strong-womenIt’s been so long since I posted, I feel like I’m starting from scratch.  The difference now, of course, is that I’m not starting from scratch.  There are 405 of these little nuggets (405!), so I have a little practice.  I just need to dust off those skills and get at it again.

The same can be said for many things in our lives and, in particular, our careers.  It’s been a long time since I was in retail sales, but I bet I could get the swing of it again if I wanted to.  I’m not directly managing anyone now and I hope that’s not a skill I’ll lose as I teach and coach.  I used to cross country ski and eventually I’ll strap on skis again… and it won’t be like the first time.  There’s a reason that the expression, “It’s like riding a bike,” is something that is often said.  We remember, even if we don’t remember that we remember.

Re-engaging is one of the few times when looking back at the past can be helpful.  Think you can’t write a blog post?  Well, have you done it before?  You can do it again.

What challenge has you squirming?  Chances are that at least a portion of the challenge is something you’ve done before.  You’ve presented.  You’ve moved.  You’ve aced an exam. You’ve learned something new.  You’ve made it through a tough interview.  You’ve stated a new job.

You’ve got this.

Coaching Challenge: Learning

I once heard a conference speaker say that as a manager he would pay for any sort of learning one of his employees wanted to pursue.  Often learning something in one area provides inspiration and insight to us in another.  He knew this.

Whether intentional or as a by-product of a life event, learning is foundational to growth and development.  If you can’t think of a few things you’ve learned over the past couple of days, it’s probably time to pay more attention.  Be more deliberate.

Here we go….

  • Is there something that you want to learn and haven’t yet?  What’s holding you back?  Make a plan to move toward the goal by figuring out whether it’s time, money, or some other commitment needed.  Find what it will take for you to execute and make a plan to get it done.
  • Next time you participate in an activity that isn’t what you usually do, take a few moments following the event and think about what it taught you.  What did you learn about yourself?  About your relationship with the individuals around you?
  • Pull an unread non-fiction book off your bookshelf and read it.  Read them all?  Buy a new one and read it.
  • We learn so much when we teach others.  What do you know that you can pass on?  What would you like to learn more about so that information can be shared?  Like the actions in the first bullet, make a plan to make it happen.

Finally, enjoy the process.  It’s not usually fun when we feel forced to learn something.  When a new topic or idea can be approached with a sense of curiosity and adventure, it’s then that we’re able to learn the most.

Coaching: Execution

We can plan and dream all we want; however, until we actually begin to DO something, that’s all that will remain – plans and dreams.  Without execution, our plans and dreams will never become reality.

What have you been putting off?  What dream seems too big to move toward?  Or too small to bother with?  Pick a plan or a dream that has been hanging out there and keep it in mind as you plan to take action.

Ready to create a little momentum?

Here we go….

What one thing can you do to move closer to your goal?  Usually this first action is small – though it may not be.

Write it down.

As you consider this first step, what must you do to make it happen?  Is there a person you need to engage?  Time that should be set aside?  Additional information needed? Considering this, does your description of your action change?

Modify this first step so it is very specifically what you need to do to move forward.  Call so-and-so.  Set aside 30 minutes next week to do X.  Spend 60 minutes researching topic A.  Get to the nuts-and-bolts of what movement toward your goal means.

Now, write down the outcome you expect to achieve from your action.  This is the meat of what will move you toward your goal and it will help you gain momentum, giving you motivation to move to the next step.

Got it?  Once you realize that outcome, what will you do next?  Take this information and define the next action after that.  And the one after that.  Make a plan to keep executing.

Before you know it, your dream will be in reach.

It’s all about execution.

Time To Execute

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. ~Colin Powell

Oh, yes.  We must work to achieve our dreams.  We must execute.

Have you worked in an environment that lacked execution?  A place where a lot of talking without a lot of action was the norm?  A friend of mine recently moved on to a new employer because of the lack of execution at his company.  For those of us with a propensity to action, lack of execution can be excruciating.

