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?

Hold A Personal Strategy Session Today!

To be a superachiever and achieve all that we do, one must be strategic. I find it disheartening and unbelievable (at least I hope it’s unbelievable) when Brian Tracy states that only 3% of folks actually write down their goals. If this is true, I bet even a smaller portion of those individuals hold personal strategy sessions. See, in the professional world, we have weekly, monthly, and annual goals for the organization or business, we set up extensive project plans and hold regular status and strategy meetings to check on progress, implement interventions if necessary to keep us on track, and ensure that we accomplish all the goals we created as an organization. But how many of us do this ourselves? I’d venture to guess not many.

Once we establish our goals and how we will accomplish them, it will mean nothing without regular personal strategy sessions. I’d recommend a multilevel approach to this process.

Let’s start at the simplest level and work our way up. Each morning, spend five minutes setting up your daily to do list (or the night before) – the key here is daily. Set a strategy for which tasks need to get done that day or worked on that day to bring you closer to getting your goal accomplished. Here’s the thing though – you can’t do other tasks until those are done. This will keep you from focusing on the unimportant things that tend to get in our way because we make them “important.” So only work on things that are in furtherance of your goals.

Next level is weekly personal strategy sessions. This is done once a week on a day that makes sense for you – mine is generally Friday afternoon so I can free my mind for the weekend. Where your daily sessions take more no more than 15 minutes, your weekly planning sessions will generally take about 30 minutes or more depending on the number of goals you are tackling. In your weekly strategy session, you will reflect on your progress from the previous week, make any adjustments to your goal plan, and then set a plan for the coming week. In a similar fashion, you hold a monthly strategy session once a month, reviewing the previous month, making adjustments, and planning the next month. It is also important to hold a bi-annual session every six months looking at your goals from an even higher strategic level.

Holding daily, weekly, monthly, and bi-annual personal strategy meetings based on a goal plan you create for each of your goals may seem like a lot of work, and it can be; however, I guarantee you will achieve more in less time if you do. Stay tuned, I’m creating an easy to use goal and energy management system to be launched this year in 2017.

Use Reflective Writing to Develop Yourself

A few years ago, I discovered reflective writing, and since then, my personal and professional development has skyrocketed. Reflective writing involves analyzing a life event, thinking about how it has affected you, how it made you feel, and how you could change how you handle it if something similar happens in the future. It is similar to traditional journaling in that it requires descriptive writing; however, that is a small part of the process – the key is in the analysis and applying it to future events.

Reflective writing is a powerful tool in the learning process – it helps you learn much more in a shorter amount of time. I’ll never forget the moment I realized how much I had grown by using the reflective writing process. I had recently written a reflective writing piece on a misunderstanding with a friend. I had also gone back through my journals and identified several other situations that it had occurred in the past. That’s another amazing thing about reflective writing, you can re-examine a situation that occurred 10 years ago, with new eyes and add it to your learning. Anyway, with this fresh in my mind, I found myself in yet another similar conversation with this individual. While she was talking, I felt the familiar defensiveness rise – the old reaction to feeling that she was trying to be difficult yet again and I stopped myself, switched to a perspective of realizing she was coming from a place of fear, and changed how I spoke to her, which led to a win-win outcome for the conversation. If I hadn’t engaged in intentional reflective writing, I’d probably still be locking the proverbial horns with her today.

What if you added the strategy to your toolbox today, who would you be next year with massive intentional learning and growth? Just think of the goals you could accomplish! If you already engage in reflective writing how can you make it even better?

Reflective writing doesn’t have to take up a lot of time each day, and not every day will deliver a deep life lesson. I allot 15 minutes a day and set a reminder for each evening on my phone. Some days I only spend a few minutes, others a lot longer.

What kind of system do you have or are you going to have to focus more effectively on your growth?

Strategies for Sustaining Desired Change

Have you ever tried to break a bad habit or develop a new healthy one? It can be very difficult! The reason for the difficulty is this – we each have an internal set point for our version of normal. Our psyche likes to maintain the set point so much that it initiates an internal self-corrective process if we stray too far from our normal.

