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How to reduce screen fatigue in 8 easy steps

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The truth about Working from Home

How to work from home – with breaks from the screen, exercises for the eyes and body, and tips for reducing the need for excessive online meetings.

Since COVID-19 arrived, record numbers of staff are working remotely have been inundated with web conferences, online meetings, and webinars using various online conferencing software such as Zoom, Google Meets, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, Teams and many more. These excellent tools have helped us to keep in touch and adapt our ability to continue to keep large and small businesses and educational institutions operational to varying degrees during lockdown and quarantine.

For some the ability to work from home has been pure bliss and a dream come true for  others it has been  an absolute nightmare. Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, like it or loath it, the reality is that for the foreseeable future [at least] remote working is the current reality aka the new normal.

So how have you dealt with and managed with your remote working circumstance?

Have you established a routine for yourself and faced your remote working circumstances as if you were still going to the office OR have you taken a more relaxed approach?

Do you get up and get dressed and face your day the same as you would if you were going into an office or do you wonder around in your pj’s or other comfortable attire and only adorn a respectable business appropriate blouse or shirt when you know you have another online meeting to attend?

Have you created a dedicated workspace in your home or has your bed become your new office?

Have you started feeling less and less inclined to actively participate in online meetings or do you show up mindfully and purposefully because after all you still have deliverables and deadlines?

Have you begun to resent the alert that indicates you have yet another team meeting  to attend and WHY can’t they just send you an email?

Do you show up for your team meetings prepared to engage with your colleagues because even though you are working remotely you recognise the need to interact and stay connected to your team?

Have you found yourself glossing over emails and not purposefully engaging with the content and making mindful decisions based on those emails?

Is your energy levels and body language and facial expressions evident that you have lost the ability to engage and are operating on autopilot?

 

We know that too many online meetings and too many hours in front of the screen can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

While we can not escape the seemingly endless list of online meetings and lectures, we can try to achieve a little bit of balance in our day-to-day work-life.

This article will cover: 
  • The symptoms of screen fatigue
  • Exercises for the eyes and body
  • Why online meetings are tiring and how to reduce them
The symptoms of screen fatigue

So much information is transmitted digitally, and when the brunt of your job is information processing on a screen, fatigue can certainly set in.

Screen fatigue is a medical diagnosis called asthenopia. Asthenopia occurs as a result of staring at a computer, tablet, or phone for extended periods of time. Screen fatigue has multiple symptoms including headaches, pain around the eyes, dry eye, blurry vision, tired or watery eyes, tiredness, difficulty keeping your eyes open or focused on the meeting, sensitivity to light, and even vertigo. Asthenopia has also been called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS) and can be exacerbated by reading digital texts for extended periods, working in dim light, or excessive exposure to the kind of blue light emitted by screens. Some people even report an intense feeling of apathy and anxiety after excessive online meetings.

Like all medical conditions there are ways to minimize the effects and manage your health if you are beginning to feel the effects of CVS.

Here are a few that might just help you:

Glasses. Screen fatigue glasses are available so check with your optician or retail outlet if you think you could benefit from a pair.

Take a Break. If you were in the office you would get up and go to the bathroom or printer or have a quick chat to a colleague, perhaps even take a smoke or coffee break, go out for a quick lunch-time errand. So what is stopping you from doing the same while working from home? While you may not be able to walk over to chat to a colleague  you can still get up  and do something else for few minutes; grab a cup of coffee, maybe put on a load of laundry, perhaps a couple of quick laps of walking around the garden or up and down the driveway, maybe even do some gardening if that is your thing.

Reduce Glare. If you sit in a workspace that has constant glare from windows or lights, you may consider rearranging your workspace. If you can reduce external glare from the screen, your eyes will not have to readjust as often, while you are working. Antiglare screens are also available for this purpose.

Adjust Display. The brightness level of your computer screen can also factor into the fatigue your eyes experience. Go to the settings and find the brightness level. You can adjust it to a lower brightness, which will reduce the harsh light streaming from the screen.

Stay Hydrated. Proper water intake helps reduce eye strain, itchiness and irritation. Sometimes when we perform work that isn’t physically strenuous we easily forget the importance of drinking water. Get in the habit of keeping a bottle at your desk and refilling it as soon as it’s empty.

Exercise. Just to be clear, we want you to keep your job. We also want you to stay healthy and able to engage in this new environment, so take time each day to do some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes. Your physical and mental health is your priority.

Limit your screen time. Use the built-in features on your phone to report, monitor, and limit your screen time. Apple IOS and Android phones track which apps you use most frequently and how long you are on your screen. With those details, you can make changes to limit exposure and work more efficiently. Perhaps you are spending too long commenting and scrolling through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, which can result in more on-screen hours than desired. If your phone does not have these features, there are plenty of apps that do. These apps are typically based on the Pomodoro technique and allows you to work in 20-minute intervals while blocking all websites, pop-ups, alerts, and messages across multiple browsers and prevents certain apps from working. You can focus on one task at a time so you can finish that to-do list and have plenty of time to incorporate off-screen activities into your day.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule.Try looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Excessive time in front of a screen that is close to your face can cause screen fatigue. If you alternate looking at something up close and far away, you can help combat it (Marcin, 2017). Looking out the window or going for a quick walk can help.

Why online meetings are tiring 

Meetings are important to connect with teams, share knowledge, and build rapport. During these unprecedented times though, meetings are also a way to keep connected with our colleagues, as we learn to navigate our way into  a new and often very different world of work. We have all at some point in our work-life wished to just be able to work from home and avoid those horrid morning commutes through endless traffic and school runs which were just endless. If we remember why we wanted to that  when we could not have it a t that time; now might be a good opportunity to revisit those wishes and call to mind those reasons which seemed so far from reality at the time. What did working from home look like to you? What did you think it would be like? What was so appealing about working from home for you and has your opinion changed at all?

There is a lot of talk lately about cognitive load and for good reason. We are in the midst of a pandemic and as managers and leaders must be aware of the trauma employees continue to experience. Anxiety is high and many  people have or are  experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder in the past few months. Others struggle with the chaos of children and spouses at home. People have more on their mind and plate than ever before, and many are at their tipping point. Requiring staff to be online with cameras turned on multiple times a day is insensitive to the situation at hand. According to Sander & Bauman (2020), online meetings increase our cognitive load. We need to work harder to process non-verbal communication when working on-line and to try to concentrate, simultaneously hoping there are no home distractions (i.e. barking dogs, noisy lawnmowers, honking horns, screaming kids). At times our online virtual backgrounds fail, revealing a cluttered room on the screen.

There is no doubt that online meetings are here to stay. However, we can control the negative effects by reducing meeting frequency and what times they are scheduled.

Creating a shared, detailed agenda ahead of time using a Google doc can cut down on meeting length. Participants can comment or edit beforehand to make the meeting smoother and more efficient. Additionally, using a messaging platform can help reduce the need for meetings by allowing for team communication in real-time. Lastly, a quick touch-base phone call is often the best means to communicate. A call also reduces the stress of having to get dressed up, clear your calendar, and declutter your surroundings. The added benefit of being able to go for a walk and get away from the screen can make phone calls an appealing option. Zoom, Teams  and other online meeting platforms are great tools. But just because we have all these bells and whistles doesn’t mean we need to use them.

Trust your team, check in when needed, but do not require a cognitively burdened employee to be in back-to-back meetings all day.

Is corona-virus a career wakeup call for you?

Has 20Plenty turned in to 20Empty for you?

Are you fatigued by a prolonged lockdown and feeling like “Can this be over now?!?” Have you started to relook at your career i.t.o potentially making some changes?

Clinical psychologists have suggested that this pandemic has caused an emotional tsunami for many. “Peoples’ feelings are exacerbated to the extremes at the moment, especially because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” Suntosh Pillay. The toll this pandemic has taken on peoples’ mental health is leaving many in a perpetual state of stress.

While, for some, lockdown has afforded the opportunity to spend much needed time with family, which would not ordinarily have happened; for others lockdown has been a source of anxiety, hopelessness and disconnectedness. Financial stress, anxiety and panic has been cited by South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) as 3 of the major challenges South Africans are facing.

In addition to this, many people are being forced to re-evaluate their careers with many looking for ‘re-skilling’ opportunities to ensure they can adapt to the post lockdown world of work. Many people have found themselves retrenched or forced into unpaid leave and still others fear they could find themselves in the same situation and not have a position to go back to in the new year.

Has this pandemic caused you to consider pivoting or changing careers completely as you begin to prepare for life after lockdown?

Global research indicates that many people are attempting to upskill in the hope they will be able to be re-employed or be in a position to transition into a different sector.

