A Better Approach to Time Management

replace time management with energy management

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

How can effective time management help us support ourselves? Many of us are great supporters of other people. But, we have never thought about what it means to support ourselves. We are great supporters of our family and friends. Great advocates for the social issues we care about. We take pride in the myriad of ways we help  others achieve their goals. So what does it mean to support yourself?

Supporting yourself involves the same activities we engage in to support others. Supporting yourself means developing your capacity to live your best life. It means directing your attention and resources in developing your potential to the fullest. This involves investing the time to needed to identify your life purpose. Then, focusing with laser like precision on expressing that purpose in your life. Effective time management enables you to create a life that supports you.

Problem with Time Management

I have been obsessed with time management ever since I can remember. As a child I loved the book Cheaper By The Dozen. I was enthralled by the father who sought to do everything in the most efficient manner possible. This made sense to me because I knew that time was a limited resource.

Time is the great equalizer, in that we all are given the same 24 hrs in a day. How we spend those 24 hours determines how many days and how fulfilling the future days will be.  I remember my father explaining to me that if our entire lives were compressed into a day, we would only be in school for a few hours. But, those few hours of the day would make the rest of the day more enjoyable. I’d have resources and freedom to pursue my inner desires. That seemed like a fair trade to me and I decided that suffering through a little bit of pain or boredom was a reasonable exchange for my future enjoyment.

I spent much of my time trying to find the most efficient way to manage my obligations. This would enable me to have the most enjoyment of the rest of my life. This approach to time management was limited in its effectiveness. As the tasks I had to do became longer and more complicated, the dreaded tasks still took many hours, weeks, months or years. Worse yet, I was setting myself up to live my life “later”, after I had completed X, Y, or Z tasks.

I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this approach to work and life. Many people are waiting for “the summer”, “the next promotion”, “retirement”, “marriage”, “children”, “an empty-nest”, ect until you feel free to “live your life”.  Stop waiting. Now is the only time you have. Now is the perfect time to support yourself.

Energy Management is Superior to Time Management

Completing the tasks in front of you and enjoying your life need not be mutually exclusive activities. You do not have to wait for “your turn” after you have finished all the tasks on everyone else’s list. You can structure your daily activities, and your life, so that you are productive AND filled with excitement and joy. The secret is learning how to manage your energy.

Many people mistakenly think that enhancing your capacity to be creative and productive is only about managing your time. While time management is important, managing your energy is a more effective means to enhancing your creativity and productivity. Managing your energy requires becoming more aware of your moment by moment energy levels and the life factors that influence them. As you become more aware of what influences your energy level, you can delegate energy draining activities and limit your exposure to energy draining people.

Like time, your energy is a valuable and limited resource. If you do not manage it well, you will find that there is no energy left for you to do the things that you want to do. You don’t have the energy left to write your book, exercise, socialize, ect. Even though these activities are important to you, you can’t find time to do them. At the end of the day, all you have energy for is vegging out on tv and dreaming about your future life. The future is when you believe that you will have the opportunity to live out your desires.

Unlike time, you can actually “create” more energy. By managing your activities well, you can plant seeds that will “grow” your energy levels. You do not have to settle for your current amount of energy. You can expand your energy reservoir by intentionally choosing energy expanding activities. This approach to life will enable you to get more done and feel better about yourself and your life in the process.

Time Management Doesn’t Expand Time, Energy Management Does Expand Your Energy

Below I discuss two actions will substantially expand your energy levels while improving your productivity and creativity.  Implementing these actions, will help you to go to bed happier, having accomplished more in your day, sleep better, and wake up feeling more refreshed and excited about your day. This is how you support yourself. This is giving yourself what you need to live your best life now, not “someday when…”

I encourage you to practice these two actions daily. Make sure to track the changes you observe in yourself and your life as you do.

  1. Identify tangible things that increase your energy level and incorporate them regularly throughout your day.

The definition of energy expanding activities is any thought or action that fills you with energy and joy as you take part. For obvious reasons, what counts as an energy expanding activity varies from person to person.

To identify your energy expanding activities, you can track your energy levels throughout the day. On a hourly basis, asses you energy level on a scale of 1-10. Notice, how the level increases or decreases throughout the day. Write down recent activities that you think might be associated with the changes in your energy level.

Try to identify at least 20 energy expanding activities of various forms. Some you can do with others, some you do alone, some cost money, so are free. You get the point. The goal is to have a variety of energy expanding activities that you can add to your day on a regular basis. You also want to have some that you can add “as needed” to help pull you up after an unexpected energy draining activity. Think of this as your emergency self-care kit.

  1. Distinguish must from should.

Too often we blur the lines between these two types of activities. That is a serious drain on our energy level and a damage to our quality of life. But, when you distinguish the must list from the should list, you can manage your energy more effectively.

“Must list” is important because it helps you achieve what you truly want. It is connected to your life purpose and allows you to fulfill the personal goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to be an Olympic swimmer, you must practice on a regular basis. But if it is your mother’s goal for you to be an Olympic swimmer (or get married, or move closer to home, ect), then the activities associated with this goal does not belong on your “must list.” These activities are examples of “shoulds”.

