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Many years ago I attended a two day workshop on Reality Therapy. I can’t remember the name of the facilitator, but I will never forget how she began the first day: “I expect each one of you to arrive on time so you don’t disrupt everyone else. I don’t want to hear about how traffic made you late." Then she paused and said, "Now that we all know we are responsible for our behavior, let's begin."
Positive change in our lives begins with the mindset of "I am responsible." The question is, "How can you take ownership of your life, your decisions and your behavior and do it in a way that enhances your self-esteem and preserves your dignity?" Here are three suggestions that work:
Drop the personal blaming and shaming.
It’s easy to blame and shame ourselves in ways we don’t realize: We think things like, “Why can’t I be more disciplined?” “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I not further along in my career?” Those aren't really questions—they're accusations in disguise—and they wreak havoc with your self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence.
Taking responsibility shouldn't make you feel bad, it should make you feel strong and capable. Blaming and shaming makes you feel small and powerless, like a child being scolded. Taking responsibility is about acknowledging you are responsible—and when you do that, you will feel competent and capable of finding solutions and acting on them.
Ask better questions to get better results.
The “I am responsible” mindset avoids questions that are more accusations than questions. The right kind of questions bypass blame and shame and go right to solutions. For example: Replace “Why can’t I be more disciplined?” with “Is this something I've chosen for myself—do I really want this?” Instead of asking “Why am I not further along in my career?” make a list of 1-3 things you can do better at work and ask, “How can I put one thing into action right now?”
How do you know if you're asking better questions? Notice how you feel after the question. Does the question imply judgment or does it raise solutions? Does it discourage you or motivate you? Being responsible isn't about catching yourself doing something wrong—it's about acknowledging your ability to make something better. Learn to frame questions to yourself that inspire you and bring out your best self.
Get the support you need to fuel your success.
If you’re not making progress on a goal that’s important to you, it’s likely you don’t have the support you need. The “I am responsible” mindset is about doing things for yourself but doesn’t mean you do it all alone. If you read the acknowledgment section in a book, you will find every author thanking the many people who helped make the book possible.
Taking responsibility for your life isn’t a “I can do it all alone” philosophy. It’s a “I can do it with a little help from my friends” philosophy. Think about something you want to change or improve in your life—something you’re not making progress on right now. My professional experience tells me your lack of progress isn’t about your talent, drive or “discipline.” You have all that. What you don't have is the support you need. Get the support you need to fuel your success.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Dr. Tracey Wilen is a leading authority figure on the impact of technology on society, the workplace and careers. She is currently the Vice President and Managing Director of the Apollo Research Institute, whose research underlines the importance of education and aims to ensure that our workforce is equipped to deal with a rapidly changing technological landscape. We recently had a chance to ask Tracey a few questions.
You are a thought leader on technology trends—what are three major future trends, and how will they impact career women?
Extended longevity—the fact we are living longer to 100 years or older means we are working longer. In the past we scoped our careers to be 20-30 years. Today women need to realize they will be working for 50-60 years. This means they need to think about how to remain employable in a digital world where new technologies emerge yearly. This may mean planning a career that has numerous job stops and each one will build skills and expertise. The final job stop may be self-employment.
Technology creates and displaces jobs. As the world becomes more automated I think it is important for women to think about how their own jobs and careers will change. For example, if marketing is now embracing social media, get on board with this early. My advice is to keep up with technology trends in your field, job and industry.
Globalization creates a number of opportunities in terms of market expansion, international projects and overseas assignments. But it also creates a more competitive landscape for individuals whose jobs can be outsourced.
What qualities are needed to get a career edge with the advances you are seeing?
Firm trends include:
Amy* had been a client for four months when she told me she was thinking of getting another coach. When I asked what was on her mind and she said, “You’re too easy on me! I want you to challenge me more.” You’d think a coach would love to hear a client say that—and normally I would—but not in Amy’s case. Why? Because I had been challenging her all along.
In fact, how I was coaching her made her so uncomfortable she was thinking about quitting. It turns out what Amy most needed to learn was going to be the hardest—making the distinction between success and perfection. In short, Amy was too hard on herself. She would think, “It’s wonderful I graduated among the top ten-percent in medical school, but if I had been more disciplined, I would have graduated number one—or at least in the top three.”
