In today’s demanding work world, the pressure for doing more with less has become part of many organizational cultures. People are in fact working longer hours and often asked to take responsibility for tasks that go beyond their job description. We all know that more stress at work takes its toll mentally, but it also taxes us physically and we go home feeling exhausted. Rest and relaxation can be a cure, but they are normally reserved for the end of the day, weekends and vacations.
Researching my recent book, Performing Under Pressure, helped me realize a cure that we can use throughout the day, one that not only reduces feelings of exhaustion and pressure, but also makes you — and those around you — more productive and it works instantly. It’s called “enthusiasm.”
We become enthused automatically when we achieve a goal or when we encounter something we like, be it food or a person. Goal completion and liking something are natural stimulants for enthusiasm but we don’t achieve goals every day or perform enjoyable work activities every day. Why wait?
You can learn how to create enthusiasm for the moment and throughout the day but you need to know the nature of enthusiasm:
- Enthusiasm is an affective state. How do you feel when you are enthusiastic? Energized or excited is the common response.
- Enthusiasm is a state of heightened arousal. Breathing rate, heart rate, for example, are accelerated. Enthusiasm is accompanied by positive thought. “I can do this,” or “I love this,” are common enthusiastic thoughts.
- Enthusiasm is a behavior. Enthusiasm stimulates movement, be it in the arms or legs, face or eyes.
- Enthusiastic responses are universal across cultures. A smile, clapping — these are hardwired into us so a crowd in Brazil cheers when their soccer team wins just like American college students do when their basketball team wins.
- Enthusiasm communicates excitement, engagement and positivity to the people around you and like all emotions, is contagious; so your enthusiasm infects others.
- Enthusiasm is expressed via our hardwired emotional communicators — facial expressions, voice, gestures, and arousal. A smile or a frown, slumped shoulders or standing upright, a whimpering voice or a yelling voice — are all examples of our hardwiring apparatuses expressing emotional information. Next time you say you feel enthusiastic stand in front of a mirror — I bet you are smiling.
Given the fact that you’re having a draining day and need more energy, or feeling lull five minutes before an important presentation, what can you do to instantly Jazz yourself up? I’d recommend using an ET – an Enthusiastic Technology.
Enthusiastic technologies leverage your inherent emotional communication mechanisms –voice, facial expressions, gestures, arousal — so they help you experience enthusiasm —energized, excited, and positive and ready to be productive.
The following enthusiastic technologies are some examples of using emotional communication mechanisms to jazz yourself up and/or to elevate the mood of others. Your underlying task is to note the enthusiastic properties in play and to create innovative ways of how to bring these properties to life:
Activate Yourself — Moving our bodies increases our arousal that stimulates endorphins that promote creativity and positive feelings. If you have an important meeting to brainstorm ideas, go for a 10-minute walk beforehand. One step further, lead your team through a brisk five-minute walk, even if it’s through the hallways of your office building. If you need to pep yourself up in a minute, do a Bagger Vance dance step and away you go!
Sound of Music — Sound carries emotions so music can be a natural mood enhancer. During lunch, short breaks, or even at your desk, put on headphones and give yourself a dose of enthusiasm by listening to music that inspires and excites you. With your team, make it a fun ritual by singing each other’s favorite song together or sharing a favorite lyric. Your team might sound terrible, but they will feel enthused. When you want to rally your troops, don’t speak in a monotone. Mimic Al Pacino’s rhythmic flow in his Any Given Sunday and Scent of a Woman speeches.
Clap it Up — Do you recall the film Hoosiers? It’s a story based on small Indiana high school’s basketball team that goes on to win the state championship in 1952. Academy Award winner Gene Hackman plays the team’s coach. Before each game, he gets his team in a huddle and has them clap at a feverish pace — and then lets them take the court—with great enthusiasm. Look at the halftime basketball breaks that are televised on ESPN: Every one ends with a “Hack” imitation. Clapping is a percussive sound that is made by an object struck or rubbed by hand. Give yourself a few claps — fast and loud — and you’ll feel up! Do your own Hack imitation with your team and they will get up and go!
Laugh and Smile — Enthusiasm is contagious. We transfer and catch emotions through facial expressions, sounds and body gestures. Stand in front of a mirror and look and act enthusiastic —bet your smiling so make it a point to increase your smile. Share jokes and laugh out loud. Ask family or friends to let you know when you sound enthusiastic and I bet it’s a time when you are feeling good!
None of us Need More Stress — Your own experiences tell you the downside of stress outweighs its upside. And pressure is the enemy of success. Fortunately, we all have access to enthusiastic technologies that allow us to lessen our feelings of being overwhelmed and do our best when it matters most. That’s a fact to be enthusiastic about!!
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