Do you want to become your very best?

I overheard a conversation at Starbucks today in which an employer was talking to his manager about upcoming job interviews.

I heard him say that he is looking for candidates with “people skills. We’re looking for those soft skills. We can teach them all the technical stuff.”

Wow, what a statement! If you’re looking to rise up in your organization, change careers, or find your dream job, focusing on interpersonal skills is going to be your greatest differentiator.

Personal Development guru Jim Rohn used to say the best way to improve in your job is to work harder on yourself than you do your job.

I’m in the middle of reading Brendon Burchard’s “High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way.” It contains some very powerful content for people who want to take their career and businesses to a new level and perform at unprecedented levels.

According to Burchard, high performers have clarity on the person they want to become. In fact, Burchard specifically states that high performers think about their “ideal future self,” almost sixty minutes more per week.

Have you ever thought about your ideal self? What does that person look like? Are you kind, thoughtful, compassionate, fair but firm with those who report to you? Do you project integrity, excellence and strive to be of service to others?

In the book Burchard suggests writing series of questions to review and answer for yourself every day. How do I want to interact with each person in my meetings today? What tone will I use in my phone calls? What intention will I set for the energy I want to create when I’m with friends and family?

These are a few suggested in the book. What questions can you ask yourself on a daily basis to help steer you toward your ideal self?

Change! Who wants more?

I’m working with a lot of people going through some major changes in their lives right now. And frankly, change is scary for most people. When change hits, you feel out of control. You feel unsafe. You feel scared.

Changes in external circumstances fall into that category of things you have no control over. And that, perhaps, is what makes it so scary.

When we believe we are in control, it gives us a sense that we are safe. But unfortunately, this is an illusion. Most of what happens externally is outside our control.

Another piece that is out of our control is our initial response to change. Perhaps your immediate reaction to change is fear. Perhaps you feel anger, anxiety, sadness, or even depression.

But I have some good news. Your power and success come from knowing that you have absolute control over what you choose to think about the change you’re going through. And choosing empowering thoughts will lead you through the change toward something greater for your life.

Here are a few tips that will help you navigate through the choppy waters of change and lead you toward the next great experience on your life’s journey.

Expectations

The first thing you can do is change your expectations. For some reason, we tend to live under the illusion that life is stable and predictable. We expect things to stay the same, so we feel sucker-punched when change happens.

The reality is that all of life is changing. The seasons change from winter to spring. Our children change as they grow into adults. Friendships are always changing, evolving and growing. The marketplace changes, technology changes, and of course, our jobs change.

So, the first step is to shift your expectation toward the idea that everything will change.

See change as good

The second way to navigate through change is to see it, not as a bad thing, but as a good thing. Although your initial reaction may be fear, anger or sadness, you can take time to process your emotions and shift your thinking.

When seasons shift from winter to spring, something new is about to emerge. A great question to ask in the midst of change is “what new thing does this make possible?” One thing fades away to make room for new growth. Of course you can see clearly what is going away. But you can’t see what’s coming. Set your expectation that change is about to bring opportunities for something new and wonderful.

As you go through change and subsequent difficult emotions, breathe deeply, ask yourself what wonderful new experience is about to emerge, and see what unfolds.

Consistency beats rapidity

This week as I was running on the treadmill, it dawned on me how much my approach to running has changed over the past few years.

I can get pretty competitive with myself – always pushing to run faster and farther. In fact, a few years ago I was beaming with pride at running 4 miles averaging less than 9 minutes per mile. I wouldn’t exactly win any awards, but it was pretty good for me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Shortly thereafter I began to struggle with pain in my Achilles tendon. Darn it! It was six months before I could run after that. And even then it was a long, slow comeback.

In fact, I’m still not even close to a 9-minute mile or even a 10-minute mile.

To be honest, my “running,” more accurately resembles a very slow jog than a “run.”

As I looked at the monitor on the treadmill last week, I saw numbers that would’ve made me cry a few years back.

