Creating Energy Through Perspective

Recently, I have been listening to people say their energy is drained or depleted. My suggestion and one that I use all the time is a shift in perspective from feeling drained to living a full life where you are engaged and passionate about your work and personal life. That subtle mindset shift allows me to feel energized. When you are fully engaged and moving forward you are moving energy through yourself so it doesn’t get blocked or stuck. 

In my situation, I could have easily given in to a feeling of depletion, but I know that we’re never out of energy (even though we may feel like we are). Think of the example of childbirth. Whether you have experienced it personally, witnessed it or read about it, the woman giving birth often feels exhausted during the birth process. Yet when the baby is born there is a surge of energy. Simply putting it, and not getting technical, the energy is there, we have to ‘call’ it forth. That’s what I did during this process of having a lot on my plate.  

My past nine months were filled professionally with coaching clients and speaking engagements focused mainly around my book, Talk Yourself Into Success: Strategies for Positive Self-Talk, Confidence, and Resilience. On the personal side I was handling a three-step moving process (two truckloads donated to a great organization called A Wider Circle, one truck to where we moved, and one truck to my kids). I also continue to care for my mother (who is suffering from progressing dementia) and generally dealing with everyday life. This may sound familiar to baby boomers, the “sandwich generation” or as I call it the Oreo – the crème between two cookies.

Having an expertise in life and career transition, I know the resistance that shows up when we are about to make a change, even if it’s 100% positive. (Briefly speaking, we are wired to resist change to keep ourselves safe and the status quo. For more info on the brain and the neuroscience behind this, feel free to contact me: susan@selftalkcoach.com). 

The move came about pretty quickly. Pack, move, sell the house, unpack, handle all the technology issues that came about (boy do I dislike Verizon), and so on…all within a short timeframe of approximately one month.  

I have been ready to downsize for a couple of years. I also know that change and transition take longer for my husband so we had conversations about it every now and then. When my husband said he was ready, I knew from other situations that we needed to act fairly quickly, which we did.

Instead of viewing things like the packing/unpacking as something draining, I focused my energy on this next stage of life and enjoying this milestone. The thought of packing and unpacking shifted to it’s exciting to be in a new place and experience new things with my husband.

Could I have felt tired? Sure, and I did, but not depleted because of my mindset. Remember, we control our thoughts; our thoughts don’t control us. We have a choice of how we view situations. 

So when I felt like I needed a break, I took it. And when I needed to create more energy within myself, my mindset went to the positive outcomes we would have…and we now have them…and we love our new place! 

One part that was difficult during the moving process was feeling isolated from friends because I was so focused on getting things accomplished. What kept me going was looking at the end result, that I would see friends once I was settled in and having supportive friends.

So the next time you feel like you have no energy, whether it’s physical or emotional, shift your focus to knowing that your energy is a resource you can call forth and feel.

Transition is an Opportunity for Powerful Change

This must be the month for a great amount of change and transition. Clients are changing jobs, careers, moving, going through separation and divorce. I am in the middle of downsizing. The kids are happy and settled in their lives, and we’re ready to simplify life in a condo or apartment.  

Briefly, change is external (ex: I am moving or changing my job), whereas transition is an internal process (ex: before entering a new phase, tie up loose ends or unfinished business so that you are not bringing your old story into your new phase). By developing an understanding of our purpose, values, and vision, transition can be made easier. It is an opportunity for powerful change.

Most people resist change and transition. It takes us out of our comfort zone. To create a smooth transition, take baby steps forward instead of big leaps that can leave you overwhelmed. If you’re learning how to swim, put a toe in the water, you don’t have to start by jumping in the deep end!

I’m in the midst of change also. My husband and I are pretty busy. We both work, and in the middle of what we’re doing, we’re downsizing, moving things to three separate locations, caring for an elderly parent, dealing with each other’s needs and those of our kids, and keeping up with relationships.

For me, I have learned to go with the flow. I have taught myself to fill my time with ease instead of dis-ease. I literally ask myself what do I want to fill my time with, and I have taught myself to fill the time by being productive rather than becoming anxious or overwhelmed. It’s a choice.

Make sense? Here are a few steps you can take to make change and transition flow with ease.

Build Awareness and Be Present

Without being aware, you can’t make a change. Notice how you’re feeling mentally, emotionally and physically. For example, I check in with myself. I ask myself, how much energy do I have? Where do I need to focus my energy?

Typically for me, I have the most energy in the morning and that’s when I tackle the most challenging items.

To keep the house-packing moving forward I look at it as de-cluttering, and it actually helps clear my mind and makes me feel good. What works for me is I’ll have some coaching sessions and do some work at my desk. When I have had enough sitting, I then do something physical, like packing, until my energy begins to lessen. Then before I go to another task, I will take short breaks throughout the day. The mixture of sedentary, physical, and taking short breaks is a good mix for me. What works for you?

Also when appointments are close to where my mother lives, I stop by for a visit. Then it’s back to work.

Another thing I do is to take breaks different types of breaks when my schedule gets real busy. I carry several golf clubs in the trunk of my car.  I live close to a public golf course and I stop by and hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. That helps keep me grounded and clear. Other times I will do a ten-minute meditation or simply pause and do a breathing exercise.

Self Care (It’s far from trite)

For most people, change and transition can deplete energy. It is essential to focus on sleep, nutrition, and some form of physical exercise (playing a sport, dance, yoga, working out). Be aware of the stress in your life because over time it impacts your immune system, and it will have a negative impact on your health.

