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the power of hope

Even in the darkest times, we can find sparks of hope. A single candle can illuminate a dark room in the same way that a grateful thought or an inspiration can illuminate a mind. Although the science is still fresh, research is starting to find that hope is a powerful factor in lifting people out of poverty, motivating people to find work, and encouraging investment (financially, educationally, or otherwise) in the future.

In a study on poverty, the researchers found that, “families that are stressed and impoverished — trapped in cycles of poverty — can feel a hopelessness that becomes self-fulfilling. Give people reason to hope that they can achieve a better life, and that, too, can be self-fulfilling.

Hope is self-fulfilling.

Whether you’re hunting for a new job, trying to overcome a bad habit, or thinking about going back to school, use hope as fuel. Let it ignite your motivation and allow you to see your possibilities.

When you have hope, you ask yourself constructive questions such as “What if..?” and “How will I…?” If you hold the belief that you can do something, you start seeing the paths of possibilities.

I challenge you today to think about what you’d like in your life. What are your goals? What do you want to do? What’s holding you back? Start thinking about your goals and dreams as REAL possibilities, instead of wishes. By changing your mindset to a “How can I…” instead of a “I couldn’t possibly…” you’ll start finding ways to make your goals happen.

Our minds can do amazing things. If you find yours blocked by pessimistic thoughts, try focusing on the possibilities buried within the doubt. Find hope in your life and see where it can take you.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM


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life long learning while working full timeContinued growth and lifelong learning is a not-so-secret priority of many successful professionals.

It can be difficult to give self-improvement the attention it deserves—with daily distractions and to-do’s constantly vying for your attention.

Growth and its requirements can be intimidating, often tiring, and rarely convenient, but if you’re committed to your true aspirations—to honing your skills or establishing a new set completely—there are a few key options for building your expertise while working full-time.

Get a mentor.

Connect with people who have the job or knowledge you desire and who epitomize “success” to you. Networking is an incredibly powerful tool for a variety of reasons, but especially demonstrates its value for people seeking direction and advice. Attend an event, preferably one that attracts the kind of professional you’re looking for—niche meet-ups work great—and be honest with your intentions. Get ready to ask the right person, “Can you offer any advice?”

Volunteer.

Many priceless learning opportunities are hidden under the veil of pro-bono work. Volunteering your time will give you some schedule flexibility, hands-on experience, and valuable connections with people in the field.

Study.

There are numerous flexible and inexpensive options for professionals looking to learn. Read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs. Get in a daily routine of discovering something new every single day.

In addition to publications, consider enrolling in a class. Whether it’s online, through Community Education, offered in seminar form, or part-time through a college, education can be energizing, fun, and necessary for professional growth.

Stretch yourself.

One of the best (and only ways) to improve yourself is to test yourself. Only by opening up to new (and often intimidating) experiences can you realize what you’re capable of. Say “yes!” to new opportunities, and uncover any necessary bravery later.

 

Making a commitment to self-improvement not only gives you an edge in the professional word, but carries over to everyday enjoyment. Finding great people to look up to, devoting your time to projects that energize you, growing your mind, and pushing your boundaries sounds like living to me.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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let your voice be heard

Do you ever feel like we live in a world where people simply don’t listen to each other? Do you sometimes feel ignored during conversations? Or that others completely miss what you said because they were concentrating on themselves?

Part of the fault may lie with the other person, but there ARE ways to get others to listen to what you have to say.

It starts with the CONTENT of what you’re saying. If you tend to gossip, complain, or exaggerate, it won’t take long before others will tune out. Make sure that what you’re saying is worth saying. Next time you feel like griping about the weather or gossiping about a coworker, stop! Shift your focus to something more worthwhile.

Julian Treasure, international speaker and founder of The Sound Agency, advises us to focus on the acronym HAIL when we are speaking. HAIL stands for Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity, and Love. When you say something, be yourself, mean what you say, and say it with good intentions.