Shoulds are only important because they help you to conform to what others want you to do. When you find yourself saying “I should do…..” what you are actually communicating is that someone else wants this for you more than you want it for yourself. “I should exercise… study… go out more”. All these activities are things you think others expect from you. That is why doing them feels draining.

The best way to expand your energy and live a productive and creative life is to eliminate everything on your should list.  Once you stop doing the things on your should list, you will have more time and energy for your musts. What?! Am I suggesting that you don’t exercise, study, or get out of your comfort zone? If you can not connect these activities to goals you find personally meaningful, your attempts to do them will be unsuccessful and draining.

Manage Your Energy, Manage Your Life

Respect what creates energy for you and focus on deleting the things that drain your energy. Connect your regular activities to things that give you personal meaning. This produces a magical multiplication of hours in the day.  You will get more accomplished in a day and feel happier doing it.

You do not have to wait for the future to start living the life you desire. Support yourself today. Restructure your activities around your purpose and watch your energy and joy grow!

 

 

How to Palooza Your Birthday: The Secret to Getting Better as You Age

Positive Aging Through a Birthday Palooza

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

In my book, Your Life As A Celebration,  I discuss how you can transform your life into a celebration of you. You can create a life that affirms your core values and engages in your life purpose. In short, you can create a life that honors your purpose, personality and perspective. This is a life that fills you with energy and joy because it is an authentic reflection of you. Rather than living into someone else’s definition of success, you are able to create your own personalized success vision. This personalized vision of success inspires you to take action.  Your inspired actions transform your life into a true reflection of your innermost desires. Here success is not a destination, it is the process as well. The goal is to have every day be and more complete expression of your talent and purpose.

One way to express and track this transformation is through your birthday celebration. Your birthday becomes an opportunity to celebrate what you love about yourself and life. Your birthday also allows you to track your progress of becoming more authentically yourself.  Here, I describe the process of turning your birthday into a celebration that honors the gift of you.

Your Birthday: The Most Important Holiday of The Year

Everyone who knows me, knows how serious I am about my birthday. I have never gone to school or work on my birthday. My friends say that’s because I have a summer birthday. But I believe that if you only celebrate one holiday a year, it should be the day you were born. It’s a celebration of your life and all that you contribute to the world. That is worth missing a day of work or school.

Unfortunately, too many women avoid celebrating their birthdays. For them birthdays marks their decline in beauty, vitality, and worth. The negative images associated with aging lead many women to attempt to remain 29 years old forever.

Yet as you connect with your life purpose, you will find that you have much to celebrate with each passing year. You are no longer wandering through life or looking backwards to some romanticized glory days of youth. You are  daily living out your life purpose.  You are nurturing your gifts and contributing them to your community. This is definitely worth celebrating. Since you grow within a community of supporters, your celebration should also be communal.

With each passing year, you know your heart better. Now you can incorporate that wisdom into activities that fill your life with purpose, meaning and joy!

Creating Your Birthday Palooza

My birthday celebration takes up an entire month and is affectionately known as Keshapolooza. I encourage you to make your own personal birthdaypalooza. It may be a day, week, month, or even a year for special milestones. Regardless of the length of time, it should be a celebration of your life’s purpose and contribution.

Here are some questions to consider to help you plan your own birthday Palooza:

  1. What activities bring you joy?

Joy is an amazing emotion in that it feeds off itself into expanding circles of joy. Regardless of what they are, joyful activities will shape your bio-cognitive functioning. For a better understanding of how your emotions influence your health, read my article on natural boosters of your immune system. The experience of joy also improves your general sense of well-being. Thus, it changes how you experience other areas of your life.

2. What images symbolize your life’s purpose?

Living a life of purpose is critical for your happiness. Individuals who have a clear sense of meaning and purpose in their life are happier, healthier, and live more productive lives. While most people are clear on the importance of life purpose, they remain confused about how to identify it for themselves.

If you are looking to gain clarity on your life purpose, sign up for my free life planning toolkit. This resource will guide you step by step in identifying your life purpose. You will then use that purpose to craft your personal mission statement and vision statement for your life. These resources serve as guideposts in decision-making about your time, energy, and resources. They also inform the imagery and symbolism of your birthdaypalooza. Because, the symbols of your birthday celebration are powerful affirmations of your life purpose.

3. On the best day you can imagine, what are you doing? Who are you with?

The answer to these questions will give you a concrete lists of people and activities to include in your birthday celebration. You may not be able to do all these activities, or include all these people. But this will serve as your initial brainstorm planning list.

Be as creative as possible in thinking about how to include this list in your celebration. If an activity you dream about doing is climbing Mt. Everest, perhaps you can include indoor rock climbing or a local hick as part of your celebration. Or perhaps you can include images of Mt. Everest in your celebration.