Maybe you’re a little like Dr. Amy and could stand to ease up on yourself. Do you ever find yourself thinking things like:
At first, Dr. Amy hated it when I asked her if she thought she was being too hard on herself. She thought the way to change and improve was to demand more from herself, and many of us think the same thing. It's like we discovered the recipe for success and the secret sauce is being too tough on yourself.
If you would like to learn to motivate yourself without having to resort to “I did great... but I could have (and should have) done better,” here are three tips:
Drop the Should’s and “Ought’s”:
Words like “should,” “should have,” “could have,” “ought to,” “have to” and “must” are red flags when it comes to being too hard on yourself. Instead of, “I have to do better,” think in terms of “What would happen if I gave myself more credit for a job well done and focused on my strengths and passion?”
Aim for progress, not perfection:
Perfection is an illusion; life becomes so much easier and enjoyable when we discover the distinction between a job well done and a perfect job. If you need to master making that distinction, ask a trusted friend or colleague at work—they will likely know when you’re being too hard on yourself.
The “WYSTTYBF Test”:
In my book, I share my WYSTTYBF test, or “Would You Say That To Your Best Friend?” Imagine a friend did a great job as a team lead—but was recounting all the ways she could have been a stronger leader. Would you tell them “a great job is a great job!” If so, it’s time to ease up on yourself. When you do, you’ll discover that what you do and how you do it has a magical way of improving all on its own.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
When was the last time someone asked you, “What can I do for you that would make you happy?” I’m not suggesting you don’t have people who care for you, I know you do. However, I do know everyone (your family, friends and co-workers) are busier than ever and have plenty on their minds besides you. It’s nice when others do something that makes us happy, but you can’t leave your happiness up to others. With that in mind, why not ask yourself today, and every day, “What can I do to boost my happiness today?”
Here are three suggestions:
Brighten someone else’s day:
Yes, this is about what you can do to make yourself happier today. It’s just coincidental that brightening someone else’s day will also increase your happiness at the same time. We know research backs that up, but you also know it’s true from your own experience. Why not make it a habit to choose someone every day and do something that will bring a smile to their face? Go out of your way to thank someone across the hall at work, write a handwritten note to let a friend know you’re thinking of them or compliment someone in front of others. We can’t single-handedly save the world, but we can brighten someone’s day all by ourselves.
Give yourself a treat:
Remember a time when you told someone “This is on me, it’s my treat.” Maybe it was coffee at Starbucks or it was the time you paid for a friend’s lunch. Isn’t it time you began to treat yourself on a regular basis? Why not—you deserve it. Surprise yourself and do something for yourself you don’t normally do. Buy yourself something non-essential that you can’t justify with logic—and tell yourself “Let me do this for you, it’s my treat!” It might sound crazy, but it’s not. We could call this DYI Happiness--Do It Yourself Happiness. There’s no need to wait until someone thinks of doing something thoughtful or nice for you. Make boosting your own happiness your personal mission.
Make happiness a top priority:
All the suggestions and strategies in the world won’t work if you don’t use them consistently. The thing is, you won’t do even simple and easy things to boost your happiness unless you make it your number one priority or at least a top priority. Have you ever done that? Take some time to think this through and consciously decide how important happiness is to you. Happiness doesn’t happen by accident. You have to decide to be happy and then become and do the things that will bring you happiness. Then find your own ways to boost your happiness that are simple, easy to do and then make them a habit.
The lyrics from Helen Reddy's song, I Am Woman, are ringing in my head as I watch the news about Beverly Carter, a realtor in Little Rock who was kidnapped and killed. The man arrested for the crime stated he targeted Beverly because she was "a woman who worked alone."
Violence against women doesn’t get discussed often and is far more common than we realize. According to the Justice Department, 1.9 million women are physically assaulted annually in the U.S. and approximately 15 – 25% of American women will report a sexual attack or rape at some point in their lives.
When I was in college, a man from one of my classes stopped by my dorm on a Friday night. I was neither interested in him nor attracted to him, so I just made small talk. His intentions were clear when he forcibly grabbed and kissed me. I struggled to get away-- I knew physically I couldn’t match or beat his strength, that my only weapon was my voice. Although petrified, I was able to reason with him. I am one of the lucky ones.
