Monday, March 31, 2014

STOP Wasting your Mental Resources

Let's face it, we all have only so much conscious thinking space and time available to us.  Stop wasting yours by engaging in unproductive thought processes like Worrying and Making Excuses.  The time you spend in these types of activities simply wastes your Mental Resources. And, to make matters worse, when you catch yourself engaged in a negative thought, such as worrying needlessly, do you let it continue?  If so, you are encouraging the brain to continue to think in these same ways in future.

Instead, you want to catch yourself engaging in these wasteful moments of thought, such as worrying needlessly, and STOP the behaviour.  Yes, tell your brain to STOP!  This is a Pattern Interrupt, which means you are deliberately interrupting a habitual pattern of behaviour.  By literally (and out loud if you're able) telling your brain to STOP, you interrupt its habitual pattern, making it more susceptible to suggestion. In that moment, tell the brain how you would prefer it to think and operate.

As your brain then modifies its thinking pattern and shifts itself to a more positive direction, don't forget to reward it for doing a good job!  Let it know that you appreciate the more positive path and direction and how much you will enjoy seeing more of the same in future.  I know this may sound vaguely silly, but our brains are us.  They like being rewarded for good and appropriate behaviour, just as we do.  Stopping the inappropriate behaviour and reinforcing the positive helps to establish a clear distinction between the two that is hard for the brain to ignore in future.

Use your Mental Resources and talents wisely by orienting them in a direction that serves you.  If you find it difficult to Stop worrying, then give the brain something to do instead.  Your brain loves solving problems so give it one to focus on, especially one that aligns with your goals.  Deliberately distract your brain from focusing on worrying elements and shift it into solving challenges that help move you into positive directions. We all have more brain power than we think, but we often squander what we have.  Stop wasting your mental resources by using them in unproductive ways and direct them to establishing more positive habits.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Life Priorities - Got Yours?

What are your Life Priorities?

No... not your to-do list.  I'm talking about the true gut-wrenching priorities, the 'things' that you would sacrifice all else for, that you measure your success by, that you put your energy toward, that life isn't worth living without.

Got them?  Hmmmm.

For some of us, this is a challenging question.  Sure, we have some work priorities (you know, those files piled up on the corner of our desks) and we have some financial priorities (fixing the leak in the bathtub) and we may have some family priorities (coaching our kid' soccer team) and we may have some personal priorities (didn't we just renew that gym membership?)...  but what about at least one true, overriding, it-influences-everything-else priority?

I don't think that many of my clients would be able to articulate one and, if they did, would be very success when they measured their actions and choices against it.  Paying lip-service to a priority is not the same as using it as the target against which all choices are measured.  And yet, this week, while coaching in Switzerland (I know, I know, but somebody had to do it!) I have had the privilege of meeting some people who not only are extraordinarily clear about their life priorities, they have made choices and sacrifices in support of those priorities.  Willingly.  Unfailingly.  Without complaint.

It was their joy and pleasure to work in support of that priority, even if it meant delaying their own personal gratification, because it was in clear service of that higher purpose.  A powerful lesson to me as i listened to the intensity with which they felt this, the passion that filled them, the clarity of their mission.

It struck me that, working primarily in North America as I do... that we are sorely lacking in a clear sense of our Life Priorities and what having them implies for the way in which we live our lives because, if we really believed fully in one Priority in our Life... we would live in service to it.  We would make choices in support of it and derive happiness and satisfaction from the opportunity to do so.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I remember having these kinds of discussions with my friends.  And yet... why not?

In a time in which most people seem dissatisfied with their lives, their careers, their choices, their purpose and calling, it seems that there are those for whom it is simple and clear.  In the movie City Slickers,  Jack Palance holds up a finger and remarks that life is all about 'One Thing'.  What's yours?  What's that one priority in your life that gives it meaning, purpose and shape?  What your One Thing that serves to define your choices and is your yardstick of a life well-lived?

I've experienced first hand the beauty and power of having clarity over your Life Priority.  If you lack this, spending time discovering your 'One Thing' and making choices that serve it, is likely your best key to living your best life.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Other 'B' Word

Our words have power.  They can inspire or wound, excite or depress, delight or anger our audience.  We may choose our words with deliberation, in the express intent of instilling a particular feeling within our audience. The words we use can remain in the hearts and minds of our audience for years, even decades, continuing the mission we originally set for them.  Consider the ongoing power of the speech highlighted by four simple words - I Have a Dream.

One of the challenges we face with our words though, is the impact they have when we are not looking, the impact they have when we utter them without deliberation or conscious thought.  They often influence our audience in ways that we did not intend, could not imagine and, typically, would never have chosen. Following on the success of her book - Lean In (see link below if you have not yet taken the time to read this book!) - Sheryl Sandberg, COO of FaceBook, has once again chosen to continue her fight to make women more comfortable assuming Leadership roles within the workplace.