There may be people on your list of ideal birthday celebrants who live far away or are no longer living. Think creatively about how you can connect to that person or your memories of that person across the distance. Remember, this is your celebration. Whatever activities evoke personal connections for you are ones that you want to include. This reminds you that you are not alone and allows you to experience the joys of life with your community. Such social connection is crucial for happiness, health, and longevity.

4. What foods or tastes bring you pleasure?

Food is a sensory pleasure that connects us to feelings of satisfaction and well-being. The strong connection between food and emotions is where the “emotional eating” ritual begins. Except now you are not using food to escape painful feelings. Rather than mindless eating, you intentionally savor the food and all the other sensory aspects of your celebration. This practice of mindfulness intensifies the joy and pleasure of the experience.

5. What music/sounds immediately transport you to a happy place? A peaceful place?

Music has been described as the “universal language” because of it’s ability to communicate directly to our souls. With our without words, music moves us. Music is highly personalized. What moves us may not have the same effect on others.

For your birthday celebration, identify a piece of music that is particularly moving for you. Make sure that this music inspires you and reminds you of your life purpose. This will be your “theme song.” Every great movie (and great hero) needs a theme song and so do you. You should play your theme song frequently throughout the day, throughout your birthday celebration, and throughout the year. Play it when you are feeling happy, depressed, confused, angry, ect. Play it whenever you need reminding of your purpose and inspired into action. You may need different theme songs for different phases of your life. I change my theme songs annually.

6. What have you learned about your heart this year? How would you like to apply or/ expand this insight in your upcoming year?

Remember that your birthday celebration is a way of tracking and celebrating your self-discovery process. Be as specific as possible about what you have learned about yourself and about life in this past year. Each birthday is a sort of graduation celebration. You want to be clear on what you have accomplished thus far. We recognize that life is a journey. Therefor we can look forward with anticipation to the upcoming year(s) and all these wonderful gifts we will discover and experience in the next leg of our journey.

Document Your Growth

Write all your answers to the questions above in your birthdaypalooza journal. These will become the seeds of your creative brainstorming about how best to honor your life journey this year. The form of your birthday palooza will change with each year, but it should always be a “full-sensory” event, including sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and movements that bring you joy and help you to connect with your life’s purpose. The meanings of these objects and activities do not need to be obvious, only significant to you. You may decide to consult books about color therapy or aromatherapy in your selection of specific images and smells, or you may choose to go with what you know at your gut level moves you. This is your personalized holiday and today you can have it your way!.

I’d love to hear about your birthday palooza and join in your celebration. Please feel free to share photos, cards, or notes about your process. You can tweet photos and descriptions of your birthday experiences to me and our community @coachkesha #birthdaypalooza. Your celebration is not selfish or self-centered. It is a public recognition that you are a unique creation and that your life matters. This is true for you and for everyone else who shares this planet with us. Honoring yourself gives others permission to do the same.

Honor: Your Gateway to Health & Happiness

honor yourself for health and happiness

“Health is guilt-free abundance.” Dr. Mario Martinez

You’ve been selected to have dinner with a very special person. This person is worthy of tremendous honor and respect. She is amazingly talented and an important contributor to our world. She is beautiful, both inside and out.  How do you feel about this dinner? How will you behave? What will you say?

What if I told you that you will eat with this person every night? What if I told you that you have already eaten with her every night because that person is you?

Are you surprised? This is not a silly trick, it is absolutely true. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful person, worthy of great honor. Yet, many people ignore, disbelieve, or misunderstand this truth.

My goal is to remind you of the importance of honoring yourself. Honoring yourself is not arrogance and does not make you an egomaniac. Honoring yourself is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. Moreover, honoring yourself is critical for your physical and mental health.

What Does It Mean To Honor Yourself?

First, honoring yourself means recognizing your worth and committing to meeting your own needs. There is a feedback loop between you and others. As you recognize that you are worthy of great care, you can be fully present in taking care of others and yourself. As you do, you are demonstrating a model of self-care for those you love as well.

Caring for yourself is not selfish and it is not mutually exclusive with caring for others. Rather, self-love is an integral aspect of loving others. They are two sides of the same coin. The entire moral code of Christianity is summarized in the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that this moral commandment reflects a commitment to self-love and honor.

If you do not love yourself, what kind of love can you show for your neighbor? If you only love yourself, what kind of neighbor will you be? Self love that extends to others. Most importantly, healthy relationships, healthy communities, healthy societies are based on balanced expression of love.

Therefor, honor is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. People who honor themselves are healthier mentally and physically. They are more likely to be compassionate towards others. They are more socially responsible. In general, people who honor themselves are happier, healthier people.

The Destructive Power of Shame

In contrast to honor, shame reflects an understanding of the self as unworthy. Shame reflects a lack of honor, compassion, and respect for the self. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt suggest negative feelings about problematic behavior. Shame suggests negative feelings about oneself. Thus, shame is more globalized and not limited to specific behaviors.