This autopilot that we go into to maintain homeostasis in our lives was discovered and coined the “Psycho Cybernetic Mechanism” by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in the 1950s. Dr. Maltz, a plastic surgeon, found that many of his patients didn’t see any changes when they looked at themselves in the mirror after having significant facial reconstruction. They literally could not see the changes in their appearance because it was beyond their “normal.” The brain compensated for what they expected to see.

In our caveman days, this was a great survival mechanism. If our brain noticed something different in our environment, it sent signals to the body to get back to homeostasis. Predator nearby – let’s get to a safe place – back to our area of comfort. Modern day – when changing the number of calories we intake to lose weight or get healthier, we don’t want the brain to go on high alert and self-correct that change, right? Our brain, in trying to help us survive, is getting in the way.

The “normal” set point we’ve created for ourselves may not necessarily be healthy for us, so how do we change it? First step is awareness – understanding that we’ve spent years forging the neural pathways for this behavior in our brain and that it is going to take significant retraining to change that.

The next step is to visualize the new desired behavior with extreme clarity – over and over again. The subconscious mind is the one that is running the show when it comes to your Psycho Cybernetic Mechanism. A cool thing about the subconscious running the show is that it doesn’t know the difference between visualizing the behavior and actually doing it. This is why professional athletes use visualization all the time.

The final step is to do the desired behavior over and over.  Combine steps two and three and do them at the same time for maximum effectiveness.

After much patience and perseverance, you create new neural pathways and your desired behavior becomes a habit. How long it takes is up to you and how deeply ingrained the neural pathways related to the behaviors you want to change are. I can guarantee it’s going to take more than 21 days to develop lifetime habits. They’ve conducted research on the “21-day rule” and found that it is largely false for most habits we want to change.

If you haven’t seen the YouTube video The Backwards Bicycle, I recommend you watch it. An engineer did an experiment on what it would take to retrain his brain to ride a bike in which the handlebars had been altered in such a way that one had to turn them to the left to go right and vice versa. It took him eight months to retrain his brain to ride the bike and only 20 minutes to go back into the old way of doing things. Simply type “backwards bicycle” in the search bar and it will pop up.

Afraid to Proclaim Your Big, Scary Dream?

Isn’t it funny how we can struggle with something for a while, sometimes even years, and suddenly there’s this moment of clarity, or acceptance, or wisdom? This reminds me of the quote from Paul Auster, “Everything can change at any moment, suddenly and forever.” Usually when I hear this quote, I think of external events changing the course of one’s life; however, it is amazing how powerful our thoughts can be – something clicks and, in that moment, we see life differently.

I’m sure we’ve all had at least one of these moments in our lives, if not more. Thoughts so powerful that you realize nothing will ever be the same – the world you know no longer exists and is replaced with a new reality. I recently had another one of these moments as they relate to our big, scary dreams.  Dreams so big and scary to us that we’re afraid to voice them out loud for fear of others perceiving us as delusional. My moment of clarity was that I realized that the “greats” – those people who have accomplished amazing things – were probably thought of as delusional at one time by others.

Why is it important for us to openly proclaim our big, scary dreams? Because our focus becomes our reality – by stating it out loud, it becomes your sole focus and you can’t help but be successful at it because it becomes your reality.  I’m not saying there won’t be failures along the way, but making your dream your focus will get you to where you want to go much faster than you would otherwise.

Here’s your call to action – it’s time to walk through that door of opportunity – what have you been afraid to openly proclaim as a goal or dream? Something so big that it scares you and you are afraid others will think you’re delusional? This is your moment – openly proclaim your goal or dream today because it will become your focus which will then make it your reality and you are another step closer to making it happen. By the way – did I mention I’m going to be a multi-millionaire soon (gulp! – openly proclaimed!)?

Yes/No Strategy – An Awesome Tool for Tough Decisions

We’ve all been there – you’re faced with some sort of opportunity or invitation and you must decide whether to say yes or no. It could be a job offer, and invitation to a party, a move across country, or an unexpected trip. If we’re lucky, we either know it is right for us immediately or know it is wrong for us immediately and provide an answer. Here’s the tricky thing though – it’s not always evident at first glance on how we should respond. What do we do? We use the Yes/No strategy!