Coronavirus has acted as a ‘wake-up’ call for many (Image: Getty)

Regrettable only 36% of polled employers has offered their employees support in improving their existing skillsets during this time. We know that without continuous improvements to skill-sets, existing members of staff are likely to become bored and demotivated because they are not being challenged or given the opportunity to grow. This is more important now than ever before. If staff are unfulfilled and unmotivated they will start to think about pursuing a career elsewhere when things settle down.

This in-turn is likely to mean businesses will need to invest huge sums of money in recruitment – with no guarantee they will be able to find anyone with the right attributes. So investing in continuous skills development with existing employees is the best way forward – and it’s also less costly.

For many this pandemic has been the wake-up call they were waiting for.The study found more than a third of those polled have reconsidered their chosen career since lockdown began.

Many workers fear they will not have a job to return to at the end of the crisis (Image: Getty)

In fact, one in 10 people are currently attempting to retrain for an entirely different job. However, 54 % of people surveyed fear they are too established in their current career to do something new; despite many feeling that they may not have a job to return to.

Business owners, have indicated that six out of  10 job applicants lack the skills employers are looking for and filling vacancies with workers who have the desired skillsets is one of their biggest challenges – even harder than retaining valued members of staff.

Recruitment is costly on a financial level, and there is a danger it could affect a business’ ability to grow because they can not find the right people for the job.

This is why continuous skills development is so important – it reduces the need for investing in recruitment because fewer members of staff want to leave as they are likely to be more fulfilled and stimulated. Furthermore, businesses can then grow with a workforce who has all the right skills for the business.

What plans do you have for continuous skills development as you prepare for life after lockdown?

What Does Covid-19 Mean For The Future Of Work?

Working from Home

There has been a lot of discussion around the impact technology and AI will have for the future of work. Many companies and countries have already adopted and adapted many of their offerings and services to be automated and or offered by some form of AI. South Africa launched its own journey into the Fourth Industrial evolution with the president committing to the country being an early adopter of this new way of being.

Then Covid-19 swept the globe, and the message about our future has become even clearer: what started as a few weeks of working from home has evolved into a catalyst for change regarding how we work and live.

 

Millions of people have transitioned to working from home globally and many South Africans have found they too have needed to join the fray. In addition, South Africans, like many others around the world, have also begun to stream online content for 8 hours or more each day.

 

It is safe to say that the traditional definition of office life has been put to rest, and now we are all left to wonder, what will replace it? Many employers have begun to ask whether it is necessary to return to the a pre-Covid world of Work and if not, what does this mean?

 

However, before we follow that rabbit hole  into the future, let’s get some context around the past that is so abruptly changing. Office spaces as we know them have really only existed since the 1930’s, with the birth of the cubicle occurring in the 1980’s. This style of work is not a long standing phenomenon, and even before Covid-19, it was already on its way out of style.  Employees were pushing for their freedom, with 80% of US workers reporting they would turn down a job if it didn’t offer flexible working arrangements. This requirement for job flexibility was a huge factor and had a huge impact on decision making especially when families were getting started. Employee demand pushed remote working opportunities to grow 44% since 2015.

So in essence Covid-19 has really only expedited what was already on the horizon anyway.

As a career expert and coach, I have found myself questioning how permanent these changes are? How will this affect employees in the workplace, especially those, whose careers have already taken a battering lately due to economic downturns.

One thing is certain though remote work is here to stay. This transition has already been set in motion with big tech companies like Facebook taking initiatives now by telling staff to work remotely for the remainder of the year, and in some instances, permanently.  Google has begun to rotate employees on site for a few days each week while ensuring facilities remain at only 10% occupancyTwitter has taken a somewhat different approach, where virtually all employees will work from home, permanently.

We have also seen our universities transition to blended learning approaches [some more quickly than others], with only a fraction of the student body and staff on campus at any given time. The rest are all on some form of rotation. Our schools have been forced to reinvent the way they teach while simultaneously attempting to salvage an academic year, and observe social distancing protocols. Rotation scenarios again being implemented across the vast majority of schools, colleges and universities. We have also seen parents getting progressively more involved in the children’s education rather than leaving this vital aspect of their childs’ development to the education sector exclusively.

Our very notion of work is changing – and not just from a geospatial perspective.  Workplaces are being reconfigured. Various industries have overhauled their spacing policies to observe social distancing protocols. The trend of less space per person has reversed into more space per person, allowing fewer people per building. We have seen online facilities been utilised with progressive proficiency, even for those who were once overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect.

While remote work offers a slew of improvements for the workplace, a 25% reduction in employee turnover and 77% of employees reporting increased productivity, to name a few, it also brings unique changes and demands that companies may not be fully aware of, yet.

Between 2005 and 2019, the number of people working remotely across the world grew by a staggering 173 percent.

Working from home is no longer reserved for certain industries and professions – it is becoming the number one workplace benefit people are looking for in a job.  A recent survey by executive recruiter Jack Hammer revealed that remote working and flexitime are increasingly being implemented by South African companies as a means of enhancing employee engagement, wellness and productivity.

While there are signs pointing to a big spike in remote working over the next two years, South Africa still lags about four or five years behind the global working-from-home curve? WHY??

South Africa is a country that embraces ubuntu. We like being together. The attributes that make South African culture unique – our laughter, our humanity, our solidarity – may help in part to explain why we have been slower to embrace remote working than our global counterparts.

At the individual level, differences in personality types mean some people are simply better suited to remote working than others. Self-initiation and self-motivation are crucial traits, as are the means and ability to build systems that can support individuals to work effectively from home.

At an organisational level, the challenges are linked with leadership and teams. People feel disconnected from their teams and believe they do not perform as well when they are not physically in the same space. Executives report difficulty in leading effectively when teams and individuals are not physically present.  These are two conundrums we are going to have to figure out, because good leadership and agile teams are important aspects of future-ready organisations.

Many South Africans started working from home in March and now almost seven months down the line many continue to work from home. According to the study, more than nine out of 10 (94%) decision-makers responded that they regarded it as essential to allow parents more time with their children. Cisco South Africa country manager, Garsen Naidu, says they were fascinated to learn that working from home did not negatively impact productivity. “We were fascinated to learn that working from home did not significantly impact the output. Employees are still as productive as they were in the office, partly as a result of not spending time getting to the office and settling in. It suggests that an employee’s mental energy remains finite, within the context of traditional roles and tools,”

South African businesses are more willing to embrace remote working. Those that remain reluctant may find themselves pushed that way by necessity.

Additionally, with another 18 months to two years of continued rolling blackouts ahead of us, this may be the very thing that pushes South African businesses to take the leap and catch up with the rest of the world regarding remote working. Meanwhile, reliable internet connectivity plays a vital role as it has implications on stress levels of employees.

“Connectivity emerges as an important factor for success in remote working…, and illustrates that remote working only functions successfully with remote connectivity. Connectivity is the key to the digital office.” The digitalisation of the home office must take into account the personal circumstances of the employee,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. Terry Bell says he believes that a large number of companies will adopt the practice of remote working after the lockdown because the benefits of working from home for employers are significant. He adds that with fewer cars on the road would mean reduced road fatalities and less pollution. “I certainly do see that working from home is going to become much more common. It’s a lot cheaper for employers because they don’t have to provide office space. From a worker’s point of view, they end up working as individuals, they will then end up being negotiated with as individuals.”

It’s extremely advantageous for employers, and productivity does not fall.

For a young country like South Africa these are important considerations. We have a growing population and we are one of the most rapidly urbanising places on the planet. When we reflect on a horizontal city like Johannesburg, with its sprawling footprint, or Cape Town with its gridlocked roads, and it is easy to see how asking people to travel further is just not realistic; working from home just makes sense.

Remote working should be standard practice post Covid-19. The lack of office space will necessitate it, social distancing will demand it and investments in advanced digital technologies, infrastructure and collaboration tools will facilitate it.

COVID-19, of course, is not the first attack on our jobs. The fourth industrial has already changed the job landscape. As it is, humans and machines are increasingly working together, bolstering efficiency and productivity. The workforce is becoming  increasingly more structured by project rather than job function, allowing tasks to be created and dismantled flexibly.

Many companies may opt for a reduction in workdays. Others will rethink their ratio of permanent employees to gig workers. Expect to see leaders pivoting towards business models that create new digital and online forms of value. Until now, the concept of unlocking the digital dividend has been largely elusive.

 

Change your thinking

4 Short Stories that Will Change the Way You Think

The past week has been an interesting one, filled with both joy and sorrow.  As is want to happen the new week arrived in all its magnificence and serendipitously, I found these Four Stories that gave me pause to reflect. These are old familiar stories and you have probably read them before with slightly different people and contexts however the lessons remain the same.