Choose Your Attitude

You can let change and transition deplete your energy, or you can choose to embrace change and transition.

Knowing you have a choice is subtle, empowering, and can make a huge difference in your life.

Be Flexible

Life can be harder when you resist change. Again, take baby steps in the direction of moving you forward and being more flexible.

Perhaps like many, my husband’s natural ‘go to’ response to changing situations is ‘no’…and it takes him some time to shift. So when I knew we were heading towards downsizing, I began to mention it 1.5 years ago. Another example was that I told him many years ago (12-15) to expand and open an office in Baltimore, and three years ago he did.  (He now thinks both were his idea.)

My point is that everyone is different. There is no right or wrong regarding the length of time we take to shift; much depends on our experience and the situations we’ve had. Yet, it’s very clear that flexibility and being open to change make life easier. (I’m going to send this to my husband’s inbox!)

Create a New Comfort Zone   

I know it can feel uncomfortable to step out of your comfort zone. Notice how you feel (use your body as a signal to identify where you feel the stress so you can shift your mindset) and your self-talk (what your thoughts are), and don’t let it stop you. Stepping out has you grow. It opens you up to new possibilities. You don’t have  to jump, simply take a step!

How Do You Cultivate Trust?

I was recently in a meeting where the owner of the business was talking about trust. It was music to my ears when, at the same time, he and I mentioned transparency… a main ingredient in the trust recipe. Successful leaders (and I believe leadership is within all of us and occurs at all levels), whether they are leading an organization, a group they belong to, or leading their family, have enhanced success when they are transparent, that is, open, honest, and clear.

Trust is a foundational element in everything we do. It is the cement that holds everything together. It takes time to develop trust. We have to be willing to show vulnerability.

According to Management Concepts, “When you trust someone, what you make vulnerable can range from concrete things such as money, a job, a promotion, or a particular goal, to less tangible things such as a belief you hold, a cherished way of doing things, your ‘good’ name, or even your sense of happiness and well-being.”  (Side note: To learn more about vulnerability look at the works of Brene Brown.)

Think of someone in your life that you trust. What is it that allows you to trust them? What exactly is it that they do?

I look at what people say, but more, what they do. In other words, do their actions match their words? I believe that when the words and actions match, that is “being in integrity.” Is the person honest? Are they being transparent?

Trust builds for different people in different ways. Some people trust quickly, and then, if there is a break in that trust the relationship shifts; while others look for the other person to earn their trust, experience by experience, forming a strong foundation for their relationship.

When we trust, we feel more comfortable and tend to share more. We are more willing to take risks and feel more confident with the people we trust. How much we trust and the way we trust depends on the relationships and experiences we’ve had.

As you build trust in your relationships, it generally is reciprocal and easier to trust with each experience. Collaboration is built on trust.

It is clear that without trust relationships don’t grow. Growth is sustained as time goes on, and, when someone breaks a trust we see it as a threat, and we then have less confidence in that person. Moving through the disappointment, we go into a protective mode that can drain and deplete our energy. The result can be very damaging, because of the loss – we can be temporarily less productive, have a lower morale, and even question our own judgment.

The upside however is great. Trust makes it easier to go through change and transition. We are less resistant and stronger in our beliefs.

What does trust look like to you?

Here are a few criteria to look at:

Mutual Respect: one of the most important blocks of our ABC’s. It is a behavior that is found in healthy relationships. When there’s mutual respect, it reduces stress, conflict, and increases communication, productivity, knowledge and understanding.

Character of a Person: consists of qualities that make them distinct from other people. In this case, being trustworthy, honesty, being a good person.

Reliability: being dependable, meeting commitments, and following through.

Consistency: always accurate and fair; what is said and the message delivered doesn’t contradict what was previously said, and the message is clear and the same.

Sincerity: as the saying goes, you say what you mean and you mean what you say; when someone expresses an opinion, it is known to be truly their own.

Competence: the ability, skill, and capacity to carry out what you say you’ll do.

Trust Your Gut: In different situations we get a signal from our gut intuition, something either feels right or it doesn’t. This creates a feeling of dissonance or resonance. It can make us wonder if we can trust or not.

Don’t ignore the signal that you feel in your body.

I feel dissonance in my gut. Others may feel it in other parts of their body. Don’t ignore this feeling. Use it as a guide. Trust yourself!

Managing Emotional Reactions

When you listen to the news you might notice the increasing amount of stories containing anger. I’ve personally observed a case of road rage after one driver cut off another; and I’ve witnessed people being rude and having an angry tone when they are waiting in a slow moving grocery store line.

People seem more reactionary than ever before. My question is how can we channel the negative emotions we experience in a way that leads to more conscious empowering decisions? If you’re thinking that you can’t, the good news is you can. There are things we can do to lessen the negative and depleting energy.

All emotions, including anger, provide us with information. Scientifically, anger hijacks us and can lead to emotions like shame and guilt. Being aware of what triggers us is helpful. Emotional triggers can be people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations.

I recently was on a webinar given by the Tapping Summit (Emotional Freedom Technique) where the moderator said that anger is a signal that says our system is being attacked, and the energy from anger keeps us safe. We have that trigger because we feel the need to protect ourselves and because our systems perceive us to be in danger. So this is a healthy response. Issues arise when what we perceive is not necessarily accurate.

When things like frustration, weakness, disappointment, a lack of patience, or sadness show up, it can all get channeled into anger. Here are several ways to deal with these emotions in a healthy way:

Deepen your awareness. You can’t make a change unless you are aware. Notice your thoughts (self-talk) and notice your environment (where you are and who you’re with). Places and people trigger reactions, both positive and negative.