As a young adult, I traveled 80% of the time for my job. On four different occasions, I had men try to get into my hotel room. One man dressed in a hotel uniform and knocked on my door at 1:00 a.m. claiming he was delivering room service. I didn't answer and called the front desk. They told me room service had stopped two hours earlier.
Personal experiences and news stories make me observant. I don't open hotel doors or doors at home unless I know the person on the other side. But these safety precautions can’t help you if the danger resides in your own home.
When my daughter Shannon was 10 years old she had a sleepover at a friend's house. While she was away, domestic violence broke out between the husband and wife; Shannon and her friend hid in the closet. Shannon stayed at their home overnight, but in the morning violence began again and the police were called.
I never thought I would be talking with my 10 year old daughter about the potential for violence in relationships. I imagined I would have this discussion when she started dating. I told her if anyone ever hits her she needs to get out of the relationship and tell someone.
We need to change the dialogue about women to one of respect, inclusion, and appreciation. The fear or reality of rape is one of the fundamental realities for most women. Creating dialogue and open spaces to discuss personal experiences paves the way for new possibilities for our collective future.
--Sharon Orlopp, Global Chief Diversity Officer at Walmart
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is taking a lot of heat for his recent career advice to 10,000 women at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. He was asked how women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise should go about it. Here is Mr. Nadella’s reply:
“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise as you go along. That might be one of the additional ‘super-powers’ that, quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have. That’s good karma. It will come back.”
That, of course, is really bad advice—whether it’s given to women or men.
To his credit, Mr. Nardella owned up to his mistake and later stated on Microsoft’s press page, “I answered the question completely wrong.”
Here are three things we can learn from Mr. Nardella’s own career mistake:
Smart people make mistakes, apologize and move on:
You don’t get to be a CEO without being smart. And you don’t get to where you are without being smart. Remind yourself of that when you make a mistake. Tell yourself you’re smart but you’re not perfect, and there’s no need to beat yourself up over your mistake. Mr. Nardella said, “I answered the question completely wrong.” The lesson for us: Apologize, make amends and move on. It’s amazing how forgiving people can be when we own up to our mistakes. The bigger question is, can we forgive ourselves?
Smart people take feedback well:
Mr. Nardella got feedback—probably more than he wanted—because social media lit after his response. He didn’t fare so well in the public outcry over his misguided answer but he was very smart in how he handled it. The lesson for us: Ask for feedback. After all, even the smartest of us have our blind-spots. If we want to be smarter, here are two questions we can ask: What am I doing well with?” and “Where can I do better?” It's good to recover from a mistake when you make it—it's far better to get advice and feedback to make fewer mistakes.
Smart people ask for help:
We’re all smart about some things, but we’re not smart about everything. Mr. Nardella tried to answer a question he shouldn't have. The lesson for us: We need to know our limits and be able to say, “This isn’t my strong suit, I need some help here.” We can’t know everything or be the best at everything. However, there is usually someone within reach who can help us if we’re willing to ask.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
On the surface, Manhattan-based floral designer Alix Astir is living a fairy tale. Her floral business, Trellis Fine Florals, is very successful, and Alix herself is crowned the “Rose Queen” of New York. Her apartment overlooks “The Secret Garden” of Central Park, dedicated to the author of Alix’s favorite childhood book. Here are the highlights of an interview we did with Alix recently.
It seems like you had an interesting life even before you began your business. What was your childhood like?
My childhood was extremely difficult: my father was a fine artist, and my mother a ballerina, and neither job paid well. It was the 70s, and we literally lived next door to a commune in the Bronx. It was very back to nature, granola, all of that. I learned at a young age to think independently, to look at things in a different light, and to not mindlessly follow the crowd. A difficult upbringing will either crush you like a steamroller, or teach you to bootstrap it, forge on and make your suffering your strength. I was determined to do the latter.
How do you manage to balance your work life and your personal life?
It’s really, really hard. Now that I’ve reached a certain level of success, I’m trying to take a step back and put my personal life first. I had to realize that my business wasn’t going to fall apart because I didn’t send an email or answer a call. On the weekends I need to be emotionally and mentally present for my family, and I actually work better now because I’m more refreshed when I show up Monday morning—that is, if I’m not working that weekend!