Change your thinking
Change your Thinking

Story #1:  All the Difference in The World

Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home.  There’s a lake located in one corner of the park.  Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.

This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her.  As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap.  There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap.  She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.

“Hello,” I said.  “I see you here every Sunday morning.  If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”

She smiled.  “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied.  “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim.  It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”

“Wow!  That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.

She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out.  It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”

“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.

“Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.

I scratched my head.  “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent?  I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are freshwater turtles living in lakes all around the world.  And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells.  So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”

The woman giggled aloud.  She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”

The moral:  You can change the world – maybe not all at once, but one person, one animal, and one good deed at a time.  Wake up every morning and pretend like what you do makes a difference.  It does.  (Read 29 Gifts.)

its all about Perspective
Perspective

Story #2:  The Weight of the Glass

Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students.  As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question.  Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.

She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter.  It all depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light.  If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little.  If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor.  In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water.  Think about them for a while and nothing happens.  Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little.  Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”

The moral:  It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries.  No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down.  Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you.  If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down.  (Angel and I discuss this process of letting go in the Adversity and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

Story #3:  Shark Bait

During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.

As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.

The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.

Again, the shark quickly attacked.  This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off.  Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail.  Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition.  Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.

This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks.  Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.

The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack.  The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.

The moral:  Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go.  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)

Changing Seasons

Story #4:  Being and Breathing

One warm evening many years ago…

After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing.  So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear.  She smiled – the kind of smile that makes me smile back –and she said, “When I’m seventy-five and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”

A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep.  The room was peaceful – almost silent.  All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing.  I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible.  And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone.  Nor did the future hold any significance.

All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.

Just being with her and breathing with her.

The moral:  We must not allow the clock, the calendar, and external pressures to rule our lives and blind us to the fact that each individual moment of our lives is a beautiful mystery and a miracle – especially those moments we spend in the presence of a loved one.

Your turn…

How do you think differently today, than you once did?  What life experience or realization brought on a significant change in your way of thinking?  Please leave a comment below and share your story with us.

Make dreams come true

Goal Setting is the thing to do right…Wrong! – Part 2

Make dreams come true
Make dreams come true

Part 2…

So I am not saying that goals are bad things and you should avoid them. If goals work for you then go for it

For a lot of us, a goal can be the tool that sets our direction and inspires us to keep going.

But when I look back at the way my career change actually unfolded, it didn’t happen in a series of big tick-boxes.

It happened in micro-moments of consistent actions.

You could call them systems, or you could call them habits.

Here’s why they worked so well:

 

Habits have a ‘how’

“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” – Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Have you ever thought to yourself: “I could make a career change in no time, if only I knew what steps to take”?

It’s the classic career change conundrum – you know the high-level result you want, but you do not know what each specific little step is or looks like, nor do you know the actions you need that is going to get you there.

So you end up with these gloriously intangible goals, much like the ones I listed out in my book, and then you sit and stare at them, and feel bad that you haven’t got there yet, and beat yourself up for not knowing how.

But you can get your hands on a Habit.

Because if it’s a habit, you know what it is and how to do it.

So we tend to get into the Habit of doing things, rather than just setting a goal.

 

If there’s only so much you can do, you can at least do a lot of that.

We have already established that you are not the boss of everything.

You can not control results, but you can control your actions.

So shifting your attention away from the lofty, the far-off and the at-least-50%-out-of-your-hands and toward the tangible, the manageable, the consistent and the completely-under-your-control is probably a smart move.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Steven Covey has a great way of explaining this.

Picture a circle.

Inside it, cram everything you care about: your declining eyesight, the refugee crisis, climate change, the housing market, whether your kid is having a good day at school, what the recruitment agent is going to say in your meeting tomorrow, how good your hair looks today, the location of your car keys, whether or not you’re happy in your future career… there’s a LOT in this circle.

Covey calls it your Circle of Concern.

Inside your Circle of Concern is another circle.

This one is called your Circle of Influence.

And inside your Circle of Influence are only the concerns you can directly impact or control.

Goals tend to live inside your Circle of Concern and outside your Circle of Influence. They rely on factors that are only partly in your control. And they are focused on outputs (what happens next) rather than inputs (what you actually do).

But your hairstyle? The house you choose to buy? The skills you develop or what you spend your Thursday evenings doing? Whether or not you try that new recipe that’s been rolling around in the back of your head for months?

 

In these matters, you are the boss.

When you operate within your Circle of Influence, you will make the biggest impact.

And the more time you spend working and playing inside of this circle, the larger it grows.

 

It’s hard to pick a fight with a mouse

Goals can tend to feel high-stakes and paralysing, habits can be as small as you need them to be. A Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends starting with ‘tiny habits’, actions so small that they are almost laughable. Instead of trying to start a habit of flossing twice a day, for example, he suggests just starting by flossing one tooth.

Why?

You can find a lot of good reasons why the goal of quitting your job in 3 months’ time, regardless of what happens between now and then, might not be the best idea. You can argue your way in and out of that for hours.

It is much harder to argue with a habit of putting whatever coins you have in your pockets into a savings jar every day when you get home.

Insignificant though actions like this might sound, they are actually incredibly powerful. The hardest part of anything is just getting started, and once you have started getting into action with a habit, they have the capacity to snowball.

Maybe you want to write a novel. You decide to set up a tiny habit of writing just 300 words a day. You figure, to complete a book at that rate, it will take about 300 days. Except… it turns out that writing 300 words is really easy, and even on your busiest days, you are getting it done. In fact, on a lot of days, you find yourself overshooting the 300 word mark and just continuing to tap away, writing 800, 1,000, 2,000 words in a day.

You can’t argue with small.

 

Slow consistent progress is permanent Progress

Goals can set you up for a jerky journey with little traction.

You create a goal, circle it for a while, make a big leap forward, and then, once you have achieved it, you have to come up with the next one. If you don’t achieve it, you then have to deal with the emotional fallout. Mapped onto a piece of paper, your forward movement looks like a game of leapfrog with a very nervous teammate.

Habits on the other hand are by their very nature ongoing and consistent. They tell you what to do and when, and are active regardless of output. Small steps, taken consistently, move you forward faster.

“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.” – James Clear, author of Atomic Habits

And good news for your achy willpower muscle: once you have formed them, habits pretty much operate automatically.

In fact, once we have got going with a habit, our brains actually adapt to make it easier to complete. After about 30 days of practice, carrying out a habit becomes easier than not doing so.

As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power Of Habit:

“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realise – they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”

 

The nature of your life is dependent on the nature of your habits

Philosopher William James described habits in this way:

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits  practical, emotional, and intellectual  systematically organised for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”

Habits, not goals, shape your daily experience of the world.

 

The time of day you wake up. The way you brush your teeth. How you get to work, the turns of phrase you use, the way you automatically respond to certain events.

Goals are interruptions to your status quo.

Habits, on the other hand, build, shape and create the form and direction of your life.

And if that is true, then whether or not you shift into fulfilling work is entirely dependent on the habits and consistent behaviours you choose to cultivate.

 

On other words, choosing and building a powerful set of habits can help you move into fulfilling work inevitable.

Now that sounds pretty good, no?

How to build helpful habits in career change

 

Create opportunities to be gloriously surprised

All you can control is what you do, not what happens next.

So, as you start designing some new habits and behaviours, let go of any thought of whether or not it will ‘work’ or be ‘worth it’.

Perhaps you consider starting a new habit of going to one new, interesting event per week.

But then the doubts come in: By the way these are also  know as Limiting Beliefs

“There probably won’t be anyone interesting there.”

“You don’t WANT to work at the circus – why go to a workshop?”

“You’ve had a tiring week – no point going if it’s just going to be a waste of time.”

Your job is not to make it worth it.

Your job is not to know the outcome.

Your job is just to keep opening the door to the possibility of something fantastic that you didn’t see coming.

You can’t control whether it happens or not.

But one thing is for sure: without an open door, it ain’t coming in.

How do we see Ourself

Choose pleasure, not pride

Intrinsic motivation is far more effective than extrinsic rewards.

In her book Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin uses this example:

“If I tell [my daughter] that she can watch an hour of TV if she reads for an hour, I don’t build her habit of reading. I teach her that watching TV is more fun than reading.”

So where possible, set up habits that will feel good to do and give you a sense of accomplishment when completed.

This does not mean it won’t take any effort to get started with them. Setting up a new habit involves some change, and it will take willpower to get the ball rolling.

Perhaps you know that talking to new people often feels a bit awkward to start with.

But once you’ve opened a dialogue, you always enjoy the conversation, and you are thrilled to have made a new friend you can learn from.

It will take some effort to push past the initial hump of always reaching out to people you encounter who do interesting work. But the more you do it, the smoother that initial hump will become, and the more enjoyment (and great conversations, and new insights) will follow.

