Discover Yourself Mindfulness

Discover Yourself Mindfulness

Those who are interested in the world of psychology will surely have heard the term “mindfulness,” a practice that brings together psychology with elements of meditation. Mindfulness has been used as a therapy for depression, anxiety, PTSD and more, but is also considered beneficial for people dealing with everyday stresses and the pressures of life.

But what exactly is mindfulness, and how can it help in the workplace? This is the subject I’ll be covering today.

What is Mindfulness?

Many people regularly feel rushed and stressed, with too much to do and too little time to do it in. This is especially true of those who are career-minded, and who want to succeed at their jobs. For these people who feel as if they never have a moment to themselves or that they never get a break, mindfulness can help.

The basic principle of mindfulness is to stop for a few moments and take time to be aware of exactly how you are feeling, mentally and physically, and to register experiences as they are in the present moment. Instead of the usual racing thoughts, daydreams about the future, or worrying about past mistakes, mindfulness encourages people to force themselves to be still for a minute; to concentrate on their perception and body, rather than being distracted by thoughts of what is to come.

This might sound easier said than done, but there are practical ways that people can practice mindfulness. One popular exercise is to find a quiet room and take a small snack of some kind, like a biscuit or a raisin. Then you sit quietly and eat the snack slowly, taking time to think about how you can smell the scent of the food, all the different flavors you taste on your tongue, the feeling of your jaw working, an awareness of your swallowing, and so on.

Don’t try to direct your experiences or force them into a certain direction – just allow yourself to observe. By paying great attention to these sensory experiences, you get more in touch with your body and you also calm your mind by occupying it with something present for a few minutes.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Those who have experience with meditation will find many similarities between that practice and mindfulness. Meditation teaches people to focus on the moment as well, to observe their thoughts passing without trying to control or follow them. In this way, meditation and mindfulness are very similar.

However, meditation takes a great deal of practice. Some people are put off by the requirements to sit in a certain way, or by its association with spiritual or religious beliefs. Mindfulness can be an entry route into the same benefits of meditation, but without the spiritual aspects if those do not appeal.

One aspect that both mindfulness and meditation teach the importance of is paying attention to breathing. When people are stressed or anxious, their breathing and heart rate increase, and they feel tense and ready to snap into action at any point. (This is the fight or flight response.) Learning to listen to and feel one’s own breaths can help to slow breathing and heart rate, yielding a sense of relaxation and mastery of oneself.

Mindfulness as Treatment

Mindfulness can be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from mental disorders like anxiety or depression, and for those struggling with issues like workplace stress. Many people with mental health issues suffer not only from the symptoms of these issues, but also from feelings of shame or worthlessness that come from not being able to cope with the symptoms. For example, a person who is stressed at work may have trouble sleeping and find themselves being snappy and on edge. They may even feel that they are weak for not being able to cope when their colleagues seem to manage okay.

Mindfulness teaches us to observe thoughts and feelings neutrally, without judgement over whether those thoughts and feelings are good or bad. A person who is stressed but practicing mindfulness might note that their pulse is high, that their muscles are cramped, and that they are having problems concentrating, without berating themselves for feeling these things.

Simply acknowledging the legitimacy of these experiences without trying to push them aside or feeling guilty for having them can be very helpful in getting symptoms under control.

Everyday Mindfulness

If someone hasn’t tried mindfulness before, it might seem like it would be difficult to start. But in fact, it’s something that can be added into a daily routine without too much trouble. One popular way to learn to start mindfulness and meditation is to use smartphone apps such as Headspace or Calm, which guide users through a brief daily practice. Other people learn meditation as part of a group or in an exercise class like yoga or various martial arts. Finally, more psychologists and therapists are now teaching mindfulness to their clients as part of their service.

Even without these guiding lessons, people can benefit from a few simple tricks when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Finding a quiet space is key, as is giving yourself permission to sit quietly for a few minutes. Concentrating on the body and on current physical feelings can help to stop racing thoughts or unhelpful rumination. And trying to accept your thoughts and feelings as temporary experiences rather than things which are good or bad can help to alleviate feelings of shame when you are struggling. These steps can be performed anywhere, so next time you are feeling overloaded at work, try taking a few minutes to be mindful and see if that makes you more productive and less stressed.

