Monday, November 28, 2016

Values & Beliefs - a Call to Action

Our values form the foundation for not only how we ultimately view the world around us, but the
yardstick by which we measure everything - our relative success, happiness, etc. Your values, what is important to you, will differ from mine if only as a result of the fact that you and I are different. Each of us faces a similar challenge though, to try to live a life that is in balance and alignment with our values. The closer our actions 'fit' our core values the better we will feel about ourselves, our relationships and our lives.

The  bigger the gap though the more likely we are to experience dissatisfaction and distress. A disconnect between our values and our actions leads to a sense of disconnect with our lives which, in turn, can lead to lacklustre on-the-job performance.  It is challenging to remain focused and motivated to engage in work and activities that fail to support our personal values. The more dissonance we experience the greater our motivational challenges likely will prove.

It is this gap, between our actions and values, that leads us to choose (whether consciously or unconsciously) to under-perform. The resistance we experience comes from that values disconnect. Generally speaking there tends to be two key reasons for the existence of the gap. Either...

  • We have no clue as to what we truly value in life and are therefore living in a hit and miss fashion, sometimes gaining satisfaction with a hit, sometimes being dissatisfied because we miss, or...
  • We have chosen to live, whether consciously or unconsciously, by someone else's prescribed values
There may be other reasons but these two are key and often interrelated. If I am unable to articulate what my key values are in life, what is truly important to me, I am far more likely to be swayed by someone else who has clarity, whether that is a relative, friend, celebrity or corporation. The difficulty with this lies in what happens internally to me should there be a gap between my true values and my adopted ones. If they are out of sync I will likely experience dissonance and discomfort.

Someone else's value may be a more positive, powerful and fulfilling value than my own, but if I haven't taken the time to consciously acknowledge and challenge the validity of my own limiting values and beliefs, and replace them with the stronger and more positive one, then I will still continue to experience that sense of dissatisfaction with my life. 

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to wait until we are at a 'low point' in our lives and emotions to take stock of our lives. Why wait for that? Work now to ensure that you have a clear and conscious understanding of your personal values by questioning the beliefs you hold. What are the beliefs you hold that serve to influence the choices you make, the behaviours you engage in?

All too often we act in ways that support beliefs we feel we 'should' have, regardless of whether or not those beliefs support our values. We are guided by the opinions of others more than we are guided by our own internal interests, wants and beliefs. Getting in touch with what really matters to you will highlight how much of your life you have devoted to satisfying other people's values versus your own.

Once you are clear about what truly matters to you, what you value, you need to reconcile the choices you have made in your life with your values. How much do those choices work in support of your values, how much do they pull you away from them? Are there gaps that you need to work at narrowing to increase your comfort and self-satisfaction?

I have had clients who discovered a great dissatisfaction in their lives because...
  • they had bought a 'big' house in a prestigious area because that was where someone of their level and stature 'should' live, but paying that big monthly mortgage meant little money left over for travel and adventure, both of which they valued highly
  • they worked 60+ hour weeks trying to satisfy a parent and make them proud, rather than living to their own value of what being a 'good' parent to their own children meant to them
  • they had always wanted to start their own business but never attempted it because others around them didn't think they had what it takes to make it
What values and beliefs do you have that you are not living to? 
What would your life look like if you did? 
What's stopping you from taking action?

For those of you hesitating to take the action you need, Stephen Levine offers the following words, to give you perspective and to take that first step...
If you had an hour to live and could only make one phone call... Who would you call, What would you say, And why are you waiting?


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

We all get nervous at times. However, it is generally our 'awfulizing' of an event that generates our negative emotions. (Awfulizing - all the self talk that highlights how awful we are likely to be at something).

There are lots of ways that you can reframe your thinking to help shift your mindset to success and positivity. Today's tip comes to us from Muhammad Ali. He knew that, before entering the ring for a fight, he had to be in  positive mindset. He had to believe fully in himself. His ritual, before each fight, was to ask himself if he had trained as hard as he possibly could, if he had done his best. Answering yes allowed him to relax because, whatever the outcome, he knew he had prepared the best he could.