Following a pleasurable feeling  and setting up a system to do more of it, is always going to reap greater rewards than fighting against an unpleasant one. Besides, if you want to find fulfilling work, doing a lot of things that feel unfulfilling is unlikely to get you there.

Follow the hints and the feelings that tell you what you love, what comes naturally, what elicits a sense of flow.

 

Do more of what works

Often times, habits are pitched as things to be changed, to quit, or to fix.

You are giving up your smoking habit.

You start running every morning (to fix your low fitness levels).

You stop drinking coffee in the mornings.

However, when you are trying to create a habit in order to fix or stop something, it takes more effort, and reminds you of the negative element you are trying to get away from.

Stopping something gives you the sense of having less of something in your life, but it does not necessarily replace it with anything else. You want the good stuff, and more of it.

The most effective habits start with the questions:

“What do I know works well for me?” and then: “How can I do more of it?”

So take a look at the things you have done in the past that have given you more clarity or more progress when it comes to your career change.

When have you found new insights to explore, and how did you find them?

What was different about that conversation that led to a new opportunity, from the other conversations that fizzled out?

Sure, you know that for extroverts, going to networking events works brilliantly. But you are way better in 1-1 environments. So how do you have more 1-1 interactions with people in your day-to-day?

Look for what works, and then focus on building a habit that has you do more of it.

 

If in doubt, change your environment

Stanford behaviour scientist BJ Fogg says he has learnt that only three things will change your life in the long term.

Option A. Have an epiphany

Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)

Option C. Take baby steps

Epiphanies are hard to come by, and they are out of your control.

Baby steps are the mouse-sized micro-habits you can build with very little effort over time.

And if you are not sure what baby steps to take, create the habit of taking them into new environments. If you are struggling for ideas on your future career, or struggling to find the right steps to take, remember one of the simplest principles of systems theory:

New inputs = new outputs.

If you want new ideas, new insights, new possibilities, build the habit of filling your environment with new experiences.

Widen your social circle by adding new people with new perspectives into your social circle.

Take yourself into new places and surroundings.

Giving yourself new experiences.

Build habits that change what surrounds you, and you will watch your perspective on the world, and the opportunities you can see, change along with it.

 

One thing at a time, and one thing only

Set yourself up for success.

Start small.

Overcommitting to a whole bunch of new habits has the same impact as setting yourself a scary goal. It feels overwhelming, paralysing, and invites fear of failure and procrastination.

Get into the habit of just one small, consistent new behaviour.

Get curious about it.

A tiny drip of water, over time, can crack open a whole boulder.

Do not underestimate the power of one thing done consistently over time.

“The best thing I ever did was to commit to one small action each day (less than five minutes). Sometimes this lead to further leaps, other times that was all I did. This might have been making a list, sending an email, commenting on a post, a bit of research, etc. When I combined that with trying to make the small action something that was slightly out of my comfort zone as well, good things started to happen.” – Amy G.

 

Get trigger-happy

New habits are often difficult to get going because they require  Two things #1 that you change your behaviours, #2. that you remember to do them.

According to Zen Habits writer Leo Babauta, the often-overlooked key to building a new habit is to tie it to a trigger – an event that will remind you (eventually automatically) to carry out your habit:

“Habits become automatic after we have created a bond between the trigger and the habit. The stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit.”

Babauta recommends finding an action or event that is already ingrained into your routines in life.

For example, if you need to remember to take a daily medication, keeping the box on top of your toothbrush will help you tie the action of taking your pill to your already-automatic (we would hope) routine of brushing your teeth.

If you want to build a habit of staying in touch with old friends, use an already-ingrained habit (opening your email client for the first time in the morning, checking social media on your commute) to act as a trigger to send one checking-in message to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.

Need to start injecting your weekly routine with something fresh and new, to inspire new ideas and broaden your experience of the world? Every time you see a vaguely interesting event coming up in your local area, put it into your calendar.

Consistent triggers make new habits feel natural, faster.

 

Work with the way you work

A habit is an expectation you have set for yourself (or, sometimes, that someone else / society expects of you).

Gretchen Rubin suggests there are four primary ways, or ‘tendencies’ with which people respond to those expectations.

Knowing your ‘tendency’ (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel), you can pre-empt the ways in which you might get stuck building or maintaining your habits, and set up systems and approaches that help you get things done.

You might, for example, need to rely on accountability more than others, and tell multiple people about the habits you are trying to build.

Reminding yourself of the greater good you are trying to achieve might be the primary kick you need.

Or perhaps deadlines are the only thing that will get you out of analysis paralysis and moving forward.

Take the Four Tendencies Test here, and use the results to craft your approach to habits in the way that works for you.

Finding fulfilling work is a revelatory process

It is what makes it magical. It is what makes it nerve-wracking, too.

If only a career you love was the output of a nice, neat algebraic formula, setting goals and project-managing, the whole thing would be smart and simple.

But it’s not.

It’s messy, and full of surprises, and it requires you to be in a space of not-knowing for far longer than most human beings are comfortable with.

What will anchor you, keep you grounded and making forward progress, are habits and systems.

Consistent, forward nudges that you actually do, that keep you feeling proud and motivated, and that opens the door, over and over again, to the possibility of being gloriously surprised, to the unexpected and the new.

What habit could you start cultivating in your own career change? Let me know in the comments below.

Goal Setting is the thing to do right…Wrong! – Part1

 

Dreams and Goals

This is Part 1 of 2

 

Goal-setting seems like a smart thing to do in a career change. However, this might actually be exactly what is keeping you stuck. Renata explains why big targets can be a false friend. Here is what she recommends doing to start making progress towards that Ideal Career instead.

Let me tell you a short story

A little while ago I was doing a cupboard purge something I had not done in a while.

I found a black hard cover notebook. I immediately recognise this old faithful companion that contain hundreds of lines of my handwriting and doodles, in different colours of ink and pencil.

Journal entries, to-do lists, thoughts I had jotted down. Pages and pages of confused, frustrated outpourings about my work, my life, my future. I took a moment to read those words and I was transported back to that year in a deeply visceral way that I haven’t felt for a long time. The desperate awkwardness of feeling like a fundamental misfit in a career and a life that was not for mine. The sense of being caged in and stuck, trapped by the very life choices I myself had made in the years before. The  dark emptiness ahead of me when I tried to imagine what else I could do.

As I flipped through the pages of that old book one page in particular hit me hard.

It was a list of goals.

Big, ambitious, hopeful goals. The only kind I had, back then.

And then next to them, in a different pen, clearly written later in a fit of irritation, a series of scrawled, pointy, sarcastic flippant questions…

      • “Have three reasonable career options I’m truly excited about.” LOVELY. HOW, EXACTLY?
      • “Start a side line income to make extra cash” WHICH YOU’LL DO IN WHAT SPARE TIME?
      • “Have  ($6000) saved by June.” WHAT FOR, GENIUS?
      • “Hand in my notice by September” YEAH, RIGHT!!

 

Reading the contents of that page was like watching a snippet of the perpetual state of the inside of my head – the never-ending back-and-forth of a hopeful, fierce optimist and an angry, hurt cynic.

I made a lot of lists like that.

I remember how painful and pointless those felt, once their initial balm wore off.

Unrealistic, hollow-feeling goals, created mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.

They sounded nice, but I rarely did much about them.

It wasn’t a question of what I wanted on a grand scale.

It was the specifics I had no clue about. I still did not know the steps to take to get there.

Sound familiar?

Goals are not very helpful in the day-to-day logistics of a career change.

YES goals can feel productive, and make yo feel good in the beginning. Perhaps these goals even feel good the day after you write them down.

But beyond that initial feel-good sensation you have initially it can actually have the opposite effect on you making any meaningful change.

Here’s why.

Fulfilment isn’t SMART

Anyone who has ever done any goal-setting has come into contact with the idea of SMART goals at some point:

We are told Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.

This is Fair enough however finding fulfilling work is not quite so neat.

Setting SMART goals is an organisational task – finding the logical pieces, breaking them into chunks, and putting them together in a way that leads you forward, step by step.

Finding fulfilling work however feels more like trying to jump off a jellyfish into an ocean you are not convinced actually exists.

You do not really know where you are going, so being specific i.t.o goals setting is laughable.

You are not sure how exactly to measure fulfilment (beyond ‘Makes me want to poke myself in the eye / Doesn’t make me want to poke myself in the eye’), so that’s a shaky one too.

You do not even completely believe it’s possible, so how can it be achievable or realistic?

And time-based… if ONLY a deadline could fix this mess.

So sitting down to write some goals for your career change… eerr if it feels ridiculous, that’s probably because it is, a little.

