Tag Archives: How to Boost Self-Esteem
Last week I highlighted some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide if it’s best to let “it” go. “It” is different for everyone, whether “it’s” a goal, a project, a relationship, or even the career you’re presently in. This week, I thought I’d give a few counter points: how do you know if you shouldn’t throw in the towel? How do you decide to stick with it?
1. You know deep down that this is what you want. Maybe this has been a childhood dream of yours. You lay awake at night fantasizing about it; you daydream about it. No amount of time has dissuaded you from it.
2. You have a plan. It’s great to know you truly want something, but this isn’t worth much without a game plan describing how you’re going to get it.
3. Although sometimes difficult and discouraging, this goal has made a net gain on your self-esteem and your general happiness.
4. You’re seeing progress
If these points describe your journey in any way, don’t give up! Keep pushing forward, stay open-minded, learn from your shortcomings, and most of all, reach out for support and guidance. You should never feel like you need to do it all on your own.
Keep chasing the dream!
If you’ve noticed more than one voice in your head, fighting for your attention, don’t worry: you’re not crazy. In fact, it’s quite normal to experience these different voices popping up at random moments and influencing how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
To be more accurate, these “voices” are thought patterns we form over a long period of time. Oftentimes, we can tell what circumstances prompt one voice to start talking. Our inner cheerleader comes out when we accomplish something we’re proud of, for instance. Other times, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what exactly triggers a certain thought pattern, and if you’re not careful here, it becomes difficult to discern between what’s real and what’s a lie the voice in your head is telling you.
I want to talk about the worst liar of them all. In my book, I call it the “self-saboteur.” He/she is the voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough. Nobody will trust you. Nobody will notice you. It won’t work, it never does, you might as well stop trying, it’s hopeless.”
The self-saboteur is crafty, resilient, and an almost universal phenomenon. How do you keep this negative voice in check?
In his article on negative thinking patterns, life coach John-Paul Flintoff advises that we externalize the self-saboteur. The brain is flexible, and continues to develop past childhood. We can take advantage of this and disrupt negative thinking patterns. “The first step,” says Flintoff, “is to become aware of your automatic negative thoughts–and for me, anyway, that’s much easier (and more fun, actually) if I personify the inner critic, with a sketch, and give him/her a voice.”
Flintoff’s inner critic is shriveled and bald, with dark shadows under his eyes. He looks worried and avoids eye contact. He stays in the shadows but comes out to whisper hurtful things.
By creating such a detailed image of his self-saboteur, he is able to distance himself from this bad thinking pattern. It’s not him talking, it’s the shriveled liar in the corner.
Externalizing your self-saboteur takes practice. Old habits, and thought patterns definitely count as habits, take time and effort to break. But once you begin distancing yourself from your negative inner-critic, this thought pattern loses an incredible amount of power. As you continue learning to identify when and how the critic starts talking, you’ll get better and better at learning how to stop listening.
Another suggestion of Flintoff’s (which I find quite wise) is to think of someone in your life you greatly admire. The next time your self-saboteur takes the floor, imagine that this person is defending you. What would they say? If you’re honest (this is your defender’s turn to talk, so don’t allow the inner-critic any influence here), you’ll find that your defender has a great deal to say on your behalf. By doing this simple mental exercise, it becomes clear that most of the time, your self-saboteur is talking utter garbage, and you’re giving him/her a platform to let it get to you. Don’t do that! You’re so much more valuable, so much more loved, and so much more worthy than your saboteur will ever give you credit for, so stop wasting your time listening and put a sock in that liar’s mouth.
I’d say these are all classic examples, as leaders like these inspire others to follow, thrive in the spotlight, and break new ground with their achievements. When we witness such leaders in action, it’s only natural to wonder: how did they get like that? Are great leaders born naturals, or did they learn and cultivate their skills?
