Monday, December 27, 2010

Visualize Your Way to Success

We're moving into the New Year and, like many, you are likely beginning to think of what you want to achieve over the course of this brand-spanking new year!  There may be some hesitation in creating this new vision for yourself though, given that you may not have managed to realize the goals that you set for yourself this past year.  What can you do this year to make it better, to increase your odds of success?  Take a lesson from professional athletes, sit back and 'visualize' your way to success!

If you can't picture what 'success' for you looks like, it you can't visualize (in detail) taking the steps needed to accomplish it, then you are missing out on a very powerful tool in helping you not only reach, but quite possibly exceed, your goals.  Trust me on this - if you can't 'see' it, you likely will never achieve it.  Our unconscious mind has difficulty in deciphering reality from fantasy.  Therefore, it tends to try to deliver whatever images and scripts you feed it.  The clearer the picture, the more successful.

Soviet sports scientists conducted a study on the effect of mental training and conditioning (which included visualization) on the performance of world-class athletes at the 1980 Olympics.  They divided the athletes into four groups.  Group 1 received 100% physical training and conditioning, Group 2 received 75% physical and 25% mental conditioning, Group 3 received 50% physical and 50% mental, while Group 4 received 25% physical and a whopping 75% mental conditioning.

Certainly, researchers were expecting the athletes receiving 100% of their training through physical conditioning to perform the best.  However, they found instead that Group 4, those receiving the greatest level of mental conditioning, showed more improvement than Group 3, Group 3 showed more improvement than Group 2 and Group 2 showed more improvement than Group 1. Clearly then, the mental training and conditioning proved to be significantly more important to their overall success than physical conditioning alone.

In another experiment, researchers took a look at Basketball free-throws.  The subjects were divided into three groups.  Each was tested for their free-throw accuracy prior to beginning any conditioning.  Group 1 physically practiced their free-throws for 20 days. Group 2 didn't practice in any way for the 20 days, while Group 3 spent 20 minutes per day visualizing themselves throwing free-throws successfully.  The results?  Group 1 improved their scoring by 24%.  Group 2 (who had done nothing) showed no improvement.  Group 3 - who had only visualized themselves throwing - improved by 23%.  Mentally practicing their free-throws resulted in an almost identical level of performance improvement as had the physical practice.

Now imagine the results of combining the two - physical and mental practice.  This is a Key Success Strategy.  Consider now though, what messages are you replaying in your unconscious mind?  Do you clearly see yourself succeeding at each task or do you visualize yourself failing, or messing up in some way?  What are you programming your brain to live to?  Our perceptions of what we can do, can be, can have... help to determine what we do, be, have in our lives. 

If you can't imagine yourself wowing your audience, getting that promotion, making over $100,000 a year (or more!), then you likely won't.  How often do you catch yourself starting sentences with... I'm not... I can't?  Consider that each of these statements is sending a visual image of that failure to your unconscious mind, telling it that you should be less.

Andre Agassi, tennis great, once said he had won Wimbledon already 10,000 times, before ever actually competing in it, because he had visualized it over and over in his head since he was 5 years old.  For him, winning Wimbledon in actuality was just a repetition of what he had already accomplished in his mind and knew he could do.

Your Assignment?  (you knew this was coming!)  What one 'thing' do you want to achieve, to do better?  Craft your visualization.  Make it as detailed as possible, adding more to it each time you walk through it.  Add in as much texture (what can you feel, hear, see?) as you can.  The more detailed, the more realistic, the more 'real', the more powerful.  Run over the visualization until the script becomes as comfortable to you as putting on your favourite pair of jeans.

This Success Secret may just prove to be the key to unlocking potential that has been largely untapped, by breaking through hidden barriers and negative scripts, helping you to live more fully to your potential.  Let's hear it for a New Year and a New Start!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Celebrate Good Times... Come On!!

If you're like the rest of us, the Holidays are a crazy-busy time; rushing to finish those last projects at work, your gift shopping, wrapping, baking , attending the round of Holiday parties... the list can seem endless.

Before you get too caught up in the 'doing' for everyone else though... take a few moments for yourself.  Grab a coffee (or, in my case, a tea!) a piece of paper and a pen, sit down, relax and reflect on the past year.  We get so caught up in moving things forward, in continuing to make plans and goals for our future, that we often overlook taking the time to look back on everything we have achieved and to celebrate those successes.

The end of the year is a great time to take stock, to take a few moments to acknowledge that although there may still be outstanding items on your to-do list (as there always seems to be!), you have crossed many more items off of the list.  On your piece of paper, I'd like you to begin creating a list of everything you achieved over the past year.  Big, small... it doesn't matter.  It all goes down.

Consider work.  What were those special projects and assignments that you worked on.  What new skills did you develop, new experiences did you have?  What about your personal life?  Any issues you finally managed to resolve, money saved, exercise programs started, weight loss goals reached, relationships built or strengthened, spiritual insights gained?  Go through it all and keep writing!  Don't qualify any, there is no room for thoughts of 'it's not big enough... or important enough'.  This is your list, your life.  If you did it, if you achieved it, write it down! 

When the list is as complete as you can make it right now (and there should be at least 20 items there or you're being too critical!), read over each one, considering how you feel about the achievement.  Does it instill you with pride?  Do you get a warm feeling thinking about how much that action helped you grow, or perhaps benefited others?  Revel in this feeling.  Bask in it.  Roll in it.  Bathe in it.  In short... CELEBRATE IT!  Throw a party for one and, if you're really feeling good, invite others to share in your successes and perhaps help them to celebrate some of their own!

As you move into the New Year and begin to formulate thoughts and plans for the year ahead, I want you to keep this list close at hand, as a reminder of just how capable you are.  Any time you find yourself thinking you're not up to a given task, pull this list out and read it over.  It's filled with examples of times when you truly were 'enough'.  Let your past accomplishments serve to inspire and motivate you to continue to grow and challenge yourself through the coming year.

Let me know how this exercise goes for you, what insights you gained, messages learned.  Really want to take it a step further?  Share a success story with us here and let us Celebrate with you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Body Language - Is Yours Saying What You'd Like?

We all know (or at least we all should know!) that we communicate messages to others through many non-verbal paths.  The way we walk and gesture, how we hold our head, make eye contact and even our overall looks speak volumes to those around us.  Are you making the most of these messages?

Like most of my clients you are likely leaving many of these elements to chance, failing to ensure that they strategically work to support your desired brand.  In this article I want to give you a quick (believe me... this IS quick!) overview of  four key body language elements that you should 'check out'.