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs trying to grow a successful business?
I see women time and again trying to “do it all,” and it just doesn’t work! If you are going to be a floral designer, you really do need to be an expert in the actual design and execution, so let others handle everything else. I’m not a good accountant or a good manager—so I hire experts to do those jobs. No one expects you to flourish in every single facet of your business. That is part of being a good entrepreneur as well, know your strengths and your weaknesses.
How have your experiences made your design aesthetic especially unique and different?
Going back to my roots, my father and mother always had natural elements in our household. My dad and I would go beachcombing for driftwood after every storm, and my mother would collect shells or we’d go hiking in the woods to find strangely shaped mushrooms and things. Clients here in Manhattan love tight, compact arrangements, so I balance that aesthetic with a flourish of a natural element, like a twisted branch or strange berry—something that looks straight from the forest. We’re very urban here in the city, people get so disconnected from nature they realize they’re actually starving for the peace it can give you. Very often I’m called into offices to bring some of the outside in.
Some examples of Alix's terrific work:
Interview conducted by Amanda Miller (WomenWorking.com Intern)
Do you ever compare yourself to others and end up not feeling so good? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, untold numbers of people will read something from a friend on social media today wish their family vacation was so spectacular or that their career was so stellar. When we watch celebrities walk the red carpet, it’s easy to forget that no one has a perfect life—even if their designer clothes, make-up and hair-style make it seem so.
There's no shortage of opportunities to compare ourselves to others when it comes to beauty, income, talent, title or just about anything. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we’ve learned to look at others, compare ourselves to them and to suffer in the process. Playing the Comparison Game isn’t much fun and we can stop with a little help:
Decide What’s Important to You:
I had a friend who recently bought a new car and was thrilled—until they saw a co-worker with a higher end model of the same car. I asked my friend, “On a scale of 1-10, how important is it to you to have the higher end model car instead of the one you bought?” They thought a moment and quickly said, “You know, all things considered, it’s not that important.” Our culture and the media might tell us we need to look like a model or have the power of a CEO to feel important, fulfilled and happy—but we can make up our own minds about that. The key is to decide what’s important to you and keep the rest in perspective.
Monitor Your Progress, Not Others:
It’s okay, even good, to compare yourself to someone else—if that comparison inspires you to be your best self. For instance, if someone in your company gets promoted and that inspires you to evaluate your own career goals, all is well. If you know someone who is generous and kind and that reminds you that you are as well, that’s a plus. Monitor you own progress at work and in life and if you decide you want to do better, you can. The truth is, if we're focused on ourselves and making progress, we're going to be too busy and happy to compare ourselves to others.
Don’t Compare, Be Aware:
Remind yourself that happiness is a choice and comparing yourself to others destructively will only rain on your parade. When you see something in others you feel you don’t have, be aware of what’s really important to you. If it is, inspire yourself to become the person who has the qualities you admired, and practice everyday being more aware and happy about you do have. You might find that focusing on what you do have (instead of what you don’t have) leads to more and more of it coming your way.
Take a look at our new video, and share it with your friends.
Remember to always be the best YOU.
Video editor: Melenie McGregor
A client called a few weeks ago for her coaching session. Right away, I could sense something was wrong—not from what she said, but in her tone of voice. She was angry, confused and sad. Why? Because one of her close friends just told her, “You’re being selfish.” My client is a caring person, and although she knows that, the accusation hit hard.
She needed to figure out what was going on and what she was going to do about it. Have you ever been in a situation like that? I bet you have. Maybe a friend, co-worker or family member has told you at some point, in some way, “You’re being selfish.”
Most people aren’t as bold as my client’s friend. They aren’t going to tell you you’re being “selfish”, even if they’re thinking that. No, they’re going to hint at it by saying things like:
The list of things people can say to make you feel bad and get you to cave in are endless.
The question is, can you assert yourself, communicate what you need and judge each situation on its own merits? Or do you find yourself feeling guilty and giving in? Do you feel selfish? Have you ever noticed that when someone hints that you’re being “selfish” it’s always when you’re not giving in to what they want?
Let’s say you’re working for your family’s business. You feel you’re being taken advantage of but you're told you’re the only one who can do what you do. If you don’t? The family business will go under. How do determine if you can do what “needs” to be done without sacrificing yourself at the altar?
