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Creating Successful Leaders

We’re back, friends. We’ve all made one more trip around the sun together and we’re back in the holiday season. In many parts of the world, it is cold and dark (and getting colder and darker!), but there is still much to be thankful for. If you’re reading this, you can be thankful for literacy and for access to an electronic device. If you are indoors, you can be thankful for shelter. If you ate today, you can be grateful for access to food. Most of us can also be thankful for family members and/or friends—those who lift us up, check in, remember our birthdays.

The truth is, most of us have a lot more than we realize. We just don’t always remember what we have or remember to be grateful.

Today, I challenge you to pause and reflect. Think about what went well this year, instead of dwelling on any failures you might have experienced. Think of the people who made a positive impact in your life—even strangers who said a kind word or helped in some way. Think of your favorite moments from this past year—where were you and who were you with? If you’d like to jot some notes about favorite moments or positive experiences from the past year, grab a notebook and pen and start writing!

Don’t you feel better? Isn’t it nice to set aside self-criticism and negativity for a while and focus on all the good that surrounds us?

Reflecting on the positive aspects of life should not be reserved for once a year, and yet we tend to throw all our gratitude energy into Thanksgiving. Why not spread it out? Why not carry a feeling of gratitude with us all year round?

Some people do try to live a life of gratitude, and those people, in my experience, are some of the happiest and most compassionate people I know. Instead of letting others’ negative actions or comments weigh them down, they “let it slide” and move on. Instead of getting tripped up by bumps in the road, they get into problem-solving mode.

My wish is that we will all learn to be a bit more gentle and forgiving with ourselves and others. I wish we would spend more time focusing on the rainbow, instead of the rain. By adopting this attitude, even the most difficult paths become possible. Just put one foot in front of the other and start seeing all the good that surrounds you, each and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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I get it. It’s difficult to maintain your enthusiasm about work/life/everything when things still seem pretty bad. Every day, we’re bombarded with grim news stories and reminded, yet again, of how dire things are for the planet and for people on all corners of the earth. Plus, many of us are still working from home and trying to balance work and life (kid’s soccer games, doctor’s appointments, keeping a clean house, etc., etc.) as best we can. It can all feel…overwhelming. So how can we possibly wrangle our emotions and convince ourselves that we’re happy or energized?

Well, here’s the thing about emotions: Even if you have to fake a certain emotion for a while, you’ll eventually feel it.

Before I explain, let me offer one important caveat: This advice does not pertain to people struggling with depression or other serious medical conditions. It is meant for those who are simply overwhelmed, feeling a little listless, or could use an energy boost.

That said, let me explain the concept of “fake it until you feel it.”

Essentially, when you want to feel a certain emotion—joy, confidence enthusiasm—do your best to mimic that emotion, and you will eventually genuinely feel it. Amy Cuddy suggests standing in a “power pose” for a few minutes before going into a big meeting to boost your confidence. Similarly, if you’re feeling a little low and want to boost your happiness, smile! Feel your face brighten and your body lift.

This advice isn’t just a “nice idea.” It’s rooted in neuroscience. According to psychologist Michael Schreiner, “…the barrier between external reality and internal reality is basically nonexistent. For example, scans have shown that you can feel happy and therefore smile, or just contort your face into the shape of a smile whether you feel happy or not, and your brain will respond the same way, releasing the same chemicals.” In short, it is usually possible to trick your brain into feeling whatever you wish to feel.

And that is powerful. It means your emotions are somewhat in your own hands.

So, what to do with this newfound knowledge?

First of all, understand that you have power and control. Your emotions are your own, and you can bend them to your will. Once you realize that, you can begin to “fake it until you feel it.” Smile when you’re having a lousy day. Act energized even when you’re feeling drained. Exude confidence even when you’re feeling timid. By putting your best foot forward and simply trying, you spark something in your brain. You begin to think that maybe (just, maybe!) things aren’t so bad. And you begin to gradually feel better.

