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Unleash Your Productivity & Profits With Your Signature Strengths

What happens when we move from asking what’s wrong with people to asking what’s right with them?

This is the question psychologist began to ask 20 years ago. It led to the birth of the positive psychology movement.

Positive psychology focuses on what promotes healthy psychological functioning.

Much of the past 20 years of positive psychological research, has focused on the benefits of using our strengths. There is an overwhelming body of research that shows that people perform better and are happier when they use their strengths.

Using your signature strengths is a critical key to your success in all areas of your life.

So What Are Strengths?

Strengths combine your talent with increased skill, knowledge, and practice. When you bring that combination to a level of mastery, then you’re operating in your strength.

Identifying your natural talent and interest is only the first step of cultivating your strength. Once you identify your strength, you want to focus as much time and energy as possible in developing it.

Developing your strength allows you to excel in your personal and professional life.

That’s why I spend so much time helping my clients, friends and children to focusing on their strengths.

Focusing on your strength is the easiest and the best pathway to excellence. 

So for me, one of my strengths is asking questions.

I have the ability to ask a question that would blow open the conversation. People start thinking about the topic in new and different ways. My questions unpack underlying assumptions. It often causes us to question and clarify our goals.

Now that’s a fabulous strength when used wisely. It serves me well when I’m coaching clients, teaching and in planning and strategizing committee work.

But there are some committees that don’t benefit from my strength. They don’t want to question our assumptions. They don’t want to rethink what we’ve done. The focus of this committee is to execute a pre-established plan. In those committees, my strength of asking questions could  be seen as a hindrance.

Thus, I use my knowledge of my strengths to decide how I can add the most value to my organization. I choose to serve on committees that are developing programs that are evaluating a new strategic direction. Those are the kinds of opportunities where my strengths can really add value. I stay away from committees where that that’s not their agenda.

Once you are aware of your strengths, you can position yourself to add maximum value. Using yours strengths wisely will not help you do your work better. And it will allow your company and colleagues to get the most from your presence.

Organizing your work around your strengths helps you to be more productive and to enjoy your work more.

Strengths Increase Your Productivity and Profits.

 

Companies that use a system of strength-based feedback are much more profitable, productive, and do a better job of retaining employees.

Most all companies give some kind of annual review. But when you combine that review with a strength based approach you find that feedback is much more useful and results in increased profit.

Strength-based feedback involves helping employees to identify their strengths. It also includes giving them regular feedback around how they exercise strengths. It also includes suggestions on how they might want to exercise their strengths new in better ways.

Companies that use strength-based feedback are 8.9% more profitable. They are also 12.9 % more productive.

Using your strengths in your in your workplace makes you more productive and helps your company make more money. Now who doesn’t like that?

Research also shows that companies using a strength based approach to feedback have much higher rates of employee retention. Employee turnover is lowered by 15 % , simply by encouraging employees to use their strengths.

Whether you are an employee, manager, or a business owner, there is tremendous value in knowing and using your signature strength.

Helping the other people that you work with know and use their strengths daily will take your company to a level of extraordinary success.

Strengths Improve Your Mental and Physical Health.

Signature strengths have shown to be helpful in treating depression; even among the populations that are hard to treat. Senior adults battling depression are a particularly difficult population to treat, but have shown great success with strength-based interventions.

In one study, researchers asked senior adults to identify their signature strengths. Then they were asked to use their signature strength in new ways.

The research results showed that those adults were much less depressed and reported feeling much happier as a result of the intervention.

It’s fabulous that we can get these kinds of results without needing to rely on any kind of medication or drugs.

Using your signature strength in new ways is an exercise you can easily do to get yourself out of those waves of depression and help increase your happiness.

We’ve also learned that signature strengths can help improve your physical health.

Research shows that when you can connect your exercise routine to your signature strength, you get much better results.

When trainers design a exercise routine that is tailored to tap into your signature strengths, people are able to stay with the exercise routine longer. Because they stay with their exercise routine longer, they experience better positive changes in their health and well-being.

Signature strengths help people enjoy exercising and make more progress.

Each of us is unique.

There is no such thing as a one size fits all health and wellness package for anyone. Yes, we all need certain kinds of activity on certain kinds of educational experiences. We all need certain kinds of work based experiences.

Finding ways to connect those health, educational, and work experiences to our signature strengths will allow us to get more out of those experiences.
Focus on strengths quote

How Do I Identify My Strengths?

There are two widely used psychological assessments to identify your strengths: Clifton Strengths Finder and Values In Action (VIA) survey.

The Clifton Strengths Finder gives you an assessment  of the top 34 strength characteristics.

Many corporations use the Clifton Strengths Finder as one of their formal employee or leadership assessment. There are some colleges and universities who are also incorporating this assessment among their incoming students.

You can buy the book Strengths Finder to get a code for a strengths profile assessment.

Another common strengths assessment is using the Values In Action (VIA) survey.

While the Strengths Finder is focused on identifying the activities that you’re really good at, the VIA focuses on who you are and how you show up in the world. This measures how you how show your core values in life and work.

VIA is one of the few assessments that are culturally universal. The creators of the VIA studied the values promoted in various cultures and created measures to assess those positive values. VIA has 24 signature strengths, which are all positive cultural values.

People who take the VIA survey will receive a ranking of all 24 values. The top five strengths on your VIA assessment are your signature strengths.

Click here for your personal VIA signature strengths assessment. You will be able to take the VIA survey, receive a detailed report of your results and a free 20min consultation. Here was can discuss how to have your signature strengths work better for you.

Here is another resource for a quick and easy way to identify their strengths. Click here for my “Strength Spotting: your guide to expressing your best self”. This guide has over 200 strengths. It includes the strengths from the Clifton Strength Finder, the VIA survey as well as other strengths identified in research literature.

Whichever path you choose; you owe it to yourself to get clear on your strengths.

Once you know your strengths, the best thing you can do for yourself is commit to cultivating those strengths daily.

Your strengths are your key to winning in all areas of your life.

I’m curious to learn about your strengths.

List your strengths below and let me know how they support you in work and life.

The Remarkable Benefits of Purpose

Victor Frankel learned a lot about human behavior by observing people under the most inhuman circumstances.

Victor wasn’t just observing the behaviors of others under horrible conditions. He was also living under these oppressive conditions.

Victor and the people he observed were beaten mercilessly, forced to do grueling manual labor, and randomly executed.

Victor’s observations of human behavior occured in concentration camps. There many people declared “undesirables” were subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment on a daily basis.

Victor learned from his “observations” the secret to human survival.

He noted that it wasn’t those with most physical strength who were able to endure and survive this harsh treatment.

The best survivors were people who found purpose in the midst of their suffering.

Those people who lost their purpose died.

This surprising observation, led Victor to the insightful conclusion:

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose … He who has a WHY to live, can bear with almost any HOW.”

Victor Frank documents his  experiences and insights in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search For Meaning.

I encourage you to read or re-read this amazing book. I find it to be an inspiring and insightful account of the centrality of purpose to the human experience.

As I recently reflected on the importance of purpose, I identified three distinctive benefits that come from having a clear purpose in our lives.

This list of the benefits of purpose is not meant to be comprehensive. But it reflects what I believe to be the most valuable gifts we gain from knowing and living our life purpose.

I hope this list inspires you to take invest in discovering and expressing your life purpose.

Here are the three top benefits that we gain from having a clear sense of purpose in our lives.

1. Purpose Produces Clarity and Focus

Discovering your life purpose will give you focus.

