Thank your way to success – Habit to Happiness #3 – "Great-fullness"

Two weeks ago, I started a blog series, sharing my Habits to Happiness that lead to the highest levels of success in career, business and life. There are plenty of studies that reveal one’s level of happiness has a direct correlation on success in career and business. In fact, research has demonstrated that happier people report a 31% increase in productivity and are 23% less stressed.

Last week, I shared my Habit to Happiness #2, which is Expectance. When you face each day expecting that great things are going to happen for you, the most amazing circumstances start to unfold to support those expectations.

This week, I’m going to share Habit to Happiness #3 – “Great-fullness”

Habit # 3 is a twin sister to Habit #2  because it involves practicing the art of what I call, “Great-fullness.” Yes, I know, I didn’t use the traditional spelling. That’s intentional, by the way. In Habit #2, you’re expecting great things to happen, and in Habit #3 you consistently recognize and give thanks that your life is filled with great things. Essentially, you can thank your way to success.

One of the biggest complaints I hear people talk about is that they don’t have enough – not enough money, not enough time, not a good enough job, not a nice enough house.

Yet, we live in the wealthiest nation in the world. According to GlobalIssues.org, almost half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day, and still, as a culture, we believe we don’t have enough.

How we view our lives and the world around us, has a direct impact on our happiness. And if we can shift our paradigms and view the world with thankfulness for the greatness in our lives, we can raise our level of happiness.

I realize that giving thanks isn’t exactly a unique concept. In fact, gratitude and its positive impact on our lives is a pretty hot topic these days. The reason for that is because it’s one of the most powerful, proven tools we can use to improve any area of our lives.

I discovered this Habit to Happiness about 10 years ago when I thought there was nothing in my life for which to be “Great-full.” That sounds like a pretty extreme viewpoint, but that’s where I was. I started making it a habit to identify things every day that were great in my life, and over time, I developed habitual “Great-fullness.”

Now this can be a wild concept to wrap your head around. On the surface, it just doesn’t make sense because the premise is based on being happy with something you potentially are not happy with. But if you want something to change, you first have to see the positive in it. It’s another paradox of life. If you’re unhappy with something, you get more of it. Only when you become “Great-full,” are you ready to move on to what’s next.

One of the biggest examples of this in my life was several years ago when I learned that my department at work was going to be eliminated. At first, I reacted like anyone would. There was a moment of fear, hurt and anger over the loss of my position. But while jogging through the park one day – which is where I get my biggest “a-ha” moments – I decided to be “Great-full.” for the situation. I was “Great-full” for the time I spent in the role and for the wonderful people I met and for all I had learned while I was there. I was “great-full” l for new possibilities that were ahead of me. I started to identify as many great things as I could about the situation, bringing me to a place of “Great-fullness.”

And when a colleague asked me what I was going to do now that my job was going away, a thought came to me instantly – “I’m going to be a coach and help people reach their maximum potential in business.” Now, I didn’t even know what that would look like. I didn’t know any coaches, and I didn’t know how to become a coach. Would I try to find a coaching job? Would I start a coaching business? Well, suffice it to say it was one of the best things that ever happened. Today, I am coaching professionals, helping them land their dream jobs, increase their salaries, resolve workplace relationship conflicts, develop empowering self-confidence, and discover purpose and passion that they never knew they had. Not a bad place to land!

This never would’ve happened if I hadn’t had a mindset of “Great-fullness.” It wasn’t until I became “Great-full” for my current situation, that coaching opened up.

Last year I had a client who came to me, like so many people, unhappy and unfulfilled in his job. He wanted help looking for a new job and figuring out the best path to take. We worked on developing some Habits to Happiness such as looking for and expecting great things to happen, and identifying what was great about his current situation. Finally, during one session, he said to me “Wow, I actually like my job, now.” So, what do you think was the next thing that happened? You guessed it – he found a new job that he now describes as his “dream job.” 

Inevitably, when I talk to people about developing a habit of “Great-fullness,” I will get a response like, “but what if I don’t feel ‘Great-fulll?’ ”

Here’s a tip.

I strongly suggest buying a journal or notebook and writing in it three things every day for which you’re “Great-full.” If you do this consistently, and by consistently, I mean EVERY day, you will see real and lasting change in your life.

