How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

We’ve all experienced those situations where something is said that feels out of turn and borders on being offensive. The derogatory comments, aggressive taunts, hurtful judgments and criticisms can stun us like a deer in the headlights. That split-second we could be assertive and stand up for ourselves passes all too quickly, and we kick ourselves afterward for that witty rebuttal that only comes well after the event has passed. Doh!

Left for too long, those seemingly minor irritations can compound to significantly damage your self-esteem and self-worth. You convince yourself ignoring the taunts or insulting one-liners your boss makes at your expense is being professional and resilient. You might even try to justify the behavior to say “She was only joking and didn’t mean it”, “You say to yourself: “I can handle him” but then you start experiencing and witnessing that behavior in other areas of your life.

That unresolved injustice will continue to fester. The long-term damage can lead to emotional outbursts, rash decisions and even anxiety and depression.

There are right and wrong ways to step up to the plate and bat for yourself. Being assertive boils down to learning to manage your energy, plan your approach and craft your message in a way that maximizes potential for the other person, to be open to receiving and accepting it.

You will not just feel stronger. You’ll become stronger with a new confidence that will flourish throughout all areas of your life. Use these processes and steps and you’ll learn the smart way to assert yourself.

1. Acknowledge the Injustice and Refrain from Reacting

Acknowledge what was said or done. Make it known you noticed that underhanded innuendo by pausing and directing your attention to it.

By pausing and not reacting, you immediately demonstrate you believe what you just witnessed is unjust or underhanded. Your non-verbal body language alone can be highly assertive in itself to convey a message stronger than words can convey.

If you are not fully catatonic in shock disbelief, you might calmly state you will revisit what they said, the action they took or the decision they made at another point. And you don’t ask it as a question; you make a statement.

The offending party will realize they can’t simply have their cake and eat it too. The matter is not closed simply because they feel it is.

If you are being aggressively bullied, it can feel impossible to resist caving in. Having two or three statements you replay to each taunt will quickly send the message their persistent attempts to intimidate you will continually hit a roadblock. Examples might be:

  • I am not going to respond right now
  • That’s interesting you said that/did that/decided that
  • I will be revisiting what you said/did

None of these statements are passive-aggressive. They are emotionally neutral statements. You’ve simply commanded respect and attention.

Any dynamic of a power play that your opponent has over you, will have shifted. You have bought yourself time to consider what you want to do next.

2. Pause and Reflect to Develop Clarity on What You Want to Be Assertive About and For

When you’re in shock, it’s unlikely your brain will have the capacity to respond with the speedy comeback you swore you would retort with the last time you heard that snide remark.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg describes how we need to give ourselves space to come to terms with what we experienced, and how we experienced it before being able to consider what action to take next:

As the shock intensity subsides after the initial 90 seconds of the emotional gut-punch, it’s time to go inward to ask yourself:

  • What unpleasant feelings have been triggered for me?
  • What injustice do I feel took place here and why does this matter so much to me?
  • What values, ethics and morals do I have that are being violated here?
  • What should/should not have occurred?

Remember that the injustice you observe and experience is coming from your perspective and the framework through which you see the world.

The impact of your assertive action steps from here will need to include being able to express your viewpoint. You’ll need to be able to express why you don’t agree with the apparent nepotistic or sexist methods of recruiting staff for the business.

Get clear on your values. It’s crucial you understand within yourself first, the nature and reason behind the battle you choose to fight.

3. Seek to Understand First Before Being Understood

Asking yourself what drives the other person to behave and communicate in ways you feel create harm can greatly help to reduce your bubbling cauldron of anger, fury and humiliation to a gentler simmer.

Stepping into the other person’s perspective is not about dismissing your feelings or compromising your values and principles. It helps you to communicate in a language the other person will understand.

Your efforts to be assertive will have far greater impact when you actively consider what might be going on for them. The father who wishes to gift the majority of his inheritance to the sons and not the daughters may not necessarily be coming from an attitude of blindly favoring one gender. He may be the product of multiple generations who saw the family business’ continued success is passed through the male bloodline, and so he felt it right to follow suit.

You may not agree with this perspective. However, if that is an explanation, you need to find a way to be open to considering it. Consider also what could be going on for them and invite them to share their position. You’ll quickly diffuse aggressive energy or resistance between you and create the safe space essential for you to assertively exchange your points of view and differences.

Never invalidate the other person’s point of view even if it does not make sense to you. Once you do, you’re on a slippery slope back to the bottom where you started. Climbing back up again will be at least twice as hard.

4. Agree to Disagree as Being Assertive Is About Boundary Setting, Not Winning

Don’t make the error of thinking effective assertiveness means convincing and winning over others to adopt your values and point of view. If you do, expect to be met with resistance. You also risk becoming a bully yourself!

The smarter approach involves having a genuine willingness to invite and appreciate others’ perspectives. It’s highly likely you may all have clashing values in some way or another, that none of you are willing to concede.

Recognizing and appreciating these differences helps to even the playing ground. It reveals that even though you disagree, you have the wisdom to still show respect.

Part of being assertive is then stating your boundaries and clearly illustrating the line you do not want the other parties to cross. Be prepared that your reveal needs to be free of ambiguity. Clear examples of what is and isn’t permissible for you, need to be stored up your sleeve.

5. Plan Your Response and Construct Your Argument Well

Know that sometimes you don’t need to go to the nth degree to explain and justify your assertions. Doing so can quickly lose you valuable alliances.

The fast-track to becoming the proverbial thorn in everyone’s side is to dampen the air with your tirades of self-righteousness.

Subtlety first

Asserting yourself the smart way involves assessing how subtle or explicit your communication needs to be.

A simple “that comment is not ok with me” or “I don’t appreciate what you said” might be enough to prod and communicate your distaste to the offending party and gain the change in their behavior you desire.

Choose your timing wisely

The timing of your response also needs to be a good fit between what you works for you and also what timing will have the most beneficial impact upon the other party/ies.

We’ve all left it too long afterward to respond when everyone has forgotten what actually happened, yet the scar is burnt in your memory as if it happened earlier that morning. Don’t leave it too long to respond.

Examples and stories give a stronger, clearer message

Also, be prepared to have examples which support your argument. Simply stating you deserve a pay-rise ‘just because’ is unlikely to be met with an open-mind or willing consideration.

When you demonstrate and show cases of your performing beyond role description, you show clear credibility you deserve to be considered. Where possible, use facts and figures that don’t lie.

Avoid placing blame

As soon as you use the words: “You did this to me”, “It’s your fault” “You made me feel…” you deflate the willingness of your offender to hear your case.

You position the other party to become defensive to attack because that is what you are doing when you use such language; you’re attacking.

Stick with the facts and describe the emotional and impact upon you with diplomacy

Describe factually what you believe happened, how you felt as a result, why you feel what happened was an injustice and then state the change you wish to experience.

If you can find a way to explain, there are also benefits to all parties with these changes; you have a far greater likelihood of your assertions being well-received and adjustments occurring from your action of standing up for yourself.

6. Never Feel Obliged to Heed Attempts at Invalidating Your Experience

Despite being told “you’re taking things out of context” or “you need to lighten up and accept I was just joking”, never forget that your experience is your experience. What you felt and how you were affected, matters. You have every right to dissent to experiencing the same impact again.

For difficult, arrogant and bolder, toxic personalities, beware also the catastrophic dangers of being gaslighted . Trying to assert your views, opinions and boundaries with a narcissistic personality type where gaslighting is a common feature, is virtually pointless.

When standing up for yourself starts being repeatedly met with “you’re the one with the problem. You really are the one who needs help”, get outside support. Talk to friends who can be objective, non-judgmental and supportive and strongly consider consulting a mental health professional. Such narcissistic traits can inflict long-term psychological damage.

Very little part of your assertive communication will be met with empathy. If it is, it’s likely to be calculated and endure for only a short period before the other party returns to considering things only from their own perspective.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, continuing varied efforts to assert your position with such individuals from different angles and perspectives is probably a worthless exercise.((Dr. Ramani Durvasula: The 4 Types of Narcissism You Need To Know)) Be careful.

7. Manage and Practice the Energy of Your Assertive Exchange

Beware of coming across aggressively and defensively. Unless you’ve got the stamina to battle it out to the death, fighting fire with fire is unlikely to yield a workable resolve.

Whilst all parties are operating in attack and defense mode, the fences are up and the swords are out, no party will be receptive to any suggestions.