Be aware of where you feel the emotion in your body because it triggers a physical reaction. As soon as you recognize the trigger use that physical reaction as a signal. For example, when I get anxious about something, I get a “kicked in the stomach” feeling. As soon as I am aware of that feeling I take a breath or a pause and ask myself, “What am I anxious about, whether it’s work or personal, that I’m getting that feeling?” It’s very helpful in pinpointing what’s going on at that moment.

Deep breathing exercises. Try this:

Take a deep breath, hold it for 5-8 seconds, and release the breath. You can repeat as needed. It will physiologically ground you.

Tapping or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Tapping is a tool to assist with emotional or physical issues. As you tap on certain points on your body you are breaking up energy that might have been stuck there for years. At the same time you are tapping, you are saying limiting beliefs (“I am afraid of being wrong”) and then re-framing to a positive phrase (Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong and that’s okay!) To learn more about tapping Google the Tapping Solution to see it demonstrated… Or, you can ask me. I am an EFT practitioner.

Count to ten. If you still feel triggered, keep counting

Take a walk to cool off.

Make a Game Plan to Integrate Your Professional and Personal Life

Several times in the past week I have heard people comment that they can’t believe it’s March. Time seems to pass more quickly with each year. We are heading into second quarter. How can you make the most of 2019? Are you heading in the direction you want or do you need to shift anything? Do you know of anything that could get in the way of you attaining your goals? If so, what can you do to head it off?

Recently, I was coaching a client, Gary, who said he felt like he was running out of steam. After asking several probing questions we were able to dig deeper to find that Gary started out the year ‘full steam ahead,’ and now, he felt like he was just chugging along. He then mentioned that the same thing happened the past two years and he didn’t want this to be his pattern. He wanted to feel productive and happy at work and enjoy his family. I believe that’s a reasonable request and something we could accomplish together.

I asked Gary if he were fully committed to changing that pattern, and if so, I would be his committed partner to guide him along the way. Sometimes people say they want something to change but their actions don’t match their words. In this case, Gary was ready. He said he didn’t want to look back on another year and not have what he wanted. It was great that Gary recognized this and was ready to move forward. Too often people burnout because they lack the awareness that a change has to be made, or they feel that there’s nothing they can do to shift things.

After meeting with Gary, we made a game plan. There were several factors impacting his Gary’s energy level, physically and emotionally.

He had a high level position within a large company with many demands. At home he and his wife, who also works, had one child in middle school and one in high school. In addition, his wife’s mother’s dementia was getting worse, and she was living with them.

Like many people in similar positions, Gary and his wife had difficult decisions to make. And making big decisions can cause some sleepless nights and worry.

Regarding Gary’s long working hours, he made the decision to be home for dinner each night. Long hours kept Gary at the office and the negative impact was that he was missing family dinners and the chance to connect with his family. Moreover, at work, because he was so tired, Gary wasn’t as clear and focused and he wasn’t being productive. Here’s what Gary committed to do.

By leaving work earlier, Gary was able to enjoy time with his family and the conversations he would have missed. He got into bed earlier and felt more refreshed. We put together a workout schedule and a “relationship” schedule so that Gary and his wife had some time for themselves, couple time, and family time.

Gary and his wife are figuring out next steps with her mom. The two choices they came up with were having an aide in the house full time or putting her in a facility. The good thing is they have the energy and clarity to make those decisions together, and they are tough decisions to make.

It takes courage to take the steps that Gary has taken. When he told his supervisor the decision to leave work earlier, his boss was not thrilled but Gary made a life decision of what he was willing to tolerate. His boss saw that the longer hours weren’t necessarily equating to being more productive.

Even though we’ve got a long way to go in 2019, take a look at how your life is going. What’s your schedule like? What are you willing to sacrifice? What are your values and are you living them?

Make this the best year of your life!

Interpersonal Skills are Key in Developing Relationships

We’ve all heard the well-known real estate saying, “location, location, location.” And when it comes to people, I think “relationship, relationship, relationship.” In order to maximize and best enjoy relationships you want to have good interpersonal skills.

Since almost all aspects of our lives involve communication, having ‘people’ skills, such as collaboration and good interpersonal abilities, and traits like self-confidence, and positive thinking, are highly desirable.

Specifically in the workplace, where we interact with different types of people, good interpersonal skills are vital. Other important interpersonal skills are listening, understanding and using body language and the same of gestures (non verbal communications). Moreover, having a positive attitude, and showing respect and appreciation are highly valuable to fostering good relationships.

Our interpersonal skills are integral to our relationships in both personal and professional connections. Having good interpersonal skills leads to a better understanding of others. We use those skills when we interact with others.

Anyone can develop strong interpersonal skills. Like developing a muscle in our arms or legs to make them stronger, these skills can be built. For some it may come more naturally, but the reality is that anyone, with practice, can develop these skills, and doing so can lead to building more effective relationships.

In the workplace interpersonal skills are the foundation of trust, and are key factors in individual and organizational performance. Results from developing successful interpersonal skills contribute to better performance, effective problem solving, and help in decision-making.  

A local organization, Management Concepts, offers a course Interpersonal Skills. The course teaches competencies that are essential for developing effective relationships with others. The competencies are at the course’s foundation. They are:

Awareness of self

Awareness of others, and

Maximizing Relationships

Awareness of self: understanding your own communication skills and how they impact others. As you deepen your awareness you’ll be able to make new choices about how to communicate more effectively.

