Category Archives for Blog

Setting Goals the Right Way

How are you doing in the your goal setting process? First of all, are you setting goals? That’s the first part to achieving what you desire. Next is to make sure that you are setting your goals in the most effective manner possible. I recently came across some of Randi Bussin’s work and wanted to share her insights on goal setting for success with you. (You can learn more about her at aspireforsuccess.com.)

Here are 10 tips for goal setting:

1. Create a big picture of what you want to accomplish in your life. Take a piece of paper and write down everything you want to accomplish in the next 10 years (or use whatever method that works best for you). Be sure to include goals for all major areas of your life and as you make a list of your goals, ensure they are what you want to achieve and not something others desired for you.

2. Prioritize the goals by time frame. Return to the list you created and break the long list of goals into three smaller time frames. Three categories are short term (next 12 months), medium term (two to five years), and long term (six to ten years).

3. Rewrite your short-term goals in S.M.A.R.T. goal format and be sure the goal is written as a positive statement. Not sure what a SMART goal is? SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. To learn more, simply Google “SMART Goal.”

4. Type up your goals, put them in several places where you can see them, review them daily and revise them as needed. This action of putting your goals in a visible place becomes a daily reminder of what it is you are trying to accomplish. Spend a minute each day in front of your list of goals and read them to yourself.

5. Identify the obstacles that you will have to overcome to achieve your goals. What is going to get in the way of you achieving your goals? What is a limiting factor for you? What within yourself is holding you back?

6. Identify the knowledge, skills, and competencies you need to achieve your goals. Which skills do you need to be at the top of your game? What one skill, if you developed it, would have the greatest impact on your life or career? What one skill, if you developed it and did it consistently, would help you achieve your most important goal? Identify it and begin to work on it every single day.

7. Identify the support team you need in place to achieve your goals. To achieve big goals, you will need the help and support of many people. Identify the list of family members, work colleagues, and mentors you need in your life. As you think about your support team, think about ways in which you can be a giver and not necessarily a taker.

8. Celebrate successes. When you achieve a goal, take time to enjoy the satisfaction of having reached the milestone. Treat yourself to something to mark the accomplishment. Take the time to relish in your success, which will help boost your confidence.

9. Organize your 12-month goals into smaller more manageable steps, from the beginning to the completion of the goal. Planning is very important to reaching your goals. The 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle) states that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your efforts. So how will you spend your time?

10. Act every day. Lots of baby steps add up to big goals. If you’re having a very busy day at work, don’t beat yourself up. Just do one thing, one little thing, each day that will keep the momentum going and you moving forward.

Think about how you will implement these today!

Embrace Your Nervousness!

Us superachievers are often stretching outside our comfort zone and there are times when we find ourselves in situations that can be a bit nerve-wracking. It could be that you are about to speak up in a meeting about an idea that you have to people who have the power to make the idea happen or to squash it. Perhaps you are about to take that leap into entrepreneurship from the safety of a secure job. Or, it could be that you are about to take a different kind of leap – perhaps out of a plane. Whatever it is, because you are a superachiever, you are choosing to do something that scares you every day and that is often accompanied by nerves.

So here are some ways that you can manage your nervousness when you’re out there doing great things for our world. This advice has been gathered from various sources over the years.

Know Your Triggers: When you are aware of your triggers – what leads to your nervousness – you can plan and prepare for your reaction before it happens. Perhaps it is speaking in public that riles you up, or sharing an idea that you have come up with yourself and feel very strongly about. Whatever triggers your nerves is unique to you and self-awareness is the first step in pretty much everything, right? Knowing what triggers you will allow you to be prepared for when the nerves start hindering you.

Breathe: Engage in deep breathing exercises to calm your nervous system. This is a very important process is in working through your nerves. When we get nervous, we tend to take quick, shallow breaths. The deeper and slower your breathe, the more your nerves will dissipate.

Accept it: Admit your nervousness and quit beating yourself up over it. Guess what? You’re human and there is no Perfect 10! Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect and do your best.

