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Tips & Tactics for Personal Development

Category Archives: Success

The future is never what we expect it to be

When I was growing up, I knew what I wanted to do for a living. I knew what I was good at doing. I went to school for years to become better at it. So why have I spent the last 25 years working in a completely different field where I had no training, limited experience and where I never expected to work? What happened?

What happened was the future. What happened was that I had to make choices that I never anticipated. I had to choose between making a career in a field that was highly political (and didn’t pay well), and getting into a field that would support my family and bring me some satisfaction. Then I had to choose between moving up the corporate ladder and giving my family some stability. Now I’m looking at choosing what to do next as my options are becoming more limited in the field where I work.

No one ever told me that the future would turn out this way. I’ve learned the hard way. Circumstances that I could not control forced me to make choices I never anticipated. I don’t like this. But I’ve learned that I can’t change it.

Despite the fact that I didn’t ask for the life I have and that sometimes I feel very dissatisfied with it, I have learned some useful lessons. Here are a few:

  • If we knew what would happen to us in the future we would not be happy, since we would have no choice about it.
  • Uncertainty is built into our lives, and while this may make us uncomfortable, it also gives us opportunities to grow and develop.
  • Some things we can control; others we cannot. Knowing the difference between these is crucial.
  • Other people’s choices impact our lives, often in ways we don’t like.
  • It’s better to have a plan and try to follow it – even if it fails – than to leave things to chance.
  • Your attitude toward your life is independent of your circumstances.

Yes, the future is never what we expect it to be. And we can become better people than we ever dreamed possible by accepting this fact and choosing to respond to our circumstances in a positive manner.

Here’s an example of what that life might look like:

“There are those whose faces are so alight with life that they serve as a blinding reminder, amid the darkness of our time, that joy and charisma and hope still exist. These are the energizers, the cheerful individuals who inspire and enliven those around them even though their own backgrounds, genetics, and environments would give cause for them to be apathetic and detached. They, too, might have come from a broken home or poverty. But instead of choosing bitterness, they seem blissfully aware of, and deeply thankful for, their blessings, even when those blessings are fewer and more meager than others. These few, the energized and happy and thankful among us, are not “lucky,” nor are they to be envied. For their treasures are available to all of us. Their treasure is freely chosen attitude.”

(From The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard)

Your choice.

 

 

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7 reasons you are not successful – and what to do about it

Actually, there are probably many more reasons you are not as successful as you want to be. But let’s start with these.

1. You don’t know what success looks like – for you. You measure your success using someone else’s yardstick. If you do this, you will almost always come up short, since you see the great results of their work but you don’t see them actually struggling to get things done. Outcomes can be deceiving. Success is personal, and differs greatly from person to person. Choose your own yardstick carefully.

2. You don’t have goals. You have dreams and ideas, but no goals – nothing that gets you so fired up that you feel compelled to go after it. So you go after whatever crosses your path instead of what inspires you. Take time to learn what moves you, and then pick goals that allow you to spend time doing things that light your fire. If you don’t know what moves you, ask your friends and family members. They often know what lights your fire better than you do.

3. You don’t have discipline. You wander from one idea to another, and you don’t stick to any one plan long enough to see how it turns out. This is not only tiring, it’s also discouraging. So pick one small project that you can complete in a week or two, plan how to accomplish it, and do what it takes to finish it. You may be surprised how much this small effort can inspire you.

4. You don’t have enthusiasm. You push yourself to get things done, but you’re not inspired. Everything seems hard. Stop working and learn how to play. Pick a hobby and really go after it for 6 months. Schedule your “play time” and stick to it. It will refresh your mind and free up energy for other areas of your life.

5. You don’t have support or structure. You let other people, circumstances or events drive your choices, instead of designing your days around your priorities. You go it alone, and your friends can’t help you because they aren’t sure what your want. So let your friends and family know what you want and tell them how they can help you.