People say to me, “seriously – THREE things EVERY day?” Yep! Making this a daily practice will help you develop the habit. Creating a series of habits is the best way to make lasting change because you’re basically automating a new thought process. Remember, last week I explained your thoughts form a pattern in your brain much like a groove in a record. That’s what happens when you start journaling three things every day.

By writing three things, you will start to become “Great-full” for all things big and small. You’ll run out of the biggies quickly. You’ll be forced to start thinking of things like having eye-sight to be able to read a book. When I go for a jog, I am so “Great-full” for my sense of smell because I love the scent of the fresh outdoors. I’m “Great-full” that I can control the temperature in my home with the slight touch of my finger on the thermostat and be perfectly comfortable anytime of the day or night.

When you start to develop “Great-fullness” for so many things, in your life, abundance success begins to pour in.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that people ask me, “are you always this happy.” And, of course, I reply “no,” because no one is “always” happy. But inside, I think to myself, “if you only knew.”

I spent years inside my head filled with negative thoughts. And this Habit to Happiness is the one that has had the greatest impact in elevating my natural level of happiness.  

Give it a try, and see what happens. Do this for 12 weeks, which is what I believe is the length of time needed to create a habit. Then come back here and let me know how it goes. I can’t wait to hear from you!

"See, I knew it!"

“See, I knew it!”

Does that turn of phrase sound familiar?  For years, it was an old familiar tune of mine that referred to any and every disappointment that came my way. I didn’t get the call back after the job interview, “I knew I wouldn’t get it!”

Or better still, I didn’t get the call back after the first date. “See, I knew he would turn out to be a jerk.”

Regardless of the issue: my boss doesn’t like me, I didn’t get the promotion, I didn’t win the award, or my best friend hurt me. The result was, “I knew it! That’s always the way it is.”

When I was younger, I used to listen to records – yes, it’s true! Good old-fashioned LP, vinyl records. Every once in a while, one of the albums would have a scratch, which basically meant that there was a groove in the record where the needle would get stuck and couldn’t make its way out. Thus, a particular part of the song would repeat over and over and over.

This is basically an oversimplified way to explain how the brain works. My thought pattern was stuck in a groove that repeatedly stated, “I knew it.” I “knew,” I was going to fail.

I can’t really say what came first – depression that caused the needle to get stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts, or a pattern of negative thoughts that caused the depression. A friend asked me recently, “Marianne, what happened? How was it that you had this depression for so many years? Did something happen to you? Was it your genetic predisposition? Was it your environment? Was it your thinking?”

Answer: Yes!

I’m here to tell you that I was about as bad of a case as there ever was. In fact, a psychiatrist once wrote me off, saying, “well, Marianne there really isn’t anything else I can do for you. I’m going to refer you to a specialist.” Well, isn’t psychiatry a specialty? Yes, but apparently not specialized enough for my case.

That’s the moment I decided, there had to be another way. There had to be something else. I knew in that moment that I had to figure out how to get that record needle out of the groove once and for all.

I took a close look at the enormous set of tools that I had acquired throughout my life’s search for happiness and fulfillment. As it turned out, I had been sitting on a Godzilla-sized toolbox filled with answers. I had shelves of books on every topic from stress-relief, to debt-relief. I had articles and worksheets filled with keys to mental health and financial wealth. Whether overcoming alcohol addiction or spiritual affliction, I had the answers. I just hadn’t applied them. Or, I hadn’t applied them consistently.

Heck, if you want to build a new house, the hammer and nails don’t do you any good if they’re locked in the toolbox that you never open.

The good news for most people is that they’re not starting from such a deep pit. You’re probably not in a dark pit of despair, which means the road to success and happiness can be a much straighter line than it was for me.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I started to develop habits in my life that not only relieved me of depression, but led me to success in multiple areas of life including career, business, finances and relationships.

Success is an elusive word, because it can mean different things to different people. To some, it means having healthy families and loving relationships. To some, it means achieving career, business and financial goals. To others, it means personal growth and staying true to one’s spiritual beliefs. For me, it’s all of the above.

Last week I talked about my “Habit to Happiness #1 – Acceptance.” Here is my “Habit to Happiness #2,” that will help you achieve success and happiness, no matter how you define it.

Habit to Happiness #1 – Acceptance

Last week I shared that the first step to moving forward is acceptance. Letting go of any resistance to the current circumstances will allow you to release negative emotions that inhibit your ability to think creatively or successfully solve problems. Accepting the current state paradoxically is the key to changing it.