In her latest campaign she has chosen to raise public awareness of an insidious phrase that I have railed against for years, the 'B' word that has no place in Business - Bossy.  Although this may not, at first glance, seem to have the same negative as the 'other' popular female B-word, its roots often run far deeper and therefore have a greater negative impact.  Young girls learn early that to be called bossy is negative.  You will not be liked if you are bossy and will typically find yourself ostracized from your playgroups.  Bossy girls find themselves playing alone.  As a result, young girls learn quickly to modify their behaviour, not giving directions or taking on a leadership role, to 'blend-in', to 'fit-in', to be liked.  

Contrast this to little boys, who will often take on the role of leader within a given activity, giving directions, setting rules.  Once they have tired of that activity, another boy in the group suggests an activity and takes charge of it.  Leadership is accepted, typically expected, and is certainly rewarded.  Rarely are little boys labelled bossy.  Instead, they are applauded for taking on a leadership role.  Listen to the little girls, in the ABC news story about Sheryl Sandberg's 'Ban Bossy' campaign Here.  Listen to how they speak openly and convincingly of the need to avoid being labelled Bossy.  These young girls are already making decisions and choices that will serve to keep them from aspiring to leadership roles.

The words that we use often become the labels by which others view themselves and, in so doing, shape their future.  Banning Bossy is simply the metaphor used to draw attention to how insidious the development of gender stereotypes is, how pervasive it is, and to highlight how much we need to begin to openly challenge and change these Barriers to the Boardroom.

We'll know we have made it when little girls everywhere are confident in their declaration that they are not Bossy, they are The Boss!

Get a copy of Lean In, it's worth a read!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Time to Detox... your Mind!

We all have a negative thought or two from time to time, a moment in which we think we can't, that we're not good enough, that our job, our friends, our life... sucks!  Think for a moment though of how often you have those thoughts.  How often are you thinking negatively, of what you aren't, what you don't have, what you can't do?  If we are what we think, then these toxic thoughts are likely killing us.  In fact, Dr. Carolyn Leaf has often shared that 75 to 95% of illnesses we face are a direct result of our thoughts.  What we think about most affects us physically and emotionally.  Just as we may perhaps take measures to detox our body of harmful elements, maybe it's time to also consider the need to detox the mind!
"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.  Watch your words, for they become actions.  Watch your actions, for they become habits.  Watch your habits, for they become your character.  And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.  What we think we become"             Margaret Thatcher
The following list represents my Top 5 Toxic Tips... the five thoughts that you need to begin corralling and controlling now to Detox your Mind.

1.  Stop the Victim Mentality.  Thinking like a victim (that things happen 'To' you) puts you immediately at the control and mercy of others.  They seem to have control over what you feel and what you are experiencing.  Shape your world by shaping your experiences.  How you respond to events around you is always within your control.  Take back this power and use it to create experiences that serve you, not restrict you.

2.  Eliminate all of the could-haves, would-haves and should-haves from your vocabulary.  Each one of these highlights something we missed, that we lack, that we aren't.  Instead, focus on the choices you did make that led you to experience something positive, that helped you develop and grow a new skill, that provided you with an opportunity you would have missed otherwise.  The moment we make a choice we have something that we did not choose, just as we have something we did.  Focus instead on the choices you made and what you gained, rather than on what you missed out on as a result of the choice.  

3.  Learn to accept 'What Is'.  There are some things in life that are not within our control to change.  Death and Taxes are two!  Any time spent wishing or hoping they were different is a waste.  Accept these, build plans around them, move on, and focus on the elements that you can change to improve your outcome.  The words of the Serenity Prayer become your mantra for this Toxic Tip... "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference".

4.  Begin fertilizing on your side of the fence.  Stop thinking everyone else's grass is greener.  Time spent envying others is never positive. Instead, put that time into doing what it takes to create the yard and life you want.  You can have what others do if you are willing to invest the same time and effort.  If you are, get on with it.  If you aren't, stop whining about it.

5.  Stop Worrying about What Others Think.  Trying to make choices that satisfy everyone in your life is futile.  You can't possibly please 'em all, leaving you feeling badly about everything.  Instead, focus on making choices that serve you best.  Likely they will prove to also satisfy the majority.  Too much time is spent worrying about what others may think, only to find that they hadn't cared about the outcome of the decision in the first place.
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do"                      Eleanor Roosevelt
Spending time in Detoxing your Mind is a positive investment in... you!  Eliminating the garbage that accompanies all of the negative thoughts opens your mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking. Definitely a winning strategy for more success and happiness in your life.  Surely a worthwhile investment to make.

Monday, March 3, 2014

5 Body Language Tips of Speaking Pros

I know that having to get up and deliver a speech can be a daunting and intimidating task for many. What
content can you offer that will resonate with your audience, what stories should you share, what analogies could you offer to make your facts more memorable... it seems never-ending.   Despite all of the time we may put into the development and rehearsal of our content though it is not unusual for our speech/presentation to be a little lack-lustre or even... to fall flat!  Before you take out your pen to re-write your speech or decide to just completely write-off your ability TO speak, take a look at the suggestions below.  All too often the element missing from your speech, the piece that will take it from good to great, is not a lack of verbal content, but of non-verbal.