Fighting is futile, let alone an exercise wasting energy that could be harnessed, transformed and used more wisely to hold a healthier change.

Before your opportunity presents to make your case, practice being calm. Practice feeling your energy, emotional space and mental space being controlled. Rehearse your words meaningfully conveying your message with poise, clarity and passion.

Imagine and practice the body language and voice tone. Your body and neural pathways will develop a blueprint for your successfully delivering your message when you need to do so for real.

8. Practice Being More Transparent and Authentic

Well-renowned social researcher Brené Brown explains how facing and admitting vulnerabilities and insecurities is actually a demonstration of courage:

As you become more confident, to be honest with yourself, you have a better capacity to transfer that confidence into your normal exchanges with people.

The flow-on effect is you then becoming increasingly confident to stand your ground with issues that rattle your cage.

Final Thoughts

You can be assertive without being rude or hurting your relationships.

Next time when you want to stand up for yourself, take my advice and make use of the above essential ingredients to become an unstoppable force.

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How to Find Your Blind Spots in Life and Turn Them Into Strengths

In the back of your retina in each eye, there is a small surface area which contains no photoreceptor nerve cells. These cells receive light signals that your brain transmutes into images so can make sense of the world around you. However, there is a tiny area at the back of your retina surrounding your optic nerve completely void of these photoreceptors: your blind spot.

Your brain cleverly assesses the light signals coming in from around the blind spot and projects similar information in place of it, so you get a full image of what you’re focusing on. Just as your eyes have these permanent blind spots, you also have blind spots throughout your life.

For example, despite being into your third marriage, arguments tend to start around the same issues. Burnout has set in at your last three jobs and it’s only when every ounce of confidence, dignity and self-worth has been torn to shreds that you’ve resigned.

Unlike the permanent blind spot in your eyes, blind spots in your life are malleable to resolve. So how to find your blind spot?

Your growing deeper awareness of them only spawns greater self-mastery to transform those blind spot into new strengths. As you continue to grow, you’ll uncover new blind spots. With more progress at discovering them and transforming them into new superpowers, you’ll soon be welcoming them with open arms!

1. Discover potential blind spots by reviewing your wheel of life.

It’s virtually impossible to achieve change without first having clarity on where making changes will most help you. You need to learn how to discover your blind spots. But how can you center your focus on something you can’t see?

If you have ever worked with a life coach, completing an introductory Wheel of Life((Mind Tools: The Wheel of Life®)) review will be familiar to you.

If you haven’t, the good news is you don’t need to! By simply putting pen to paper, you can create and review your own Wheel of Life like the one below:

First, allocate a life category to each main segment. Examples might be:

  • Money or finances
  • Career or work
  • Spiritual and personal growth or religion
  • Intimate relationships (i.e. significant other, partner or spouse)
  • Family relationships and social friendships
  • Recreation, leisure activities and hobbies; and
  • Health, physical and mental
  • Another way you categorize a significant area of your life.

Think about what enjoyment and fulfillment you currently experience in each area. Take your time reflecting on each in depth. Also, think about the things you don’t experience fulfillment on. Jot these down also. We need to look at both sides of the equation.

Noting that each section has a rating scale from 0 to 10 (0 being the least and 10 being the most) ask yourself the following two questions whilst.

  • a) What level of satisfaction do I currently experience?
  • b) What level of satisfaction would I like to experience in the future?

Now, look at your ratings. If you have areas you gave middle-road or good ratings but something inside you is asking you if those ratings are genuine, turn the spotlight here.

Explore further. There’s likely something beneath your immediate consciousness that’s inviting you to probe further. Working with a coach who can probe objectively can be particularly helpful.

Look at those areas you rated low for the first question but gave a higher rating for the second question. The size of the rating gap indicates there are blind spots primed for transformational changes.

Your next stepping stone is setting your priorities for what changes you want and what action steps to start with.

2. Undertake psychometric tests to help you recognize strengths and weaknesses

If trying to randomly brainstorm what possible blinds spots draws a cognitive blank, a structured personal development questionnaire can be a helpful reference to start from.

However, be careful of gravitating toward assessments which merely provide a fluffy summarized classification of your preferences. Certainly don’t take the results of these as gospel, either.

Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Finder (CSF) and the VIA Character Strengths survey are popular examples of tools that can help you explore your strengths. However, there are limits with tools like these.

If you find the CSF reveals your top strengths as creativity, for example, this does not mean you are creative in comparison with other people. For example, there will be reasons (i.e. blind spots) why your handmade Christmas cards are still sitting on your market stall table whilst your competitor’s a few tables down are selling like hotcakes!

As your results are not summarized in comparison with population data, drawing such a conclusion can give you a false sense of your competency.((Harvard Business Review: Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You))

It does, however, mean you are more creative in comparison with the other categories the CSF tool explores. You can still see that there are other skills and characteristics you don’t exercise as much. That in itself highlights features you underplay or under-use. Could improving some of them actually be quite helpful to you down the track?

Regardless of your survey results, always ask yourself the questions against every trait or competency the assessment tool you use, mentions:

  • Does this play out to benefit me? If so, how?
  • How can this also be a hindrance? If so, how?

Your answers to the second questions particularly are going to shed light on your blind spots.

3. Gain feedback from qualified sources and set goals for comebacks from your setbacks

If you’re an employee, feedback from anonymous peer 360° surveys can be particularly helpful here. You’re asking the people you work with how effective you are with behaviors and skills you are required to demonstrate with them in carrying out your role.

As fearful as you could be about learning the opinions of those who work below, beside and above you in your workplace hierarchy, their feedback matters.

On the other hand, feedback from well-meaning friends and family won’t, unless you work with them every day.

Facing hard truths from peer surveys can be nerve-wracking and quickly turn your blue sky thinking to storm clouds. However, thunderstorms don’t last forever. As the saying goes that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, so to does every negative review.

How do you now convert the setbacks to comebacks? Take a growth mindset perspective and consider checking in with your manager or colleagues you trust to brainstorm possibilities of changes.

If you are brave enough, you might even invite suggestions from your colleagues as to what changes they feel you could make. Invite their perspectives. Ask them to point out what you’re not seeing and make them feel safe to do so.

For instance, to transform your weekend market-stall card-making business into a lucrative empire that designs personal stationery for the rich and famous, you will need to flesh out business blind spots. Ask a couple of commercially successful stationers and/or artists to critique your work.

Network with fellow business owners in your industry, seek mentors, attend business improvement workshops and seminars and work with a business coach.

There’ll be countless a-ha moments and the time, expense and heartache your business blind spots could cost you will be cut in half!

4. Work with a coach, mentor or psychologist to uncover limiting biases and prejudices

We all have prejudices and biases, some of them unconscious.((Harvard Business Review: Root Out Bias from Your Decision-Making Process)) We don’t like to admit to having them in the first place but the danger of keeping our head in the sand can cost us dearly in more ways than one.

When hiring staff, we often hire in the likeness of ourselves. You might not realize you’re subconsciously more apt to hire the candidate you find more attractive and bubbly who strokes your ego during the interview. The average-looking, quieter straight-talker whose technical expertise perfectly fits the role has less appeal. Something just feels ‘off’ to you.

That bubbly new hire turns out to get on well with everyone in the office, but nothing actually gets done well if it gets done at all! It’s too late to beg for the second candidate you preferred to come back. They’ve already been hired by your competitor and you’ve heard on the grapevine they’re being groomed already to spearhead a new client project. Ouch!

Here lies the beauty of working with a coach, mentor or psychologist as they have no invested interest in you. Their wisdom and professional training will probe and challenge you to adopt different perspectives, biases and prejudices you cannot currently see. They can see often see how blind spots can affect you before you can recognize the blind spot even exists!

Choose these people wisely. A helpful coach will be one that supports, encourages and prods you when they see you’re turning a blind eye. Your goal is to stretch so working with someone who only cheerleads and sugar-coats your challenges will keep you falling short of improving.

Most of us operate up to 90% of the time by default. We behave and think automatically more often than not without full consciousness and awareness.

Psychologists can teach you techniques to help you review these thought and behavior patterns. Using processes such as motivational interviewing,((UMASS: Motivational Interviewing)) you can gradually learn how to become aware of situations you resist, learn why you experience this and develop actionable goals to dissolve it. You can become empowered to manage your self-mastery.

5. Get away from familiar patterns and actively step out of your comfort zone

You can start by looking at some of your patterns and consider gently tweaking the dynamics.