The way you know who's actually being selfish (thinking only of their own welfare and not being concerned with your well-being) is by asking them, “If I do this, what are you willing to do for me?” You may not feel comfortable saying that exactly, but it doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you human.
So, what do you do if you have this nagging feeling that you're being selfish in some way? Share your situation with a trusted friend or advisor who isn’t connected and ask them what they think. Are you being selfish or is the other party?
It’s time we recognize that our needs and wants are just as important as anyone else’s. But what about the needs of your life partner, your boyfriend, your boss, your co-worker or your friends? Yes, their needs are important. But if you make their needs more important than your own, they’re going to be happy.
You? Not so much.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Have you ever decided you were going to change something in your life and then realized the change wasn't happening? Or maybe it never started at all, despite your good intentions. I’m talking about the big changes you wanted, not the small easy ones. Smaller changes are usually no big deal, but what about the scary ones-- changing careers, transforming a disappointing relationship or writing the book you’ve talked about?
What explains our procrastination or derailment of big goals that could dramatically change our lives?
One answer is fear. We hear that a lot—and I agree. Fear is often a reason we fail to take action, but could there be something else? I think so. We’ve been conditioned to give more weight to the glory of the big finish than we do to every step of the way that leads to there.
That’s what often stops us. We set goals thinking about the grand finale and the prize that is waiting at the end. We make the announcement, “I’m going after my dream job,” and we mean it—at the time. We see the end results in our mind and feel so good we can hardly contain ourselves.
However, we don’t consider that the big goal we’re excited about has many small steps involved and we don’t know how to keep ourselves motivated. It’s easy to think about hitting our goal of losing thirty pounds or finding our dream job. It’s not so easy to do the work and stay the course until we get there. Not many of us learned how to enjoy the journey as much as the final destination.
Instead we’ve learned to dismiss our small steps because there’s nothing sexy about small improvements and we’re out of adrenalin. We haven’t learned to embrace and celebrate the small but necessary progress we make towards our goals; the “one step at a time” part of success and fulfillment.
What we need is a new way of thinking about the process of achievement, progress and success. We need a new model that gives due respect to the small steps we take—the ones others don’t notice and aren’t dazzled by.
Perhaps we can call this new model of honoring and enjoying each step The 1% Principle. This principle is suggested by Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher, in his statement, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In that single sentence, he gives due respect and admiration for both the first and the last step of the journey.
The 1% Principle encourages us to enjoy and celebrate each step along the way, instead of waiting until we reach our destination to feel strong, powerful and accomplished. In everyday application, this principle allows us to celebrate losing a half pound while on our way to our ultimate goal. We don’t have to wait until we lose all the weight, now we can feel successful, happy and fulfilled every step of the way.
It’s about how we view the process and honor the route instead of giving all the glory to the final achievement. If we honor the process as well as the end result, we will discover that it’s a series of one percent successes that added together make up the final 100.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
How you dress is a visual interpretation of how you feel about yourself, and shoes are unquestionably one of the most important parts of your ideal look. With the changing of seasons upon us, I thought it would be helpful to breakdown a few points about current hot shoe trends to better help you choose before you buy.
Chunky Heels: These were popular in the 80’s and have reemerged. They’re a nice relief from high pumps and can be just as eye-catching and leg extending. More importantly they’re uber-comfortable. There’s a myriad of chic varieties you can pick from with diverse patterns and shades. Don’t shy away from reptile prints or wearing with tall socks when paired with skirts or culottes/long shorts.
Flats: We appreciate their comfort and practicality. They’ve become so popular that designers are coming up with new and stylish flats to add to their collections every season. Additionally, flats have gotten a face lift with jewels and beading that make them fancier and more appealing, even to “stiletto skeptics."
Ankle Straps/Buckles: Menswear inspired clothing has extended to the feet! Monk straps, brogues, traditional lace-ups once were typical male attire but that’s history; today brogues are one of the most popular women flats! They look sleek and smart with everything from suiting to jeans and a blazer. Variety is key, so choose a color or pattern that best matches your personality.
Platforms & Wedges: All I have to say about these styles are… comfortable and height gratifying!
