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Creating Successful Leaders

success and grit

I recently watched a TED Talk by psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth on the subject of grit. She first noticed a correlation between success and grit when she was working as a school teacher in a difficult neighborhood. A child’s scholarly success was not necessarily related to their IQ; more often than not, it was related to their dogged perseverance, or grit.

Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in psychology and made grit the subject of most of her research. She studied diverse groups of people—from military cadets to students to sales people—and, time and again, observed that grit was a key attribute to success.

The people who kept going despite failures or setbacks, the people who were committed to a job or task for the long-term, were the ones who usually succeeded.

How do you foster grit in your own life and your children’s? Duckworth admits that the research is lacking, but a few interesting ideas have cropped to the surface. One study shows that developing a “growth mentality” helps create a gritty personality. A growth mentality has to do with the belief that failure is NOT a permanent state. It is something that creates growth and helps us succeed next time. This kind of attitude puts people in a positive mindset, a “I can do it next time!” frame of mind.

What do you think? Has grit been a part of YOUR success? Is it something you need to work at?

For the full TED Talk, please click the link below:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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overcoming negative self talk

Although we may not pay attention to it most of the time, there is a constant internal voice that runs through everyone’s head. This is the voice that talks to us when we’re bored, tells us to choose the salad (not the soft pretzel!), and reminds us to not bring up politics around Aunt Mary. This unconscious stream of thought can also lift us up and make us feel confident OR cause us to come crashing down and tell us we’re no good.

Which narrative is running through your head?

For many people, the internal voice can be overwhelmingly negative. In the transformative book The Untethered Soul, author Michael Singer talks about this tendency to talk down to ourselves. He describes the voice as your “negative roommate,” the naysayer that is constantly spouting pessimism. Singer advises us to “monitor the roommate” by externalizing it. Give your inner voice a body and start talking back to it!

Although this method of combatting negative self-talk might make you seem a little loony (back-talking to your “roommate” who isn’t physically there!), Singer claims that it is the first step in taming your negative self-talk problem. He says, “If you want to free yourself, you must first become conscious enough to understand your predicament. Then you must commit yourself to the inner work of freedom…as of right now, your life is not your own; it belongs to your inner roommate; the psyche.”

The main lesson here is to be MINDFUL. Be AWARE of the narrative that runs through your head. Pay attention to what your inner voice is saying and when you catch yourself thinking pessimistically, pause. Refocus. Think of the positive side of things instead of focusing on the negative. If your little voice is telling you, “You can’t do it. You will fail during your presentation at today’s meeting.” Tell it, “No, I won’t. I will succeed. I will speak eloquently and clearly; I will keep people engaged.”

Then, repeat. Continue focusing your inner narrative on positive outcomes and you’ll find that it will become second-nature after a while. You’ll begin to be an optimistic person, instead of struggling to become one.

Grab a hold of your life’s narrative and tell it how to behave! That’s the surest way to boost your confidence, reduce stress, and reject toxic negativity. Start back-talking to the nagging negativity in your head and discover what a difference it can make in your life.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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2 Minute Power Boost Amy Cuddy

Social scientist Amy Cuddy studies nonverbal communication and how it relates to power. Through her research, she’s discovered some pretty incredible things about power dynamics, nonverbal signals, and how we can actually modify our mentality through physical actions.

Just like in the animal kingdom, humans puff up their chests and make themselves “big” if they perceive themselves to be in a position of power. On the flip side, people shrink down, hug their arms to their bodies, and lower their heads if they are feeling weak and vulnerable.

When we see someone posed in a “power position” or in a position of weakness, our brains automatically react. We are drawn to enthusiasm, confidence, and ease. From political candidates to doctors, we tend to gravitate toward displays of power.

But what if you don’t FEEL powerful? What if you doubt your abilities and lack self-confidence? Let your body language change your mind.

In Amy Cuddy’s studies, she has found that people who assume a power pose (opened chest, relaxed, arms wide) for as little as two minutes have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, which translates to more confidence and less stress. These people are able to cope with high-stress situations, such as a job interview, and are usually well-liked by others.

When you take on a power pose, something uncanny happens in the brain—it begins to believe that you are powerful.

