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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: How to Change Your Life

persevarance

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!

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white-flag

Our society goes on and on about the power of persistence. We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison trying thousands of times before finally getting the light bulb right, or of Martin Luther King Jr. bringing about social change against enormous odds. We idolize figures who strive against great obstacles and persevere, unwilling to give up.

To be sure, persistence and resilience in the face of hardship are admirable characteristics. But many blame themselves unfairly for not having success with something that might not be feasible. There are circumstances that no amount of will power can impact, and these are the times when the courageous thing to do, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, would be to let it go and move on.

But you may be wondering, how do you know when to let it go? Wouldn’t we still be using gas lamps if Edison had let go of his vision to invent the incandescent light bulb?

It is tough to know when to count your losses when you’re right in the thick of it, be it a project or goal or what-have-you. Making it harder still is that social stigma of being a perceived failure. However, there are a few key questions you can ask yourself that will help you know if you should let it go (for now!), and help yourself in the long run.

1. Is my goal feasible? Ways to determine this: Do I have a detailed game plan? What are the concrete steps to achieving my goal? Can I do it on my own? If not, who have I enlisted for support?

2. Am I making progress? If you’re heart is truly in it, you’ll see results, even if they are miniscule. But if you find yourself drifting away, it may be because deep down this project isn’t right for you at this time, and there’s absolutely no shame in acknowledging that.

3. Has the process thus far had an overall positive or negative effect on my life? There’s healthy stress that motivates us to keep going, and then there’s unhealthy stress, which crosses over into other parts of our lives and brings our general happiness down. If the goal feels like a burden you cannot handle, then it may be time to let it go.

4. Do I really, truly, deep down want this?

Consider these questions, and be okay with setting things aside if that’s what you feel is best for you. Acknowledging that you may need to let it go for a bit shows great maturity and self-awareness, and that’s something to be proud of! Remember: in the long run, you’re preparing yourself for even greater success.

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shaking-hands

Ever witnessed a child being told they must share their toys with another child? Their reaction to this news wasn’t too pretty, was it?

Although we’ve grown to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around us and we don’t always get our way, that small child’s voice is still inside us, protesting whenever things don’t go how we want them to.

But the truth is, in order to lead in any real sense of the word, you must learn the art of making compromises. It’s easy to say that, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but how do you actually do it?

1. Express yourself fully, and listen intently. Explain your reasoning behind your viewpoint. Often our views are skewed by our emotions, which make it harder to make effective decisions. Articulating your view to another person forces you to take a good long look at your position, and in many cases this allows you to see where your view may not be perfect. By the same token, listen to what the other person is actually saying, not what you think they’re saying. Hear them out before you rush to judgment. Open communication is crucial to getting things done.

2. Think from the other person’s perspective. If it continues to be difficult for you to accept the other person’s position, do your best to put yourself in their shoes. What’s the reasoning behind their thoughts, ideas, and opinions? Even if you disagree, can you see why they hold these views?

3. Be committed to results. Compromising pushes two opposing viewpoints past a gridlock into a region where they can move from ideas into actions. In this way, compromise is one of the most powerful tools we have to getting results. A compromise is a mature way of acknowledging that we can never fully get what we want all of the time, but we can get more of what we want if we work together to achieve it.

4. Be prepared to be disappointed, but give it time. At first, you’ll only see what you didn’t get out of a compromise. This is understandable, but don’t give up on it just yet. In the longterm, compromising pays off for both parties, as you’ve established an alliance and proven to one another that you are capable of working together and taking steps forward.

Have a great week!

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critic

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.

 

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busy calender good

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!

 

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t1larg.working.mom

These past few weeks I’ve been attending quite a lot of weddings. It seems couples have wisely planned their wedding days around the time Minnesota has (finally!) given us some much-needed warm weather.

I love weddings, and it’s been a privilege to participate in the Big Days of young folks I’ve known from all corners of my life. But these past couple of weeks have made me think two, very related thoughts:

1. I’m busy as it is with my work–toss a few weddings in the mix and things can get hectic real quick.

2. Weddings are the platform from which two people jump off into a new life together. A big part of this is learning to balance and sustain their personal lives and their careers.

I’ve found that there tend to be periods of relative calm in my life, where my biggest concern is keeping myself from being bored. And then, all at once, life throws ten things at me and I’m scrambling to stay afloat.

If you’re a parent, you know that life doesn’t relent just because you’re tired or overworked. Kids still need feeding, dishes need doing, and that stack of work on your desk isn’t going to magically disappear. So it’s important to your sanity and quality of life that you develop a work flow that keeps things manageable.

Here’s how:

1. Take advantage of downtime. It’s easy to sit back and idle the engine, to use a car metaphor, when work and home life relents and you find yourself with an open schedule. But you can’t take a car from first gear to fifth. The engine just can’t handle that big of a transition. In the same way, if you relax too much during the lulls, it makes it that much more difficult to be ready to perform your best when things begin to pile up. So, use downtime to prepare for the next onslaught. It’ll keep you productive when there’s not much going on, and it’ll make things much easier for you when things get busy.

2. Focus on one task at a time. Here’s a post I wrote about the myth of multitasking. It may feel like you’re able to get more done faster, but in reality you aren’t.

3. Prioritize. Your family should be number one on your priority list, and if they aren’t, perhaps you should reevaluate what is most important in your life.

4. Learn to say no. You can’t do everything that people ask of you. There’ll be some projects at work you’ll have to pass up in order to spend time with your family. Similarly, there’ll be family activities that won’t mesh with your work schedule. After prioritizing, you’ll know what to turn down and what to take on.

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lemon

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!

 

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