Almost everything you do is driven by habits. We all have good, helpful habits and bad, or unhelpful, habits. You can think of your habits as the drivers getting you closer or further away from achieving what’s important to you. Habits are the foundation for major change in your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand if you’re cultivating helpful or unhelpful habits. To achieve your goals, you want to provide the best support and conditions that set you up to be successful. This happens by cultivating helpful habits that are directly aligned to those goals. And by eliminating any unhelpful habits that are slowing or blocking your progress.
How to Cultivate Helpful Habits
Bad habits are the saboteurs that make it harder to achieve what we desire. As mentioned earlier, helpful habits move you toward achieving your goals and desires, whereas unhelpful habits slow or block your progress. To increase your success when changing an unhelpful habit, it’s best to replace it with a new helpful habit. It may be as simple as making a small pivot. Like when you quit drinking soda you replace it with Zevia instead for a week or two, and gradually pivot again to water or herbal tea. Decide what you want to achieve and move toward that goal. It’s more effective than focusing on what you need to stop or get rid of which often creates more pressure and feelings of being deprived. Also, start small with new habits. If it feels too big you’ll either get stuck and never stop or quit after a few days. For example, if you want to begin a daily morning routine that includes journaling and prayer or meditation, start with 5 minutes per day, and gradually increase it by 1 minute each week. To increase your chances of success, create a process and track your results. Something as simple as placing a check mark on a calendar for every day you complete your morning meditation is helpful. Track your results for at least 8 – 12 weeks to evaluate your progress, make any adjustments and to ensure long-lasting results. Get leverage and support when working on your habits. Ask a friend or colleague to point out if you’re demonstrating a habit you’re trying to change, or to complement you when they see you sticking to your new habit. For instance, they can point out when you’re late to a meeting or if you’re on your phone and not listening when others are talking. Cultivating your habits using the above strategies will support positive results. More tips on cultivating habits for success can be found here.
Two Words that Help Change Your Mindset
Here’s a suggestion from one of my own coaches. Change the phrase “I can’t” to “I don’t” when in a situation where you have a hard time sticking to your helpful habit or goal. For instance, let’s say you have a healthy eating goal of limiting high carb processed foods like flour and sugar. You’re out to dinner and the bread basket arrives. Instead of saying or thinking, “I can’t have any bread”, say or think “I don’t eat bread, that’s not for me”. This subtle shift helps change your mindset. “I can’t” is very limiting, and puts you into a victim or less-than mindset which may blow up on you in the long-term. “I don’t” is empowering, you’re in charge, you’re taking responsibility and it’s your decision. You should be able to feel the difference in energy in these two statements. Where can you make this shift? Think of a few examples and commit to making this shift at the next opportunity.
Act with Intention: Cultivate Helpful Habits
This method of cultivating helpful habits works for creating helpful habits and for changing unhelpful habits. The key is to put intention into the helpful habits you want to create, and be as specific as possible by adding in a situation, time, and location. For instance, you’ll meditate each morning for 5 minutes in your bed immediately after waking up, at 6 a.m. Include how long, where, when and how frequently. Or another example is you’ll take a fun 20 minute walk around the block with your dogs after dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For unhelpful habits, you make the trigger of that habit your situation, and then change how you respond. It’s a simple pivot toward what you want to achieve, like in the quitting soda example earlier. That response (having Zevia, water or tea when habitually reaching for a soda) becomes your new habit. Two more tips for cultivating helpful habits are: Make it fun. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy doing. For example, add your favorite music to your exercise routine or listen to your favorite books or podcast during your new walking routine. Be compassionate, kind and easy on yourself. You may slip up and that’s ok. Pay attention and stop any negative self-talk or harsh judgments, like “I knew you’d fail” or “you never stick with anything”. Instead, just refocus on the results your striving for, get excited about achieving them, and kindly say or think to yourself, “this slip is ok, you’re making great progress”. In the comments, please share one helpful habit you’ve successfully created this year and what goal it has helped you achieve. Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash
Let’s put a stop to your self-sabotage once and for all.
Do you want something in your life but can’t seem to attain it? Maybe it’s a goal, dream, or vision you have and yet, month after month, year after year, the time passes by and you’re no closer to achieving it.
Have you already realized you’re sabotaging yourself? Do you actually witness yourself about to do the opposite of what could make you fulfilled, yet you still take that unhelpful action.
Sometimes it feels out of control or like you’re not the one driving that behavior. That’s your subconscious keeping you from living your best life.
Or maybe you’ve rationalized that it’s ok to watch TV for 5 hours when you planned to work on your finances, organize your office and then go for a walk.
You tell yourself that you’ve had a long stressful week at work and you deserve to numb out while binge-watching a TV show. But this short-term ‘reward’ doesn’t support or help your long-term goals.
Dissonance and Cognitive Dissonance
Dissonance is the opposite of harmony. It’s the tension when two conflicting or disharmonious things are combined.
For instance, you say you want less stress in your life and began to see good results by meditating daily, yet now you don’t make it a priority and don’t take the time to meditate at all.
More specifically, cognitive dissonance is a theory in social psychology. It refers to the mental conflict that occurs when your behaviors and beliefs don’t align, like in the meditating example above. You believe and know meditating daily reduces your stress, but your behavior of no longer doing so doesn’t align with that belief.
This mental conflict, or cognitive dissonance, can cause you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, anxious, ashamed or guilty. And since you have an instinctive desire to avoid these types of feelings, you attempt to relieve it.
That’s where the self-sabotage comes in and can have a significant impact on how you think and behave, and the decisions and actions you take. You may get some temporary relief, but in the long-run it’s unhelpful and destructive.
For instance, you may ignore your doctor’s advice, blood test results or published research that causes dissonance. And you may explain things away or devalue them to continue in your pattern.
Years ago, one of my co-workers knew smoking cigarettes was cancer causing yet she explained that it was necessary to calm her nerves given her demanding role at work. She also justified her smoking habit by saying she was concerned about gaining weight if she quit, like she witnessed in her other family members and friends. We’ll believe and keep doing just about anything to relieve the discomfort.