That said, from time to time we all fail to execute, do we not?  Procrastination is tempting when action is difficult, unpopular or boring.

In Creating a Charmed Life, author Victoria Moran reminds us to “take the next action life presents.”  This comes from the chapter Do the Next Indicated Thing – a mantra I recite when I simply don’t feel like executing.  Often, that next indicated thing is something small: wash your face before you go to bed; gather the ATM receipts before you go to the bank; plan this week’s meals before going grocery shopping; create an agenda before running a meeting.  These are the small steps taken to move toward goals.  Steps to move toward checking items off our to-do list.

It’s Monday and a perfect time to plan your execution strategy for the week.  What have you been putting off?

It’s time to execute.

Coaching Challenge: Dreaming

It was a short week for blog posts so today’s coaching challenge will be short, too.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging, though!

Here we go….

  • Identify a few of your little dreams that you’ve been pushing aside because they seem insignificant.  Or at least not important enough to prioritize.  Now, prioritize them.  Set some time aside in the next week to get one or two of these done.  And then, enjoy accomplishing your little dream.
  • Create a bucket list.  If you have one, update it.  Put it up in your office or cubical.  Prioritize the items.  Pick one to shoot for in the next year.
  • Ask someone else what is on his or her bucket list.  You’ll have a fun conversation.  I promise.

Whether you’re dreaming of something to do three years from now or next week, dreaming, like setting goals, gives us a sense of direction and purpose.  Move toward your dreams, both big and small.

Bucket List Dreams

When I have the opportunity to speak on goal-setting, I always begin with a “Bucket List” exercise.  These dreams are long-term goals in disguise, which is why I start here.

Usually only about half the participants have thought about what they want to do, where they want to go, or things they want to acquire before they kick the proverbial bucket.  Regardless, every group dives in with amazing energy as they discuss, share, and compare their dreams.

There are always wannabe skydivers, fiscally responsible debt-payers, and sightseers to every corner of the planet.  There are also unique dreams which surface, too.  Either way, I’ve never seen anyone embarrassed by these dreams, common or not.  Instead, as ideas are shared everyone is challenged to grow their own list further.

Perhaps it’s a silly exercise.  After all, most of us will likely only be able to complete a portion of our list.  On the other hand, I’d rather have something to dream about; something to remind myself that I’m doing what I’m doing today so that I can fulfill a dream tomorrow.

Yes, some dreams are small.  But it’s fun to dream some big, bold dreams as well.

Checking an item off my bucket list in a hot air balloon over Sedona, AZ.

Coaching: Following

Perhaps this week is the first time you’ve given any thought to being an exceptional follower.  With all the focus on leadership, it’s no wonder so few of us have spent much time thinking through our followership skills.  Today, let’s change that by asking ourselves how we can all be better followers.

Here we go….

Yes, you may be a leader.  However, you are also a follower, too.  Take a moment to identify areas where you are a follower.  If not at work, maybe it’s at a charity where you volunteer or a special project you’re working on with others.

How well do you play the role of Follower?  What can you do to listen and trust the leaders in your life?  How can you better support them?  What do they need from you to better lead?

Thinking about the next followership opportunity that comes your way, what can you do to be a great follower from the beginning?  What will it take for you to get on board quickly and take direction when needed?

Most importantly, what reminder can you put in place to keep yourself from focusing on what the leader could do better and instead focus on what you can do to help him or her lead better?

We are all followers at some point or another so we may as well be awesome followers!

Coaching: Expectations

Regardless of whether we set our own expectations or someone else sets them for us, the expectations placed upon us can either motivate or discourage us.  It depends on whether we meet them or not, right?!  When thinking about the expectations you have for your career, your relationships, or other areas of your life, keep in mind that the source and the essence of these expectations plays a role in how you feel about your success.  With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper.

Here we go….

Where do your expectations come from?  Have you set them yourself or have you accepted them from someone else?

