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Our society greatly emphasizes perfection, or striving toward perfection, so it’s very common for people to feel that they need to do everything without flaw. This way of thinking is taught to us right away as children when we are told things like:

“Color inside the lines.”

“Don’t wear your pants inside out.”

“Ride your bike in a straight line.”

From there, we go to school where we are not only expected to strive for perfection in academics, but also keep up with our peer group in music, sports, and the latest trends. So much pressure to appear perfect, according to others’ measurements!

Many people rebel against the pressure to be perfect, but some of us never shake it. Not that it’s inherently bad to strive for perfection—it’s just that, you have to know when to let go and let the little things slide.

The true perfectionist thinks in all-or-nothings. If something they do doesn’t live up to perfect standards (which translates to impossible standards), then they believe they are a failure and their efforts were a complete waste. This becomes a vicious cycle: the perfectionist sets unrealistic goals, fails to achieve them, feels that they failed utterly, and becomes discouraged and less confident in their ability to succeed in future endeavors.

Even when a perfectionist does great work, they have trouble seeing it as success, because their work will always appear subpar alongside the unrealistic expectations they set for themselves.

In fact, perfectionism hinders productivity as a result of this mental cycle. Those who set realistic goals are better able to perform because their goals are strategic, manageable, incremental. On the flip side, perfectionists are often so overwhelmed with their need to get everything perfect that they have trouble getting started. Perfectionist paralysis.

A few ways to get past this paralysis are to:

  1. Break down your task into bite-size chunks. Even breaking it up into one component per day works well. If you make a list to coincide with your breakdown, you’ll also have the pleasure of being able to check off accomplishments as you go.
  2. Give yourself some space from your work. This helps you keep the task in perspective. It is only a task, whatever it may be, however important, and you are not the task. Your value as a person is not tied to how well you perform.
  3. Provide ample time to nitpick. If you know that you fuss over the details, break your work into two general categories: the “just getting it done and not thinking” work, and the “going back over and obsessively getting it right” work. This way, you’ll be able to move forward without worrying about how perfect it is, since you know you’ll have time to get it great after it’s all thrown together.
  4. Know when to let it go. At some point, you’re going to need to stop your task and turn it in if it’s an assignment, deliver it if it’s a speech or presentation, or finish it in whichever other way you finish it. It will never be perfect, since nothing is perfect. You must learn to let go and trust you’ve done your best.

If perfectionist traits apply to you, remember: you simply cannot be good at everything. Some people will always be better-suited for particular skills than you. And this is okay! This is okay because your value is not determined by doing things perfectly, and if you tend to think this way, you’ll only continue to disappoint yourself. This is also okay because once you accept your weaknesses, you’ll be able to know your limits, set more reasonable goals, and hone in on the areas in which you thrive.

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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depression-get unstuck from life's ruts

When you’re in a rut–be it in a job, in between jobs, or just in general–becoming “unstuck” can be very difficult. While in this position, you may feel trapped, unmotivated or defeated. You may be tempted to settle. Don’t!

We all get in ruts, at times feeling trapped by our circumstances, and that is okay. However, the worst thing to do in this situation is to remain engaged in whatever it is that is making you feel unsatisfied. Something needs to change and change requires action. Today, I’ll give you five tried and true ways to free yourself from the funk so you can get back to living a rewarding life.

Get out of the comfort zone! 

Often the real cause of feeling stuck comes from the very habits we’ve created to be more comfortable. Our comfort zone feels good, but also has the potential to keep us from experiencing life. When we see too much of the same thing day after day, it’s easy to fall into the doldrums. Do something new! Try painting or photography or learn video editing. Attend a networking event or retreat. Work through your reservations and put yourself out there. In doing so, you’ll prove to yourself that you’re adaptable and resilient to setbacks. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find a talent or passion you were not even aware of.

Exercise, exercise, exercise 

We often forget that the brain is part of the body, and the body was made to move. Research continues to confirm that the brain performs better, and the body feels better, when we exercise.1 Whether it’s yoga, jogging, taking a walk or lifting weights, daily physical activity will motivate you to get out of the funk by stimulating your brain.

Travel somewhere new

Like exercise, travel stimulates the brain as well (probably due to the fact that we humans were nomadic creatures not too long ago). It’s in our nature to crave a change of scenery. It doesn’t need to be an expensive, extravagant trip. It can be something as simple as a weekend trek to a neighboring state, a train ride across the country, or a camping adventure with the family.

Make a point to be kind to those around you 

This obvious step is easily ignored when we get trapped in ruts. We become so wrapped up in ourselves, we forget to reach out and engage with others. Taking time at work, at home, and with friends to connect and share is one of the best ways to enrich your life. Kindness is reciprocal, after all.