Self-Sabotage: Your Saboteur at Work
You may believe that this sabotaging voice is trying to protect you from harm or that it’s really helping you in some way.
But self-sabotage really is you creating problems for yourself that interfere with your true goals.
It’s not some outside force creating havoc in your life. Realize this and take responsibility for you and your saboteur.
And understand that your saboteur wants you to maintain the status quo in your life.
These are examples of saboteur thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You’re not good enough or I’m not good enough.
- You don’t deserve this or I don’t deserve this.
- They’re going to get upset with you.
- That’s too hard.
- I’ll never be successful at this or you’ll never be successful.
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
- It’s not okay to be wealthy/happy.
- It’s not safe to put yourself out there, they’ll criticize and judge you.
Listening to your saboteur is a choice you’re making so that you can feel differently. Pay attention to these thoughts or beliefs; noticing them is the first step in stopping your self-sabotage.
Additionally, expect the saboteur to get stronger whenever you begin to make positive changes in your life. Expect it and be ready for it. The action steps below can help.
Act with Intention: Identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage
The saboteur loses its power over us when we’re aware and can identify it, realize we have other options in that situation, and then consciously choose the action at that time that serves us best (gets us closer to our true goal).
Here are some actions to take to identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage. It takes practice and work, and consistency, and over time you’ll be back in control and seeing positive results.
- Identify your saboteur by answering these questions. Where are you sabotaging yourself? What does your saboteur often think or say? In your environment, either at work or at home, what self-sabotaging language is being used, by you or others? For instance, a new opportunity at work has come up. It would be a promotion for you and you’re excited to learn more about it. Then you feel a little apprehensive, even nervous or scared, and the following thought stream pops into your head “I’m not ready for this. What if I fail? It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected.”
- Next, you want to challenge and change those beliefs. Every time that thought, belief or language comes up, recognize it as your saboteur and change it. Then consciously choose a new thought and behavior that supports your long-term goals and wellbeing.
In the example above, you recognize those thoughts and beliefs for what they are. It’s your saboteur.
- Challenge “I’m not ready for this” with “Of course I’m ready, this is the perfect job for me.”
- Challenge “What if I fail?” with “What if I don’t fail? What if I don’t even try?”
- Challenge “It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected” with “This new role is part of my long-term career plans, I’m ready for it and I’ll do a fantastic job. If I don’t get selected now, they may consider me for other opportunities in the future because I pursued this role and they know I’m interested in my career growth.”
You may need to get some leverage involved in order to change that thought or behavior. To do that, ask yourself, “What is this costing me in terms of health, wellbeing, relationships, and success? How is this holding me back from my goals and dreams and the vision I see for myself?”
In the example above, the leverage could be envisioning yourself in 2 – 5 years in the future, in the same role, earning a similar salary, not being challenged or growing professionally or personally. How would that feel? What have you missed out on? What are you still tolerating? How does staying stagnant impact your wellbeing, relationships, your long-term goals and dreams?
If you’re struggling with achieving a particular goal, your saboteur could be at work. Sometimes you’re not even aware of it.
I challenge you to get really focused, act intentionally, identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage once and for all.
Leave a comment below when you start seeing the positive changes from stopping your self-sabotage. Share your success to encourage others.
of integrate is to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole.
Taking the time to integrate is to intentionally stop taking in more and to combine what you’ve already have for deeper growth and development. Once you integrate, you get to deeper levels of knowledge and fulfillment in your life.
For instance, if you love to learn new things, you may have a tendency to read more and more books, take more workshops and listen to more podcasts. It almost feels like an addiction at times. A friend or colleague recommends a new course or workshop and you sign up, take it, and quickly move on to the next one.
Many times you don’t gain much, in fact, you just consume and never implement what you’ve learned.
You never integrated it; you never took the material to a deeper level where it could make a significant impact in your career or in your life.
The Myth of More is Better
More is better is a myth. The constant strive for more in our culture prevents us from seeing and experiencing the true value of what we already have.
It supports the idea and feeling that wherever you are is not good enough, because more is always better.
It’s hard to be grateful and appreciate all that you have now when your focus is on getting more.
I’ve worked with people who were always focused on the next project or the next job, and never appreciated all they were experiencing in their current role. They missed the fulfilling things like the relationships they were building, the people they were helping and the new things they were learning.
The energy around more is better feels like a chase – a futile one. You’re chasing after things just to accumulate more. And once you have it, you’re dissatisfied and off to the next thing, and the next and the next.
And it’s not just physical things. We’re constantly absorbing more and more experiences, information and energy but without the time or opportunity to sort through it all.
Take the time to sort through it and you’ll begin to feel some significant improvements.
Why It’s Important to Integrate
The chase for more erodes your energy and your sense of fulfillment. Taking the time to integrate gives you your energy back. You begin to feel more in control and organized.
Taking the time to integrate helps to reduce the overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion you experience in your day to day life. If you’re feeling uncentered, off-balance or even fractured, it may be the signal that it’s time to integrate.
Act with Intention: Take Time to Integrate
Here are some suggestions to start taking intentional action around taking the time to integrate.
First off, slow down and realize if you’re in a “more is better” mindset and exhibiting behaviors like described above. When you notice this behavior or thought, change it to a more helpful behavior or thought. Simply saying “slow down” or “stop” can be enough to bring about some awareness.
It took some time to get here, but now I quickly recognize if I’m going down a ‘learning” rabbit hole. Any emails or suggestions for a new book, course, training program or free live event I either delete immediately or I scan it to see if it’ll be useful and put it on my “maybe later” list.
Taking time to integrate is more than just not taking more in. You want to intentionally integrate experiences and information as they occur or directly afterwards.
One good practice is to spend 5-10 minutes after a meeting or workshop to integrate your key takeaways. Things like what you learned, what you’d like to implement from the training, if anything. Better yet, take notes during it to include which things you’d like to test out and apply to your own life.