Awareness of others: includes careful listening, skilful questioning, and keen observation of nonverbal cues to ensure understanding. By being aware of others you can structure your communication to be more effective with different types of people.

Maximizing Relationships: using and refining your interpersonal skills over tie to develop satisfying connections with others; also being able to deal with conflict and breakdowns that occur.

We know that growth in one area can cause your personal effectiveness to flourish. Who wouldn’t want that!

In my next article, I’ll dive deeper into interpersonal skills because they are essential for a person to thrive. Stay tuned!

Multi-tasking Can Drive You Crazy!

Feeling like you need to catch your breath? The beginning of 2019 has certainly gotten off to a fast start. Are you busy or too busy? Feeling overwhelmed or exhilarated? Are you being productive?

To ensure that “busy” doesn’t turn into an energy depletion, too much on your plate, or feeling out of control, try these tips:

Assess your situation

Be aware of how and where you’re spending your time. Answer these questions and make sure you are satisfied. Does your schedule conflict with your priorities?

Are you spending too much or too little time to get things done? What do you do to monitor your to do’s?

How do you set priorities?

Remember the four quadrants in Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Important, Not Important, Urgent and Not Urgent. Don’t put everything in urgent because when you do it loses its importance. Make a list of your needs. The list might then be affected by due date or whom the response is to. Assess the value. Be flexible.

Say ‘No’

Be bold. If you can’t take on another task, say ’no.’ By saying ‘yes’ when you would rather say ‘no’ you are saying ‘no’ to yourself because the time has to come from something you are doing. You also don’t want to take on too much and have something fall through the cracks. That is a reflection on you, especially if it happens more than once.

Be Aware

Notice your energy level. It’s great to be busy, but too busy depletes your energy. Ask yourself when you have the most energy in the day and do your hardest or most time-consuming tasks then, so you don’t run out of steam. Choo-choo ahead!

Dealing with Distractions, Multi-tasking, and Clutter

Multi-tasking can be a huge problem. We are expected to multi-task even though our brains are wired to do one task at a time. The reality, unfortunately often, is that in our professional and personal lives we are expected to do several tasks at one time.

Since this is often the reality of the situation, choose three tasks. Then allot time to work on each so that you can go deeper than touching the surface of multiple tasks.

“Too much” gives us a feeling of clutter and that overloads our senses and makes it difficult to focus and manage. Take baby steps and keep moving forward.

Turn off any technology you can, like noises pinging us that another email or text is waiting … it’s too much of a distraction…and, an annoyance.

The constant phone and email interruptions don’t help, and neither do all the meetings we attend. Again, take baby steps forward so that you feel like you’re accomplishing something instead of having that heavy feeling from clutter and overwhelm.

Dealing with Email

Dealing with endless email is a complaint I hear over and over. So it doesn’t turn into clutter, choose several specific times of the day to look at your email. Email can use up a great deal of time. Estimate how long it takes to respond. Generally speaking, a shorter reply is acceptable if you answer sooner.

Here are two ways of thinking. You can answer emails first thing in the morning. Make sure you have the discipline to then move on to something else in a reasonable amount of time. Or, consider doing a couple of tasks first and then going to the email…set a timer on your technology so you don’t lose track of time.

For me this come has into play since my book was published. I love the coaching, speaking engagements, webinars, etc… and it also takes a lot of prep time. I was at that point where I needed assistance with some of the administrative and technical support for my book so that I could work on the client related prep work. Prep work takes a long time. I assessed my situation and decided that I would hire a virtual assistant.

Task Management Systems

If you prefer a task management system there are plenty out there. Find the one that is right for you.

No matter what you decide, it’s important to feel productive. Carry on!

Self-Awareness for Success

 

Whether you are reading a Harvard Business Review article, watching a talk show, or looking at The Atlantic magazine, one topic that continues to show up is on self-awareness. This is probably because of the direct impact it has on professional and personal relationships.

The definition of self-awareness is “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”

In a recent article in HBR, Working with People Who Aren’t Self Aware, by Tasha Eurich, several consistent behaviors of un-self-aware individuals were identified:

  • They won’t listen to, or accept, critical feedback.
  • They cannot empathize with, or take the perspective of others.
  • They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.
  • They possess an inflated opinion of their contributions and performance.
  • They are hurtful to others without realizing it.
  • They take credit for successes and blame others for failures.

During an interview, former Vice-President Joe Biden mentioned two characteristics he believed made a successful leader, courage and self-awareness. He said that with self-awareness, you want to understand strengths and weaknesses. You want to play to your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.

Self-awareness was one of the main topics I talked about in a recent presentation. It is crucial in successful relationships to be self-aware. You want to notice your impact on others and their impact on you. Then, deeper awareness is not just about the words a person says, but the tone in which they say things and the body language they use. The impressions we have are 7% from what we hear (the words others speak), and 93% from tone and body language.

Company leaders are also paying attention to certain character traits. Forbes is leading with self-awareness; Microsoft is leading with empathy; and LinkedIn with compassion. To quote Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

I’ve noticed an increase in requests for the Emotional Intelligence 360 degree feedback assessment which has an emphasis on the soft skills: self-awareness, listening, compassion, and empathy, in addition to the harder skills that show me “bottom-line” results.

We are living in a world where soft skills in the workplace and our personal lives mean more than ever for achieving success. It is time for people to start developing their self- awareness at a deeper level.

