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Overthink Much?

Are you prone to overthinking? This will be my final blog to discuss Dr. Tasha Eurich’s work, which she presented in her great book Insight. Again, if you haven’t read it yet – it is a must read! In her book, she speaks about rumination, which she defines as “the single-minded fixation on our fears, shortcomings, and insecurities.” We all do it to some extent, some more than others. Here’s the thing though – this is not something that is healthy to do, and it takes up our much needed energy to face the day. I’m referring to my Secret to Super Productivity system, which involves energy management rather than time management. If you want to learn more, visit SecretToSuperProductivity.com.

Back to Dr. Eurich’s work – she provided a few key strategies that I will share with you along with my own thoughts. The first strategy for working your way past rumination (or going down the rabbit hole of worry as I like to refer to it), is realizing that other people don’t care about our mistakes or what we perceive as shortcomings as much as we do. They are so wrapped up in their own stuff, that they are most likely not going to even notice what we said or did. So when you find yourself replaying that last scene with another person over and over in your head – just drop it – they most likely did not even pick up on whatever issue you find yourself continually mulling over.

A second strategy for overcoming that spiral of worry is to have a learning mindset or what Carol Dweck termed a “growth mindset.” I like to call this the Enlighten Me method – this is where you take a perspective that each and every person, situation, or circumstance provides you with an opportunity to learn – so what is the lesson?

A third strategy for getting out of the rabbit hole of worry is to distract yourself. Whatever you can do to get yourself into a state of flow, which is where you are completely focused on the task at hand, is what will work for you. My son uses video games for this, my daughter throws herself into learning a new language, my husband and I love to tackle escape rooms. I have found that when I am so engrossed in an escape room, I even don’t feel physical pain. Pretty amazing, huh? Do what you need to do to distract yourself (in a healthy way, of course!)

Another strategy presented in Dr. Eurich’s book is to simply stop ruminating. Believe it or not, this one has worked for me – when I find myself in a worry spiral I will say “stop” out loud and in a firm voice. It seems to get my mind’s attention and I am able to focus on the task at hand.

The final strategy mentioned in Dr. Eurich’s book is to share the situation with a trusted confidant to get feedback. This is a good one as long as you have chosen a friend that will give you an objective viewpoint and you don’t turn it into a pity or venting party. Research studies have shown that prolonged venting actually makes things worse. So share enough context of the situation you are worrying about to get decent feedback from an objective friend.

There you have it folks – several strategies to help you get out of the rabbit hole of worry when it sucks you in. Pick out a few of your favorite presented in this blog and try them out today!

n he asked himself Now What? which means now that the hero of our story reflected on what happened and what he learned, what will he do differently? He decided that he will work on checking his assumptions before allowing himself to have a full-blown emotional reaction to similar situations.

Don’t ask yourself why? Instead, find ways to craft the questions you ask yourself using what instead. Specifically, as yourself: What? So What? Now What?

You’re Doing It All Wrong!

Let me ask you a question – when you reflect on your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors (because you’re doing this daily, right?) Do you find yourself asking why? Why did I think that? Why do I feel this way? Why did I do that? Guess what – you need to stop asking yourself why right now!

Check out Dr. Tasha Eurich’s TED talk in which she talks about how we are reflecting on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all wrong. Instead of asking ourselves a “why” question, we should be asking ourselves a “what” question. Let’s try this out as an example – first, ask yourself, “Why am I the kind of person that I am?” What did your mind immediately focus on? Most likely your past – and potentially victim-type behavior. For example, “I’m critical of others because my father or my mother was critical of me.” Now, ask yourself, “What kind of person am I?” Doesn’t that just feel completely different? Asking a what question opens you up to the possibilities – it keeps you more open to discovering new information about yourself (even if that information is negative or contrary to a current belief you have about yourself.)

To summarize, according to Dr. Tasha Eurich, asking why questions leads us to examine our limitations, stirs up those negative emotions, and traps us in our past. Whereas asking what questions allows us to see our potential, get curious about ourselves, and even creates a better future for ourselves. In the simple way we ask ourselves a question, we find a difference between having a victim mentality to having a mindset of growth.