Booties: Booties are extremely versatile and practical for every day. You can wear different varieties in different seasons-- even summer! There are plenty for the warm weather, like cutout designs or peep toes. Booties are a great option if you have small or large calves and cannot wear knee high boots, but still want that city chic effect.
Ankle Boots: Can be worn not only with smart-casual outfits but also with elegant ones. It’s important to choose your ankle boots with care, so respect the following:
Knee & Thigh High Boots: Knee high boots are commonly worn at work or play; it’s the over the knee boots that can be a challenge to wear appropriately at work. Normally I would recommend sticking with knee high boots at the office, but today there are low to mid-heel over the knee boots that can easily pass for appropriate office wear. Try pairing a ladylike dress with your boots for a little flair or an otherwise traditional ensemble. It will make a splash without making waves.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the most important key is comfort. I know it can be hard when you find a beautiful pair that sings in the mirror, but remember the pinch at your toe will eventually grow to a shout once you’ve worn them for more than 10 minutes. Don’t let them find themselves sitting in your closet! We've all done it and I want to help you put a stop to it today. Pretty feet are way sexier than a pretty shoe, so save your toes and take the extra time to find the right cut for you. Once you find a designer that’s comfortable for you, you’re GOLDEN!
If you would like to read more on this topic and other style advice, check out my style blog www.fashfamfoo.com. I look forward to answering any of your style questions or concerns!
Pamela Watson is an experienced stylist who currently works as the trend expert for Builders of Style, where she prepares A-list clients for red carpet events, music videos, concerts, and award shows.
When I facilitate my “Leader as Coach” workshop for companies, I ask each manager to write down the name of the person on their team that would benefit the most from their coaching. How often do you think a manager writes down his or her own name? Not often! Fortunately, in the discussion after the exercise, they begin to see why their most important "coachee" should be themselves.
You might be wondering what this has to do with you if you aren't a leader in your organization. It has everything to do with you, because you are a leader whether you have a title or not. You lead yourself and impact and influence those around you. If you want to be a better leader for yourself, learn how great coaches enable others to go beyond what they think they're capable of and then apply what you learn to yourself.
One of the greatest tools coaches use are questions. Here are three questions you can use to coach yourself every day:
What are my top three goals/priorities?
Now is the time to plan how you will finish this year on a strong note and set yourself up for success in 2015. What 1-3 things do you need to focus on to do break through the tape at the finish line? Great coaches ask provocative questions, so don't just ask yourself what your goals are. Ask yourself if the ones you've chosen are worth giving your life to. Do they inspire you, challenge you and bring out the best you have to offer yourself and others?
Am I celebrating my progress?
One of the things my clients and workshop participants tell me is, “It would be helpful if I had more positive feedback on regular basis.” Of course they’re right, and I say “That’s a good observation, so make sure you get it—from yourself.” If you want to unleash your inner greatness, you have to respect and appreciate your progress along the way. If you want to get more from yourself, you have to give more to yourself.
How can I challenge and stretch myself?
A great coach isn’t afraid of challenging his or her client. Coaching yourself means you call yourself out when you need calling out—but that doesn’t mean criticizing yourself. It means telling yourself the truth you might not want to hear. Here’s an example: “Sherry, you say this is important to you, but you’re just going through the motions. What’s going on? I know you’re capable of more, so let’s figure this out together.” Coaching yourself requires not only empathy and encouragement; it also requires challenging yourself on a regular basis.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
You likely know about the growing discussion over the past several years concerning happiness. We're even talking about happiness in the workplace, but while we’re talking about it, there’s still a lot of confusion on the subject. If you read one book, it will tell you pursuing happiness only makes it more elusive. Another will tell you happiness should be your top priority. How can we make sense of it all without going crazy?
The way I make sense of things is to keep them as simple as possible, but not simplistic. When it comes to happiness here’s what I’ve learned as a former psychotherapist turned executive coach and life coach: being happier isn’t as difficult as we sometimes think it is. With that in mind, here are my three tips to a happier and more fulfilling life:
Happiness begins with a decision:
If you want to be happier, you have to decide you will create more happiness for yourself. Yes, you have to actually make a conscious decision, “I am going to learn to be happier, starting today.” You have to be conscious about your happiness because you are in charge of your happiness levels. To get somewhere in life, especially to get to your happiness, you have to decide to go there. Think about your last vacation—you didn’t get there by accident—you decided to go there. That’s the way happiness works too. You need to decide to go there and then follow through on that decision.