Because guilt affirms your core value system, it is consistent with honoring yourself. It encourages you to make amends to repair the damage caused by violating your values. Guilt leads to positive behavioral outcomes and is considered a pro-social behavior. But, shame often leads to more destructive behavior directed against oneself and others. Prof. June P. Tangney, a leading expert in the study of shame and a professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:

“Guilt is a useful emotion, It pushes people to repair the harm they did….But feelings of shame about oneself seem to motivate people more to want to hide, escape, deny or a lot of times to blame other people.”

In her research study published in the Journal Psychological Science, Dr. Tangney found that prisons who felt guilty were less likely to break the law again. Their guilt led them to refrain from future illegal behavior. This outcome was not seen in individuals returning from prison who did not show the evidence of guilt.

In another study of children, adolescents and adults, Dr. Tangney found a clear difference in the outcomes of guilt as compared to  shame. Guilt led to constructive behaviors and shame led to destructive behaviors. Shame lead to anger, aggression (direct and indirect), self-hostility, and negative long-term consequences.

Although shame is clearly linked to a host of negative mental health outcomes, the damage does not stop there. Shame also damages our physical health. Subjects asked to write for 15 minutes on a shameful experience, showed physical inflammation. The researchers concluded that shame increased the inflammatory response of their immune system.

Honor Yourself with Health and Happiness

We know that shame is damaging to our physical and mental health. Yet, shame also damages our relationships with others and our relationship to ourselves. Shame is a manifestation of devaluing and disrespect for the self. Learning to honor the self is an antidote for shame. Honoring yourself promotes healing, vitality, and happiness.

Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that positive emotional states improve our physical and mental health. The emotional states that have the greatest impact on our well-being are love, commitment, and loyalty. Dr. Martinez refers to these emotional states as “healing fields”. He teaches individuals how to cultivate these healing fields and promote optimum health.

Honor is an important healing field because it communicates love and respect for the self. Because our immune system operates according to a moral code, honor enhances the functioning of our immune system. Expressions of fear-based bio-emotional states produce visible damage in our physical bodies. Expressions of love-based bio-emotional states promote visible healing and regeneration in our bodies.

This relationship between honor, self-love, and physical healing is documented in the medical research by Dr. George F. Solomon. Dr. Solomon revealed that women who expressed righteous anger toward their abuser were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the presence of a genetic marker. The anger these women expressed was a logical and appropriate response to the violation of someone they loved and valued (themselves). Those women who were not able to connect with this righteous anger were more likely to develop a chronic illness. Thus, there seems to be a connection between protecting yourself emotionally and physically. In both cases the protection comes from a sense of self-love and value. This is an example of the healing field of honor.

When we honor ourselves, we love and protect ourselves on every level. On the cellular level, we promote healthy immune functioning to take care of our cells. When we honor ourselves, we care for our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise. When we honor ourselves, we choose only to be in relationships with people who treat us with love and respect. Dr. Martinez reminds us that:

 “We never abuse what we mindfully love.”

How Can You Practice Honoring Yourself?

Practicing small and large acts of honoring yourself is a way of mindfully loving yourself. It communicates to you and others that you are to be loved and respected. It triggers the holistic healing fields that promote your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.

Here are simple, yet powerful ways, that you can practice showing honor to yourself. Remember, honor is a healing field. As you take part in the activities below, you promote your health and well-being on every level. You can honor yourself by:

  1. Committing to meeting your own needs.

When you honor yourself, you commit to meeting your needs rather than waiting on others or the circumstances of life to do so. Relying on others to meet your needs leads to feelings of disappointment and depletion. It also often creates conflicts in your relationship with others. The other person may feel inadequate or resentful that they are unable to meet your needs.

Yet, relying on yourself to meet your needs leads to feeling energized and confident. It also gives other people permission to do the same. When people see you loving yourself it inspires them to do the same. Charity begins at home. Give yourself the love and care you give to others. You are worthy of love and admiration.

Think about where you are currently feeling emotional dissatisfaction. List three emotional needs that are currently unmet. What would you need to feel satisfied? For each emotional need you identify, think of one way that you can give yourself the gift of meeting that need.

  1. Create rituals of honor for yourself.

Honor rituals are important reminders to yourself that you are worthy of honor. You can create a series of habits that you do on a daily basis. The goal of these actions is to remind yourself that your are someone of tremendous value and worthy of great respect and honor.

For me, the rituals I create around the celebration of my birthday are important ways in which I honor myself. In next week’s blog post, I’ll describe in more detail how you can turn your birthday into a celebration honoring your life.

Yet, there are also simple daily actions you can take to honor yourself. For example, the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” translates to “The light in me salutes the light in you.” What a wonderful daily reminder that you are worthy of honor. It also reminds you that every person you meet throughout the day is worthy of honor as well.  What a double blessing!

Share your success….

I’d love to hear about your large and small honor rituals. Please share below how you remind yourself of your tremendous worth. Let our community know how you practice giving yourself the love and respect you deserve.

