches while texting or watching a dvd . I am talking about the typical multitasking most of us do trying to cram more and more activities into a limited amount of time each and every day.

The impact this everyday type of multitasking is having on our performance is getting better understood by science. One 2005 study conducted at the University of London found, "Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers."

Other studies looking at brain activity have found that the concept of successfully multitasking is a bit of a myth. When we think we are multitasking we are actually shifting scarce mental resources from one part of the brain to another. While we might get away with this in menial tasks such as walking and chewing gum, for more complicated tasks it definitely has its price. A study of brain activity from the University of California in Irvine found that if someone is distracted while engaged in one complicated task, it can take a full 25 minutes to get back to the same level of attention.

Work from the University of Michigan has also shown that multitasking releases significant amounts of stress hormones that negatively impact our health and memory. Higher levels of stress have been shown to greatly reduce our social skills, intuition, creativity and overall sense of well being. The long-term impact this has on our relationships, our careers and our quality of life is just beginning to be understood.

The bottom line is that while it might be impossible to live and work in the 21st century without multitasking, taken to extremes it can lead to a shallow, anxious, unproductive, unhealthy, impatient, lonely existence. You may think you are getting so much done, but there is pretty good evidence to indicate you are actually less productive, less effective, less healthy and certainly much less fun to be around.

So as this new year begins, I invite you to get very clear on what is most important to you, and allocate your time accordingly. And as relates to those key activities and key relationships that contribute the most to your success and happiness, establish a zero tolerance for distractions. It is very useful to create structures that limit your likelihood of being distracted. (For example some business owners and executives I know work from their home office several mornings a week to get some focused time on key productive activities. Others draw lines around when they turn off their Blackberrys and simply enjoy their private life.)

Also, the better job you do managing your overall stress level, the easier you will find it to keep present and resist the mind's temptation to fly out of the moment to battle some future challenge. It all comes down to better mind management. And if you take yours to the next level this year, it will pay big dividends.

"One definition of multitasking - Messing up two things at once."

2)  Your Health - Breathing Your Way to Less Stress and More Success This Year.

If the evening news trumpeted the discovery of a new, all natural medicine, proven to be safe and devoid of side effects, guaranteed to: add years to your life, strengthen your immune system, help you sleep better, lower your stress, improve your relationships, and enhance your leadership abilities, creativity and intuition – people would be lining up to buy the stuff.

However, if you learned that the discovery was in fact some 5000 years old, did not cost anything and only required about 10 minutes of your time each day to administer - interest would drop off dramatically.

Many of us are conditioned to prefer the instant gratification of a pill over any solution that might require us to change behavior, even if it is just for a few minutes a day.
However, if you have a job, career or business; if you are in a relationship or live in a busy modern city; there is good evidence that you are more stressed than you might realize. In fact, even if you are not in the middle of some personal, professional or financial crisis right now, if we were to take a sample of your blood, it would most likely show elevated levels of stress hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. 

One of the most important recent findings about stress is that you do not have to be in a place of imminent physical threat to be in danger of being stressed out.  A typical fast-paced life filled with the usual career and family challenges is sufficient to have most of us think our way into a stress state each and every day.

And, unfortunately, these low level releases of the stress hormones simply accumulate in our system and eventually erode our health. (The AMA estimates stress is a key factor in over 75% of illness.) Stress also greatly reduces our intuition, relationship skills, creativity and joy.  Unfortunately chronic, everyday stress is so widespread in our modern culture that it is taken as normal, a cost of living in these hectic times.  We are simply not taught how to protect ourselves and combat this self-induced disease.

The good news is that solid research has shown there are proven, 100% effective, natural ways of better managing this important part of your life.

One of the simplest and most powerful is re-learning how to breathe. I say re-learning, because as babies we all breathe very well. Unfortunately, by the time we make it through grade school most of us have forgotten how to breathe fully. As such, (if you are an average individual) you probably utilize less than 50% of your normal lung capacity, and employ a very shallow breath with a faster rhythm that some experts believe actually attenuates your stress.