1.  Overall Physical Appearance.  We don't generally speak about this... it's not 'politically correct' but... our perceived level of attractiveness by others has a significant impact on our progression and success.  Research supports this... I'm just the messenger!  In general, those considered more physically attractive are thought to be 'better' at what they do, get more positive recommendations and feedback, are seen as more persuasive and tend to earn substantially more.  Sheesh!  When it comes to our physical appearance there are changeable and unchangeable elements.   In the end though, it truly means that we need to make the most of what we've been given to work with.  Quick tips...
  • Hair.  Make sure that it is cut into a current style (not one you've had for decades) and one that suits not just your face but the career role you're targeting
  • Teeth.  This is an often overlooked aspect of your appearance, but is critical to how you're seen.  Your smile is an important element in your ability to connect with and engage others.  Make sure your teeth are clean, straight and white!  If you're choosing not to smile because you don't like the look of your teeth...  fix 'em!
  • Clothing.  The biggest mistake that I find people making is wearing clothing that doesn't fit, often because they have gained or lost weight and haven't adjusted their clothing.  Always ensure that your clothing fits the body you are currently residing in, not the one you used to or hope to have.  It goes without saying that it should be current and clean!
  • Accessories.  Ensure that all of your accessories (jewelry, watches, shoes, eyeglasses, briefcases, purses, overcoats etc.) are current and well cared for.  They should be consistent with the overall message you are sending, not creating mixed messages.
One final positive note about appearance is the concept of Exposure.  Research tells us that the more often you are seen by someone, the more attractive you will appear.  Meaning... familiarity creates comfort.  Generally, people will describe this as the impact of your 'personality' making you appear more attractive.  Regardless, up your face value by putting it in front of people more often!

2.  Posture.  To display your confidence you must ensure that you engage in positive posture.  You need not be ramrod straight, but you do need to elongate your spine upward and hold your head up and straight.  Too many of us walk around in a continual slouch, whether through the shoulders or through a compression of the lower back and abdominal muscles.  Both serve to soften your appearance, decrease your height, drop your energy level and rob you of perceived confidence.  So...  head up, shoulders back, eyes forward!

3.  Eyes.  Everything starts with the eyes and, in North America particularly, eye contact is an important projection of your confidence and self-esteem.  In North America we know that people need eye contact about 70% of the time during their conversations, in order to feel engaged and understood.  There are definitely differences amongst cultures and countries with respect to this though: research has found that African Americans tend to like more eye contact (upwards of 80%), while Asians typically like about 60%.  In general though, when the other person is speaking, give them your full attention and eye contact.  When you're speaking, you can break your eye contact periodically by glancing elsewhere to gather your thoughts.

4.  Movement.  To project confidence you will want your movements to be smooth, controlled and purposeful.  In North America we do expect a certain amount of gesturing.  It is seen as natural and therefore it can play a big role in helping others feel more comfortable with us.  However, our gestures should work with and support the messages we are delivering, both about our content and ourselves.  Try to avoid short, sharp, jerky movements which will either make you appear nervous and uncomfortable or angry.  Keep your movements within the 'Clinton Box' - the 'Box' created by drawing a line from shoulder to shoulder and down to the waist.  Staying within that box when gesturing (in small and mid-sized groups) will always appear appropriate.  Finally, finish your gestures away from the body (moving hands out and away from the body rather than in toward the body).  In doing so you will take up more space which will help you appear stronger and more confident. 

In taking stock of your body language, start with the four elements described above.  Use videotape to catch yourself in 'action', watching how you move.  Do a 'mirror critque' of yourself to ensure that the visual image you are projecting calls to mind your desired brand.  If you're getting mixed signals you can bet your audience is.  Make the changes needed to streamline your messaging until who you are comes through loud and clear!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Charisma: The 'It' Factor

Bill Clinton has 'it'.
Julia Roberts has 'it'.
Lady Di had 'it'.
John F. Kennedy had 'it'.

What is this intangible something that seems to separate these individuals from those around them, that makes them seem... well... somehow 'more' than everyone else?  It is, in a word, Charisma.

Although it is hotly debated whether charisma is something you're born with or whether it can be developed, I am firmly in the latter camp.  Although I believe that our innate personality plays a role in determining the ease with which we employ these skills (the 'Naturals'), we all have the ability to become more charismatic.

According to Ronald Riggio, PhD and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at Claremont McKenna College, there are three main components comprising Charisma.


This is our relative ability to strike up conversations with others, to openly and easily share our thoughts and feelings.  Interestingly, despite most people feeling as though others converse more comfortably and easily than they do, research shows that individuals who truly enjoy making small-talk are in the minority.  Therefore, taking the responsibility for initiating small talk from the other person (who is likely just as hesitant and uncomfortable as you feel), will typically earn their gratitude and heighten your appeal.


This is our ability to modify and adapt our persona to fit the needs of a group, the environment or the mood.  This does not imply that you become a totally different person in each situation, but it does speak to the ability to adjust your dial (like a thermostat) a little lower or high to fit/suit what is required.


This is the ability to truly listen to another person, to 'hear' beyond just the verbal content of their message.  This requires both an openness to picking up on others' emotions and a willingness and ability to express your own.

In general, in order to appear more charismatic to others, it is important that you shift from an internal to external mental orientation.  All too often we are focused interanlly, on our own thoughts, wants and needs.  As a result, we are not as open to others around us, not as interested in their stories, as we are in sharing our own.  We appear less interested and, as a result, are seen as less interesting.

Instead, we need to learn to activate an outward orientation to, in a manner of speaking, be out of our heads - present instead to those around us.  This is what some refer to as being present in the moment.  Regardless of its name though, the intent is the same.  You direct your thoughts and energies toward those that you are engaging in conversation.  Giving them 100% of your attention is what makes you more appealing and, ultimately, more charismatic.

This may sound like a much easier task than it proves to be in practice.  In fact though, that's exactly what it will take to improve your Charisma Quotient... practice!  Whenever you find yourself listening to your own internal dialogue instead of the voice of the person you're speaking with... refocus!  Kick yourself out of your head and redirect your attention.  Make eye contact, give the speaker cues (both visual and vocal) that indicate you are engaged.

Truly charismatic people are authentic.  They tend to be those that genuinely like and are interested in others.  If you tend to dislike more people than you like, you may find it more challenging to display interest and maintain your focus on others.  To increase your ability to do so, you need to open yourself to discovering more to like in and about others.  To help with this, try the following exercise at your next networking event.

The Work...

Instead of just making small talk and moving on, task yourself with the challenge of having to discover something fascinating and/or redeeming about at least three people present.  This not only has you strengthening your ability to show interest in others but it also helps you to discover that everyone has a story that can open them to you.  You need only to uncover it.  In doing so, you will likely appear more interesting and charismatic in turn.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Story Time!

Everyone has a story... what's yours?  No, not the one you tell everyone else, the script that you've practiced and told so often that you don't hear it any more, aren't moved by it any more.  I'm talking about the story  you tell yourself.  The story that defines who you believe yourself to be, the story that has you believing what you're destined to be, to do , to have in life.  Yep... THAT story!