Additionally, take a break and stop taking more in – for days, weeks or months if needed. That means no new podcasts, books, workshops or courses during this time period.
During this break from consuming more info, data and things, sort through what you already have. This can be done by simply taking the time to think about things. Embrace daydreaming. Let you mind wander. Meditate. This is how your brain sorts and categorizes information.
A good question to ask is: Is this information useful for you and can you apply it to your life? If not, let it go.
If it’s useful, your next step is to take action and test it out. Apply it and experience this information.
Lastly, after testing it out review what you’ve learned through the application and experience of integrating it into your life. Are there any additional lessons or knowledge? Have your beliefs changed as a result?
Taking the time to integrate is the best way to become a more unified whole. You’ll find it brings new levels of understanding and wisdom, and you’ll feel more fulfilled in your life.
Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash
Do you ever feel pressure building up at work or at home? Pressure is great for growth; you need it to keep moving in the right direction toward your goals.
It helps you to expand and create in the way that only you can. You want to use pressure to benefit you, and don’t let pressure become stress.
The Pressure Cooker at Work
The thing about pressure, if it goes unchecked and just keeps building and building without any release (think of a pressure cooker), that’s when it can turn into the unhealthiest kind of stress called chronic stress. The stress that causes health and other issues.
You don’t want to let pressure become this type of stress. Learn about the 3 types of stress and what to do to if you’ve got chronic stress here.
As I look back at my previous career and work habits, I could sense the pressure building, feel it, and yet felt powerless against it. Over time without actively addressing it, the stress became chronic, taking its toll on my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
It’s common to feel this type of pressure regularly when in a high demand job or fast-paced work environment. The important part is to address the pressure before it turns to stress.
Pressure is a Sign of Growth and Change
Lately that familiar feeling of pressure has returned in my work life. I’ve begun some new coaching work. I typically work one on one with coaching clients, however, I started some coaching work for an external company where I must learn their systems and processes.
It’ll take some time to acclimate to all this newness, and I continue to remind myself that it’s part of the growth process and only temporary. This reminder helps in times when the pressure rises.
When you take on new assignments or when you’ve switched jobs to a new company, how was it for you? Those first 30-60-90 days can be rough.
You’re attempting to do the work you were hired to do, but getting up to speed with who’s who, how things are done, new systems and processes – it all takes extra time and extra effort.
When Pressure Becomes Stress
You may experience increased pressure due to other external forces too. Maybe someone was laid-off and now you have to take on the work they performed. Or maybe you’re experiencing more pressure from leadership, or a higher than normal work demand, or a lack of job security.
Even a lack of flexibility and autonomy in your work and your work schedule can leave you feeling stressed and as if you have no control. Over time or with too much pressure all at once, it can become overwhelming and stressful.
The effects of work-related pressure turning into stress is evident in your physical, mental and emotional health. Common ailments can include musculoskeletal problems like chronic back pain, joint pain and carpel tunnel syndrome. Gastrointestinal disorders, like acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers typically have a stress component.
Mentally and emotionally, issues like anxiety, burnout and inability to get good quality sleep (sleep disorders) are a result.
Pressure becoming stress also has adverse effects on a company’s performance and bottom line too. Increased healthcare costs and absenteeism are a result of chronic stress in the workplace.
Business leaders and owners should have an interest in managing the pressure and stress in their environments. But many times they get caught up in it as well.
Act with Intention: Don’t Let Pressure Become Stress
Here are some strategies to implement so you don’t let pressure become stress.
First off, stay present and conscious in the moment. In other words, realize that something is causing pressure. Pay attention to situations that you know will likely impact you.
Also, be realistic about what you can and can’t control. If the pressure is getting to you, take a few minutes to list out what the causes might be and circle the ones you can control.
Next, take action. For those items you can control, try a new strategy or approach to change the outcome. For instance, if you feel stuck in an unproductive weekly meeting and can feel the pressure beginning to rise as you think about the other work you need to be doing, have a direct conversation with the meeting leader. Give some suggestions for improvement like having a clear agenda with time allotments for each item. Or maybe suggest less frequent meetings with email updates weekly.
And for the things you can’t control, let them go. If you have a tendency to take on things that aren’t yours or that you have no way of influencing, it’s best to recognize that early on and let it go.
For instance, being late to a meeting due to a traffic accident causing traffic backup on the road, or technical problems on a webmeeting due to bandwidth overuse – let it go. Getting frustrated or upset doesn’t help. These things are beyond your control, and you when you recognize that and let it go, it takes the pressure off and allows you to move forward in a calm healthy way.
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
A helpful strategy for uncertain and uncomfortable times is to focus on growth. Just like how it’s best to focus on the solution to a problem rather than the problem itself, I’m suggesting you focus on how you’re growing and developing instead of how uncertain things are. Growth brings a sense of confidence, stability and security.
The next time you’re beginning to stress over a particular situation or challenge, ask yourself these questions, “How is this challenging time or situation causing me to grow?” and “What am I learning from this?”
Uncertainty is all around us
It’s a fact of life. Uncertainty always exists. We’re always dealing with the unknown, in positive or negative ways.
For instance, you’re about to start a new assignment at work. You have certain expectations but it’s with colleagues you’ve never worked directly with before. It could be the best work experience ever, or the most challenging that tests your ability and forces you to learn and grow.
Or even something as simple as a trip to the grocery store could be full of uncertainty. There could be traffic, road closures, or a traffic accident that prolongs the whole trip, or the store could be out of stock of the staples you need.
Finding and losing balance is necessary for growth
When we’re in the middle of uncertainty, we feel out of balance. Something feels off.
Some people feel excited, like the uncertainty of a vacation to a place you’ve never been. Other people may feel anxious or stressed in that same scenario.
Our journey here in life is about finding and losing balance, and that is necessary for you to grow and develop. This fact alone helps put things into perspective and provides a more productive way of dealing with life’s challenges.