This is all part of establishing a healthy emotional pattern. It may not be easy at first to get into a healthy, positive mindset, but the more you practice, the easier it will be. So, practice! Make a concerted effort to feel more joyful, positive, enthusiastic, or confident and see if you can trick your brain into actually embracing (not just faking!) these emotions.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work in myriad ways. Many people are still working from home (WFH) either part-time or full-time, and some have decided that this is the method they prefer. Many of our meetings have moved online, through platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. Instead of flying across the country for business trips, people are opting for virtual chats instead (often saving time and saving the company hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars). And there’s another change that has become quite popular:

Working from a location other than your home or office.

Last year, many people opted to work out-of-state or out of the country for weeks, or even months, at a time. They reasoned, “If I can do all my work from home, why can’t I do the same work from an oceanside cottage in Florida? Or near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado? Or from an eco-tourism lodge in Costa Rica?”

And, why not? If you’ve proven that you can complete all your work from a home office, why couldn’t you pack up and work somewhere else for a while? Working from a new location can be energizing and give you a much-needed productivity boost. It’s healthy to have a change of scenery every once in a while (especially if you’re stuck inside during a long winter, like we often are in Minnesota!). I usually bring my work to my home state of Delaware and work remotely there; and my assistant spent six weeks last winter working in Florida and Alabama.

However, if you decide to work remotely in a location that isn’t your home, you do face several unknowns. To help make your remote working experience run smoothly, here are a few tips:

Scope Out Office Essentials

When you’re considering renting a house, apartment, or hotel for an extended stay, it is crucial to investigate the essential components that make your work possible. Does the rental have enough space to comfortably accommodate you and whoever you’re traveling with? Is there enough desk or table space for you (and any travel mates) to do your work? Is there Wi-Fi, and how fast and reliable is it? Lastly: Is it quiet?

You can glean much of this information from either the renter (sites like AirBnB and VRBO allow you to have direct communication with the renter) or from reviews of the rental property. If, for instance, several people indicate that there is a lot of street noise, that’s definitely a red flag! You should also consider whether you’ll be sharing a wall with another renter, or if you’ll be part of an apartment complex or duplex. It’s difficult to predict how noisy or respectful your neighbors will be.

Rent Long-Term

Many rental listings offer deep discounts for month-long rentals. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good idea to opt for a long-term rental.

Have a Food Plan

How often will you be eating out or ordering takeout? How often will you be staying in and cooking? If you’re staying somewhere long-term, you’ll likely need access to a well-stocked kitchen. If the items in your rental’s kitchen are not listed, it’s a good idea to ask the leaser about specific items.

Furthermore, it’s smart to scope out nearby restaurants and grocery stores before putting money down on a rental. Having easy access to quality food could turn your work vacation from good to great!

Drive Instead of Flying

Even though flying is quicker, driving allows for greater flexibility. You can bring important items from home (an external monitor, for example, or favorite board games). You can even bring the family dog, provided the rental unit is pet-friendly!

Not only that, but you’ll save yourself the hassle (and money!) of having to rent a vehicle once you arrive at your destination. Even if you’re hoping to opt for public transit and ride share programs, having a car on hand is a good idea anyway, in case of emergencies.

There are some limitations to this tip, of course, such as if you’re planning to travel internationally. In which case…

If Traveling Abroad, Do Your Homework

Before working in a foreign country, it pays to do a little research to familiarize yourself with the currency, language (even learning a few phrases is helpful and shows respect!), and customs. You’ll also want to pick a rental unit that is easily accessible and is relatively close to a grocery store, pharmacy, and clinic/hospital. And don’t forget to bring your power adapter/voltage converter! The last thing you want is to blow out your work laptop by plugging it into an outlet that uses a different voltage.

Remember: You can always buy some necessities once you arrive at your destination. To lighten your travel load, consider leaving behind extra toiletries (sunscreen, lotion, etc.), unnecessary articles of clothing, or towels (which your rental probably has anyway).

If you usually use an external monitor for your work, it may be difficult to go without one for a long stretch of time. Consider purchasing a portable monitor, or buying a (new or used) external monitor once you arrive at your destination.

Lastly, make sure your phone will function abroad! Many carriers do offer coverage in foreign countries. Talk to you carrier about how to do this. In some cases, you’ll have to buy a special SIM card upon arrival.

Working from a location that isn’t your home takes a little extra planning, but it is usually worth it! The change of scenery is great for energizing and motivating you, and can help you get out of the WFH rut. Pick a few top choices, do some research, and start planning your remote work getaway!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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