This is how it works – after you complete a pros and cons list, and find that that alone doesn’t do the trick, ask yourself: “if I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” Conversely, “if I say no to this, what am I saying yes to?” This simple strategy includes making a traditional pros and cons list; however, it takes it even deeper because to take advantage of certain opportunities, we must give up others and this amazing tool helps make that crystal-clear. And the beauty of it is that you can use it for any decision.

Let’s say you get an invite for small social gathering happening next week. You quickly run through the pros and cons. Pros – you get to see some friends you haven’t seen in a while, there will be some other valuable contacts present to add to your network, they’re going to have wine (or whatever your favorite beverage is). Cons – you have a very busy week and an even busier weekend and were hoping to chill that night and the social gathering is about 45 minutes of travel time. Still not quite clear on what to do? Well, if I say yes to this, I’m saying no to chilling at home. This simple statement makes it crystal-clear – I can give up one night chilling at home for all the benefits I’m going to get attending the social gathering (based on my values and extroverted tendencies.) If chilling at home is a high value for you, then your answer is still very clear, just in a different way. Make sense?

Try out this strategy today!

Who’s in Your Tribe?

I was listening to a song on Pandora the other day and the words sparked a deep reflection. The lyrics, although I’m sure were meant to be empowering, actually upset me a little. The singer was proudly proclaiming how she doesn’t need anyone else – she’s going to rise to the top all on her own. I’ll give it to her – yes, that can be empowering; however, let’s be really honest about this – no one, and I mean not a soul, can accomplish their dreams completely on their own.

Superachievers know that if you want to go after those big hairy dreams, you absolutely have to get help from others along the way. Connecting with others and having a good support system is the only way to truly reach the goal line. Anyone who tells you any differently… well, they are delusional or lying. Seriously!

Let’s look at who’s in your support system. There are several different categories of folks, let’s focus on three: 1. people that help you from afar, 2. people that help you specifically, and 3. your cheerleaders.

The first group – people that help you from afar – these are the folks that we observe or make an effort to learn about in order to either learn how to be or how to do something we desire, or, in some cases, how to not be or not to do something. Folks, this is why failure is so important – not only is it an important growth moment for ourselves, but it’s also a growth moment for those we are helping from afar.

On to the second group – people that specifically help you. These are folks that help us achieve our goals or realize lifelong dreams. Keep in mind that this help may not be via positive means. It’s easy to spot the person who makes an introduction that opens a lot of doors for you, but not so easy to see either the boss or teacher who is extra hard on you, those who help you become that much better than you are because of their challenging you. It’s even harder to see that asshole boss that is so inept at his or her job, the you decide to change career fields to get away from them as helping you, but, at least in my case, I’m here today, realizing my dream because I had one of those. Otherwise, I’d probably still be working violent crime, and not helping others to quit bleeping around, which is what I was put on this earth to do!

Okay, now on to the final group, the cheerleaders. Everyone needs a fan club. It’s even one of those secrets to superachieving (secret # 23). This is the individual or individuals that are simply there to cheer you on, to believe in you, to comfort you during a particularly difficult failure, and to kick your butt into action when you’re bleeping around too much when going for a goal or dream. Make sure you have at least one person in your life that serves this role – the more, the better.

All right superachievers, let’s recap – no one – and I do mean absolutely no one, achieves their goals and/or dreams all by their lonesome. It truly takes a village to help us achieve our goals. There are people we learn from afar, folks who specifically help us, and those that are in our fan club, are cheerleaders.

Who are those individuals from your past or present that are a part of your tribe? Examine how you can more strategically utilize your tribe to supercharge your superachieving. Let’s not stop there though – we also serve in those roles for others – we are part of their tribe and helping them achieve their goals and dreams. Identify as many individuals as you can that you are either helping or serving in their fan club. Then, examine how you can help others even more. If you don’t have many, it’s time to find more folks you could help.

Respect Your Future Self!

What does “respect your future self” mean to you? For me, it’s a more personal way of making strategic choices. Let’s start with this by looking backwards – what would you like to tell the person you were 10 years ago? Obviously, we wouldn’t want to change a thing because you are who you are due to your past experiences, but let’s do this little exercise to make a point. For example, I would have wanted my younger self to be more intentional about learning from her life experiences, especially the adversity, to stand up for herself more, and make more healthy choices.