Try reading for pleasure (every day!) 

Reading for pleasure forces your brain to create entire worlds out of thin air, and books offer differing perspectives on life that you may have never considered. What’s more, reading gives you time to recover from life’s little struggles and have a moment to yourself. It also works as a great sleeping aid if you get into the habit of reading right before bed.

These suggestions promote positive change, but the key to each of these is your attitude. You must eliminate the words “wish, hope, maybe, and should” from your vocabulary and replace them with “can, will, and do.” In most cases, feeling stuck is temporary and common.* You have the power to get yourself out of it. Trust that you will!

1 “The Human Brain,” The Franklin Institute, accessed October 22, 2012, http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html

2 “Staying on Top of Your Game,” Psychology Foundation of Canada, accessed October 22, 2012, http://www.psychologyfoundation.org/pdf/TopOfYourGame/3.pdf

*It should be noted that a “rut” is much different than dealing with depression or other mental disorders that cause a permanent “low” feeling. When in doubt, consult a physician.

 

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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When organized and executed well, the power lunch can be a perfect mixture of work, play, and hunger-quenching. To improve your power lunch performance, read the easy list of business lunch basics below.

The Basic Rules of the Business Lunch

  1. Place the Focus on Lunch: Consider calling it something besides a “power lunch” to avoid making your lunch partner feel like they’re about to endure another interview or staff meeting.
  2. Don’t Be Late: If you’re the host, show up early to double-check your reservation and make sure that your table is appropriate.
  3. Select the Perfect Restaurant: Choose somewhere convenient for your lunch partner and, preferably, somewhere with which you’re already familiar. Aim for a restaurant that’s not noisy or overcrowded. Inquiring about your lunch partner’s dietary preferences or limitations is also a great move.
  4. Don’t Jump Straight into Business: Let your lunch guest be the first to breech work subjects. This keeps things comfortable and sincere.
  5. Know Who Pays: Simply put, if you’ve made the reservation, you should pay. Consider leaving card information with your server ahead of time to avoid snafus or confusion.
  6. Show Some Respect: Show wait staff (including your hostess, server, food runner, manager, etc.) the utmost respect. How you treat these people says leagues about how you do business.
  7. Avoid Online Reservations: Always make and confirm your reservation over the phone or in person to ensure that your table doesn’t fall through the cracks. Make any requests concerning your seating preferences during this conversation.

Do you have questions about developing your career, business, or landing the job of your dreams? Would your career benefit from informed advice about finding more customers and building a network that gives back? Contact UXL Today to transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

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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give-a-better-champagne-toast

We’ve all been there. Someone stands up or leans over the table to give a toast and it falls absolutely FLAT. Maybe there are too many inside jokes in the toast, or maybe the speaker crosses the line between funny and just plain raunchy. Or, maybe the speaker forgets their lines, fumbles their words, or loses their concentration. Or the microphone cuts out. Or the speaker mumbles. Or no one laughs at the jokes…

The list goes on and on! It makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would agree to give a toast.

But, fear not. There are just as many ways to give a good toast as to give a horrendous one! The trick is to put a little thought into the occasion and look at it as an honor instead of a burden.

Because I’m a career and life coach, I often help people to deal with difficult or touchy situations with as much finesse, sensitivity, and effectiveness as possible. Being the “Toast-Giver” at your next special event is a perfect time to make an impression and send a message to a group.

How can you ensure that the toast you give during the summer wedding season (or any other season, for that matter) stays the impressive course and avoids turning into a train wreck? Start with these 7 handy tips:

The Toast-Giver’s Survival Guide

What’s Your Subject?

Every toast should have a subject. This should not be difficult to discern—for what reason have you all gathered today? Whether for a holiday party, wedding, graduation, or birthday, the major message of your toast should reflect the event’s specific occasion.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re anticipating being called on to make a speech, prepare one ahead of time and practice. Say your speech out loud (you’ll find that the pacing is much different than when you read to yourself) and practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.

Know Your Audience

Always assess the formality of the group and event. Take a cue from others who made toasts or speeches before you and, when in doubt, always keep your comments as respectful and professional as possible.

Don’t Burn the Toast!

When giving a toast, brevity is always key. Avoid causing waves of rolling eyes by sticking to your main message to avoid rambling.

Be Sober

I don’t think I need to paint a picture for you here—it’s pretty obvious what happens when someone misjudges their level of inebriation and subjects a room to their long, blush-inducing speech. If you hope to make a toast, abstain from the sauce until you’re finished.