You do not have to wait for others to love, care for, and honor you. You can do that for yourself. Commit to honoring yourself by meeting your core emotional needs today.

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.

Change Your Environment, Change Your Life

Woman seeking positive life change.

Your life deserves a perfectly, stunning change for the best.

Your environment has a tremendous impact on how you feel and what you are able to accomplish in your life. Your environment is an external reflection of your internal state. What does your environment say about you? Is your desk cluttered and disorganized? Is your house filled with projects left undone? These environmental cues suggest a difficulty with prioritization and focus. To achieve your goals, you must structure your environment to support your efforts.

Your current environment supports your current life. To create new possibilities for yourself, you must create a new environment. The good news is that you have the ability to recreate your environment. You can choose to create an environment that supports your life purpose and goals. Discover valuable tools to help your restructure your environment to support your goals.

Restructure Your Physical Environment to Support Your Life Goals

There is a strong connection between our external environment and our internal state. Here are some improvements you can make to your physical environment to improve your productivity.

1.     Broadcast your goals. Create a vision board.

Companies spend such much money on marketing and advertising because they know it works. We respond to subtle cues in our environment that bypass our conscious mind. Yet these sub-concious cues still influence our behavior.

You can use this information to your advantage by programming your subconscious mind through visual cues. These visual cues are a constant reminder to focus on your goals. They speak directly to your subconscious and motivate your behavior. Broadcasting intentional messages to yourself, engages your unconscious mind in producing your goals.

A vision board is a great way to communicate your life goals to your subconscious mind. When you have a clear picture of what you want in life, then you can start to attract it. A vision board is a collection of images, words and photos that represent the things you want to have, be, or do in life.

If you don’t already have a vision board, create one immediately. It’s quite simple. Grab a poster board, glue, pictures, old magazines, cut-out pictures, drawings, writing, and any arts & craft supplies you enjoy. Paste them to your board in any order that is appealing to you. It’s fun to do this activity with friends, so invite a few over and create your vision boards together.

Once you have your vision board, make sure to prominently display it where you will see it often. I display my vision board on my bedroom wall. It is the first thing that I see in the morning and the last thing that I see at night. When these images enter your mind regularly, you’ll be amazed how quickly they will become your reality. Our dreams and goals change often, so update your board often!

2.     Breathe life into your environment. Add plants.

Affirming our connection to nature is an easy way to improve our health, well-being, and productivity. As I “city girl” , I enjoy the fast-paced energy of densely packed streets with tall concrete buildings. Yet, I know that we all need some greenery to promote reconnection and restoration.

The physical and emotional benefits of spending time in nature are well documented. In my article on sensory walks, I review some of the cutting edge research on nature’s impact on our health. Spending time in nature increases our immune functioning, productivity, and creativity. You can bring these benefits into your home by adding potted plants to your home and office spaces.

Make life easier for yourself, add greenery to your work environment and watch your performance improve.

Besides providing us with clean, fresh air, potted plants also help us to be more motivated and productive. Research in the UK and Netherlands showed that adding potted plants to offices increased workers’ productivity by fifteen percent. Other research shows that working around potted plants helps to improve concentration and memory by twenty percent.  Thus, adding potted plants to your regular working locations improves the quantity and quality of your work. Also, consider working outside in nature as much as possible.

 

3.     Give your mind (and your eyes) a place to rest. Clean your desktop.

Can clearing off your desk, really clear your mind? Yes. My mind can not rest when I am bombarded with all the visual reminders of everything that need to be completed. Productivity author and coach, David Allen refers to these as “open loops” and suggests that they are major source of stress in our life.

An open loop is “anything pulling at your attention that doesn’t belong where it is, the way it is”. This could be an unfinished craft project covering the dining room table. It could be a pile of papers on the desk because they are important and you don’t want to forget. Stress comes from having too many of these open loops and not having an effective system to capture and manage them. Clutter is a crude way of reminding ourselves because we don’t have an effective system that we trust.

The secret to managing our energy and productivity is to eradicate the unfinished loops. We either commit to completing the task right then or we plan a time when we will complete the task. This allows us to put the visual reminder away and removes the stress and energy drain. If you need help creating an effective system of capturing and planning all the personal and work tasks you have, I recommend reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. It’s a comprehensive system that will allow your mind to rest because you now can manage all your necessary tasks. It will also help you make and keep your environment clutter free.

Change Your Human Environment

Environment is not limited to our physical environment. It also includes our human environment, the people we interact with on a regular basis as well. Your human environment plays a huge role in your behavior and expectations for yourself.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with. Our weight is the average of these five close friends. Our level of happiness is the average o these five close friends. Daniel Goleman’s book Social Intelligence presents research documenting people’s influence on us. The people we are emotionally closest to and interact with on a regular basis have a tremendous impact on our neurological wiring and health.

Consider your current human environment and assess how well it supports your life purpose and goals?

Here are two simple steps you can take to improve your human environment.