6. You are waiting for success to find you, instead of hunting it down yourself. Success is elusive, and sneaks up on your when you are not looking – but only when you are working on something that inspires you. So get busy with something that lights you up and you may find that success is looking over your shoulder.

7. You have given up on yourself. You don’t see enough value in who you are or what you can do, so you let life happen to you instead of directing it to your advantage. This is serious. It’s also a lie. You have value as a person no matter what your circumstances. And the best way to find and increase this value is by using whatever talents and resources you have to help others. You will get back what you put out.

And if you are wondering how I know all this, it’s because I’ve made all these mistakes myself.

7 tips for New Year’s resolutions that stick

The beginning of a New Year is traditionally a time for new beginnings. It’s a chance to start over, to begin new projects. But many times we find that despite our best efforts, we soon fall back into old patterns.

So as you make your promises for next year, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Focus on the new year and what you will do differently.
Don’t let the experiences of the past year determine what you try to achieve in the new year. Start fresh. You can look back at what you learned in the past year, but don’t build your goals for the new year only on avoiding the mistakes you made in the last 12 months.

2. Choose one area of your life to focus on.
Don’t try to change too many things at once. It’s better to pick one area of your life and focus only on it for a year. Making changes in your life takes time and energy. A sharp focus will increase your chance of success.

3. If you set goals, make them realistic.
Many people fail to reach their goals because they have too many goals, or because their goals are not realistic. Don’t challenge yourself to do too much or you’ll give up when the going gets tough (and it will get tough). Use milestones to keep yourself motivated.

4. Remember that structure beats willpower.
Making changes in your life requires willpower, but willpower is rarely enough to get you through the tough times and discouragement that comes with trying to improve. So built routines that support you in making changes. And let people who care about you know what you are trying to do – often they will offer support to help keep you going.

5. Expect setbacks and discomfort.
It’s rare that a person can pick a goal and then reach it without facing a few setbacks. These setbacks are part of the process of growing. Don’t fear them. They happen so that you can learn what you need to overcome to reach your goal.

6. Measure your progress and reward yourself for reaching your goals.
When you reach a milestone, celebrate. You need to reward to keep your motivation up.

7. Avoid the “all work and no play” trap.
Maintain a balance in your life as you make changes. Take time to enjoy what you have already achieved. Spend time with friends, take all your personal and vacation days. And regularly remind yourself that the willingness to change and grow is one of the greatest strengths we possess. It is the key to self-improvement.

You can make resolutions that really do help you change yourself and your life if you follow these simple rules and regularly remind yourself that change requires time, energy, and a willingness to tolerate temporary discomfort.

Growing through small changes

We all have things in our lives that we would like to change. Perhaps we’re not eating right or getting enough exercise. Or we are working too many hours and not getting enough rest. We know we need to make changes. And every now and then we get inspired and try to overhaul our entire life. And for a few days we feel really motivated. And then we skip a day. Then 2 days. A week goes by and we don’t keep up our new routine. And now we feel even more depressed because we couldn’t maintain our new routine.

When we do this, we set ourselves up to fail. Major life changes require an intense focus and lots of energy – two things we often don’t have when we want to make a change. If we do this often enough we will come to believe that we can’t change.

There is a better way. We can make small changes that can grow into big changes.

Rather than trying to change your entire diet, pick 1 or 2 small changes and keep them up for 30 days. For example, eat 1 less snack per day, or eat only healthy snacks between meals. Drink water instead of soda. Go for a walk 3 times a week instead of making yourself do it every day. Go to bed 1 hour earlier 3 times a week. Notice how these changes make you feel. If they make you feel more positive about yourself and your life, keep them up. If they are not helping to motivate you, try something new. Keep going until you find something that you look forward to doing, so that you will keep at it.

When you find the right combination, you will feel better about yourself and your life – and you may also find that other parts of your life start to work better. This is the bonus that comes with making small changes and maintaining them over time.