Treasure also talks about the sound quality of an authoritative voice. For instance, people who have a deeper voice and speak from their chest tend to exude more authority than those with higher, lighter voice. He also recommends talking at a steady pace (rather than a too-quick pace), using a warm timbre, and emphasizing certain words to add interest to what you’re saying (rather than speaking in a monotone voice).

Next time you have an interview, practice speaking in front of a mirror. Relax your speaking pace, speak from your chest, and add emphasis. You may also want to warm up your vocal chords by doing a series of voice exercises. For a list of useful exercises, watch Julian Treasure’s TED Talk (he goes over vocal exercises at the end).

How would the world change if people actually took the time to speak and listen with intention and mindfulness?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Define success in own terms

Most of my work is and has been people-oriented. Professionally, I spent nearly 30 years at 3M, working in various sales leadership positions. Now, I work with a wide range of clients through my career coaching business, UXL. In my personal life, I am involved in my church; I teach spin at the local gym; and I volunteer for several different organizations. Suffice it to say, I’ve met a lot of people through all these different avenues!

Some of the people I’ve met have been very career-oriented, some emphasize family above all else, some prefer spending their free time volunteering in the community and making a difference. Each person has different dreams and goals and different things they consider important. Because of that, how could there possibly be ONE measure of success?

And yet, our culture tends to paint a picture of success with one brush.

We consider a successful American to have a well-paying job, a nice house, a 401K, a loving family. We see wealth and power as the ultimate definitions of success. But that’s not everyone’s definition and shouldn’t be everyone’s definition.

If you define your personal success based on others’ measuring sticks, you’ll be constantly disappointed. What does success mean to YOU? What gives you satisfaction?

The idea of defining your own success really hits home whenever I volunteer at the Peace House, a shelter for troubled women. Many of the residents define success by having the ability to meet their basic needs—having shelter, sufficient food, and love from their families. They strive for independence, a steady income, a job that they enjoy. Some of them aim to get their GED or a certificate in a trade. For them, sales goals, investment portfolios, and owning a yacht are abstract concepts of success. AND THAT’S OKAY.

“But, wait,” you might be thinking, “my definition of success is meeting my sales goals, tucking some money away, and eventually owning a boat!” THAT’S OKAY TOO.

As soon as you figure out what you want out of life, you can work toward it with confidence. Sure, your definition of success may grow and evolve, but it should always reflect your personal ambitions instead of outside pressure to fit into others’ ideas of success.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Shawn Achor Happiness

Most of us believe that if we work hard, we’ll be successful and if we’re successful, we’ll be happy. While that sounds logical, it may not be the case. Psychologist Shawn Achor studies “positive psychology” and the human tendency to be unsatisfied, no matter how good our circumstances seem to outsiders.

He studied students at Harvard and found that new students were extremely happy during the first couple weeks of enrollment, but then happiness dropped precipitously and the students began feeling more discontent, stressed, and pessimistic. Through this study and several others, Achor has concluded that your external factors cannot predict your happiness level. He has found that 90% of your long-term happiness is predicted by how your brain processes the world.

In other words, your personal happiness depends on YOU!

But how can you elevate your positivity and, thus, improve your career and personal life? In his TED Talk, Achor urges us to focus on small acts that create ripples of positivity. These acts could be as simple as journaling, regular exercise, daily meditation, random acts of kindness, or listing three things for which you are grateful at the start of each day.

When people began implementing these small doses of positivity in to their lives, Achor found that they made a huge impact. Instead of being constantly dissatisfied, people began seeing the world through an optimistic lens. And that’s important because a “happy brain,” according to Achor’s research, is a high-functioning brain. He calls this the happiness advantage and has found that when we are in a positive frame of mind, our creativity, intelligence, and energy levels are all given a boost.

To learn more, please watch Achor’s remarkable TED Talk:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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wanted2

You’ve probably heard phrases like, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for” or “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” There’s a reason those idioms are popular—they’re absolutely true!

