Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Margaret Smith Twin Cities

orange shoes walking up stairs

This past year, it’s been difficult to feel in control of anything. Work situations have changed, family dynamics have been altered, and our basic lifestyles have had to adjust. We’ve had to rethink even our most basic activities, such as going to the grocery store or sending our kids off to school. With so much out of our control, let’s take a moment to focus on what is within our control…namely, YOU.

No matter what the year ahead will bring, we can always focus on self-improvement. This way of thinking is not selfish—it’s essential. If we do our best to be our best, everything around us tends to improve: relationships, workplace interactions, productivity. Thus, self-improvement can (and often does) actually lead to vast improvements in our external world.

Where can you focus your attention?

Here are five different ideas. Over the next five weeks, I’ll be covering each area in greater depth. For now, a summary:

1. Improve Self-Awareness

You may think you know yourself fairly well, but we all have blind spots. Digging deep into your strengths, communication preferences, modes for interacting with others, areas where you’re struggling, etc. can help you become more confident, productive, and efficient. Not only that, improving your self-awareness can also help you better tune in to the needs and preferences of others.

Begin your self-awareness journey by taking a recommended assessment test (my favorites are Insights Discovery® and Insights Deeper Discovery®), talking with a career coach, reading books that discuss self-awareness, or simply making a concerted effort to pay attention to your thoughts and actions, and the motives behind them.

2. Own Who You Are

As our work patterns and lives have changed, other sides of ourselves may have emerged. Perhaps you’ve surprised yourself with how you’ve adapted to this year’s many changes . Maybe you’ve found that you enjoy working at home or, on the flip side, maybe you’ve realized that you enjoy the company of co-workers more than you realized!

Regardless of how much you have or have not changed over the past year, one thing is certain: You are multi-faceted, and it’s a good idea to learn to embrace all sides of yourself. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve in certain areas (there’s always room for improvement). What it does mean is that you shouldn’t shy away from your true self—the person at the core of your being.

3. Practice Self-Kindness

You likely have a lot of practice in forgiving others for their mistakes. If someone is late for a Zoom meeting or has to bow out of a commitment, we tend to forgive them and move on. If a friend is struggling to keep their house clean because they simply have too much on their plate, we laugh and say, “That’s okay! I understand.”

Are you as forgiving with yourself? Or do you beat yourself up over the little things? It’s time to be kind to yourself. Forgive your small mistakes, take breaks when you need them, and don’t worry about falling short of perfection. 

4. Get Flexible

No, I’m not talking about stretching and doing more yoga (though, that couldn’t hurt!). This year, we’ve all had to stretch outside our comfort zones, and I see no sign of that stopping. Workplaces will continue to adapt, relationships will evolve, and technology will constantly change. Are you ready?

The more willing you are to be adaptable and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. No one can predict what’s next, but one thing is certain: Change is inevitable. To get yourself comfortable with change, practice putting yourself in new, uncertain situations. Challenge yourself and make a concerted effort to grow. This might entail signing up for an online class, attending a virtual webinar with a group of strangers, or taking on a project that will have to stretch your skillset.

5. Improve Communication

One of the great lessons of this past year is that communication is essential. For many of us, we’ve had to greatly alter the way we interact with others. Instead of popping into a nearby cubicle and asking a question, we have to set up meetings or write emails. Instead of dropping by a friend or neighbor’s house, we’ve had to be intentional with our get-togethers and respectful of boundaries.

But how much have you actually thought about the ways and methods of your communication? Are your communication systems working like a charm? Or, could they be improved?

It’s possible all those video chats aren’t necessary. It’s also possible (probable, really) that some people will prefer one style of communication, while others will prefer an entirely different style. It helps to pay attention. When is communication flowing smoothly and the conversation is bearing fruit? And when does it feel forced and counter-productive? It could be time to rethink the frequency and modes of communication between yourself and others.

Let’s start the new year off right. Take the time to focus on improving yourself, your interactions with others, and your adaptability. Even small changes can make an enormous difference.


Tags: , , , , ,

Child fire fighters
Image courtesy of

When you were young, people probably often asked you the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Now that you HAVE grown up, do you know the answer?