Ideally, we would have a story for ourselves that we love.  A story that casts us as the hero, as someone deserving of love, recognition, success and joy.  However, too many of us experience unhappiness, dissatisfaction and sometimes a feeling of worthlessness.  If this sounds familiar, then it just might be time for you to question the story you're telling yourself!

Change your story, change your life  (Anthony Robbins)
Our sense of dissatisfaction stems out of a gap between how we believe that things should be and how they truly are.  Narrow or eliminate this gap and your level of satisfaction and joy increase proportionally.  You need to shift your story though.  Changing your perception of the shoulds in your life (what you should have, be and do) changes the yardstick by which you measure what you currently are, have and do.  Measuring differently gives you different results!

We have all had difficult challenges to face in our lives.  Life can be tough.  The true challenge for us though rests in finding a way to use and learn from the tough moments and in not allowing ourselves to become lost in them.  Sometimes these tough moments impact our story, in ways we didn't anticipate.  Rather than letting these moments create gaps of disillusionment that we fall into and get swallowed up by, shift the story!

We may not have control over everything that life throws our way, but we always have control over how we choose to respond to those moments.  Every time you choose to find a work-around or to push through those challenges, you strengthen your story and create a stronger plot line for yourself.  The stronger you become and believe yourself to be, the more story possibilities that open themselves to you. 

The end of your story doesn't exist yet.  You can't yet know how your story will end.  You are a writer in the process of creating the story of your life though.  Isn't it time that you took control of your script, rather than letting others write it for you?

The Work...

Sometimes we have lost track of our story, of what we want and believe for ourselves.  To get closer to it...

Think about and identify one aspect of your life that you are currently very happy and satisfied with. 
What is it about this that instills in you a sense of happiness?
What is the aspect of your story that it is fulfilling?

Now...  think about and identify an area of your life in which you feel dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
What is it about this that instills you with that sense of unhappiness?
What is the aspect of your story that it is failing to fulfill?

Generally, we have three options for handling our areas of dissatisfaction.  We can...
  1. Blame someone/something else - which drives our feelings of victimization
  2. Do nothing - which heightens our sense of dissatisfaction and helplessness
  3. Change our story and take a different path, gaining control over our lives and our satisfaction
What actions will you take?  Recraft, rewrite your story to better support those new actions and direction.  Given a choice, I will always want my personal life story to end with... and she lived happily ever after.  Why would I ever want to settle for less?

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Live Before You Die

In my book - It's Time Now, Choose the Life you Really Want, I talk about the fact that we have limited time on this earth, that we need to ensure we are living a life of our choosing, not the life someone else has chosen for us.  The bottom line of course is that we all only get one life to live.  It makes sense that's it's the life we want for ourselves.

I recently came across a Commencement speech that Steve Jobs delivered to the graduating class of Stanford University in June, 2005, in which he shared three stories with the students.  In particular, hang in for the third story - as always, Steve Jobs says it so much better than I ever could...  check it out here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Marshmallow Challenge

I must admit... I am quickly becoming addicted to the website  Fascinating and interesting little snippets of topics - just short enough for me to fill in a few moments here and there learning something new.  The video below is one such film clip on Ted, from Tom Wujec.  Tom is a Fellow at Autodesk, the makers of design software for engineers, filmmakers, designers. At Autodesk, he has worked on software including SketchBook Pro, PortfolioWall and Maya (which won an Academy Award for its contribution to the film industry).

Now... obviously, designing software is not my forte.  However, I think that there are tremendously valuable lessons that we can learn from one discipline and apply to others.  Tom's Marshmallow Challenge is one such.  In this challenge, groups are given 18 minutes within which to build the tallest tower possible using only the materials provided.  In this case, the materials include:  20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and one marshmallow.  The final rule?  The marshmallow must be on the top of the finished structure.

Check out the video at...

After running this exercise hundreds of times, Tom has grouped some of his findings and experiences into some take-away messages.  In particular, his finding that building multiple prototypes along the way (the need to receive iterative feedback) is critical to the ultimate success of the project.  The value of prototyping is highlighted.  In essence, prototyping requires you to learn through failure.  Prototyping allows us to learn what does and doesn't work, ultimately arriving at a better, stronger, final product.

This process can and should be applied to our lives.  How often do we abandon something without having tried it first, either because we have already decided in our minds it won't work or because we won't risk looking silly (or worse) if it is not successful?  Often it is our unwillingness to 'try' that holds us back from achieving our full potential. 

I invite... no... I CHALLENGE each of you to go out and try something new, something that you've always wanted to but hesitated because you felt that you might not be thtat good at it.  Create a new mindset...  this is just a prototype attempt!  Prototypes are designed to be a trial version of something, to help you in designing and reaching 'better', if not 'perfect'.  Use this process to prototype your way to perfect!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No... we need to learn to say Yes!

Ít's amazing to consider that a small, two-letter word has such control over the way in which we view ourselves and the world, but the word 'NO' is a significant contributor to our failure to achieve as much in our lives as we are capable of and desire.  Research shows us that the average child has heard the word 'no' over 40,000 times by the time they reach the age of 5.  Now... multiply this by the number of times that a child would likely have said no to themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, and we are looking at one of the strongest and most heavily reinforced messages...period.

I recognise that we use the word no with children in an effort to protect them.  'No, don't touch that, it's hot' is not designed to undermine their self-esteem but rather, to prevent them from a potentially nasty burn.  It's a direction given out of love and caring.  However, those no's add up creating, very early in our lives, an over-developed 'protective's ubconscious self.

No... don't take that job, you might fail
No... don't do that, people might laugh
No... don't try that, you might get hurt

95% of our waking hours are spent on autopilot - allowing our subconscious mind to direct us.  Our autopilot does serve a useful purpose for us, preventing us from having to consciously think about everything that we are doing.  We don't have to think about breathing, our subconscious mind takes care of ensuring that we continue to do so.  We don't have to think about 'how' to make our muscles work together to allow us to run, we just decide to run and our subconscious takes care of the rest.  Our subconscious mind then is constantly working and is never at rest.

There are elements of the programming our autopilot has received though, that do not work for us as effectively as others.  Certainly, the impact of all of those No's adds up and has our subconscious mind making choices for us that prove limiting in the long-run, often preventing us from achieving and doing everything that we might.  Instead, we need to reprogram some of our autopilot's scripts, shift our patterns of thinking, to open up new choices and paths.

To start that reprogramming process... refuse to say 'No' for an entire day.  This does not mean that you need to agree to everything anyone else suggests, but it does mean you must find an alternative to 'No'.  For example...

  • ... I would prefer something else... instead of No, I don't want it
  • ... Please do 'X' ... instead of No, that's wrong
  • ... 'X' is more preferable... instead of No, I don't like that
  • ... I am unable to... instead of No, not gonna
Keep a list of how many times you slip up over the day (if indeed you do!).  A simple little checkmark on a piece of paper will do, using one side of the page to record the number of  'No's' used and the other side to record each 'Yes'.  You might be surprised by the final number of each, especially since you were trying to avoid saying No.  The one-day experiment goes well?  Try it for a week, then try it for a month!