If you are repeatedly frustrated your partner leaves their dirty clothes on the bedroom floor, yet you always pick them up and launder them, could you be enabling the thing upsetting you to continue? What would happen if you broke your patterned behavior and left them there?

It might grate on you but what if you simply toe-flicked the clothes to a corner instead? Here’s a chance to tweak the status quo. You’re not as much stepping out of your comfort zone as much as a familiar pattern. It just happens that the pattern is one that routinely frustrates you.

If you resent your boss constantly giving you last minute tasks which delay you an extra 20 minutes whilst your colleagues vanish from the office the moment the clock strikes 5:30 pm, how can you tweak the pattern?

It feels good to be reliable but you feel taken for granted. What if you started an evening class which compelled you to leave work at 5:30 pm? Even better, what if you informed your boss earlier in the day you needed to leave at 5:30 pm and would need to do so from now on not because you had a class but just because you believe you deserve to as everyone else does?

That conversation might be fairly uncomfortable if you’re used to saying yes to people and you believe your boss feels entitled to treat you as a slave.

The conversation could also go well. What if your boss was giving you last minute tasks because he or she thought you enjoyed getting those important things done when it was quieter?

You have opportunities to acknowledge your blind spot and convert the undesirable pattern into a new one which works in your favor.

The bottom line

Give yourself your best shot at revealing your blind sports by working to be in a balanced emotional state before you begin any reflection or self-evaluation exercise.

Being at either end of the emotional spectrum will sway your perceptions and render your efforts purposeless. Let any feelings of resistance and uncomfortable emotions be your guide and seek help from outside sources qualified to help you.

Look both ways when crossing the roads in your life and blind spots will soon be a thing of the past. At least, your current ones will be until you discover new ones further along your yellow brick road of life.

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How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected

We have all experienced rejection at some point. It can hurt and cut us deeply. As human beings, we innately want to be loved and accepted. A sense of belonging to a community is one of our fundamental ingredients for survival. We were never meant to live in isolation.

Receiving rejection today is certainly not what it used to be, given how far less connected we are in this digital age of technology.

In the split-second instant we post on social media, we’re unconsciously broadcasting our desire to be seen and to connect. But when that Instagram selfie or Facebook post doesn’t receive the number of likes or comments we thought it might, we feel disappointed, overlooked and left behind.

We then flog ourselves with self-blame, debilitating guilt, over-accountability and hopeless thoughts about the future. Romantic rejections are where we tend to be most vulnerable and left raw to our core. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can recover.

So how to handle rejection? Here are six ways to help you rebalance the washing machine of emotional and mental turmoil you can be thrown into (sometimes without any warning) so that rejection can become one of the most positive life-changing gifts you can receive.

1. Diffuse the fear of being rejected by acknowledging and expecting it can and will hurt

After twenty-five years of marriage and a couple of adult-age children, being told “I don’t love you anymore” would and should feel like a dagger piercing your tender heart. The psychological blow can hurt just as much as the physical pain of a right hook to your jaw or punch to the stomach.

To overcome the sting of rejection, stop trying to avoid feeling that stings. Stop pretending your unaffected if indeed, you are. Acknowledge that the sharp, heavy emotional pain you feel is as valid and real as any physical pain. Trying to sugar coat what you feel and experience will do you far more harm than good.

Listen to the voice inside you that describes the injustice you feel. Give it air time. Allow that voice to talk and lick the emotional wounds.

If you don’t, that emotional energy will continue to tug at you like the child constantly pulling at the mother’s skirt to grab her attention. Listen to the voice’s mix of rage, sadness, loss and loneliness. You will start to feel relief simply by no longer pretending you’re invincible and allowing the flood of your feelings to flow.

2. Physically sever your connection with rumination

If your friends are rolling their eyes and sighing when you describe to them for the fifth time in minute detail the story of how you were unfairly treated in your dream job interview process, it’s time to shift. You’re wasting time and energy – theirs and yours – and stopping yourself from moving on. Instead, enlist the help of your partner, family and friends.

Make a contract with your partner, family and friends allowing them to catch you in the throes of verbal diarrhea and stop you purging, yet again. Work out three or four different activities which will distract you and turn your attention to something productive. Choose the activity wisely, though. It’s not simply about distracting yourself and keeping yourself busy.

Choose something that catalyzes good energy within you, occupies your mindset and shifts your mood. Physical activities are great examples. Move your body, listen to music, go and shoot a few hoops with your mates in the lunch break or after work. Consider starting a small project completely unrelated to your rejection experience that engages you to purposefully contribute.

By activating neural pathways that increase a healthy mental state, the shackles of rumination will start to lose their grip. Use your friends and family to keep you accountable and break the debilitating rhythm of rumination.

3. Regulate the amount of rejection opportunities you expose yourself to

We all have a different threshold of the amount of rejection we can handle. Repeatedly receiving the notice ‘we regret to inform you that your application has been successful’ becomes a soul-destroying exercise before too long if you’re desperate to find a new job.

When times are particularly tough, you need to protect your mental and emotional states. Wisely considering how much more you can handle is essential. Before you take another step forward, ask yourself if you have the right resources and support in place to catch you.

If you have stood at desperation station, hoping to board the train and it keeps passing you by, sometimes the best thing you can do is stop trying to board for a while. Take a rest. Allow your mind and your thoughts to breathe.

Turn your attention to activities and opportunities, which don’t put you at risk again of rejection, at least for a short period. During the rest periods, your muscles repair and become stronger after a weights workout. Your mind and heart are the same. You must allow them to breathe before you put them at risk of future battle and bruising.

Know that you will always have a different capacity and resilience to handle rejection than your neighbor, so be careful of setting goals to step back into the boxing ring before you’re truly ready.

Get familiar with what your thresholds are and honor them. If you need to take a few days off from doing job application after job application, do so. Your mind will be refreshed, better focused and relaxed so that you can put your best foot forward at your next attempts.

Elite athletes experience peaks and troughs throughout their training regimes and competitions. It’s a given fact of their journey. So too is the ebb and flow of recuperating from rejection and then jumping back on the horse and getting going again.

4. Attach a different meaning to your definition and experience of rejection

Several research studies by Carol Dweck and Lauren Howe at Stanford University have revealed that individuals with fixed mindsets in romantic rejection contexts, experience negative effects of rejection for longer.((Standford: Stanford research explains why some people have more difficulty recovering from romantic breakups))

Participants who believed personalities were generally set in stone and unchanging, ascribed ‘faults’ in their personalities, as opposed to identifying that the rejection could be an opportunity for positive change or growth. They believed these ‘faults’ were permanent and also worried about how future relationships would be continually affected.

If you feel experiencing a rejection means there is something wrong with you, you’re far from alone. But this doesn’t mean your thinking is accurate. Invite yourself to consider:

  • Is it possible that the deductions I am making about myself are actually not true… that they are simply fueled by the intense, turbulent emotions I am feeling in these moments?
  • Is it possible that this rejection is just an indication that what I wanted to belong to and be part of is not a suitable fit for me?
  • Could this rejection be a guiding rail to steer me back on the course I am truly meant to be on, or something even better I have not yet been able to fathom?
  • Could this actually be a grand opportunity to grow and expand into a better version of myself?

When Steve Jobs was rejected and sacked from his own company in 1985, he went on to generate his first billion dollars with Pixar Animation Studios after purchasing it from Lucasfilm in 1986.((Fortune: How Steve Jobs Became a Billionaire)) Today, Pixar is the most successful animation studio of its kind.

By being rejected and insulted colorfully by the seemingly attractive man or woman you approached at the bar, you could have saved yourself a marriage of heartache and abuse. In fact, the door is now open for you to continue your discovery journey of finding someone who is a much better potential complement and at the very least has far superior manners!

Where rejection is possible, hold a palm card containing the above questions in your pocket to access a reality check. See if you can step into a growth mindset and practice thinking more widely about the consequences of your being rejected.

What have you learned and discovered about yourself? What have you learned from the rejection experience? What opportunities can you now see that perhaps have not been able to see before? When you feel ready to step forward again, will you go in the same direction again or will you pivot? Might you do things differently this time?

Rejection can, in fact, be a glorious unveiling of new possibilities.