Reframe it: Instead of thinking “I’m so nervous!”, think “I’m excited!” Changing your interpretation of what your body is doing will help you motivate you to rise to the challenge. A great resource for this is Kelly McGonagall’s TED Talk on stress. Google it.

Prepare, prepare, prepare! Mentally and physically prepare for what you want to say or do. The more you prepare and rehearse, the easier the action you take will be. Why do you think law enforcement and military constantly prepare and rehearse responding to various events? It is so that their subconscious programming and muscle memory can take over and get the job done and nerves have less of an impact. This applies to anything in life – even rehearsing going through airport security with your kids so they’ll be less likely to be nervous and have an emotional meltdown.

Focus on your mission. Remember the “Why” behind what you’ve chosen to do. Keeping focused on the Why will help you move past the nerves.

Put it in perspective. Whatever you are about to do or say is a fraction of your life (even a fraction of your day!) Change your internal dialogue by reminding yourself that this is but a few moments of your time, so you can step up to meet the challenge.

There you have it superachievers – a few tips for moving past the nervousness that naturally occurs when you’re out in the world doing great things. Pick a couple to practice today.

Are You Personally AGILE?

I recently read the book, Focused, Fast, and Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World by Horney and O’Shea, and while they related the AGILE model to organizations, I thought it would also fit for superachievers. To implement strategies for more adeptly handling both positive and negative changes in the work environment; we must first be aware of our current level of agility. So, let’s dive into strategies for you to be more AGILE in the work environment (or any environment, really).

To do this, we are going to apply the AGILE model created for organizations by Horney and O’Shea to you as an individual. The AGILE model stands for:

Anticipate Change: This means paying systematic attention to potential changes coming your way not just at the individual level, but also in your field of expertise (both internal and external). In this step, you think about the future with imagination and wisdom, develop an early alert system for anticipating changes coming (like setting Google Alerts for your industry), and then monitor the system, being ready to survive and even thrive with the change.

Generate Confidence: This is your ability to inspire others to trust you to be competent, accountable, authentic, and a good communicator. This means that you are connecting, aligning, and engaging with others to further develop their confidence in you. The more confidence people have in you to show up and do what needs to get done, the more you will succeed in a fast-paced environment.

Initiate Action: This is your inclination toward proactive action – a sense of urgency and active collaboration. Superachievers are doers – so no problem here, right? This is also the ability to be comfortable in ambiguous situations, which will help you succeed in a fast-paced environment every time.

Liberate Thinking: This is your inclination towards innovation – originating and incorporating innovative ideas. According to Horney and O’Shea, this means that you engage in FIT – fresh, innovative thinking. You are open and looking for innovative ideas about what is being done, what should be done next, and how to do it better and faster (even when things are working great.)

Evaluate Results: This is your ability to align vision to action. You acquire knowledge and facts necessary to improve the actions you have taken in the past, seek feedback, and engage in after-action reviews.

As part of the AGILE model, Horney and O’Shea (2015) included an agility personality profile. Consider how you would rate yourself in the following areas:

Focus: Your ability to create goals and concentrate upon them until completion. You can stay on track even when it is difficult to do so. You also become fully engaged in tasks.

Confidence: You approach work with a sense of self-assuredness. You have a high degree of trust in your own abilities and you are eager to face challenges.

Proactivity: You avoid a reactive mindset. You anticipate tasks and continually look for ways to make progress. You also accept the need to act without complete information.

Optimism: In this area, you look for positive aspects of demanding situations. You can bounce back after failing to achieve. You find hidden opportunities within problems or challenges and you like team collaboration.

Inquisitiveness: You value the opportunity to learn. You are comfortable in new situations. You seek and benefit from experiences that demand the acquisition of new knowledge or skill.

There you have it superachievers – take some time to reflect on your personal agility today!