First, think about those you have set for yourself.  How realistic are they?  Are they a source of motivation or do you use them to beat yourself up?  What would a motivating expectation look like for you?  How can you rewrite your own expectations so that you aren’t letting yourself down?

And for those expectations that have been given to you, have you accepted them freely or are they being imposed on you?  Those being imposed by someone other than your employer should be accepted or let go.  For those being accepted by you, how can you make them your own?  This will help make them motivators for you.

Finally, examine your relationships and be sure that you aren’t imposing your own expectations on someone else unnecessarily.  Your relationship will benefit from it.

I expect to take a long, relaxing weekend.  I hope you do as well!  Enjoy every last moment of summer.

High Expectations

The expectations we set for ourselves can be more unforgiving that those others set for us.  Oftentimes this can be good for us as we push ourselves further in our careers, exercise routines or other competitive situations.

This is true for me as well.  Regardless of what sort of personality assessment I take, if there’s a measurement for “competitive,” it’s usually off the charts.  The thing that’s interesting is that when people find this out about me they are usually surprised.

This is likely because my competitiveness doesn’t always show.  If you and I were in a race or working together or playing a game, I would likely not be competing with you.  I’m competing with myself.  I’m constantly comparing the success I have now to successes in my past in just about everything I do.

Why am I telling you this?

How this translates is that my expectations for myself get higher and higher (at least that’s the goal!) and subsequently I am harder and harder on myself regarding the level of success I should achieve.  And that can be incredibly difficult to maintain.

It doesn’t matter if I’m canning vegetables, getting a review score, or playing Solitaire on my phone, I want every batch, every review, every game to be better than the one before.  That can be pretty exhausting.

The good news is that I know this about myself.  Intellectually I know that every outcome can’t be better than the last.  I’m able to remind myself of this when my expectations aren’t met which helps me move on to the next goal.

So set those expectations high but remember that there’s likely a point where achieving better results every time simply isn’t possible.  When you miss the high bar that you set, recall your long-term ambitions and remember that over time you are improving as you continue to set high expectations for yourself.

Coaching Challenge: Sharpen The Saw

According to Stephen Covey, sharpening the saw is what we do to renew ourselves – our resources, energy and health.  Many years ago when I had a Covey planner, there was a place to note what had been done each day to sharpen the saw.  Every day!  Do you do something to renew yourself each and every day?  No?  Me either.

Perhaps it will be enough to engage in personal renewal once a week at first, then expand as these new exercises become habit.  Today let’s focus on a few ideas to sharpen our proverbial saws.

Here we go….

  • Physical renewal: If exercise still seems like something that you simply can’t make time for, begin with taking 10,000 steps a day.  Pedometers are inexpensive and easy to conceal.  Instead of sitting while you take a call, pace.  While waiting for your kid to finish music lessons, walk.  Take an oath to move instead of sit.
  • Mental Renewal
    • For those readers of faith, prayer can be a time for mental and spiritual renewal.  Meditation and yoga can provide the same benefits.  In Creating a Charmed Life, Victoria Moran advocates “taking ten” each day, stating that “the surest way to access [your] energy… is through silence, through taking a specified amount of time each day for mediation, prayer, journal writing, or inspirational reading.” Later she continues, “Even if your busyness tells you that you can’t afford to take quiet time, know that you can’t afford not to.”
    • In addition to prayer and meditation, reading revives us mentally as well.  Finish up those books you started.  Go grab or download that book that’s been on your reading list for far too long.  Subscribe to a magazine that has to do with your industry or business.  Read them.
  • Spiritual Renewal: As you’ve seen here more than once before, the authors of Creating Your Best Life tell us that “researchers who studied adult men in Michigan found that those who volunteered their time, money, and energy felt happier than—and also outlived—their less altruistic peers.”  Give of your time and you receive benefits beyond what you would ever imagine.

Maybe you truly can’t find time to sharpen your saw every day.  But every day that you can will be a day that you will be more effective in all that you do.