You don't have to be a Zen monk or serious Yogi to learn how to breathe more effectively and reap the many benefits. While there is a vast trove of wisdom surrounding the nuances of breath work, the basics can be learned quickly, by anyone.  And when you retrain yourself to have full and relaxed breath, the benefits are huge.  Not only will you live longer, you will be a better leader/manager/business owner, a better parent, a more patient partner and a more creative and intuitive soul.

Don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself for a few days.

Here is all you need to do:

Option A - For those who want a quick, easy fix, simply put a hand on your belly and breathe in such a way as you feel you want to move in and out. A few minutes of this mindful breathing is a good "in-the-moment" response to any stressful event.

Option B - For those who want a more serious daily practice to significantly lower your stress.

- Find a quiet place.

- Lie down, or sit comfortably erect in a way that will allow you to breathe easily.

- Take a moment to consciously relax, scan your body, breathing out or letting go of any tension you might find.

- Now, hug your torso so one comfortably hand rests on your navel, and the other rests on your lower side ribs.

- Without forcing or rushing, take 5 breaths consciously breathing deep into your lower abdomen, so the hand on your navel rises.

- Next, take 5 breaths consciously breathing into your upper abdomen, so your hand resting on your ribs feels the small expansion.

- Next, take 5 breaths consciously breathing into your upper chest, so you feel the top of your chest rise.

- When you have familiarized yourself with these 3 different regions, breath for several minutes so that breath travels into all 3 areas.  It will help to sequence the breath by first inhaling into the upper chest, then the rib area and finally the lower abdomen. (The exhale is in the reverse order, lower abdomen, rib area, and upper chest.)

- When you get this going well, (it may take a little practice to reactivate some of these dormant areas) turn your attention to evening out the inhalation and exhalation.

- Then pay attention to create a short pause after the inhale and exhale. The goal here is to build a natural retention – usually between 50 and 100% of the time taken for the inhale or exhale.

- When you get good at this, attempt to keep your mind focused on this simple process and the sensations that come with it. In particular, during each pause or retention, notice how quiet the mind can become.

The mind is an adept and very nervous time traveler. It can leap forward or backward to get stressed out at any real or imagined challenge.  However the body and our senses are always in the present moment. Conscious breathing can dramatically bring the focus of your mind back to the present moment and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which is key in helping us relax.

Just 10 minutes twice a day of this sort of breath work can significantly reverse the effects of stress in your life.

Sometimes the most powerful solutions are simple. We just have to put in the time.

"Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness." 

- Richard Carlson

3) Practice Building On A Budget - January's 6-Figure Practice Mentor Program Is Here at Last.

If you love to coach but struggle to get clients, and if you are looking for an affordable solution to move past your current limitations and get much better results, check out the new audio description of the Mentor Program I recorded at THE 6-FIGURE PRACTICE MENTORING PROGRAM.

Registration for the next Mentor Program is now open and we will be starting soon. So if you are tired of the results you are now getting, and are serious about making 2010 the year you arrive as a successful coach, please email me at scmitten@shaw.ca to reserve a spot. 

"This is truly a transformational experience...thank you."

"Never been busier."

"I have experienced more success than I thought possible." 

4) My Talk on The 10 Habits of Highly Successful (And Deeply Happy) Coaches.

Last month the good folks at The Coach Training Institute hosted a call on their Co-Active network where I shared THE 10 HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL (AND DEEPLY HAPPY COACHES). If you are still working to fill your coaching practice please feel free to access the recording. It is a lively conversation on topics that range from practical practice building actions to personal habits that will attract more success and happiness your way.

Life Coach and Business Development Specialist Steve Mitten B.ApSc, CPCC, MCC helps individuals, professionals and leaders find their niche, be their best and make an impact.


Visit Steve at Life and Business Coach Steve Mitten.

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