It will help you to make decisions in a way that’s easier and less stressful.

This is because purpose helps you to identify what’s important in life. This will help you be less conflicted and experience less anxiety about saying no.

You are free to make decisions about how you spend your time, money, and energy based on whether it aligns with your life purpose.

There are lots of wonderful things that you could be doing with your time or with your money. But they are not all good things for you to do. Having a clear sense of your purpose helps you to distinguish between the two.

When I first started my career as a college professor, I was so excited to finally have position that I’d worked towards for so many years. I wanted to be of service to the students, the community, and my University colleagues.

I was overcommitted and stressed out!

I found myself getting involved with something just because it was a good idea. But, as I got more clear on my purpose I decided that I could not invest in every good idea presented to me.

Before I agreed to take on any new commitments, projects, relationships, I asked myself a critical question:

“Is this in line with my purpose?”

This was how I raised the bar in my life.

Now, it’s much easier for me to say “no” to most requests. This habit makes it possible for me to give a resounding “yes” to the opportunities aligned with my purpose.

purpose helps you say no

I now have the time, resources, and energy to invest in the things that are important to me. I am able to do this without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

My purpose has given me focus.

2. Purpose Gives You Longer Life

Having a clear advice purpose helps you to live longer and a healthier life.

A study published in the 2014 issue of Psychological Science, documents the life extending effect of purpose.

In this national study, the researchers survey people and asked them to rate their sense of purpose in life from low to high.

Fourteen years later, those participants with a low sense of purpose were much more likely to have died. All other things being equal, having a sense of purpose made all the difference in their life expectancy.

I was surprise to find this relationship holds true in every age group.

It wasn’t just for older people that having a sense of purpose help them to live longer.  It was true for middle aged people and for people in their twenties.

The researchers concluded that having a sense of purpose gives people “protective benefits” to their life. Purpose enhances your physical well-being and has a cumulative effect.

So it’s actually better to develop a sense of purpose as early on as possible. This gives you more time to continue accumulating all the benefits that come with having a strong sense of purpose.

But, it’s never too late to invest time in discovering you purpose.

At whatever moment you get clear your purpose and start living out that purpose, it will extend your life.

3. Purpose Builds Up Your Resilience

Resilience allows you to bounce back from the setbacks that are inevitable in life.

When you’re resilient you, setbacks don’t stop you. Resilient people are able to use those setbacks as stepping stones to their success.

Resilience is the result of having a clear sense of your purpose.

Once you understand why a goal is important to you, you can overcome tremendous obstacles to acheive that goal.

Think about the remarkable survivors that Victor Frankl observed. They did not break even under brutal inhumane treatment. Their purpose gave them to resilience to endure.

live on purposeI often think about Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison. Yet, he was able to walk directly into world leadership upon from his release.

I’ve spent years teaching in prisons and I know that prison is a horrible place for anyone to be. Everyday, in both big and small ways, there are constant assaults on your safety, dignity, and humanity.

But because Nelson Mandela was clear on his purpose, he was able to walk out of prison as a whole man with a vision.

Mandela’s strong sense of purpose enabled him to lead South Africa into a new era of peace and  justice.

That’s the power of purpose.

Discover Your Purpose

When I’m talking with people about the importance of purpose, people often tell me that don’t know their life purpose. And that they don’t know how to discover it.

The best way to start uncovering your life purpose by reflecting on how you already bring value to others. Think about times in your life where you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.

Your purpose is for others. Thinking about the ways you already add value to others can help you better understand your purpose.

Another reflection to get clarity on your life purpose is to consider the activities that place you in your flow.

What are the things you do that give you a feeling of timelessness?

These are activities that you could be doing this two hours, but it feels like just twenty minutes. That’s your flow.  It’s that kind of work where you are so fully engaged in the process that time seems to disappear.

Your flow is an excellent window into your purpose.

As you clarify your life purpose, you want to highlight it and expand it. This means organizing more of your activities and goals living out your purpose.

For those who are ready to live a life of purpose that connects with your passions, join us for a FREE 5-Day Challenge to Creating a Life Filled with Energy and Passion.

This challenge empowers you to create a life of purpose that fills you with energy and passion, drastically reduces your stress, and allows you to accomplish your most important goals.

How would it feel to be filled with confidence, energy, and be extraordinarily productive? 

Whether you are struggling to stay above the growing to-do lists or wanting to get the most out of each day, this 5-Day Productivity Challenge will give you simple and powerful tools to help you tap into your unique talents and energy to create the rich and rewarding life you deserve!

Get from under the pile of unending tasks, connect with your purpose, and reclaim your life. Click here to join our 5-Day Challenge to a life filled with energy and passion!

Having a strong sense of purpose benefits you and others. Commit to discovering and nurturing your purpose today!

Wishing you a life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy!

How Balanced is Your Life Portfolio: 3 Steps to Life Balance

life balance

“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”
― Ellen DeGeneres

Many of us are aware of the importance of creating a balanced financial portfolio, but do we know how to create a balanced life?

Having an out of balance lifestyle leads to poor health, career burnout, chronic stress and depression. In a recent study , researchers found that obese individuals reported significantly lower life balance scores and much more stress. It’s likely that a chronically imbalanced lifestyle leads to obesity and other health concerns. Researchers have documented the emergence of a new personality type that emerges from increased the stress and burnout created by an imbalanced lifestyle. A type D person is distressed and often exhibits certain personality traits including negativity, pessimism, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and a decreased ability to relax and enjoy leisure time.

You can avoid these negative outcomes and achieve a more balanced life by concentrating on building a balanced life portfolio. A solid financial investment fund is managed carefully to provide a diversity of investment vehicles that provide the greatest return while limiting losses. Balancing investments against each other ensures that when some investments fall others will rise to cover the losses. We can use this portfolio metaphor to help us achieve balance in our lives as well.  Below I identify three ways in which you can use your financial wisdom to help you achieve more balance in your life. 

Diversification is the key to life balance and security.

You can organize your life portfolio into seven different types of investments:

  • physical environment (home)
  • career,
  • relationships
  • spiritual life
  • physical health & self-care
  • personal growth & development (intellectual, emotional, and creative growth)
  • recreation & fun.

Think of the time, attention, and money you have as resources that you can invest in each of these seven areas. Make choices to invest your time and energy in alignment with your values and priorities. Rather than viewing these as individual choices, we can consider them as a part of our life portfolio.

For example, you may place a high priority on your career and make time and energy choices accordingly. But what if something happens that makes pursuing your career no longer possible or desirable? What else are you investing in that will balance that loss so that you are still living a fulfilled and happy life?

Diversification does not need you to place equal investments in each of the seven areas of your life. But it does need you to pay attention to each and investing in your goals for this area of your life. Do you see investments in each area in your calendar and checkbook? How we spend our time and money reflects our values and priorities. If one or more of these seven core life areas do not appear in your monthly schedule and budget, your life is likely out of balance.

Life balance is the reflection of your choices.

You are the one who decides where to invest your resources. The concept of investing your time highlights the centrality of choice. We always have a choice in how we spend our resources, not matter how limited those resources may be.

Too many times we complain about our lives being out of balance as if we are not the ones directing the show. Imbalance is a product of abdicating our power of choice to others. It is also the result of refusing to make choices based on our priorities.

In this brief video , I explain how we give our power to choose away when fail to distinguish “should” from “must”. “Should” focuses on what others want from/for us. Yet, “must” is driven by our life purpose and core values. Identifying our “must list” pulls us forward, creating energy, productivity and joy in our lives.