But on this day, I smiled big. Because what I realized is that I haven’t been injured, I haven’t felt exhausted, and I haven’t felt burned out in a long, long time.

What I did realize was that I was running farther than ever and not feeling tired, winded or injured.

The reason is consistency. I’ve been consistent, and consistency beats rapidity every time.

All aspects of my life that bring me the most fulfillment and satisfaction are aspects that were built over long, steady, consistent periods of time.

Diet programs over the years failed. But daily, healthy eating habits over years of time keep me feeling great.

Relationships that started off with an intense bang of proverbial fireworks, burned out just as quickly as the fireworks, themselves. But my deepest and most rewarding relationships with friends and family are those that grew gradually over many years.

The consistency principle holds true for any success you’re looking to achieve. I talk to many people trying to start a small business or achieve career growth.

Although hard work is important and critical for success, pouring it on in a way that is unsustainable for the long haul is likely to result in burnout and failure.

Real success is achieved by being consistent day after day.

I can’t help but think about this  concept while watching the amazing Winter Olympics. These athletes I’m sure have been poring it on with ultra hard work. But they’ve also been consistent. They’ve been practicing day after day for years and years.

We see them show up on the screen, and we think how cool it must be to compete in the Olympics. They make it look easy. But they’re only able t0 make it appear easy because they’ve been consistently practicing all of their lives.

I know it doesn’t sound fun, but patient practice is the sure fire way to get you to the finish line, no matter how you define that for yourself.

What are you going to commit to doing everyday to bring you the success you desire?

No more “to-do” lists

Last week, I explained the power of the PICK tool for prioritizing tasks. One characteristic that makes this tool so helpful is that it eliminates the old and ineffective “to-do” list.

This is hard for me to say, because, quite honestly, I’m a list-maker. Believe me – I love my lists! I love to write them, and I love to cross things off. But I’ve learned that the satisfaction of crossing something off my list does not translate into progress or productivity. It translates into movement, which can easily fool us into thinking we’re productive.

Another productivity tip I want to share with you this week is yet another way to dump the “to-do list.” Instead of making a list of every task you want to complete, identify 3 important projects you want to move forward for the week. This helps you focus on the big, important projects that really make a difference for you. This puts you in charge. You’re in control of what you decide is important.

Conversely, when you make lists, you become a servant to every task that pushes and pulls on you. When you’re focused on moving that big thing forward, you’re less likely to get lulled into the illusion that getting through your to-do list equates to productivity.

Recently, I decided to replace my kitchen floor. Well, a you can guess, it turned into a whole project. What started as replacing the kitchen floor evolved into painting, replacing cabinet handles, new window treatments, etc. The details on my list grew and grew. It felt daunting to look at that list that kept driving me toward more and more work.

I finally threw out the list. I simply decided that my priority was to move the kitchen forward each week.

So next week, write your 3 big projects that you will commit to moving forward. Stay committed every day to moving those projects ahead. By the end of the week, you’ll feel more satisfied and fulfilled in knowing that you progressed. You’ll be surprised at how much progress you’ve made.

 

A great tool to boost productivity

Are you a list maker? Does your list grow longer every day as you cross off one task only to add two more? Yep, you’re what I call, running on the hamster wheel. It’s that feeling like you’re running like mad and not making much, if any, progress.

Years ago, I discovered a wonderful tool that has become one of my favorite ways to prioritize. It’s called a PICK chart and it helps me decide which tasks I’m going to focus on, which ones will be postponed, and which ones I’ll kick to the curb.

The basic premise of the PICK chart is to grade your tasks based on two criteria:

  1. What’s the impact this task will have on helping me reach my goal
  2. What’s the level of difficulty involved in completing the task

Often times, we make a list and go straight for the easiest task to complete. We scan for those easy items because we know how good it’s going to feel to cross something off the list. But the problem is that we don’t consider whether completing the task will significantly help us to reach our goal.