Habit to Happiness #2 – Expectance

Many years ago, I had a job that was absolute drudgery. I had outgrown the position and had been trying desperately to either move up in my organization or move on to another organization. And neither scenario was happening for me. With my record needle stuck in the groove of “this stinks,” things started to feel worse by the day.

Until one morning when I was listening to an audio program and heard the speaker say, “you have to get up every day and expect great things to happen to you today.” Hmmm that sounds pretty good, so I figured I’d give it a try.

Well, after day 1, it didn’t really seem that anything “great” had happened. So I started thinking about what “great” really means. I found myself starting to look hard for those “great things.” I started developing a habit of expectancy. One day I was walking down the hallway at work and passed several people whom I thought were pretty terrific people. I thought, “wow, it’s pretty great that I get to work in place where I get to see people I really enjoy.”

I noticed an immediate change in my mood. Wow, is that all it takes to feel a shift in my mood? It dawned on me to re-invent my definition of “great.” Every day, I looked for something great to happen to me. At first, I passed someone in the hall that brought a smile to my face. Then, brainstormed a way to team up with that person by developing a project that we could share. So now, I doubled my positive mood because not only did I get to work with someone I enjoyed, but I now worked on a project that was more meaningful to me. This gave me the added benefit of elevating my fulfillment at work. Which meant that groove of “work stinks,” began to smooth out and eventually disappear.

Creating a habit of expectancy means committing every day to looking for something great to happen. It might mean that you get that front row parking space. Maybe you get a friendly customer service representative when you call the local cable company. (Miracles do happen). Maybe you eat your favorite meal for lunch.

If you can expect great things to happen today, you will begin to see things as though you have never seen them. Before you know it, a momentum will build.

Living Proof!

Believe it or not this habit to happiness has scientific proof to back it up. In the 1960s, a Harvard researcher by the name of Robert Rosenthal developed what’s known as “Expectancy Theory,” which basically says that our brain reacts to our expectations. In other words, if we expect great things, our brain releases chemicals and reacts as if those great things already happened.

Rosenthal went into an elementary school and performed IQ tests on the students. He selected three names and told the teacher that those three students were rock star, geniuses. But he told the teacher she was not allowed to tell the students or treat them any differently.

He then re-tested the students at the end of the year, and what do you suppose happened? The IQ of those three students increased dramatically. Oh, and by the way, they were just average students all along.

The teacher’s expectancy that the students would over perform actually came to pass. I love sharing that study with leaders to demonstrate that our expectations and beliefs about the people around us can have a dramatic and positive impact on their ability to perform.

OK so, Habit to Happiness #2 is Expectance.

Expect great things to happen today. And expect them every day. You have to practice this habit every day to get that record needle into a new groove.

The beauty about this habit is that it doesn’t take any extra time out of your day. It doesn’t cost money. Yet, it has the potential to be a game-changer for your life.

Try it out. What’ve you got to lose?

Rocks in the Brook

"I once heard it said that the rocks in the brook are what make it sing.

And as I sit here in my yard, gazing at my koi pond with all of its beauty, I suddenly realize how true that is. I’m looking at the many objects that appear to stand in the water’s way – the rocks, ledges, twists and turns along the 15-foot stream. But instead of stopping, the water serenely sings its way over and around the rocks, peaks, and falls.

The water’s movement beyond these apparent obstacles creates beauty and gives life to the wildlife that draws near. I am reminded of the beauty in my own life as a result of moving past obstacles, and I am grateful for every rock that has settled in my brook.”

I recently posted this on Facebook and was surprised at the many comments, instant messages and subsequent phone conversations that ensued.

I realized that if this brief expression of a deep, inner thought resonated with so many people, that perhaps I would spend some time expanding on its genesis.

I am increasingly reminded of how wonderful my life is and cannot help but think of how it came to pass. So very often I talk with someone in the office or speak to a group of professionals, and someone asks the question, “are you always this happy?”

That’s when it hits me, and I think, “if you only knew.”

You see, I am not a naturally happy or optimistic person. In fact, I spent decades struggling with debilitating bouts of depression that started from the time I was 11 years old.

And although there are all kinds of wonderful medical treatments for depression, none of them seemed to be particularly helpful in my case.