Thus, we need to gain clarity on our purpose and core values to build a life of balance. If you are not yet clear on these two items, this is the first step to your balanced life. You can sign up for a free life planning toolkit  to help you specify your life purpose. You can also take a free on-line survey  to help you identify your core values. The survey will also show whether your core values are out of balance in your life.

Life balance requires regular assessment.

You must check the performance of your investments at regular intervals. The concept of investment also reminds us to make and test these choices in light of future goals. You are not “spending time” doing an activity, you are “making an investment”. Like financial investments, we can expect that the “return” on the investment increases.

What are your goals for your relationships? What are your willing to invest in those relationships to achieve that goal? How will you know if you have achieved or are on target to achieve your goal? As you can see, life balance requires that we have clear and measurable goals in every area of our life. This is what enables us to assess whether we are on target or need to revise our investment strategy.

Moreover, regular assessment allows us to keep our life portfolio balanced over time. The only constant in life is change. We start new relationships, end previous careers, get new interests, develop different health needs. Each of these life events produce change in other areas of our lives.

Every financial broker will tell you that diversification is not a one-time action. Some investments will outperform others. Thus, the most balanced financial portfolio will become out of balance without readjustment. This is why you need to reallocate your acquired resources to reflect your goals.

Reallocation is needed in our lives as well. The changes we experience in our lives require reassessment and reallocation of our time and money. When we do this based on a concrete assessment of our goals and progress, we make sure that we are continually creating a life of balance.

Put your life in balance.

Balance isn’t just something you do. It is a never-ending, and limitless, act of being. By practicing the tools described in this article, you are inviting this state of being into your life. Once you have mastered the concepts and applied the strategy of choosing to focus on what matters most to you, the opportunities, joy and passion your life will expand to fill the horizons of what you can dream. I challenge you to fully explore the possibilities of this evolution of self.

Think of how you currently or are planning to allot your available investment of time and energy. Which of the seven areas (environment, career, relationships, spiritual life, health, personal growth, recreation) are strongly supported in your investment fund?  Write down your top three goals in each of the seven areas. Have you allotted enough time and energy to meet all three values and priorities consistently? Which areas are “underfunded?

Make a commitment today to reallocate your life portfolio to create more balance. Do not allow your precious resources to be “wasted” or spent based on other people’s values and priorities. Now that you are clear on you priorities in each of your life areas, commit to funding your goals.  You have enough time for everything that matters most; it’s up to you to decide what matters most.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to creating the energy, time and balance you need to live the life of your dreams! If you’d like more support in balancing your life portfolio, feel free to contact me or post your questions and challenges below.

 

Using the Power of Focus to Create a Life You Love

Focus on your dreams

Joy is the celebratory emotion that comes from achieving your goals.

Most women I meet are stressed as they struggle to meet the demands placed on them by modern life. Performing in the workplace, caring for children, partners, elderly parents and outside relationships means that most women have very little time and energy to devote to nurturing their own physical and psychological health. As a result of this stress, many women are in strained relationships. Eventually, the stress interferes with their ability to perform at their peak levels at work.

It’s not that the modern woman doesn’t care about healthy living, quality relationships, or a successful career. Either she doesn’t know how to achieve these life goals or she doesn’t believe that she have the time to do so. Sound familiar?

Because I have witnessed so many women caught up in this cycle, I was motivated to write my forthcoming book: Your Life as a Celebration. I believe that each of us can structure our life as a celebration. A celebration of our unique talents and contributions. A celebration of the people and causes that are important to us. A celebration of our strength, vitality, and wisdom. In every way, your life can be a joyous celebration of you!

The Power of FOCUS

Your Life as a Celebration presents a simple and effective formula to achieve your life goals and creating the life you love. This book introduces the five phases of focus. It explains how this easy-to-use technique can make your success automatic. With a small investment of time, you can put in place this proven strategy and achieve visible progress in just three weeks.

Regardless of whether your initial goal is to lose weight, improve your relationship with your spouse, or get a promotion at work. By applying the strategy in this book, you can take the steps needed to reach your goal.

The 5 phases of FOCUS system uses the three pillars of personal development: thoughts, habits, and planning. I explain the scientific research unpinning each of these principles. I also show how the focus system optimizes this principle. Each pillar plays a critical role in creating permanent life transformation.

As a result of the pillars of personal development, the five phases of focus system will enable you to:

*          develop a road map to chart the steps towards reaching to your goal

*          establish new habits that promote your success

*          create a system of accountability that keeps you motivated and on your path to success

*          identify strategies to overcome obstacles that threaten to block your progress.

As you continue implementing the system, you will achieve more and even bigger life goals. Hence, your immediate success will fill you with confidence that promotes your future success. Before you know it, you will have a lifestyle in which you naturally set, achieve, and exceed your goals. This new lifestyle will fuel you with energy, power, and joy.

Personalized FOCUS

The FOCUS system is uniquely personalized and tailored to you. Your goals are your goals and the path to achieving them should reflect you. There are as many distinctive goals as there are fingerprints and the pathways to accomplishing them are equally varied. The FOCUS system guides you through a series of questions based on scientific research and spiritual principles about personal development. The way that you answer those questions and incorporate these principles into your life are correct for you.

Because we are often taught that there is a “normal” way of being, if we we believe that it is “wrong” to do things differently than those around us. While all people learn the “value” of conformity, women are particularly pressured to confine ourselves into the narrowly-defined boxes of our society. In my coaching practice and in this book, I challenge women to identify and live out their unique and authentic life purpose.

I developed the FOCUS system to help women identify and design a personalized plan for life success.

Terms like “cultivating”, “designing”, and “nurturing” reflect my understanding that your personal development is a creative, organic process directed by you to craft your distinctive vision. Each of the chapters of Your Life as a Celebration covers a different aspect of your life . The book guides you in applying the FOCUS method to your health, career, relationships, and purpose .

In addition to the five phases of focus, Your Life as a Celebration presents a series of powerful practices to supercharge your life transformation. These powerful practices are grounded in empirical research on human behavior. They are also personalized to fit your unique goals, personality, and life circumstances. These powerful practices help you to create a life you love. They celebrate your life’s purpose, highlight your unique talents and gifts, love your body to health and wellness, and strengthen your existing relationships.

FOCUS on Your Dreams

You can create a life that you love! Sign up today for a free, limited advance copy of my book. By using the FOCUS strategy, you can replace the stress and imbalance of your life with joy, peace, and balance. You can develop personalized success rituals that put the process of accomplishing your goals on autopilot.

As a result of using this system, you will achieve more of your core life goals. You will be proud of who you are and the life you’ve created for yourself. This accomplishment will fill you with feelings of pride and joy. You can create your flow: a balanced harmony of value driven activities that provide you with increasing amounts of energy and advance your life purpose.

Get your copy of Your Life as a Celebration and begin creating the life of your dreams today. Harness your potential. Manifest your dreams. Create life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy. Start here. Start today.

Wishing you the best in your personalized success. If there’s any way I can support you in creating the life you dream of, please let me know. You are a vessel for a dream. Shine!

 

 

How the Idea of Gifted Blocks Your Success

Replace ideas of gifted with growth mindset

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
– John Wooden, Basketball

We like to think of some people as particularly gifted or talented in some areas. We think they they are born with innate abilities that make them masters in specific arenas. Yet, the mythology of giftedness is damaging to us as individuals and as a society.