 

Expand your circle. Invite a new person to lunch

One easy way to improve your life, is to become closer to people who reflect the kind of life you want to live. If you value travel and see yourself traveling all over the world, you need friends with an active passport as well. They will reinforce and support your goal of international travel.

As you mature, you will develop new goals and dreams for yourself. You may notice that some of those values and habits are not in your current circle of friends. By being open to making new friends, you increase your stream of new information and habits.

Of course, you need to be selective of who you invite into your friendship circle. Make sure they are congruent with your life purpose and core values. But, they do not need to be like your current group of friends. In fact, they may be quite different. This is great because interacting with them will allow you to develop new parts of yourself and see yourself in new ways.

Upgrade your conversations. Ask new questions.

Improving your human environment does not mean totally replacing the current people you spend time with. You can improve the quality of your current relationships by upgrading the quality of your conversations.

What do you and your friends spend most of your time talking about? Your problems? Other people? Celebrities? It’s fine to spend some time discussing these topics, but they shouldn’t be the mainstay of your conversations. Remember, what you focus on gets magnified.

Reshape your human environment to better support your dreams, by changing your conversations with close friends and family. Use these times to talk about your life purpose and how you are putting that into action in your daily life. Ask them about their goals and how they are fulfilling their life purpose. Ask how you might be able to support them in the process.

The quality of your conversations determines the quality of your relationships. By upgrading your conversations with your close friends and family, it’s easier for you (and them) to take action on your life goals.

How are you going to restructure your environment to support your dreams? Share your thoughts below as well as other strategies that have worked for you. Support yourself and your dreams today!

 

Are You Caught in the Trap of Perfectionism?

Right now is where your tomorrows are built. Let go of perfectionism and embrace your future.

Right now is where your tomorrows are built. Let go of perfectionism and embrace your future.

Is perfectionism robbing you of your dreams? Do you have a dream of doing something that you you have yet to begin?  Are you waiting for the perfect opportunity to pursue your dream? Are you waiting for your skills, ability, and confidence to be at 100% before you begin?

 

Waiting on perfection gives you 100% certainty that you will never achieve your goal. Here, I share some helpful techniques to free you and your dreams from the trap of perfectionism.

Now is the perfect time to pursue your dream

 

You can’t wait for change to happen. You must get involved in continuous intentional action if you want to produce the change you seek. Stop waiting on your ship to come. Stop waiting to hit the lottery. Stop waiting for the approval of others. Stop waiting to be a certain age or a certain size before you go after your dreams. Stop waiting.

 

You are the perfect person for this task.

These dreams were invested in you because you have the ability to bring them into fruition. You don’t need the approval of others. You don’t have to wait for them to see or catch your vision. It is not their vision and they might never see it until you bring it into reality.

It is your responsibility to act on your dreams, no one else’s. You can use the support of others, but you do not need their permission. This is your life and it will produce what you believe about yourself and your world.

You are a vessel for a dream. It lives in you. It shines through your eyes. You are responsible for letting it out.

 

Perfectionism does not produce dreams, but continual action does.

There are so many people waiting for the “right time” to make a change. Basically, they are waiting for a time when they think they can make the change comfortably. When my kids are older…when I have more money….when I retire.

Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. All we have is today. Today is your opportunity to begin investing in your dreams. Today is your chance to use your gifts to operate in your life purpose.

You can not change the past and you do not know your future. Yet, if you fully use the opportunities you have available to you in the present, you will experience happiness and meaning today.

You can create a series of meaningful and happy days which build a life of meaning, purpose, and joy. But you do not start building that life tomorrow, you begin now.  The present is the greatest gift you will ever receive, accept it with gratitude and use it wisely.

 

Faith is more valuable than perfectionism.

Perfection demands that we see and know all the details of how we will accomplish our goals before we are willing to begin. Faith means being clear on our purpose and trusting that we will receive all we need as we embark on the journey.

All stories of epic journeys show the hero beginning the journey without the necessary ingredients to complete the quest. Yet the hero is clear on the mission and determined to fulfill it.  Through the adventure, the hero meets people, gains the tools and knowledge needed to accomplish the goal. These resources are acquired in the process of the adventure, not before.

You are the hero of your own story. There is a quest that is specifically charged to you. Your quest is the substance of your dreams. You do not have all the resources you need now to complete the quest, but you will gain them through the journey. That is what makes it an epic story.

You will be so much stronger, wiser, better as a result of your journey. But you can not wait until you are stronger, wiser, better, to begin. You must start now.

Now is the perfect time to begin the journey. You are the perfect person to complete the journey. No matter how messed up your life looks like now, you are the perfect hero.

Heroes are not without flaws or challenges. In fact, it’s their flaws and challenges that make for a compelling story. These are the elements of tension in the story that make it exciting to read. These are the qualities that endear us to our heroes. It allows us to rejoice so enthusiastically when our hero wins.

Own your hero story. Do not allow the challenges of your current situation to convince you that you are not the person or that this is not the time. These current challenges will make the story of your journey exciting and inspirational to others when they hear it. We will all rejoice together as you complete your epic quest.