According to author Tasha Eurich it is essential to know both “who” we are and “how” we are. She writes there is something I call internal self-awareness, which is understanding inwardly who I am, what makes me tick, what do I want to do in my life. And there’s another kind called external self-awareness, which is knowing how people see me.

People sometimes say they don’t care what others think about them, but the truth of the matter is that it does matter what people think of you. Eurich says if you want to be successful in your career, if you want to have strong and lasting relationships, if you want to have a happy and fulfilling life, a lot of that is dependent on you understanding how you’re perceived.

Fortunately, self-awareness can be cultivated in life and at work.  When someone tells you how you make them feel, listen to what they’re saying to you. Try not to get defensive. Maya Angelou, poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist said, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

In an article in The Atlantic by Adam Grant, People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well, Grant wrote who could possibly know you better than you? But your backstage access to your own mind sometimes makes you the last person on Earth others should trust about it. He added, think of it like owning a car: just because you’ve driven it for years doesn’t mean you can pinpoint when and why the engine broke down.

We all have blind spots. We easily see some things, but others are not as clear. Here are a few steps to developing a deeper self-awareness:

1) Start noticing your self-talk, your inner dialogue or chatter. What are you saying to yourself? Is it negative or unproductive or is it positive and moving you forward?

2) Notice where you feel things in your body. For example, if you are in a stressful situation, do you feel tense? Does your body tighten? I personally get a kicked in the stomach feeling. Some may get headaches or tightness in the chest. Everyone’s different. Start noticing where you feel things because our body clues us into what’s going on in ourselves and the environment.

3) Try meditating or taking time out to pause and reflect. You can begin by focusing on your breath, inhaling in and exhaling out. This can improve your moment-by-moment awareness.

4) Spending time with someone in a high-intensity situation allows you to get to know a person at a deeper level.

5) Keep a journal of what brings out your best and worst can help with self-awareness. Journaling is also great for identifying what you want to do, and keeping track of your progress.

6) Put yourself in positions where you can get feedback from several people. In the workplace feedback from a 360 assessment (where others rate you) can be helpful. Look for themes. When several people rate you the same on an item, it’s not easy to argue with that.

7) Ask a trusted friend. Let them know you are seeking objective perspectives…and make them feel comfortable so they can give you an honest view.

Building self-awareness is a life-long effort, much like sustaining your confidence, having a positive self-talk and high resilience. They are factors for your wellbeing. Self-awareness is key to being a good leader. What we say, what we think, and what we feel should all be consistent. These will lead us closer to a state of self-congruence.

Viva Values!

I have been working with several clients this month who are at different stages in their careers. One client is starting a new business, another client is looking to move vertically or laterally in his organization, one is at the succession planning stage and looking for what’s next, and the final is recently graduating with a Masters degree.

The thread I found in common was all of them needed a better clarification and understanding of their core values. No matter what stage you are in your career, whether you are a graduating student or a seasoned professional, knowing what your core values are, is an important start. This applies to not just a career search, but for anything in life. As well, I am sure you know how important a role values play in our relationships.

How would you define your values? Values are who we are at our core. They drive the decisions we make which greatly impacts our lives. Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; a person’s judgment of what is important in life. Values have a major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.

Whether you are looking to join a company, club, group, going on vacation with others, or getting married, what values do you have in common and share with those with whom you’ll interact? What do you believe in? What do you stand for?

When the things you do and the way you behave match your values, life seems to move smoothly…you are satisfied and content. When what we do is not in alignment with our personal values we have a feeling of dissonance. For example, if you are honest and have integrity, and you are with someone who lies, that can create a feeling of dissonance for you. That feeling of dissension is because they are stepping on your values.

To help identify your values, think of a time in your life when you were happiest. What were you doing and why were you so happy?

When was a time when you felt proud of yourself? Why did you feel proud? When did you feel satisfied and fulfilled? What need and desire did you meet in these situations? Think about why these situations were so memorable.

Next, make a list of the values that led to these outcomes. There are hundreds of values, such as honesty, respect, integrity, success, independence, creativity, fairness, and more, of course, to choose from, so focus on the values that best define you.

Finally, prioritize those values that are most important to you at this time of your life. Your core values do not change, however, they do shift in priority depending on what is going on in your life at the time. Take your time with this exercise. You can Google and pull up a values list if you would find that helpful.

What is important is that by knowing your values you can use them to make decisions about how you choose to live your life. How do you make your decisions?  It may help you answer questions like the following:

What job should I pursue?

Is now a good time for me to start my own business?

What can I do that will afford me more of a work-life integration?

How will this affect the relationships I’m in?

Is this the best choice for my family?

It is imperative that we know what our core personal values are because that awareness can make a huge difference in all areas of our lives. Our values inform us of whom we are.

Knowing your values will help you interact with others.

For example, say you are going on a job interview or you are looking to collaborate with someone, personally or professionally. Listen for what their values are. What are their beliefs? What is important to them? How we think and what we believe is going to guide our decisions. And if your beliefs are different, is their respect for someone else’s opinion?

Take a time-out for yourself and define your values. Doing this is best for your current and future happiness and satisfaction. By deepening your awareness of your values, you will be able to use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation. Use your values to help you navigate through life. It is time to take command of your life!

Practicing the Art of Negotiation

Sometimes life feels like one big negotiation. Whether you are at work and speaking with your boss or colleagues, or at home and talking to your spouse or children, learning the art of negotiation can provide you with a powerful tool.