First, the ideology of giftedness is problematic because it is empirically untrue. Second, the belief in giftedness perpetuates social inequality. Third, the myth of giftedness encourages people to avoid the pursuit of their dreams. In this article, I discuss how you can avoid the pitfalls of the gifted myth. You do this by using a growth mindset to fully develop your talents and achieve mastery in your chosen field.

Gifted is a myth

Research has shown that our ideas about innate giftedness does not explain outstanding performers. They argue that we should not think about the distinction between mastery and proficient as the product of innate talent. Rather mastery, and what we call talent, is the product of consistent practice.

K. Anders Ericson’s research produced the 10,000 hours rule of thumb. He observed that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery in any area.  That’s approximately 3 hours of practice a day for 10 years. Thus, the difference between the individuals at the top of their fields and the amateurs is many, many, MANY hours of practice.

In a study of young musicians, Ericson and his colleagues asked teachers to rank the students according to their “talent”. The teachers were asked to identify those individuals who were the most talented. These were musicians that the teachers believed to have the most promise for international music careers. Surprisingly, the teacher’s evaluation of the student’s talent was actually a reflection of the students’ hours of practice. Those students who were judged as most likely to have outstanding international music careers practiced on average for about 10,000 hours. Those identified as “good” by their instructors had practiced for approximately 8,000 hours. Those considered the least accomplished practiced for approximately 5,000 hours.

Thus, what we are labeling as evidence of “talent” is the reflection of differential amounts on practice.

Deliberate practice determines your level of success

Ericson asserts that 50 hours of training is enough to allow you to become competent. This average is applicable for any skill with a moderate level of difficulty. These fifty hours of training allow your body and mind to learn how to make the appropriate response automatic.

Yet, those individuals achieve the mastery level commit to never stop learning. This is what enables them to dominate their field. The masters work with coaches who give them the feedback needed to constantly improve their performance. In the video below, legendary basketball player Michael Jordan discusses the importance of practicing with a coach. He identifies consistent practice and direction from his coach as responsible for taking his game to master level.

Belief in gifted promotes social inequality

The ideology of innate levels of giftedness supports the practice of tracking in our schools. This logic suggests that students will perform at the best level for them when grouped according to ability.

Research shows that tracking doesn’t improve student learning. But tracking does expand social and economic inequalities. Rather than an assessment of ability, the notion of giftedness is often a reflection of social privilege. Those individuals from more privileged families (e.g. higher SES, white) are more likely to be evaluated as gifted and placed the more advanced educational tracks. This is a pervasive pattern that has been observed in a variety of schools and states across the country.

We deny opportunities for learning and success to many students by reserving the “enriched” curriculum for those identified as gifted. Yet, schools that are effectively “detracked” show high achievement across all groups of students. Countries such as Finland that do not practice tracking students according to ability demonstrate the highest overall scores of educational achievement.  They also show the smallest range of achievement gap amongst its students. Rather than seeing intelligence and ability as a fixed entity, we now know that our capacity changes with our environment.

Fixed vs. growth mindset

In her groundbreaking book, Mindest: The new psychology of success, Carol Dweck shows that perceiving our intelligence, talent, and abilities as something that can grow improves our performance and happiness. This growth mindset suggests that we can expand our ability in any area. But the fixed mindset implies that our level of ability can not be changed by our efforts.

Dweck’s research shows that you truly are what you believe about yourself. Individuals with a fixed mindset experience lots of stress from trying to prove their ability over and over again. They are more likely to give up or not try when things are challenging. Yet, individuals with a growth mindset experience challenges as learning opportunities. As a result of this growth mindset, they are likely to improve from their efforts.

Thinking of yourself and others as possessing an unknown and growing capacity for greatness inspires actions that produce such greatness.  It provides opportunities to all. It focuses our attention on learning and growth rather than proving our worth. These are just a few of the many benefits we receive from discarding our erroneous ideas about giftedness.

Ideology of gifted prevents people from following their dreams

The belief in giftedness encourages some people to play small and avoid pursuing their dreams. They believe that if a particular skill doesn’t come easily for you, then it’s not likely your area of success. This mode of thinking encourages us to give up on our dreams. We give up because we haven’t already demonstrated our “potential” for success.

Successful people without any early visible signs of success

Yet, there are many examples of successful people who looked like they had no potential for such success earlier in their lives. James Earl Jones has earned three Emmy awards. He is also the iconic voice of Darth Vader (Star Wars) and Mufasa (Lion King). But James Earl Jones had a stuttering problem for years as a child. In fact, he practiced poetry, public speaking and acting to help correct his speech problem.

Author Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. But she experienced public failures early in her writing career. In fact, she said her first novel was so bad that even her mother hated it. Rather than throwing in the towel and proclaiming she was not a good writer, Egan continued to learn and improve in her craft as a writer.

Before becoming the youngest self-made millionaire, Bill Gates was a college drop-out. He was also the co-owner of a failed business. Yet he did not interpret these occurrences as a sign that he could not be a successful entrepreneur. Rather, he allowed his passion for computer programming to continue to lead him. Eventually Gates built Microsoft, one of the world’s most successful technology companies.

What these people had in common was a belief that past failures did not prevent their future success. They demonstrated a growth mind-set.  They each continued learning and cultivating their interests, regardless of how others judged their likelihood of success.

Develop your capacity for success

Don’t fall into the trap of giving up on your dreams just because you weren’t a child prodigy. Don’t assume that just because you haven’t experienced a visible level of success, it is not in your future. Failure is not proof that you can’t be successful. Rather it is an opportunity to learn a key component of your future success.

Understanding that giftedness as a myth liberates us. It frees us individually and collectively to invest in ourselves and others. Rather than thinking about talent as a limited resource and directing our focus on identifying those with innate talent, we are now free to focus on interest and effort. If a person is interested in a particular skill or field of knowledge, they are more likely to invest the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice needed to excel in this area.

Success Step 1: Get the information you need

What topics, skills, questions, goals interest you? How are you pursuing them? Now there is no excuses for why you “just aren’t college material” or “don’t have the business sense to become an entrepreneur” or any other excuses that may have justified you not pursuing your goals. Whatever you are lacking now can be learned. You only need to identify your method of getting the information and commit to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

There are many course, books, programs, videos available to teach you the skills needed to become a master in your chosen area. In this information age you can easily identify resources to teach you almost anything you want to learn. Getting the information is only half the battle. The other part of the equation is logging in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Success Step #2: Get a coach to take you to master level

Follow the lead of those who have already achieved mastery in their respective areas. Get yourself an expert coach. An experienced coach can design an individualized training program for you and give you the feedback needed to improve your performance. This allows you to focus your full attention on carry out the program. There’s no need for you to try to be both the performer and the evaluator of your performance.

Making the same mistake over and over again will not get you closer to master status. Mastery requires adjusting your performance based on feedback. This feedback loop allows you to get closer and closer to your goal. Your coach provides you with the feedback necessary to recognize errors and correct them. The expert eyes if a coach are a critical component of your journey to mastery. This is how you work smarter, not harder.

Your Journey to Mastery

What’s the next step in your personal journey to mastery level? Have you identified your goal? Are you learning the skills needed for your craft? Are you putting in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a regular basis? Do you receive personalized feedback on how to improve your performance from a coach?

If your answer to all the questions above is yes, then let me say “Congratulations!” You are well on your way to achieving master status and dominating your chosen field. No matter how far away it may feel, just remember that if you keep your focus you WILL achieve your goal. I am so proud of you and excited for what you will contribute to our world through your commitment to mastery.