I spent years searching for relief from the sadness, heavy-heartedness and negativity. I tried everything from alcoholism to workaholism. Somehow by the true grace of God, eventually, I discovered the most powerful set of tools that changed the trajectory of my life. These tools became the anecdote to what robbed me of any sense of meaning, purpose and joy.

About 10 years ago, I started applying these tools and gradually developed a deep sense of inner peace and fulfillment. But what really caught me by surprise was throughout the process, I stumbled onto an amazing discovery. Not only did I begin to feel an unprecedented inner happiness, but I started to see success in all areas of my life. I began to see new business opportunities, more income, improved physical health, new and deeper personal relationships.

Then I started sharing these tools with my coaching clients. And I started seeing trends in accelerated success for them, too.

Those who developed and practiced what I call, “habits to happiness,” saw crazy success in achieving their goals at resoundingly higher rates than those who did not.

I finally had a close friend ask me last week, “Marianne, how did you do it?”

So, I’m going to share with you each week one of the pivotal keys that lead to my success and happiness, so that you can experience the same kind of success in the areas of your life that matter most.  

Habit to Happiness – Acceptance

Many people think of the word, “acceptance” as a synonym for weakness or giving up. But it’s really the starting place for making any change in your life.

Hear me out. Approaching any problem from a place of resistance only creates more resistance. Have you ever heard the phrase “what goes around, comes around?” If you resist, you will get more resistance coming back at you.

In other words, what you resist, persists.

I’ll never forget the time many years ago when my best friend became tangled in ribbon and almost choked. OK, that best friend was a black and white mischievous cat by the name of Maxine. She had the ability to get into the darnedest predicaments.

One day, she decided to snoop into a gift bag that had two handles that were tied together with a long stretch of red ribbon. Her curiosity got the best of her, and before you know it, the ribbon was tangled around her neck. Now, I could have easily slipped the ribbon off from her neck had it not been for the fact that she was in a state of intense resistance. She rolled, and clawed, and chewed and flipped and flopped. But the more she struggled, the more entangled she became. I kept telling her to relax and let me help her, but go figure, she didn’t listen.

Eventually, all was well, and we got out of the mess. But you get the picture.

A tell-tale sign that you are in a place of resistance is if you use the phrase, “I hate it that…” or “I can’t stand it when…” Here’s the thing, when you’re in a place of resistance or negativity, your brain is less capable of problem-solving or thinking creatively.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve, is less likely to happen when you’re in a state of resistance. You’re less likely to see opportunities. You’re less likely to come up with the “a-ha” business idea or talk to the right people who can advise you or coach you toward success.

For me, when I would start to feel a heavy-hearted bout of depression coming on, my first thoughts would be “I can’t stand it. I can’t live with this. I can’t go through this again. I hate that I feel this way. Why, me?!” With every “can’t” or “hate” statement, the negativity would grow. So, what do you think happened next? Of course, before I knew it, I was sitting on the bedroom floor in a puddle of tears unable to get myself dressed.

One day, I realized, “OK, this is it. This has been with me for 30 years. Can I accept that it’s here, yet go on with my day?” Every day I began to practice acceptance by saying, “ok, this is how I feel right now. This is how it is for this moment.” I accepted it, and I went on.

Well, that simple acknowledgment and acceptance had an amazing side effect. It was as if I had accidentally discovered gold.

When I hated and resisted, the feelings got worse.

Here’s the paradox: when I accepted it, I stopped thinking about it. Hours or days later, it would dawn on me that the depressive feelings had dissipated into thin air.

I started to notice this with everything that I resisted. When I was frustrated, angry or resentful of someone or something, those emotions would subside shortly after I accepted the situation.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying that you should sit back and let negative circumstances run you over. I’m not suggesting you become a door mat or let people walk over you. I’m absolutely not suggesting that you would say, “ok, I’m broke, I guess that’s it. Now I give up.” That’s NOT what I’m saying.

What I am saying is that the best thing you can do when you feel frustrated, angry or resentful, is to get yourself out of that state of mind. If you can accept where you are for the moment, the feelings will subside. And only then can you get into the frame of mind you need to take the right action that can improve your circumstances.

It’s a paradox for sure. You have to accept what is. And only then, can you be ready to move into what will become.