So how do we do this effectively? I love the exercise introduced by one of my business partnerships with OMT Global, a leadership development company based out of Limerick, Ireland. This reflective exercise requires you to ask yourself What? three times: What? So What? and Now What? Pretty simple! You first ask yourself What? as in what happened? Let’s use a recent example I heard from a participant in one of my workshops: he had a scheduled meeting with a colleague and found himself waiting in the conference room for 20 minutes with no appearance made by his fellow manager. He found himself getting very angry that his colleague would so nonchalantly blow him off, disrespecting him and his position at the company. Now on to the So What? – what did he learn from the experience? He learned that he very quickly made some assumptions that triggered strong emotions. Because he was kept waiting, he created an entire story about how his colleague disrespects him and his position within the company. What he later found out was that a family member of the fellow manager found themselves in the emergency room and she was too focused on that situation to check in at work and let her assistant know that she would be out due to an emergency. Then he asked himself Now What? which means now that the hero of our story reflected on what happened and what he learned, what will he do differently? He decided that he will work on checking his assumptions before allowing himself to have a full-blown emotional reaction to similar situations.

Don’t ask yourself why? Instead, find ways to craft the questions you ask yourself using what instead. Specifically, as yourself: What? So What? Now What?

Got Blind Spots?

Blind spots. We all have them, some more than others. You know what they are – those areas that we don’t realize we are impacting others in an unintended way, but everyone else knows about them. They are so easy to spot in other people – the individual that thinks they are a great communicator, but everyone is frustrated with how much they lack the ability to communicate; or the individual that states they aren’t a perfectionist after they nitpick everything in a report you sent them; or the person that jumps in, constantly interrupting you to finish your sentences, as they are boasting about what a good listener they are. Here’s the scary part though – we have them as well, others know about them, but we are blind to them – which is why they are called blind spots. We don’t want to fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger Effect right? That’s where the least competent people tend to be the most confident in their abilities.

So how do we become more aware of our blind spots? Well, let’s first define three areas where we can have a pretty big blind spot. These were identified by Dr. Tasha Eurich in her book, Insight. They are:

Knowledge Blindness: This is when we have a general belief about our abilities and we apply it to a specific situation. Such as, “I’m good at math, so I’d be a good analyst or researcher.” Or “I’m good at being innovative so I’d be a good entrepreneur.”

Emotion Blindness: This is when we think we are very carefully and logically deciding, but ultimately, it is our “gut” or intuition that makes the decision.

Behavior Blindness: This is the inability to see our own behavior as clearly and objectively as others can see it. For example, giving a presentation and thinking you bombed it when it was very well received by the audience. Or the opposite – thinking you aced a job interview when you really did a poor job.

Regardless of which areas our blind spots fall in, there are some strategies for becoming more aware of them. Again, these are from the research conducted by Dr. Eurich and her team.

  1. Identify and confront your assumptions – this is easy to say and very hard to do. An example of this strategy in action would be to question whether you’d truly be a good entrepreneur if you’re innovative in nature. You could identify a self-assessment online about what it takes to be an entrepreneur (there are several) and take it with extreme honesty.
  2. Keep learning – especially in those areas you think you already know a lot. This is a big one for me – since I speak about self-awareness and teach it in the classroom, I am constantly reading as much as I can on the subject as new research comes out each month.
  3. Seek feedback on your abilities and behaviors – this means asking folks to provide you with honest feedback on your performance, how you communicate, or in whatever other areas you believe you may have a blind spot. This also means to make sure you surround yourself with people that will tell you the truth and find ways to make it easier for them to be honest with you as us humans generally have trouble both giving and receiving critical feedback.

There you have it folks – different ways we can be blind to our impact on others and strategies for putting the spot light on those blind spots. This takes courage AND I know you can do it!

Four Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness

If you haven’t read Dr. Tasha Eurich’s book, Insight, yet, I suggest you get a copy of it today! She has done a great job of researching the topic of self-awareness and now you, too, can become a self-awareness unicorn. (To understand that reference, you’ll need to read the book!) I’ve already shared some great tips from Dr. Eurich in a previous blog and wanted to continue with sharing four strategies that she recommends to help gain an even deeper self-awareness thus improving your life in many different ways. How do we gain self-awareness (also know as the meta-skill of the 21st century?) The overall strategy is quite simply: mindfulness. There is a lot wrapped up in this simple word – a lot of assumptions and a myriad of “how tos” from many different resources. I really like Dr. Eurich’s definition when she states that it is “simply noticing what we’re thinking, feeling, and doing without judgement or reaction.” Being more mindful of our thoughts and feelings trains us to be more aware of our reactions, allowing us to respond more often than we simply react. There are several ways we can be more mindful and thus gain self-awareness. They are: meditation, reframing, compare and contrast, and daily check-ins.