Think you can?  (hope you said... YES!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 1% Advantage

Napoleon Hill, in his book the Law of Success, spoke about the concept of Service.  He felt that your personal level of success would be driven by your ability to help others get ahead.  Really, he was speaking about the need to 'over-deliver'. 

"The importance of rendering more service and better service than that for which one is paid"

We often hear about the need to 'go the extra mile', the need to 'over-deliver' on our promises to others in order to stand-out and differentiate ourselves.  However, for many of us, we are already struggling to keep up with everything on our plates, juggling already too-busy schedules and workloads.  How then, could we possibly consider going a mile beyond what we are already struggling to produce?

In short... we can't.  But... we can make the goal a little more realistic, a little more 'doable'.  Instead of considering an 'extra' mile, a 100% increase in our output (yep... not very realistic!) consider instead simply doing/giving/being 1% more.  1%.  That's it!  Think of the beauty and simplicity of that.  We could all likely manage to do 1% more, to give just 1% more effort and focus and time to a task. 

On its own, that 1% might not sound very significant.  However, look at it from its cumulative effect.  Consider... if you did just 1% more per day, for the next month, how much more would you have accomplished and delivered?  Would that increase in output be enough to have differentiated and distinguished you from your competition?  Quite likely.  So many people are under-delivering that increasing our output by only 1% definitely gives us the edge.

Think about the momentum created by that 1% advantage. When we take on a task that's too large for us, we often become overwhelmed by it all and stop taking action, believing that we'll never be able to achieve it.  However, focusing on just 1% improvement each day - that's achievable.  That's doable, and that allows us to rack up success on success rather than failure.  For most of us, that daily positive reinforcement would not only be welcome... it would be invigorating and inspiring.  It would spur us to find ways to give 1% more tomorrow and the tomorrows that follow.

Think... if you grew just 1% per day for the next month... would you even recognise yourself and what you've achieved?  How would you feel about yourself and your life after that month?  Here's my challenge to each of you...  Do 1% more tomorrow.  1% better, 1% extra.  Just 1%.  See how you feel at the end of the day... could you give just 1% more the following day?  Build up the momentum and the power of the effect of accumulation of those 1%'s over time (it's sort of like compound interest!). 

And then... have a totally wild and crazy day where you challenge yourself to double it.  Yep... every so often be so wild, so bold, so daring... as to go for 2%. 

Double-dog dare ya!

Monday, October 18, 2010

This is Not a Dress Rehearsal

A few weeks ago I sat in an ambulance, that was parked outside my home, watching as EMT's used a defibrillator to shock my husband's heart.  He would not have survived the 5 minute drive to the hospital unless they could shock his heart back into a normal rhythm.  I can't begin to describe the intensity of those moments.  It's only now... now he is fine... I realize that not only had he been 5 minutes away from his life  ending, but I too had been those same 5 minutes away from the life I had been living from ending as well.

How quickly things can change.   How quickly all that we know can end.  The life I had envisioned for the future... our future... would have been gone.  This threw me.  This was something I couldn't control and, for those that know me, I do so love to have control!  The 'event'  had fundamentally shifted the way that I needed to view my world, forcing me to consider a phrase that I had often heard in the past...

Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

This is it.  This is the only shot you get.  How are you choosing to live it?  It needn't (and shouldn't!) take a potential life and death moment for us to examine ourselves, our lives, to ensure we are living a life of our choosing, a life that fulfills us.

If you feel that you are just going through the motions each day, it is likely because you have gotten caught up in living to other people's expectations, wants and needs, with little conscious thought or effort being given to your own.  If so, it's time to sit down and take what I am now referring to as the 'Paddle' test.  If they had to put those defibrillator paddles to your chest, would you choose to do things differently afterward?

Paddle Test

1.  Take Stock.  Use a sliding scale of 1-10 to determine your current level of satisfaction with various aspects of your life.  Consider...
  • Work/Career (think about your current role, your career path, your relationships at work, dream jobs...)
  • Relationships (think about the quality of the relationships you have with your partner, parents, siblings, children, friends...)
  • Finances (think here about your current debt to savings ration, your salary and earnings potential, your retirement plan/fund...)
  • Spiritual Connections (think about your sense of connection to the world around you, sense of belonging, how engaged you feel, how often you experience joy in your life...)
  • Personal Growth (think about your view of 'self', how much do you challenge yourself with new activities/tasks/learnings, are you committed to life-long learning...)
2.  Gain Insight.  Review your self ratings.  Certainly, anything less than a '10' rating implies that there is room for improvement, but... let's be a little more forgiving!  Take a look at the areas you scored yourself lowest in.  There is likely room for improvement here.  Consider why your level of satisfaction is low in that area.  Is there anything you could do to change this, to improve it?  Do some brainstorming, generating some ideas without qualifying them.  All you want to concern yourself with at this point is 'What would bring me more satisfaction?"

3.  Take Action.  You have generated a list of ideas that would help you raise your current level of satisfaction with your life.  Pick one... and do it!  Even small steps, when accumulated, can lead to big changes.  If the items on your list seem too big or daunting, then identify the one you're most excited about and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps.  We're only concerned with taking a positive step forward, not with the relative size of the step!

4.  Rinse and Repeat.  Keep going!  Build that forward momentum by continuing to work through the items on your list!

As for me?  I am giving more thought, planning and action to managing my financial future better and I'm definitely making more time for the non-work related activities I love... my glasswork, TaeKwondo, reading and... husband, children, grandchildren.  I'm even planning a 'real' vacation - to Italy - no laptops allowed!

Those 5 minutes taught me a lot about where my focus needs to be... Now.  No more 'some days'... there's only Now and how you choose to spend it.

What can 5 minutes teach you?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Presence and its link to Promotion

A lot of my work, whether through training sessions, coaching or a combination of the two, is focused on helping people to strengthen their personal presence, in an effort to enhance their career opportunities.  This tends to be an area of development that many miss on their bid for the top, preferring to focus on developing their technical skills, knowledge and expertise.  However, as business guru Mike Litman puts it...

"Every level of income demands a different you".

Think about this for a second.  As you move up within an organization you don't just have to be able to do and deliver more, you need to 'be' more.  This involves more than just simply being able to manage the work.  In order to get the job done, you must be able to instill in others the confidence that you can get it done and, likely, that you can inspire others to get it done too.

You don't have the same skills and knowledge today as you did when you first graduated from college or university.  Your skills have grown.  You are capable of doing more.  You need to ensure that the 'you' that accompanies those growing skills is keeping up though.  It is easier and more comfortable for us to focus on the more technical aspects of our career growth , and it is likely the area that our organizations expense their training budgets on developing and providing us.