To answer this, we must first dispel the myth that all leaders fit into the same cookie-cutter outlines. The examples I listed above, while all good ones, leave out many other kinds of influential leaders. Mentors, tutors, coaches, and other one-on-one roles are examples of leadership conducted behind the scenes. Similarly, parenting is a type of constant leadership that rarely gets awards or praise. There are scores of leaders who make their mark quietly, without any fanfare.
Once we see that leaders are a large, diverse group of people with all sorts of natural gifts and skills, it’s easier to see where our talents could apply to a leadership capacity. Undoubtedly, some people are naturally better equipped to fill many types of leadership roles, but no leader becomes great without dedicating time and effort into becoming better. And the biggest asset a leader has? Self-awareness.
In her article on Forbes’ website, author and coach Erika Anderson says her experience has shown the best leaders are self-aware: “Without exception, the more self-aware someone is, the easier he or she is to coach; the more improvable and better able to accept what they need in order to improve.” I wholeheartedly agree. In my coaching experience, there’s not much you can do to help someone who is unwilling or unable to see themselves in a realistic light. I’ve had much more success coaching someone of modest skills who is self-aware.
Know your strengths, know your weaknesses, and know where you plug in to the world around you. This is the big idea behind self-awareness. You may possess amazing speaking skills, or a gift for innovative ideas, but if you cannot even accurately see who you are, and where you fit in, you’ll never be able to lead others.
That’s my thought for this week, and can you believe that next week is already August? I hope you’ve gotten a chance to get outdoors!
According to this Harvard Business Review blog post, we’ve been thinking about it all wrong when we talk about time management. It’s like dieting vs. being healthy, says productivity expert Jordan Cohen. You may diet all you want, but that doesn’t necessarily make you healthier. In the same way, you can “manage time” to a tee, but this doesn’t automatically boost your productivity.
This certainly made me raise my eyebrows upon reading it. After all, the concept of time management is considered a given in business and leadership circles. But when I thought about it more, I realized there’s truth to this. Time isn’t what you need to rearrange in order to succeed. Time is the constant. When we talk about time management, then, what we’re really talking about is managing our workload. If we rely too heavily on managing our time, we run the risk of neglecting the real problems we run up against when our workload overpowers us.
Solutions to workload management are:
Saying no. You have the power to turn things down, even though this is something that is tricky for a lot of people. If you’re scrambling to get anything done, if you’re having trouble taking care of basic things in your personal life, or if you don’t have free time where you can relax, then you have over-scheduled yourself.
Experimenting with different workload management practices. The saying goes that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you consistently find yourself drowning in work, seek out new self-management approaches. Mix it up. Change your schedule. Don’t settle on one “right way” to get things done, because you need to be able to adapt and get outside of your comfort zone in order to succeed.
Keeping track of what works for you, and what needs to change. Piggybacking in the above point, we are creatures of habit, and often we find ourselves deeply entrenched in bad habits without even realizing it. If you struggle with being on time, pay attention to behavioral patterns that might be the real reason for your tardiness. Look over your week and take note of where you succeeded to meet your goals, and where you fell short. Ask yourself what you might change to do better next week.
There are many resources available to help you find work load management ideas and insights. For starters, check out the Mindtools website. It has quizzes, goal-setting resources and scheduling advice.
Have a great week!
As you take your summer trip, lay out on the beach, or simply lounge in your backyard, a great book can really be the icing on the cake.
I’m often asked what I’m reading as it relates to business and leadership, so I thought I’d share a few of my personal favorites on the subject. Since it’s summer, I kept the textbooks off the list. But don’t be fooled: While they may be “light” reading, the insights they carry pack a punch.
1. Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown.
Brown shares an idea that at first seems counterintuitive: that we draw courage from being vulnerable. But in her engaging style, she soon demonstrates how this simple principle can transform the way we take risks.
2. The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry
This book is short and sweet, but it tackles that challenge we all face. Namely, how do we battle that urge to put important things off? Perry suggests that we shouldn’t try to stop procrastinating all together, but that we can learn to use procrastination as a tool to our advantage.