Meditation: There is a lot of weight around this word as well because for each person you meet that engages in meditation, they will tell you a different way you must do it. There are many ways to get into a meditative state, so find one that works well for you. I prefer guided meditations such as Calm.com because it is hard for me to simply sit in silence. You can even do walking meditations, or many other types of activities that are meditative in nature. Meditation is a great tool for training your mind because you soon find yourself as an observer of your thoughts rather than feeling like you must grab on to each one and analyze it, which can lead to rumination (we’ll cover this in an upcoming blog).

Reframing: This is doing your best to look at your thoughts and feelings from a different perspective. For example, let’s say you walk into work and your colleague walks by you, frowning, and essentially ignoring you. If your initial reaction is to think that they are grumpy, being an a-hole, or some other emotional reaction, then reframing it would be asking yourself, “what is another way I could interpret his/her behavior?”

Compare and Contrast: This requires you to look for changes in your feelings and behavior over time. For example, let’s say ten years ago you got flustered by a certain type of person (maybe the CEO of your company), but now when you interact with them, you are professional and stand up for your ideas. Observing how your behavior or your patterns have changed over time is an excellent way to deepen your self-awareness.

Daily Check-In: This is something I have spoken of before and mention in all my speaking engagements. Take five minutes to reflect on what you learned each day. Five minutes people! I’m not asking for a lot here. Five minutes to ask yourself what went well, what didn’t go well, what did you learn, and how are you going to change your behavior because of your learning. You can put this in your reflective journal.

There you have it folks – four strategies for improving your self-awareness. This is not an exhaustive list, but a great start on your journey to becoming a self-awareness unicorn.

Got Self-Awareness?

I recently picked up the book Insight by Dr. Tasha Eurich at the airport while on my way back from a speaking gig. I love her research on self-awareness and wanted to share it with you. (She has also done a TED talk on the topic which you can find by simply Googling her name.) Dr. Eurich defines self-awareness as, quite simply, the ability to see ourselves clearly. This includes understanding who we are, how others perceive us, and how we fit into the world.

According to the studies conducted by Dr. Eurich and her team, about 80% of us believe we are self-aware, but only about 10-15% of us are self-aware. She calls these individuals self-awareness unicorns since they are so rare. This makes complete sense to me based on what I’ve seen in my speeches and workshops on this topic. I have found that those individuals that are the most vocal about being self-aware tend to be the least self-aware in the group.

Why is it important for us to be self-aware? Because at the foundation of all of the skills that help our success in today’s world, such as emotional intelligence, empathy, influence, persuasion, communication, and collaboration – is the penultimate skill of self-awareness.

In her book, Dr. Eurich’s team goes even deeper into the topic and breaks this skill into two different types of self-awareness: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is about seeing yourself clearly. This is when you have an inward understanding of your values, passions, aspirations, ideal environment, patterns, reactions, and impact on others. These areas are referred to as the Seven Pillars of Insight in her book. I recommend getting her book and, if you go to Insight-Book.com, you can also download a workbook that will take you through a journey of self-discovery.

The second type of self-awareness is external self-awareness – this is about understanding yourself from the outside in. This means you know how other people see you. You can accurately (key word here) see yourself from the perspectives of other individuals. Interestingly, those individuals that have some level of self-awareness tend to be adept at either internal or external self-awareness. It is it the rare individual, the self-awareness unicorn, that excels in both areas.

Contrary to being self-aware is being self-delusional. For most people, it’s easier to choose this path because they don’t have to face the cold, hard truth about themselves. Being self-aware requires you to be vulnerable and have the courage to admit that yes, there are some areas that you really suck at and could improve upon. The good news is that self-awareness is a completely learnable skill.

How do I become more self-aware you ask? (Because you are a courageous superachiever.) Well, for now, until you can get Dr. Eurich’s book called Insight, you simply notice. Notice how you show up with others, notice their reactions, notice your internal dialogue – what stories are you creating to protect yourself. Simply notice and have the courage to look at your behavior from an outside perspective.

A New Scheduling Strategy for Productivity

Would you agree that as a society, we are chronically over-scheduled? I was speaking with a family member recently who has four kids and he showed me the family’s schedule for the next couple of months. Each and every day was filled with various activities the family members were involved in. I asked him when they had any down time and he didn’t have an answer for me. If you’re familiar with my ME² System for Super Productivity, you know this is not recommended. We must have down time in order to generate the energy needed to complete the important stuff in our lives. This is referred to as a “brilliant personal declutter” by Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness. This process involves identifying what is really important to you and then letting every thing else fall by the way side.