It isn’t enough to secretly wish for something; the best way to get what you want is to take clear, direct action. Oftentimes, that means having the courage to call upon others for help or guidance. It means starting a dialogue and expressing your desires.

Why do we so often hesitate to ask for what we want?

This hesitation can stem from a fear of feeling vulnerable or unworthy, or the belief that successful people never ask for help. All of these fears work within us to maintain the status quo and prevent us from seeking the change we desire.

Don’t let your pride keep you from asking for what you want. This is a lesson I learned as a senior leader at 3M and one that I now apply to my current work as a career coach. It’s okay to lean on others and ask for help. You don’t have to do everything on your own!

Whether you’d like to ask for a raise, take on a new project, or revamp an outdated work system, have the courage to speak up. Seek out the areas where you desire change and begin asking the right people for help.

Harder than it sounds, right?

In order to overcome the hesitation you might feel to ask for what you want, I’ve put together these 9 guidelines:

  1. Be honest with yourself about your current dreams and needs—know what you want.
  2. Seek support from the experts and professionals around you who can best support your goals.
  3. Always believe that what you’re asking for is possible.
  4. Be genuine about your wants and honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Consider sending an email or making a phone call to introduce yourself to those who you think may be of service. Outline your needs, but don’t be pushy. Take the time to build a trusting relationship.
  6. Always be passionate about what you request.
  7. Never let fear prevent you from acting.
  8. Anticipate that not everyone will be able or willing to help, and always allow for a gracious opportunity for others to bow out.
  9. Be persistent—try, try, and try again until you achieve success.

Don’t let your inner saboteur get in the way of your own success—believe that you are deserving of what you want, and have the courage to ask for it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Dilbert cartoon 1

 

Do you ever feel like you’re trapped inside a Dilbert cartoon with bosses that don’t understand you, nonsensical tasks, and no sense of purpose?

This type of workplace is ineffective and damaging to a person’s self-worth, BUT they are still commonplace. I’ve worked with many coaching clients who complain that no one really gets them at work. They feel stifled, misunderstood, or disconnected from their co-workers. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Founder of Keyhubs, Vikas Narula, talks about how to abandon the “Dilbert workplace mentality.” His focus is on individual merits and contributions, not titles or the traditional hierarchal approach. He looks at the informal networks that exist in a given workplace and urges the company to capitalize on them. Narula even developed software that measures connections between co-workers by asking them to identify the people in the workplace who influence and inspire them the most. What he’s found is that people on the “bottom tiers” are frequently important influencers and are often overlooked or under-appreciated by upper-management.

Dilbert cartoon 2

An article about Narula on Pollen.org puts it best: “In reality, work gets done through an unseen network of personal relationships and connections. Uncover that informal network, and you see how your company actually runs.”

The article breaks Narula’s viewpoint into 4 key principles:

  1. Talent and influence transcend hierarchy.
  2. Title and status don’t necessarily grant you influence. Influence happens by building genuine connections. Having a fat title and a big salary doesn’t grant you that privilege.
  3. Proximity makes a big difference. If you’re not close to people and you don’t seek people out on a day-to-day basis, it can affect your ability to build human connection.
  4. There are different types of influence. You might have someone who has a large followership in an organization, or grassroots influence, but who isn’t perceived by the higher ups in that way. And vice versa—someone may be seen as highly influential by a higher up, even if they’re not. This gives them an associative influence.

How can you move your company from a “Dilbert mentality” to one that embraces and appreciates individuals? How can you uncover hidden talents and influencers?

Look beyond the hierarchy. Pay attention to the informal networks that exist within the workplace and identify the key influencers within those networks. Go out of your way to connect with others, no matter their status. By tapping into the organization at the grassroots level, you’ll get a better sense of the foundation on which your company is built.

Dilbert cartoon 3

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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