Category Archives for Blog

Getting Unstuck

Bernard Roth, a professor at Stanford’s d.school and author of The Achievement Habit, postulates that in order to get unstuck with a particular problem you are facing, you need to change the way you think about the problem. In order to that, you need to change the question you are asking. Let me explain – often when we think we are dealing with a question, we’re actually only focusing on one of the many potential solutions. For example, a common problem I hear people talk about is losing weight. The question that they have essentially posed to themselves is “How do I lose weight?” If you think about it though, losing weight is a solution to a much bigger issue. So how do we identify the bigger issue? Professor Roth suggests that we ask ourselves, “How would I benefit if I had a solution to my problem?”

Let’s take losing weight as an example, “What would losing weight do for me?” Potential answers could include: I would feel more comfortable in my clothes; I would feel more attractive and sexy; I could run faster on the tennis court or I could go dancing without sweating profusely (or whatever activity you engage in); and I’m sure there are more potential benefits, but let’s keep it at these for now. Looking at the potential benefits of losing weight, let’s say the one that strikes us the most is because we want to be more attractive and sexy. Since that essentially goes deeper, let’s try that out as the question for our problem: “How can I be more attractive and sexy?” Do you see that by asking this question it opens up many more possibilities for us? One solution could be to lose weight, but we could also brainstorm many other solutions, such as to get a new, more flattering wardrobe, or to get stronger by working out, or to always look my best, even when running to the grocery store, etc. There are so many more solutions open to us for the root cause of our problem because we changed the question we were asking.

Let’s take this through one more example.  Here is another one I’ve heard recently, “How do I publish a book?” Publishing a book is a solution to a problem, not really THE problem. So let’s ask ourselves what would publishing a book do for us? Potential responses are: I would feel more accomplished; I could share my voice with the world; I would have more credibility in my profession; I would have another stream of income; etc. Depending on which one you relate to the most (or several of them depending on how far you want to take this), you could ask yourself: “How do I share my voice with the world?” or “How can I have more credibility in my profession” or “How can I have another stream of income?” Do you see how this opens up so much more brainstorming opportunities to solve your true problem? Sure, publishing a book would be a potential solution to all of these questions, but now you have so many other options to choose from if you are feeling particularly stuck in this area.

You’re call to action for today is to identify the most nagging problem you’ve been facing that you feel stuck in and take it through this process. I guarantee this will open up your thinking to different possibilities and will motivate you to tackle the issue. What are you waiting for? Get to it!

Remove Try from Your Vocabulary

We’ve all made important changes in our lives at one time or another. It’s interesting how it often happens – it’s like we reach a point where we won’t accept anything less than the change and a switch is flipped – we’re done with the old life and are determined to change it. I’ve seen this with an individual suddenly (and finally) deciding to get out of a relationship that isn’t working, or a decision to lose weight, or to finally leave that seemingly dead end job or obnoxious boss. And then, of course, there are those changes that we want to make and we wish we’d somehow get to the point of that switch being flipped because we just don’t quite feel ready to cross that line and make that change. I like to consider this the twilight zone of inactivity – we’re “trying” to change rather than actually doing it.

Let me explain – if you try to do something, it may or may not happen. You’re also mentally giving yourself an out if you fail at it. You didn’t go all in and actually do it, but you tried to do it. Not a very powerful stance. Oftentimes when one fails after “trying” they feel freer to just give up. Now let’s look at doing – when you say you are going to do something, there is a resoluteness to both your words and your mindset. No matter how many times you fail or hit the proverbial wall, you have set an intention to do it and by golly you are going to get it done.

So here is the solution – in the amazingly wise words of Yoda, “Do or do not; there is no try.” If you’d like to see just how powerful this concept is, enlist another person to do a small experiment with you. Hold an object in your hand and ask them to try to take it from you (without injuring you, of course!). Give them about two minutes to attempt to remove it from your hand, then restart the exercise, this time telling them to take it from you (remove the “try.”) Notice the difference between the feeling between the “try to take” and “take.”

What have you been “trying” to accomplish? Is there a book you want to write, and you’ve been doing everything you possibly can to prepare to write it, without actually doing any writing (like research, joining a writers’ group, learning more about publishing, etc.) Hugh Laurie, an accomplished actor, most noted for portraying the TV doctor, House, stated in an interview, “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now.”

Here’s your call to action – what having you been “trying” to accomplish? Now, what if you simply decided to do it? You let go of that fear of failing at it or looking bad in front of others? Set the intention to get it done and do it – failure is learning, so at the very least, you will learn a lot in the process of DOING it.