We give priority to things like responding to emails, texts and phone calls, simply because they’re urgently pulling at us. But urgent does not necessarily translate to impactful.

On the other hand, we may choose something that we know will have a huge impact on helping us reach our goal, but we don’t consider how much time, effort, and financial resources will be involved. We end up getting bogged down and stuck on one task, leaving others to blow in the wind.

Considering both of these criteria will help us to prioritize. So, here’s how to use the PICK chart. Following the image linked to this article, draw your PICK chart matrix on a white board or piece of flip chart paper. The vertical axis depicts the level of impact (high or low), and the horizontal axis depicting level of difficulty (easy or hard). Label boxes in counter clockwise order starting with the upper right: P-I-C-K.

Then write your tasks either on the white board, or I prefer to write each task on a post-it note so I can easily change my mind and move things around.

Place each task in the appropriate box:

P – Plan for another day: These are tasks that have a high impact, but may be very difficult or costly to do. You may want to set them aside and Plan to do them on another day. But they’re not for now, since they will consume heavy resources.

I – Implement immediately: These tasks will have a high impact on reaching your goal, AND fairly easy to do. So, it’s a no-brainer. Get em done!

C – Your CHOICE: You might want to choose to complete these tasks because they are easy to do. But keep in mind they won’t greatly move the needle on reaching your goal. So, choose wisely.

K – Kick ‘em out!: These tasks have a low impact on helping you achieve your goals AND they’re resource-intensive. No need to keep these on the list.

This tool is most useful when you have a large, complex project or you just have more items to do than you have time to complete them.

8 x 8. Eight habits by 8 a.m.

Running a business takes time and energy. And as I wrote last week, we earthlings are most effective when we run on auto-pilot. So, the best way to break through to new levels of success is to create habits that are most likely to take us to those new levels.

Below are 8 things I do by 8 a.m. every day. By the time I’m ready to start my work day, I already feel like I’ve achieved success. I’ve created a momentum of success that continues to spiral upward all day long.

You don’t have to follow my routine. You may have ideas of your own. But developing morning habits that create a sense of accomplishment and success will change the game in your business, career and life.

    1. Lose the snooze! I learned this from Mel Robbins, author of “5-Second Rule.” The premise of the 5-second rule is that once we get an idea that takes us outside of our comfort zone, we have about 5 seconds before our brain talks us out of it. So it’s important to act immediately. I stopped hitting the snooze. This means I make a decision on what time I want to get up. Then I follow through on that decision. This instantly creates a sense of success.
    2. Make the bed. If you read my recent blog, you know that this has a profound connection to success for me. There was a time, when I whipped the covers into a ball at the end of the bed and sluggishly stumbled my way down the hall. Not exactly a demonstration of success. These first 60 seconds of my day set the tone for decisive action and accomplishment.
    3. Pray/Meditate. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, there is something about being still and quiet early in the morning that connects you to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose for your life. For me, prayer is the time I spend talking to God, and meditating is the time I spend listening. I find meditating has been unbelievably powerful. It’s a time to slow my mind and connect with the still, small voice that guides me for the day.
    4. Gratitude Journal. If you’ve ever heard me speak to an audience or been part of my group programs, you know that I consider this to be one of the most powerful and direct ways to change your life. It’s an amazing paradox of life that the more grateful you are for your current state, the more you allow abundance to flow into your life. I write down three things I’m grateful for every day.
    5. Read all about it. Most people start their day with an earful of daily cable news. Not me. I want the first thing that goes into my mind to be positive, uplifting and motivating. For me this is sometimes the Bible or other spiritual-based messages. The key is to fill your mind with something that takes you in the direction of fulfilling a deeper purpose for your life.
    6. Not exactly green eggs and ham. If you’re like my 7-year-old godson, you probably don’t want to eat exactly what I eat for breakfast, which is a vegetable smoothie and 6 egg whites. But the important thing is to put something fresh and whole into your body the first thing in the morning for breakfast.
    7. Exercise. Even 7- 10 minutes of walking can be enough to change your brain chemistry and get you in a positive, success-minded mood. Find something you enjoy, and just move!
    8. Shower and dress for success. You’ve heard the saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” For me, how I look has a direct impact on how I feel. The more successful I dress, the more successful I feel. And science tells us that our brains chemistry responds to feelings. Our feelings develop into core beliefs. Those core believes determine the outcome for our lives.