If your answer to any of the previous questions is no, you now know the next step in your journey to mastery.  The fact that you have the interest and commitment means that you CAN achieve your goal. You still need to combine that with instruction and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to realize your dream. I wish you success on your journey!

If there’s anything that I can do to support you on your journey to mastery, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have suggestions for others on the journey, share them below.  Also, please share your success stories as a form of encouragement to others.  Wishing you a life full of purpose, meaning, and joy!

 

The Secret Confidence Killer

Increase your confidence with collaborative thinking

What you think about yourself is much more important than what others think about you.

You have a unique set of talents and a distinctive perspective that is unlike any other. Developing your talents and perspective are the keys to your financial freedom and happiness. Yet, you may be undermining your talent, freedom, and happiness with comparison thinking.

Making comparisons is useful when it comes to shopping for cars or shoes. But, it’s deadly for our self confidence and quality of life when we compare ourselves to others. Comparison thinking has always been with us, but the age of social media seems to have kicked it into high gear. Now it seems as if we can follow people’s life moment by moment on FaceBook and Twitter. This tempts us to compare our daily existence with those we see on social media. Are our children as cute? Do we look as good as she does in her selfie? Is our relationship as happy as theirs? Are our cars/homes/vacations as glamorous as theirs?

I once heard an quote “don’t compare your real life to someone’s Facebook life.” There is both humor and truth in this insightful quote. We must remember that Facebook is a constructed image of snapshots of people’s lives. This is equal to the highlights reel of a sports game. Comparing ourselves to anyone else’s life, virtual or real world, is a dangerous error that undermines our success and well being.

 

Confidence: the Pathway to Success and Happiness

Confidence is defined  as “a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something.”  In the psychological literature, confidence is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the sense that you have the ability to accomplish a task and make good things happen. This feeling of confidence, or self-efficacy, is critical to many our short and long-term success and happiness.

Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence in our abilities and perspective. It’s your uniqueness, not your similarity, that is the keys to your freedom and happiness. But, it’s hard to trust in our uniqueness with so much emphasis on being like the others that we see around us.

Psychological research shows that confidence, or self-efficacy, is associated with increased level of success and personal well being.  Self-efficacy produces positive mental health, high levels of educational achievement, improved physical health, and increased earnings.  There are many reasons why confidence is connected to these various forms of success.

  1. People with higher levels of self-confidence are more likely to try new things.

    Confident people view new activities as tasks that are to be mastered rather than tasks that avoided. They are willing to begin activities with which they have little experience because they believe they can learn new things.

  2. People with higher levels of self-confidence stay engaged in activities longer.

    Since confident people believe in their ability to learn new things, they are more likely to see challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities than failures. Thus, they remain engaged in getting better at the tasks even when it is difficult. This ability to begin and sustain engagement in difficult tasks, increases their level of mastery and their confidence that they can achieve.

  3. People with high-levels of self-confidence perceive themselves as having more control over their lives.

    Thus if there’s something that they find displeasing in their life, they focus on how they can improve the situation. Whereas less confident people tend to see life as happening to them rather than being shaped by them. Thus, they tend to focus on what is negative about their life rather than how to change it. This type of thinking is associated with increased levels of stress and depression.

 

Comparison Thinking Undermines Confidence

You may think of confidence as something you have or don’t have. But research suggests that confidence can be developed by particular ways of thinking and behaving.

A large part of communicating confidence is through nonverbal behavior. We broadcast our levels of confidence to others constantly without knowing it. More recently, scholars and practitioners have been telling us the benefits of “fake it till you make it”. We are instructed to learn and use the nonverbal behavior associated with confidence until it becomes a natural part of our identity.

I definitely agree with the validity of this behavior your way to success approach. Yet, I’d like to draw your attention to how your thinking influences our levels of confidence. Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence. Here are two ways that making comparisons undermines your levels of self confidence.

  1. Comparing yourself to someone you admire creates self doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and anxiety.

    You may see the success that the person you admire is experiencing and think that you have to be “just like them” to achieve similar results. Since it’s clear you are not like them, you may stop trying before you actually begin. Or you may ignore your distinctiveness and try to immediate the other person in the hopes of experiencing their successful outcome. You will always be a second rate someone else, but you can be a first class version of yourself.  Living with courage means embracing your unique gifts and sharing them with others.

  1. Comparing yourself to someone you don’t like creates a false sense of superiority and disdain.

    Even comparisons in which we see ourselves “on top” undermine our confidence and success. Rather than focusing on your continued growth and development, this kind of comparison leads you to a path of atrophy. You lose the fire because you think that you’ve already won. Yet the race is not run against other people; it is always within yourself. This is why I loved being a cross-country runner. I realized from a young age that my race is a race of one. I am focused solely on betting my personal best from last time. Focusing on others around you, distracts your focus from accomplishing your personal best. This leads to overconfidence where your confidence exceeds your ability and effort. Don’t allow comparisons to draw you into this trap.

Build Confidence: Eradicate Comparison Thinking

The key to building your confidence and creating the success you desire is to eradicate comparison thinking of all forms and at all time. In comparing of yourself with people you’re never comparing apples to apples. Just because she is a woman, or a singer, or a mother doesn’t mean that she is like you. You are so much more than those titles. You perform the same activity or where the same dress, but the way you do will be totally different. There are people who will be moved only by your voice; by your perspective; by your vision. You owe it to them and to yourself to be authentically you.

Instead of comparison, think collaboratively. The next time you see someone and and tempted to think of yourself as in competition with this person, ask yourself “How can I use my unique gifts to complement this person?” This perspective will allow you to celebrate the success of others and nurture your own.

Confident women collaborate, they don’t compete. Hold yourself up to your own independent standards and encourage others to do so as well. Then you can have success without envy, confidence without arrogance, and pride without self-centeredness.

Confidence Building Affirmation

Where are you comparing yourself to others? Make a commitment to live collaboratively rather than competitively. If you would like support and a reminder to live without comparison, consider writing out the affirmation below.  Post it in places where you will see it daily.

“I can now see the destructive pattern that’s produced in my life by making comparisons. I refuse to do that to myself and my dreams. I am not them, but that does not mean that I can’t have the desires of my heart. Being fully myself can bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire.”

Please share below your suggestions about how to build your confidence and live a life without comparisons. We all have a gift to share with the world. Help others live into their gift, as you nurture and share your own!

 

 

 

Celebrate Your Talents and Create a Life of Freedom and Happiness

Create a life of freedom and happiness

“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.”
― Erica Jong

Discovering and developing your talents is your key to freedom, success, and happiness. Developing your talents may or may not include formal schooling. Sometimes your career will be the manifestation of your life’s purpose. Other times your career may be the vehicle that supports your ability to do your life’s work. Either way, a meaningful and successful life is dependent upon celebrating your talents.

Celebrating your talents involves reconnecting with your innate curiosity, interests, and abilities. It also includes designing a plan to nurture these talents. But how do you identify your innate curiosity, interests, and abilities?

For people still grappling with identifying your specific talents, this article can guide your self-discovery process. Learning and self-discovery is a iterative process; so you need not know all the answers now. The questions and interests that you identify now will lead you along a path. As you proceed on that path, you will identify even more questions and interests.

Isn’t it exciting to know that this process of discovery and growth continues throughout your entire lifetime?

Once you learn how to ask yourself the right questions, you never have to worry about being bored or retiring from life. Connecting with your inner fire and curiosity will fuel your productivity, energy, and growth. Activating these resources will make you a life-long learner and contributor to our world.