For more information about how psychology can be applied to the workplace, visit

Discover Yourself – Effective Listening

Management and psychology

In business, learning to listen to others is a crucial skill, especially when working in management. Whether we’re speaking with our employees, our clients, or with the upper management team, we must strive to hone our communication skills in terms of both conveying information and taking information in.

Today we’re going to discuss an approach called effective listening, also known as active listening. We’ll also share some practical tips to improve active listening skills.

Do we really listen?

Most people think that they are a good listener. A study by William Haney from the 1970s asked over 13,000 people from various organizations to compare their listening skills with others who they worked with. The results showed that virtually every person thought that they communicated as well as or better than almost everyone else in their organization. Of course, this is not how averages work! In reality, a study by Husman and colleagues from the 1980s found that most people listen at just 25% efficiency. Other studies since then have found that we only take in about 25 – 50% of what we hear.

There’s obviously a big gap between us judging ourselves to be excellent listeners and the reality that we hear less than half of what is said to us. We tend to overestimate our listening skills in part because communication takes place between at least two people, making it difficult to gauge whether we are communicating effectively without input from the other party. Another issue is the lack of clear objective criteria for assessing whether communication has been successful. Overall, this ubiquitous overestimation suggests that while we all agree that listening is important, we also don’t generally feel a need to improve our own listening skills.

Why effective listening matters

This gap between how we perceive our listening skills to be and how our listening skills actually are can cause serious issues in the workplace and elsewhere. Managers should strive to understand the employee perspective as well as the information being shared, even if the method used to convey this information is somewhat less than crystal clear.

Effective listening not only helps to diffuse conflicts and deal with problems, it also helps foster a greater understanding between managers and employees. It allows us to hone in on the subtle cues that help us assess a person’s strengths and weaknesses, thereby allowing us to formulate positive responses that will be most effective in encouraging and motivating them.

What is effective listening?

What exactly is effective listening, and how is it different from regular listening? A study in the Harvard Business Review analyzed the behavior of nearly 3,500 participants and found common patterns of behavior among the most effective listeners:

  • Effective listening requires active engagement, not just silence. Asking questions establishes a two-way dialogue with the speaker. If we sit in silence, it is hard for the speaker to know if they are being heard. But if we engage and asks for clarification or for more information, that demonstrates to the speaker that their message is clearly understood.
  • Effective listening makes the speaker feel positive. When a person feels listened to in a positive way, their self-esteem rises. In effective listening, we should be supportive and convey confidence in the speaker, even when we don’t necessarily agree with what is being said. The aim of effective listening is not to challenge the speaker or their ideas, but to understand their perspective through the creation of a safe environment.
  • Effective listening is cooperative. While it’s important to not listen in silence, it is equally crucial to pose questions in a way that is not combative or interrogative. We’re not trying to win an argument, but to cooperate in building a consensus of mutual understanding, even when there is disagreement between ourselves and the speaker.
  • Effective listening is proactive. The fact that effective listening is cooperative and not combative doesn’t mean that we can’t provide feedback. In fact, one of the hallmarks of effective listening is providing suggestions to the speaker. When we feel listened to and respected, we become more receptive to suggestions than when those suggestions come from someone who has been combative or argumentative.

In summary, the HBR study found that effective listening is about more than passively absorbing information – it is about letting the speaker bounce their ideas off of us and creating an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.

Methods to listen effectively

Let’s take a look at some practical tips we can use to improve our effective listening while bearing the above points in mind:

  • Maintain good eye contact. Doing so allows us to signal to the speaker that they have our undivided attention.
  • Don’t interrupt. Let the speaker explain in their own time without jumping in while they are talking.
  • Don’t just wait for the next opening to talk. It’s very common to become preoccupied with looking for the next opportunity to speak. Instead, we should always focus on the present and what’s being said.
  • Don’t judge or require justifications. It’s okay to ask clarifying questions, be we should be careful to avoid putting the speaker on the spot to defend their position or otherwise suggest we need to be persuaded to listen further.
  • Use open body language. Maintain forward-facing posture towards the speaker, nod as they speak, use confirmation words like “uh huh,” and smile.
  • Repeat back to the speaker. One popular management technique is to confirm with the speaker. When they have finished, we can say “So if I’m understanding you, you’re saying that…”

Effective listening is critical for becoming a better manager. By implementing these techniques in our everyday communication, we can foster a more productive working environment among our employees, clients and peers.

