What does your New Year’s resolution look like on March 1st?

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If you chose a New Year’s resolution this year, and many years before that – what has it led to? If you are satisfied with the outcome, celebrate! It is rare for these plans to work out.

March 1 photoLet’s look at the science behind making lasting changes. It starts with an overwhelming need to get rid of a habit we don’t like, such as overeating, spending too much time on the internet, not writing that book you have in your head (insert your own version here       ). We make a plan, we get excited about the idea of finally moving on and then something odd and unexpected happens: the change is just too painful and the goal seems not worth it. Add to that the nagging little voices of “well, you tried before what makes you think you will win this time.

So it becomes a battle within yourself and eventually you push it under the rug. Not because you don’t want it anymore but because you don’t know HOW to get there. Here is what neuroscience studies show: it takes 21 days to create a new habit, if you practice every day. After 21 days you have a tender young new habit that has a chance of surviving but still needs to be nurtured to grow up and become stronger than the (bad) habit it is replacing.

Where do you start:

#1 Set a SMART goal and figure out why this is important to you (to you and you alone).
#2 Make a plan, of all the steps you want to take towards your goal.
#3 The A in SMART stands for Achievable, so be realistic – change happens in small increments not by scaling a mountain in one day.
#4 Get a partner who keeps you honest, checks in with you every day to see whether you are on track.
#5 If you don’t stay on track, analyze what happens, circle back to #1: What is it that I want and why?

Almost the same but not quite

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dogsWhat attracts us to others? Friends, co-workers, spouses and even random acquaintances? There is a magic formula of “enough sameness” to hit it off. By definition, we will never meet a perfect copy of ourselves and we often consider that our differences make a relationship interesting, enriching and long lived.

Same, same is fun and rewarding, until we hit the “different” area, the issues we do not agree on, where friction happens. One way to deal with this is to truly understand each other – for example, you can use personality tests such as  Strengthsfinder and Keirsey Temperament Sorter.
I was privileged to trie this with a few close friends, and it opened up a whole new vocabulary for our relationships. Here is what happened – one of us in a group of three is a “break the rules” type person who never accepts rules at face value, if they don’t make sense they will be broken, no further discussion. The other lives by the letter of the law, if someone tells her “this is how we do things” she will stick with it. In most circumstances, this issue does not come up – but when it did, we had our first argument ever. Initially, we filed it away and pretended nothing was wrong but once we analyzed the one area we so clearly differed in our believes, it opened up an amazing discussion:
1st, understand that we are not the same & acknowledge that without judgement;
2nd be open to each other’s perspective, maybe we can learn and move closer to the midline on this topic, or as a minimum, be aware of what’s happening;
3rd agree to disagree – we do not have to come to a common view on everything.
4th make sure no one takes the blame or tries to fix things single handedly – it is what it is and we are okay with it.

If you love someone, why would you want to fight? If you love someone, can you embrace her with all her differences? Once we stop trying to fix others or push them to  “get it” – relationships become amazingly simple – at work, at home and at the super market check out line.

You think you are too old to claim a new career?

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As a c17 magareer coach, I am routinely confronted with reasons my clients present WHY they will NOT be hired. While this is a well know psychological phenomena – if you expect to be disappointed you cannot be disappointed – it is hard for job searchers to really embrace the idea that they are Employable, Talented & Wanted.

For now, let’s look at one of the  common show stoppers:
I am too old to change careers, I am too old to make an impact.

One of my clients who is 50+ came across this story and encouraged me to share with everyone. There was a news flash about Obama’s chef and nutritional advisor as the Obamas were attending his wedding. Turns out Sam Kass‘ grandmother was quite a power house: Helen Valentine founded Seventeen Magazine in 1944 at the age of 51

She later went on to reinvent Glamour Magazine. Whoa – 51 married to a Manhattan banker and reinventing herself. At a time when Madmen still ruled the world.

Pause – 1944 when women were not captains of industry, the term Glass Ceiling did not exist, and 51 was considered too old to play tennis at the country club, forty years before Gloria Steinem stated “50 is the new 30“.

 

 

 

 

A perfectionist’s dream

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ImageWhat would it be like to be perfect?

It could be eating a healthy balanced meal with very little effort, like this one I had for dinner last night – pre cooked organic vegetables, high quality olive oil and parmesan, ready in 5 minutes. If you are an avid cook this would not be acceptable to you yet for me, at the end of a super busy and productive day, it was the right kind of meal. Which fits my new mantra of the Right Amount of Perfect.

 
For the perfectionists amongst us – is it your wildest dream to really be perfect in everything you attempt, get all the tasks done you set out for yourself, be a perfect Stepford wife?
 