So there you have it. That’s my routine by 8 a.m. Yours doesn’t have to be exactly like that. The key is to build as many success-minded habits into your day as possible. Perhaps you already have your own routines. I’d love to hear what you’re doing. Feel free to comment or even email me at Marianne@MarianneRenner.com with what has worked for you.

How focus and structure can help with productivity

Have you ever looked up and wondered where the day went? Or the week, or the month, or the year? You know you were busy, but you can’t identify exactly what you were busy doing.

I have found that being truly productive requires a structured system. When I started my coaching business, I knew that there were more tasks on my “to-do” list than time available to complete them. To complicate matters even more, I started my business while working full-time.

I found that I needed a simple calendar that kept me focused, on-track, and accountable. I used a “15-hour-a-week,” method recommended by Dan Miller, New York Times best-selling Author of 48-Days to the Work You Love. Based on Dan’s suggestion, I divided my work into categories such as marketing, client sessions, product development and education. Then plugged them into a time slot on various days of the week.

I’ve coached numerous clients who are in a similar position and trying to start a side business while working full-time. This has been a tremendous tool for them as well. Below is a sample schedule that I hope you find useful.

 

Another tool that has been unbelievably effective for my clients is my personal project tracker that, until now, I have given only to my paid clients. But if you would like a copy, email me now at Marianne@MarianneRenner.com, and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

 


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Part II – Get both feet off the hamster wheel, for good

Last week, I shared that the number one reason people get stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel. You know the one – where you feel like you’re running as fast as you can, but somehow, you’re not moving forward? If you missed it, you can find it here.

I talked about the importance of getting clear on your purpose or objective so you’re moving in a straight line forward. And that helps you get one foot off the hamster wheel. The other foot comes off when you create a plan that supports that objective.

Because here’s the thing, if you don’t have a plan that supports that purpose, you’ll run in circles. I know that’s not exactly rocket science. It kind of falls into the “duh” category. But having said that, how many of us have an actual plan for what we want to accomplish? Do you want to get promoted, earn more income, find a new job, change careers, increase sales in your business, or just find a way to feel more fulfilled in what you do?

If the answer is, “yes,” then the next question is, “do you have a plan to get there?”

If you want to go on vacation in the next three to six months, you probably plan it out. You have a clear idea on what you need to do, and you take action.

A plan helps ensure that we move forward in a straight line, it keeps us accountable, and helps us stick to timetables.

Without a plan, a few things happen. For one, we can’t seem to find time to accomplish what we want because the hamster wheel keeps us too busy to do anything else. We don’t prioritize, and the things that matter most keep getting pushed to the back burner. And second, we just procrastinate. A plan helps keep us accountable.

Here are three things you can do immediately to get that foot off the wheel and get you started on the move forward:

  1. Write down exactly what you want to accomplish
  2. Write the date by which you want to accomplish it
  3. Write the most immediate three things that have to happen in order for you to move forward, with a “due date” for each task. Sometimes, when a goal seems too big and overwhelming, it’s easy to get discouraged. So just start with the next three things that have to happen. When those are done, go on to the next three.

A new exclusive semi-private coaching opportunity

If you’re stuck on the hamster wheel, I’ve created a special event just for you. Learn more about View 360, an exclusive semi-private coaching event designed to help you uncover blind spots that are keeping you stuck on the hamster wheel so you can start creating greater success and fulfillment in your career and business.

Get all the details.