Seems to have worked well for him...

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Stories We're Told

Most of us can think back and recall warm moments when we were young, sitting cuddled on a parent's lap while they read to us. As adults we can also remember replaying those same moments with our own children or with beloved nieces or nephews. What is it that we were sharing with these children of ours? Warmth? Love? Caring? A love of books? Perhaps all of these elements. Interestingly, though, we may have also shared more than we intended, especially when it came to shaping the minds and belief systems of our young daughters and nieces.

A 12 year study was conducted of top award-winning children's books. The study was undertaken to review the hidden messages that we inadvertently communicate to our children. The results?

  • On average, there was only one female character for every three male characters
  • There was only one female 'leader' character to every ten male 'leader' characters
  • There were over 100 different occupations that were held by the male characters while there were only 50 different occupations held by the female characters
  • The five top female occupations in the children's books?
    • Housewife
    • Witch
    • Dancer
    • Singer
    • Artist
Other favoured female occupations? You have to know that teacher and princess were in the top ten!

Now, think back to your favourite stories from your childhood. How correct is this study? If you're like most of the women we've spoken to, the above figures are a fairly accurate reflection of the stories they were told when young. Most of the women remember best the stories of Snow White and Cinderella. In each story the female lead character was a victim that needed 'rescuing'. By a prince, no less.

How too did these stories impact the perceptions and expectations of others around us? One female senior executive shared her struggle to 'make it' in the world of engineering.
"What was most interesting to me was not the resistance that I got from the men in my classes or from the work-world. I expected that. It was the resistance that I got from my mother and grandmother. The field that I had chosen for myself just didn't fit with their expectations. They had wanted me to be a teacher. It's funny now though. The aspect of my job that I enjoy the most is coaching and mentoring young women in engineering. Guess I'm teaching after all!"
This is an example of a woman that fought against some of the stories she was told as she grew up. How many of us though still hold many of those stories in our heads, measuring ourselves against them each day? How often do we come up lacking?

Think of our seeming need to express and measure our womanhood by the cleanliness of our homes or the number of after-school activities our children are engaged in. How many of us think we are somehow lacking if we 'fail' to make home-cooked meals for our families, feeling guilt overcome us each time that 'Martha' appears on screen?  After all, baking from scratch is 'A good thing' right?

Whatever happened to telling our daughters about women that struggled to manage raising three kids and hold a full-time job? A woman that might not have managed to have the house perfectly in order, the smell of fresh bread baking when others awoke or a drink in hand for hubby when he came home, but a woman that managed to have a hug and kiss for her kids when she saw them at the end of their school day, despite having gone to work with baby spit-up on her collar, getting yelled at by the boss for something he forgot to do, putting a run in her hose while trying to juggle two sacks of groceries and the dry cleaning out of the car, while mentally wondering what would defrost quickly enough to feed everyone?

Spend a few moments right now thinking about the stories you hold in your head that create images of perfection that just don't fit with life today. I don't mean your life, I mean anyone's life! What ideals are you holding yourself to that leave you feeling like you're always falling short, despite all of your best efforts?

Only by coming to understand what these myths and stories are can we begin to refute their relevance to our lives. Once we acknowledge the stories we're still holding onto and the fallacies they represent can we then recognise and appreciate in ourselves how much we've done and continue to do.

Ultimately, it's up to us, because there is no fairy godmother or knight on a white horse in our world folks. We need to consciously create the standards we're trying to live up to and not be driven by comparisons to some story we were told by others. We need to start telling ourselves better and more realistic stories because I'm willing to bet that even Cinderella had trouble fitting into that damn show after she turned 40!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tip Thursday - Uncovering Purpose

Having a purpose, having a passion for what we do, is essential to our long-term success... at
anything!  Often we are led astray with the promise of big money, a big sounding deal, a big title. We become disheartened and disillusioned though when the positive feelings from these 'big' ticket items fade. To help you re-find, and redefine your purpose, ask yourself... If money was not an issue, what would you choose to do? Does what you are currently doing resemble this at all? In what way(s)? And... if not... why not?