How you see yourself is directly related to your level of success

We’re taught from a very young age to be humble, not to be prideful, or toot our own horns. And although I believe those are valuable codes of conduct, my experience is that more people struggle with the opposite problem.

I am continually amazed at the incredibly high potential that resides inside so many people, whether they be clients, prospects or associates, who don’t see what I see. They don’t see the huge potential of all that they’re capable of achieving.

I once had a client who had a number of strengths and accomplishments but confessed to me that he couldn’t think of one thing he was proud of in any area of his life. What struck me as I talked to him, was that he had so many gifts. It was as if he had this beautiful light inside him but could not find the light switch to turn it on. So not only was he unable to see this light, but he would never be able to share it with the rest of the world. 

We are limited in our success and achievements only by our own thoughts and beliefs. 

When is the last time you thought about your goals, your dreams, your big visions for your future? What is stopping you from going after those dreams right now?

Ok, after you answer that question with any number of rational ideas, ask yourself again. What’s REALLY stopping you?

Is it a lack of belief that you are capable of achieving those dreams? Are you telling yourself it’s not possible?

We all have stories that we tell ourselves and replay over and over in our minds. After a number of repetitions, those stories develop into deep beliefs. "I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m not talented enough, it’s too late, I don’t have the right degree."

These are phrases I hear from people who cannot seem to move forward in their careers or start their dream businesses. The truth is, that it’s not the facts behind the statements that are holding people back. Rather the actual beliefs are what keep them stuck.

The good news is that beliefs can be changed.

In order the change our beliefs, we need to change our thinking and focus on our successes, accomplishments and untapped abilities.

I have a friend who is a very successful, high achieving leader in her organization. I often hear her say, "I am a strong, smart woman." I remember the first time I heard her say that. I thought to myself, "gee, are we supposed to talk like that? Weren’t we taught not to be prideful or boastful?" 

But when I look at her, she is anything but prideful or boastful. In fact, she’s a stellar example of a leader and person of high character. She is kind, humble, generous, and compassionate. And yes, she is a strong, smart woman. There is not an ounce of arrogance or pride in her intention. Rather, there is a deep, solid confidence.

One main key to achieving our goals and dreams is believing that we are capable. We must see the potential in ourselves. And we must learn to create mental stories that support the success we want to see. We need to tell ourselves these empowering stories and repeat them often.

I’m talking about building good, old-fashioned self-confidence.

So right about now, I get asked, "well, Marianne, I agree with you, but what if I just don’t feel that way about myself? What if I just don’t feel confident?" 

The answer is that like anything else, it takes practice to build those mental muscles and to develop a new, habitual mindset.

Here are three actions you can take to improve your self-confidence and develop a mindset of success that ultimately will help you achieve your goals.

3 things to build your confidence 

Create a "limiting beliefs" worksheet to  (or email me,and I’ll send you my template). On the left side of a piece of paper, write down the limiting belief that you have. On the right side, write down the new, empowering belief to replace it. Be sure to read your list of beliefs and repeat your empowering beliefs daily.

Start a success journal. Every day document your successes from the day or previous day, and congratulate yourself for all the wins no matter how big or small. This will help to remind you of how successful you are. We tend to focus on the one or two areas where we may have fallen short, rather than the dozens of successes we experience in one single day.

Practice a bit of "fake-it-til-you-make-it." You may have to practice repeating your empowering beliefs for a while even if they don’t feel true. But I promise if you "fake it" long enough, you will eventually "make it" to the point where you develop a deep, inner knowing and connection to your empowered statements.

The key to using these tools successfully will be to perform the activity every day. It’s better to choose one of the tasks above and do it daily, than to do all three periodically. This is because daily practice is the only way to develop habits. And you need to first create a habit so that this thinking becomes automatic. Once it becomes automatic, it becomes part of your belief system.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-confidence. What has been your experience?

Are you a leader?

Recently, I have been conducting an increasing amount of leadership programs. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that my programs for leaders are not entirely different than my other professional development programs.

The reason is because we are all leaders regardless of the title or the position that we hold.

Leadership is more than a title or a specified role.

John Maxwell says leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. And each one of us is in a position of influence. Whether I have staff report to me or children who look up to me or coworkers who sit next to me and watch how I work, ultimately anyone in my path will potentially be influenced by my words, by my actions, by my behaviors.

It’s important for each of us to remember that we are all leaders in our own right. Those around us will do what we do whether we realize it or not. 

