In my work delivering leadership programs for several companies, I have noticed a trend that I wanted to ponder with you. In the leadership programs, I do a personality assessment and a 180 to 360 feedback report for the participants. The personality assessment is the Insights Discovery Profile (which can be life changing by-the-way), and the feedback reports are for bosses, peers, and/or direct reports to provide feedback in a structured manner to the program participant.
In the coaching sessions completed by both myself and my team of coaches, we often find that participants are confronted with some constructive feedback for changing their behavior, which then leads them to the question of how to change their behavior to eliminate the negative feedback they were given. I understand that as superachievers, we want to grow and get better continually. We are problem-solvers, and when confronted with what we consider a problem, we jump into problem-solving mode. This is our nature. What I’d like us to do instead is to stop and reflect on when we do get what we consider negative feedback or identify some weakness that we have is to ask ourselves this question: should I change? Rather than jumping straight into how do I improve my perceived weakness, let’s pause for a moment and think about whether or not we should invest our time and energy into doing so.
Here’s an example of how this plays out in my life – when on stage, my preference for being a big-picture thinker and concisely sharing information works out very well. That is the expectation in a keynote speech after all. However, when I am teaching concepts in a workshop, some individuals prefer more detailed explanations, instructions, and structure. At first, I went to what I thought were great lengths to go into detail, provide more explicit instructions, and even more structure. Whatever I did though, there always seemed to be one or two participants who wanted even more. After some frustrating debate with myself, I decided that I was going to capitalize on my strengths and do my best to implement other ways to help those individuals that needed more detail. So knowing that I was choosing not to change my big-picture and concise methods of teaching, I added extra information to participant workbooks that they could read later if they desired to do so, provided a list of resources they could further research, and created slides that provided more detailed instructions on workshop activities.
Please don’t mistake this as a plea to only focus on your strengths and forget about changing your behavior that others deem as negative or as a weakness. This is not all call to excuse our poor behaviors because sometimes we do need to change. Instead, this is a call to deeply reflect on the return-on-investment for changing your behaviors before jumping in to replace them. There are behaviors that all of us engage in that set us back in our efforts and ones that we should work on to further grow ourselves. I’m merely imploring you to look at how that behavior is affecting your life first and then conduct a cost-benefit analysis on if it is truly worth your time and effort to change.
Hey superachievers! I am very sad to say that my beloved coach, mentor, friend, and colleague of many years recently passed away quite unexpectedly. This has led to a deep reflection of my time with her and what she has taught me over the years. I have already shared several of my learnings from this amazing soul in podcasts, blogs, and videos, including an interview of her in the early days of the Quit Bleeping Around podcast. One of the things she taught me while mentoring me as a coach many years ago is that sometimes we need to celebrate our achievements by what is no longer present.
When we set a goal and go after it with all that we have, we generally focus on what we are gaining from that goal. For example, let’s say you want that promotion so you can get a pay raise. Once you achieve it, you focus on all that you’ve gained – a new income level, you’re able to adjust your quality of life or savings or whatever else a promotion allows you; however, as you quickly grow accustomed to what you’ve gained, you forget about what is no longer present – perhaps it is a struggle to make the bills each month, or that you no longer have to hold your breath hoping that you come out even each month as you had been living paycheck to paycheck.
Not only does this tactic help with realizing just how far you’ve come, but it also helps with reminding you to have gratitude for what you do have. When I ask myself what is no longer, I think about how the relationship with my husband is so much easier and drama free than with my first marriage. I think about how grateful I am to be living a life I never thought possible. I also think about how free my mind and thoughts are since I have implemented mindfulness in my life.
What is no longer for you? What is now absent from your life due to your personal development efforts? Your professional development efforts? What has changed – what is no longer – because you set a goal and achieved it? Take some time to reflect on this today, perhaps write it down in your gratitude journal (or start one if you don’t have one yet). The more you focus on how you’ve grown and show gratitude for it, the more of the same you will attract in your life.
I’d like to dedicate this blog posting to an amazing soul, my friend, coach, and colleague, Nancy Duncan.
Let’s look at how you can change your goal setting to be more about who you are and who you want to become rather than the tangible things you’d like to achieve.