Think about when you were a child unable to walk yet. You had no balance or coordination.
One day, you gained enough balance to stand. Next, you threw yourself off balance to take that first step. You got balance again, then with your next step, threw yourself off balance again. Eventually you mastered walking and moved on to the next thing you could learn.
Growth nurtures confidence, and propels us toward the next opportunity for continued development.
How the Covid-19 pandemic is causing growth
I tend to look for the positivity in things. I’m not making light of the illness, deaths, physical and financial loss, and breakdown of systems (healthcare, political, social, financial) that we’ve been experiencing for most of 2020. I acknowledge this Covid-19 global pandemic has been one of the most trying times in recent history.
In a recent conversation I could hear my friend’s jaw drop when I stated how this Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of positive things.
In disbelief, she said, “Oh really? Like what?”
I see families spending more time together going on hikes and bike rides; non tech-savvy people “going” to church or other meetings via webmeeting and some even holding their own Zoom meetings who never even heard of Zoom 6 months earlier; people are reevaluating their careers and current roles and organizations given the response to this pandemic and what their own core values are.
I see a slower pace that allows for more reflection and meditation/prayer; more enjoyment of reflective hobbies like gardening, reading, walks, music, dance, yoga; less traffic and stress over hectic schedules and routines (like commuting business professionals who now have 1 to 3 extra hours in their day as they work from home). There’s also less pollution, less driving, less air traffic, less noise and less unnecessary shopping.
There’s an intentional slowing down to enjoy sunsets, full moons, comets, beautiful clouds, beautiful trees and gardens.
Most importantly is this sense of global community – we’re all in this together no matter where on this earth you reside.
This pandemic is certainly allowing us all to expand and grow. And an intentional focus on growth is helpful during this time.
The loss, death, illness, and breakdown of systems is putting you off balance. And the focus on growth can be that step toward creating balance again.
Act with Intention: focus on growth
If you struggle in tough times, when things seem to not go your way, here are some things to do.
1. Determine what you’re focused on. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself “what has my attention right now?” This helps you become more present with what it is so you can begin to address it.
2. Pay attention to your thoughts and language. I’ve heard people say things like “Things never work out for me” or “Why do I have so many problems”. These are limiting and unhelpful thoughts and language that once you’re aware of, you can change them in the moment. Read more about harnessing the power of your thoughts here.
3. Change limiting and unhelpful thoughts and language to statements of intention. Some people call them affirmations or incantations, but they are basically statements of intention to get your egoic and monkey mind to focus and learn a new way. It’s a way to set a new intention of how you want things to be.
You can state them aloud when one of your limiting unhelpful thoughts or statements come up. And you can build them into a daily practice where you review them each morning or 3 times a day. Keep a list in your phone for easy reference.
Some examples are: “I release everything that’s not serving my highest good”, “I know that this struggle is a normal part of life’s ups and downs, and it’s only temporary” and “This challenge is allowing me to grow and expand.” One of my favorites is “All I need is within me now.”
4. Lastly, ask helpful questions to focus on growth. The next time you’re beginning to stress over a particular situation or challenge, ask yourself these questions, “How is this challenging time or situation causing me to grow?” or “What am I learning from this?”
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Responsibility is part of your personal power and that’s why taking responsibility feels so good. When you’re feeling powerless, stress and anxiety increase, and it’s a small step to blaming and complaining about others or the situation. Responsibility is about responding to your circumstances from a higher place, a place aligned with your goals, your dreams, your values, and your contribution to others and society. The empowering nature of responsibility amplifies feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Response – ability. What responsibility really means
The word responsibility broken down is response – ability. It’s simply the ability to respond. It’s when you intentionally and consciously make choices and take actions for the benefit of others or for yourself. You choose behaviors and make decisions to bring about change, change for the better. For instance, say you’re leading a team at work and one of the team members seems disengaged in meetings and is missing deadlines and deliverables. Do you immediately blame the individual or ignore the situation, hoping it’ll improve on its own? Or, as a responsible team lead, do you have a private conversation with him to share your observations and find out if there are legitimate reasons for the lack of engagement and poor follow-through?
Most importantly, when you’re taking responsibility you take action and you own the outcome of that action (your choice or decision). Refusing to take responsibility by blaming others or the circumstances for your situation gives away your power. You ultimately are denying your ability to respond – to take action to change the circumstance for the better. It’s the law of cause and effect. You take action, create the cause, watch the effect and take responsibility for the outcome – good or not so good. In the earlier example, the responsible team lead took the action to have a private conversation to find out if there are legitimate reasons for the lack of engagement and poor follow-through. The outcome could be a turnaround in behavior and results just from that simple conversation. Or it could be continued problems with this person. Either way, a leader takes responsibility for both actions and outcomes, owns that outcome and may have to take additional actions if the situation does not improve.
Leadership, not victim-hood
Imagine if this leader never addressed the issue, and this situation jeopardized the entire project getting done on time and on budget, not to mention the poor morale from the other team members. These types of choices happen in our personal lives too. The choice to be proactive and empowered and take responsibility or do the opposite: be the recipient of things “happening to you”. Victims avoid taking responsibility; they feel powerless to effect change and so they don’t take any action. They may complain about the pain and suffering it’s causing them, and you might hear them say “why is this happening to me?” or “it’s just not fair”. Ultimately, they wait for someone else to fix the problem. This victim-hood has some benefits, like getting sympathy or attention from others, but long-term it can have a negative impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, your peace of mind, and your overall fulfillment in your career and life.
Why you feel good when you take responsibility
The empowering nature of responsibility amplifies feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment. The feel-good chemicals and reactions in our body go off when we stand in our power, for our own benefit and especially for the benefit of others. By taking responsibility, we build trust and confidence in what we can do. And helping others just feels good, plus it strengthens the trust and relationships we have with them. Even if you don’t get the result you wanted, you still feel good knowing you tried your best in the action you took. As the saying goes, “it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all”.