We know that children will do what we do before they will do what we say. And the case is not much different with adults.

If I throw garbage out of my car window, I’m sending a signal to the car behind me that this behavior is OK. He will follow suit. When I see a close friend exercise every day and never miss a workout, I am influenced and inspired to uphold that same kind of behavior.

What we do, what we say, what we think, is contagious.

When we hold ourselves to a high standard, those around us are influenced to do the same. If you have people in your life that you wish were more loving, more friendly, more giving, ask yourself if that’s the behavior you are modeling. 

If you want someone to be more accepting and understanding, the answer is for you to be more accepting and understanding.

When I had my not-for-profit youth hip-hop dance group many years ago, I regularly told the kids, always assume that someone is watching you. Someone is listening to every word you say, and watching everything you do. So conduct yourselves in the same way that you would want to see someone else behave.

That is the mindset of a leader.

What is one new habit you will instill or change today to display the lifestyle of a leader?

The truth behind multitasking

We live in a world where we all have more things to do than we can fathom. Whether you’re working for a company, own a business or are in charge of running a household – I don’t think there are any exceptions.

Every day I hear people talk about multitasking and how important it is to be a good multitasker.

So here’s the skinny on multitasking. In actuality, there really is no such thing. Multitasking implies that you are conducting more than one activity simultaneously. But what’s really occurring is that your brain is quickly shifting from one thought to another.

This can occur in less than a second, so it feels simultaneous. “So what,” you ask? “As long as I’m getting things done, what’s the problem?”

Brain deterioration

Well, for one, rapidly switching thoughts back and forth can deteriorate the muscles in the brain that allow you to focus. This is according to Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

Think about how lack of muscle use in the body causes atrophy and weakness. The same thing happens in your brain. When you do not spend time in long periods of concentration, your ability weakens.

A study at the University of London has shown that people who multitasked experienced decreased IQ. So even if you feel like you’re getting more done, you’re potentially suffering from loss of brain functionality and producing a much lower quality of work.

That means if you’re trying to stand out above the rest as a high performer in the competitive workplace or business environment, you’re more likely to be at a disadvantage if you’re constantly multitasking. If you want to really impress the boss, you’re going to want to focus on producing a high quality of work, which means having the ability to focus and concentrate.

Newport maintains that focusing on projects for extended periods of time without distraction is the skill of the 21st century that will provide a key competitive advantage in the workplace.

So what can you do about it?

I realize this is easier said than done in today’s fast-paced environment with cell phones, emails and instant messages firing off like crazy. Moreover, you feel like many demands are out of your control: meetings are scheduled, canceled, and rescheduled in a moment’s notice.

But there are things you can do to begin practicing what Newport refers to as “deep work.”

Unplug and concentrate. Practice concentrating on one task or project for an extended period of time without disruption. This will require turning off your email and phone for a pre-determined period of time. Concentration is a skill that requires practice, practice and more practice. The more you do it, the better you become.

Meditate. Block a pre-determined period of time to focus on, well, nothing. Focusing on deep-breathing will help stop your mind from jumping from thought to thought. You may be surprised to discover how challenging this is. In the beginning, you may only go for seconds at a time without all kinds of thoughts pushing their way in.

Start small. The best way to achieve success in anything is to create daily habits. Start with 10 minutes a day meditating and gradually increase your time. Do the same with concentrating on one task. Start with a small block of time, and gradually work your way up.

Feeling overwhelmed? There’s a solution

One of the top issues I hear from people is that they’re stressed out, overwhelmed, and generally unhappy in at least one area of their lives. What’s more, the things that matter most are being neglected because too many things are pulling them in too many directions.

Sound familiar?

People explain to me that they need work/life balance. More often than not, however, there’s a different problem under the surface. What’s really going on when people are looking for work/life balance is that they are trying to react or respond to every circumstance or thought that gets their attention.

It’s just impossible to do it all. And more importantly, it’s a waste of your time, talent and potential to try to do it all. Here’s why: you have a unique purpose for your life. And if you are clear about your purpose, you can be much clearer about what action you need to take. If you’re not clear on your purpose, you spin your wheels, chase your tail and the result is lots of movement with no results.

One of the first things I do with clients is work with them to create a life purpose statement that serves as a guiding light – a North Star. Everyone has a purpose, but many of us don’t know what it is. Once you figure that out for yourself, life takes on a whole new meaning, and your decisions get much easier. The result is less tail-chasing.