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Do you wish you could change your boss?

How many time have you thought, “if only I could change my…” fill in the blank – “my spouse, my kids, my boss, my co-worker?”

 

And have you noticed that the more you try to change them, the worse they seem to get?! I know, I’ve been there too. It took me a long time to discover the secret to changing those around me.

Do you want to know the secret? Here it is: when you change, everything around you changes.

It sounds crazy. In fact, it’s a complete paradox. The more you try to change someone or some circumstance that is out of your control, the more the problem grows.

It seems counter intuitive, but the reality is that when you stop trying to change those around you and take a look inward, that’s when everything starts to change.

This has been a key theme with several of my clients recently. I loved the look of skepticism on a client’s face recently the first time I talked about this principle. I couldn’t wait for her to see the results. With a little faith and practice, sure enough, within a few short weeks, she saw the transformation. Her workplace relationships improved, fewer problems emerged in the office and there were fewer fires to put out. It seemed that everyone and everything around her had changed. But the fact was, she had changed just a few small habit patterns that made a big impact.

I recently spoke to a group of professionals and shared the story with them of a client last year who reported to me that he wanted a new job because his current position was so stressful. It was draining the life out of him – his words. He had strained workplace relationships with his boss, projects he worked on were not meaningful, and he felt an overwhelming amount of stress every day.

As we went through the job search process, he did just what I’m talking about. He worked on making a few small changes in how he saw things around him. Low and behold, by the time he got a job offer, he said to me, “wow, I’m not sure what to do because now I like my current job.” How could that be? The job didn’t change. The boss didn’t change. The projects didn’t change. So, what changed? He changed. And when he changed, everything around him changed.

If change is what you’re looking for, a great tool to help you get started is my free download with tips to increase your happiness. You can get it here

I hope this serves you well!

Wishing you all the success and happiness in the world!

Marianne

Habit to Happiness #4 – "Own Your Role"

For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing a blog series with several tools that can have a huge impact on increasing success in area of your life. These tools are what I call Habits to Happiness.

Laying the foundation

The reason for all this happiness stuff is because, believe it or not, happiness is the foundation that determines all levels of success. Often times when we think of how to increase our success or achieve our goals, we think about the skills we need to develop or the information and knowledge we need to acquire.

A few years ago, when the real estate market was picking up, I thought I might want to put my house on the market. So I asked my realtor to come over, take a look at my house and tell me how much he thought I could get for it. As we walked through, he didn’t have a lot to say about my lovely brick fireplace, the built-in bookcases that run from floor-to-ceiling, my 2,000 square-feet of perennial gardens OR my fabulous 1,400 koi pond built solely by the hands of yours truly.

 But when we came to the dark, damp basement, he seemed pleased as punch. He looked around at the concrete walls, the cold, concrete floor and the exposed ceiling.

Then, he looked at me and enthusiastically remarked, “this house has good bones!” Come again? It has good what? He went on to explain that it’s the foundation and the structure that give the house its value. Of course, I certainly need a kitchen, a bathroom and a place to conk out at night. But if the house didn’t have a strong foundation, the rest wouldn’t matter. No matter how beautiful my fireplace, book cases or master bedroom, they would all be a heap of rubble without a strong foundation.

For this reason, when I work with clients on leadership, career change or professional development, we don’t start on resume-building. Although a good resume is needed, it’s not going to do much good if it isn’t resting on a strong foundation.

And that foundation is an underlying positive mindset of internal happiness.

This blog series has focused on habits that you can develop to strengthen your foundation and increase your happiness so that you can achieve your goals and reach unprecedented levels of success in areas of your life in which you feel stuck.

So here I am again, ready to give you another habit that will raise the temperature on your happiness thermostat.

That sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t want more happiness? That’s like saying, “who doesn’t want more Christmas presents?” Some of these Habits to Happiness have felt pretty good, like the Habit to Happiness of Expectance. Expectance is waking up each morning and expecting great things to happen. Now, how fun is that?!