It is up to us to ensure the 'us' that is accompanying those developing skills keeps pace.  We need to display more confidence, more professionalism, more poise as we move up.  If we only focus on what we need to DO, on what we need to produce, we will overlook being what we need to BE.  Without the combination of the two, we will likely be recognised within the company for our technical knowledge, but our career will take a backseat to those that are also seen as having the strength and ability to manage, to lead others.  This requires someone that has demonstrated the content and that projects the presence to get others to follow.

Consider then...
  • what do you need to be?
  • what do you need to project?
  • what do you need to think?
  • what habits do you need to have? order to be 'seen' as a person that could fill that coveted next role.  It's a total package that needs to be strategically put together if you want to succeed.  Consider then, for that next level up, not just what technical skills and experience you need, but what aspects of you need to be strengthened and projected in order to 'sell' yourself into the role seamlessly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Choices... Choices!

We are faced with innumerable decisions over the course of each day, from the small and relatively inconsequential (will that be skim, whole or soy in my latte?) to larger decisions with greater potential for impact upon our lives (where we choose to live, the job we take, the person we marry).

Add to these decisions the sheer volume of options available and our choices can sometimes seem overwhelming.  Will we choose luxury or frugality, pleasure or practicality, form or function?  It is an entire field of study, which attempts to understand just what influences the decisions and choices we make... so that 'they' can sell to us better.  (read:  so they can sell 'more' stuff to us!)

New research just out, conducted by Aner Selia, Jonah Berger and Wendy Lu, has determined that the number of choices made available to a consumer actually increases the level of difficulty in choosing.  Additionally, the more difficult the choice, the more that the final decision will be based on some form of justification: how well the decision fulfills criteria based on...

  • function vs. form
  • frugality vs. luxury
  • practicality vs. pleasure

From an influence perspective, this research has clear implications on how you may want to present your options to potential consumers.  Consider first what you're selling and where it falls on the continuum above.  If your product is more on the pleasure/luxury end of things, keep the number of options small.  On the other hand, if your product is more on the practical/frugal side, a greater number of choices would be better.

Combine the above with previous research by Cialdini and his associates, who determined that the greater percentage of your sales will fall to your middle option, in order to position your product in the best light.  In their experiments, they were able to sell out a high-priced product, which enjoyed few previous sales, simply by creating/listing a more expensive option above it.  Placing it below a higher priced product made it more appealing to consumers.  The shift to the middle position moves a product from appearing to be a 'luxury' item to appearing more 'practical'.

On a personal level, bear in mind that too many options can often overwhelm us.  Instead of waffling between too many options and allowing the sheer volume of choice to lead to decision-paralysis, spend your first moments narrowing the field by eliminating options with little or no appeal.  By starting off with gaining clarity over our 'No's', we often gain the insight we need to be able to say 'Yes' more definitively.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Law of Attraction vs. the Law of Action

Ever since the movie and book "The Secret", there has been a surge in books, courses, programs and articles focused on helping you to attract MORE into your life.  More of whatever it is that you desire and want.  The basic premise of the Law of Attraction is, in short, distilled down to two basic statements.
  1. like attracts like
  2. you get what you focus on
Like Attracts Like.  If you want to attract more upbeat, energetic and positive people into your life then you need to start being more upbeat, energetic and positive.  You want more joy, start by being more joyful.  Intuitively, this makes sense.  Surround yourself with more of what you want.

You Get What you Focus on.  Again, this makes a logistical kind of sense.  If I focus my energies and activities around the achievement of something, then it increases the liklihood of my bringing it into my life.  However, many have taken the word 'focus' to imply mental energy only.  They create story boards of their wants, post pictures, and send statements of their wants out to the universe...and then sit back and wait for 'things' to start happening.

Many practitioners and gurus of the the Law of Attraction ebooks and programs would have you believe that these actions alone are sufficient to attract to you what you want.  Yep... spend your money on their programs, sit back on the couch, visualize what you want and...  Nothing!  Why not?  Others have seemingly become wealthy using these techniques.  Their storyboards worked.  Posting a picture of a million dollar bill worked to attract more money into their life.  Why isn't it working for you?

Because... you're missing half of the equation!  Certainly positive change starts with creating a positive mindset and vision.  I'm a strong advocate in the need to create a clear vision of what you want to attract and achieve in your life.  The clearer and stronger the piciture, the better motivator it is.  Therefore the Law of Attraction used properly, becomes a motivational force.

However, to truly realize those visions and fulfill those dreams, you need to couple the Law of Attraction with the Law of Action!  You cannnot affect change, bring something different into your life, if you do not DO different.  What are you willing to do in order to bring more of what you envision to you?

Examine any of the stories behind those that have 'attracted' great wealth, happiness and positive outcomes to themselves and you will discover that each person worked at making it happen.  However, the Law of Action doesn't sell.  We're already working hard.  Working 'more' is not what we're looking for.  We're interesting in getting more, not doing more.  The appeal of the Law of Attraction is the belief that 'thinking' alone will make it so.  That we can make time for... but... Attraction without Action will fail every time.

The true secret behind The Secret though is that once you being to create your vision and storyboards, once you begin to clarify what you want to attract and manifest into your life, you are already implementing the Law of Action.  You are beginning to work your plan, by creating one.  As the vision takes hold and excites you, you will find yourself taking more actions leading you in the direction of your vision.  As you do, you begin achieving more of what you desire, motivating you to continue engaging in the behaviours needed to take you further along the path. 

It doesn't 'feel' like work?  Of course not!  Doing something we love and enjoy never does and perhaps that's the truly magical component, the true 'key' to wealth and happiness...building our lives around what gives us real joy and pride... the rest seems to follow on its own.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vocal Influence

People have long been adding emphasis to words and phrases when they speak, in an effort to create interest and enhance understanding.  However, there is an additional use of emphasis we should be aware of that comes to us from the world of hypnotism.  Savvy marketers, advertsiers and politicians have used this technique for years, all in their ongoing efforts to inlfuence our choices and the direction of our thoughts.

The technique is called 'tonal marking' by hypnotists.  In essence, you mark out (emphasize) segments of your spoken communications by modifying your voice pitch, volume and/or pace.  This change in your voice serves to emphasize and lend more weight to those specific segments of your message.  In doing so, you essentially end up with a message contained within the body of the communication.

Consider the message below, where the bolded and capitalized words represent the segments you are tonally marking.

           "I don't want your to BUY THIS TOASTER until you've decided that
            IT'S THE ONE FOR YOU"

On the surface, the message appears neutral and fair.  However, when you look only at the passages that were marked tonally, a hidden, somewhat subliminal, message is seen. When tonal marking is used in sales and marketing pitches (as above) it is typically referred to as an embedded command.  Its use may be more or less effective given other elements present throughout the rest of the 'pitch'.