Celebrate Your Talents

The quality of any relationship is based on the quality of the conversations that occur within that relationship. In my coaching practice, I support my clients in improving the quality of the conversations (and thus the relationship) they have with themselves.

So how do you improve the quality of conversations with yourself? Simple. By asking more powerful questions of yourself.

Questions are more powerful than answers as they open up a dialouges and invite new ways of seeing the world.

A good answer can do the same thing because good answers also contain more questions. Unfortunately, our model of schooling often teaches us that answers close the dialogue. We are taught that there’s no more need to raise a question because “we already know”. This shuts down curiousity and is the opposite of learning.

In both my personal and professional life, my focus has been on asking better questions. I’ve found that the right question can fully activate our whole being, mind and body.  Asking myself the right questions gives me energy to sustain my process of growth and discovery.

Below I’ve listed some powerful questions that can help you discover your unique gifts and abilities. These gifts are the basis of your contribution to our world. Thus, it’s important for us all that you discover, develop, and share your talents.

I urge you to write down your answers so that you can more clearly see patterns in your responses. These patterns are your clues to discovering the talents and interests that may have been suppressed by the expectations of others. You owe it to yourself to identify your unique gifts and share them with the world.

Identify Your Unique Talents

Grab your journal and ask yourself the following powerful questions:

Who do you admire?

  1.  Identify five people you admire. They can be people that you know well in your personal life or that you have read about – past or present. For each person selected, write down at least five character traits that you admire about them. These traits may or may not be accurate. It is only important that you perceive this person as possessing these desirable traits.
  2. Once your list is complete look for patterns among your lists. The character traits that you identify and admire in others are the ones you most want for yourself. They reflect your personal values and life goals.
  3. Now write your name in your journal as the sixth person you admire. Write those common themes of desirable character traits under your name. It does not matter whether you yet feel like you possess those traits. Trust that they are in you. If they were not within you, you wouldn’t be able to see and become attracted to them in others. Like attracts like and we see what we are.

What jobs did you dream of having as a child?

  1. In your journal list as many of the various jobs you wanted to pursue throughout your childhood and adolescence. No job is too silly or unimportant to make it to your list. If you dreamed about being an astronaut and a clown, write them both down. By taking all of our dreams seriously, we begin to take ourselves seriously.
  2. Once you have your complete list of dream jobs, write down what attracted you to each one. Why did you want this job? What did you enjoy doing that you thought you could do regularly in this job? What didn’t you like about this job?
  3. Now go through your completed desired job list and look for themes that emerge. Were there common motivations across multiple jobs? Were there common activities? What were the things that lead you to decide a particular job was not for you?
  4. Now take what you have learned and write on a fresh sheet of paper in your journal “my dream job/life contains….”. Write down all the common themes about your motivations, activities, settings, and people across your desired jobs. This list is your dream job/life because you may decide to pursue a career that contains all these elements. Or you may choose to structure your career so that it enables you to sustain a life filled with these activities. This is your choice to make, but we’re not at that deciding point yet.

What messages did you get from others about your career and life choices?

  1. Write down the responses of significant others in your life to your dream jobs. These responses could have been stated explicitly or implicitly. Your sense of others’ responses to your dreams have been internalized by you.  To some extent they unconsciously shape your beliefs about the value of pursuing your dreams.
  2. Make sure that your discussion of others includes people who have played significant roles in your life in the past as well as those in the present. It is important to include messages from parents, teachers, peers, friends, and spouses or romantic partners. Reading through this journal entry will help you to separate your life focus from those of your loved ones.

Whether they gave you messages of encouragement or discouragement, the feedback from these people was more about them than it was about you. In the spiritual book The Four Agreements, we’re advised not to take anything personally. This is because people’s responses to you are actually their responses to projections of themselves. Even messages that seem discouraging or critical may have been grounded in love. A father may discourage you from pursuing a career as a dancer because he is concerned about your ability to become self-sufficient in that career. His comments are products of his worldview, his fear, and his love for you.

The purpose of this activity is not to judge others for the way that have or are currently responding to your life dreams. It is only to allow you to see that their responses do not have to shape how you respond to yourself. You have the power to choose to honor your dreams and decide how you want to nurture your talents.

Honor Your Gifts

Now you can more clearly see what you admire about yourself and what you desire in your dream job and life. You can distinguish your own desires from those of your loved ones. You are prepared to take responsibility for your dreams and begin making them a reality.

If you’d like additional support in building a life that engages your talents in fulfilling your life purpose, sign up for my free Life Planning Tool and for an advanced order of my upcoming book Your Life as a Celebration.

Each day is an opportunity to make a change, to shift direction, to come a little closer to the desires of your heart. This is accomplished by identifying your unique gifts and committing to develop them on a daily basis. Do it for yourself!

Comment below some of your unique gifts as well as how you plan to nurture these abilities.

Learn Google’s Secret for Turning Your Dreams into Reality

Motivation to Follow Your Dreams

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” – Anthony Robbins

It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela

Have you ever had someone refer to you as a “dreamer”? Was that intended to be a compliment?

Many times people speak about dreamers as if that is something negative. They seem to imply that you should give up your dreams and live in the “real world.” Yet everything in our “real world” existed first only in the dreams of someone.

Google is well known for being on the cutting edge of technology and creating the tools and ideas of our future. Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots for Google X, shares how Google produces such innovation. The company creates a team that encourages people to develop moonshot projects.

Moonshots are experimental projects focusing on solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. The moonshots team dream up bold ideas to solve these pressing social problems. Then they works to turn today’s moonshot dreams into the realities of tomorrow. In his Ted Talk, Astro Teller identifies four habits contributing to the success of moonshot projects.

I’d like to share how you can incorporate  Google’s secrets of success into your life. By practicing the habits of the Moonshot team, you too can bring your bold dreams into reality.

Dream Big

Dreams are what allow us to create a better future for ourselves and our world. Dreams inspire us to reach beyond ourselves and accomplish more than we have thus far. In fact, dreams promote our personal growth. This is because we often have to learn new skills or habits to fulfill our dreams. Honoring the soft whispers of our hearts is the first step in cultivating a life of greatness.

Our dreams are deeply personal to us. They are the specific longings of our souls and they compel us to explore, learn, and grow. You owe it to yourself and to our world to develop your dreams. They are the vehicle through which you make your unique contribution to our world.

It may not materialize the way you expect; dreams rarely do. But the journey of pursuing your dreams will grow you into the person you are meant to be. It will fill your life with joy and meaning. It will create a meaningful impact on the lives of others.

Couple Your Dreams with a Plan

A dream without a plan is just a wish.”

Dreams inspire us to action. Our motivation to see our dream fulfilled, energizes us to put in the work to do it. If you have dreams that you are not willing to work for, I would argue that those are not “your dreams.” They may be dreams other people have for you or dreams you believe you should want. But they are not yours. Your dreams will inspire you to work to achieve them.

Your dream encourages you to stretch beyond yourself. There’s a quote that says:

If your dream doesn’t scare you, then it isn’t big enough.

Big dreams provoke us to plan how to get from here to there. The planning process requires us to honestly assess where we are currently . It also helps us to identify the additional actions needed to reach our goal.

Celebrate Failure

No one accomplishes her dream on the first try. Remember dreams are much bigger than us. We must grow into them. That increase in skill, knowledge, and maturity takes time and deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice is where you do an action and get feedback on its effectiveness. You then incorporate that feedback into your revised action and reassess your results. This cycles of action-reflection-revision continues until you have reached your goal. So practice itself doesn’t make you better. If you practice doing the same mistake over and over again, you will not get better. But learning from our mistakes does make us better. This is why “failure” is actually a great teacher and critical to us accomplishing our goal.