Now that we’ve got your brain focused and clear on just how much our seemingly inconsequential choices affect us down the road, let’s look at who you want to be 5 to 10 years from now. I’m not referring to the achievements that are tangible, as that’s a goal plan. I’m referring to who you will be – at your core. You’re “being” rather than your “doing” if you will. I plan on being a healthy, fit, energetic woman who goes about her day being very intentional in how she connects with others, learns from her experiences, and understands how every decision she makes affects her future self. So, knowing that this is who I want to be, with each choice I am faced with today, I ask myself “Is this respecting my future self?” Sometimes I will respond “no” and do it anyway, because I’m human; however, for the most part, it totally and completely changes our perspectives on each choice we’re faced with.

Let’s summarize – as a reflection activity, look at who you were 5 to 10 years ago, really reflect on the choices you were faced with, the decisions you made, and how they led to who you are today. Then, look at who you want to be in 5 to 10 years from now – not what you want to achieve – and with each choice you are faced with in the present day, ask, “Am I respecting my future self?”

It’s time to own who you are AND who you want to be. Create a way that the choices you make today lead to the person you want to be tomorrow. Respect your future self!

Assume = Ass+U+Me

Ever heard the saying that assume means that you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”? I had the opportunity to witness a conversation between two individuals the other day that was so wrought with assumptions and inferences that it led to a full-blown argument even though both involved individuals were actually on the same page. Confounding, right?

An assumption is something one considers to be true without verifying it, while an inference is when one draws a conclusion about things they don’t know based on things they do know. Here’s where we get in trouble with assumptions and inferences – we are making statements about the other’s behavior (in our thoughts) without testing their validity. Essentially we are all statements and no questions.

Back to the conversation turned argument that I observed recently – it was fascinating to watch how quickly it took a downward spiral. One individual made an assumption about the other’s behavior and said something, the other inferred they meant something else, then off they went down the rabbit hole. After a few exchanges it became heated, and I called a timeout, asking them to check their assumptions with each other. Lo and behold, they were arguing over nothing. Absolutely nothing.

What is this really all about? We judge ourselves based on our intention and others on their behaviors – which means that we are making A LOT of assumptions in the process.

Your call to action today is to become keenly aware of the assumptions and inferences you make and check them by asking the other person a question – a simple question folks! I guarantee you will have ample opportunities because we constantly do this. I’ll even help you out here. Notice your assumption and then ask the other person “Am I right in thinking… [insert your assumption here]?”

Not Sorry!

Do you remember or know the story of Goldilocks? When she invaded the home of the three bears, everything she tried was too much, then too little, and finally just right. Well, that’s how I see apologizing – some people apologize too much, some too little, and others just the right amount. Heck, Beyoncé even has a song titled, “Sorry,” so this is obviously an important topic, right?

Before we jump into this topic any further though, let’s look at why it is important. The ability to apologize – truly apologize when it is appropriate, demonstrates authenticity, compassion, and good character. That’s the “just right” part of the Goldilocks principle. It demonstrates one has high emotional intelligence and personal power. Let’s look at the other options in more detail, starting with not apologizing enough. There are some individuals that refuse to apologize, even when it is called for. Regardless of their intention for doing so, let’s be honest – they come off as assholes.

Now on to the other side of the continuum – those that apologize too much – I’ve seen two subsets of this one: individuals that mean it and those that don’t. For those individuals that apologize too much and don’t mean it – you are not fooling anyone. People have good radars for sincerity and if you’re apologizing a lot and not meaning it, I can guarantee your coming off as inauthentic and therefore untrustworthy.

On to the final category – those that apologize a lot and mean it. We could get into all kinds of reasons why people do this: culture, upbringing, spending too much time with a verbally or physically abusive person, low self-worth, or low self-confidence. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons why. Let’s focus on the impact over-apologizing has – in my experiences, the impact it has on me is disheartening – I feel bad for the other person, wishing that they had higher self-confidence and aren’t so hard on themselves.

Remember, we are not judged by our intentions, but our behaviors. How are you showing up to others? How often you apologize is a great way to gauge how you show up. Apologize too much and you can come across as either untrustworthy or low in self-confidence. Apologize too little and you can come across as a self-absorbed asshole. Apologize just right and you can show up as authentic, compassionate, and with good character.

How are you showing up through your apologies?