However, what about when the technique is used during communications in which we are not consciously being 'sold' something?  What if we were listening to someone give a talk about gender differences?  They aren't trying to formally sell us, their goal is simply to inform, educate, perhaps entertain.  What if they are relatively new to the professional speakers circuit though, and are trying to create a positive reputation for themself, create a bit of 'buzz' around their name?  It's important to them then that you find them interesting and knowledgeable, that you... in short... like them.  They might then choose to embed messages into their speech to help drive this impression. They might include sentences like the following houghout their speech...

     "if you, LIKE ME, find communicating with the opposite gender confusing..."

     "I'M often astounded to find how much more PASSIONATE women sound when..."

     "When it comes to understanding the motivations of the oppositve sex, I, LIKE YOU find that..."

It's the tonal marking of various phrases, delivered over the course of speech, that provides the subtext.  Now consider the potential for influencing your audience when these messages are delivered over the course of a 10 minute, 30 or 60 minute presentation.

What about if you delivered one such message about yourself with your 5-minute update at the weekly management meeting?  Could the consistent and repetitive nature of this message influence and reinforce their perception of you?  Research would have us believe YES.

TRY your own experiment, by giving IT a go.  YOU just might find that you LIKE the results IT brings!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Power of Desire

At the recommendation of someone I greatly admire, I finally picked up a copy of Napoleon Hills' complete text of 'Think and Grow Rich'.  Certainly, I had heard, or read, snippets of it in the past, had read numerous authors referencing it, but it had never moved from my 'to be read' list.  Until now.

I have to admit that already the first chapter has given me pause to think.  The topic?  Desire.  Not a word that we typically apply to our lives as a whole.  We might stop to question what we 'want' in and from our lives, what we 'need' to get by and, perhaps, might even occasionally give voice to our dreams.

But, somehow, desire takes elements of all of these, incorporates them and elevates them.  Desire is stronger than just want or need.  It isn't as transient.  Desire is not fleeting.  It speaks to a consistency and commitment to thought and action belied by both want and need, which are more situationally based. 

Additionally, our desires are more concrete than our dreams.  Dreams, by their very nature, are less substantial, more corporeal, making them less tangible and therefore likely unattainable.  Desire is more earthy though. It has a visceral component to it that provides an anchor for those dreams. It is more concrete, more substantial and, therefore, achievable.

It is the strength of our desire for a 'thing' that gives us the drive to achieve and succeed.  However, admonitions to be 'practical', to be 'grounded', to be 'realistic and logical' in planning our lives and careers has led us to suppress our DESIRE, such that we are left doing, but not feeling.

It's hard to feel passionate about the work we do and the contributions we make when they lack any connection to our deepest desires.  I am beginning to believe that it is the reconnection to our desires that is the catalyst for remarkable change to occur.  Gaining clarity over our desires not only provides us with the destination, but it fuels the trip.  Without it?  We're likely to get caught up in doing and being and going something/somewhere less meaningful or fulfilling.  We're living.  We may even be 'successful' by other people's standards, but at what cost to us?

How much more excititng and energizing to be engaging in activities that feed and fulfill our desire, that move us toward our hidden, and all too often, unspoken dreams?  If this stirs in you a spark of wanting, a 'desire' for more, then I invite you to begin to reconnect with your desires and passions.

Exercise:  (I somehow always manage to work some kind of homework in, don't I?)  You've spent years, perhaps even decades, in stifling and burying your desires.  Don't expect them to reveal themselves to you overnight.  Though...  certainly be open to it should it happen that way for you!

  • Consider - if there was enough money in whatever you chose to be or do...
      • What would you be...
      • What would you do...
      • ... and... most importantly...why?
  • Explore - how you felt as you answered the above questions.  What does it reveal to you about your desires?  Is there a way to begin integrating more of it into your life right now, no matter how small?  If yes...  then get started and do it!
Remember, no more effort is required to aim high in life, to demand abundance and prosperity, than is required to accept misery and poverty    
                                                                                                      Napoleon Hill

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Clean Your Career Clutter!

Just as we tend to accumulate too much extraneous 'stuff' around the house, our careers can also become cluttered.  Over the years we tend to accumulate a lot of habits, processes, ideas and people that no longer serve us in moving along our chosen career path.  Sometimes, we have collected so much of this 'stuff' that our path becomes obscured.  If you've seen the show 'Hoarders', or the others like it, you now have a visual representation of what you may be having to wade through while trying to progress at work. 

Use the following points to help you get rid of that clutter, clear out the waste and to redefine your career path!

1.  Dust off that career plan that you made decades ago.  Take a look at where you are, both in terms of your career and life.  Where would you like your life to take you over the next 5 or 10 years and what role can/should your career play in fulfilling this?  Your career is not an isolated element in your life - it is an integral part of it.  Therefore, it should be viewed from within a whole-life perspective.  Once you have that bigger vision of what you want for yourself, break it down to consider what you can do this year to move it forward.  Each year you should repeat this exercise, reviewing what you accomplished the year before and determining what new steps need to be taken in the upcoming year to build on that past year's momentum. 

2.  Using the above plan, consider...are you spending your time on the activities that matter, or have you gotten bogged down in completing a lot of busy-making tasks?  You know... those activities that seem to keep you hustling and that fill your day, but do nothing to move you or your key objectives forward.  If so... start tossing!  This may require a more disciplined approach to the use of the word 'no' than you've been exercising up until now.  Too many of us get caught up in the cycle of 'busy-ness' without really qualifying the value of the activities we are engaged in.  For others, it is more an issue of getting caught up in doing for others and finding little to no time left over to doing anything for ourselves.  To get ahead we need to start thinking more strategically.  Your time is limited.  Therefore, you need to be spending 80% of your time on the 20% of the activities that net you the biggest results. 

To give you some perspective, try this exercise to see where you are at with your activities.  Take out a piece of paper and list your current 'to-do's'.  List them all!  Beside each I want you to indicate two things.  First, whether this is something that you are completing on behalf of yourself, or someone else, and then rank its relative importance (on a scale of 1-10) on you and your career. 

Take a look first at any items that you are doing for someone other than yourself and that have a neglible impact on your career progression.  These are the tasks that you need to get rid of and say No to in future.  You're likely engaged in them to be 'nice' to the other person, but if they are not providing you with enough of a positive impact, then you need to let them go.  Do it nicely, but learn to say no.

3.  Speaking of others... take a close look at those people that are in your 'career-sphere' and consider the purpose that they serve, to you both you and your career.  Are they a mentor?  Are they a coach?  Are they a contact or conduit to something more?  If they only provide criticism and negative feedback, leaving you second guessing yourself, it's time for a change!  Surround yourself with those that are going to challenge you in positive directions, who believe in you and genuinely want you to succeed.