Act with intention: Take responsibility
Here’s a great exercise to help you nurture more responsibility in your career and in your life. Step 1: Pay specific attention to your language and behavior during challenging situations. Become aware of any blaming or complaining language or behaviors you exhibit throughout the day. Do you say things like “someone should fix this”, or “why is this happening to me?” Are you reactive or defensive a lot? Do you find fault in others or whenever something goes wrong do you immediately shout “it’s not my fault” or ask “whose fault is this”? Jot it down when you hear it or make a mental note. Step 2: Next, begin to change the language or behavior as it’s happening or immediately afterwards. When you hear yourself saying “why is this happening to me?”, change it to “What can I learn from this?” or “How is this challenge causing me to grow and expand?”. Come from a place and attitude of growth, learning, expansion and responsiveness. Other healthy responses are “what do I want as on outcome out of this?” or “what can I do to positively change this?” These statements and new behaviors will build your personal empowerment and responsibility. It’s best to use your energy productively and responsibly. Remember the law of cause and effect and take action, observe the effect, take responsibility (own the outcome) and adjust your actions going forward to bring about your desired results in your career and in your life. Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash
You know what you want in your career and in each of the important areas of your life (finances, health, relationship, spirituality, etc.), yet you’re not seeing the desired results. Are you getting in your own way? If so, get out of your own way and get things done.
Does this sound familiar: “I set a goal on January 1, here we are halfway through the year and I’m no closer to achieving it.”
How do you get in your own way? This could be an extensive list, but to keep it short I’ll focus on two areas: 1. Energy drains and 2. Unmet or unacknowledged needs
One way you get in your own way of getting things done is by not managing your energy drains. Energy drains are the little or big things that tax your attention and energy.
They slow down your progress and prevent you from achieving your goals. Read more about what could be draining your energy and what to do about it here.
Unmet or Unacknowledged Needs
We all have needs and its okay to have them. Needs are a normal part of being human. It’s important to recognize if you’re not meeting those needs in a healthy or satisfying way, or you’re not even acknowledging them. You’re slowing down or stopping important things from getting done.
You’ve most likely learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology class. It’s a five tiered hierarchy that’s typically shown as a pyramid. that suggests people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced psychological and self-fulfillment needs.
It’s helpful because it illustrates the various types of needs and reminds us that all humans have needs. It also stresses the importance of self-actualization needs at the top of the pyramid.
It includes physiological needs like food, water and sleep followed by safety and security needs like health and wellness, or a safe place to live. Social needs like family, romantic partner, and community come next, followed by esteem needs like appreciation and respect from others. Last are the self-actualization needs which are growing and developing to achieve your highest potential.
What are your needs?
Use these categories in the Maslow’s Hierarchy to think about and identify your needs. How are you meeting these needs? Can you find healthier ways to satisfy them? Are there any needs that you’re not fulfilling? Do you think it’s not okay to have these needs?
An example that comes to mind is the typical caretaker who puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own. My mother would work all day, and then go visit each of her parents (one lived at home, one was in a nursing home in another town) every evening after work and on the weekends.
On her way home she would do grocery shopping or pick up dinner for her husband and kids. She pushed her needs aside while everyone else’s needs were the priority.
Like my mother, many of us learn to pretend like we have it all together and can handle it all without help from anyone. Unfortunately, that’s how we get in our own way and prevent or delay the achievement of our biggest dreams and goals.
Another example is the person who hears they shouldn’t be boastful or act too proud as a child. Her needs for recognition and being valued are not satisfied. goes unmet as her achievements are not acknowledged.
Now as an adult, she’s often frustrated and feels disappointed when her efforts are not recognized at work. She feels incomplete and sometimes communicates all that she has done to anyone that will listen.
Oftentimes, this comes across as attention seeking or boasting by her colleagues and supervisor. She really wanted acknowledgement, but this isn’t the healthiest way to satisfy that need. She could find a healthier way.
Act with Intention: Take these steps now
First off, acknowledge that all humans have needs and its okay for you to have needs.
Then think about your needs and write down your top 3 needs right now. To help you create your list, review these categories of needs: security and certainty (safety and stability), significance (power, achievement and influence), love and connection (relationships, being listened to and connected to something greater than yourself/spiritual), and growth (learning, development and creativity).
Ask yourself for each of these 3 top needs, how are you meeting them?
Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way? What unhealthy ways are you going to let go of right now? What healthy ways of meeting those same needs are you going to create instead, not only in your career but in your life?
For example, let’s say one of your top needs is to feel safe and secure. Last year you earned a promotion at work and have an exciting and fulfilling new organization to lead. You felt secure in your role.
This year, because of outside circumstances everything is uncertain, especially your role. You put in even more hours and you’re working holidays and most weekends to feel secure in your position, putting your health and relationships at risk.
Perhaps a healthier way to fulfill your need for safety and security is to fulfill it outside of work since you don’t have direct control over the current work environment.
You can satisfy that need in your home environment or with your relationships. You can spend more quality time and get a sense of security and safety from those close beneficial connections you have with your family and friends. Experiencing their unconditional support for you and knowing they are there for you when you need them helps you feel safe and secure.
Remember, we all have needs and it’s critical for you to meet these needs in order to have a fulfilling career and life. So get out of your own way and get things done in healthier and more satisfying ways.
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
Is the passion gone in your career? Are you increasingly dissatisfied, unfulfilled or bored in your current role?
Everyone looks for work satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness in their own way. You may find a deep sense of serving and building close relationships with your clients or coworkers very fulfilling. Others may find the ability to be creative and generate new ideas is what lights them up at work.
For me, I love helping others achieve their goals and dreams. In my Human Resources career, that was the most fulfilling part.
Helping executives create a strategy and plan for their employees’ growth and development was my favorite part of HR. In a matter of months, this intentional and focused effort provided impressive results for employees: promotions, growth opportunities and improved career satisfaction, and much more.