Recently, a client told me he was looking to close a deal. The goals he set gave him direction and clarity. Yet his expectations gave him conviction and the mental advantage conviction at the negotiation table. He was very self-assured, and that confidence gave him a winning edge.

Another client told me of an experience she had with her son. He wanted to have a later bedtime.

When my client’s son asked to extend his bedtime from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00, she asked him to make a list of reasons justifying his request. His list included the fact that since he was a year older and should be able to stay up later. In addition, he vowed that he would continue with his regular responsibilities like walking the dog, doing his homework when he got home from school, and practicing the drums.

My client said she’d extend the time to 9:30 p.m. as long as her son’s grades remained the same or higher. She told him she was giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his previous track record that what he says is what he does.

She added that if, after six months, things were going as expected she would raise the bedtime to 10:00 p.m., and if he weren’t reaching his expectations, his bedtime would drop back to 9:00 p.m.

Whether you’re negotiating with your kids or at work, here are some helpful tips for negotiating success:

  • Know your style. You need a confident attitude based on tested and reliable knowledge. Anxiety hampers negotiation.
  • Take a minute to focus on what you have to gain and what you want to achieve.
  • Get rid of all negative self-talk (our internal dialogue) involving speculation on what you might lose or what could go wrong.
  • Set your goals and focus on your expectations.
  • Leverage wherever you can by paying close attention to the other party’s needs and interests.
  • Be fully prepared, and create a list of everything you hope to accomplish including the ways you will benefit if you are successful.
  • Re-read your list right before the negotiation begins.
  • Listen to the other party.
  • Be prepared to walk away if negotiations do not succeed at first. Sometimes taking a break for a day or two allows each side to reflect, which can work wonders.
  • Act with integrity.

 

The best negotiators stay focused on their ideal target despite the risks they face. If you practice focus training, it will become easier and then become virtually automatic. Keep in mind that what you aim for often determines what you get. Make it a WIN-WIN.

Book suggestions:

To learn more about negotiation, Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell and Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Discover and follow core values for a values-driven life

Can you answer the following questions?

  • What is the key to having a higher success rate for accomplishing your personal and professional goals?
  • What drives the decisions you make?
  • What does not change in life except for their priorities?
  • What impacts whether something resonates for you or causes a feeling of dissonance in your life?

The answers to these questions sum up your Values.

Why are values important?

Values help define who we are. They point us in a direction that, if we choose to follow, can lead us to discovering our life purpose, accomplishing our goals, and finding what we are passionate about.

For example, for me, the value of freedom means independence, financial independence, and doing things on my own. For someone else the value of freedom can mean patriotism, the flag, or our military. Check in with each other. It is a fun way to connect and often an enlightening one.

Our values are our principles or standards of behavior. They are our judgment on what is important in life. They are principles that we hold to be worthy.

Our values represent who we are right now. They are not chosen. Our values are intrinsic.

Here is a word of caution: Often we internalize our parents’ rules and values. For that reason, it is important to look inward to be able to distinguish between our parents’ values and our own.

So who are you?

What makes you tick? What are you passionate about?

Spending quality time to get a better grasp of your values, interest, personal style, and skills will allow you to better assess your personal and career wants and needs. Ultimately the assessment process will allow you to make better-informed decisions and judgments on situations in your life, be they big or small. Our choices and decisions are made easier when they are in relation to our purpose, values, and what is important to us.

Here is a tip if you are currently seeking a job.

Understanding your values will be helpful. As the interview proceeds, make sure to listen for the values of the interviewer. In order to be truly happy in the workplace, the organization’s values must be aligned with and support your personal values. Otherwise, the variance will create a feeling of dissonance in you and the prospective job may not be a good match.

For example, if you are working with someone who is not honest, and one of your core values is honesty or integrity, it will create a feeling of dissonance for you that you will actually feel in your body. The reason is that person who is not honest is “stepping” on your values. Or put another way, this individual is violating what you believe in. Such a situation is not likely to produce a positive outcome.

Remember: When you know your values, you can draw on them at any time to help you make decisions, determine what your priorities are, and guide you to the best direction for you and your goals.

Change and Transition: Embrace Both to Thrive and Prosper

Jumbo shrimp, act naturally, accurate estimate, a little big, almost pregnant, astronomically small: the list of everyday oxymorons goes on and on. The oxymoron I want to focus on is this one: change or transition is constant.

Whether we like it or not, the one thing we can count on as a constant in our lives is change and transition. But our brains are hard-wired to resist change, even when it is positive. Fear of the unknown, trying something new, stepping out of our comfort zones, and even the anticipation of future happenings can create anxiety in individuals.

While some of us could never imagine sitting behind a desk all day or giving up a steady job, others can’t function that way. Some of us prefer to seek out new experiences, to take risks, and to frequently step out of our comfort zones. What is needed to accomplish this is the ability to focus…but that’s another article! So let’s first take the time to examine change and transition in and of themselves as well as our reactions to both.

Change can be difficult. Often, we resist change even when it will enhance our lives or make them easier. We create justifications for our resistance. Over time, these justifications become accepted reasons for not changing.

When it comes to terminology, many of confuse the words “change” and “transition,” freely exchanging one term with the other. However, they are not the same. Change is not an event, but rather a process. And that process is called transition. Transition is the inner movement or journey we make in reaction to a change. For that reason, there is actually a clear distinction between change and transition.

The essential difference between change and transition can be boiled down to this: Change is situational while transition is psychological. It’s not the events outside us that make the transition. It’s the internal process we go through to incorporate those changes.