Every decision you make, big or small, should move you in the direction of that North Star.

Each day, we’re faced with multiple decision points. Do I work late to finish a project, or do I get home to have dinner with the family? Do I go to the gym, or do I go the kids’ soccer games? But you try to squeeze it all in, and in the end, you’re miserable and exhausted.

Your North Star, or your purpose statement, helps you make decisions, both big and small. It helps you prioritize. It’s like having a destination plugged in to your GPS. Once you enter that address, the ride becomes much easier. Have you ever decided to go on vacation, get into the car, and start driving? Which direction would you go?  It’s pretty hard to go forward if you don’t have a pre-determined destination.

Having a purpose statement allows you to have that pre-determined destination. So then, you can begin to plan your route and get clarity on choices you want to make in all areas of your life. It’s not so much that people want “work/life balance,” rather they need to design what they want for their lives in areas of family, career, finances, physical health, spiritual health and social relationships.

If you want to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed-out, start by creating a purpose statement. Follow that up by creating specific goals for the areas of your life that matter most, based on that purpose statement.

Knowing your purpose and creating a plan to carry it out, will be the most transformative actions you will ever take.

Can happiness increase my success?

Answer: YES!

Research has shown that happy people are more productive and successful at work and in life. What’s more, happiness is proven to have a direct impact on  blood pressure, anxiety, depression and how we approach stress.

Yes, it’s true! There really is scientific research to back this up. Harvard researcher and best-selling author Shawn Achor, states that happiness gives businesses and professionals an advantage to achieving greater success.

The good news is that, although everyone is born with a genetic predisposition to various levels of happiness, there are things you can do to elevate your happiness. Your degree of happiness doesn’t have to depend on what you’re born with or what circumstances may come your way.

Only 10% of one’s happiness comes as a result of external circumstances. The other 90% is internal. In other words, you can decide to be happy. All it takes is a little practice to develop new habits.

Here are three things you can do to increase your happiness, and increase success in business and all areas of your life:

Gratitude. Each morning, write down 3 things for which you are grateful. This will have an immediate impact on your happiness and help you develop a habit of gratitude.

Reframe your thoughts. We assign meaning to every circumstance in our lives, and we often develop habits of focusing on the negatives. In every circumstance, challenge yourself to ask, “what’s good about this situation?” Not only will this increase happiness, it also will help you solve problems and get better outcomes in difficult situations.

Exercise. Creating a routine of regular exercise will automatically give you a sense of success, self-empowerment and elevated happiness.

I know, I know. You’ve heard it all before. Well, there’s a reason for that – it works! Seriously, if you start to develop habits in these areas, you will begin to see real changes in your life. Opportunities will begin to show up in your life: a promotion at work, new relationships, new clients, or new ideas for services and products to sell in your business.

Try it out. What have you got to lose?

Do you know who you’re talking to?

By Marianne Renner,
Leadership Development Coach

Knowing your audience will help you get what you want

I recently spoke to a group of business owners in the creative services industry. We spent some time talking about how to handle difficult conversations over creative differences with clients.

We discussed questions such as, “how do you communicate your message in a way that influences others to see things your way?”

I spent more than 15 years in the marketing/communications field and one thing I learned in all of those years is that all of life is marketing/communications.

Let me explain what I mean. Marketing is about identifying a target audience, studying those individuals and learning their behaviors and motivations. When you understand what drives their decisions, you can then craft a message and communicate that message in a way that influences them to buy a service or product.

That’s the same formula for many things in life that we want to achieve. Because more often than not, our goals and desired achievements involve other people and influencing others to see things our way.

Just how do we effectively handle conversations with others when we have differences of opinion? And how can we elevate our level of influence in those conversations?

Whether you want to motivate your team to improve performance, turn a prospect into a client, or just get your kids to pick up their stuff around the house, there are techniques you can learn to improve your level of influence. And at the top of the list is understanding dominant motivating factors.

Know your audience

Just as in marketing, the key is to know your audience. People have different motivating forces, they have different fears, different characteristics that make up their personalities.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of your own children. If you have more than one child, you know that what works for one, doesn’t work for the other. You have to get creative in how you influence and motivate them. One will respond and follow instructions when you threaten to send him to his room. But if you send the other child to his room, he skips up the stairs singing all the way because he would love nothing more than to sit in his room all day and day dream. Do you ever wonder, “how did these two kids come from the same parents?”