For those of you familiar with my book It's Time Now, the Board of Directors exercise will serve you well here.  For those of you that aren't (shame on you!), create a list of the people that you are impacted by within the framework of your job and career, whether regularly or infrequently.  Consider what their degree of influence is over you (your thinking and decisions) and whether that influence is predominantly positive or negative in nature.  Review the list and strategically consider reducing or eliminating the role that anyone plays in your thinking that is more negative than positive in their outlook or influence.

The flip side of this is to examine who is missing from your list.  Do you need someone to mentor and coach you in developing certain skills?  Do you need a champion at work to help market you?  Do you need new sounding boards for your ideas?  Consider what gaps need to be filled to help you move forward and start filling those vacancies!

4.  Assess your Barriers.  Who, or what, is standing in your way, slowing down your forward movement?  Maybe you're missing a skill or some training, maybe you're lacking some information on options, maybe you have a boss that is holding you back to further themselves more.  Whatever the barriers are... list them out, providing details about the nature of the barrier and its impact on you and your career.  Identifying the barrier is, of course, only the first step.  Now you need to come up with an action plan of how to work through or around it.

Don't just take 'no' or 'can't be done' or 'you aren't', 'you haven't' for an answer.  What do you need to do to reduce or eliminate that barrier?  Often, clients will define the action needed and realize it's not as insurmountable as they envisioned.  If we only focus on the fact that there is roadblock, then we will sit down and bemoan the fact that we're blocked.  Defining the possible ways to overcome that barrier though defines a course of action you can take to overcome it.  Think the whole thing is overwhelming?  Then identify one small step that moves you forward.  Don't worry about overcoming the barrier in one hurdle if that is too big or intimidating.  Take one step.  You will be amazed at how just a single step forward can create the momentum you've been looking for.

5.  Freshen up your impact.  Spring is a great time for this exercise because you may already be scrutinizing yourself a little more closely in the mirror, thinking of the shorts (or bathing suit) to soon come!  Consider what your physical impression is and whether it is projecting the career message of your choice.  What shifts, changes or tweaks are needed to tighten your look, to deliver a stronger, more favourable, impression of You, to your audience.
  • Clothes too tight?  Buy the right size, set up a workout schedule or... do both!
  • Time for a more updated haircut, pair of glasses, cleaner teeth or...?
  • Need a wardrobe overhaul to add a more updated edge?
  • Do your presentation or vocal skills need some help to strengthen your impression?
5 key steps, but I know that they are by no means easy ones.  What you will find though, is that once you have gone through these steps once, your annual reviews and planning updates will be easier, if only because you only have a year to have built up clutter, not your life to date!  Getting rid of the 'stuff' we've collected can be an emotionally challenging exercise.  However, it is nothing compared to the emotions that keeping all of the clutter inour lives puts us through each day.  Really challenge yourself to throw one thing away.  Just one.  Something that doesn't work for you anymore, a habit that is holding you back.  Once you've done this...  take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and see if tossing that second item isn't just a little bit easier!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Likeability Trap

In general, we all like to be liked.  As a result, we will engage in behaviours, often unconsciously, designed to get our audience to be positively disposed toward us.  Research has shown us that feeling and believing that others like and respect us can be a great source of personal pride.  It can go a long way to helping shape our internal beliefs about ourselves.

Knowing that we're a 'good' person, and believing that others know and see this as well, can be a source of comfort to us when we find ourselves in a conflict with someone else.  It can help us feel good about ourselves, despite someone else's attempt to make us feel bad.

Likeability then, the extent to which we believe we are liked by others, can have a very definite and positive impact upon us.  It can increase our confidence and belief in ourselves and enhance our self esteem.  Research has shown that likeability also has other, perhaps lesser known, benefits.
  • a customer's fondness (or liking) of their salesperson will weigh up to twice as much in their purchasing decisions as their regard for the products.  This is the foundation for the emphasis on Relationship-based selling processes.
  • creating that likeability bond establishes a presumption of goodwill and friendship through future contacts.  Others will be more favourably disposed to you and will interpret your future behaviours in a more positive and favourable light.
  • people that are 'liked' tend to be hired and promoted faster. 
It's all good then, right?  To be successful, our strategy should be to do all that we can to be 'liked' by as many people as possible...right?  Perhaps not.  As with all things in life, it seems that there can even be 'too much of a good thing' when it comes to likeability.  Balance, even here, is the key.

There is a downside to being too likeable, too friendly, too nice.  It seems those individuals that skew too heavily to the right on the the likeability continuum, will undermine their credibility.  They are no longer seen as strong, confident and capable, but instead seem weak, indecisive and a follower.  So much of their behaviour is oriented toward fulfilling the needs and wants of others that 'they' get lost in the process.

This overwhelming need to be liked by others will undermine your sense of self, rather than build it up.  It's not often labelled the 'Disease to Please' for nothing!  People who find that they orient their entire day (if not life) toward the fulfillment of everyone else's needs will likely find their own being sacrificed.  This can lead to feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction and disillusionment.

Unfortunately, they will then typically fall back to the one behaviour that has made them feel good about themselves in the past and do more of it.  Pleasing others!  They work harder to please others and obtain their praise.  The Likeability Trap has now decisively clicked shut around them, catching them up in an endlessly looping cycle of behaviour.

To break out of this spiral of behaviour it is necessary to take a good look at just who you are trying to please and why.  Create a list of people in your life that influence how you think, feel and act.  (For those of you that have a copy of my book - It's Time Now - use The Board of Director's exercise)

Now assess their relative worth and value to you.  Is their influence predominantly positive or negative?  Are they helping move you forward in your life or holding you back?  Our time and energy are limited.  We therefore want to ensure that we narrow down the list of people we are working to please to include only those individuals that you receive a positive benefit from.  There must be an advantage to you for your investment in them!

Positive relationships are not one-sided.  They're reciprocal.  Establish the balance in your life by ensuring that you invest in the relationships that net you a positive return.  The others?  Well... take a lesson from Donald Trump on this one...  Fire 'em!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Effects of Emotional State on Influence Success

Research studies have shown a clear connection between the emotional state of the individual and the success of an influence strategy.  In these studies, people were either exposed to messages that were designed to induce fear-based emotions or romantic-based emotions.  These emotions were created through short stories and film clips.

Each group was then exposed to advertisements using either social-proof* or scarcity** type messages as their influence strategies.  The results?  Those people exposed previously to fear-based emotions were more persuaded by the social proof appeals, while those people exposed to romantic-based emotions were more persuaded by influence messages utilizing scarcity and uniqueness.

Interestingly, studies have also shown that not only our buying behaviour, but our selling behaviour can be affected by our emotional state.  Jennifer Lerner and her associates set out to determine just this.  What they did find was that those individuals in which they induced a feeling of sadness (again, through film clips and essays) were likely to pay more for an item if buying, or to sell it for less.  In fact, compared to the emotionally neutral buyers, sad buyers were willing to pay as much as 30% more for an item, while sad sellers were willing to price items at up to 33% less than emotionally neutral sellers. 