Well I’ve saved the best habit for last. OK, truth be told, I saved it for last because I figured once you read it, you just might decide to slam your laptop shut or swipe your browser into oblivion.

This habit is a little less “Christmas present,” and a little more, well, ”time to clean the house.” Let’s just say, it’s not as much fun.

But it IS perhaps the most freeing Habit to Happiness as well as the most empowering action you can take to directly impact your life.

Now that I’ve built up the suspense:

Habit to Happiness #4 is “Own Your Role.”

What would you say, if I told you that you can take ownership of virtually everything that happens in your life? I say “virtually” because inevitably someone is going to challenge me on the 1% such as losing a loved one or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

I’m not talking about that 1%. I’m talking about the other 99% of circumstances and events in your life. I’m going to encourage you to look at a painful circumstance in your life right now and ask yourself, “what role am I playing in this situation.”

I know, I know, ouch.

And when I say “I know,” believe me, I know!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, all of these habits to happiness have become part of my way of living somewhat by accident. I wasn’t so much searching for keys to success and happiness, as I was trying to stop a run-away train that was headed toward a mountain cliff.

After years of self-medicating with alcohol to try to drown out chronic depression, I wound up a member of the exclusive club of Alcoholics Anonymous.

As I worked my way through the 12 steps of AA with my saint of a sponsor, we came upon what was sure to be my favorite step – Number 4. I jumped on this like a fly on a horse’s hind end, because the first instruction I received was “make a list of all the people who have ever wronged you.”

Now the fourth step is actually to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory” of one’s self. But all I saw was that I got to make a list of everyone who had wronged me, which sounded pretty fantastic to me.

Finally, someone was going to listen to my poor, sad story and how life had cruelly knocked me to the ground and kicked me around.

But little did I know, this was just the beginning. Because the next part of the project, as my sponsor explained, was to “add a column, and for every name and circumstance in which you’ve been wronged, write down the role that you played in the situation.”

WAIT, WHAT?!

Well as it turned out, this did become my favorite step because this exercise turned out to be the single most powerful and life-changing effort that I have ever undertaken.

Empowerment

Because, here’s the beauty: I learned that if I can acknowledge and accept that I play a role in virtually every circumstance in my life, that means I have choices. If I made choices that contributed to every problem I ever had, that means I have a say in making different choices that bring me better jobs, better relationships, and more financial success.

It’s easy to be the victim and think things are out of our control. Any time you blame someone or complain about a situation, you are placing yourself in the role of the victim. And we all know that there’s no victory in victim. There’s only defeat. Being a victim implies that we’re stuck with what we have, and that there’s zero possibility to impact a change.

But if you can own your role, you become empowered and life becomes infused with possibilities.

Owning your role is not only a good idea, it’s a huge key to success.

For example, years ago I owned a business that didn’t go exactly as planned, and I ended up in debt. For a long time, I couldn’t shake feelings of defeat and frustration over the experience. “Why did this happen to me,” I asked over and over. But I wasn’t really asking that question honestly.

Eventually I did look closely and own my role. I took on too much overhead. I left a great-paying job with no savings to serve as a safety net. I didn’t have a strong, proven business model for what I was trying to do. I owned my role.

And once I owned my role, new possibilities showed up in my life, including a new business opportunity that allowed me to do work that brings me more fulfillment and sense of purpose than I could’ve imagined.

Try this exercise

Practicing this Habit to Happiness is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage. It takes self-confidence. If you’re not sure where or how to start, take out a sheet of paper and make three columns. In the first column, make a list of three things that you feel are keeping you stuck in any area of your life.

In the second column, identify the role you play in the current state of events.

Finally, in the third column, write down three things that you will do differently to create the outcome of your choosing.

You will find that this is one of the quickest ways to develop self-confidence and a sense of

empowerment for your life. Even more, you will see new doors open.

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