Transitions are times when we mentally cross from something old and familiar to something new and unfamiliar. Most transitions are small and pass by almost unnoticed, while others can involve major disruptions in routines, forcing us to look at our values and lifestyles.

Many of us are instinctively afraid of change and resist it. We prefer routine and stability and remaining within our individual comfort zones. But eventually, that puts us at odds with what life really is: a series of frequent changes.

Some changes or variations are welcomed, of course, while others range from inconvenient to catastrophic whether in reality, in our minds, or both. How well we handle or cope with change and the resulting transition process can depend on the attitudes we have toward life and what our resilience level happens to be.

Having a productive, positive attitude along with the capacity to be resilient will help ease any transition. An ability to make transitions successfully frees up precious energy enabling us to live more fully in the here and now.

Transitions range from changes that affect everyone, like natural disasters, to more personal transitions that affect one’s career and relationships. Transitions can be predictable or unpredictable. They can be voluntary, like moving to a larger home, or involuntary, like an accident or an illness. Transitions and their disruptions challenge us to grow, while they can also help us focus on today and the present moment.

One way people sometimes deal with the discomfort of change is by avoiding it. Avoiding uncomfortable feelings surrounding change, however, eventually establishes patterns that stand in the way of making new beginnings.

The solution ultimately requires that we stop striving to avoid change and the inevitable transition that must follow. When we refuse to accept a transition, when the fear of what lies ahead prevents us from moving forward, we can get stuck and overwhelmed as life passes us by. Again, our response to situations is directly influenced by our attitude and how well we have developed our personal level of resilience.

Along with any kind of transition, the change that affects it can often have a negative impact our self-confidence. Think about it, when you’re not feeling confident, trying something new or out of your comfort zone or even something you may fear can be even harder. Negative self-talk can stifle professional development and advancement, making it a real challenge to sustain healthy professional and personal relationships.

Here are some tips about transition:

  • To handle present and future transitions: Use the insights gained from the past along with newly acquired skills to navigate your path ahead. It’s helpful to recall the strengths that we’ve developed that have helped make transitions easier in the past.

 

  • How to cope with and challenge our thoughts:
  • Create a rite of passage: Our culture frequently lacks formal rites of passage that recognize passage from one situation to another. To remedy such a situation, a solution to this could, for example, be to hold a ceremony to acknowledge someone for a job well done. Another idea: After you’ve made a commitment, cross over a piece of tape to honor that commitment, symbolizing that you’ll follow through with it. Look at different perspectives: Weigh out the costs and benefits of each perspective.

We have the opportunity to change the way we think about something whenever we learn anything new about any topic that in turn will change our thinking. Ask yourself, how invested am I in holding on to old opinions, despite having obtained the latest information that may contradict those opinions?

  • Have realistic expectations: Transition can be difficult. Be compassionate with yourself instead of being hard on yourself. Often times, negative self-talk makes us our own worst enemy. Accepting change to the fullest extent means allowing mistakes to be made along the way as you transition to the change. If you do not allow yourself to make mistakes on the journey, you will not be able to adapt well with life transitions, and will not be able to enjoy living life to its fullest.

 

  • Transitions in the workplace: These can often be personally and professionally fulfilling. Yet they can also be difficult to manage. Switching roles and increasing responsibilities at work entails not only making adjustments to new tasks, but can also lead to a new relationship with ourselves and with those around us. The transition process can actually feel like the world has gone on “Tilt!”

 

  • Take control of your life: Be open and flexible.

In conclusion, practice finding the good in each of life’s transitions. It’s not what happens to you that causes you to respond the way you do, but how you choose to react to what happens. Take charge of your thoughts and actions and you will be better able to control how you respond, and enhance the quality of your life.

Plan Your Untouchable Day

As I sit here going through the second round of proofreading for my new book, I saw an article in Harvard Business Review in my email inbox that caught my attention. It was called “Why You Need an Untouchable Day Every Week” by Neil Pasricha. Boy, that sounded good!

I thus want to share a bit about my current experience and how an “untouchable day” fits.  I knew my book project would take a good amount of time, so I planned for extra time in case it was needed. Even more, because it was a first-time project for me, I knew that there would be things that I just was not aware of, so I figured I would deal with those things as I went along. We all juggle our schedules. My attitude was plan to the best of my ability and be flexible along the way.

An untouchable day?  Wow. I have always kept a healthy business-life integration. If I added something to my schedule, I made sure before I said “yes” that I had the time, and if not, I could take something out of my schedule that would create the time I needed. This process has worked well for me and for my clients. I try to set healthy boundaries and not deplete my energy.   Almost everyone I am in contact with has a busy life.

When I saw the article I was absolutely ready to try an “untouchable day!” I’d like to share it with you. Your circumstance may be different and you can substitute yours. Everyone fills their time with “things”- appointments, meetings, traveling…The hope is that you will free up some time, energy, and be able to be more energetic, more creative, more at peace, and experience way less stress.

What is an untouchable day?  These are days when I will literally be 100% unreachable in any way…by anyone.

Untouchable Days are now going to be my secret sauce for getting back on track. They’re going to be how I achieve my most creative and rewarding work. The author of the article said he was 10 times more productive on his Untouchable Days.

Pashrica said planning Untouchable Days involves looking at your calendar sixteen weeks ahead of time, and for each week, blocking out an entire day as UNTOUCHABLE, and putting it in all-caps.  

But, what about emergencies, you might be wondering? Pashrica says that there really aren’t any, unless they are truly REAL-LIFE EMERGENCIES.