5. Learn to recalibrate the rejection experience to reduce its impact on you

Think about times when you have wanted something that has been out of your reach. There has been at least a risk, a gap or an obstacle that is in the way of you getting what you want. Do you want it more? The scarcity of your being able to reach the prize or reward you’re stretching for seems to become more attractive and valuable when it’s harder to obtain. It’s a key sales psychology feature businesses use to effectively sell to their customers; they market to your fear of missing out.

When you get the defining negative answer, the yearning for that thing you so strongly desired somehow becomes stronger. The reality, however, is that nothing specific changed about the person you longed to date. The job description or remuneration package remained the same whether you were the chosen candidate or someone else was. However in your mind and heart, you, for some reason, feel a greater sense of loss.

Can you recognize if you do this? If so, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Could I have idolized the situation or person which has now led me to feel such a deep sense of loss, sadness and unworthiness? Could I have put the person or opportunity on a pedestal which made the fall of being rejected so much harder on impact?
  • Are there negative attributes about the situation that I was not seeing because I was wanting this so badly?

It’s only after you have allowed some time to pass after the initial experience of your rejection, that you will be able to more objectively answer these questions. Only reflect when the initial intensity of the sting has subsided. It’s only then you’ll be able to see the other side of the coin.

Sometimes it’s only through rejection that you can see the grass is not as green as it appeared after all. Your loss is not as great and you’ve not fallen as far as you thought.

6. Learn to build resilience to diffuse the fear of future rejection

You can grow confidence through being rejected. It comes down to proactively reviewing your behavioral patterns and resources and forecasting your recovery strategy should you be in the firing line to take a fall in the future.

After you have licked your wounds, take time to reflect and look at how you reacted and responded. What were your patterns? How well were you resourced to handle the fall? Did you withdraw and isolate yourself to lick your wounds? Was this helpful or might having talked with other close friends or family helped you process the emotional pain faster and more effectively? Did you have a plan prepared for the potentiality of experiencing the rejection?

If you don’t have a plan, develop one.

By predicting how your emotions and thoughts could be sent into a spin, you give yourself a stronger sense of maintaining self-control should rejection hit. You lessen the shock of the blow if you also know you’ve got a first aid plan in place.

Write down what thoughts and emotions you could experience in the face of a rejection. If it’s anger, have a healthy strategy prepared to process the energy of that anger. If it’s sadness, build time in your schedule to allow yourself to feel the sadness either alone or in the company of a supportive friend, colleague, family member or therapist.

Once you’ve managed to process a fair amount of the emotional and cognitive fallout, now invest in things which restore your energy, strength and willingness to bounce back. Then, consider stepping back into the boxing ring.

When you have plans and strategies in place, overcoming rejection and the fear of it becomes more like cruising over a small speed hump rather than giving up hope completely of walking again after tumbling to base camp from the summit of Mt Everest.

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How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Everyone has their own definition of what success means to them. Well, at least we all should by the very fact that no two individuals are created 100% alike.

Our road map to success should be different to the person standing next to us. But we can get caught in the dangerous trap that someone else’s ideas of success should also be ours. Be careful.

Regardless of whether or not we’re talking about your working career, business or personal life, it is truly hard to resist the contagious excitement surrounding those fantastic dreams and goals you allow yourself to explore.

The ‘come-down’ after attending a euphoric state-inducing personal development seminar can often result in you feeling the slump of post-seminar blues. Worse still, your everyday circumstances don’t accommodate the changes you swore to make that weekend. Nothing changes.

Get ready to kiss goodbye the post-seminar blues and skip to each destination on your roadmap to your successes. By repeating over and over these simple steps, the quality of your life will improve.

You will want to use these steps as standard strategies to carry you toward further success in whatever shape or form you choose.

1. Define what success means to you

Is it just having enough money or more money than you might ever need that allows you to feel and judge yourself a success? Is it about having a beautiful house worth more than $2,000,000 on the upper east side of Manhattan?

Is it about having a loving partner who supports you in your endeavors? Do you equally support each other?

Is it through the tertiary education roadmap that you only feel valid you can make a meaningful and successful contribution to help the world economy turn? Is that your definition of success or is it someone else’s? Maybe your mom’s or your dad’s?

When her daughter Christina found her on the floor of her office, in a pool of blood having hit her head and breaking her cheekbone as she fell, CEO of Thrive Global and celebrated author of Thrive, Ariana Huffington had a wake-up call in more ways than one.((HuffPost: Arianna Huffington Talks About How She Defines Success))

The exhaustion and overwhelming stress which had led to her fainting drove Huffington to radically introduce new work ethics, values and rules at the editorial.

Ten years on from her accident, Huffington still leads the conversational charge amongst global leaders to change the badge of honor that successful people need to work 24/7, and give everything of themselves and more, even it means compromising their health.

As opposed to letting power and money be the two measurements of success, she explains wisdom, well-being, wonder and giving will give you greater success by nurturing your psychological well-being.

We can’t argue with Huffington that without that, we are proverbially dead in the water.

Warren Buffet stated the way he defines success nowadays has nothing to do with money:

“I measure success by how many people love me”.

You can’t but fall in love with the wisdom and nobility these words seem to reflect, but keeping it as your only definition of success is probably dangerous. Lacking today’s wisdom at 20 years of age, would Buffet have had the same definition of success?

Think about where you are on your journey. You are likely to have different goals and different measures of success as you navigate your roadmap. Huffington and Buffet explain non-tangible ideas of success are crucial for our overall success.

Let’s also not forget though that through tenacity, persistence and many other success habits, these business leaders also rate extremely high on the power and money metrics. However, that’s not all there is to it.

If you are not sure how you would answer if someone asked you what your definition of success is, here are some clues to get you thinking and feeling.

As your head hits the pillow and before you close your eyes, what’s most important is that you can internalize that you have chosen your definition of success and you can full responsibility and accountability for deciding upon it.

2. Review your progress and satisfaction across different areas of your life

Review the main areas of your life. Not just those where you feel you need to make changes. Review all of them:

  • Your career vocation or business life;
  • Your relationships – your intimate or life partner, family and friends;
  • Money health and financial management strategies;
  • Commitment to your faith or religion and spiritual personal development;
  • Your physical and mental health;

What leisure or recreational activities you pursue for fun to energize your spirit and enrich your soul.

Do you have ideas of what success looks like for you in each of these areas?

Neglecting to look at even one area is like trying to restore function to a beautifully crafted Swiss watch, whilst failing to attend to a rusty-looking cog in the tiny internal workings that needs attention. Turn one cog, the others all turn. Ignore a damaged one, the system malfunctions.

For each area, give yourself a rating out of ten – one signifies the least satisfaction and ten signifies the most – and ask yourself the following questions to help you start identifying what’s important to you:

  • How satisfied or content with this area of my life am I presently?
  • Where would I like to live this current level of contentment to?
  • What would that new level of satisfaction look like, feel like?
  • How important is this area compared with the other areas of my life?

Regardless of what areas you recognize need to be your core focus, consider making personal development and improvements to your physical and mental health, and well-being a constant feature of your action plan.

You will need to continually recognize obstacles you’ll face from your outside world, as well as those internal psychological battles that will arise from within.

Without your mental and physical health intact, it’s unlikely the rest of the ‘cogs’ are going to turn properly.

3. Get to know your values and priorities to gain further clarity on what you want

Don’t make the mistake of thinking goal setting can be done in one sitting. You want to make sure the pursuits you put down on paper aren’t fly-by-night moments of excitement that ebb and flow with the rise and fall of tidal trends.

Become better at identifying your priorities by exploring how you feel about each of your life areas. Think about the ratings of satisfaction you might have denoted for each. And now write down what you want to be, do and have.

Put aside your initial literary ramblings and revisit them in a couple of weeks or one month. Without looking at your initial thoughts, do the process again and see what consistencies show up. What keeps coming up as feeling important? Around what ideas is there the same yearning or emotional pull?

If you’re unsure about what you feel you wish to head towards, be in allowance of this. Don’t be jumping to quickly fill the void. The desperation is likely to have you catching the tail of the last exciting concept in fear of missing out, or trying to fill the void of excitement you yearn for.

Increase your practice of pausing and asking yourself:

Why does this resonate with me? Could this be a distraction which complicates the route I have mapped out? Am I becoming that person who proverbially chases two rabbits and catches none?

In his book The Heart of Love, Dr. John Demartini explains how becoming strongly aware of your values and priorities helps you understand why you are and where you are in your life at any given moment.

If you don’t know what you feel you stand for, look at where you direct your time, energy and attention. Look at your behavior and work backward.