Coach Yourself To Achieve Goals

One of the many subjects I teach leaders, so they can be more effective in developing their employees, is basic coaching. In a recent workshop, it dawned on me that we can also use this very simple model to coach ourselves. Although I recommend that you get your own coach, this is a simple model you can utilize when you’re in a pinch.

The GROW model was created by Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the 1980’s and it is a process to guide a coaching conversation in a more structured way. We used this model to train leaders in the FBI to coach and I continue to use it in my leadership workshops in my post-FBI career. To relate this to self-coaching, we’ll call it a coaching conversation with ourselves.

Here are the steps:

Goals: In this step, you define what you want to achieve. Once you decide on the specific goal, you then create the objectives and tasks that would need to be completed to accomplish your goal. You can use this for small goals, such as to get a report done by Friday, to big ones such as own your own business. Once you’re really clear on what you want to accomplish, you move onto the next step.

Reality: In this step, you explore where you are now. Is it realistic for you to achieve the objectives in the amount of time you’ve given yourself and with your current resources? What is working for you in achieving this goal? What is working against you in achieving this goal? Make sure to check any assumptions that you’re making during this step as well. Basically, question everything. For example, an assumption could be that you have a report due on Friday and it cannot be done in time. Check this assumption by going through your schedule and moving to the next step.

Options: In this step, you brainstorm all the diverse ways you can achieve the goal you set. Get as creative as you’d like. Let’s say in the previous step you made the assumption that there is no way you can get your report done on time; however, when you explore options, you come up with a number of creative ways you can do so – cancel your attendance at an unimportant meeting, have someone go in your place, set aside time in the evening to finish it, etc.

Way Forward: In this final step you commit to specific actions. This becomes your action plan – you will do “x” to accomplish your first objective by “x” date, and so on. You also look at the resources you will need, and the accountability support you may need to implement to ensure you get what you need done by the deadlines you’ve created. Some of us need more support than others, especially if it is a goal that we are not particularly excited about, so you come up what works for you. Accountability partners work well for this, too.

In summary – Set your Goals, examine your Reality, explore your Options, and then determine a Way Forward that works for you.

Why not try this simple model out today?

Let’s Talk About Personal Accountability

I am convinced that if every person on this planet decided to be personally accountable, we would finally achieve world peace – seriously! President Harry S. Truman was a champion of accountability. He had a sign with the inscription “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk that was meant to indicate that he didn’t “pass the buck” to anyone else but accepted personal responsibility for the way the country was governed.

Personal accountability is about following through on your commitments and doing what you said you’d do. It’s about recognizing that others are dependent on the results of your work. It’s also about open, proactive communication to keep others informed on the status of your commitments because it has a direct impact on their ability to achieve their own commitments.

Not surprisingly, accountability in the workplace is linked to higher performance. The question this brings us to is, “How do you know you’re being personally accountable?” Enter the Ladder of Accountability.

I came across the Ladder of Accountability when researching high performance. Unfortunately, I could not find to whom I should give credit for this great piece of work; however, apparently it has been utilized for many years in business courses across the globe.

The Ladder of Accountability has eight rungs:

  1.  I Didn’t Know: If you’re sitting on this rung you pretend there isn’t a problem. As if not acknowledging it will make it not exist.
  2. Blame Others: This is where you are aware the problem exists, but deny responsibility and shift blame to others. If you’ve read my book, Quit Bleeping Around: 77 Secrets to Superachieving, you know that blaming others is for losers!
  3. Excuses: When you are sitting here, you avoid responsibility by claiming confusion or incompetence. You’re avoiding tough issues and situations.
  4. Wait & Hope: When you are here, you know that there is a problem that requires action, but decide to wait and hope that things will magically improve.

All of the four rungs on the bottom of the ladder are considered “victim behaviors.” This is where your mindset is that things are happening to you – you take no responsibility for either your behavior or your responses to external issues that arise. Now on to the “accountable behaviors” where instead of things happening to you, things happen because of you.