Begin Your Hero Journey Today

 

  1. Write down one thing you can do today to actively support your dreams.

There is always something that can be done to move you closer to your dreams. Instead of waiting, commit to starting now. What can you do today that is a tangible investment in accomplishing your dream?

If your dream is starting your own business, that one step could be buying a book on entrepreneurship. Or it could be committing to saving 20% of your income to fund your business. It could also be downloading sample business plans for your industry. You get the point. Write it down and then do it.

  1. Bootstrap your dream.

As you put your dreams into motion, ask yourself how you can expand on the activity you’ve already done. Continually ask yourself, “what’s next?”

You do not have to have the entire plan laid out before you begin. As you start acting on your dreams, your needs and your opportunities will become more clear. Develop a regular habit of staying engaged in daily action toward your dreams.

Each day is an opportunity to steer yourself in the direction of your goal. To come closer and closer to the desires of your heart.

Think of your activity as small, masterful bootstrapping. You are in continual movement toward your goal. As you get closer, the next steps will become clearer.

I want you to build such momentum for your dream that when opportunity comes, you are already running to meet it.

It is completely possible for one small spark of action done on one completely ordinary day to totally alter the shape of everything that follows. Take advantage of this possibility for your life. Commit to daily action combined with the intention of achieving your dream. If you commit to building this daily momentum, your dream can become your life!

I wish you great success in your hero’s journey. I know that you are able to complete your task if you are willing to begin and to maintain your daily action.

If you would like additional support if helping you create the life of your dreams, please check out the resources available on my website and YouTube channel .

You have the ability to make your tomorrow happy; start today!

Saying No: the secret to creating balance in your life and work

Saying No to create life balance

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”-Warren Buffet

People who are successful in life and their careers have mastered the skill of saying no. They don’t say no to everything. Instead, they say no to people, projects, and activities that are in not line with their core values and life purpose. In this article I share how this simple word can help you create balance in your life and work. I also share two easy techniques to help you develop the habit of saying no to everything that is not in line with your core values and purpose.

Early in my career as a college professor, I was overwhelmed with service obligations. I was new on campus and everyone wanted to take advantage of my new energy and areas of expertise. They frequently invited me to participate in their projects, classes, and committees. Additionally, the fact that I was also one of a handful of black faculty on campus meant that I was the first person to come to mind for any request related to diversity.

Service is my way of life. I am always looking for ways that I can add value to others through my unique gifts and talents. I was also eager to get to know and work collaboratively with my new students, colleagues, and administrators. But the expansiveness of my service and teaching obligations made it difficult for me to find time for my research, my family, and my other life priorities.

I quickly learned that I needed to perfect the art of saying no if I was going to be able to thrive in this career and in all the other areas of my life.

Developing the habit of saying no to most request was difficult for me and is challenging for many of the women I work with. Many of us pride ourselves on being helpful to others. We are also very concerned about hurting others feelings or disappointing them. However, once you fully understand the value of saying no, it becomes clear that this is a loving and compassionate act for you and others.

 

How Saying No Creates Life Balance and Success

Saying no creates space for us to do activities we love

By saying no to most request, we protect our time and energy.  This enables us to  say “yes” to things in line with our core values and life purpose.

We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Spending time on a non-priority project provides less time for our high priority projects. Many of us are overwhelmed because we are doing too many activities. When something that we really want to do comes along, we add it to the list because it’s too great to pass up. But adding to a crammed schedule means that we will not have the focus and energy to do our best in this activity. We may not even enjoy it as much because we’re exhausted from all the other activities jammed into the day.

Saying no helps us to avoid disappointing others with less than our best

Often times we don’t want to say no because we don’t want to disappoint the person making the request. Just imagine how disappointed they will be when you don’t complete the job. What about when you don’t do your best work because it’s not high on your internal priorities?

People make requests of us because they value our talents and competencies. They expect us to bring our best game to the requested project. That’s difficult to do when it’s not something that we value. This is what often leads to “forgetting” to do an activity or missing a deadline on a project. It may seem as if we are disorganized or too busy. But in fact, we are unwilling to prioritize that activity given our limited resources. If we communicated this to the person at the time of the request, they could have found someone else who could focus on the activity. But, now they are doubly angry. First, because their activity didn’t go off as envisioned. Second, because they believe that you are the reason that it didn’t.

It is disingenuous to accept a project that is not in line with our purpose and values because we can not do our best work. It’s better to say “no” upfront. We will experience a smaller level of disappointment compared to the disappointment later in the process when we haven’t performed our best.

Saying no helps us not be resentful of others

Resentment occurs when we feel out of control. Saying no helps us to regain control of our life choices. This prevents our growing resentment of others for the choices we make.

Accepting projects based on other people’s values and priorities creates resentment. We act as if they “made” us do something. This resentment is compounded if we think that they are not grateful for our “sacrifice”.

When you do things because they are in line with your purpose and values, you’re not disturbed by the outcome.