What’s Your Hobby?

Turns out that the topic for this week ties into the ideas of Stephen Covey discussed here yesterday.  The last few days have been dedicated to sharpening the saw, so to speak.  How so?  Through a hobby I have.

As Covey reminded us in his work, “sharpening the saw” is when we take the time to balance and renew our resources, energy, and health to “create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to the society for spiritual renewal.” (Wikipedia)

It’s amazing how a hobby can take away the worries of the day, bring on a challenge, and provide new learning.  Oftentimes hobbies are purposeful as we create a tangible outcome – like jars of pickles, a renewed chair, or a beautiful photo album – or meet a particular goal – like finish a marathon, complete a kayaking journey, or summit a new peak.  This sense of purpose brings meaning to our lives and enriches us.

Unfortunately, hobbies find their way to the bottom or our priority list too often.  These activities can seem frivolous, even selfish.  They are, however, important to our self-development, to our learning more about ourselves, and to ensure that our lives are multi-dimensional.  We are more than our work.  We are more than our family.  Our lives are a tapestry woven with many different threads, and our hobbies provide some of the brighter strands.

While I committed a crazy amount of time to my hobby this week, I will reap benefits from this commitment for months to come.  I learned a few new things and enjoy looking at – and consuming – the outcome of my efforts.

Been a while since you spent time on your favorite hobby?  I leave you with these words from Dale Carnegie:

Today is life – the only life you are sure of.  Make the most of today.  Get interested in something.  Shake yourself awake.  Develop a hobby.  Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.  Live today with gusto.

Be A Mentor

We all have knowledge that we can share with others.

It’s pretty common for managers to suggest finding a mentor.  Many books and leaders extol the benefits of having a mentor as well.  It should seem pretty obvious, but for all of us to have mentors, we all have to be mentors as well.

You’ve been out there a while now.  What do you know that you can share?  What advice can you give?  How can you help someone else avoid some of the mistakes that you made?

I like to encourage people to take the initiative to become a mentor to someone else.  You might be surprised, but there are people out there who look up to you.  There are individuals who would be thrilled to spend time with you to learn about your business, your experience, and the path you took to get to where you are today.

Being in the Midwest, I understand that simply acknowledging that we have particular expertise or talent can be difficult.  It takes courage and a little bit of ego to put oneself out there like that.

That said, I can tell you from experience that each mentor learns from his or her mentee.  The relationship and benefit goes both ways.

If you are always the mentee and have yet to be the mentor now’s the time to think about what you have to offer to others and how to pass that information on to them.

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. ~Booker T. Washington

Pushing Through Fear

It’s true that in order to learn something about ourselves we oftentimes need to slow down, be quiet, and listen to our thoughts.  That said, sometimes being a part of a hair-raising adventure or achieving a sought-after goal will teach us something as well.  How will we know how far we can go if we don’t take life to the edge from time to time?

Not too long ago I was pretty freaked out by my treadmill.  I would walk on it but I couldn’t imagine running on it at all.  Now I can run on it because I pushed through that fear, first by jogging and then by running in short bursts to prove to myself that I could do it without flying off the back of the machine.  I guess I’d watched too many YouTube videos….

The first time I traveled to Europe I traveled alone, had messed up my reservations, and flew on the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  I was tired, a little worried, and expected London to feel like home (it doesn’t) so my nerves were pretty shot.  If I remember right, I think I may have even come home a day early once my work there was done.  It wasn’t a great first experience but I learned that I could do it.  And I knew the next time would be better.

A friend recently shared a picture of her young not-so-daring son with his hands triumphantly in the air as he came to the end of his first rollercoaster ride.  I’m sure he was terrified as he was strapped in, but now he knows that he can do it.  He learned that fear doesn’t have to hold him back.

Maybe you honestly don’t have time to be still, read a book, and be introspective.  Fine.  Instead, figure out what scary thing are you avoiding and then find a way to do it.  You’ll discover something about yourself that way, too.