Using the ME² System for Super Productivity requires you to change your perception about what is really worth your energy – because time is not your most limiting resource, your energy is. Think about it, we have 24 hours in a day, but you can’t be productive for a full 24 hours can you? You have to sleep, eat, and take care of various biological needs. Have you ever sat working on a particular task and it took forever because you were sluggish, hangry, or tired? And when you were at a high energy level, you were able to get it done quickly with ease.

So here’s the solution – under schedule yourself! There are certain key things you need to implement in order to do this. First, get extremely clear on what your priorities are in your life. Go through everything on your proverbial plate with extreme prejudice and clear out anything that isn’t a priority. Once you do that, schedule in some buffer time and give yourself permission to take several breaks throughout the day. Allow idle time for your thoughts – that’s when all the great ideas come to fruition, right? – when you aren’t forcing them!

Adjust your day based on your energy levels. For example, in the ME² System for Super Productivity, it requires you to assess your average energy levels on any given day and then schedule out your tasks based on the expected energy levels each task will take. If a task requires level four energy, which is super production mode, then you must do it during the time of the day that you are experiencing level four energy. The system also requires you to identify your energy creators (those people, things, or situations that bring you energy) as well as your energy consumers (those people, things, or situations that consume your energy) and then maximize your energy creators and limit your energy consumers.

Pretty simple, right? If you’d like to learn more, go to ME2Productivity.com. Why not focus on removing one task from your schedule today? Baby steps!

Got Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is an important skill to have if you want to achieve more in life. I read an article titled “The Self-Compassion Solution” by Marina Krakovsky published in the Spring 2018 Special Edition of Scientific American Mind and I wanted to share what I learned with you. Self-compassion is defined as extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. I’ve spoken and written about self-compassion before, but in a different way than the article because I focused completely on self-talk – how us superachievers support ourselves rather than tear ourselves apart in the conversations we have in our heads (for some of us, out loud). I’ve also spoken about resilience quite a bit as it is one of the five focus areas for superachieving. Well, it turns out, further developing your self-compassion is great for building your resilience. Think about it, lovingly supporting yourself as you struggle through adversity or a particular challenge helps make you stronger.

In the article, Krakovsky shares some of Dr. Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion. Dr. Neff did a Ted Talk on “The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion” which you can find by simply Googling her name. She’s also created a self-compassion assessment as well as many other resources located at Self-Compassion.org. I wanted to share some of the statements from the assessment with you so you can perhaps gauge where you lie on the self-compassion scale.

Some statements associated with high self-compassion are:
• I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
• When I’m going through a very hard time, I try to keep my emotions in balance.
• I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my personality that I don’t like.

Some statements associated with low self-compassion include:
• When I fail at something important to me, I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
• When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than me.
• I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.

If you related to the first three statements, that’s great! Keep up the good work. If you related more to the latter three statements, Dr. Neff has even provided some exercises you can choose that work for you in developing your self-compassion. Some of them include thinking about how you would treat a friend, keeping a journal, taking a self-compassion break, and many more.

To take the assessment, go to Self-Compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/ and you can also find the exercises through a link on that page. Why not check it out today?

Professional Development in an Escape Room?

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with escape rooms. If you’re not sure what an escape room is, it is pretty much what it sounds like. You get locked in a room for 45 minutes to an hour and you have to solve a number of puzzles to escape the room. There are thousands of these locations around the world. Each room at every location has a different theme. For example, recent escapes I made were from prison, a cabin out in the woods before a serial killer got to us, and a mad scientist’s lab where not only did we escape the lab, but we also saved humanity from the zombie virus by stealing the antidote. At this time, my husband and I have completed over 100 of these rooms, escaping from most of them.

My passion for these rooms is not only because they are fun, but also because they help in my professional development and I don’t mean by providing me with great stories for my speeches (like the time my husband and I got handcuffed and locked in coffins). Interested in hearing that story? You need to attend one of my speeches. Back to the professional development piece – there are five key areas that escape rooms help you grow in. They are Flow, metacognition, collaboration, asking for help, and resilience. Let’s go into each of these individually.

Flow: I’ve spoken about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Flow before. This is a state of mind that when you enter it, you are totally engaged in what you are doing – so much so that you look up and time has passes without your awareness. Escape rooms induce a state of Flow, which helps you be completely focused and engaged on the task at hand.

Metacognition: Escape rooms require you to think about your thinking (which is essentially metacognition). Some of the puzzles are deliberately set up to play with the way people typically think, so you often have to challenge yourself to look at the situation in a different way (sometimes literally – you have to look at something sideways, upside down, and so on.)