Extrinsic motivation is not effective

Imagine you have set yourself a goal to lose 10 kilos.

You start going to the gym every day, because someone told you that gym exercise gets faster weight-loss results than anything else.

You hate the gym. You hate the smell of the changing rooms, you hate the perky gym bunny types who take up all the machines, you hate the music they play, and you hate running towards your own reflection in a mirror for half an hour and traveling precisely nowhere.

You start taking a salad and a Thermos of cabbage soup to work every day. You hate salad. You hate cabbage soup. You are starting to hate your life.

But you would love to loose those 10 kilos.

So you put up with it. You eat the soup, holding your nose and visualising your life once you’ve hit your goal. You endure the gym, wishing you could just hit your goal and never have to go back there again.

What are the chances of you hitting your 10-kilo target – and, more importantly, maintaining it afterward? I would say Pretty low, no?

Goals that do not inspire you or give you that “hell yeah” feeling or rely on extrinsic motivation such as an external, tangible result or outcome you need to achieve will not be achieved.

These goals feel heavy, looming over you menacingly until you have hit them. The process of working toward them often doesn’t feel enjoyable and takes a lot of effort despite the rewards at the end.

So you’re less likely to take the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Extrinsic motivation has repeatedly been shown to be less effective than Intrinsic motivation, which is driven by enjoying the activity itself.

Extrinsic motivation: “If I walk five miles today, I can have that piece of chocolate cake.”

Intrinsic motivation: “I love dancing – I’m going to dance in the kitchen just because it feels great.”

Extrinsic motivation: “If I spend the next month learning about the political system in Uzbekistan I’ll look really smart at the university dinner party.”

Intrinsic motivation: “How DOES the inside of my remote control work? This is fascinating…”

In other words, given the choice between rewards or enjoyment, you are far more likely to do things you enjoy.

So, ironically, you are more likely to lose 10 kilos by throwing the scales in the bin and going dancing every weekend than you are by trying to haul yourself to the gym every day if going to the gym is not your thing.

In your career change, you are more likely to find fulfilling work  (albeit counter-intuitively) by doing things you enjoy than you are by setting yourself a goal to change career.

Pressure encourages procrastination

There is a fair amount of pressure involved in goal-setting.

Either you hit your goal, or you don’t.

There is no room for the grey area on the way.

And if you don’t hit it, you’ve ‘failed’. Unpleasant. Scary. Dunce hat. Ugh.

Procrastination is based in fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change: all fears that grow from an attachment to a specific outcome… otherwise known as ‘a goal’.

In career change, this often looks like vacillation, over-thinking, endlessly weighing up options, researching things to death…

Sound familiar?

What if you get it wrong? What if you don’t hit your target? What if it never happens?

High stakes creates high tension – and the higher the tension, the less likely you are to act.

So if you have set yourself a goal and you are getting stuck in procrastination-whirlpools, this might be why.

You are not the boss of everything

Unfortunate, but true.

No matter how hard you try, or how much effort you put in to achieving a goal, sometimes the world just gets in the way. Life happens.

Maybe you twist an ankle and can’t train for the marathon.

Maybe the taxman slings you an unexpected curveball and your savings goal hits the deck.

Maybe your company withdraws its plans to offer a round of voluntary redundancies next month, like you were expecting.

Maybe your kid gets sick and you spend your week curled up on the bathroom floor mopping brows and blowing noses and you don’t get your LinkedIn profile up to date like you said you would.

These moments hurt. Partly because they throw a spanner in the works and we have to deal with the possibility of failure.

Partly because it forces you to realise that you can’t control results.

You can ONLY control what you do, but not what happens next.

      • You can create a perfectly written LinkedIn profile, but you can’t control whether or not people will read it.
      • You can reach out to someone you admire, but you can’t control whether or not they will respond.
      • You can go to an event you have never been to before, but you can’t control whether or not it will spark a new career idea.

Trying to consistently hit your goals when you are only responsible for part of the process is a pretty heavy expectation.

Don’t just set goals, build habits.

Looking back at my notebook, I’m pretty proud to say that  I have achieved pretty much all l the goals I set back then and am working  on achieving the new ones I have set.

I found a way to visit amazing places met some truly amazing people and do work I am completely in love with.

That wouldn’t have happened without giving myself the space to dream ridiculously big and commit to consistently doing things I had no idea how to do BUT learnt that it was possible and I could them.

continue …

Read part 2 next

promotion problems

Transitioning back to work after lockdown

promotion problems

Staying mentally healthy as the country begins going back into workplaces.

Life as we knew it has changed and our reality is very different today than it was 100+ days ago. Many of us were in various stages of lockdown for extended periods of time. and even as many of the initial restrictions were lifted , many have still remained and will remain for the foreseeable future.

As we begin to emerge from what felt like hibernation for many, we are all to aware that life is very different and things will never go back to the way they were.

As we start to return to work, and our children return to school there is a lot to think about. Lockdown has affected us all in different ways, and it is normal to feel uncertain about what the future holds.

Many people feel confused, worried and apprehensive about going back to the workplace and even more feel anxious about sending children back to school. Amid this worry there is also the harsh realisation that indefinite lockdown is not sustainable and life still needs to carry on.

Organisations are considering a range of adjustments to the way work is done, to comply with government recommendations. These adjustments will depend on your job, and your individual circumstances.

Everyone’s situation is unique. However, as you  return to work, there are some general principles that will give you the best chance of getting back to work and staying mentally healthy over the coming months.

 

Talk and connect

It is important to keep in touch with colleagues and your line manager. You don’t need to talk about work, but a quick check-in will help you feel connected. We have all been impacted by the coronavirus in different ways. You may have been bereaved, felt overwhelmed or isolated, or been unwell. If you share this with others they will be better able to help you in the months ahead.

Plan and prepare

Think about your job and your situation. Does anything need to change to help you do your job well? If you haven’t been told what to expect, ask what provisions have been made to create a safe work environment. It can be helpful to think through what will happen on the first day back:

  • How will you get to work?
  • Will anything be different as you enter the building?
  • Who will be there?
  • Will you need to do things differently to get your job done?
  • Are you on a rotation schedule?

Have a return-to-work conversation with your line manager

If you have not received a return-to-work briefing from your line manager ask for one.

This is a chance to identify your work priorities and raise any concerns or questions that you have. If you have something important you want to talk about, make a note of it for when you have a briefing or perhaps drop your manager and email with your concerns. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and we are all trying to figure things out as we go along. NO one person has all the answers so raise your concerns and ask your questions – chances are you are not the only one who has the same concern.

Try not to panic and slip into a paranoid space

Take things one step at a time

The way we all work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks and months so we will need to keep adjusting. Don’t expect everything to quickly return to normal. The life you knew and were familiar with prior to lockdown is gone and will very likely never return. We have a long journey ahead. We may never be able to go back to our old ways of working so this could give us an opportunity to do things very differently, and even better. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take one day at a time.

Monitor and review how you are getting on

It is important to have regular check-ins with yourself (How am I coping? Could I do more to help stay mentally healthy?) and check-ins with your team members and manager (How are we working? Is there anything we could do differently to work better together?). This way you can address issues as they come up and start to plan and prepare for the journey through COVID-19 together.

Be mindful of those who may have been directedly affected or infected by this virus. Be supportive and check-in if a team member has had to deal with the illness or loss of a family member due to COVID-19. many of those in  essential services have has to deal with unimaginable conditions from and emotional and psychological perspective. Many of them have brought these  traumas home and family have had to deal as best they could. so be gentle and be kind with those who are struggling you may not know what they have has to deal with on the home front.

Finally

Everyone is finding their own path and things might not always go to plan. It is important to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others as we all find our way. Returning to work is not always easy, but having support can make a huge difference. If you are finding it difficult, ask a trusted colleague or friend to help you work through the questions and identify some concrete actions that you, or they, can take to help you.

What is an Ideal Self and How to achieve it?

Who is your hero?  ‘I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time”. Ten years late I was asked the same question by the same person Who is your hero? ‘Again I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time” – Mathew McConaughey

What Exactly is an Ideal Self?

An ideal self is an ideal future version of “you” that encompasses your personality, beliefs, values, and behaviour under various conditions. It can be summarized in the following way:

My ideal self is who I want to become… the best version of myself in every situation.

The “ideal you” is, therefore “you”. However it is not the person you are today, but rather the person you are striving to become tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on.

This ideal self is not a state of perfection; it is not a fixed destination or a finished product. In fact, it is far from it. This ideal self is constantly evolving and changing, and as such is somewhat elusive in nature.

Your ideal self should always be several steps ahead of who you are today. When you do become that ideal version of yourself at some point in the future, the ideal version of “you” at that point should have changed. Therefore you should still be in pursuit of this ideal self.