Coaching: Diligence

A short but full week, the topic of being diligent isn’t exactly a fun one.  Diligence requires willpower, tenacity, and a continued inner strength.  Staying diligent can wear us down, of course; but the payoff will be sweet!

So let’s dive into how to be more diligent.  Grab a pen and paper so you can take notes, answer questions, and set a few goals around being more diligent.

Here we go….

Where have you lost your ambition for a goal?  How important is reaching that goal to you?  If it’s still important, what can you do to reignite your ambition and gain diligence while seeking the goal?  A few ideas:

  • Remind yourself what the long-term payoff will be; what the vision is that you are hoping to achieve.  Tie that short-term aspiration to your long-term goal.
  • What is it that you are moving toward?  If your goal is about moving away from something or some behavior, it’s more difficult to stay motivated.  Find a way to rewrite your goal so that it is about what you will do versus what you will not do.
  • Make it measureable.  You can’t achieve what you cannot measure.
  • Click on the “goal setting” tag on this blog and you’ll find many posts on how to set a better goal.  I guess it’s one of my favorite topics.

On the topic of maintenance, diligence can get a little harder.  After all, we’ve made it!  Time to relax a bit and enjoy, right?  Probably not.  The main thing here is to remember, again, the big picture.  Did you lose weight to gain it back?  Of course not.  Are you planning for this promotion to be your last one?  Probably not.  Whatever it is that you achieved, you had a long-term vision of what achieving that goal would do for you, what the payoff would be.  Remember that and you’ll (hopefully) be motivated to remain diligent.

Need a little more motivation?  Perseverance was one of the first topics for this blog.  A few of those past posts are: Persistant Puppy,
 Walt Disney’s Perseverance,
 A Little Nut, and
 Perseverance’s Parts.

Remain Diligent

Here’s the kicker… once diligence pays off and a goal is achieved we must still remain diligent.

Did you finally get the promotion you worked hard for?  You need to keep working hard.

Reach your target weight?  You must continue to eat well and exercise.

Save money so you can retire?  You have to manage that money well in retirement.

Close that deal with a hotly pursued client?  You’ll need to soon go after another.

Diligence is incredibly important to achieving goals.  In the same way, diligence is also required to maintain what we have worked so hard to achieve.  We can’t let up.  If we do we might slip back to where we were.

So don’t get comfortable and overconfident when you’ve reached your destination.  Enjoy that you’ve arrived and then figure out your plan to stay there.

Remain diligent.

Coaching Challenge: Preparation

This week’s coaching challenge comes a day early as I plan to enjoy a long weekend with family and friends for Easter.  Grab your pen and paper and get ready to think about what you are preparing for and why.

Here we go…

We’re all preparing for something, intentional or not.  Here are a few ideas about how to become more intentional about your preparations.

  • If you continue to sidestep preparations for something that you say is important to you, figure out why.  Perhaps you have conflicting goals, or maybe what you say you want isn’t really what you want.  Maybe it’s what is expected of you or it’s important to someone else.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Do you have something that you want excel at?  Set aside some time each day to focus on practice.
  • Let go of perfection.  I heard someone say this week that the pursuit of perfection destroys the good.  Accept that being prepared is what you are striving for, not perfection.

As you approach the long weekend, prepare to have a good time with friends and family.  Prepare to consume good food and drink.  Prepare to find time for rest and relaxation so next week is better because of it.  Prepare to smile and laugh a lot.

And then, enjoy!

Why Bother With Long-Term Goals?

When leading goal-setting workshops, I often begin with participants taking time to share their bucket lists with a partner and, if I can get them to do it, with the broader group.  Whether people have taken the time to really think about the things they want to accomplish before they “kick the bucket’ or not, everyone is able to come up with experiences, accomplishments or things that they want.  Why do I start here?  Because these are long-term goals and long-term goals have a lot of power.

How so?  I’m glad you asked.