Scientific research has proven that there are four dominant personality types, and each type has its own set of distinct motivations, fears, and characteristics.

When leaders learn to identify these characteristics, they improve their communications with teams and customers. They become better influencers, earn more respect from co-workers and bosses, and get others to embrace their ideas.

Let me give you an example.

Have you ever met someone who is assertive, strong willed, gets right to the point and makes quick decisions? I’ll bet you can think of someone right now who fits that description. On the other hand, you probably know someone who is a real team player, a cheerleader, always keeping the peace and wants to make everyone happy?

Would you communicate to these individuals in the same way? Of course not. These two people have different fears and different key motivators. Once you understand this, you can communicate with greater impact.

If you have your own business or aspirations to grow, advance, make more money, or get promoted – you need to develop this communication skill.

If you want to achieve professional success, it’s not enough just to be good at what you do. You need this skill to earn new clients, keep clients and get more referrals. You need this skill to ask for a promotion, ask for a raise or influence team members to achieve greater success on projects.

A quick and easy way to get started is to download my free DISC “cheat sheet,” a 1-page summary of the four DISC personalities. Keep it on your phone or print it out and keep it in your pocket. It’s a great, quick reference to skim over before any conversation or meeting.

You can instantly improve communication and outcomes of the next conversation you have.

Talk back to Imposter Syndrome

 

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in a room full of successful people, and you think to yourself, “it’s just a matter of time before they find out I’m a fraud!”

Believe it or not, there’s a name for this. It’s called, “imposter syndrome.” Seriously, it’s really a thing.

And what’s more, it’s unbelievably common. Successful people often experience this phenomenon, and the more successful they are, the stronger it becomes.

The problems that result from imposter syndrome can range from general stress and anxiety to complete career sabotage. Many professionals, although successful, have actually stunted their career growth due to their internal dialogue that they are not as good as they appear to be.

I recently spent some time in Colorado, and had a fascinating discussion with a nice young couple on vacation. The gentleman had a terrific job as a technology specialist for one of the top tech companies in the world. We spent quite a bit of time talking about his work, and it was clear that he was a sharp, talented and hard-working young man.

So I was amazed when I started talking to him and his wife about imposter syndrome, to which he replied, “wow, I’ve been experiencing that my entire career.”

When I talk with my clients about imposter syndrome, they tell me things like, “I was in a meeting today, and I just don’t belong with these other smart, successful people.” This can result in a negative downward spiral of thinking that prevents career growth.

Professionals who struggle with imposter syndrome, are terrified of being discovered for the frauds that they believe they are. Even though they are accomplished in their careers, they believe they’ve gotten to where they are by luck or chance or an unbelievable interview that didn’t really show who their true colors.

In general, they’re lacking a sense of empowerment, self-confidence and self-esteem.

So how can you get more confidence, empowerment and self-esteem?

Answer: you have to give it to yourself. You can learn to exchange your limiting beliefs for new, empowering beliefs that will impact how you see yourself and how others see you. By developing a few new habits, you can earn new levels of respect in the workplace and accelerate your career growth.

Self-talk

Begin having regular meetings with yourself, just as you would with an employee who wasn’t performing the way you’d like. Consider these meetings to be performance evaluations with yourself, and remind yourself that you are smart, capable, competent, intelligent and creative. Remind yourself that you earned your right to be in your position.

The key to real change is that these self-conversations must be backed up by evidence. The things that we truly believe are reinforced because we have evidence to prove them.

Document your successes

I have my clients keep a journal or log of their successes so they can begin to create new, evidence-based, empowering beliefs that replace the old limiting beliefs.

This can be difficult to do on your own, because oftentimes people discount their successes. If something comes easily, people often assume that it really isn’t a success. I once had a client who worked full-time, owned his own business and earned an advanced degree, graduating on the dean’s list. But he didn’t think of this as a success because school came easily to him. He would not have documented this as a success. He needed an outside perspective to help point out this huge accomplishment.

Continue to document your successes as they occur. Writing out every key win will build momentum. You will feel a sense of growing empowerment that over rides the old, automated thinking.

Download this Limiting Beliefs worksheet to help you stamp out imposter syndrome once and for all!