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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Advice from a Life Coach

That old saying “no man is an island” still rings true today. We are all connected with others in myriad ways, and we all depend on a large network of people to do our work, enjoy life, and, frankly, to survive. The CEO of a company might receive most of the fame and recognition, but that person’s success is intrinsically linked to others—their mid-level managers, the company custodians, the IT support team, the customers who believed in the company and its offerings.

This interconnectedness extends to our personal lives as well. We rely on the farmer to harvest food, the construction crew to repair our roads, the teacher to educate our children. I often see this community and interconnectedness at play with my grandson. He and his parents rely on care from a network of people. It truly “takes a village” to raise a child.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of community.

A strong community offers support, resources, and guidance. It not only provides us with necessities, but uplifts us and motivates us to keep going.

Today, we might find a sense of community and belonging in a variety of places—through work, family, online forums, volunteering. However, while it’s possible to be more interconnected than ever before, people are now lonelier and more depressed than ever. In the U.S., loneliness has been steadily increasing since 2015 (especially among younger generations), and that trend has been noted across the globe, as well.

Why is that? Why is our highly networked world lonely?

From my observations and research, I believe this has to do with the quality of our connections, rather than the quantity. One of your Twitters posts might be liked by 5,000 people, but do you really know any of them? You might engage in a webinar with 200 other individuals, but are you really talking to each other and getting to know one another on a deeper level?

At this point, you may be wondering, “So what? Why does it matter if people are lonely?”

Aside from the mental and emotion toll loneliness can cause, it has been linked to many physical side effects such as an “increased risk of mental health issues, heart disease and even death.” The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that, “Research shows that the impact of poor social relationships on mortality is comparable to the impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and consuming alcohol, and exceeds the impact of physical activity and obesity. Lonely individuals are at higher risk of hypertension, poor sleep, and the onset of disability.

So, what do we do?

I challenge you to seek out meaningful, real-world connections. Get to know your neighbors, host a barbeque, volunteer in your community, join an in-person networking or hobby group. If you are already connected with a number of other people, I challenge you to strengthen those connections by making an effort to be in touch, sending the occasional greeting card, or arranging a lunch or coffee date. You can also go the extra mile by reaching out to those who you suspect to be socially isolated (elderly friends, those who have limited access to reliable transportation, new parents!) and offer your support.

Community is created through conscious connections, not just through liking someone’s social media post in passing. It’s made by asking others about themselves and reciprocating by opening up and being a little vulnerable. Let’s dare to strike up conversations and make connections! Let’s strive to consciously foster community.

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. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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It’s great to be happy. It’s wonderful to feel joy and hope. But does our society overemphasize these feelings? Judging by the plethora of self-help books, escapism social media, and online “happiness hacks,” that seems to be the case. Some sources have even called happiness a “cultural obsession.”

That may not seem like a bad thing on the surface, but it can have some unintended consequences. For one, if we’re constantly focused on obtaining happiness, we may not be fully present. We’re so focused on our happiness dreams, that we forget to appreciate what we have. As behavior expert Patrick Wanis says, “We place our happiness somewhere off in the future and therefore we’re never able to enjoy where we are now because we’re always thinking we’re only going to be happy when we get to be, do, or have something.”

Additionally, the expectation to be happy all the time is frankly unrealistic. We might logically know that our friends and acquaintances are not happy at all hours of the day—their lives are not flawless and worry-free—but that doesn’t stop us from viewing them that way. We constantly see pictures on Instagram or Facebook of happy, smiling people drinking cocktails, taking vacations, posing with their families, cooking perfect dishes, and we wonder why we don’t stack up. Why isn’t my life that happy? What am I doing wrong?

This is how obtaining happiness can become more of an obsession than a healthy pursuit. But what if we were to shift our focus so that happiness isn’t the end goal, but rather a fortunate side effect? That’s where “usefulness” comes into play.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

When we make ourselves useful through daily work, volunteerism, helping others, donating our dollars or time, etc., we de-emphasize happiness. We shift the focus from ourselves to others. That’s not to say self-care isn’t important (it is! And I’ve talked about that in several blogs posts), but focusing on others and living a purpose-driven life is just as important.

And, guess what? You’ll likely feel happiness anyway!

Doing your best work, volunteering, or caring for a sick friend can all be satisfying in their own way. Even though your end goal isn’t happiness, it’s a fortunate side effect that often accompanies living within your purpose or doing good deeds.

As a nation, it may do us all a lot of good to stop obsessing over happiness and start emphasizing usefulness. What might life look like if we dared to follow this pursuit?

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. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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This month, I’ve been focusing on the topic of courage. I’ve released an eBook on the topic (A Quick Guide to Courage), and I continue to receive feedback about personal struggles to be courageous. If you’re struggling to find your courage, let’s talk.

When we think of courageous people, we might envision firefighters or soldiers, CEOs presenting in front of large audiences, or adventurers scaling mountains. But…what about you? Do you ever pause to consider all the mountains you’ve climbed and storms you’ve weathered? Do you recall the times when you’ve had to tap into courage—asking for a raise, giving a presentation, making a major life decision, daring to step outside your comfort zone?

You, too, have acted with courage in your life, even if you don’t often think about it. You have the capacity to taking daring steps and make courageous decisions. Don’t discount the small acts of courage you undertake each and every day. Even getting up in the morning and pulling up your email inbox can take courage! You’re opening yourself to a host of “unknowns,” and it may take mental and emotional fortitude to address the everyday problems that await you.

Even if you don’t always feel courageous, take heart in the fact that we are all capable of building and developing courage. Just as we build muscles by going to the gym so, too, can we build courage and take it to new heights. Mostly, it takes practice and persistence.

Here are 7 ways you can grow your courage every day:

Invite an acquaintance to lunch.

For many, it can be uncomfortable getting to know someone new. Dare to face that discomfort and arrange a lunch or coffee meeting with someone you’d like to get to know a little better. If it doesn’t work out, dare to ask the next person on your list!

Create healthy boundaries.

Dare to say “no” to projects that do not align with your area of expertise. Reject or postpone tasks when your schedule is jam-packed. Answer emails on your own terms, and during work hours only. By having the courage to set these healthy boundaries, you show respect for yourself and protect your mental and emotional health.

Send a message to someone you admire.

Looking for a mentor? Seeking advice from a trusted expert? Reach out and contact someone who may have the answers. Don’t let the person’s status or title intimidate you. We’re all humans, after all!

Set aside personal time.

Dare to set aside time for yourself, take breaks, and go on the occasional vacation. Too often, people are nervous about what others will think of them if they choose to take a break. It’s time to set a new standard where meaningful breaks are the norm. Be brave enough to know when you’ve reached your limit and need time off.

Say no.

If something doesn’t feel right, have the courage to say no. I challenge you to think through every task, offer, or project before deciding on your course of action.

Be a leader.

If you have an idea for a new project, a new way of doing things, or a fresh approach, it may be time to step up and take initiative. Don’t wait around for someone else to lead the charge; dare to do it yourself!

Be your true self.

Be authentic and don’t shy away from who you truly are. Of course, we all need to act appropriately in certain settings, but that doesn’t mean we have to fundamentally change who we are (just dial it back or up, depending on the situation!). Be genuine; be yourself.

Step into your day with a courageous heart and a plan to make positive change. You are in charge of your future. Dare to seize the day and make the right decisions for you, even if that can be a little scary. You’re braver than you think you are.

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. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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