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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: How to Get a Life

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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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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travelingSome of my best memories come from the trips I’ve taken. Whether I’m remembering cozy summers with the family on the ocean, or adventurous backpacking endeavors in college, all my travels have left me with nostalgic, warm feelings.

And that’s great. But it’s not the complete picture, is it? I’m sure if I really tried, I could remember all the things that were stressful, exhausting, and uncomfortable; in other words, the inevitable parts of traveling we like to ignore.

So while I love the memories traveling provides me, it’s meant to do much more than simply create fuzzy feelings.

Traveling recalibrates our expectations and assumptions about life. When we stay in one routine for long periods of time, tunnel vision takes over. Without even realizing it, we begin to assume that all life has to offer is what’s right in front of us in our particular circumstance. Traveling wipes this clean when we see all the differences, big and small, between places and cultures. There are many ways of doing life. Traveling both inspires us to try new things and forces us to investigate our own lifestyles.

Traveling gives us the chance to test ourselves. This might mean a physical challenge such as a long hike, a mental challenge like learning a new language or familiarizing yourself with cultural customs, or the general challenge of relinquishing your sense of control as you navigate your way through new spaces and experiences. A family friend told me that after spending time in Colombia, she no longer found herself worrying as much about the trivial stresses of everyday life, because her experience abroad proved she was capable of handling all sorts of challenges. This is the kind of personal growth traveling provides.

Traveling forces us to prioritize. You can’t fit every trinket and comfort you own in a suitcase. You have to instead focus on what you really need to make your travels special for you. You’ll take this mindset home with you. How can you simplify your life at home to optimize your priorities?

Traveling doesn’t have to be long and grandiose to be meaningful. Take a train ride through the country, spend a weekend  biking or camping, or coordinate a roadtrip to historical sites in your area with friends and family. As long as it transports you to new experiences, your adventure can be almost anything.

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