If the outcome is different than you expected, or if others don’t appreciate it, you still believe it’s valuable. It’s always nice to have your work valued and appreciated. But when you work on things that you value, it is already valued and appreciated!

Saying no helps us to do our best work

We do our best work when we are focusing on projects and activities in line with our core values and life purpose. This is how we get in the flow. In flow, we are fully engrossed in a activity that we find intrinsically meaningful. As such, we are willing to go the extra mile to achieve optimal results.

Also, we gain energy when we work on activities in line with our purpose. This energy enables us to remain engaged in action. It also provides us with creative insight that isn’t available to people with more peripheral interest.

Have you found that when others tire and shut down, you can sustain your engagement?  Are you able to see possibilities and opportunities more clearly than others? This resilience and problem solving ability comes from your sincere passion and curiosity. It is easy to do your best at things in line with your purpose. Your passion gives you the curiosity, insight, and motivation needed to excel.

Reflecting upon how you feel after an activity is an indicator of its relationship to your purpose and values. If you feel physically tired but emotionally energized, you are likely doing something in line with your purpose. If you feel drained and depleted, you’re probably not working within your purpose.

While the work may not be easy; it is easy to excel at activities in line with your purpose.

You owe it to yourself, and others, to only accept projects that bring out your best. This is where you can make your greatest contribution.

Strategies to Help You Create Life Balance and Success by Saying No

You understand why it’s critical to say no on a regular basis.  Now let’s consider how you are going to build that habit into your life. Having “yes” as our default position has become a habit for many of us. That bad habit is not going to change without intentional intervention.

I’ve listed two proven strategies to help you address your habitual yes. These techniques will shift your default response from “yes ” to “no to anything that is not in line with my purpose and core values”.

  1. Take a “yes” fast.

Fasting means to refrain from food or activities for a specific period of time. The purpose of the fast is break existing habits. It is also intended to promote reflection and introspection.

Taking a yes fast means that you will say “no” to all requests of you for a specific period of time. That period may be a month or a year. I suggest at least a month so that you can say “no” long enough for it to become your new default. It will also give you enough time to observe the consequences of saying no. This will help you become more comfortable with the new habit.

At first saying no may feel very uncomfortable and others may exert even more pressure on you. This is especially true if you’ve developed a habit for saying yes. But, staying the course will allow you to observe that others’ can adjust and the world will go on. Although you may believe (or people may suggest to you) that you are the only one who can do this activity.

Saying no allows you to see that other people really can step up and do the activity. Or if the activity doesn’t occur, perhaps that’s fine as well. Perhaps that was not the best way to meet the need/goal anyway.

This will be a scary experience in the beginning.

Developing a habit of saying no requires both faith and courage.

Faith to believe that you really are meant to do those things in line with your life purpose and core values. Courage to protect the space to do that. Your faith and courage will reward you with increased time and energy. This reclaimed time and energy can be invested developing yourself and your purpose.

If the thought of saying no to absolutely everything is too scary for you, set a narrow parameter. Your parameter should require you to say no to 90% of new requests but allows a small fraction to still get a yes.

After my early years of teaching, I realized I needed to change from my default yes. But, I felt unprepared to go 100% cold turkey no. After discussing this with my trusted friends and mentors, I decided to say no for an entire year to any request that would take more than two hours of my time. The two-hour time limit included the time to prepare and participate in the activity. This was a very difficult thing for me to do. I called my closest friends on a weekly basis with all the reasons why I should make exceptions to my rule. Thankfully, I have great friends who continued to remind me of my commitment and why it was important.

With the help of my support team, I was able to stay the course. By the end of the year, my default was no longer “yes”. I was able to experience the value added to my life of saying no to the many “good, but not purpose-driven” requests made of my time.

  1. Establish a “No Committee”

Another option to help you move from a default of yes is to establish a No Committee. The No Committee takes the stress away from you of deciding whether to say no.

You select close friends and family members that know you, your work, and your life well. You then explain to them your intention of saying no to non-purpose driven activities. Clearly articulate to the No Committee your life purpose and core values. This will become their guide for all their decisions.  Inform them that you commit to abiding by the decisions of the committee.

Because the committee is made up of people who love you (but are not you) they can evaluate the request with emotional distance and clarity. They agree to compare the request to your established priorities and core values. Then make their decision based whether the request is line with your purpose.

The No Committee must have an odd number so that there is never a tie. The committee must agree to respond with a quick turn-around to any request that you pass along to them. I’ve served on a No Committee for years. I have found it a useful and effective way to support my loved ones in achieving more balance in life and work.

Your Balanced Life

Your balanced life can begin today! It requires you to prioritize activities related to your purpose and core values. Say no to everything else! You’ll be amazed at how you can increase your impact on the world and your own happiness. If you’d like other resources to help you better manage your time and balance your energy, check out my YouTube videos on time management and emotion management.

Share you thoughts on effective strategies to create balance in your life. Let’s keep the wisdom flowing! Comment below.

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