I’m trying something a bit different with my goals this year and basing them on who I want to be – the intentions and values I’d like to set as the foundation for my goal achievement. For example, my three key-words that I plan to keep in the forefront of my mind this entire year are: Well-Being, Service, and Connection. The objectives within these intentions will serve to be my SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound – depending on which model of SMART you subscribe to).
For example, under Well-Being, I’m setting objectives related to keeping my mind, body, and soul healthy. Under the mind category, I’ve set a few goals around what I’d like to learn this year as well as continuing a regular meditation practice. For the body related goals I am focusing on moving more and nutrition. For the soul category I’m focusing on deepening my spirituality. While my business and personal relationship goals will fall under my 2019 intentions of Service and Connection.
Think about three of your key values that drive you forward in life. What areas do you value? A few could potentially be family, education, security, innovation, and so many more. Think about your values for a minute. Are you finding it difficult? Sometimes when we have trouble thinking about what our values are, it helps to focus on what they aren’t. There are several exercises you can go through to identify your values.
The first one would be, if you could put a message on a billboard that a million people would drive past every day, what would it be? For example, mine would be Gandhi’s quote of Be the Change You Wish to See in the World. From this billboard statement, you could probably guess that I value service, authenticity, being a role model, and more. What would your statement be and what values can you mine from it?
The second exercise to uncover your values would be to think about a situation in which you thought, “Wow! Life is really good right now!” If you come up with a special time you had with family members, the values you could mine from that would be connection with others, family, support or many others depending on how you described the situation. So what is a favorite story of yours in which you felt this way? What values can you mine from it?
The final exercise to uncover your values would be to think about the last time you got really angry or upset. Surprisingly, this will also uncover values because we tend to get triggered when someone steps on a value. For example, I get upset when I see people treat other people disrespectfully – especially wait staff at a restaurant or the janitors at my gym. This means that I value respect, the golden rule, valuing others for contributing their part to the world and so on. What situation or circumstances trigger you and what values can you mine from it?
Here’s your call to action today – make your goals more encompassing and ultimately more fulfilling by going through these exercises to uncover your top 10 values. Once you’ve done that, decide on the top three intentions you’d like to set for your goals based on those values and build out the objectives you’d like to accomplish under each one.
I love the quote from Marianne Williamson in which she stated, “Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in ways that served others.” I’d like to focus on this concept as I think the words “success” and “achievement” have so much wrapped up in them – they can be quite the trigger words for some. What do you feel when these two words are uttered? Do you find yourself cringing or do you find yourself feeling motivated and thinking “hell ya!” Or, perhaps you are somewhere in between – feeling quite neutral about it all.
Since my work is on achieving more in life, I wanted to add my perspective to the mix. To me, superachieving is using your talents and abilities to make this world a better place. A superachiever wants to grow themselves into better human beings and leave this earth a little better than when we first arrived.
Achievement doesn’t come from what we do, but who we are – we are human beings after all (not human doings). I think a lot of people see achievement as going after and earning tangible things like promotions, awards, degrees, and so on, when it is so much more. Let’s unpack this a bit – when you think of a successful person, what do you think about? What is the first thing that comes to mind? Usually what I hear from clients is that it is someone who is well-educated, nicely dressed, has a nice car, and lives in a beautiful house. So we first tend to go for the tangible. Let’s dive a little deeper though – is this person an a-hole? Probably not, right? Let’s flush out the characteristics of the successful individual, the non-tangibles. Take a moment to think about it. I see them as someone who is nice, kind, and wants to make a difference in the lives of others. They are the type of person that is supportive of others, not jealous of other’s success, and is genuinely happy. They know that there are the inevitable bumps in the road that we all have to face; they know that life will sometimes throw some pretty big curve balls, but they relish the learning that this brings. They truly want to serve others with their talents and abilities and do so in some form or fashion (whether it is through their “day” job or not). They may or may not have a nice car. They may or may not have a big bank account. They may or may not live in a posh neighborhood. But does this mean they aren’t successful?