Learn more about how using Insights Discovery can help you become a better listener, at

Check back soon for more posts on psychology and management!

The Challenge of Behavior Change

By Scott Schwefel, CSP, CEO, Discover Yourself

behavior change

Anyone who has ever made a resolution to get more exercise, to waste less time on Facebook, or to become more organized about their work already knows that it is incredibly hard to change our behavior. Once a behavior has become a habit or a part of our routine, it’s very difficult to replace that habit with something new. Let’s discuss the challenge of behavior change.

Why is it so hard to change our habits?
If my goal is to get fitter, and I have the equipment, time, and motivation to do so, why is it so hard to stick to a goal like going running twice a week? I might manage my goal for a few weeks, but if I’m like most people then I won’t maintain the new habit in the long term. Even when I know that the new habit will make me feel better and will make me happier overall, it’s still tough to maintain.

The problem is that as humans, we are far less rational than we like to believe. We’d like to think that when we’re presented with clear evidence that a particular action is possible and would make us happier, then of course we’d change our habits. But in truth, we don’t weigh choices rationally. In a previous blog post we talked about an experiment where kids would rather eat one marshmallow now than wait ten minutes and get two marshmallows. It might surprise you to learn that adults do much the same thing. An experiment at New York University offered adults a choice: they could receive $20 now or wait a month and receive more money then. The majority of people chose to have the $20 now, even though they would have received more money if they had waited. The essential problem is that, as human beings, we are bad at weighing our future happiness against our immediate desires.

How can we influence our own behavior?
Given this problem, what can we do to change our behavior? There are two main approaches to this issue:

Firstly, we can get more information about the issue. In the case of exercise, we could learn more about the health benefits of exercise and how it could improve our life. Information like this can provide long term motivation in setting goals, but given that we do not make decisions rationally, it might not be so helpful in getting us out the door for a run right this minute.

The other approach to behavior change is to provide incentives. These can be either positive, like getting a reward for completing a new habit, or negative, like giving money away when you don’t complete the habit. Both positive and negative incentives can be effective, so it’s best to use a combination of the two. It also helps to keep us engaged if these incentives are fun and immediately rewarding.

The role of the environment

If you want to make new habits, there’s something important to understand about human psychology and how it applies to behavior change, and that is the role of the environment. People often think of humans as being “brains first” or “genetics first,” as if there is a core real “us” which is placed into the world. But this isn’t the case. Rather, our brains (and our minds) develop in response to our environment. Your brain and your mind are profoundly affected by the world around you – to such an extent that if you were taken completely out of your environment, you wouldn’t be “you” for much longer.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a pre-formed brain which should make rational decisions based on self-interest (which is not a helpful way to think when you’re trying to change your behavior) think of yourself as a bundle of intentions which responds to environmental cues. Information comes from the environment, it enters our brains, we respond to this information through behavior, and behavior drives outcomes.

Practical advice
What does this mean in practice? What actions can you take to make it more likely that you’ll stick to your new habits? Here are a few suggestions to promote behavior change:

  • Remove “pain points” to make it easy to do the right thing. For example, have your running gear washed, ready, and in one place, and leave your running shoes by the door. Then whenever you do want to go for a run you won’t be put off by the hassle of finding your gear.
  • Put physical reminders in your environment. For example, if you want to work on your finances each morning then put your accounting book on top of the papers on your desk. You’ll have to physically pick up the book to get to your desk so you’ll be reminded and incentivized to do your accounting.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals. The trick for this tip is to pick an appropriate reward. If you reward yourself for going running by eating fast food, then you’ll undo all of your good work. Instead, try something small like ticking a box or adding a sticker to your diary. It might sound childish, but a physical reminder of your progress like a sticker can be great motivation.
  • Related to this, do track your progress over the long term. For example, you could record how many days per week you do your accounting, or track how many miles you run each time. You’ll be able to see yourself improving over time, which will reinforce that each run adds towards your long term goal of getting fitter.
  • Get social support. One of the biggest factors in whether someone will be able to successfully quit smoking isn’t whether they use nicotine patches, or if they’re educated about health risks, or even whether they enjoy cigarettes – it’s whether they have support from their social circle. Having friends, family, and colleagues support you in your new behavior will be a big help in getting you to stick with it.