Celebrating failure helps us to recognize and honor critical moments in our success journey. The fact that we have failed shows that we have tried something new and different. That itself should be celebrated. It means that  we are stepping out of our comfort zone and adding to our knowledge and experiences.

Failure also shows that we were courageous enough to try. It is much easier and safer to stay the same than it is to grow and change. But growth and change are a part of life and whatever does not grow or change dies. There’s a saying:

“If you stop learning today, you stop teaching tomorrow.”

Lifelong learning is important to our development, regardless of our profession. Failing simply means we are learning something new. That is worthy of a celebration.

Another reason to celebrate failure is that failure helps us to learn. This is true whether we are attempting to learn a new skill, habit, or develop a character trait. If we use failure as an opportunity to reflecting on the results of our behavior, we are better able to adjust our behavior to get improved results. Teachers or coaches are useful in providing feedback on how to adjust our behavior to get better results. Yet, the teacher or coach can not give the needed feedback that without observing our failure. When we try our best and miss the mark, we learn what specifically needs to be added to our best. This knowledge should be celebrated. Thanks to failure, we are now better equipped to achieve our goal!

Prioritize

We often have more than one dream. And our dreams are so big that they have many new steps and skills needed to reach the goal. If we are not careful, the knowledge of how much needs to be done to reach our dreams can immobilize us. Our we can switch from one dream to another in a manner that never allows us to make sustained progress on any. Prioritization helps us to avoid these problems.

Prioritization requires us to ask ourselves:

“What is the one goal that can produce the most benefit for achieving my dream?”

Continue asking yourself this question until you’ve drilled down to a specific goal. The goal should be specific enough to begin today and focus all your attention on it. You no longer have to question whether we should be doing this action. You’ve given thought to the big picture and decided that this is the most useful focus of our time. Now, you can give yourself wholeheartedly to accomplishing this goal. This is because you know accomplishing this goal will bring you maximum benefit. It will move you closer to your larger goal. This level of focused action in needed to create forward movement on our dreams.

Try to Kill, and then Save, Your Dreams

Brilliantly, Google X encourages the people most invested in the ideas to be the strongest critics of the project. The Moonshot employees would create a series of test designed to kill the project they’d conceived. The company would then celebrate their failed projects. Why?  Because the employees showed they had courage and integrity.  It takes courage to propose and moonshot idea and integrity to acknowledge it is not workable.

Too often we romanticize our dreams and are unrealistic about the challenges to them. This naivete results in surprise and discouragement when things don’t go as easily as we envisioned. Yet, by actively challenging our own ideas, we can use that information to make our ideas stronger. This is how we kill and resuscitate our dreams.

I encourage you to make a list of all the things that may go wrong and all the reasons why pursuing your dream won’t work. There is a value in listening to your inner critic. She is trying to protect you and warn you about impending danger. Too often we either ignore her insight or use her warnings as a reason not to try. But, you can use her wisdom as a trusted advisor.

Once you have a list of all the potential problems that may prevent you from accomplishing your goal. Thank your inner critic for her insight and dismiss her. Then invite your problem-solving mindset to brainstorm potential solutions to each of those problems.

For every problem, there is a solution.

By bringing a new mindset to your discussion of the problem, you are better prepared to see the solution. Your inner critic is great at seeing the problems. Thus, she is an essential part of crafting your plan for success.

Once you have brainstormed many solutions for each identified problem, you can generate your rules of order. Rules of order is simply a list of what actions you will take when (not if) the problem arrives. This exercise now takes the stress of decision making out of the situation. When the problematic situations occurs, you are well prepared with an appropriate plan of action. Your rules of order will keep you on your success journey.

Launch Your Moonshot Projects

Being called a dreamer is not an insult. Your dreams are the key to your individual, and our collective, success. If you connect your dreams to a concrete plan of action, learn from your failed attempts, prioritize your activities, and try to kill (then resuscitate) your dreams, you too can create the future of tomorrow today. You already have step one accomplished. What else do you need to manifest your dreams? Commit to taking that step today.

 

Part of giving birth to your dreams is to speak them into existence. By publicly stating your commitment and next action steps, you create both the motivation and accountability needed for your success. Use the comment box below to share with our community your courageous commitment to manifest your dreams. Taking yourself and your dreams seriously inspires others to do the same.

 

If there’s anything I can do to help support you in your process, please share that as well. Cheers to you and your moonshot projects!

 

I Never Thought I Could End Procrastination For Good – But I Finally Discovered The Secret! Here’s How…

Causes, consequences, and strategies for overcoming procrastination

Are you a chronic procrastinator? Learn how to eliminate procrastination for good.

Imagine….You’ve successfully completed that important task in half the time you expected. You now have the much desired extra time to spend with family and friends. You even have time to take a leisurely stroll through the park and soak up some rays. As the sun is beaming down on you, you smile at how proud you are of yourself and how you handled this challenge. You also notice that the knot in your stomach is gone and you no longer feel that pressure on your temples. This is your new life, now that you’ve finally conquered procrastination. Procrastination is a habit that many of us develop early in our life and this problematic behavior grows with us.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of procrastinate is “to be slow or late about doing something that should be done : to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc.”

I used to proclaim that I did my best work through procrastination. I often waited for the night before to begin a paper assignment. I figured that since I still received an A, procrastination was actually helpful for me. As the length and challenges of my writing assignments increased, I quickly learned that this habit was a hindrance rather than a help. Once I became an educator, I realized that getting an A on a paper didn’t mean I was doing my best work. It only meant that my work was relatively better than my peers. Now I know that I did not submit my best work. The feedback from my teachers could have helped to make me an even better writer and thinker. As my academic career progressed, I learned that procrastination is costly. Procrastination created missed opportunities, lowered my productivity, and generated more stress.

Have you struggled with procrastination? Do you want to drop this negative habit from your life?  Let me assure you, this is possible. Understanding procrastination and what it costs you, is a powerful motivator to stop it. In this article, I share a simple, but often overlooked technique to end procrastination for good.

Anxiety and procrastination

I disagree with Merriam-Webster’s characterization of procrastination as laziness. Procrastination is not about being lazy; it is about avoiding a problem. Specifically, it is about avoiding unpleasant emotions. When we procrastinate, we are attempting to avoid negative emotions. These negative emotions are associated with that problematic task. Thus, procrastination is really driven by fear and anxiety.

The decision to put off writing that paper or completing that report until tomorrow is actually an attempt to manage uncomfortable emotions. Those emotions may be fear, embarrassment, insecurity, confusion, or anger. They are often associated with thoughts such as:

  • I don’t think my writing is good enough and now everyone will find out.
  • I am confused about what to do or where to start.”
  • I think it’s unfair that I have to do this task.” 

By avoiding the task, we avoid feeling these unpleasant emotions. Thus, procrastination serves us as an emotion management strategy. But, it is not an effective emotion management strategy. Procrastination often creates extra problems, as well as more stress, frustration, and discomfort.

Procrastination ruins your productivity, health, & happiness

In a long-term study of procrastination, researchers at Case Western University revealed that procrastination has short-term benefits but long-term problems. These researchers document that procrastinators have less stress than non-procrastinators in the short-term. Yet, in the long-term procrastinators show higher levels of stress, more mental illness, and lower academic performance. This data shows that procrastination is an emotion management strategy, albeit an ineffective one. While procrastination provides short-term relief from stress, it creates more long-term stress and lower performance.