Other studies have been conducted that demonstrate that ANY emotionally charged issue or situation, regardless of whether it is positively or negatively charged, will have a direct impact and influence on the type and quality of decisions made. 

The implications?
  • consider carefully the placement of advertisements, within magazines etc.  The effectiveness of your ad will be heavily influenced by the article(s) preceding it.  The content of your advertisement would need to shift depending upon whether the articles precding it were happy or sad, positive or negative in nature.  The emotions that those articles evoke in your audience will have a significant impact on the way in which your advertisement is viewed and, ultimately, how much of your product gets sold.
  • this same consideration should be given to the likely emotional state of your audience, before crafting and framing your communications or requests.  If employees are fearful of the economic situation and stability of the marketplace, then they are more likely to be influenced by messages utilizing the social proof heuristic and will be less responsive to messages that utilize other influence attempts. 
  • you should also give some consideration to how you are feeling - emotionally - before entering into any negotiation process or buying situation.  You are most likely to make the best buying decisions when in a fairly emotionally neutral state.  
If you have ever found yourself buying something that you didn't want or need, or paying a much higher price for something than you should have - you know you have been influenced through an emotional state.  Just as we have been told repeatedly not to go grocery shopping when hungry, so too must we now consider not going shopping when we're too emotionally charged.  Unless, of course, we won't mind the impact on our pocket-book!!

*social proof - evidence that others are 'doing' it, celebrity endorsements fall into this category.  In general, we look to others behaviour to guide our own.

**Scarcity - the 'only 50 left' strategy.  If something is in limited supply or going quickly we may be more inclined to purchase it for ourselves.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turning Energy Into Time

If you are anything like me, then you likely find yourself overloaded with more things to do in a day than can possibly be accomplished.  We use technology more to stay on top of things, and to keep in touch with everyone, than to free up our time.  We try to cram as much as possible into our workday, to be as productive as possible, in the vain hope that perhaps we won't have to work late or take work home to catch up.

Is it little wonder then that we are always on the search for the latest tool or tip that helps us manage our time more efficiently?  After all, that's the real issue, isn't it?  Not having enough of that precious commodity - time.  Or... is it?

Maybe, instead of continuing to work at managing our time and tasks more effectively, we need to reframe our thinking.  The issue with time is that it's finite.  No matter how you do the math, there are only 24 hours in a day.  Instead of learning to manage your time more efficiently you have to learn manage the Energy you bring to your tasks.

Much of the early research on energy management comes to us from the world of sports, but it is just as applicable to our day-to-day work lives.  Heck... to our lives in general!

As a professional athlete, it is essential to understand exactly what it takes to achieve consistent, peak performance.  Research has shown that though it is important to hone the technical skills each athlete brings to their respective sport, it is essential that they maximize the Energy output in order to increase performance.

We may not be operating our daily lives at the same physical level as professional athletes, but the machines we're using to accomplish our work (our bodies) are the same.  The challenge for us though, is that we are typically asked to 'perform' for 8 hours a day, a minimum of 5 days a week, without the benefit of the knowledge or training that athletes receive.

A key training method of elite athletes is known as Periodization, first introduced by the early Greeks.  Periodization is the concept of improving performance through balancing periods of activity with periods of rest.  Consider your typical work day though.  You likely...

  • Wake up to an alarm clock blaring at you
  • Race through your morning routine to get out the door as quickly as possible to beat the traffic
  • Move from one task to another, one meeting to another, with no pause
  • Take lunch at your desk so you can continue to work... you wouldn't want to 'waste' time!
  • Race home, work tucked under your arm
  • Fix dinner
  • Spend time with the kids (that all-important 'quality' time!)
  • Squeeze in a little more work
  • Collapse in front of the television to 'vegetate'
  • Drag yourself to bed so you can get up tomorrow to do it all again!
Where was the rest, the renewal, in your day?  Oh... right... it's called vacation and it doesn't come daily, it comes annually!  We live in a world where 'busyness' is worn like a badge of honour and where renewal and recovery get ignored.  However, our ability to be fully engaged at work, to be optimally productive, depends upon our ability to periodically 'disengage' successfully.

Building moments of recovery into your work day will enable you to engage in your tasks more fully and passionately.  Research has clearly shown that productivity increases when people build in periods of renewal into their work day.  Even though they are 'breaking' more, they get more done than those choosing to work 'flat out'.  Some of the most creative thinkers (such as daVinci and Einstein) were strong advocates of breaks, to allow their subconscious minds to work out the problem at hand.

I have clients that will not schedule any meeting exceeding 90 minutes in length, without scheduling a break, recognizing the link of our energy levels to our body's natural Ultradian Rhythms.  And... really... most meetings run needlessly long anyway!

Consider breaking your day into 90-120 minute blocks of time.  Rather than fighting these natural body rhythms, defer to them instead.  A break needn't be long in duration for it to provide you with enough of a rest for your energy and focus to improve.  Potential ideas for workday renewal breaks?
  • take a walk
  • read a chapter of a book, or listen to one
  • listen to music
  • do some light stretches
  • prepare and eat a light, healthy snack
  • work on a puzzle, crossword, sudoku
You get the idea!  Whatever activity would work best for you and relieve you of some of the physical and mental stress you've experienced so far.  Allow your mind to switch gears, take a break from the task at hand, so that it can be more focused when you return.  Odds are that the solution to the problem you were stuck on before the break, is waiting for you upon your return!

(if you are interested in learning more about the idea of Managing your Energy to increase your time effectiveness, send us a blank email with Energy Ebook in the subject line.  We'd be more than happy to forward you a pdf of our ebook... enjoy!)

Monday, March 8, 2010


I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to have this blog up and running!  For those of you that know me, you already know how much ongoing reading and research I am involved in, at any given time.  Whether due to a new training program under development, a new article I'm working on, or sheer curiosity, I am always into something!  I will say that it's often a coaching client's question that gets me going on a new tangent. This blog gives me the opportunity to get some of those thoughts out there, to hear what you have to say but, in short, to share some of my thinking outside of just coaching sessions or training programs. 

Of course, this is all my way of saying that I'm not sure just what you'll get in this blog. Maybe an article-type discussion, maybe a follow-up commentary to key questions I've been receiving through email or coaching sessions, maybe just some discussion points or information I've come across that I've found fascinating and think you might be interested in hearing about.

Regardless, I hope you find something of value as you join me on this journey.  I invite you to repond to anything I share, whether you agree, disagree or simply want to share your thoughts and experiences.  Let's get some dialogue going!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

About Cindy Dachuk & Titan Training Group

Cindy is the President and Founder of the Titan Training Group, a company that is focused on helping individuals and groups recognize and capitalize on their key abilities and talents. Cindy’s degree in Psychology, 16 years of experience in Training and Human Resources Management, and her 7 years experience in the Social Work arena, combine to provide her with unique perspectives on human interactions and personal possibilities.