Next time, we’ll talk about perception and the ways that we perceive the environment around us – correctly and incorrectly. So check back soon for more.


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Conscious Thought vs Less Conscious Behaviors

By Scott Schwefel, CSP, CEO, Discover Yourself

Do your thoughts cause your behavior? That might sound like a silly question at first. Of course, you feel thirsty, you know that taking a drink will quench your thirst, so you move your arm to pick up your glass and drink some water. It’s obvious that your conscious thoughts about being thirsty and knowing that water will make you feel better caused that action, right?

In fact, evidence from cognitive neuroscience suggests that conscious thought may not be as much of a driver of behavior as we expect. Many of our actions are ‘decided on’ unconsciously.

Do thoughts cause behavior?

The question of what causes behaviors has been debated in philosophical circles for thousands of years. The problem is this: if you believe the body to be a purely physical thing, as most philosophers these days do, then it’s hard to explain how this physical body could be controlled by a mind. How do thoughts (a mental thing) cause actions (a physical thing)? In all the rest of the world as we know it, there is no other example of a mental thing causing a physical thing.

The solution that some have come to is that conscious thoughts don’t actually cause behaviors – the thoughts merely run alongside the behaviors, and we think that the thoughts cause the behavior because they happen at the same time. This view, called epiphenomenalism, sounds bizarre but is one of the few ways to make sense of the relationship between mental and physical: conscious thoughts are just a kind of window dressing for behaviors that are actually caused by physical things like the environment.

Push the button
If this sounds like unfounded philosophical pondering, then you’ll be glad to hear that more recently cognitive scientists have performed experiments to investigate the brain’s role in causing behaviors. A famous experiment by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet used EEG (a kind of brain scan) to measure the moment at which people decide to take an action. The participants were hooked up to the EEG machine and then asked to push a button at any time they wanted to in the next 10 seconds, and to look at a clock and take note of the exact moment at which they decided to act.

The strange thing was that a distinctive pattern of brain activation was found before the participants reported deciding to push the button. It seemed that there was a decision making process going on in the brain which took place a full half a second before the conscious decision to act was made. This is pretty solid evidence that behaviors are caused, at least to some extent, by unconscious brain processes rather than by conscious thoughts.

Is that my hand?
That’s pretty strange, for sure – the idea that decisions are being made by you before you’re actually consciously aware that you have made a decision. But still, regardless of the time differences involved, you still feel like you make a decision and then take an action. You’d know if a behavior happened without you deciding to do it, right? If you thought one thing and your body did another thing, you’d definitely notice – wouldn’t you?

According to experimental research, maybe not. There’s a group of experiments called false feedback tasks, in which participants perform a simple action such as drawing a straight vertical line. The trick is that the experiment is set up so that the participants don’t actually see their own hand performing the task. Back in the 1960s, this was achieved by getting participants to put their hand in a box and using a system of mirrors so that when they looked down, they actually saw the experimenter’s hand instead of their own. Nowadays similar effects are achieved using computerized feedback. Using this system, experimenters give the participants false visual feedback. So, for example, instead of seeing their own hand drawing a straight vertical line (which is what their hand was actually doing), the participant sees a hand that looks like their own drawing a line at an angle.

The really strange part is that a large majority of participants still think that the hand that they see is actually their own hand. Even when the action that they intended to take (draw a straight line) was actually followed by a different action (draw a crooked line), participants still felt as if they were in control of their actions and that they had decided to draw a crooked line instead. This means that people perceive themselves as consciously controlling their hand even when it was actually controlled by a computer or by the experimenter, and they believe their decisions to be controlling the hand even when they are not.

Why does this matter?
As you can see, the degree to which your conscious thoughts control your behaviors is actually not as clear as you might think. In terms of both deciding to take an action before it happens, and making an assessment that we chose to perform an action after it happens, we are remarkably influenced by non-conscious factors. We assume that we have consciously decided to take a certain action when we observe ourselves performing that action, when in fact many of our behaviors are not consciously driven.