It’s okay if you don’t! It’s completely normal (and healthy) to continuously grow and change throughout the years. As our circumstances and outlook change, we might find ourselves yearning to try something new or walk down a different path. We may feel the need to modify our career aspirations, health goals, or personal ambitions.

Writer Kirra Sherman says, “There is a rich and deep aliveness that comes from following your heart, in acting on what you love despite any limitations or fears of the unknown.

If you sense that it’s time to make a change (no matter how big or small!), I encourage you to quietly sit with that thought for a while.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is holding me back?
  • What aspects of my life are no longer working for me?
  • What are my big, pie-in-the-sky goals?
  • When I envision my ideal future, what do I see?
  • When I think about the year ahead, how would I like it to go?

Jot down your thoughts–whatever comes to mind. Though they are by no means THE ultimate guide, these questions can help you pinpoint A) What is causing you dissatisfaction in your life right now and B) How you might course-correct and start working toward a better, brighter future.

Of course, these are not light questions by any means. Additionally, you may have difficulty nailing down exactly what is bothering you with your job/lifestyle/habits. If that’s the case, I urge you to get in touch with a career coach (I usually offer a complimentary 30-minute session, if you’d like to see if we’re a good match) or do a little more independent research to help you clarify your path.

It is possible you’ll discover that you feel quite lost and are floundering on where you want to go and who you want to be. If that’s the case, you may want to check out a science-based personal assessment tool such as StrengthsFinder or Insights Discovery. These tools can give you a starting point to begin the next steps in your life journey. Don’t underestimate the power of a little science-based guidance!

If, however, you have a good idea of where you’d like to go and what you’d like to become, it’s time to sit down and strategize. What steps do you need to take to reach your goals? What changes do you need to make? What sacrifices? Should you work with a coach or an accountability partner to help you get there?

As we tiptoe toward the new year, it’s the perfect time to pause and assess your life’s path. If you’re not satisfied with where you’re heading, it’s probably time to make some changes. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Plenty of coaches, therapists, support communities, and even family members are able and willing to help. Dare to take the first steps to carve out a better future!


Tags: , , , , ,

Woman looking out window

It’s been a rollercoaster year and, if you’re like me, you’ve oscillated between feelings of frustration, joy, hope, anger, and sadness. Though it may be easy to fall victim to your negative emotions–to let them pull you into despair–that doesn’t have to be. Instead, you can use those emotions to fuel action.

1. Catch Your Emotions

First, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what you’re feeling and when. What sets off your feelings of frustration? What makes you deeply sad? When do you feel most joyful and at ease?

These are the areas that can inspire action. Lean on these intense feelings of joy/anger/frustration to make positive change.

2. Establish Your Scope of Control

Focus on what you can control and what, potentially, you can change. You may not, for instance, be able to singlehandedly stop the wildfires raging along the Western U.S., but you can donate to organizations that are either fighting the fires OR working on rehabilitating the forests or damaged properties. You can also make an effort to learn about fire prevention and the best practices you can take in your own life.

This is just one example of establishing your scope of control. Focus on the small things you can do to help better a situation, such as donating time or money, volunteering, taking an active role in a local organization, or spreading the word via social media. Small efforts can lead to big change.

3. Learn to Let Go

While you can establish control over some things, it’s useful to recognize that other things are simply out of your hands. You can’t, for instance, change everyone’s mind through social media posts (but you might be able to sway a few people through meaningful one-on-one conversations). You also can’t bring people back from the dead, change the past, or have conversations with people who don’t want to listen.

When it comes to these kinds of things, it’s best to let go. Understand your limitations, and don’t let yourself become frustrated by what you cannot do. Be gentle with yourself and learn to shift your focus to the areas you have power over.

4. Burn Energy

If you’re full of pent-up emotions, you might consider taking action in the physical sense. Go for a bike ride, do video workout, practice yoga, go for a walk–exercise can help to clear your mind and get you into a more positive frame of mind. There’s no harm letting your rage or frustration fuel your workouts. Burn off those harmful emotions, and carry on.

There are many ways to respond to your emotions. Do what works for you–whatever makes you feel the most healthy and productive. And, when you recognize that things are beyond your control, do your best to let go.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: