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Change Your Perspective to Step Up Self-Care

One of the focus areas for superachieving is Self-Care. We cannot do anything in life, mentally or physically, if we do not take care of our bodies. And if we don’t take care of our bodies well, we cannot expect it to assist us in our achievement efforts, at least for a sustained amount of time.

So, we need our bodies to be well rested, nourished, and exercised in order to fully realize our potential. We all “know” this, but most of us “forget” it when we get really focused on a particular goal. Self-care is usually the first thing to fly out the window when we get busy as we claim we don’t have time to exercise or prepare a healthy meal or get enough sleep. Well, if you’ve listened to any of my podcasts, read my books or blogs, you know how I feel about that – saying I don’t have enough time is absolute bullshit.

On to this new strategy I’ve incorporated into my life that I hope will be one you can use as well. Essentially, in my mind, I have separated myself from my body. That sounds a little weird, so let me explain. I now state – “my body feels good” instead of “I feel good” or “my body is tired” instead of “I am tired.” Do you see the shift in perspective here and the implications around that?

Let’s take “I’m hungry” versus “my body is hungry” as an example. If I were to say “I’m hungry” I would think about what I want to eat – what would help me feel satiated. That could be a number of things – I love cookies, so I might grab one to quell the hunger until I can get a full meal. Essentially though, I’d probably grab whatever is closest, not thinking too much about whether it is good for my body or not (because it’s all about me and what I want.) However, if I say “my body is hungry,” my perspective changes. It’s no longer about me – it’s about fueling my body. What does my body need in this moment? That would lead me to hunt around and take some time to find something that would fuel it – perhaps a few carrots, an apple, something with protein.

Do you see the difference here? So here is your call to action – for the next five days, switch your thinking (and your language) to “my body” instead of “I” or “me.” Then pay attention to the different solutions your brain comes up with to whatever your body needs – sleep, exercise, nutrition, or whatever else. So – what does your body need right now?

Change Your Surroundings to Make Change Happen

Change is hard – for a number of reasons! Let’s first set the ground work with a few words about your brain. Our brain is incredibly efficient in helping us conserve energy and go about our days with the least amount of effort. Depending on which studies you reference, about 90-95% of our behaviors are based on programs we’ve developed in our subconscious mind. This means that 90-95% of the time we are reacting to people and situations on auto-pilot without even realizing that we’re doing it.

This makes sense – could you imagine having to consciously think about all of the behaviors that get you through your day – getting dressed, how to brush your teeth or even chew your food, how to start the car and put it in reverse – we’d be exhausted by the time we had to leave for work! So we need our brains to work this way, but there are times when it gets in our way – when we want to think outside the box, get creative, or even change a habit that no longer serves us – basically any time we want to make a change.

Back to your brain – it associates your environment with certain behaviors. For example, when you’re in your closet, it knows that this is generally where you need to get dressed (or where ever you do it). If you’re in the bathroom and you’ve just woken up, it prepares itself to get your teeth brushed. If you’re in the kitchen, it knows where everything is and depending on the time of day and the biological need, it will go to the easiest route to get what you need – all of this without you being completely consciously aware of every thought going through your brain.  Again, this is great unless you want to make a change.

So what is the strategy for addressing this? Change your environment! Let’s go over some examples for this, first using creativity and innovation as the reason for needing to change your environment. Writers and inventors are familiar with this process – if you’re having trouble getting that chapter written or coming up with that next idea – go somewhere your brain is not familiar with. Take your laptop to the nearest park, or even to another room in the house. If you need your team at work to get creative in solving a problem – take them to a different environment. Meet at the local park or museum (or any place different) and hold a brainstorming session there. Let’s look at getting rid of a bad habit as an example. Let’s say that you want to improve your eating habits and you tend to grab sweets any time you’re passing through the kitchen. Change up how you move through your house; remove the sweets from the kitchen and put them in another room if you must have them in the house; load up a cache of healthy snacks in the room that you spend most of your time in.

You get the idea – make some sort of change in your environment. Let’s look at the science behind this – when there is a change, especially in the environment, the brain pushes the thoughts about it up to the conscious level so that you can consciously adjust your behavior in the new environment (it’s a survival mechanism). Once you’ve successfully navigated the new environment or new routine, it will work on pushing it down in the subconscious so you don’t have to expend energy on it any longer. Make sense?

So here is your call to action today – look at areas in your life that you want to change and identify ways you change your environment to overcome the obstacles your brain has created for you.

Using Just-in-Time Development

There is a finished project and there is a perfect project and they are not the same thing, nor with they ever be. I’m using the word “project” but you can insert whatever you want – paper, work assignment, clean house, whatever. Both knowing and understanding this is half the battle. Whatever you need to do to get this into your belief system do it – repeating it like a mantra, writing it down, reflecting on it – whatever works for you when you are trying to take on a new perspective.