When people question the authenticity of “faking it ‘til you make it,” Cuddy responds that she prefers the statement, “Fake it ‘til you become it.” The more frequently you tweak your nonverbals to indicate power and self-assurance, the more you’ll believe in that power. Eventually, you won’t have to fake it at all. You’ll elevate your confidence and approach situations with more comfort and poise than you used to.

Try assuming a power pose for two minutes the next time you are about to face a high-stress situation. It IS possible for your physical actions to change your brain!

 

To watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, please click below:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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hiking-1149985_640

A couple weeks ago, I spent 15 days in Poland, volunteering for World Youth Day. I took away many incredible lessons, including one that I wrote about last week. This week, I’d like to write about one particular take-away that can be applied to life, in general. That lesson has to do with resilience.

While I was in Poland, the weather was hot and humid. During these muggy days, the group I was with walked anywhere from 5 to 10+ miles on any given day, often in full sunlight. We walked the streets of Krakow, Zakopane, and Warsaw. We walked a 10 mile-long pilgrimage trail to see Pope Frances, and then walked back! We walked to bus stops, on country paths, to dinner…you name it!

Even though some days were physically taxing (especially the pilgrimage to see the Pope; the road was not only long, but packed with thousands of other people!), I didn’t hear a single complaint. Instead, we soldiered on and those who were feeling fine helped those who were having a hard time. I saw some people carrying multiple backpacks in order to give their fellow pilgrims a hand.

It was an astonishing example of resilience.

As I watched all the dedicated people walking down the pilgrim trail, it reminded me that, when inspired, you can do nearly anything. If something means a lot to you—whether in your personal or professional life—you will do whatever it takes to claim it or hold onto it. That’s the nature of resilience—it comes from within.

Next time you feel your resolve faltering, get inspired! Remember why what you’re doing matters. Remind yourself that you are strong and you can push through anything. And, when you do persevere, don’t forget to reward yourself!

And if you’re truly having trouble finding your motivation? That might be an indication that a major life change is in order. But, before making any drastic leaps, try finding a spark of inspiration and calling upon your inner resilience. Your mind is a powerful machine and the more you convince yourself that you CAN do something, the more likely that you’ll actually be able to do it.

March on!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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volunteer-1326758_640

As I wrote about in a couple past blog posts (about volunteerism and simplifying your life), I recently spent 15 days in Poland, volunteering for World Youth Day. The experience was powerful, to say the least. Every day, I witnessed thousands upon thousands of young people from all across the world united in a common purpose. But one of the things that struck me most was the warm welcome we received, both from the people of Poland and from the other pilgrims.

As an American, I don’t necessarily expect other countries to welcome me with open arms. There are many ugly preconceived notions about Americans (that we’re spoiled, loud, bullies, etc.), some of which can be true, depending on the American! Many countries also disagree with our foreign policy decisions. With that in mind, I was absolutely shocked when the group of Americans with whom I was traveling experienced nothing but friendly greetings and amicable interactions.

As we traveled through the beautiful Polish countryside and visited quiet, quaint villages that brimmed with amazing history, we were graciously welcomed by the Polish people. They were proud to be hosting World Youth Day and happy that we had traveled to their country to experience the event. Each person in my group did a home stay with a Polish family and, despite language barriers, we were treated respectfully, fed well, and received incredible hospitality.

At the event itself, my group of American youths met and mingled with other youths from 167 countries around the globe. Instead of focusing on their differences and the gaps between them, they focused on their similarities and the things that bound them together. It melted my heart to see so many diverse people hanging out together, eating together, playing Frisbee together (I even saw some nuns and priests tossing a disc around!), getting to know each other…all in a peaceful, harmonious setting.

I think a lot of folks, including our world leaders, could learn from the example of these young people. They focused on building bridges, rather than putting up walls between one another.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Shawn Achor Happiness

Most of us believe that if we work hard, we’ll be successful and if we’re successful, we’ll be happy. While that sounds logical, it may not be the case. Psychologist Shawn Achor studies “positive psychology” and the human tendency to be unsatisfied, no matter how good our circumstances seem to outsiders.

He studied students at Harvard and found that new students were extremely happy during the first couple weeks of enrollment, but then happiness dropped precipitously and the students began feeling more discontent, stressed, and pessimistic. Through this study and several others, Achor has concluded that your external factors cannot predict your happiness level. He has found that 90% of your long-term happiness is predicted by how your brain processes the world.