You might think making money and creating financial wealth is high on your radar. However, if you spend more than you earn and allocate money to depreciating objects as opposed to appreciating assets, your behavior is inconsistent with those typical of someone who is financially astute.

Look back to your areas of life and ask yourself if the goals you have set are in alignment with your values. Look at your daily behaviors and ask yourself if the way you operate satisfies steps which take you further toward those goals.

If not, all is not lost. You’ve simply got some harsh truths and reality checks to face before you can go any further on your roadmap to success.

4. Make room deliberately to work with a coach

You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re likely to be swimming against the tide.

Once you make clear unwavering decisions about what goals you’re aiming for, prepare to be un-liked, unpopular, criticized and potentially ostracized. There’s a high possibility you’ll lose the friendship and support of some however you will gain new friends and the support of others.

Regardless of what area/s of life your goals pertain to, make room to work with a coach. Choose wisely who that person will be to encourage and walk beside you.

Whether it be a certified coach, a family friend/mentor or qualified therapist, find someone who knows how to work with the specific issues and challenges that lay ahead without any agenda other than your success.

Having that impartial guide can be an invaluable constant. This helps keeps you on the straight and narrow even if other areas of your life aren’t going swimmingly.

5. Get highly familiar with your habits and behavior so you can create successful ones

Despite the scientific evidence in support of it, we’re not recommending you need to start getting up at 5:00 am and exercising for an hour before you even think about starting your day.

You should start asking yourself these questions far more frequently:

  • How well do you know your habits and routine ways of operating?
  • Do you know what choices and patterned behaviors help or hinder you?

You know what you want to work on. Greater clarity on your values has enabled you to discern which priorities are high on your list and which ones are low. It’s now time to reinforce and reward the habits that carry you forward on your roadmap to success, and adjust those habits which delay or divert you staying on course.

Remember though that part of the joy of the human experience is to be fallible, so don’t suddenly shelve all those character-building ‘vices’. Your flaws are a necessary part of your unique success jigsaw puzzle; they are the inspiring reasons you’re going on this journey in the first place.

Demartini and New York Times journalist and author Charles Duhigg both explain in their books how recognizing your unhelpful behavioral patterns needs to take place first. You identify the emotional and psychological rewards which rule over whether you sustain, break or make a habit.

When you know the rewards that light you up like a Christmas tree, you link them to new or modified habits that support values you want to make a higher priority.

Say you love eating out. You love artisan cuisine and get giddy at watching the episode of Heston Blumenthal create chocolate water in his food chemistry laboratory. As much as you say you want to increase your investment in appreciating assets, your spending habits speak otherwise.

So, you might start looking for discount opportunities on your higher-end dining. The dishes may not rival Heston’s masterpieces, but your taste buds still enjoy a culinary roller coaster AND you also now to get feel-good allocating the discounted amount to a saving’s program.

Your tummy is singing as is your bank account. The whole experience goes well beyond short-term gratification and satisfies several values and goals.

Tweaking habits and forming new ones isn’t hard; it’s just a matter of finding a happy marriage. Take time to find it. There will always be ways.

6. Monitor your progress, celebrate the wins and make adjustments along the way

You must become good at deliberately rewarding yourself when you make changes that take you further along your roadmap to success.

Professor of cognitive neuroscience Dr. Tali Sharot explains how the brain responds and adapts far better to rewards than punishment when it comes to learning behavior and creating new habits.((Tali Sharot TEDxCambridge: How to motivate yourself to change your behavior))

When we apply punishment, we reinforce the traumatic memory as being more important than the actual lesson we might have been meant to learn in the first place.

When we gamify rewards on our success journey, we inject fun and humor. We also reduce the stress that often comes with learning new things, habits and adjusting to new ways of being, doing and having.

Final thoughts

If you hit a progress plateau at any point, you might need to allow yourself to plateau and switch your attention to another priority.

The switch may allow you to think more freely and clearly about how to move past your roadblock. Or it might simply be a good time to stop and smell the roses.

Your muscles grow stronger in their resting phase after a workout. Animals hunt profusely to build up their energy stores before going into hibernation.

Remember that continually forging ahead is not a natural rhythm. Repeat the cycle of rest, recovery and rallying forward then…start again.

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How to Become a CEO at 40 (Or Even 50) and Succeed as a Leader

If you have always had the dream inside you that you would one day be leading the charge of a successful company, you just might, especially if you have a strong accounting or finance background. Even if you don’t, your dream has a great chance of becoming a reality, but there are gaps you will need to bridge. The great news is that you can learn how.

Without a doubt, there are patterns of career pathways of today’s CEOs. Experts in senior executive recruitment Robert Half Asia Pacific formulated a CEO Tracker((Robert Halt: CEO Tracker)) which monitors and reveals patterns in education, varied work experience and tenure.

So how to become a CEO at 40, or even 50? If you have the following, you’re in good stead for a CEO leadership position:

Education

If you have gained (or are looking to gain) tertiary training such as a college degree, you’re in a favorable position. You’re likely to have a few years head start consideration against someone without it.

Your odds are even better if your focus is business, commerce, economics or financial management. Postgraduate degrees will earn you more gold stars.

Working overseas

Having international work experience says you’re worldly, adaptable and can appreciate great change. Businesses also profit from the wisdom you bring from across the waters.

Such a mindset is highly prized with the globalization of organizations continually increasing.

Lengthy tenure

Not only does this communicate commitment, but it also demonstrates stickability.

Staying with a company for a minimum of eight years in different roles also demonstrates your ability to grow. Your company knowledge will also have grown very strong and internally recruiting CEOs is common.

However, if you lack these milestones in your current career history, all is far from lost. There is no set pathway to becoming a CEO. In today’s digital technology age, starting and scaling a business with few start-up costs is easier than it has ever been.

Leadership qualities

Most importantly, every CEO needs to have key leadership qualities.

Regardless of whether you have the education, experience, knowledge and technical skills or not, these are things you can learn. Everybody can.

It comes down to your willingness to recognize and commit to a plan of personal development; not just acknowledging it’s necessary but truly following it through:

1. Discover your own vision, mission and passion

A CEO mindset around a business’ mission and vision goes far beyond the mission statement placards randomly dotted on walls in your workplace. Inside you, there needs to be a burning desire to share services and/or products that serve the greater good of a community far greater than you can imagine.

Your thinking contains a legacy that can continue to grow and evolve well after your CEO tenure ends. That burn to bring that legacy to life must be something doesn’t go away with the next bright and shiny idea that comes across your path.

Whatever the cause – whether it’s your own business or one you currently work within – you feel a constant, personal resonation to the cause. You are emotionally fueled to let every potential customer know your service and products exist.

Your ‘why’ is well-aligned with the business’ why and when people ask you about your company, they hear a passion and tone in your voice that shows unwavering commitment and belief.

Your personal brand and the business’ brand, are one. You are a clear ambassador.

2. Engage in projects that build your business confidence

Even though he is not yet 40 years old, 27-year-old Brian Wong is co-founder and CEO of Kiip, a mobile advertising company. He shares one of the biggest mistakes younger professionals make is not choosing projects wisely that help them build business confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Building confidence comes from learning, exploring, undertaking new opportunities and learning to take risks. Demographer Bernard Salt suggests((Bernard Salt: How to spend your 20s and 30s to be CEO by your 40s)) that if you’re in your twenties, take time to do this. You will gain greater clarity of what your deeper, inner passions are. By the time you’re in your mid-thirties, you’re more likely to be ready to put four to six years into establishing a foundation. You’re done with bouncing around between businesses; you’re now yearning for depth.

Regardless of your age, if you don’t know what really drives you and what you want to be committed to longer-term, make it a high priority to develop your own plan and find out.

What gives you contentment despite the ups and downs? What are you constantly curious about that you keep revisiting despite the different opportunities you’ve explored? What is the constant feature that positively resonates inside you?

Don’t stop to take a hiatus and contemplate your navel. The best way is to keep momentum in your working experiences but ask yourself these questions more frequently. Clarity and confidence will come.

3. Start your CEO journey on a smaller scale to fast-track your management skills

If you didn’t go an Ivy League school or have a track record of perfection, researchers Elena Botehlo and Kim Powell have good news for you!

They found in a ten-year study of 17,000 C-suite executives that 60% of those who fast-tracked their way to CEO status opted to take smaller roles with greater responsibilities during their careers before becoming CEOs.((CNBC: 10-year study finds that this is the fastest way to become a CEO))

Whether you’re sub-40 or 40+, taking a step sideways or backward to manage a young team will put you leagues ahead of your peers when it comes to management skills.