Sometimes uncovering your truth is all about asking yourself the right questions.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Goldilocks Success Principles

Although Goldilocks may not be the model of 'Success' that would first come to mind, she had one clear insight that we could all benefit from. She was a strong proponent of the value of recognising when things were 'just right'. For those of us striving to achieve a given level of success in our careers and lives, the concept of 'just right' is an important one to integrate into our existing strategies. Often we mistake being successful with requiring who we are and what we do being the 'best', with 'best' being a euphemism for 'perfect'.

However, it is often the bid to be perfect that creates a vision of an unobtainable goal, limiting our success. Focusing instead on being more successful allows for even small achievements to count, each of which, when combined with other small gains, may serve to move us forward exponentially.

Making a conscious effort to be perfect at everything we do can serve to delay, if not deter, us from achieving. The ideal of perfect is a near impossible standard to meet, considering we will almost always believe that we could have given or done more, if allotted more time, money, support, resources, education, etc. Who wouldn't agree that they couldn't have done 1% more?

That 1% is enough to keep you from earning the Perfect title! It's enough to label your accomplishments 'less than perfect', if only to yourself. Many will find that they hesitate to take action if they believe their first efforts will likely fall short of that perfect mark. Thus they have lost before they start. Not trying prevents them from learning and developing new skills, from moving forward through achieving even small wins and successes.

How many times have you seen someone receive accolades for a project that you felt fell short of your standards? Not perfect by your definition but good enough to gain them credit and recognition. It essence it was 'just right'. Take a moment to think about what 'just right' brought them...

  • Likely the same recognition, rewards and reputation boost that you received from your last 'perfect' project
  • Less time spent on the completion of the assignment that they were then able to spend on completing other projects, or to focus on themselves, their family, their friends
  • Less stress, given they were not agonizing over the need to be perfect or to having to hand in something they felt was less than perfect
  • They felt good about what they accomplished and were able to celebrate its 'successful' completion rather than stressing over the elements they couldn't get to due to budget or time constraints
In essence, letting go of the need for perfect frees you mentally, physically and emotionally, enabling you to accomplish more, to be and feel more successful. Consider the following tips to help you with your next project.
  • Take a look at the goals and milestones you have established and define levels of performance. If you have perfectionist tendencies you likely have already identified the 'ideal' for each milestone.  Now add to it defined performance levels that aren't perfect but that are sufficient to meet the needs and expectations of others.  In essence, create a vision of the 'just rights', the 'good enoughs'.  Establishing this level up front gives you a clear and okay fallback position for when life intervenes and prevents 'perfect' from happening.  Setting those levels upfront gives you the permission to use them. Creating them after the fact will always leave you feeling like you failed.
  • Try using someone else's yardstick instead of your own to help you gain perspective on what measures others establish. The insights from others may help you to establish your just right/good enough mark.If you find you are uncomfortable with a 'just right' goal that someone else establishes then use it as a minimum level of achievement and set levels of performance in staged levels of achievement beyond this point.  These additional levels then become your 'just right plus 10%', your 'just right plus 20%'.  You might then discover that you can feel pretty good at letting go of a project at 'just right plus 15%', giving you a lot more flexibility than always having to achieve  50% more than everyone else.  What could you do with the gift of time that extra 35% represents?
This isn't settling, it's called being strategic. If putting an additional 35% of effort into something will not net you at least 35% more in gains you are wasting your effort. Your time and effort are not limitless commodities. Learning to assign your efforts and time appropriately is what effective time management and, ultimately, your success is dependent upon.  

Goldilocks knew more than simple break and enter techniques! She knew that recognising when something was 'just right' was a form of perfectionism all its own!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tip Thursday - Influence

What you expect often influences and changes what actually and ultimately happens. Your expectations of outcomes leads you to interact differently and is often a fundamental component of ensuring that the outcome you expected occurs. For many situations though, expectancy is a non-conscious process.