This is, an important progression because it leads to healthy growth and development. It is also the process of continuous improvement.

If one day you were to catch up to your ideal self, that is possibly the day when life would lose all meaning. When there is nothing greater to strive for, and with no new challenge on the horizon you would end up in a state of stagnation from that point onwards. There would be no motivation to grow or to improve yourself and as a result, life would become perfect for you. That, of course, does not sound so bad, right? Well…It is not so good either. It is not good because reaching a state of perfection leads to boredom, restlessness, and a less than satisfying life.

All this, sounds quite counter-intuitive. Becoming everything you have ever wanted to be sounds like bliss. And yes you would be right. It would be as if all your dreams had come true. You are however, not that person today. It is the journey towards becoming that future person that will bring you fulfilment. It is, therefore, not the destination but rather the steps you take to get to that destination that makes life incredibly fulfilling, enjoyable and fun. Moreover, it is the process of learning, growth, and development along that journey that makes life truly worth living.

Given all this, it is quite clear to see why our ideal-self must be elusive in nature. It must change over time because you are  recreating yourself daily through your choices, decisions, and actions. Every thought you indulge in leads to a decision, which leads to an action. These actions form the habits and rules you live by and that shape your future life and behaviour. In fact, every experience you have changes you in some way. These changes might be slight, however, these always impact the kind of person you are striving to become (your ideal-self).Many small changes over a period of time will lead to big changes towards  the vision you have for your future self.

Your ideal-self, of course, encompasses the many roles you fulfil. You might be a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a sports coach, a leader, an employee or employer. Within every one of these roles there exists an “ideal you”. You might, be striving to become better at any one of these. As a result, you are working towards this ideal version of who you would like to one day become, and this helps keep you growing and developing yourself in that role. This is true for any role you fulfil.

Our growth and development in each role is the fuel that keeps pushing us forward through every decision we make and action we take. As long as these ideal versions of ourselves are somewhat out of reach, we will keep striving and pushing forward. This ideal version of you is what fuels your motivation.

This is all good-and-well , however, at times we end up walking along the wrong path because we succumb to other people’s expectations. These people shape how they would like us to be within the specific roles we fulfil. This, of course, might not be such a bad thing. Sometimes we just don’t have enough clarity to understand how we can grow and develop ourselves within a specific role. However, at times giving into other people’s expectations can lead us down a less than optimal path.

The key is to take on board what is helpful and allow that to shape your ideal self. Everything we take on board we  must make our own. In this way will we fully accept what we need to do to bridge the gap between where we are and where we desire to be.

Take a moment to decide if…

You know exactly who You are…

You accept who you are right now…

You seek to become a better version of yourself…

You commit yourself to growth and development…

When you know who you are today (your self-image), and when you fully accept this person, that is when you can commit yourself to becoming a better version of yourself, which of course comes through the process of growth and development.

That, in a nutshell, is what  the ideal-self is all about. It is about striving to become the very best version of yourself within every role you fulfil.

So what if you are not sure? What if you don’t quite have the clarity you need to bring that ideal- self to life?

Well, that is what the following four-step process to help you consciously begin shaping your ideal-self is for.

Often we desire to be better at certain roles and/or areas of our lives, however, we never quite take the time to clarify what “being better” actually means to us.

We tend to be vague about the things we would like to improve upon. Therefore, we never truly build enough momentum to carry us forward to this desired destination.

Avoid falling into this trap by going through a four-step process that will help you shape your self-ideal the same it helped me – with purposeful intention. These steps are designed to help you lay down a path from where you are [your current self] to where you desire to be [your ideal self], thereby bridging the gap between the two.

Step 1: Analysis of Your Current and Ideal Self

Your first task is to get to know yourself at a deep level. Yes, this means warts and all. It means acknowledging parts of yourself that you are pleased with and being honest about parts of yourself that tend not to live up to your personal standards and/or expectations. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do I value most about myself?

What would I like to leave unchanged moving forward?

What don’t I like about my current behaviour?

What aspects of myself would I like to alter?

There will naturally be parts of yourself that you are quite happy with and would not want to change, however, there will be other parts where you see room for growth and improvement.

Think about situations where you face adversity, conflict, making mistakes and dealing with difficult emotions. These are challenging situations that may or may not bring out the best in you. Consider these situations and ask yourself:

How do I typically handle adversity?

How do I respond when I make mistakes?

How do I tend to handle conflict?

How do I deal with difficult emotions?

Reflect on “how you are” in these situations and consider how you might be able to improve in these areas. Your answers to these questions will  lay down the foundations for your ideal-self.

Now, let’s take a look at that ideal-self by exploring the kind of person that you would like to become. Consider your answers to the previous questions, then take a moment to step out of who you are and project yourself into the future.

See and Feel the Ideal You then ask yourself:

What kind of person am I?

What standards do I like to uphold?

What do I believe about myself?

Here you are building a picture of “you”. This is not who you are now, but rather someone who you would Ideally like to become in the future.

Now consider breaking this down even further by completing the following statements:

I want to be a person who is…

I want to be a person who keeps…

I want to be a person who lives…

I want to be a person who doesn’t…

I want to be a person who solves…

Going through each of these statements will provide you with a much clearer picture of the kind of person you envision yourself becoming in the future. Now your task is to simply follow through with making these positive changes.

The only thing mission now is WHY?

Why is it important to make these changes?

In order to make change stick, you must have a “good reason” to make this change in the first place. There must be enough motivation for you to change, or otherwise, your efforts will be fleeting. What is Your WHY?

Was this helpful ? Please leave a comment I would love to hear from you.

Are you stuck in “Perfectionism” Trap

 

from perfection to passion

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough. – Julia Cameron

Perfectionism… “To be, or not to be?” That is, the ultimate question! There are certainly arguments for and against it. Those who support perfectionism may tell you that it is a measure of attention to detail and thoroughness when getting tasks done. It’s all about achieving those higher standards that give them the edge in a competitive environment.

This view implies that perfectionism is a form of excellence where you strive to perform at the highest possible level.

Is it really about striving for excellence?

You will discover, that perfectionism is certainly not all it is cracked up to be. In fact, it can be as debilitating as it can be helpful; and when it is mismanaged it can potentially sabotage all your good intentions. Why? Because [as I discovered] perfectionism is something that is built upon fear, inflexible rules, and unreasonable standards that have absolutely no basis in reality.

Before breaking down these details, let us look at what perfectionism actually means.

To be a perfectionist means being overly concerned with personal achievement. Everything needs to be done perfectly or otherwise you simply can not move forward. This often stems from the notion of all-or-nothing thinking, where things are either perfect or things are  just not good enough.

When we step into this all-or-nothing space our life stagnates and we are unable to move forward as we need to because we have created in our mind a set of unreasonable and often lofty expectations.

Perfectionists persistently pressure themselves to reach these unachievable objectives, often to their own personal detriment, without ever realizing that perfectionism is in constant flux. It is based purely on interpretation. The reality is that what is perfect for one person is far from perfect for another person.  Additionally, what is perfect today will often be far from perfect tomorrow. The more we learn about something, the more we  realize how much we actually don’t know.

Therefore the question becomes does perfectionism actually exist? I have come to realise that it does not. It is a misnomer that we fool ourselves into believing more often than we may care to acknowledge. 🙂

You might be thinking that perfectionism is all about  going out there and doing your best in every situation. This is a valid argument – Doing our very best and trying to live up to the highest of standards can certainly be of tremendous value, however, there is a healthy and an unhealthy way to go about this.

Those who do their very best and strive for excellence do so from a place of empowerment. These people have a high level of self-worthself-esteem, and self-confidence in their own ability to get things done at the highest of levels. This behaviour is healthy because these people come from a place of yearning for growth and development. It is this behaviour that helps them perform at the highest level.

The flip side of this coin however, is the unhealthy form of perfectionism. People who succumb to this do so from a place of fear that often translates into procrastination. They engage in the act of perfectionism as a means of avoiding something they fear, and as a result, they succumb to bouts of anxiety or/ and procrastination.

This often manifests in inflexible thinking, self-criticismperformance anxiety, and guilt. The underlying factor here is, these people have very low levels of self-esteem. They just don’t believe they are good enough and therefore operate from a sense of failure, which impairs their personal growth, productivity, and performance.

In an attempt to make up for all these shortcomings, they set the highest possible standards for themselves thinking that striving for perfection will help ease their fears. This strategy almost never works because the underlying problem still exists.

A lack of self-esteem means that you are constantly comparing Yourself and your performance to others. From the outside this can seem competitive, but this competitive spirit often comes from a place of weakness and vulnerability. There is a consistent need for reassurance  and as a result, they are quite vulnerable to  criticism and rejection.