If managing people has not been your strength, start with a small group. It might be a short-term project group or an event you coordinate and manage.

When those projects finish, you have a chance to reflect, review, regroup and prepare for your next management challenge. You build management resilience and can strategically improve clusters of leadership skill sets, one at a time.

Give yourself space to do it wisely, in stages. Through staged phases of learning and experience, you won’t be just learning to cope. You will be learning to become a master and contention for CEO will be in your reach sooner than you think.

If paid opportunities are slim, don’t discount volunteer opportunities. In fact, consider these as even more challenging. Often you’re thrust into looking after people you would not have chosen or who are not fit for the roles you need them to do.

If you can successfully pull off managing such groups, the amount of respect you receive can often be a lot greater.

4. Be curious and take a leap of faith

Botelho and Powell found that CEOs in the first decades of their careers took on large projects that they weren’t yet primed for.((CNBC: 10-year study finds that this is the fastest way to become a CEO)) Rather than questioning their qualifications and abilities, the pre-CEOs took the projects and ran with them.

In addition, Botelho and Powell recognized that CEOs who previously took on the job of cleaning up a mess, fast-tracked their progress to the top spot.

Because the right opportunities are unlikely to fall in your lap, you will need to seek them out. Ask for them. Ask for greater responsibilities. Put your hand up for the jobs others would rather run away from but don’t just throw yourself in the deep end. Be smart about it.

These opportunities are likely to hold more valleys than peaks, so be clever and proactively seek coaching and mentoring to help you manage the hurdles and dark times that lay ahead. Don’t take these projects on without it. Your mental and emotional resilience will need strength training.

Research has shown that throwing yourself in the deep end and learning to swim is not the best way to develop great management skills. You risk your mental and physical health if you don’t have the resources to cope.

Too many managers get thrown into leadership roles without adequate people skills. That’s the old school way of learning c-suite management skills.

Failure of falling from grace in this way is no longer a noble act. Make the leap, but resource yourself wisely to make it.

5. Design a personal plan to become a better people manager and action it

Managing people is the most expensive and hardest part of running any business. If you don’t have strong emotional intelligence and relationship building skills not only you’re your business’ culture suffers, so too will your clients and customers.

Start with a self-evaluation that specifically looks at what your strengths and weaknesses are as a people manager. It doesn’t have to be a complex process.

A self-assessment through Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and/or review feedback from a reputable, psychometric 360o feedback survey is a food place to start.

There may be some hard truths in there, however, use this as your benchmark.

Consider then, the needs of your business and collaborate with other leaders (not just employees) to help upskill them in areas you are proficient in. Then, exchange your support for their advice on people management strategies and tips that work for them. Collaborate.

There may be specific relationships and personalities you might then target as opportunities for you to improve your leadership skills:

  • having difficult conversations whilst keeping emotions – yours and your employee’s – in check;
  • improving negotiating skills and learning the art of compromise;
  • learning how to never take ‘no’ for an answer;
  • learning how your staff prefer being rewarded, given feedback and adapting your style to benefit them;
  • undertake public speaking training;
  • coming up with progression plans individually tailored for staff to become better versions of themselves.

What else do your organization’s people need that you can use as opportunities to develop yourself? What are the win-wins? How can you add value, learn and fast-track your CEO leadership skills at the same time?

6. Use your intuition to take risks and be decisive

Chief financial officers (CFOs) operate particularly well in the brain’s left hemisphere. Logic, carrying out of operations, planning, structure, tangible numbers…these are all natural activities your left brain looks after.

Vision, expansive thinking, emotional drive and passion all emanate from your right brain. Using your intuition and gut instinct are also right-brain activities.

Whilst it seems the natural progression from CFO is to CEO, that leap is too great for many. Using the gut instinct is not a common feature of an accountant. According to Gary D. Burnison, the difficulty is often in the mindset and the ability to make this shift.((Bernard Salt: How to spend your 20s and 30s to be CEO by your 40s)) Burnison speaks from experience, transitioning from CFO of Korn Ferry (2002-2007) to existing CEO and president of the company.

Your mindset now needs to reflect a leader who commands direction, not asks for affirmation or permission.

On your journey, you will need to learn to take calculated risks. Gage what risks would be supported (and rejected) by collaborating with your c-suite team. Do your due diligence and practice honing your instinct to make decisions. Forecast different levels of positive impact and negative consequences. Choose, commit, follow through and always engage a review process that helps not only you but your organization to learn.

When you take risks and manage the consequences – good and bad – you improve your aptitude for innovation…something every organization undeniably needs. Thankfully, risks you take don’t need to be big to start with. Consider how you can catalyze small changes that stretch your team’s potential.

If successful, look to see if you can expand the positive effect on other parts of the business. If not, go through the review process. See if you can tackle the project again.

7. Mentorship is a must

Committing to an executive c-suite coach and/or mentor is a must in the same way an elite athlete has an elite coach. If you dream of being a CEO and think it’s just about doing the track work, think again.

Committing to professional mentoring as a normal part of your role clearly demonstrates three main facts to your company’s board of decision-makers:

  • you want your transition to be positive as a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’;
  • you are announcing to your mentorship networks, c-suite executives you’re well on your way and undeniably committed;
  • you’ve chosen to become not just a local player, but a global one.

It was through mentorship channels at Investa Property Group that Ming Long made the transition from CFO to CEO and became the group executive fund manager of the $2.5 billion Invest Office Fund.((SBS News: My Australia: Success was ‘twice as hard’ for women like me))

Despite being of Asian heritage and feeling an absence of role models to follow, Long became the first Asian female to head an ASX200 company. At 46 years of age, she now sits on several boards and is a member of Chief Executive Women.

If you are not participating actively in a succession-plan mentorship initiative, you’re stalling your own progress. Don’t merely seek your own mentorship through formal associations such as the Young Presidents Organization (YPO). Push to be engaged in whatever initiative of this kind exists within your organization.

Mentorship will not only massively increase your capability to step into the CEO role, but it will also help you stay there and protect your position. From there, you’re likely to expand into board leadership type roles so you won’t only be eyeing off the CEO post as your bull’s eye. You’ll start to look beyond the CEO role for even grander pastures!

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15 Tips to Increase Your Motivation for Success and Live a Happier Life

If you get stuck feeling unmotivated, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief to learn there are simple, yet high impact, changes that will steer you back on track.

Here are 15 tips that will not only restore your motivation for success but raise it so you can pursue your personal definition of a successful and happier life.

1. Practice looking at the glass being half full when life is challenging

This is not as easy to do if you feel like you’re unsuccessfully playing dodgeball in most areas of your life. Practice short bursts of radical acceptance((Marsha Linehan: Radical Acceptance)) paired with looking for fine threads of your day you are grateful for that bring you happiness.

It will feel strange at first but with time your brain’s neuro-circuitry gets fitting in focusing on what motivates and inspires you.

Start practicing this exercise at times during the day when you feel okay, so then when rough times hit, your ability to rebound will be more automatic. However, you need to practice.

Before you know it, your battles will become like a walk in the park!

2. Review the happiness level of your everyday social network

Jim Rohn’s famous saying:

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”

It is not gospel. But in examining whether or not your relationships support, encourage, inspire, educate and nurture you, you actually need to look beyond those five people.

Social science professors James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis explain how we need to look at our third degree of separation to identify those who influence our happiness in our social relationships.((James H Fowler, associate professor, Nicholas A Christakis, professor: Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study))

People are generally happier because their first-level friends are also central to a happy network of people. To increase your motivation and happiness, don’t just look at your friends. Look at your friends’ friends!

3. Clean up your relationships, work and personal

Do you ever ask yourself what aspects of your relationships are healthy for you and bring you happiness? Do you also consider what you contribute to those and whether doing also brings you happiness?

It’s time to not only reflect on what you gain from relationships but what contributions you can make to help them further flourish.

Caution! Over-helping is not the answer here. Sometimes you need to cull the time you spend with certain people. However, it’s about being more accountable and choosing to improve how you want to show up for people in your life, work-wise and personally.

Set yourself some personal goals and get to the task. Cleaning up and stepping up will continually motivate you. You’ll heighten that positive vibration of your everyday existence.