Happiness comes in small packages:
If you want to sabotage your happiness journey just tell yourself, “I’ll be happy when I lose my last ten pounds” or “what would make me happy is to find true love.” Those are fine goals, but your happiness doesn’t just depend on achieving big goals. You can experience more happiness now by allowing small, every-day things to bring a smile to your face. Make a list of ten things that are quick and easy that can boost your happiness. You know, like your favorite cup of coffee or tea, thinking of the family you go home to, taking a fifteen minute walk during lunch, receiving that email from a friend. Make your list and then use it to remind yourself of your decision to be happier.
Happiness begets happiness:
You’ve heard the phrase “success begets success,” haven’t you? It’s the same with happiness. Even a small amount of happiness makes it easier to create more of it. The (mental) trick is to recognize even the smallest moments of happiness—because what we give our attention to grows. You know that’s true with complaints, fears and worries, right? Why wouldn’t that be true of happiness? Pay attention when you feel even slightly happy and confirm your happiness by telling yourself “I feel a little happier.”
What are your suggestions for keeping happiness simple? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply, no pun intended.
At the end of the week, it's always good to be grateful for the small things. Take a look at our new video, and share it with your friends.
Video Editor: Melenie McGregor
This week I drove to downtown Atlanta to hear my colleague JoAnn Corley, President of The Human Sphere, deliver a keynote to about 600 Human Resource professionals. JoAnn’s topic was on building your personal brand at work, why it matters and how to do it. Along the way, JoAnn addressed something that’s key to building your brand—the need for us to inspire ourselves to do exceptional work and to bring about positive change in the workplace. You might be thinking, “That’s nice, but why are you sharing this with me?
Too many employees look to their boss or senior management to inspire them. I tell my clients to empower themselves and to be the ultimate source of endless inspiration. If you have a boss or a company culture that is inspiring, your job of inspiring yourself is much easier. However, the reality is, you are responsible for your own inspiration and motivation. Now, more than ever, you need to know how to inspire yourself to unleash your greatness.
How do you do that? Here are my three tips:
You need a vision that is meaningful; something that inspires you. It will get you through the setbacks and disappointments that are part of life. Your vision will also motivate you to grow and unleash your potential. You can make a difference at work and elsewhere. What do you want to become, achieve and how do you want to contribute? What’s your vision?
Feed your mind and spirit:
What we focus on and give our attention to shapes our thinking, then our thinking stirs our emotions, and finally, our emotions lead to our choices and behaviors. Decide today you will give yourself the mental and emotional fuel you need to inspire yourself to take action to bring your vision to life. Listen to something on the way to work or read something in the morning or evening that inspires you to be the significant, powerful and worthy person you are.
We aren’t meant to go through life feeling safe, certain and comfortable. I’m not saying we don’t need some security—I’m saying too much of it dulls our senses. To inspire yourself, think about your vision for your life, look in the mirror and say (with unconditional positive regard) “I dare you!” Challenge yourself to be more audacious than you thought possible. Inspire yourself.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Hello! I'm Alan Allard, and I'll be your career coach for the month of October. This month will be all about you, but before we get started, you might want to know a few things about me as well.
I am a former psychotherapist and for the past nine years, I have worked as a consultant, executive coach, speaker, trainer and life coach. I help companies, teams, and individuals thrive by challenging the status quo and creating unprecedented success and fulfillment. I am the author of Seven Secrets to Enlightened Happiness: Your Guide to the Life You Were Meant to Live, which can be purchased here. On a personal note, I am married to my high school sweetheart and we have two incredible daughters (as well as two equally incredible sons-in-law) and last July I became a grandfather for the first time.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at what you can do to increase your success, fulfillment and happiness—both in your career and in your overall life. Please let me know in the comments if if there are any specific topics you'd like me to address. Thanks, and I look forward to another great month!