Just-in-time development, a strategy that will help you finish what you need to in the most effective manner possible, originated from the training and development world. I have been practicing this for years; however, it has never become more apparent how important it is until I became an entrepreneur. This means that you don’t fully create, write, or develop something until you are sure that it is the path you need to go down. For example, if I have a course idea or a keynote speech idea, I will write it up in a paragraph, in general terms, so I have plenty of wiggle room when I’m ready to create it. Let’s say I have a client that has asked I do a keynote speech at their annual event and they would like an idea of the different services I can provide. I will generally provide them three options that I think would work with the event. So I will submit three speech ideas, each with a paragraph description. They then choose which one they would like. Most of the time it is a speech I have already developed and delivered for another client and I simply need to tweak it to fit their specific needs. If it hasn’t been done already, I then take the time to fully develop it for the big delivery. Could you imagine if I had taken days, or even weeks to fully develop the speech or even a course, and then it is never picked by a client? What a waste of my time!

Let’s look at how you can use just-in-time development for other things. You have a report idea at work – do you spend hours or even days working on it, present it to the boss only to find out it isn’t what was needed? Or do you have an idea for a book, spend a year writing it, and then are upset that no one buys it? Or do you decide to throw an amazing dinner party, come up with a menu, buy all the related stuff, and then no one finishes their meal because they didn’t like what was on the menu? Okay, those were examples you may or may not relate to – however, the point is this – if there is something that will take a lot of your time and energy doing – don’t allow the perfectionist inside you go through the whole process of doing it before you at least float the idea to affected parties. Using just-in-time development as an achievement strategy, you would have written a summary of the report to see if your boss wanted you to do the full report or written a summary of the book and run it past a few people to gauge their interest, or create a sample menu to run it past your dinner party guests first to see if it is something they would be interested in. You get the idea right?

So your call-to-action today is to think about where you may be going all in when, at least initially, you could be doing some just-in-time development.

How Honest Are You With Yourself?

How many reasons have you uttered to yourself or others today for your behavior? I’m late because of traffic; I can’t work out today because I don’t have time; I really want to publish a book, but I just don’t have time to write it. We all do it, the question is how many times are you doing it?

I am in full agreement with Bernard Roth, a Stanford professor, when he states “Reasons are bullshit!” Reasons are simply excuses prettied up – they are excuses to hide the fact that we are not willing to give something  (or someone) a high enough priority in our lives. So it is time to be honest with ourselves (if not others as well) – when we say we don’t have time for something, we need to realize that it really just isn’t a priority for us. For example, we say we want to be healthy, to eat right, and exercise, but then we say we don’t have time to do it when instead we should be honest with ourselves and admit that it simply isn’t a priority. Or, let’s say you are constantly late for things – this just means that whatever you are late for, is not a priority for you. If someone said be at the town center at 2pm and they’ll give you a million dollars, you’d be early and waiting around regardless of what was going on in your life. Some people hide behind heart-wrenching reasons such as I can’t do that because I am missing a leg. Tell that to some of our amazing athletes who have successfully trained and competed in the Paralympics.

Here’s another one that I’ve commonly seen and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it in the past as well. An individual saying that they wish they had more time to spend with their family. But then you’ll find this same individual volunteering to take on more work, volunteering for business trips, working their hardest to get promoted which leads to more work and longer hours. If they really wanted to spend more quality time with the family, that would be a priority, however, for some reason this is the story they feel like they need to tell, perhaps guilt for being ambitious and putting the family second? Who knows – only that individual, if they were being completely honest with themselves, can answer the reasoning behind their behavior.

So – what’s all of this leading up to? If you want to do something in your life, whatever it may be, who’s really stopping you? The correct answer is – you! You are responsible for deciding what you do or don’t do in your life. Don’t blame others or use excuses to justify or rationalize your behaviors – especially the “I don’t have time” excuse.

Bernard Roth, that awesome Stanford professor I mentioned earlier, has a great strategy for getting out of your own way. You simply need intention and attention. With intention – do you really intend to do it (be honest!)? With attention – are you willing to give it the attention it requires (again, be honest!)?  Then, you simply need to start. If you want to write a book, this means that you set the intention to write the darn book, and then give it the attention it requires – setting your butt down, putting your fingers on the keyboard, and writing – for extended periods of time. No checking Facebook, texting, going down the rabbit hole of “researching” different topics beyond what is necessary.

So here is your call to action – make a pact with yourself to not use reasons (i.e., excuses) unless you absolutely have to. Be honest with yourself and if it is something that you really desire to do – set the intention and give it the attention it truly needs to be accomplished.

Getting Unstuck

Bernard Roth, a professor at Stanford’s 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.

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