The classic study in this phenomena was in 1968 where researchers split students into two groups - High IQ and Low IQ. Teachers were told which students belonged to which groups but no one else was informed, including parents and the students themselves. After 8 months the High IQ group performed remarkably well on tests while the Low IQ group performed poorly.  About what you would expect.

The twist though was that ALL students had been RANDOMLY assigned to the groups. Membership in either group had no reflection on actual IQ scores. The only variable was the expectation of the teacher. The teacher had different expectations of the two groups and those expectations began to subtly alter and shift the actual performance of the students themselves.  Pretty powerful. Expectation is therefore a powerful precursor of outcome and, ultimately, of success or failure.

Monday, November 7, 2016

How to Create Instant Rapport

For most of us, making connections with others is never easy.  They take time, which is definitely in
short supply during events such as networking gatherings.  As a result, we leave the evening with a few business cards clutched in our hand but little real feeling that we made any kind of lasting impression, let alone a real connection.

However, there are many times and circumstances over our careers where the need to form connections quickly would serve us.  We are far more likely to get hired in interviews if we are able to establish rapport, more likely to make the sale, more likely to get the big assignment or promotion. What we lack is the time we usually spend in creating shared experiences with others to establish that connection.  That`s where strengthening our ability to establish Rapport, to create a sense of familiarity where none previously existed, would serve us. 

There is interesting research out there that shows quite clearly exactly what we need to do to form instant rapport with someone. I feel it necessary to share with you first though that this is going to fly in the face of everything you have been told in the past.  You know, the advice of what topics to steer clear of (like politics and religion), to only say positive things, to keep things light and upbeat. As it turns out, talking with people about these `safe` topics may help you form connections, but nothing as quick or as strong as...


Yep, the number one most effective way to form instant rapport with someone is to say something negative about someone else. Gossip that drives a revelation of a shared negative attitude will typically result in a strong emotional bond. What`s interesting is the `why` behind its effectiveness.

Gossip is usually around someone who is a perceived threat in some way, however large or small. This has been going on since caveman days where all perceived threats were taken seriously. It was a life and death issue back then. As a result, sharing information about those potential threats was a critical safety need for us and our tribe. Our brains are still hardwired to serve and protect us and therefore we respond to shared information and gossip about potential threats.

When first meeting someone we are obviously not privy to information about their personal internal competition but the gossip we share need not be about someone we know personally. It could be about a public or political figure. Since we don`t know them well we speak instead about specific traits they exhibit, policies, actions they have taken, behaviour they have engaged in. 

The common advice given is to find shared experiences to explore with the other party. Perhaps reference pictures or books they have in their office. However, the positive experiences are those that are typically readily shared. They have spoken to many about them and, as a result, connections don`t hold firm. 

People don`t tend to put their negative beliefs on display. Therefore, when we discover something the other party doesn`t like about someone else, it`s a real discovery. This is not something they share openly or with as many people which means you`ve instantly become part of a much smaller and more exclusive group of people. 

We all have a strong tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already believe to be true, rejecting information that is in conflict with it. If you tell people that what they know to be right is indeed right, they will feel more connected to you.

Although constantly gossiping about others is not a good long term success strategy, know that a few well placed negative comments early on in a conversation may go a long way to establishing a connection and providing an opening to continue the conversation. And really, all we`re typically looking for is the time needed for us to really share who we are and what we`re all about.

As it turns out, contrary to the belief that we should steer clear of discussing politics in any first meetings, it may have just held the secret to creating instant rapport with our audience. After all, who doesn`t have a negative comment or two they could share about politicians these days?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

When giving stand up presentations, people are often unsure of what to do with their hands.  Here is where the Clinton Box comes in.  Bill Clinton, back in the 90's, was known for not always using his gestures effectively - and was quickly told to keep his gestures above the waist and below his shoulders. Additionally, for groups of less than 50, his gestures should also not extend very far beyond the width of his shoulders. This is a speaker's 'safe' zone for gesturing. In effect... don't touch anything above your shoulders and certainly nothing below your waist!

Bill went on to be a very polished and effective speaker but the Clinton Box was born from his tendency to gesture 'outside of the box', getting himself into some difficulties with his audience and, in particular, the press.