In other words, your personal happiness depends on YOU!

But how can you elevate your positivity and, thus, improve your career and personal life? In his TED Talk, Achor urges us to focus on small acts that create ripples of positivity. These acts could be as simple as journaling, regular exercise, daily meditation, random acts of kindness, or listing three things for which you are grateful at the start of each day.

When people began implementing these small doses of positivity in to their lives, Achor found that they made a huge impact. Instead of being constantly dissatisfied, people began seeing the world through an optimistic lens. And that’s important because a “happy brain,” according to Achor’s research, is a high-functioning brain. He calls this the happiness advantage and has found that when we are in a positive frame of mind, our creativity, intelligence, and energy levels are all given a boost.

To learn more, please watch Achor’s remarkable TED Talk:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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good habit bad habit

We are creatures of habit.

Most of us have a daily routine that we stick to—waking up at a certain time, making coffee, eating breakfast, commuting to work. It’s how we bring order to our lives and make sense of the day. For those of you who follow a set routine, you understand the power of habit. What happens to your day if, say, you’re unable to have your morning coffee? Or you get stuck in traffic on the way to the office? Things tend to feel strange and your day may feel off-kilter.

That’s why bad habits are so hard to break.

A habit, whether good or bad, is comfortable. It’s part of the fabric of your life. If, for example, you begin working through lunch and eating food purchased from the vending machine, after a while that will feel normal and the habit will be hard to break. On the flip side, if you make sure to pack yourself a nutritious lunch every day and take time away from your desk to eat it, you’ll get used to that routine.

Even though you may consciously realize that your bad habits may cause lasting, damaging effects, it’s difficult to break away from them. In their book, The Power of Focus, authors and entrepreneurs Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt strategize on ways to build healthy habits and shed the unhealthy ones. They recommend working on changing one bad habit at a time and replacing it with a new, healthy one.

Here’s how to do it in 4 steps:

  1. Clearly identify your bad or unproductive habits

This is a step that involves a good deal of reflection on your part. You may need to call upon external help (such as assistance from a therapist or life coach) to help you clearly label your bad habits. In some cases, a daily habit may not seem too terrible on its own (i.e. getting 5 hours of sleep at night or working late and missing family dinner), but the long-term consequences might be severe.

  1. Define your new successful habit

Identify a new, healthy habit and envision what that will look like in your life. Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt advise you to “create a clear picture of what this new habit will do for you. The more vividly you describe the benefits, the more likely you are to take action.” Remember, it’s okay to start small and build up your arsenal of good habits as you go along.

  1. Create an action plan

You’ve honed in on areas in your life you want to improve, deciding to take different (usually opposite) courses of action to beat out bad habits. Now, you’re ready to get the ball rolling. Take the time to “make a decision about which specific actions you are going to implement.”

Visualize each actions. What practical steps do you need to take to form a new habit? What actions will boost your chance of success? The action plan will propel you from visualizing changes you wish to see, to actually feeling empowered to make them. What’s more, having a written copy of your plan (and placing it somewhere where you will see it!) will help hold you accountable.

  1. Set a start date.

Get yourself psyched up for the start of a new chapter in your life. Setting a start date is vital to your action plan and helps you start strong.

Canfield, Hansen and Hewitt use the example of someone who takes too much work home on the weekends. They look honestly at the consequences of this habit (“Family time restricted, feeling guilty, important relationships become polarized”), visualize the benefits freeing up the weekend completely (“more relaxed, reduced stress levels, create unique family experiences”), and make a 3-step action plan to get there:

  1. Design my work better by not overcommitting.
  2. Delegate secondary tasks to staff to free up my time.
  3. Have my family keep me accountable. No golf if I don’t follow through!

Start Date: February 3rd

As with any change we make in our lives, repetition is key. To make better habits, you’ll have to keep fighting the brainless tendency we have to continue the bad habits we’ve created. This may be difficult at first, but if you stick to the action plan and keep your focus toward the future, you’ll soon find that you’re actually doing the good habits without having to think about them. Think about how good that will feel!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

Source: Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt. The Power of Focus. Florida: Health Communications, 2011.

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