  1.  Acknowledge Reality: When you are here, you acknowledge the reality of the situation, event, or circumstances.
  2. Own It: When you are here you own the problem and honor your commitments and responsibilities. No excuses, no blaming others.
  3. Find Solutions: When you are here, you own the problem and the solution. You actively seek to implement solutions either by yourself or through others.
  4. Make It Happen: When you are here, whether or not you are the sole decision-maker, you assume responsibility for implementing the solution and ensuring its success. You are completely personally accountable.

Even the more accountable of us vary which rung they are on depending on the circumstances. For example, you may normally find yourself on the top half of the ladder, but then blame traffic for being late to a meeting, which means you dip down to the second or third rung.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to improve your personal accountability today:

  • Do I admit my mistakes, am I honest with myself, and look at what my role is when things go wrong?
  • Do I voluntarily apologize and take responsibility when something goes wrong?
  • Do I continually seek feedback from others on how I can improve myself as well as look for ways I can make positive changes in my work or home environment?
  • Do I seek out responsibility, get things done, and carefully review my bandwidth before agreeing to new responsibilities?
  • Do I meet my commitments and don’t make ones I can’t keep?

Just a few things for you to reflect on today!

Achieve More With Resilience

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi sums it up best when he says the meaning of life IS meaning – whatever it is, where ever it comes from for each individual. We have to make that meaning ourselves; each of us. Which leads us to this – the meaning you give to your life in the face of stress, setbacks and failures, can build your resilience. Us superachievers need to continually build our resilience because go after what you want in life is no easy task and often comes with much rejection and failure. But we still have to pick ourselves up and get motivated enough to continue to pursue what we desire.

It is not the events themselves that determine our level of stress, it is how we decide to view them, and ultimately cope with them. Check out Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk on stress for more information on this. Do you see change in your life as a setback or as an opportunity? Do you think of yourself as the kind of person who has a strong need for stability or one who relishes a good challenge?

The heart of resilience, like the heart of thriving, depends fundamentally on your ability to actively rebalance the positive and the negative in your life. Studies have shown the brains of highly resilient people show much less activity in the part associated with worrying and “what if” thinking. Highly resilient folks are more responsive to what is happening in reality, whether it is good or bad, rather than what might happen.

Increasing your resilience takes discipline and practice; it can be done! Two strategies for doing so are mindfulness and learning to shift your perspective. Maureen Gaffney, in her book Flourishing, states that if you develop a habit of mindfulness in your daily life, it will pay dividends when stress strikes, allowing you to observe negative thoughts without letting them take hold of you.

As for the second strategy, researchers found that resilient people stay hopeful about the future. It is this capacity to feel positive even when feeling negative that is at the heart of resilience. So a way to adapt your perception is try to see things in a positive light, then take direct action to tackle the problem.

Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, recommending asking yourself the following questions in the midst of adversity:

  1. What is life expecting of me know, at this particular moment, and in this particular situation?
  2. Given what has happened, who do I want to shape myself to be?
  3. Is there anything about this situation that allows me to do something positive that otherwise I would not or could not have done before?

There you have it superachievers, several ways to build your resilience. Choose one commitment you will make based on this wisdom today.

Use Flow to Achieve More

Have you ever heard of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow? It can be life changing once you become aware of how to harness this awesome achievement tool. Flow is defined as the experience of full and deep, enjoyable involvement in what you are doing. Not only is it great for achieving, but also for simply being happy.

Studies have shown the more a person experiences flow in their average week, the more likely they are to describe themselves as strong, active, creative, motivated, and happy. Who wouldn’t want that?

Maureen Gaffney, in her book Flourishing, discusses flow and goes over the eight elements of flow. They are:

  1. You take on an activity that is challenging and requires skill
  2. You concentrate fully on what you’re doing in the moment – no distractions!
  3. The activity has clear goals
  4. The activity provides immediate feedback
  5. Deep involvement removes the frustrations and worries of everyday life from your awareness
  6. There is a sense of control
  7. Self-consciousness disappears
  8. The sense of time is altered

Flow is why my husband and I love to do escape rooms together so much. We get locked in a room together and have 60 minutes to focus on the task at hand and figure out a way to get out together. It is a wonderful experience and something I’d recommend to anyone who loves puzzles!