Ditch the Inside Jokes

If only one or two people understand a reference you make during your toast, you’re alienating everyone else. If you decide to refer to a certain story or event, be sure you frame it properly so that everyone feels included.

Speak From the Heart

Avoid canned quotes or cliché phrases. Instead, be genuine, focus on the positive, and speak from the heart.

 

Follow these rules and make sure that your toast is remembered for the right reasons!

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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5 Minutes to a Better Cover Letter2If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of a compelling cover letter. It’s how you can stand out from the crowd, how you can demonstrate a slice of your personality that you really can’t convey in your résumé. It’s also a great way to take a deeper dive into some of your past experiences and really highlight your accomplishments.

How do you write a cover letter that gets noticed? Seems like a daunting task, right?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve laid out several simple pointers below that will guide you through the cover letter writing process and help you create something that is polished and memorable.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Cover Letter Basics:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc.)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Beyond the Basics:

  • Focus on two (or, at the max, three) major accomplishments in your career and really dive into them
  • Use concrete facts whenever possible. For example:
    • I saved XYZ Company $3.5 million dollars in their annual budget by…
    • During my time at ABC Inc., I trained over 200 people in…
    • I helped Company X grow by 4% through my….
    • I was the top salesperson at ABC, Inc., selling $$ annually
  • Let your authentic voice come through, but don’t sound too casual. It’s a fine line to ride and you may need a friend to weigh in.
  • Do your homework. Understand the company’s values and what they’re looking for in a new employee and make sure you highlight those parts of your experience.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

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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On the surface, the words “boss” and “leader” sound pretty synonymous. What is the difference, anyway? I think that the image below does a great job of illustrating the main differences. Let’s break it down…

boss leader

  1. A Leader is in the trenches

Both leaders and bosses give instructions, but unlike a boss, a leader helps to carry out the actual work. She pulls her weight, alongside the rest of her team. A good leader inspires others by demonstrating that she is invested in whatever project the team is working on.

  1. A Leader understands the team

Since a leader is working alongside his team, he understands how everyone clicks and what strengths and weaknesses each team member possesses. This knowledge helps the leader assign appropriate tasks to individuals and helps him understand the specific work style of each person on the team. By showing a genuine interest in each team member and taking the time to get to know everyone, the leader can easily identify when people are either discontent or thriving.

On the flipside, great leaders open themselves up to others. They practice transparency and, since they have nothing to hide, they don’t mind others getting to know their true, authentic selves.

  1. A Leader has vision

Instead of being reactive, a leader is proactive. The leader has an intimate knowledge of the work that is being undertaken and can therefore point the team in the right direction. That isn’t to say that the leader should micromanage to ensure that a task or project is done in a certain way. Rather, she should offer guidance and allow the team to figure out the details on their own.

  1. A Leader motivates the team

Instead of reprimanding or belittling the team, a leader builds his team up. By offering encouragement and constructive critiques, a good leader will develop a team that is inspired, motivated, and productive.

  1. A Leader keeps moving

Great leaders are humble enough to realize that they don’t know everything. They aspire to keep growing and changing; they move forward and take their team with them. When a roadblock gets in their way, great leaders don’t throw in the towel or turn around. Instead, they strategize with their team on how to overcome the obstacle and continue moving forward (or in a new direction).

Do you feel like more of a boss or a leader? Take a few minutes to think about these five qualities of a great leader and consider how you can embrace your leadership.

Need more guidance? Reach out and contact me today.

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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 “Originals are not that different from the rest of us. They feel fear and doubt, they procrastinate, they have bad ideas. And sometimes it’s not in spite of those qualities, but because of them that they succeed.” -Adam Grant

creative-man-original-thinker

One of the great lessons I learned from Adam Grant’s recent TED Talk is that we shouldn’t write off people who have unconventional work styles or ways of doing things. Many inventive, creative people do not like to think linearly or complete tasks in step-by-step ways. Instead, they work best when they are given time to explore many different avenues or even step away from the task-at-hand for a while.

On the surface, this might seem like procrastination or a lack of motivation, but it is a part of many people’s creative process. Grant says, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”

Another thing original thinkers have in common: they have failures. They often explore many different routes before landing on a great idea. As Grant articulates, “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most because they’re the ones who try the most.”

It’s like playing a game of darts. If you just keep making throws, you’ll likely hit your mark eventually.

As a leader, try to recognize the traits of original thinkers on your team and encourage their creativity and ingenuity.

And if you’re an original thinker? Embrace it! Realize that you might work differently than others, but your way of doing things probably works best for you.

To watch the full TED Talk (which I highly recommend), 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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