Or how about a Stepford wife with a career? As Sheryl Sandberg states: It is the Holy Trinity of Fear – the fear of being a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad daughter. To this you can add your own flavor of perfectionism – perfect hostess, best friend, fitness goddess, mistress of a spotless home.
 
I hear this dilemma from my clients often – never enough time, never good enough, never finishing your list. Whether it is at work, at home, or both – our mental treadmill never stands still. Sometimes you feel relief if you just write it down and make a plan instead of letting it jumble through your head all day long.
 
And I am one of you – always wanting more than is humanly possible, always over estimating my capacity. The truth is you cannot ask a perfectionist to let go of perfection. But she can choose the Right Amount of Perfect.
 
The Right Amount of Perfect is a lovely tool to apply to everyday goal setting and time management – it allows you to make progress towards your goals, acknowledge that progress – not completion – is what you chose for today. It does not ask you to drop tasks from your list, rather take control which ones you dedicate your available time to.
 
Running behind the eight ball is throwing all your goals at the hours of the day; the outcome is frustration, stress and a sense of failure. For many people this becomes the reality of who they are and since we all more or less follow the same pattern of “out of control is normal” it becomes a conversation item that never seeks resolution, we nod at each other and understand. The irony is that it hits people of all ages and all status – whether you are an executive or a stay at home mom, you have little power over your time and if I could sell you two more hours in a day you would pay me handsomely.
 
Management trainers and coaches are starting to preach a different paradigm – since we know there are no extra hours, something else has to change. Read Tony Schwartz on “The way we are working is not working.” He cites that 74% of employees are experiencing a personal energy crisis.
 
* When you seek the Right Amount of Perfect you acknowledge that you cannot expand time.
* You take control over what you do with your time.
*  It means letting go if things, choosing priorities and asking for help.
 
The paradigm change it that the Right Amount of Perfect is still Perfect.
 
Drop me a line how this thought works for you – for an hour or a day. See what it’s like to not run behind the eight ball.

 

Today I want to be my dog

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Buddy

It’s raining hard with gusts of wind slashing water sideways, dark enough at 7am to turn on the lights. If it were Sunday, I would turn over and snooze another hour.

Then I take a look at my dog and marvel at her curled up on a soft cushion, inside yet overlooking the yard. Today I want to be my dog – or any day, for that matter.

As I went about my duties of driving to school, picking up the dry clean, turning on my computer I mused – why not be my dog today and what would that be like?

   I would depend on someone to feed me and provide water and shelter. If I do not misbehave, it will be ok.    Sort of like working for the government, being tenured.
   I get to chase all bunnies that cross my path.   I am having fun.
   I will bark at intruders.   I am fearless.
   I get to snooze in a little girl’s soft bed.  Like having a massage every day.
  I get petted, I get treats for doing silly tricks.   I got your number!
  I can roam the hillside off leash.   This world belongs to me.
  Sometimes I am bathed but I got over that, it only happens once in a while.   Sort of like not leaving the house in PJs and brushing my teeth.

Asking yourself what would you choose if you were your dog, is a bit like the Steve Jobs’ mantra of “Is this a day you want the rest of your life be like.” It’s about not postponing the things that matter, it’s about not taking on one more project you do not enjoy because someone gotta do it. It means to run off leash and think that’s a perfectly normal way of spending the day.

If you have a career you love, you will choose to go to work – not because you have to but because it’s what excites you, it’s where you want to be. People often ask me: “How do I find a job I love?” The one key question to finding your dream job is – will this place, this job, this career, allow me to honor my values and can I do what I am best at?

It’s not about the type of job, or the industry – yes, build upon your experience, training and connections, but do not get stuck on one direction. Picture what it’s like to shop at Costco and know people get paid $20 per hour plus health insurance for bagging your groceries, instead of Walmart where you know they cannot make a living wage.

If this is too radical to consider, you may start with one small change Today. Just for one day, seek out the people, the tasks, the environment that make you happy, relaxed, engaged and at ease. If the nay-sayers call upon you, tell them you’ll get back to them later. By taking control of just one element of your day, you can turn it into a perfect 10. And don’t be surprised if this is your most productive and creative work day.

The cost of not dealing with shame

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Recently, I had several conversations with women who told me that they had an experience they are so ashamed of – they could not share it with anyone. These were not terrifying life threatening events but  emotional setbacks that hurt deeply. What struck me about their stories is their feeling of being completely alone in this, an utter failure professionally and taking full responsibility for it.

Does that sound familiar to you, have you walked out of a meeting or a job interview where are all you could do was not fall apart?