There are several benefits of intentionally establishing flow in your life. They are:

  • You find yourself less dependent on external rewards
  • You become capable of finding purpose and enjoyment in what you do day-to-day, even if it is difficult and tedious
  • You are more open to a variety of experiences
  • You keep learning
  • Your relationships improve
  • You are able to better manage the challenges that life throws at you

Pretty cool benefits, huh?!?  So the idea is to consciously create flow in your life by intentionally setting up the eight elements of flow. Think about how you can create flow with some of your day-to-day activities.

Clarity In Vision Will Increase Your Achievement

Let’s take a moment to look at the importance of setting a crystal clear vision for our achievement efforts. I think so often we are so focused on attaining the goals we set for ourselves that we don’t take the time to set a very clear vision of the goal. Taking the time to do this, according to Maureen Gaffney, in her book Flourishing, will actually help you achieve your goals more quickly.

Here’s why – when you supply your brain with a very clear intention, it automatically does half the work of implementing that intention for you by alerting you to opportunities to appear and rapidly processing any info that might help or hinder your purpose. By creating a clear vision of your goal, you are telling your brain what it needs to pay attention to, so it will automatically process any information that comes in regarding that vision more quickly that other information. Here’s the cool thing about that at well – your brain not only directs your attention to what you can do now, but also what you could do next.

Let’s look at the absence of setting a clear vision – you drift aimlessly without any clear idea of what you want to achieve or perhaps you’re achieving someone else’s vision because they’ve so clearly laid it out for you.

Here are a couple of strategies for setting a clear vision; first, make sure you visualize precisely what you want to obtain using as many of your five senses that you can and making it action-based. The executive and monitoring functions of your brain work better together when they are trying to produce actions, rather than thoughts or feelings. Visualizing a detailed end state of what you want will help them work better together.

The second strategy is to express what you want to achieve in a positive way so that the executive and monitoring systems can work together using less bandwidth (or energy). An example would be, I want to eat foods that are good for my body versus I want to eat less junk food. Your brain will spend less energy searching for evidence of you eating foods that are good for your body; whereas it would expend more energy monitoring whether or not you are eating less junk food.

In honor of today’s blog, I recommend you sit down and set a clear vision for each of your goals. Then make it a daily habit to revisit those visions to achieve even faster.

More Positive Emotions = More Energy

Did you know it is important to ensure you experience positive emotions in your life at least five times more than negative emotions? According to numerous research studies, 5 to 1 is the magic ratio. In Maureen Gaffney’s book, Flourishing, she makes a good case for just how much positive emotions play a part in your ability to thrive in life. She states that positive emotions broaden, build, and transform us.

When you experience a positive emotion, it puts you in a more receptive state of mind, triggering patterns of thought that are more flexible, creative, and adaptable – the thought patterns you need to achieve your desires more quickly. In addition, positivity creates energy while negativity consumes it. When you are in a bad mood, you will use up more energy ruminating in it – trying to understand why you are feeling negative and how to get out of it. What an energy vampire!

The good news is that if you have a natural inclination to the negative, with deliberate effort, you can build up the positive and reduce the negative whenever possible.

Here’s some more reasons to ensure you experience positive emotions more. Everything we are trying to achieve depends on our attention, right? IF we can focus and police our attention, we can better control our thoughts and feelings, and as a consequence achieve more. It is not the stream of events in the course of the day that registers in our consciousness, it is only what we pay attention to. This means that what we choose to pay attention to literally defines our reality. This is fine on a good day, because it is easier for us to manage and focus our attention by acting intentionally. However, increasingly we find ourselves in an uncontrolled reactive mode, especially if we are unaware that we create our emotions. When this happens our attention is scattered. Not so productive!