It Has No Meaning

I’m in the process of reading “The Achievement Habit” by Bernard Roth, a Stanford professor who founded the Stanford d.School that teaches design thinking concepts. In the first section of his book, he introduces the concept of “It Has No Meaning,” which is something that I have written about before and I thought it was definitely worth revisiting. The idea of this concept is that nothing has meaning until we give it meaning. Each event that occurs, each interaction that we have with others, even inanimate objects in our lives are all simply what they are until we decide what meaning we choose to give it.

Think about it – let me throw out a word and see how you react – my life’s work involves helping others achieve more in life, mainly by getting out of their own way. So, of course, I’d like to focus on the word “achievement.” What is your initial reaction to this word? Did you wrinkle your nose in disgust because you have assigned a negative meaning based on people or situations from your past? Did you say “hell ya – that’s what I’m all about!” because you’ve assigned it a positive meaning based on your life’s experiences? OR did you shrug your shoulders and say “meh” because the word doesn’t really have any meaning for you either way?

We assign meaning to absolutely everything in our lives. Here’s the thing though, sometimes we choose to assign meaning that is not in our best interest. This can lead to our “triggers.” So the next time you feel “triggered,” stop yourself and consider why you are having an emotional reaction? What meaning have you assigned to what was said or what occurred to lead to your reaction. The more mindful you can be in the moment, the better – because you will respond to the situation rather than just react. As I’ve said before – 80% of the conflict that occurs in our lives can be handled within our heads alone – and mostly by walking through an emotional reaction we are having and realizing that we are reacting to a situation that occurred in the past, not the one right in front of us.

Cocky or Confident?

I recently had a conversation with my husband about someone he had interacted with that day that came off as quite arrogant and cocky when it was obvious that he had no idea what he was talking about. This, of course, brought up a whole conversation on the levels of competency. Let’s go into the levels in the event that you don’t know what you don’t know. I’ll use driving as an example because I think that most of us can relate to that learning process.

Level One: “Unconscious Incompetence” – this is the “you don’t know what you don’t know” level. Remember before we started even thinking about driving? When we had others drive us around and we didn’t realize how much work it actually required to do it?

Level Two: When we get close to the age for driving, we start paying attention. We take a driver’s education class for an entire semester and very quickly go into the second level of “Consciously Incompetent” when we realize that we don’t know. This can be a very uncomfortable stage and if we try to learn as much as we can, we reach the third level.

Level Three: “Consciously Competent” –  At this stage, we are aware of needing to glance in our mirrors every few seconds, the need to turn our head to check blind spots, what all of the signs on the road mean – you get the idea.

Level Four: Finally, after lots of practice, we reach the final level of “Unconsciously Competent” where we forget just how much we know. We safely drive to our destinations without thinking about all that goes into making that trip.

So how does all of this apply to superachieving? Superachievers are confident, not cocky – we know that there is A LOT out there that we don’t know we don’t know. However, we are confident that if and when we need to learn it, we will. AND if we need to learn it to the level of becoming “Unconsciously Competent” we are willing to put in the time and effort to do so.

So here is your call to action – is there anything that you need to learn more about to work your way up the levels of competency? I can guarantee there is as “self-development” is one of the five pillars to superachieving. Since this is the case, what are you doing to do about it today?

How Much of Your Stress is Unnecessary?

I love Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk about stress titled, “How To Make Stress Your Friend” – she shares that it is not stress that kills us, but how we perceive it.

How we perceive stress has to do with both our brain and our mind working together against a perceived threat.  Being a self-professed Geek, I like to think of the brain as the hardware and the mind as the software – both of which need to be kept in optimum health so that you can achieve whatever you desire (or to simply function well in life). Let’s start with the brain side of things – the brain is an organ in your body – so the health of your body directly affects the health of your brain. This is why you need to exercise, get enough sleep, and make sure you are getting the nutrient’s that your body (and brain) needs.

Taking care of your brain as a part of your body sets the foundation. Before we get to the mind (or the software), it is important to understand the “safety mechanism” your brain has for your survival. When you perceive something as a threat, your brain bypasses the higher conscious functioning portion of your brain (which is where we want to spend most of our time) and goes right into the response mode of fight or flight – although with my experience of people in crisis, I’d also like to add freeze or freak out as responses. Our primal brain chooses one of those responses – the one it deems most appropriate – and goes with it. Here is the problem though – in modern day, we are often not faced with a predator hunting us down, or some other true emergency. Rather, our brain is going into fight, flight, freeze, or freak out in situations that definitely do not qualify as true threats.