Let’s look at these events with different perspectives. I one instant, an accomplished sales exec was told by the CEO that she was not aggressive enough. Yet her closure rate was in line with the sales team, and her long term deal retention rate was stellar. She invests a lot of effort in communicating with her customers, bringing all stakeholders on board, and relentlessly pursues top quality service for her clients. You can see what’s really going on – at quarter end the management was in need of quick short term sales and knew her method was not going to yield that. There could have been an open discussion about sales tactics but instead she was stabbed in the back in front of her peers for not being aggressive. What’s even more fascinating is that she did not see any of this, only walked away with a profound sense of failure.peace

Gaining perspectives on unpleasant encounters is possible when you are in a rational state of mind. Once you have become emotional you REACT, it depends on your nature how you deal with things – one person will get into a heated argument, another will let it eat them up.

Here is the good news: in a safe and supporting environment, we can go back to a shameful event and calmly examine it, gain perspectives and PRO ACTIVELY work out a strategy. You can let the pain energize you to take control. Working with a coach or trusted mentor, you can deal with things rationally.

One client told me how she felt unable to share her job worries with one of her best friends because the friend is a go-getter, highly successful and she did not want to appear weak in front of her. Comes back to why your friend cannot be your coach.

What is the real cost of not dealing with shameful emotions? 

For sure, it will happen again. And instead of being a stronger, more tethered professional, one will be flapping around again and again as people – on purpose or accidentally – push that same emotional button. Whatever it is, not being aggressive enough, not being innovative enough, not being well prepared, being over cautious… the list is endless and I am sure you can name your own shame.

I was surprised how often this happens – as a coach, people talk to me about their shame and we learn to deal with it, move through and onwards. This week’s conversations reminded me how pervasive this problem is and all the people who do not seek help from a professional.

What is the dollar cost of this behavior? A lost job opportunity, a deal not pursued, a hunch not followed – because you were 2nd guessing yourself and not a the top of your game.

I routinely ask my clients: “What’s the worst possible outcome?” Ie. what can possibly happen if you screw up a particular task. You would be surprised to learn that the world will not end, but that the alternative – not trying, not pushing for what you know is right – is very costly.

For today, take a short break, and think of an event that was deeply shameful to you. Write down what happened, and use several different perspectives to describe the event:

* actions as clearly seen from the outside
* emotions as experienced by you
* emotions as imagined by you
* intentions clearly stated
* intentions interpreted by you

The picture will be quite different and the shame will slowly turn into something else that energizes you to take control.

Leave me a comment about how this works for you.

Tomorrow will be better

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I just returned from living abroad for three years and getting used to following US politics on a daily basis again, I am very curious about the Government Shutdown. In India, chaos is the daily news: politicians go to jail and continue to rule from their cells, corruption is so rampant that there is no infrastructure except for privately funded projects, yet the Indian government knows how to watch the money. Right now, they are seriously limiting the amount of petrol as they do not have any oil of their own, rising petrol prices bring the Indian Rupee into a downward spin which an already ailing economy cannot afford.

Here, in the US of A, no one around me shows any concerns. Unless you are one of the furloughed government workers – I met one so far. The rest keep going as if nothing were the matter, and today stocks shot up on the news that “talks are looking more promising.” Observing this, makes me ponder what’s behind the common belief that “tomorrow will be better” and therefore it’s okay to live on the fringe, one tiny step away from disaster.

I learned from a financial adviser that one in ten who is seeking her help, will come back after hearing some hard truths. In other words, they come looking for a quick fix in their late years of earning, never having considered the power of compound interest. High earners are living hand to mouth because the stock options will save them, even if they don’t have any now, the next job will bring the bounty. Some will try a quick monetary diet on their own, such as cancelling the $2,000 earthquake insurance policy while driving a $100,000 car. She had a term for that – small time scrimping and big time screwing up.

Another one told me that routinely people have to take out a loan to pay the taxes on their stock gains, long spent the previous year without concern for their tax obligations.

As I am coaching the spouses of high earners, women who had the privilege of staying home to raise their children and now want to start a new career, one of the most common obstacles are their husbands telling them not to rock the boat. Stay where you are, take care of the kids a few more years, and then look for something. Or reminding them that as they are already in the highest income tax bracket, any additional earnings they bring in means very little real money.

Seriously?

But here is another story, of a woman who kicked all that aside and is now working her way into a new business she started, learning and making adjustments along the way, steadily picking up new clients and making a real difference to her family budget.

There is no better tomorrow than today – connect with me to see how you can tackle your new career, financial freedom and finding recognition outside your home office. The first step is moving beyond all the myriad reasons why one should not even try, and then power up to see yourself succeed.

Read more about The Top 10 Things every woman should know about how to get started in a new career.