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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Life Coaching


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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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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I caught a great snippet on the radio in the car the other day. The TED radio hour showcases a wide array of innovative and interesting ideas, and in this case, the program talked about how we define and achieve success in our lives.

Life coach Tony Robbins gave a TED talk asking us to identify our inner drive in life. If you have the time, it’s worth checking out the full talk here.


Otherwise, here are a few stand-out points he makes:

-Don’t think about life in terms of success and failure. Think about what brings the most meaning and value to your life, and chase after that.

-Don’t settle. If you don’t like where you’re life is headed, make a change.

-“Lack of resources” is not an excuse. What it really boils down to is a lack of resourcefulness.

Stay tuned for the month of April, as I’ll take a deeper look at what success is, and how we attain it.

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This winter has been brutal. Being cooped up for long periods of time can have terrible effects on our physical and mental health. So, I thought I’d share some ways you can fight the bitter cold and stay healthy and happy.

1. Get out of your house.

“But where, Margaret?” you ask. “It’s below zero out there!” When it’s dangerously cold, obviously it’s best to stay indoors. But now that it’s warming up (relatively), bundle up and go for a walk or a jog. Take the kids sledding. Find a nature trail near your where you live, or a park nearby.

And I don’t just mean go outside when I say get out of your house. I also mean go to new places, see friends and do things. We tend to shut down in the winter until one day, we look around and realize that we haven’t been to more than three places, our home included, in months. No wonder we’re so down!

2. Keep A Routine.

Piggybacking on point one, you’ll feel better when you have a set schedule. This includes a regular bedtime and wake-up time, regular meals, and a good mix of work and fun activities.

3. Replenish Your Sunlight Deficiency.

It takes a long, dark winter to truly appreciate how much our bodies rely on the sunlight. Without time spent in the sun, we don’t get the amount of vitamin D required for a healthy mind and body. Taking vitamin D tablets is a great way to counteract this. For those who suffer from seasonal affect disorder, sun lamps work wonders. Whatever it is, be sure to be aware of your exposure (or lack thereof) to sunlight and take the necessary steps to stay healthy.

summerHang in there, it’s almost over! A few months from now it’ll be swimwear and beach balls. Be well!

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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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I was once approached by a colleague with a very unexpected and uncomfortable suggestion: he thought I should distance myself from a particular co-worker and went as far as to suggest that by associating with this other female colleague, I was actually hurting my career.

I believe that this man was speaking from a place of genuine interest in my well-being—he thought he was doing me a favor. I knew that the person with which he wanted me to stop associating had, as of late, lost some of upper management’s support. However, I perceived this recent lack of support to be due to misunderstanding, not due to a lack of skills or business acumen. I found this person to be extremely intelligent and was learning a lot from her. So, as much as she was a personal friend, she was also someone who was teaching and guiding me with her experience and education.

Instead of accepting my colleague’s advice, I decided to respond by sharing the positive things about my relationship with this particular female co-worker. I described what I learned and valued as a result of associating with her and attempted to show a side of this person to him that he did not know. I asked him, “What better choice than to befriend someone who challenges my thinking and exposes me to things that she has learned and experienced that I have not?”

I share this story to illustrate just how hard being a part of a community can be. You will encounter people who try to sabotage the relationships you’re trying to build, and learning how to handle this gracefully can be quite the challenge. It comes as no surprise that strong communities are built upon respect, reciprocity, and courageous leadership, but how do we go about achieving this? How do we overcome the naysayers and saboteurs?

Author, speaker and consultant Peter Block shares some insight into how healthy communities are formed. Take a peek at this clip from one of his talks:


As Block says, strong communities…

1. Center on people’s gifts and strengths, and give them a space to flourish.

2. Are localized, within walking distance. Keep your community close, if not geographically, then on a personal level. Shoot for that small town feel, where everyone knows your name and everyone’s got something valuable to bring to the table.

3. Disregard labels, encourage genuine interaction. Official titles and bureaucracies are a sure way to kill community. While necessary, don’t let labels define your community. People are not numbers and labels.

Seeing past the labels and looking at personal strengths is what allowed me to defend my coworker using examples of her positive attributes. I’m glad I stuck up for her, because as I suspected, she turned out to be a great teammate and friend. Applying these three simple ideas to your community–whether in your neighborhood or in your office–will transform a stale environment into a dynamic one.

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We’re all familiar with that awful feeling of being stuck on a plateau, in a dry spell, up a river without a paddle, whatever you want to call it. After the excitement and challenge of learning something new, we get to the point of proficiency, and there is where you’ll encounter the deadly lull.

This is because your brain lights up to new challenges, releasing that feel-good chemical we call dopamine as a reward for reaching new milestones. You know what I’m talking about: that feeling you get when you finally nail the recipe that you never figured you could make, or hitting a personal fitness goal you thought impossible. It’s the joy of landing the big job, acing the tough class, or taking on a project that’s ripe for new personal growth. In other words, it’s the satisfaction that comes after long hours of frustration and failure where you go, “I got this!”

Unfortunately, once you get it, “its” magic wears off a bit. You do this new skill over and over, until your brain no longer feels challenged by what once took your full concentration. Welcome to proficiency, where it’s not a big deal anymore. It’s expected.

Author Whitney Johnson argues that the way to combat a plateau is to implement some personal disruption, writing that “We may be quite adept at doing the math around our future when things are linear, but neither business nor life is linear, and ultimately what our brain needs, even requires, is the dopamine of the unpredictable. More importantly, as we inhabit an increasingly zig-zag world, the best curve you can throw the competition is your ability to leap from one learning curve to the next.”

Don’t think of seeking out new challenges as a task you must do in order to meet the demands of the world at large. Instead, do it for yourself. Want to get that burst of accomplishment you used to get when you were still learning? Then seek out new tasks that push you outside where you’re already proficient. This is where real growth happens, and real growth leads to mastery.

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