They become so engrossed in the act of doing things perfectly that “making progress” and “forward thinking” take a back-seat to the idea that “things are just not good enough”. As a result they don’t take any meaningful action towards the attainment of their goals and objectives, and they remain stuck. Unable to move forward and unable to break free, they engross themselves even further into a world of unrealistic expectations and unreasonable standards that can never be met. All this is a direct result of their inability to handle fear.

The Evolution of Perfectionism

Now that we understand how perfectionism manifests in our lives, let us  take a look at how it evolves over a lifetime. There are numerous influential forces that can make a person prone to falling victim to bouts of perfectionism. For starters, there is our temperament we are born which becomes less of a factor as we age and undergo social conditioning.

Growing up you might have received unusually high levels of praise from your parents, guardians and/or peers. As a result, you now have very high expectations of yourself and rather inflexible beliefs in certain areas of your life, which can manifest in perfectionistic behaviour. On the flip-side, there might have been an absence of praise while you were growing up in which case you would gravitate towards perfectionistic types of behaviour in an attempt to make-up for your perceived shortcomings. This is a way of proving to other people that you are deserving of higher praise.

Being overly punished for making mistakes while growing up can also trigger perfectionistic behaviour. As a result of these mistakes, you feel  you are just not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, etc. Today, you strive to avoid experiencing this pain by doing things perfectly to avoid punishment/pain that you still believe will result.

Being overly dependent upon receiving rewards from other people can also lead to perfectionistic behaviour. While growing up you might have consistently been rewarded for completing certain tasks and activities to a set of standards that your parents or others set for you. As a result, you have been conditioned to receive rewards when completing a task to the highest possible level. You now, indulge in perfectionism in order to keep receiving those rewards. Those rewards have probably changed quite significantly since you were a child, however, the expectation of getting something in return, even if it is just praise, is enough to keep your perfectionistic indulgence alive.

The Maintenance of Perfectionism

We can relate to these examples at some level however, what these examples do not explain is WHY, throughout our adult lives, we continue to indulge in perfectionism.

The underlying reasons why perfectionism might still be prevalent in your adult life, has to do with these three core factors: fearsunhelpful thoughts, and rules which work together to satisfy your hunger for perfectionism.

Fears

Your inability to deal with fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of making mistakes and even the fear of success can all lead you down the path towards perfectionism.

You indulge in perfectionism because fear breeds uncertainty and when things are uncertain this creates doubt. When there is doubt you procrastinate, instead of avoiding the task altogether, as most procrastinators tend to do, you try to trick yourself into believing that you are actually making progress. You do this by completely absorbing yourself into an easy part of the task that you feel comfortable with. You convince yourself that you cannot move onto the next part of the task unless this first part is done perfectly. This is, of course, a ploy you use to distract yourself from the fact that you just can not bear dealing with the fear that is waiting for you.

For example, let’s say that you have a presentation to do which you have been putting off for weeks. You convince yourself that you are not ready and spend all your time preparing for the presentation; making sure that everything is perfect. Of course, this is a ploy you use to avoid the FEAR you experience when you think about actually delivering this presentation. You are afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and therefore indulge in perfectionism to help ease the tension and uneasiness you feel.

Unhelpful Thoughts

Your unhelpful thoughts that lead you astray. Your fears actually stem from these unhelpful thoughts you indulge in. These thoughts hinder how you view the events and circumstances of your life. As a result, you tend to make inaccurate assumptions about how things are and about how they could end up being, if you follow-through with a specific kind of action.

You might, assume that if you make a mistake while giving the presentation that people will judge you. This, of course, triggers the fear of failure or criticism. You now believe you need to do everything in your power to try and avoid this. This means that you will continue to plan and prepare your presentation in order to delay the inevitable moment for as long as possible.

These are only two examples of the types of unhealthy thought patterns that could be letting you down. There are of course others but you get the point.

Psychological Rules

Your inflexible rules. These rules are of course interlinked with your unhelpful thoughts and fears. In fact, there is very little separation as all these components work together to lead you down the path towards perfectionism.

When it comes down to the reluctance you feel about giving your presentation, your rules could be :

I can’t move forward unless I am able to find the right graphics for this presentation.

I must conduct thorough research for the topic in order to impress my boss.

I should spend more time on preparing myself in order to avoid making mistakes.

All of these rules that you have created for yourself keep you within a perfectionist cycle. It is a “cycle” because even if you find the right graphics for this presentation, there will be yet another excuse that will keep you stuck.

The Formation of Unreasonable Standards

The above three factors come together to form your personal standards and the expectations you bring to every situation. Your personal standards are guidelines you use to measure your success. These guiding principles of behaviour help direct what you focus on and how you end up focusing on things.

These affect the choices and decisions you make when it comes to indulging in perfectionistic behaviour. Take into consideration the personal standards you have set for yourself in an area of your life where you tend to indulge in perfectionism and ask yourself:

Are my personal standards in this situation 

 – realistic?

 – achievable?

 – flexible?

What problems tend to result from indulging in these high standards?

How does this affect

  • me?
  • the situation?
  • my life?

Answering these questions will hopefully begin to break down the walls that form the belief systems you have supporting this kind of behaviour.

Was this useful? Leave a comment and let me know how you have dealt with Perfectionism. Stay tuned for the next article which will cover How to Beat Perfectionism.

Self Confidence

HOW TO BOOST YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE

 

Self Confidence

 

Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy. – Brian Tracy

What it Means to Have Self-Confidence

To have self-confidence means being able to fully accept oneself and others. It also means being free from self-doubt, and having the necessary self-belief and self-assurance to follow through with desired actions and intentions without falling into the trap of indecision or hesitation.

To have self-confidence means not defining your personal value or self-worth on outside sources such as people and outcomes. Self-confidence is  something that comes from within each of us. It comes from a place of “knowing”.

It is not something that you try to do or be, but rather something that you just “are”. It is something that you just  accept wholeheartedly. It is part of you and you are a part of it, and that is why it is called Self-Confidence.

I am not saying that you cannot develop self-confidence. You can most certainly boost your levels of confidence, however, it doesn’t really become part of you until and unless you become one with it.

I can, pretend to be confident, but that is not self-confidence. Pretending to be self confident and acting as if I am confident still comes with doubt and hesitation. When I become “one” with what I am doing and fully let go of the fear of making mistakes, succumbing failure or anything else that frightens me, that is when I begin developing actual self-confidence.

Anyone can decide to feel confident, but a feeling of confidence is fleeting and it often depends on what is happening outside of you. While things are going well you will feel confident, however, if things are not going so well,  that confidence will quickly fade.

As such, true self-confidence cannot be a feeling, it must instead be a part of who you are no matter what is happening around you. For example, imagine undertaking a task you have never done before and saying to yourself one of the following two statements:

I’m feeling confident…

I have self-confidence…

Now, answer, which of these two statements is the more powerful statement? Most people would say that the second statement is the more powerful statement because “to have” something is much more powerful and permanent than simply  “to feel” something. Within this example lies the key to help you develop true and lasting self-confidence.

 

Self-Confidence is Very Much Like a Muscle

Developing self-confidence is not always easy and it does take time. The good news is that it is much like a muscle that you work on at the gym. Imagine for instance doing bicep curls at the gym. Your goal is to develop muscle growth, however, you will fail to achieve muscle growth if you make any of the following assumptions:

  • Expect that your muscles will grow significantly after one or two sessions.
  • Expect that you will achieve muscle growth by lifting very light weights.
  • Expect that you will attain muscle growth by working out inconsistently.

We all realize that these are flawed ways of thinking about muscle growth when it comes to working out at the gym. Your bicep muscles will only grow significantly after several weeks, months and years of training. Only when you keep increasing the intensity as you improve and consistently commit yourself to working out for an extended period of time, will you finally see the results you are looking for. We can of course throw in the importance of rest, nutrition, and other factors into the mix, but for the most part, that is how you grow your muscles.

Similarly, that is also how you develop your self-confidence.

Your level of confidence is just like any muscle in the body. It only grows stronger when you use and develop it by taking action towards a goal, over time. Breaking through your fears; gaining new experiences; and daily self-acceptance and self-love are what is going to build self-confidence.

You can only develop self-confidence when you fully accept yourself and cultivate self-love.  Without these, self-confidence cannot grow and become a part of you.

The sad fact is that most people never fully accept themselves, and that is where their problems lie. Without self-acceptance, they just do not have enough faith in themselves to follow through with their actions. They just do not trust themselves to get the job done. Without faith and trust, there is no real self-love and by extension without these elements in place, true self-confidence cannot exist.