For more inspiration, check out Doug Grady’s book, The Ripple Effect. It’s Doug’s story of how 1 small change led to bigger, positive changes in his life. It’s available on Amazon at the link below.

http://www.amazon.com/Ripple-Effect-Doug-Grady/dp/0983360790/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345647914&sr=1-1&keywords=doug+grady

Why failure beats fear

Which is worse – the fear of failing or actually failing?

All of us have things that we won’t attempt to do since we believe we will fail when we try. We’re not interested in finding out if we are right about them or not. We’ve decided that whatever it is, it’s not worth attempting – the potential cost of failure is too high.

Note that it’s the fear of failure and not failure itself that keeps us from trying. We don’t actually know if we would fail, and fear keeps us from finding out if we are right or not.

I’m not in favor of failure, either. It’s no fun, it can be painful, and the memories can last a lifetime. But I am very much in favor of failure when it is the result of thoughtful planning and a sincere effort to achieve something. (More players lose at the Olympics than win.) Failure is a form of feedback, a form of learning. For example, when children fall off their bikes while they are learning to ride, they get feedback, and they can learn that they need to sit or balance in a different way. Then they can try again. When we try to solve a problem and the method we choose fails, we get feedback, and we can learn to adjust our approach.

Personally, I would rather deal with failure than fear. I can’t fight fear. It’s like a ghost that appears and taunts us, but when we try to suppress it, it vanishes only to appear later. Failure, on the other hand, is often concrete. We fall and hurt ourselves trying to climb a tree. We get a D and learn that being good at math requires far more work than we thought. We lose a job due to our lack of judgement, spend money on plans that fall through, and say or do things that drive people away from us. We can correct these mistakes, which failure has made clear. But we can’t remove the fear that colors our anticipation of failure.

So for me, failure beats fear. I can learn from my mistakes, but I’ll never grow from the mistakes I’m afraid to make.

 

Success or satisfaction?

Each person defines success in their own way. For some, success is measured in what they own or whom they know. For others, success is based on the experiences they have had and the people they have become. For most people, success is a very personal matter.

However, if we don’t properly define success for ourselves it can be a trap.

Do you really want the big house or the boat, or do you want to feel important and impress people?

Do you want the important job with the fancy title or do you want to make a difference in the industry and in people’s lives?

When you define success for yourself, make sure that what you want to achieve will also bring you satisfaction and will help others. After all, there’s no point in owning a big house if you have no one with whom to share it. And the important job that destroys your personal life may not bring you the lifestyle you want and in the end it may cut you off from the very people who you most want in your life.

Success may bring satisfaction, but satisfaction is more often what we truly want.

 

 

You don’t need permission to be successful

Are you waiting for someone to give you permission to be successful? Do you need specific circumstances or factors to be in place before you can succeed? Are there “conditions” that have to be met before you can move ahead toward your goals?

I have found that many people limit their potential by saying (mostly to themselves), “I’ll be successful when….” They then wait for the circumstances, people or other factors that they imagine are necessary for their success to magically appear in their lives. And they often wait a long time, and frequently become discouraged.

They have made their success depend on someone else giving them permission, or for the”right” circumstances to materialize. They have surrendered control of their lives to someone or something outside themselves.

I’ve done this to myself. My list includes such things as, “I’ll be successful when:

1. I have $200k in my retirement fund. (Only $180k to go.)

2. I can retire at 60. (Five years from now?!)

3. I’ve won the Mega Millions lottery – minimum $150M please. (Haven’t bought my ticket yet…)

4. I’ve traveled to all 25 of the foreign countries on my wish list. (Only 12 to go.)

Not likely I’m going to feel very successful anytime soon. I’ve set myself up to fail.

It would be better if I looked at success another way. Using the right yardstick makes all the difference. Here are some of the high points so far:

1. Happily married for nearly 26 years.

2. Raised 2 smart and successful daughters, both now with careers of their own.

3. Encouraged my wife to get back into her chosen profession and supported her while she grew her small business into a full-time job.