I’ve coached several people lately that jumped right into this survival response mode because their expectations weren’t met in a situation or someone at work said something that they felt disrespected them, or other similar situation that definitely wasn’t life threatening. I felt bad for the individuals because I knew that all the stress and the anxiety they were facing – the huge emotional reaction they found themselves in – was all their own doing. If they had understood that their logical mind was hijacked because they got triggered into a survival response, they could have calmed down and then worked their way through the response in a more logical manner. The strategy for making sure you don’t allow your primal brain to hijack your higher functioning is to first, set the foundation by taking proper care of your brain (therefore, your body) and second, understand that if you are not in a true emergency situation and you find yourself having a strong emotional reaction, that you’ve gone into fight or flight and you need to take a break, perhaps do some deep breathing exercises, until you can get back into the logical reasoning portion of your brain.

Which brings us to the mind – there are a lot of different experts out there who have differing opinions on exactly what the mind is – I subscribe to the ones that define it as the software program running on the hardware that is the brain. We already know that it is important for the brain to function well in order for the mind to function well. The mind is what holds our beliefs – our perceptions that we’ve created through our life experiences. This is why understanding that everything we take in from our surrounding world and the people in it, we filter through these beliefs we’ve created – is key to not just surviving this life, but thriving. It is the beliefs that we’ve created that lead to us getting triggered in certain situations, which take us down the rabbit hole of the emotional response of fight or flight. It is fascinating to watch these triggers in action. I was in a meeting once and an individual rolled their eyes – this was not a trigger for most people in the room; however, it was for one particular person and they went off – they became very angry and let everyone else know about it. For some reason, in this person’s past, the rolling of one’s eyes meant something bad to that person. Because they weren’t aware that was a trigger for them, they went into full response mode, by-passing the logical function of their brain, and most likely causing stress damage to both their body and brain.

There you have it folks a very high-level overview of how your brain and mind function together and how important it is to at least be aware of this so that you can at least reduce the stress that you are causing yourself. What is that saying? Something like – it isn’t what happens to you, it’s how you respond.

Ever Tried Working with an Accountability Partner?

Have you ever had an accountability partner? Someone with whom you set goals and then do a regular report in to each other on your progress? If you don’t, I highly recommend you get one (or several) because they can definitely help you step up your achievement efforts. Let’s look at the benefits of an accountability partner and strategies for identifying the right partner for you.

I host a superachiever mastermind group and we have assigned accountability partners to help us move toward our goals more quickly. I have accomplished so much more knowing that I have to report every Friday to this individual – even while on vacation!

I recently was on day two of an amazing vacation. My husband and I had a fun morning and were chilling in the hotel room since it was raining. He decided to take a nap and I wasn’t tired, so I read a bit. But then I started thinking- I’m going to have to report to Pam on Friday that I wrote a chapter in my next book. So I decided to just get it out of the way…. well, I ended up writing two chapters and outlining a keynote I’m doing in the next month (and the hubby was still napping!) I was so happy on my progress, I wrote my check in email to her several days early, telling her of my progress and thanking her for being my accountability partner.

I have attempted the accountability partner thing in the past and it didn’t go so well. Let me share what I’ve learned:

  1. Your accountability partner cannot simply be anyone. I have found that the closer the relationship I have with them, either the more forgiving of me they are when I do not meet my goals or there’s emotional “stuff” wrapped up in them trying to help you remain accountable to your goals. It seems to work best when the person is more of an acquaintance – a colleague with similar goals that you respect and have a professional relationship with.
  2. Before you begin holding each other accountable, design your partnership. This is very important – identify how each of you likes to be motivated. Some questions to ask each other:
    1. How would you like me to respond when you are doing well in achieving your goals?
    2. How would you like me to respond when you are struggling with or not achieving your goals?
    3. How would you like me to respond when you are not challenging yourself enough?
    4. How would you like me to respond when you are beating yourself up unnecessarily?
    5. How will we check in with each other? (phone call, email, in-person meeting, Skype)
    6. How often will we check in with each other?
    7. Is there anything else we should design around our partnership?
  3. Once you build the foundation of your relationship, help each other ensure your goals are actual goals and not just wishes (read my blog titled “Do You Have a Plan? Or a Wish List?” if you’d like to know more).
  4. Adjust your relationship as necessary as you progress through your goals. You might need to change how you respond to each other to keep each other motivated or alter your partnership based on life events that may occur with one or both partners.

If you take the time to identify the right accountability partner and design your relationship with them, you will find yourself accomplishing much more than you thought possible in a shorter amount of time. I’d better go – I need to check in with my partner on my progress for this week.

Do You Have a Plan? Or a Wish List?