As much as it is important to deliver the right verbal message, it is just as important that your non-verbal cues work to support those same messages – if you are to be believed.  This is critical, because building your credibility from the stage is an important component of the Leadership Equation. If the audience doesn’t feel that they know, like and trust you… you’re done.  We know from research that 50-93% of the message your audience receives is delivered through your Body Language, which is far too big a component of your message to overlook.  Although I can’t review your personal body language in this article, the following are 5 key tips for you to use as guidelines when practicing and perfecting the delivery of your next speech.

1.  Posture.  I feel like your mother here, admonishing you not to slouch but… Don’t Slouch!  Strong positive posture conveys energy, which is important if you want people to feel that you can make things happen for them.  Additionally, you need that upward extension through the spine to open up your diaphragm, allowing you to breathe more fully.  Better breathing means more oxygen, which helps prevent you from feeling stressed out, and any negative ‘leakage’ that feeling stressed might lead to.  Research also tells us that not only does a positive posture look more attractive to others but it immediately changes our internal physiology, making us feel more confident and powerful.  Think how much better anything you share from the stage sounds if you are coming from a position of confidence and power.

2.  Stance.  In addition to standing fully upright, you need to stand firm.  No rocking or shifting of the feet.  Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet, with your weight a little more forward (toward the ball) than back on the heels.  Movement comes from the balls of the feet, therefore poising there will help you appear more energized, while standing back on your heels makes you appear less inclined to take action.  You are looking for your audience to take action, in which case begin by subtly modeling the ‘active’ state for them.  When standing still you want your feet to be slightly open, almost shoulder width.  This open stance helps to convey power and confidence.  Feet too close together will make you appear more timid and hesitant, which will definitely impact the response of your audience!

3.  Eye Contact.  Your audience will be far more likely to pay attention to you if they feel connected to you.  Making eye contact with them, while you are speaking, can make them feel as though the two of you are having a conversation, that you are speaking directly to and with them.  Creating this personal connection is a very powerful motivator to creating more customers.  However, it means that you actually need to look them in the eye, not the forehead, or between the eyes.  People know the difference and the difference is enough to either make them want to work with you or not.  Honesty and dishonesty for many begins and ends with your ability to look them in the eye.  Look to connect with someone by looking at them for at least 2-3 seconds before moving on with your gaze.  That extra beat or two is what it takes to let them know you truly saw ‘them’, making them feel noticed, and special.  Create this bond and you, and your message, become more memorable. 

4.  Gestures.  The size of your gestures will be related to how close you are to your audience.  The further away you are, the bigger they must be to be seen.  However, here I simply want to share with you a quick but essential rule concerning the direction of your gestures.  Think of the body being divided into two pieces by the belly button plane.  Consider the belly button area as your ‘Neutral’ zone.  When not gesturing your hands come back to rest here.  When stating facts and basic background information your gestures should take place outward along this horizontal plane.  Any gestures that take place below this plane are negative, while any above it are positive.  Therefore, if you are talking about some of the issues they may be experiencing, or problems your past clients/customers have had, you will subtly gesture downward, which emphasizes that it was a negative experience.  When speaking about the benefits of working with you, talking about how you turned a situation around for a client, your hands should be up above the waist.  This is important.  If you get this wrong and gesture downward when you talk about benefits… you are done!  The incongruities in your message will lead others to instantly distrust what you are saying which definitely impacts their desire to work with you - in any capacity.

5.  Smile.  This seems like such a small point to make but it is an important one.  When people get nervous or uncomfortable (like we may feel when getting up on the stage to talk!) they tend to stop smiling.  It’s one of the first gestural cues to go when we become nervous (and therefore one of the first signals I look for to determine the relative confidence of someone in a situation!).  Your audience responds to the cues and signals that you deliver though.  If you want them to connect with you then you need to lead the way by giving them something to connect to.  Smiling at the audience shows them your interest and your comfort.  It helps you be seen as the expert you are.  It is warm, welcoming and engaging, serving to help draw the audience into the content of your message.  It is one of the few universal gestures that there are, making it far more powerful than we realize.  Like a yawn, it is hard for others to not smile in return.  Research shows that when we smile endorphins are released into the body that make us ‘feel’ more positive.  Smiling at your audience periodically can get them smiling, releasing endorphins that put them into a positive state which, in turn, makes them more positively disposed toward  you and your message. 

These are 5 seemingly quick tips that will prove critical to your success in driving your message, and business, forward.  Focus first on the content of your speech but don’t overlook including your body language when working on practicing the delivery of your message.  Videotaping is an invaluable tool to use, helping you to ‘see’ you as your audience will.  As painful as video can feel at times, it is a great medium to help you become better at aligning your visual and verbal messages which, in turn, helps you get ready to create that YouTube channel!

(if you happen to read this on March 3rd, 2014 and would like even more information about Body Language, sign up for my Success Webinar - The Body Language of Success this evening (8pm EST) by registering here:   and for those that are really committed to taking their communication and success to the next level sign up for our next public training event of Beyond Words: Your Body Language at Work by registering on our website for the program:      Okay... done with the commercials now!)