Collaboration: It is pretty much impossible to successfully escape a room all by yourself. You have to work well with other people by communicating and sharing the different perspectives on a given puzzle. By working together so often, my husband and I have found that we each excel in different types puzzles, so while we work on some together, we also know when it’s time to step back and let the other take over.

Asking for Help: It is amazing how many people walk into an escape room and refuse to ask for help from the Clue or Game Master. They’re competitive natures tend to best them and they don’t end up escaping the room. Escape rooms teach you that there are times when you need to ask for help to get through a particularly tough challenge.

Resilience: Resilience is the ability to bounce back, be flexible, and overcome your own insecurities. Escape rooms help you build this because you will often fail when working on a particular puzzle and you simply have to move on or ask for help. They also teach you that you have to work together as a team, setting aside any insecurities you have, because there will be times when you won’t be able to get a puzzle and someone else on your team will.

I could go on and on about the benefits of escape rooms in your personal and professional growth. I think the biggest benefit of all is that they are fun – who wouldn’t want to have fun while in the process of becoming a better human being?

So folks – how about going to an escape room near you to try this out in the next week or so?

The Real Reason You Should Have Goals

I recently had a conversation with someone who shall remain nameless (you know who you are) and was flabbergasted to find out that they don’t have ANY current goals that they are working toward. Since this is a foreign concept to me, I asked him why he did not have any goals. He replied that he was happy in his current position at work. Of course I responded by asking him if he was completely satisfied in all areas of his life – health, finances, relationships, his knowledge and skills in his current job, spirituality, or simply who he was – there’s nothing he wants to change or grow? Surprisingly he didn’t have a response. I hope I planted a seed or two for him to think about.

So let’s focus this on you dear reader. Do you have anything you’re working toward? If so, great! Let’s get to you first – are the goals you have ones that will make you a better human being? Are they ones you’ve chosen for yourself and not because someone (or even you) said that you “should” be pursuing them. Understandably sometimes we need to achieve the goals someone else has set for us – like at work, but for your own goals – are they truly yours?

For those of you reading this that don’t have goals at all – why is that? Consider your life at this moment – are you who you imagined yourself to be? Are you pleased with your current skill level in your line of work, your current relationships, your health, and any other aspect of your life? If not, it’s time to set some goals. Like the individual with whom I spoke, some people think goals need to be related to some external event – like he had it in his head that he likes his current position, doesn’t want to get promoted, so therefore he doesn’t need to have any goals. To me, goals (and really achievement) is not about gaining external things like promotions, trophies, awards, diplomas, etc. Rather, it is about the person you become to achieve those goals. The challenge and perseverance that each goal provides us helps grow us into a wiser human being. Which then leads to us being more able to tackle what life will inevitably throw at us with more confidence and resilience.

Hopefully, I’ve provided a different perspective on why each of us should have goals. If you already have goals, why not review them today to see if they are what you truly want and if accomplishing them with grow you as a human being. If you don’t already have goals – for goodness’ sake, please write out at least three today!

Reasons We Procrastinate

Hey superachievers! I’ve spoken about procrastination before because even us superachievers fall victim to it. I recently came across the work of Michelle Tullier, in her book Overcoming Procrastination, and wanted to share what she said are the thoughts and feelings going on when procrastinating. She identified 10 main categories. They are (see if you see yourself in any of these):

Fear: Fear of failing, success, or how you’ll be judged.

Perfectionism: Making tasks more difficult and the anticipated outcomes more critical than they need to be.

Being overwhelmed: Finding a task so difficult or cumbersome that you don’t know where or how to begin or end it.

Feeling frustrated: Having a low tolerance for the ambiguity or delayed gratification that comes with some projects.

Adrenaline rush addiction: Relying on the thrill that comes from getting something done at the last minute.

Negativity toward the task: Disliking or being uninterested in the task itself.

Rebellion: Having negative feelings toward the person who assigned a task or who will benefit from it and resenting that you have to do it.

Unrealistic view of time: Having a faulty sense of time and how much you can get done within it.

Psychological issues: Disorders such as clinical depression or attention deficit disorder, among others, make it difficult to get things done.

Physical problem: Having a physical ailment that drains your energy and makes you less likely to get things done.

Knowing why you are procrastinating on a particular task will help you figure out the best way to overcome procrastinating. I am a big fan of what Mark Twain once said – that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. In summary, figure out why you are procrastinating and then just eat that darn frog first thing in the day to get it over with.

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