I watched the movie Trolls recently with my husband and was surprised at the bits of wisdom that were interspersed throughout. One that really got my attention was when the main male character asked the main female character what her plan was for rescuing their little community from the bad guys. After she named off a list of things, he mentioned how it sounded like a wish list instead of a plan.

Let’s take this concept and apply it to our own lives. I would venture to guess that most individuals have wish lists rather than actual plans for what they’d like to accomplish. Let’s look at your goals that you are currently working on – are they wishes or do you have an actual plan to go after them. If you have an actual plan – congratulations, you are part of the 3% that have specific goals and a plan for achieving them. I’d still keep reading if you feel you have a full plan because it may simply be a more detailed wish list.

I’d like to use an example from a recent strategy session I held with executives of an international company with whom I’ve been working. One of the main goals they decided on as a team was to hold more effective meetings. This, my friends, is not a goal, it is a wish. Why? Because it is not SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound and there isn’t a plan in place to achieve it.

Let’s look at what would make this a plan instead of a wish by identifying the what, why, and the how – first, let’s look at the what by defining exactly what an effective meeting is. In this case, it could be a meeting that is held only as long as needed to go over the topic, attended by the right individuals, and everyone leaves understanding what the next steps are and who is responsible for what. Now the why – we want to have more effective meetings to free up our time to actually do the work. And finally the how – we are going to do this by creating and implementing effective meeting guidelines.

Once we identify the what, why, and how, we can now make this goal more SMART – We will create effective meeting guidelines and implement them over the next 90 days. We don’t stop here though – then we build out a project plan with specific tasks with due dates in order to accomplish the overarching goal. For example, the first task would be to define an effective meeting, to include how to identify the individuals that should attend, what an agenda should look like, etc. Then another task could include creating the guidelines, refining them, and then there will be more tasks around implementing the guidelines and evaluating their effectiveness. I think this is why so many people don’t go past the wish stage – because it can be a lot of work to clearly define and plan out one’s goals.

So far I’ve shared an organizational goal example – how about a personal example. So many of us make “goals” to lose weight or get a promotion, or make X amount of money. Again – these are wishes unless you clearly define them in a SMART goal backed up by project plan. Not too long ago I mentioned on a podcast and in a blog that I have the goal of eventually being a multi-millionaire. If that is all that I had done, this would be considered a wish. However, behind the scenes, I have a multi-page plan for accomplishing this goal to include a number of products and services to be rolled out over the next three years, specifically defining what is going to be done and when for each of the roll outs.

You get the idea – so here is the call to action.  Take a look at your wish list and create a plan – today! I have a system coming out in the very near future to help you do just that – not only to create the plan, but also to accomplish it by maximizing your energy (which is a much more limiting resource that time.)

Strategies for Emptying Your Mental Bucket

I can’t remember where I recently heard the term “empty your mental bucket” but I instantly decided I liked it. I think “mental bucket” aptly describes our minds. Think about it – our mind can often get too filled up with stuff that clutters our minds and we have to work on emptying it to stay focused and resilient to meet the everyday demands of life.  Have you ever caught yourself in a worry spiral? You know – when you started worrying about something and before you know it, you were deep in thought about how the world would soon end? Okay, maybe not the world ending, but our minds can take off with a simple little issue and turn it into a big one pretty quickly, right?

How do we rein our minds in when they inevitably get in our way? We empty our mental buckets. There are many strategies for emptying your mental bucket and each of us needs to find the ones that work for us. It is also a good idea to have several in your tool box in the event that one or two of them aren’t working for you with a particularly full bucket. Here are three that I use:

  1. Meditation – Nothing works better than meditation to empty a full mental bucket. Meditation is a loaded word for some so let me explain how I do it. Some people are good with just sitting and clearing out their mind for a given time period each day. I am not one of those people. My meditation has to be a bit more active – I like to take a meditative walk in the woods or lay some place looking at the vast sky watching the clouds float by or some other similar activity.  The important thing here is you get yourself in an environment where you mind is so consumed with the present moment that all of those thoughts that were cluttering your mind empty out.
  2. Exercise – Engaging the body in some sort of active exercise really helps to clear out the mental bucket. The exercise needs to be difficult enough that you can only focus on the present moment – I like a good, hard-hitting tennis match – so that your mind is so focused on the activity and it doesn’t have an opportunity to think about anything else. Another benefit is that you tire out your body, so it isn’t going to allow you to stay awake at night ruminating on things.
  3. Stop it! – This strategy works after spending some time intentionally working on your ability to empty your mental bucket and it doesn’t work all the time, especially when you allow your mind to get too far down the rabbit hole. When I find myself starting to fill up the mental bucket, thinking about all the things I have to get done or other similar worry chain, I simply tell myself to stop. I literally tell my mind to stop wasting my mental energy on things that either I can’t control or that I don’t need to figure out the twenty million different potential outcomes (that I can address the one that happens, when it happens). I’ll usually try this strategy first and then resort to the first two strategies if it doesn’t work.