All this information from philosophy and neuroscience might be interesting to ponder over, but does it actually matter to our everyday lives? Arguably it does, especially when we think about behavior change. If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, such as by giving up smoking, becoming more organized, or working on a project every day, then you need to think about factors other than your conscious thoughts that might affect your behavior. Things like the environment you are in and your bodily state (whether you’re hungry, stressed, well rested, and so on) can have a large impact on your behaviors even if you are not consciously aware of them. We’ll get into this topic in more depth in the next blog post, so check back soon!

Activate Success


The most successful people didn’t get where they are by accident; they had a plan, worked hard, and were rewarded with successful outcomes. Everyone’s definition of personal success is unique unto themselves, but what we can all agree on is that knowing where you are going and what to do is an important part of being successful.

Executing a plan that will lead to success comes from the goals you’ve already set for yourself. Your goals will ultimately lead you to achieve different objectives in your life, both personally and professionally, and often lead to greater feelings of success. This execution of the plan is the means by which we set out to accomplish these goals.

Step by step

Step by step, goals -and therefore success- are accomplished. You create a list of goals you wanted to achieve in various areas of your life that include physical, spiritual, family, friends, and finance/work goals. The hope is to align these goals with the passions you have in your life to create a happier, healthier, and more successful version of who you are today. These goals may not be able to be accomplished overnight, which is where the execution of the plan comes into play.

Setting goals based on passion and striving towards them with integrity doesn’t mean anything unless you keep at it. Failure happens, yet all too many people give up after failing to meet their goals. Some passions are harder to integrate into your life, just as some goals are harder to accomplish. Not giving up is an essential part of finding success.

Making a plan

Making a plan to accomplish your goals means evaluating them and knowing what you need to do to check those goals off your list. If you’re looking to change careers or get promoted in your current job, who do you need to network with? What other training or tasks can you do to improve your chances? Do you need another recommendation or perhaps networking in a new industry?

Your plan will change, which is just as frustrating as coming up against a perceived failure when trying to reach your goals. Rolling with the changes and re-evaluating your plan can help keep you in touch with what you’re trying to accomplish and spark the passion you have for the things you’re doing in your life.

Our goals are the lighthouse, and failures are the waves that keep us out of sight of our passions and goals. Failure happens, but we can always use the lighthouse to navigate our way towards our goals even if we get a bit off course.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others. Schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker, and I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!

Intentional Connection


Intentionally connecting with people spanning the range of the four color personalities can make your personal and professional lives run that much smoother. Understanding the details of good communication and adapting your behaviors towards other people can not only improve business environments but completely alter your interpersonal interactions with people you know and those whom you’ve just met.

Adapting and connecting to other people is the hallmark of the four color personalities. Knowing where you fit on the personality spectrum gives you a firm foundation for beginning to build strong connections with others. As you get to know them better, you can adapt your personality and style of communication to better fit their character strengths.

How to successfully engage

Successfully engaging others in meetings, one on one interactions, and during presentations can dramatically alter how you interact with the people around you. Using the strengths of each of the four color personalities, you can create lasting partnerships and open communication with the people around you.

Sunshine Yellow personalities are open and sociable. They are very relationally-driven and value the connection they have with other people. Taking time to establish a relationship opens the door for further cooperation and communication with all of the color personalities you may find around you. Working with a Sunshine Yellow personality will be the most successful if a relationship and rapport are established before any discussion of projects or work tasks comes about.

Earth Green personalities show others the importance of a listening ear. Rather than listening out of one ear and mentally forming your next response, seek to actively listen and hear what the other person is saying. This ensures that both parties are on the same page when it comes to projects or business arrangements and that the Earth Green personality doesn’t feel ignored.

Establishing a relationship

The third step of most communications is discussing what you need or what you want. In business this could be help, partnership, or requesting information from someone else. Demanding what you need right off the bat isn’t always conducive to a successful relationship with your employees or co-workers. Fiery Red personalities are very direct when they need to get something done.

Finally, Cool Blue personalities are strong when it comes to discussing things logically and rationally. Use these skills when negotiating or when discussing potential problems and solutions to current work projects. These skills are highly important when finalizing work details and when preserving open lines of communication with business relationships in the future.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others. Schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker, and I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!