First, knowing and acknowledging our long-term goals helps to guide our current activity and goal setting.  Identifying gaps between where you are today and what you hope to achieve can define what needs to be done to get there.  Have a dream to retire at 55 or own a new boat?  Short-term financial goals can be set to begin the journey.  Want to be healthy and active in your retirement years?  Short-term health goals will surface as important.  Desire to scuba dive in the Caribbean?  Setting up lessons on local lakes now will prepare you for the adventure.

Second, long-term goals help to motivate us.  When we see the gap between where we are and where we hope to go get smaller and smaller, we are energized to do more to get to that final destination.

Finally – and I think this point has the most power – tying short-term goals to future aspirations removes failure from the equation.  Meaning, when we “fail” at reaching our short-term goal, instead of seeing it as a failure we see it as an opportunity to reassess our path to the long-term goal.  We no longer have setbacks; we have points of re-evaluation and then continue on the journey to our dreams.

Setting any goal is a positive activity.  When those goals are tied to our dreams, we give them more power than they have when standing alone.

Yes, I’m a coach ~ and I’m also a keynote speaker, retreat planner and business consultant as well.  Learn more about the services I offer by navigating to my company website, Breakthrough Strategies.

Harvard Business Review On Being Lucky

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Anthony Tjan shared how he and his collegues found that “a surprising number of company founders and business-builders attribute much of their success to luck.”  Quoting the article:

As we dug deeper, it became clear that it was not just random chance that these people were talking about. Luck in business can be cultivated, through the combination of what we call a lucky attitude and a lucky network. A lucky attitude is a disposition open to serendipity and, well, luck. A lucky network is a wide network of relationships that may at first have little to do with any business objective, but somehow later come into great relevance. We can all think of an example.

Are you open to serendipity?  Would you like to be?  Read on to learn more about how we can cultivate our own luck….

How Leaders Lose Their Luck – Anthony Tjan – Harvard Business Review

Coaching: Motivation

Motivation is something that we sometimes think others should do for us.  We expect our bosses to motivate us, expect project managers to give us a reason to be motivated to be a part of their project, and even listen to motivational speakers as well.

Like so many things, we can only be motivated if we want to be motivated.  And often, what motivates us is entirely up to us.  Unique to us.  With that in mind, here are a few thoughts to find ways to motivate yourself.  Even on Friday.

Here we go….

Have you taken the time to identify your long-term goals or your values?  How do the things on your to-do list tie into those?  Support them?  What can you do to help remember how important these things are to you?

How purposeful are your days?  How can you be more deliberate in what you choose to do?  What are you not motivated to do that really should be removed from your calendar?  How can you make more purposeful choices in the future?

And finally, what visual reminders – primes – can you put in your path to remind you and motivate you to do what you told yourself that you’d do?  Commit to placing primers in your path going forward.

This week has helped my own motivation.  So I can tell you that blogging about motivation is also motivating.

Hey, it worked for me!

I’d love to be your coach!  Learn more about the services I offer by navigating to my company website, Breakthrough Strategies.

Purpose And Motivation

We can spend our lives trying to find purpose or we can find purpose in what we do.  Arguably, the people who find purpose in what they do are also those who find their purpose.  Many go about the process backwards.

In order to be motivated we must feel like there’s a reason for what we are doing.  We must have purpose.  Not necessarily a grandiose, all encompassing purpose – although that could be the case – but purpose in each little thing that we do.

I once went through the exercise of actively examining the purpose of each thing that I did for a week.  Why was I attending a particular meeting?  What was I doing saying “yes” to something that I didn’t want to do?  Was some purpose served?  Did the activity align to a goal?  A value?  An obligation?

Life changed.  I bowed out of meetings that I had no business being a part of.  I reminded myself that I could say “no.”  I focused on those activities that truly had a purpose in my career, my family, my relationships, and my life.

Have you lost your purpose and along with it motivation?  Maybe it’s time to examine your schedule and find where your purpose lies.

Connect with me on Facebook: Coach Carolyn