There you have it folks – in order to be more successful in life (or to simply get through the day-to-day of life), we need to have ways in which to empty our mental buckets when they get too full with clutter. I’ve provided you with three strategies I utilize, so now it’s your turn. Reflect on the strategies you use and how successful you are at implementing them. Then think about how you can improve upon your ability to empty your mental bucket and do it.

Have You Heard of an Emotional Bank Account?

I’ve mentioned the term “emotional bank account” to several people lately and was surprised that they had never heard the term before. Just in case there were more of you out there that had never heard the term before, I thought I’d share because this is a very important concept in the world of relationships – whether they are work-related, friends, family, you name it. I was lucky enough to learn about it at a very young age from my father.

What exactly is an emotional bank account? It’s the idea that in each relationship, each person has a metaphorical bank account that the other can either make deposits or withdrawals from. Each time you do something that emotionally fulfills that person, it makes a deposit in their bank account. Each time you do something that has a negative impact on them, it makes a withdrawal from that account. Understanding this is extremely important to maintaining successful relationships with others – which has a direct effect on your success in life.

How do we work with these metaphorical bank accounts? Well, each deposit and withdrawal amount depends on the relationship and the individual. Each time you do or say something positive to the other individual in the relationship, it will deposit credits into that account. Here’s the thing though – it needs to be authentic. Compliments, actions in service of the other, demonstrating that you are thinking about the other person, are all ways to make deposits into another’s account. For example, in a personal relationship, you may share how much that person means to you, make them a cup of coffee, cheer them on after a bad day, or whatever else has meaning to them as a positive action.  A great book for learning about this is the Five Love Languages.  An example of a professional relationship would be taking the time to ask the person about their weekend (if that is something that is important to them) or helping them out on a particular project so they can meet a tough deadline – or any other action that they would deem as being in service of them.

Why do we want to make regular deposits in these emotional bank accounts? Because there absolutely will be times when you will need to make withdrawals. Perhaps you are having a bad day and snap at them, that’s a withdrawal. Or there is some situation in which you will have to be very directive to them – something needs to get done and it needs to get done now.

Here’s the thing though – deposits and withdrawals, unlike those in the financial sense, are not equal. When first building a relationship, there will need to be only deposits. Like a new leader of a group – you will need to build trust with the team before attempting any withdrawals. When you’re new in a relationship of a personal kind – lots of deposits. And if you’re dating someone that starts immediately taking withdrawals – that’s a sign – so I’d reconsider your options.

Once you’ve established a relationship and put a lot of time and effort into building up a good balance in that emotional bank account, a good rule of thumb is to follow the five to one ratio. This is based on John Gottman’s research that found that in order to maintain a good relationship with another, there should be five positive interactions for every negative one.  So folks – you will need to make five deposits for every withdrawal if you want to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship with the other individual, whether they are a boss, fellow colleague, family member, lover – you get the idea.

Here’s your call to action – identify all the relationships in your life and figure out the balance of the various bank accounts each individual holds. Which ones do you need to make some more deposits in? Do it today!

Follow Your Passion for Happiness!

Are you following your passion? If not, why not? If so, how you can follow it more fully? I think a lot of us misunderstand what following our passion really means. At its foundation, this means identifying what we are truly passionate about, what makes us excited to talk about with others, the thing that we get so engrossed in, that we look up and several hours have passed. Where the confusion sets in is when we make up a bunch of rules around it, like “I’m passionate about such and such – so it has to be my life’s work and where my paycheck comes from.” Or “I have to be passionate about a noble cause.” I respectfully ask you to throw away any rules you may have created around your life’s passion.

We make up a lot of rules around “following our passion” and that could be what’s keeping you from following yours in the first place, or following it more fully. Following your passion is what makes life more fulfilling – you’re happier, less stressed, and more optimistic. Keeping that in mind, while throwing out the rules, will help you follow your passion today. Let’s say your passion about speaking to large audiences about topic X and is not something you do in your day job. Well, make it a side job, either paid or volunteer. Seek out where these audiences would be an offer to speak. Let’s say you’re passionate about, I don’t know – crocheting. Then start a crocheting club on the weekends. Or film yourself giving lots of cool tips and create a YouTube channel and online community to be passionate together. You get the idea – when you throw out the rules you’ve created around following your passion, you will find yourself energized, fulfilled, and simply glowing while talking about it with others. Alright superachievers… what are you waiting for?

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