Unfortunately, with new leadership things changed. Growth and development was no longer prioritized nor valued. I personally felt the passion disappear in my career.
Now as a coach the passion is back. I get to do what I love 100% percent of the time.
Benefits of passion in your work
There are numerous benefits for having passion in the work you do.
Passion brings energy to your work: you wake up in the morning, more energized and refreshed knowing you get to go in and spend time doing what you love. The energy supports getting tasks done on time, even over delivering on your promised results.
Passion in your work also keeps you motivated. You’re willing to put in extra effort and hours but it doesn’t feel overwhelming. The time flies by because you’re enjoying what you do.
You’re more engaged, creative, focused and since you love what you do you’re producing high-quality work and it shows.
You have a clear purpose and vision for what you do and where you’re heading.
Reasons why the passion is gone
I’ve experienced many of the following situations personally in my corporate career, and while working in Human Resources witnessed all of them play out throughout the organizations where I worked.
In most cases, the company would lose excellent employees who were no longer willing to accept these situations. In other cases, I saw employees remain in their jobs but become increasingly disengaged (employee engagement scores plummeted) because they felt powerless to improve their situation.
One reason leading to dissatisfaction in your career is being underpaid and overworked. That builds resentment and a feeling of not being valued. Even if you’re paid well, maybe you’re not valued as a person or the work you do isn’t valued in other ways.
Toxic work environments may be a cause for losing the passion in your career. Does your employer disregard your personal life and have no tolerance for your personal and family obligations?
Perhaps your immediate supervisor is unqualified for their job, or they have a tyrant workstyle. You have to watch every word you say and every move you make because there’s no support from that supervisor or others, and you can get fired for almost any reason. Regardless of how much you love your work, the toxic work environment is exhausting.
Having no visibility into the future at your organization or no confidence that your leaders will do the right thing, either from a business standpoint or ethically, can also lead to dissatisfaction.
And lastly, politics in your workplace and getting tired of dealing with it, is another reason people lose their passion for the work they once had. I heard it a lot “why can’t I just focus on the work without all these political distractions?”
Many of these reasons could be workplace specific, and people will leave their current employer having learned what they won’t tolerate. They could potentially find a better match and the passion returns.
Others may continue to feel “bored” after years of doing the same type of work. You may be achieving your business goals but is it truly satisfying work?
You may feel that something is missing from your life. That you’re just going through the motions at work without experiencing any real satisfaction from the successes you’re achieving.
Remember, your job doesn’t have to last forever. The days of working for one employer for 30+ years are long gone.
If you find yourself bored or miserable at work, even if it’s work you’re passionate about, a change of job or of profession, might be the solution for you.
However, it’s not always feasible to change your job, quit to start your own business or move somewhere new, even if your situation is undesirable. These are major changes that not everyone is up for.
Alternatively, you can stay in that same job, and do some work to attempt to improve things, starting with what your work means to you.
Look for the deeper meaning
Being passionate about work doesn’t necessarily mean it makes you happy but rather that it is meaningful.
If the passion in your career is dwindling, look for the deeper meaning in what you do.
Why do you do what you do? How did you initially get into your current profession? Why is your work important to your organization and to others? How does your work affect you and affect others?
Answering questions like these will give you a better understanding of the meaning behind your work.
Act with intention: steps to take now
In addition to answering questions like those above, you can go deeper with answering additional questions like:
- What’s your favorite part of your work day, work week and work year?
- What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in last week?
- What’s amazing about your team? About your coworkers? About your supervisor?
- How can the tasks you do become more meaningful?
- How can you change things so you get more of what’s important to you?
Then make small adjustments so that your work more directly reflects your beliefs, values and needs. You can also change the way you think about different aspects of your job to bring more fulfillment and satisfaction back.
This deeper self-reflection can be done on your own or you may find working with a coach a more effective process. A coach can help you find the bright spots in your work life and enlarge them. Together you’ll create more fulfillment by giving a deeper meaning to your projects, teams, work relationships and even the organization.
When you create a purposeful meaning for your work, you’ll find more happiness in your day to day activities as well as a greater satisfaction in your life overall.
Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash
A fear mindset could be the main cause of your stress
Your mindset is how you think and what you believe about yourself and your environment. It plays a critical role in how you cope with life’s challenges.
What you think determines what you believe, and what you believe influences what you experience in life. Thoughts shape your reality.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu wrote: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
If a majority of your thoughts are fear-based, you’ve got a fear mindset. It could be thoughts and even statements (your words) about fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear that you’re not enough.
This fear mindset saps your energy. It keeps you in the predictable and comfortable, preventing you from challenging yourself to achieve your full potential.
Fear is a normal emotion and has its function. It serves as your natural response to possible threats to your physical or emotional safety.
Unfortunately, in our modern world this response can be misused, overused or chronic. (See my previous blog called Letting Go of Fear.)
Too much fear causes stress. A fear mindset is contracting, and exemplified in chronic tension, struggle and hardship. This unhelpful energy is energy you could be investing in growth, in achieving your dreams and desires.
People often give up on what they want because they believe that reaching their goal is beyond their abilities. They continue living in fear and settle into their lives, thinking they shouldn’t try at all.
Fear is part of the fixed mindset
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, writes about the power of mindset. She states that success is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be learned and developed. Fear is part of this fixed mindset.
The most successful people have a growth mindset. They don’t freeze up or flee when fear shows up, they embrace it and leverage that fear into taking action. When faced with a setback, they try harder.
They keeping looking for solutions and trying new strategies. They adapt and grow.
What mindset do you have?
What are your predominant thoughts and actions? If they seem fear-based or fixed, there’s no need to worry. The best part about your mindset is that you can change it.
You can move from a fixed, fear mindset to a love-based, trust-based, growth mindset where you’re more likely to flourish. Trust and love drives out fear. They can’t exist at the same time.
Intentionally Expand and Grow – Take Action
Use one or more of these techniques to move from a fear mindset that’s causing your stress to a new mindset of trust and growth.