Additional research shows that procrastinators have poorer health outcomes than non-procrastinators. Part of these poor health outcomes is because they procrastinate pro-health behaviors. Pro-health behaviors include activities like going to dental and medical check-ups. Even after controlling for check-ups and similar health maintenance activities, procrastinators show more stress and physical illnesses. Thus, procrastination itself seems to create physical health illnesses.

Conquer procrastination for good

You can unblock and end procrastination for good.  First, you must identify the fear that is causing this problematic behavior. Listen to the stories that play in your head when you think about performing the task. Identify the underlying fear. Is the fear the result of thinking that you’re not good enough and others will find you out?

Now that you’ve identified the source of your fear, here’s a way to manage these emotions. People frequently use meditation or mindfulness strategies to enhance one’s emotional intelligence and manage emotions. But I’d like to add a new, often overlooked, strategy to manage the emotions associated with procrastination. Best of all, you already have the tool you need in your kitchen or on your phone.

Use a timer to beat procrastination

Make timers your best friend. Timers are especially useful for activities that are important but difficult to begin. Starting the task is often the most difficult part. This is  because of fears and anxieties about how challenging the task will be. Starting is also difficult because of the uncomfortable feelings that we expect will arise within us as we perform that task.

As I’ve explained procrastination helps us avoid those uncomfortable feelings by avoiding the tasks. Unfortunately, avoiding important tasks limits our success. Procrastination creates more uncomfortable feelings when the things left undone create their own crisis. It also leads to disappointed in ourselves for not fulfilling our personal goals. Thankfully, something as simple as a timer can help us address this quandary.

By setting the timer we have a known ending point. For tasks that have high levels of anxiety, set the timer for short increments of time (2-5 mins). It is easy to convince ourselves that we can live with being uncomfortable for 5 mins. This allows us to begin, knowing that even if it is painful, it will not last long.

They key to the success of this method is allowing yourself to stop at the end of the timer. Beginning is the most difficult part. When the timer goes off, you often feel that it wasn’t as bad as expected. To maintain the integrity of the value of the timer exercise, it is important that you pause at the ringing of the timer. At this pause consider whether you want to continue or to save the rest of the task for the next assigned time. Either choice is a successful outcome.

The focus here is not on the completion of the task. Rather the goal is to build behaviors that will lead to the completion of the task. Minimizing the emotional discomfort and providing an element of choice are acts of self compassion and respect. Compassion and respect works in getting the cooperation of even the stubbornest toddler. You will find that it works on yourself as well. Everyone wants to be respected. We all want to know that our feelings and well being matter. The timer exercise enables you to communicate this compassion and respect to yourself. It also allows you to build the successful track record needed to extend the desired behavior.

The next time you notice yourself procrastinating, identify the source of the anxiety. Then use the timer system to manage your anxiety and get your tasks done!

I’d love to hear about your progress with using timers to manage anxiety. Please comment below. Also share other personal strategies to overcome procrastination.

5 Little Known Ways Your Smart Phone Can Double Your Productivity

Multitasking doesn't increase your productivity, but these free apps can.

Multitasking doesn’t increase your productivity, but these free apps can.

Want to increase your productivity? Yeah, there’s an app for that! As someone who is constantly concerned with how to work more efficiently, I regularly download new productivity apps. Most do not meet my expectations and are soon deleted. However, I’ve listed below five apps that are worth every megabyte of storage space because they enable me to work more efficiently.  If you want to increase your productivity without exerting more time and effort, consider adding the following apps to your smart phone:

 

  1. Productive

    Our body, relationships, and achievements are the outcome of our regular habits.

    Our body, relationships, and achievements are the outcomes of our regular habits.

If there are aspects of our life that we are unhappy with or would like to improve, we need to change the habits that sustain them. The Productive app helps you develop positive habits by providing the two necessary components of a habit: a cue and a reward. In order for you to participate in a new behavioral pattern long enough to become automatic, your brain needs a cue to start the action and a positive reward after completing the action. The Productive app allows you to schedule your new habit into morning, afternoon, or evening routines (for the paid version you can schedule specific times). It will remind you to perform the habit (cue) as well as track how many times you’ve successfully completed the habit. This app creates cool charts for each habit. Having an uninterrupted run of success creates a compelling internal reward that reinforces the habit.

 

  1. Google Keep

Being able to sort my to do list according to my location increases my productivity.

Being able to sort a to do list according to location increases productivity.

Keeping track of all the great ideas that emerge when you’re away from your desk can be a constant challenge. Google Keep allows you to record your thoughts using text or voice and access them from any device. These items are stored in the Google cloud so you can always have the information at your fingertips. What I like best about Google Keep is the ability to be reminded of things only when I am in a location where I can act on them. This functionality allows me to clear my mind of clutter and focus only on what I can do at the time.

 

  1. Focus Zen

    Sound therapy reduces stress and enhances performance.

    Sound therapy reduces stress and enhances performance.

Sound therapy has long been a part of ancient healing traditions like Ayurveda and more recently has become an important component of Western medicine. Music therapy is used with a variety of populations (people with depression, people on the autism spectrum, people with Alzheimer’s) to increase attention, recall, communication, sociability and emotional regulation. Focus Zen puts the benefits of music therapy at our fingertips, providing sounds specifically designed to promote productive brain wave patterns. The free version of this app comes with four sound compositions developed to increase attention and focus. I regularly listen to Focus Zen’s “Attention Enhancer” soundtrack while writing and have experienced significant improvement in my concentration and productivity. Try them all and choose the one that works best for you. Playing these soundtracks in the background while you work can dramatically enhance your performance without any additional effort.

 

  1. Inkflow

    Mind mapping enhances creativity and productivity.

    Mind mapping enhances creativity and productivity.

Mind mapping is a powerful brainstorming tool. It allows you to quickly generate ideas and make connections without the rigid, hierarchical structure of an outline. Inkflow lets you to do mind mapping with the simplicity of a pen and paper combined with the flexibility of digital technology. This app enables you to write your ideas on a blank digital sheet with your finger or a stylus. I find that handwriting allows me to access more of my creative brain than typing on a keyboard. Unlike mind mapping with a pen and paper, you can use Inkflow to easily resize components of your mind map, move them around the page, add images, and share your mind map via email or social media. The app’s sharing functionality increases the speed and effectiveness of collaboration.

 

  1. Omvana

    Meditation sharpens your focus and productivity.

    Meditation sharpens your focus and productivity.

Meditation is linked to numerous physical and psychological health benefits, including: lower blood pressure, improved immune functioning, reduced stress levels, and increased concentration. Omvana provides a wide selection of guided meditations designed for the beginner as well as less structured meditations for people with more experience. The meditation selections cover a broad range of topics including: Energizing Meditations, Happiness and Positive Living, Career and Entrepreneurship, Love and Relationships, as well as Parenting and Family. I love the meditation selections that use a letter of the alphabet to focus on a specific quality of character (F is for Faith, B is for Being). I use these meditations regularly to clear my mind of the cultural “noise” and refocus on my core truths. There are a range of time lengths of meditations (starting at 3 minutes) so everyone can incorporate this powerful practice into your daily schedule. The Omvana meditations help me to relax, clarify my focus, increase my decision making speed, and improve my effectiveness.

 

Technological tools enable humans to surpass our limits, accomplishing goals more quickly and easily. These five technology tools help me to be more productive without expending more energy and I believe they can do the same for you!

 

I’d love to learn more about your success with these tools or other apps that you find helpful in enhancing your productivity. Please share below.

 

 

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