4. Develop a personal development plan for your own definition of success and happiness

Goal-setting isn’t just for helping us attain better cars, houses or greater income. When you change goal focus to become the person required to obtain those things, your goals expand beyond tangible limits. Having a personal development plan is essential.

Draw a circle and divide it up into pie segments (like having spokes on a wheel) that represent the following areas of your life:

  • Finances and money
  • Intimate relationships
  • Friends and social relationships
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Spirituality and religion
  • Hobbies, leisure and fun activities
  • Vocation, career and work

The center point of your circle represents zero. Zero means you are least satisfied. The outer circumference of your circle is ten. Ten means you are the most satisfied and content.

For each area, plot on the spoke your current rating of satisfaction. Then, review each area again and denote on the spoke what level of satisfaction you desire.

See where the differences between your current and desired satisfaction levels are smallest. These may be the easiest areas to start brainstorming the changes you want to experience. Some areas won’t be as important to you to make changes. Others will be. Working with an impartial coach can greatly help to flesh out clarity.

Regularly doing this exercise (e.g. every quarter) will reignite your motivation and keep you on the path to reach greater success and happiness.

5. Invest in personal development

Your personal development plan will give you strong clues as to what programs, books, podcasts, networking groups and social activities to tap into. But be wary of the bright, shiny object syndrome and well-meaning friends and family projecting their countless recommendations on to you!

Be gracious and thankful for their advice and guidance (even though it can often be uninvited!), choose wisely and make your own decisions.

Focus on the challenges you face now. Are you experiencing problems with your significant other? Are your children suffering from bullying at school and you’re unsure how to help them?

Perhaps you are experiencing a plateau in work satisfaction or your business is experiencing a slump. Whatever problems are present for you now, explore activities and education that will help you solve those.

6. Invest in experiences, not material things

Splashing your cash on physical possessions to reward yourself won’t just send you bankrupt. When you constantly rely on external things to motivate you, you’re in real danger of never being satisfied.

Instead, ignite your motivation internally by investing in experiences which allow you to feel those feelings you believe you will have when you’re successful.

If becoming a public speaker is a dream you have, invest in Toastmasters or a public speaking program. If whisking you and your partner away for a luxury weekend at a second’s notice fits your definition of success, save over time to do this.

Don’t just set your sights on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Practice feeling success at each step in your journey.

7. Create or join a mastermind group

Napoleon Hill created the concept in his book Think and Grow Rich first published in 1937, yet today, being an entrepreneur is still often a terribly lonely existence. Joining a mastermind group, your motivation is fueled by the collective genius of others also wanting to collaborate, solve problems, cross-promote, network and learn new things.

Not only is keeping motivated easier in itself, your thinking also grows exponentially.

Choose your group wisely and collectively, your contributions will escalate you all to refreshing new heights.

8. Work with a coach

We have personal training coaches, health and wellbeing coaches and career coaches yet we rarely engage a coach to help us with two of the most significant factors influencing our success and happiness: money and our psychological well-being. Our approach is often remedial and it’s not until we’re in dire straits that we call in the emergency services.

Money may not buy us happiness but financial freedom is having freedom of choice and freedom of choice means wider opportunities for greater happiness. Risks and growth always pose threat to our mental and emotional stability.

By learning proactive skills that strengthen your resilience in your personal and working life, you can lift your motivation to tackle challenges with greater courage. You have a backup plan and safety nets to catch you when you fall.

Whether it’s a money mindset coach, a performance coach, a business coach or a relationship coach…open up the conversation. Get to know yourself better, make plans to clear the hurdles and get ready to sprint!

9. Focus your conversations on your ideas and goals

When you increase emphasis and focus upon certain things, feelings and thoughts, you are telling your brain these things are important. The feelings and thoughts will become more easily amplified and neural pathways which access similar feelings and thoughts become activated.

Given this, be strategic. Deliberately reframe the conversations you have to discuss ideas, plans and progress to take you toward where you want to go.

Stimulate and train your brain to increase its stretch. Direct it to dwell on positive experiences and results you have had, and deliberately share in conversations these feelings and results are what you want more of.

Not only are you training yourself to feel happier for greater parts of your day, you are communicating your true desires and wishes for a more successful and happier life to the wider community.

Share with them more of what you desire to experience and achieve. You create a greater likelihood of receiving favorable surprises in answer to your requests.

10. Have goals to become a better friend, partner or work associate

Examine your relationships by asking yourself what aspects are healthy for you and bring you happiness. Also, consider what you contribute to that relationship and whether doing so brings you happiness.

Think about not just what you gain from the relationship but also what you can do to help make that relationship flourish more. Can you improve how you show up for people in your life, work-wise and personally? Set yourself some personal goals and get to the task.

Do you need to organize a get together instead of waiting for your friend to organize the rendezvous yet again? You might put the garbage out without being asked by your partner from now on. Stepping up and stepping into healthier and happier relationships will only heighten the positive vibration of your everyday existence.

11. Learn how to lead better by encouraging others to become better leaders

If you’re a leader, it can be really hard to resist the urge to take the steering wheel when you can see others are about to drive off a cliff. However, stepping out of the limelight to let others have their fifteen minutes of fame is the sign of a true leader.

Supporting and coaching others to develop confidence and stay in the driver’s seat on their journey is truly soul-enriching. Stay beside them when they drive into the fog and be persistent with your encouragement to keep them focused and on track.

You have greater purposefulness to others when you empower them to work through their own trials and tribulations and help them build greater resilience in the process. Your self-esteem and internal happiness will deepen on a richer level and stay with you for far, far longer.

12. Embrace negative feedback and criticism

We don’t actually learn best when people agree and applaud us. We learn best when we make mistakes and experience the intense emotions connected with the failure or rejection.

Invite yourself to look for the lesson in every perceived misfortune. There is always a golden nugget for growth; we just have to increase our practice of looking for it.

Lick your wounds only for so long and move quickly to look for the lesson. When you can do so, you can charge your internal motivation from within and still experience happiness even in the darkest of times.

13. Exercise a sense of adventure every day

When you set small goals to do things slightly differently each day, you can entirely re-shape the level of happiness you experience. Here’s a list to play with:

  • Try a different coffee brew to start your day
  • Dress in work attire even if you are working from home today
  • Walk a different route from your final subway stop to the office
  • Smile at a stranger as you make eye contact passing them in the street
  • Pay a compliment to one of your work colleagues when you notice they are feeling stressed
  • Go out walking during your break if you usually eat lunch at your desk or inside

Spice up small changes in the brief moments of your daily living. Small shifts lift not only your motivation but shed light and happy vibes to those around you.

14. Orchestrate your destiny using daily imagery

Take advantage of the fact your brain does not know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined when it comes to imagery. Instruct your day-dreaming activity to envisage what happiness and success look like, feel like, smell like, taste like and sound like.

When you daily rehearse your mini movies of your success and happiness goals, your brain’s reticular activating system will begin filtering in information to help you reach these.

Before too long, your plans, actions and decisions will increasingly honor these. Keep your eyes on the prize and you are more likely to reach success sooner than you might think.

15. Become an expert researcher of your own challenges

Whilst we have all the resources within us, we don’t necessarily have all the answers. However, when knowing more, we feel (and are) in more control.

Look further afield and gain from the knowledge, experience and insights of the qualified experts in those areas. However, be aware of ulterior agendas being pushed upon you.

Sifting through the information relevant to you and following your gut instinct will only spark your motivation. The considered decisions you make in the moment will always be the right ones.

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How to Make Changes to Your Life by Changing Your Habits

You wanted to make changes. This summer was when you were finally going to get fit, eat more healthily and lose those extra pounds. However, that new gym membership has seen your four weekly visits reduce to a single one due to changing work demands.

In fact, you have not returned since you fell ill last week. Weekly viewing that subscription payment on your bank statement has become that fine thread of hope to convince yourself are still doing something…or are at least connected to something that can bring you positive change.

You need to just do it.

But you don’t.

Those little three words are damning. Your parents’ judging voices speak loudly in your head of having no discipline yet again, and your shoulders shrink under the weight of regret, guilt and loss of confidence. In your weaker emotional state, you convince yourself you are no worse off as you are back where you started.

Sound familiar?

Coming up with ideas and ways to change your life is easy. Making those changes become habits is harder. However, when you understand how we form habits in the first place, you can become a master of applying a quick process for yourself to redesign and change whatever area of life you want.

How do we develop habits?

Habits give us something. They make us feel better in some way – physically, mentally and/or emotionally – otherwise, we wouldn’t do them.