Pashrica has a simple rule. He says Untouchable Days may never be deleted, but they can move between “the bowling-lane bumpers of the weekends.”

I like Pashrica’s thinking.  He says when you plant the Untouchable Day flag on your calendar, it feels permanent in your mind. You start feeling the creative high you’ll get from such deep output as soon as you start booking them in.

To read more on the untouchable day: https://hbr.org/2018/03/why-you-need-an-untouchable-day-every-week?autocomplete=true

Boomer Transitions: When Mom Has to be Moved

For years I have been coaching and giving workshops on life and career transition. When Boomers are involved, I consider them the cream part of the Oreo cookie, nestled between the two cookie pieces. Boomers are sandwiched between their kids and elder parents.

In my own situation, my husband and I became that cream! I moved my mother, who is now 88 years old, from New Jersey to an assisted living facility in the DC area. After so many trips up and down the turnpike—yes, we know the standing joke that all people from New Jersey identify themselves by the exit they are from—it was time for her to leave Princeton (Exit 8).

Often during a move like this, the focus is primarily on the elder parent who is being moved: his or her health and healthcare changes, whether he or she will meet new people, and so on. But the Boomer who is taking care of these issues is equally important, as there are also big changes going on in the Boomer’s family because of the issues presented by the elder parent.

For me, it is easier to have my mother living locally. But as a consequence, I have much more time-consuming involvement in her day-to-day living. As everyone in my household works, there are a number of things that come up, mostly logistical. For me as well, there are also emotional factors that come into play.

I know from focusing my work on life and career transition, confidence and resilience, that many people resist change, even when it is positive. Moving a parent many miles brings up a wide range of feelings, ranging from excitement and joy to fear of the unknown.

My mother is resilient, thank goodness. I know that resilience is all about our thinking style. It’s about the ability to persevere and adapt when you are going through change and adversities in your life. My mother has done pretty well and I am very proud of her.

But Boomers can be the ones most affected by this type of transition. I have been hearing this more from clients in similar situations.

In those first few months after moving a parent, the emotional impact can be deeply felt, particularly if the parent is declining, either physically or cognitively (or both). In a manner of speaking, it is as if a grieving process presents before the parent actually passes on. I was aware in advance that this occurs. But such awareness does not make it easier.

Grieving can begin when you see physical and mental changes in an aging parent that make you feel like your parent simply “isn’t the same.” By having my mother here, I was exposed to witnessing more and more changes. I knew that on a logical basis that this happens. But I didn’t realize at first the extent of the emotional adjustments I would have to make.

Typically, I would go to visit my mom in New Jersey two weekends each month. We would talk daily on the telephone, share stories and discuss what was going on with family, friends and work.

With more contact and exposure now that my mother is living locally, I have really felt a deep sense of loss. Remembering my mom over many years, beginning when I was growing up (particularly because we were always a tight-knit family) is bittersweet in light of our current situation.

Now, most of my mom’s needs are met at the assisted living facility. She has been here for approximately 8 months, and we are in a rhythm of doctor’s appointments, food runs, and personal items runs.

My mom’s transition process had one genuinely great thing going in her favor: she knew that the timing for this was right. Living on her own was becoming too difficult for her to manage by herself.

I’ve noticed with clients and friends that they minimize the emotional adjustments that come along when working with aging parents. I strongly urge you be aware that this occurs, to notice it as it happens, and embrace it. As a result, you will be able to deal with it.

And remember: Talking is a great outlet. Appreciate each day for the gift that it is.

Feeling Good by Giving Back

Today there is tremendous research being done around the topic of happiness. One way this desirable state can be achieved is by giving to others.

There is a Chinese saying that goes: If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody. Happiness is found in helping others.

I learned a long time ago that giving and helping others makes you feel better about yourself. Moreover, once you experience the wonderful feeling that you get by giving, you will understand why giving can be so transformative. It can be even more powerful when you combine your passion with giving.

I recently spoke at a wonderful organization, Hope Connections. These people help those with cancer and their loved ones, and they counsel them and teach them how to deal with the emotional and physical impact of cancer.  I know I gained as much from giving the workshop as the participants who heard my presentation. When I think about my experience at Hope Connections, I get that good feeling.

According to a Time magazine 2017 article, there is scientific research supporting the saying that we’ve heard since we were kids…”It is better to give than to receive.” Through fMRI technology, research shows that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. By helping others we become happier, and healthier, and we live a more meaningful life.

Having said all of this giving, there can be a downside.

Giving may not always make us feel great. Giving can be depleting, and at times, we can end up feeling taken advantage of. You want to monitor your time and how you spend it.

Here are a few tips that may help:

Give where you find meaning

We tend to feel happier when we are giving to something that has meaning to us. Choose what feels right for you.

Give with self-care in mind

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, says it best, “It is important to be ‘other-ish,’ which he defines as being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight.

Give your time

Giving does not have to be financial. Look at your schedule and choose some time to be of service to others. It can be a few hours or days a year.

Give to an organization

Make sure the organization is transparent with their goals and results. According to Harvard scientist Michael Norton, “Giving to a cause that specifies what they’re going to do with your money leads to more happiness than giving to an umbrella cause where you’re not sure where your money is going.”

Give by Role-Modeling

Teach your children and others the gift of giving. It teaches us to look outside of ourselves. There is nothing like matching your actions and words.

So whether you choose to give based on scientific reasons or from your heart, it is a win-win situation.