You see folks, when you’re on your deathbed, are you going to be satisfied and fulfilled with how you lived your life because you had the best car, nicest house, you earned three college degrees, and you have a huge bank account? Or, are you going to be satisfied and fulfilled because you were of service to others – you have left a legacy through the relationships you built, the people you supported, those that you loved. Which achievements do you consider to be a measure of success? Something to think about – of course you can have achieved many tangible things, but is it really considered success if you didn’t grow yourself in the process? I have found that the more I focus on being in service to others, surprisingly the more tangible rewards come my way. Obviously that is not the reason I am in service of others, but I think they naturally flow together.
Your call to action today is to think about who you are in terms of your achievements. If you don’t like who you are or some aspect of yourself, make a decision and a plan to grow yourself today.
I was recently in Montreal with my husband (on another awesome escape room vacation!) and overheard an interesting tidbit from some conference attendees at the hotel we were staying at. First off – I’m very excited about my 2019 goals because both my husband and I have decided to compile all of our lessons learned from doing so many escape rooms and turn it into a book, speech, and online course. So look for that debuting at the end of 2019.
Back to the conversation I overheard (or rather just a tidbit of it). As we were walking past a few of the attendees at a mortgage conference to get to our next escape room experience, a gentleman was explaining mortgage culture to another and I heard him say that Americans have been taught to spend to the level that they get approved for a home mortgage. That seemingly innocuous comment got me really thinking about the American culture (and I am sure that there are others like this) and it is so true – we like to take things to the limit, rather than leaving a little wiggle room. Get approved for a $400,000 mortgage? We go look for a $400,000 home. We have $2,000 a month extra in our paychecks, we generally use that to live in the nicest place we can afford or drive the nicest car we can afford. Some of us are very good at living well within our means, but most of us aren’t.
Let’s change directions here a little bit and look at how this applies to us superachievers, no matter what culture we come from. As superachievers we tend to do stuff because we can – we have goals we want to accomplish after all – but we don’t always stop to think whether or not we should go after them. Here’s a recent personal example that really brought this home for me. Somehow I got a small fracture in one of my neck vertebrae along with a dissection in the artery next to it. Even my doctors are baffled at how this could have happened without me having any type of trauma to the area. I thought I had a torn muscle that didn’t want to heal – which is what brought me to the doctor in the first place. Thankfully, I have a great doctor who identified that something else might have been going on.
As a superachiever, as I was sitting in the hospital waiting for an MRI, my biggest concern was whether or not I would make it to my speaking gig at a women’s retreat the next morning. I guess it didn’t sink in that I technically had a broken neck and a torn segment within an artery that feeds life-giving blood to the back of my brain. When I was discharged from the hospital, the consensus was that I needed to take it easy to allow myself time to heal; however, I wouldn’t have to wear a neck brace. I was taking a simple pain reliever so my neck wouldn’t hurt and I went on with my speaking gig and regular schedule to include international travel, more speaking gigs, leadership training, escape rooms, working with my personal trainer at the gym, and even a ropes course (although it wasn’t a big one.)
About six weeks later, I forgot to take my pain medication for a couple of days and found that my neck was still hurting. What was that about? It should have been healed! So I went back to the doctor and got more tests done – it turns out that the fracture in my neck had increased in size and the artery was torn even more, leading to a narrower gap for blood to flow up to my brain. Holy crap! Because I felt fine and I could do all of the things that I regularly do, I kept doing them. I found myself really having to slow down and give my neck time to heal – even if it doesn’t hurt – so I don’t have a stroke at 44 years old. Good news is – I did and I am now healed!
So the moral of my story, or should I say my stupidity, is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I’m just kidding about the stupidity part – everything is a lesson. This is one I had to learn and I hope that if you haven’t learned it yet that you are taking my lesson to heart so you don’t have to experience it yourself. Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Just because you can go after that promotion, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can physically do it, doesn’t mean you should. Rather, take some time to think about if it is something that you truly desire to do – something that would make you happy and something that wouldn’t injure you (or others) further. By injury – I mean physically, mentally, emotionally, and so on.
Alright superachievers – your call to action today is to carefully examine the decisions you are making in all areas of your life – because just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
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?
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.