1. Watch your thoughts.
First off, pay attention to your thoughts and the words you use. Are you frequently telling yourself fearful or limiting things? Things like: “I’ll never be able to get that promotion, I’m not experienced enough.”; “I’m not smart enough to lead this project”; “What if I fail – will they fire me?”
2. Choose to adopt a new mindset. Change your limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Start by challenging your thoughts the next time you don’t do well on a task. For example, if your presentation at work didn’t go well, and you hear yourself thinking “I never do anything right”, “I’m not good at my job”, or “I’m such a failure”, stop and ask some prodding questions.
What is the evidence for and against your conclusion? You can create a list of all the times your presentations were successful and when you were great at your job in the past.
You could think of reasons why it didn’t go so well this time, rather than concluding you’re a failure. Did you get enough quality sleep?; did you plan and prepare enough?; are there other things going on in your life right now causing you to be off your game?
Answering these questions leads to the new mindset. Figure out what new beliefs are more supportive and adopt those beliefs. Your internal dialogue of “I’m such a failure” can change to “If I’m prepared and feeling well physically and emotionally, I’ll always succeed.”
Keep in mind, these new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.
3. See everything as an opportunity to grow and develop.
Another way to change your mindset is to see every situation and person you encounter as an opportunity for expansion and development. When challenging events happen, ask yourself: “How is this calling me to expand and grow?”, “What am I learning?”, or “How can I improve?”
This strategy works well if you have a demanding or controlling leader at work. You can switch the focus of being judged or criticized to how this is calling you to develop.
It could be as simple as witnessing their behavior and realizing you never want to treat others that way, or maybe it’s a challenge about developing a relationship with a difficult personality.
If you stay in a fear mindset, the stress of living every day in fear of disapproval or of doing something wrong can become toxic. You may become paralyzed from moving forward in attempt to protect yourself.
Changing your mindset to embrace the challenge and grow allows you to take back control in what feels like a powerless situation and live up to your potential.
4. Use the word yet
Adding yet to your inner dialogue may be enough to change your beliefs about yourself and what you’re able to do. It helps with motivation too.
You can change:
- “I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this yet”;
- “I’m not good at this” to “I’m not good at this yet”;
- “This doesn’t work” to “This doesn’t work yet”.
One last thing. Make sure after you change your thoughts you step into those new beliefs. Take an action step in that direction to support the new thought.
Changing the fear mindset that’s causing your stress will change your outcome and results. With a new mindset, you can transform your life and the lives of others.
Photo by Bram on Unsplash
Having a clear life purpose and vision is vital for your happiness.
Many people, especially in the U.S., believe the only way to have what you want is to work hard and long. And that having what you want will bring you happiness.
I was under that misguided belief during my corporate career. Overworking, that led to chronic stress, was one of the main reasons that led to my health crisis and eventual change of careers (read more about that here).
Now as a coach and business owner, I still occasionally struggle with letting these limiting thoughts go. Thoughts like “Work is a priority above all other things”, “You’ll be seen as lazy and average if you don’t put in at least 8-10 hours a day”, or “You can’t be successful doing what you love, that’s what hobbies are for.”
So how do you work smarter, not harder? Or love what you do so much that it doesn’t feel like work?
What do you do when things have changed, due to a job loss or health issue, that make the old way of living no longer possible? Or when there is a disconnect between the work role or personal role you fill and what you really desire for yourself?
You start with getting crystal clear about your purpose.
I’m a firm believer that everyone can benefit from life purpose work if you’re open to it and want to discover who you are at a deep level.
Your Life Purpose
Doing fulfilling work is a pipe dream for many people. It doesn’t have to be.
Purpose is intention. It’s defined as something set up with an end to be attained. Doing things on purpose is doing them intentionally. Life gets so much easier when you live on-purpose, doing things intentionally.
Wayne Dyer said it best: “When you stay on purpose and refuse to be discouraged by fear, you align with the infinite self, in which all possibilities exist.”
Your life purpose is your calling. It’s the reason that gives meaning to your life. An example is the nurse whose life purpose is to work generously and live in service to care for the health and wellbeing of others.
Discovering your life purpose focuses the attention on “be-ing” who you are. When you focus on “be-ing”, you do what you want and you get what you need.
Your Vision and Mission
Don’t confuse your life purpose with your vision or mission.
Your vision is a specific, compelling image of the future that you hold for your life.
Once you have determined your purpose, a vision gives context to your purpose and aligns you to that future state. Our nurse’s vision is that all people in need are able to receive high quality medical care.
Your mission is the particular way you choose to fulfill your purpose at a specific point in your life. Continuing with our nurse example, her mission as she approaches retirement is to create a non-profit organization so that nurses and other medical personnel are able to visit poor rural communities and provide healthcare to those in need.
The Benefits of Life Purpose Work
Life purpose has been an interesting and popular topic for years. Perhaps you’ve read the best seller The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren or some other book about life purpose, mission statements or personal fulfillment.
Each of us has a unique life purpose. When you know your purpose, you have stability and security in that knowledge. It brings a sense of peace.
Once you determine your life purpose, you have a clear direction to take when deciding on what actions to take. Your life purpose guides you and keeps you on course.
It also provides a sense of confidence in knowing you’re doing what’s right and best for you. Having a clear life purpose minimizes confusion about your motives and what things mean to you.
Your life has more meaning when you’re “be-ing” on purpose.
Your Next Step: Take Intentional Action
There’s a desire for more self-reflection and life purpose work when you reach a certain age, life stage or if you’re in the midst of a life transition. Major events in your life could include job loss, divorce, 15-20 years in your career, empty nest/children have left, death of a loved one, or approaching retirement.
You may be experiencing one or more of these, and the desire for clarity and purpose is growing for you.
Keep in mind, it’s not easy to discover your purpose and vision when your life is busy. This is deep work; it’s a process of getting to know yourself fully.