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Having been raised as a young girl in the 50’s, I learned to be polite, not to beat the guys at sports – to be a “good girl”. My role models were women who were coquettish and cute. Today, women have terrific female role models in those who have risen in their corporations, in politics, and as entrepreneurs. I was fortunate to have a mother who became a Vice President of Advertising. She had grit, and modeled it – but we never discussed what this was and how she used it. I never learned the secret to having “grit.” What is it? Grit is an uncompromising commitment to performance excellence and strategic focus. How can a woman embody grit in her leadership every day?
Here is the secret to having grit:
Have a vision. Make it innovative, and be decisive about it. Vision is seeing possibilities and then building opportunities to make a meaningful difference with people, profits and performance. It also means operating with clarity and certainty to eliminate confusion and hesitancy.
Have a strategic focus and be persistent. Strategic focus is about seeing the longer-term big picture and the current priorities that will get you there. It is about using self-control to stay on track and transform derailing reactions to effective action. It’s about facing and neutralizing negativity, and communicating clearly to others what is most relevant to achievement.
Act with dedication, boldness, commitment and courage. Bring your passion and energy to all you pursue. It’s your spirit and vigor that will generate your power. When facing risks, rely on your strengths and take a courageous stand for what matters most.
Remain authentic, relying on your strength of character and a commitment to empowering others. This means being genuine. Your strength of character has its foundation in your values and integrity in action. Always share credit, power and acknowledge others for their contributions to you and the goals.
Be resilient and see possibilities in the face of others’ resistance. There will always be obstacles and resistance from others. You wouldn’t be making a difference if people and things around you weren’t pushing back. Always look for possibilities when faced with obstacles and opposition. Seek to understand others’ points of view and use your insights and empathy to melt resistance, including your own.
I wish someone had shared this with me when I was starting my career. We usually learn this through experience. How have you used grit?
I have to admit that in my career, I always had an authority issue. I maintained criteria and expectations for anyone I reported to. My criterion was that I had to respect the person, be able to learn from him/her, trust that she/he will give me valuable feedback, and support me. Although this has helped me choose whether to accept an offer, this attitude is also a set up for the boss. Why? I had an internal set of criteria as conditions for our relationship. When my boss didn't meet them, I reacted with disappointment, anger, and sometimes resentment. This wasn’t a recipe for trust and respect, since I rarely shared these criteria with my managers. I was coming from a pretty judgmental mindset. To successfully manage up, I had to confront my biases and expectations - not make them "wrong", but shift them from expectations to wishes and become willing to share these in a conversation for mutuality.
But first I had to become willing to get to know my boss – and express a true interest in what makes this person tick. This “learner” mindset positions me to connect and build a relationship based on focused curiosity, without being insincere or manipulative. If you find yourself identifying with my original mindset, then consider shifting to an attitude that will allow you to truly connect with your boss.
My colleague, Roz Usheroff, a leadership, image and branding specialist, suggests ways to win over a boss. This approach must be based on a shift from a judgmental mindset to a learner mindset:
1. Treat your boss like your number one customer. Do this by using your authenticity and sincerity to seek out their thoughts on how you can serve him/her. Seek to understand what keeps them up at night so that you can carve out your value proposition in their eyes. Also, learn what success looks like to them. Being on the same page will cement your relationship and create a harmonious and trusting bond. Pay attention to your boss’s priorities and make them yours.
2. Identify your boss's communications preferences. Does he/she prefer face-to -face, email, phone/voicemail, text, Skype, lots of detail/lists, bottom line, pictures/diagrams? How about timing? What are the best and worst times to communicate? Does she prefer start or end of day, weekends, on the fly, last minute or scheduled meetings? If your styles are different, it serves you to adjust to your boss's style.
3. Communicate regularly. Operate within the guidelines you both set for optimal communication to meet frequently face to face informally and formally. Keep your boss informed on updates on goals. This builds reliability, your value in his eyes, and builds trust.
4. Honor your commitments. At the end of the day, you are there to do a job, so make sure that you do it to the best of your abilities by meeting and exceeding expectations, being prepared for your meetings, and showing your commitment by volunteering for things that others don't want to do.
A mutually satisfying relationship with your boss brings short-term gains in the form of coaching, developmental assignments, meaningful performance reviews, and salary increases. The long-term benefits bring sponsorships for career opportunities, strong referrals, and introductions to other helpful people in your network - just to name a few. My best champion today is one of my former bosses. How about you?