Superachievers have learned how to control their attention to achieve what they intend and this is done by intentionally focusing on experiencing more positive emotions – which, in turn, gives us more energy, opening up our perception to accept more opportunities, and be more creative in attaining our goals.

Think of superachievers as realistic optimists – we routinely emphasize possible opportunities and work towards good outcomes with no guarantee these will occur, especially without effort. This means we cultivate hope, confidence, and ultimately, an appetite for challenge.

Who’s feeling motivated to go out and achieve now? I definitely am!  Let’s do it!

Suffering From Amygdala Hijack?

Part of being successful in life is maintaining control of our emotions. Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence model had four parts: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and social skills. In Maureen Gaffney’s book, Flourishing, she discusses just how important emotion management is to be happy in one’s life and I wanted to share her work with you as it pertains to your achievement efforts.

We can easily lose ourselves to our emotions if we aren’t fully aware of how our body and mind work together to protect us. And even if we are aware of this, it’s still hard to overcome the effect emotions have on us at times. This is where amygdala hijacking comes in –  our amygdala can set a reaction within our body to an event before the thinking mind has an opportunity to become aware AND once a strong emotion is turned on, even the thinking brain has trouble turning it off. Have you ever gotten very upset or angry at something someone said or did and later, when you had a chance to reflect on it, you’re not sure what happened? You’ve been hijacked by your amygdala.

The amygdala sets off an emotional response before the thinking brain has had an opportunity to fully understand the signal it has just received – the amygdala is literally reacting in a thousandth of a second, sending signals throughout your body to mobilize to either flee or to fight. So, by the time your thinking brain figures out that the event isn’t worth a reaction, your body is still raging with adrenaline and it takes a while to work all of that out of your system.

Here’s what happens – you find yourself in a new situation, such as someone rolls their eyes in a meeting while you’re speaking. Your thinking brain doesn’t have a chance to reason it out, such as “they may not have been rolling their eyes at you.” The eye roll goes into your brain, then your amygdala quickly searches your data banks for a time this similarly occurred in your post. It finds something close, perhaps your teenage daughter rolling her eyes at you when you were scolding her and sends out signals to the body to react to the experience now as you did in the past – even though you may have no conscious memory of the previous situation, much less how you reacted then.

Fun fact – events don’t cause positive or negative feelings, we create them ourselves by the meaning that we give them. And as you now know – we don’t even have to be consciously aware of the meaning that we’re giving these events.

Here is the process we go through when judging whether or not something is good or bad and how we are going to react to it: first an event occurs, then we feel an onset of emotion (this is the amygdala at work); we have an automatic interpretation of it; we experience a physiological response; THEN we actually develop thoughts about it and take action. So, someone rolls their eyes at a meeting, you’re not aware of the process just described until you feel the physiological response to it. This is the point that you can also negate the hijacking before it fully takes place. So instead of going into that automatic reaction when the individual rolls their eyes while you’re speaking, you notice that you feel anger (or whatever feeling you can relate to), and you use that as a signal that your amygdala is trying to hijack you and stop the process. Here’s how it plays out – I notice the eye roll, I can feel a tightening in my chest and jaw (because that’s how I react) and I use this as an awareness trigger – “wow! I just got triggered and I’m going to calm down and not react until I can have a moment to figure out what is going on.”

Essentially folks – you create your emotions, so you can control them. Pretty cool, huh? Especially if you thought you couldn’t control your emotions and had to go with them whenever you felt them. No so – time to take back control of your life. Some strategies for doing so are, meditation – Meditation is a strategy for pretty much any time you are trying to take better control of your mind or body. Another strategy is to have some sort of gratitude practice. Maybe it’s every morning or evening, but sometime throughout the day, listing the things you’re grateful for. Another one is good self-care – if you’re not taking care of yourself, you are more apt to simply be in reactionary mode.

Lots of info today superachievers! Decide on one commitment you will make today to improve your life based on what you just learned.

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