You’ll have to carve out the time and effort this will require. Get in a quiet place where you’ll be able to do the deep self-reflection this requires.
1. Start with discovering your life purpose. Work with a coach or do some self-study to determine what it is.
This can be done by examining your past experiences, like listing out the roles you’ve found most fulfilling in your life. Or talking about some of the things you’ve always loved doing throughout your life.
2. Then, go a step further and examine those answers to find bigger themes, commonalities, repetitive words and key phrases.
3. Next, create your own unique life purpose statement using those key words and phrases.
4. Lastly, confirm your purpose. Does it resonate with how you see yourself and your vision? Do you feel happy and excited when you review it? Do you feel connected to it at a deep level and have a desire to fulfill it?
Your life purpose statement could take weeks or months of reviewing and refining. If working with a coach, it could take up to 3 or more sessions of working deeply together.
Once you have it, remember it’s for your own personal use. It’s a tool to inspire and guide you. To be on-purpose. To live on-purpose. You don’t need to share your life purpose statement with anyone else.
Enjoy the process of discovering your life purpose and once you have it, you can create your vision and mission next.
Photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash
Have you ever thought about what’s draining your energy and what to do about it?
In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, we react to things and don’t realize the negative impact until later. These energy drains can lead to all sorts of issues and keep you from a satisfying career and happy life.
You’re probably familiar with the typical energy drains: not enough sleep, not drinking enough water, little to no physical activity, too much TV or social media, not eating well. In addition, you may be struggling with habits, coping mechanisms, and other situations that have an impact on your energy levels and wellbeing.
When I worked in corporate, the pressure to perform was extreme and unfair. There was a lot of complaining and working in HR, I heard it from all directions. There wasn’t time to take a breath, step back and act with intention. Things felt out of control. Add in office politics, power plays and changing priorities, along with the latest fire to put out, it was the definition of an energy drain on steroids.
These perfect-storm situations suck the life out of you, are unproductive, and at times physically and mentally debilitating. It crushes your spirit, and your happiness.
The Little Things That Drain Your Energy
The little things that drain your energy are the things you just handle. They seem insignificant, or not worth giving much thought. Unfortunately, they add up over time.
You ignore them, or think they’ll get better on their own without making any kind of focused effort toward making it better. Typically, you don’t act until it gets so bad that you can’t stand it anymore.
For example, let’s say you have a messy desk, and your desktop and folders on your PC are disorganized too. These are the little things that keep you from finding things easily. When you have to spend extra time to find something, you get frustrated. Your work and how effective you are suffers as a result.
Other little things that drain your energy are unfinished work items like a project that you push aside for more urgent matters.
Unmade decisions, like hiring a new team member or buying a new mobile phone, pick away at your vitality too. Every time you think about how you haven’t made that decision, it robs you of your energy.
Clutter, in all its forms, drains your energy too. It could be a garage overflowing with unnecessary things you’ll never use again or the clutter in your head as you worry about things outside of your control.
One last thing that you might not realize is an energy drain is a toxic relationship you tolerate. These are the one-sided friendships or the negative friends that leave you drained after spending any amount of time with them.
Let’s say you plan to have an enjoyable lunch with a friend, and the entire conversation is all about her and her problems, all the negative things in the world and a rant about politics.
When you finally get a chance to share about you she’s on her phone or has to leave. It’s exhausting. These types of relationships are energy vampires – they suck all the life out of you and you leave feeling tired, numb and upset.
The Big Things That Drain Your Energy
The big things that drain your energy are the things you know are diminishing the quality of your life. You may accept them as normal, as I did when I brought work home to do in the evenings and weekends. Or tolerating a toxic work environment as if all companies would be the same.
These big things may stem from a habitual pattern you have, like taking things personally when they have nothing to do with you. That in turn leads to hurt feelings and strained relationships.
They may be the things you don’t know how to effectively deal with, like a demanding boss, a challenging relationship with your child or an aging parent who needs more time than you can give them. All draining your energy.
Remember that life is a journey and it’s meant to have positive and negative aspects. You don’t need to create suffering, there will be plenty of it naturally.
Your goal with small and big energy drains is to acknowledge they exist, accept what they’re costing you and then move beyond them.
Here’s a 3 step process to intentionally address how to do this.
Take Intentional Action
1. Make a short list of the energy drains, or obstacles, getting in your way of being satisfied and happy – include 5 from work and 5 from home.
2. Next, ask yourself what each of these items is costing you and write that down. It could be loss of time, exhaustion, inconvenience, frustration, loss of health or wellbeing, strained relationships, or missed opportunities.
For example, your closet is a disaster and every morning it takes way too long to find the clothes you want to wear, usually making you late and frustrated (cost = frustration, being late, anger).
Or you haven’t decided to start looking for another job yet despite thinking about it for months given the current climate at your workplace. It’s causing you stress every time you think about it or when you see colleagues taking action to benefit their careers. The cost here is the negative impact of stress on your health and wellbeing, plus loss of quality sleep since it’s been keeping you up at night too.
3. Lastly, find ways to eliminate, minimize or manage these obstacles. Start off with an easy one, like plan two hours to clean out and organize your closet or garage this weekend. Or commit to updating your resume one evening this week. Click here for help with getting organized.
Delegation works well too. If your energy drain is finding the time to keep a clean home, delegate it by hiring someone else to clean it.
Some of these obstacles could be intentionally delayed. For example, if you need to buy a new computer you can put a day in your calendar for three weeks from now to start the research and shopping, when you’ll have more free time on the weekends.
When you eliminate an obstacle, you’ll feel like a weight’s been lifted when you make that decision. It could be as simple as refusing to spend time with any energy vampires or others that don’t treat you well. Or deciding to not participate in any workplace gossip or drama is another empowering and energizing step.
Keep working your list until you’ve moved beyond all your obstacles that are draining your energy. At any point in the future, redo this process to ensure you’re keeping your energy and wellbeing at optimal levels.
Photo by Twins Fisch on Unsplash