4. Remodeled my own kitchen for $4500 instead of spending $17,000 to have someone else do it.

In other words, if I define my life in a balanced yet realistic way, I can find success. Now all I need to do is build on my past successes.

So don’t wait for the right time, circumstances or resources to be in place before you say you are successful. Look honestly at what you have already achieved, and the skills that you used to accomplish these things. Take these skills and put them to work for you in other areas of your life. They are your key to becoming even more successful. And you already possess them.

No success without discipline

If you were going to take a vacation to a place that you had wanted to visit for many years, how would you go about doing this? Would you simply pack a suitcase and head off? Or would you take some time to sit down and plan your trip so that it would be all that you expected?

If you take the first approach, you might have a great time. If things worked out for you and there were no problems with your arrangements, it could be wonderful!

On the other hand, if you ran into problems, what resources would you have to help you out?

If you take the second approach, you would plan first the outline of your trip and then all the details that were necessary. You wouldn’t need to plan every single detail, but enough to know what to do at each point in the trip.

What’s strange to me is that people will spend hours and sometimes days planning a vacation, but they won’t apply the same structure and discipline to their personal goals. And I’m as guilty as any one else in this area.

Good intentions are not enough

Good intentions are cheap. We can have any number of them for free. We can brag about what we are going to do, especially to people who are in no place to evaluate our future performance. And we do. Or, at least I do. Brag, that is.

But when it comes to getting better at something, be it a job skill, your ability to negotiate, or your talent for finding a bargain, good intentions are not enough. In fact, they can be a trap. Feeling good about having good intentions is dangerous, because the good feeling disguises our lack of willpower.

I’m not a big believer in willpower. I’ve seen it fail way too often. Sure it has its place, but don’t rely on it.

I do believe in accountability, that is, in sharing your good intentions and goals with someone who will encourage you to remain committed to following through on them.

I believe in keeping score. If you can figure out a way to record your progress in some visible manner that motivates you, go for it.

And I believe in follow-up, that is, in going back to the people with whom you have shared your committment to see how you are doing.

So if you want to progress toward your goal – any goal – get a partner, keep score and follow-up. And save your good intentions.

If you don’t define success for yourself, someone else will

If you want to reach a goal, you need to know where the goal is located, how to recognize it, what route you need to take to get there, and what obstacles you might encounter. It’s similar to planning a trip. In fact, it is a trip of sorts – a trip from where you are right now to where you want to be.

It always amazes me how little time and effort people are willing to put into planning. I know, it’s not sexy and certainly not fun to plan how to reach your goal, even if that goal is a romantic hideaway in Bali. It takes work. But guess what? Everything in your life has its value based on how hard you or someone else had to work to get it. What we get for nothing has very little value.

So the first step in becoming successful is defining success. What will it look like? How will you feel when you reach your goal? Where will you be? What will you be doing?

For me, the easiest way to put all the pieces together is to write a story that describes your success and the steps you took to reach your goal. Write this from the perspective of having already reached your goal. Here’s an example:

Sitting at the breakfast table, I look out the picture window of my house overlooking the Ocala National Forest. It seems hard to believe that only 10 years ago I was toiling away in the corporate world. It was a safe and comfortable life – or so I thought. With the recession of 2009-2012 everything changed. I had to reinvent myself. I started a small business helping people manage their time and soon the business started growing. After several years the business grew so much that I couldn’t manage it any longer, so I sold it to another company. Now I work from my beautiful house, writing reviews and blogging on whatever interests me.

I have found that if you write a story about what you want to happen, it’s much easier to define what your success will look like. And it’s important to have a very clear picture in your mind, as you will need that picture to inspire you when life gets hard.

So try this for yourself. Pick an area of your life, grab a latte and write out how your life will look after your reach your success goal.

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