Our brain subconsciously learns that particular behavior is one to keep. We are usually unconscious of the habits we develop but when we dig deep to see why we developed them in the first place we unleash a whole universe of possibilities!

Firstly, we create and keep long-term habits in one of three ways:

  • Having an enlightening epiphany
  • Changing our environment
  • Making small adjustments and changes over time

Having an epiphany is usually a rare event and something we aren’t in control of. Changing our environment is also something which can be done, but takes time. Making gradual changes is the simplest and most effective way to make big changes in your life!

Your habits play out in a three-step sequence:

The trigger

The trigger might be the mid-afternoon yawn signaling you need an energetic pick-me-up. Notice the trigger of yawning is not something you consciously control?

For us, that is great news because it means triggers aren’t dependent on your mood state or motivation level.

If you want to change certain habits to change the course of your life, you can use the smallest triggers – occurrences which happen daily, all the time – to catalyze the changes you want.

The routine behavior

With the yawn, the thought of your favorite caffeine fix automatically comes to mind. You reach for loose change in your purse or wallet and tell your co-workers you are going out to get a coffee.

Now you’ve developed awareness of this automatic behavior you’re in a greater position of power to choose whether you want to modify it to something better.

The reward

Leaving the office brings the logical rewards (reinforcement) are feeling the sun on your face and feeling more relaxed in your body because your legs have had a chance to stretch.

These common-sense rewards pale in comparison with the entertaining jokes you have with the quirky, perky coffee cart owner as they prepare your latte. Something about their smile and spirit always lifts yours.

Knowing this sequence to all your habits, you can strategically manipulate these steps to steer your life’s ship toward Paradise Island.

How to build habits and make lasting changes

Here are seven steps to do make changes in life:

1. Clarify and decide on the positive life changes you want and extensively explore the benefits.

Simple goal-setting is extremely helpful in deciding what changes you truly want to experience.

Think deeply. Decide on the changes you want first then prioritize them.

If there aren’t emotional reasons why you want certain changes in the first place, trying to sustain the habit will be harder.

Your brain always operates in ways to keep you safe, relaxed and happy. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

Expect to experience some discomfort in doing something different to your habitual routine. That’s normal. So are those rotten excuses and reasons that immediately come to mind to keep you stagnant.

Acknowledge these but don’t resist them. Honor their voice and in addition, purposefully and extensively explore the benefits you will experience. Identify the immediate and secondary (delayed) benefits and write them all down.

An example of a new habit might be getting up earlier and meditating. We might draw to mind the benefits to be:

  • My mind feels clearer. (immediate benefit)
  • I feel a sense of calm. (immediate benefit)
  • The rest of my day becomes easier to manage. (secondary benefit)
  • The pain in my shoulders melts away. (immediate benefit)
  • Ideas and answers come to me freely. (immediate and secondary benefit)
  • My mind works sharper and faster; when I slow down I actually can speed up. (secondary benefit)
  • I see possibilities I can’t usually see under stress. (secondary benefit)

The more instantaneous benefits you can identify, the easier changing your habit/s will be, because your brain will love them!

2. Make sure the goals and changes you choose are yours.

It is possible to pick the wrong habits to change. Learning that others have found a great eating plan that worked extremely well for them does not mean you should do it too. Trying to lose a few pounds because your partner says you should also raise alarm bells.

Resist being compelled to follow the masses and motives of other peoples’ agenda and spend time getting clear on what changes you want to experience in your life.

Research has shown time and time again that when you develop your own goals, you’re much more likely to follow through on achieving them.

It’s your life so take the reins and choose your own adventure.

3. Identify behaviors that will give you the change you want, then choose ONE.

Choose wisely. There are many ways to exercise and achieve weight loss, a multitude of frameworks to help you prioritize your time better and become better with managing money. The key is to choose something that positively resonates with you that has a strong element of fun.

If you choose something you associate more with punishment and delayed gratification, sticking to your new habit is going to be harder and unlikely.

Choose one habit change and become good at mastering it. Continue with mastering it to the point of it becoming second nature and it feels wrong to not do it.

Your initial job is to become a master of the change process. When you do that, the result will speak for itself.

4. Change your life through making minor habit adjustments, not by punishment or denial.

Going cold turkey will shock your system and before long, you will have resumed the old habit.

If you look to make big changes, when you fall, you fall further emotionally and mentally.

Denying yourself pleasure is already attaching a negative perspective to the new habit you are trying to create; you have sacrificed the guilty pleasure habit for the sake of a new habit.

B.J. Fogg, researcher and psychologist at Stanford University, recommends training your brain to succeed at achieving minor adjustments.((B.J. Fogg: Tiny Habits)) Pair your desirable habit with an existing trigger.

Don’t look at changing a habit altogether. Gradually reframe it in gradual steps.

Using the previous meditation example, let’s say you desire increasing morning meditation to help calm your anxiety. If your morning routine is already hectic, see if you can pair it with another behavior you do already:

  • As I shower (trigger), I stand still for twenty seconds with my eyes closed and let whatever thoughts come into my head, come;
  • I close my eyes as I gently brush my teeth (trigger) paying attention to spending 30 seconds in each quadrant of my mouth;
  • When I wake (trigger), I sit up in bed, close my eyes and deepen and slow my breathing for ten cycles

Doing one of the above is much easier and faster than putting on a candle, getting into a lotus sitting position, turning on the calming music and trying to meditate for 10 minutes.

Your brain will always struggle to adapt big, unfamiliar changes even if we know they’re good for us. Work one minor change into your already existing triggers, slightly modify your routine and make that your focus for a week.

5. Choose something that is easy to start.

Prioritizing what changes and new habits you want to make is not as easy as you think.

Do you start with exercise or focus on replacing your afternoon coffee and biscuit with? Do you do both? Do you work on getting better at leaving your work on time instead of staying behind an extra ½ hour every day?

We get pulled here and there by changing work demands, our children getting sick, the vicarious stress of friends or extended family going through challenging times.

Start small and choose to start with something that you have full control over despite the curve balls life may throw at you.

Using the morning meditation example again, it’s nonsensical to think you’ll have uninterrupted time in the mornings if you have young children to get ready for school. Your morning tea break might be a better time to grab 2-3 minutes of uninterrupted time. If your workplace allows it, play a calming non-lyrical tune on your workstation and put your headphones in for 2 minutes.

Changing your life can be easy, taking one small step at a time.

6. Strengthen and stabilize your new habit by increasing your attention to it.

Make your new habit easier to stick to by increasing your focus and attention to it.

Talk about it. Talk about it with friends, family and work colleagues. Talk about it with your neighbors.

Write about it. Read about it and actively seek people who have been successful in changing this habit. Create a community you can plug into which supports the change you are looking to try and create.

When you fall off the bandwagon, acknowledge and accept this. If you keep falling off the bandwagon, review your triggers and modified routines. It might help to adjust them.

Maybe you need to create some variety. It might be highly possible your initial existing/new behavior-pairing no longer gives you the satisfied feeling you initially felt. It’s probably time to mix things up a bit.

If you want to increase your exercise – for example, gentle walking as a start – you might start with walking up the three flights of steps to the third floor, then take the elevator to the fifth where your work area is.

Extra motivation might kick in to walk the full five flights particularly if you want to avoid morning conversation with that energy-draining work colleague at all costs!

Eventually, you become bored again.

You might then look at walking outside for 10 minutes when the alarm you set yourself for lunch at 1:00 pm, tingles its pleasant ringtone. You will feel the air on your face, see the sky, and see different people.

When you come back in after lunch, you feel more energized whilst your colleagues are falling victim to the post-prandial dip from eating lunch at their desks.

Get good at creating little, interesting modifications. The magic of great life changes comes from tiny habit changes.

7. Reward yourself every time you implement your new behavior

Celebrate all wins! Regardless of how minor it might seem, anchoring a positive experience will help burn that pleasurable memory into your brain that your new habit is one you want to keep doing.

Wallow in that celebratory feeling to help your new habit stick. Swim in it like staying in the bath water too long until your finger pads turn into prunes. Tell your brain, this is something good!

As you are carrying out your new habit, pay attention to how you feel better about yourself as you are doing it. Increase dedicated, purposeful recollections of this.

Over time, your brain will direct you to keep this habit, you will feel better for it and one day you will wake up with your life looking radically different. And when you look back, it won’t have been as hard as you thought.

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