3. Love Leadership, by John Hope Bryant
Bryant elegantly lays out why leading with love is the most powerful way to lead. Packed with personal stories that really drive the message home, this book has had a great impact on me, as it has helped me grow into a compassionate leader.
4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
Written as a fable about one terribly dysfunctional fictional company, Lencioni reveals his five dysfunctions–absence of trust; fear of conflict; lack of committment; avoidance of accountability; and inattention to results–with engrossing characters and stories. We learn how teams should operate by seeing a demonstration of all the wrong behaviors.
In this TED talk, author Susan Cain makes the case for appreciating and accommodating introverts.
Her talk is insightful, and I highly recommend you watch it, but it runs almost twenty minutes, so I’ll highlight big points:
-Before all else, Cain stresses we need to be clear on what introversion is. Introversion is not the same as shyness, which is the fear of judgment from others. Extroverts, says Cain, crave social interaction, whereas introverts feel at their most capable when they are in quieter environments. The key to maximizing our talents, she says, “is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.”
-Workplaces nowadays are built with extroverts in mind: open offices, collaborative meetings, group projects, etc. Introverts’ work and success frequently suffer as a result.
-When it comes to leadership, introverts tend to be passed over for leadership positions. However, Cain points out that many of the greatest minds had big introverted streaks in them: Charles Darwin took long walks in the woods and turned down dinner invitations; Dr. Seuss came up with his stories alone in a bell tower of his house; Steve Wozniak, inventor of the first Apple computer, credits his expertise to devoting long hours alone studying computers.
Cain’s big point: We need a better balance between these two personality types in order to maximize creativity, productivity and cooperation in business and society.
What do you think? Where do you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum? How does your work environment help or hinder your success? Do you think introverts are passed up for leadership roles because they don’t fit the common view of what a leader should be?
At the end of 2007, many of my close associates watched in horror as the economic crisis took millions of Americans’ jobs, homes, and dreams. None of us had ever seen anything like it.
It was bad. And it continues to be bad for many people. But as it turned out, what came out of the crisis for me was a journey I never envisioned myself embarking on.
It started as friends of mine–old colleagues, neighbors, and family–began to confide in me: “I’ve been in the same career for years, and now it’s gone!” they’d tell me. “What do I do now? Go back to school? I can’t do that, I’m too old!”
I also heard: “I’ve never had to write a resume, can you believe that?”
Actually, I can believe it. Many of my peers were blessed with secure, longterm jobs in which they excelled for decades, so that they had no need (they assumed) to keep a polished, updated resume on hand. When the economic downturn left them frantic, it was only then that they realized their mistake. So I helped them craft a resume that would optimize their chances at landing another job.
At first, I was simply being a friend to individuals in need of guidance. I’d meet with folks for coffee and offer what advice my experiences had equipped me with. Then, I began to discover that I was truly good at helping people to find their path, and that I really enjoyed doing it.
So, You Excel Now was born. Today, I still coach numerous individuals on a one-to-one basis, but as this thing just keeps on growing, I’ve started turning my message and experience into talks, workshops and keynote addresses in order to reach more people. It doesn’t look like it’ll slow down anytime soon.
Here’s my point: All of this happened for me as a result of a really, really bad thing: the 2008 crash. While I’m obviously not glad the crisis happened, it serves as a good reminder that life is unpredictable, and often doesn’t do what we want it to do. The good news is, we get to choose how we handle it.
When you look at it right, you’ll find something good to take away from almost any bad situation. At the very least, a bad situation always equips you with a powerful learning experience. But oftentimes, bad situations open the door for new, potentially amazing opportunities. Had I not chosen to look at a disastrous situation as something potentially positive, I can’t say for sure that I would have found myself on this amazing journey as a career and life coach.
So keep your eyes peeled!