Often times these people will try to “fake it to make it” and pretend to feel confident in order to overcome a fear or get through a difficult situation, but this seldom works; why…because they make the same three mistakes.

They expect:

  •  their confidence will improve significantly after a couple of tries.
  • to see a big boost in their confidence by doing small things that never take them too far outside their comfort zone.
  • that working on their confidence occasionally by making small changes which really doesn’t take too much out of them will create lasting change.

These tactics do not work for developing your bicep muscle, and they certainly will not work when trying to develop your self-confidence. I am not saying that we can’t develop confidence by taking small steps. Small steps in the right direction will help and is a good strategy. However, it is  a bit like lifting those tiny weights and never increasing the resistance. Without additional resistance, the muscle is not being put under enough strain in order to grow.

Likewise, without pushing yourself beyond what feels comfortable into the realm of discomfort, your confidence will also not grow. This is of course where  we do need to be completely honest with ourselves about whether we are ready to make the changes necessary to build self -confidence. Telling ourselves and others that we want to; is only the first small step. Being ready and willing to actually make the changes is of course a very different conversation. We must be willing to get very uncomfortable in order to begin boosting our confidence levels.

The Self-Confidence Self-Analysis Process

Before delving into methods to help you develop true self-confidence, it is important to  understand  where your starting point is, when it comes to your current level of confidence in areas that matter most.

First and probably most important of all, it is important to fully accept where you are currently in your life. Take time to acknowledge your fears and insecurities and how they are preventing you from moving forward.

Ask yourself:

What insecurities do I have about various aspects of my life?

What fears are holding me back in these areas?

Fully accepting your answers to these questions will help to pave the way forward for positive change.

Your next step is to acknowledge areas of your life where you feel confident. These are your greatest areas of strength and accomplishment.

Ask yourself:

Where do I feel most confidence?

What am I good at doing?

What’s something worthwhile that I have accomplished?

How does all this make me feel?

Your answers to these questions will help you to get a sense of what true self-confidence feels like.

The next step will be to transfer the self-confidence you have in these areas of your life into areas where you are lacking in confidence. How? by doing more of what you do to make you feel confident.

Your final step is to acknowledge some of the goals you would like to accomplish but can’t at the moment because you’re lacking in self-confidence.

Ask yourself:

Which area in my life specifically would I like to be more confident in?

What specifically would I like to be more confident with? Specify the time, place and situation. Perhaps create some SMART goals

How exactly do I want to be in this area of my life?

Why is all this important? Why do I want this so badly?

What will having self-confidence in this area of my life allow me to do?

Notice I did not mention “feeling confident” above. Feeling confidence can certainly be a first step towards having self-confidence, however, most people never get beyond that “feeling” in the areas that matter most.

This is a barrier you must cross if you desire to accomplish your goals.

Having acknowledged the areas of your life where you would like to feel more confident, will help you to know and recognize the obstacles that are likely to prevent you from moving forward towards being confident.

Ask yourself:

What obstacles could I likely face along this journey?

What specifically will these obstacles prevent me from doing?

How will I handle these obstacles when they arise?

Many people struggle with identifying obstacles because obstacles are scary. These are often elements that we would rather not face, yet many of these obstacles are inevitable. Sooner or later these will show up in your life, and if you are not ready and able to deal with them, you will slide right back into the confines of your comfort zone.

Acknowledging what obstacles you are likely to face can be overwhelming and can potentially weaken any sense of confidence you originally had when you set your goal(s). However, we can very easily shift perspectives and look at obstacles differently by taking the time to understand potential obstacles you might face can help boost your levels of confidence as long as you develop a plan on how to overcome them.

The act of “having a plan” in place to successfully move beyond obstacles will help you develop a deeper sense of confidence. This is by no means “self-confidence” as there is still plenty of hesitation and doubt, but you are making progress in the right direction. having a plan to deal with obstacles also allows us to be mentally prepared for any potential setbacks or hurdles which could scupper our progress. When you have a plan you are prepared and therefore not caught off guard and you know exactly what to do to navigate the hurdles.

Shifting Perspective About the Obstacles You Face

It is important to acknowledge above all else that self-confidence is a state-of-mind. It is not something you do, but rather something you “are”. It is a mindset you bring into every situation, and that is what makes all the difference.

When you are self-confident you naturally see failure, rejection, criticism, embarrassment, uncomfortable change or a mistake you made in a very different light compared to the person who does not have that same level of self-confidence. This difference in how you think makes all the difference in how you handle situations.

For most people, these kinds of circumstances are difficult to face.

It is very easy to get down on ourselves when facing failure, criticism, and rejection for instance. Just the very thought of these circumstances immediately makes people cringe and their confidence quickly plummets. Why? because their confidence comes from a “feeling” rather than a sense of “being”. They feel confident only when circumstances are favorable. However, the moment things change and they face adversity, they panic and as a result, their confidence level sinks.

The key to developing self-confidence is to begin progressively shifting how you see/perceive these circumstances. You can either choose to see things more favourably than the more unfavourably, however, the choice is always yours to make.

So how do people who have a tremendous amount of self-confidence perceive failure, rejection, embarrassment, fear, criticism,  uncomfortable change and making mistakes? How do they consistently play out these circumstances in their mind? Well, let’s take a look.

A Perspective for Failure

People who are highly of self-confident see failure as an inevitable part of life. They understand that the more risks they take the more likely the chances of failure are. Simultaneously though, they also appreciate that the more risks equal higher probability of success and they are okay with that. They realize that failure is simply a part of success. In fact, they see failure as nothing more but a stepping stone to success because every failed attempt provides feedback. They use this feedback to make better choices and decisions in the future. That is why their self-confidence never fades.

For a comprehensive analysis of what it means to fail, please read Understanding Failure and Overcoming Failure.

A Perspective for Making Mistakes

People who have high levels of self-confidence see each mistake as an opportunity to learn and grow. They do not see failure as a person affront or an attack but rather they view failure as a learning opportunity. They learn about what worked and what didn’t work; what played out as expected and what did not. This allows them to make the necessary tweaks and improvements which will lead them to success in future attempts.

They use this knowledge and information to do better the next time around. In fact, they see that the more mistakes they make the more wisdom comes from experience and the insight they into what works and what does not work. The more they “know of” what doesn’t work, the better their odds of success are the next time around. That is the way they see mistakes, which is why their self-confidence does not waver when mistakes are made.

For a comprehensive analysis of what to do when mistakes are made, please read Learning from Mistakes.

A Perspective for Facing Rejection

People who have high levels of self-confidence never take rejection personally. They understand that rejection can often result from a misunderstanding of some kind. Clear up the misunderstanding and that by itself can clear up the rejection. However, they also do recognize that at times other people simply have differing beliefs, values, and opinions, and as a result, they will never look favorably upon them or their opinions. That’s just how life is. People are different and that’s what makes us unique in our own right. They accept that this is a fact and just move onto the next person who could have more similar values, beliefs, and opinions, and that is why their self-confidence never wavers.

For a comprehensive analysis of how to handle rejection, please read Understanding Rejection and Handling Rejection.

 

A Perspective for Facing Criticism

People who have high levels of self-confidence clearly understand the value of criticism. They accept that every piece of criticism provides them with valuable feedback that they use to better themselves; to better their ideas; or to better their approach. Even when criticism does not come across as constructive, they still take it on board and try and use it to create positive changes in their lives.

They also realize that some people’s criticism has nothing to do with them but rather everything to do with the other person. The other person might just be feeling angry or frustrated; maybe they had a bad day, or maybe they are envious of them for some reason. Often people will throw harsh criticism at others because they either do not quite understand or they are just struggling with their own self-esteem issues.

Self-confident people understand this, and that is why their self-confidence never wavers.

For a comprehensive analysis on how to face criticism, please read How to Handle Criticism.

A Perspective for Dealing with Fear

People who have high levels of self-confidence understand that fear exists primarily because of uncertainty. Anything new that they have not done before will always bring with it a little uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes fear.

However, they are not phased by fear because they recognize that feeling fear signifies that they need to be more focused and patient. They must take their time to practice and gain the necessary experience to turn what was once “uncertain” into something more certain. And that, of course, comes with the experience of gaining new skills, knowledge, support and/or the tools that are required to help them move through this uncertain situation successfully. They challenge their fear head-on and watch it disintegrate over time. That is why their self-confidence never wavers.

For a comprehensive analysis on how to deal with fear, please read Understanding FearConquering FearOvercoming Fear and Eliminating Fear. These titles may sound similar but each article tackles fear from a different perspective.

A Perspective for Handling Embarrassment

People who have high levels of self-confidence aren’t phased by embarrassment. They understand that the fear of embarrassment is simply an extension of the fear of failure and the fear of making mistakes. Those two fears are simply outcroppings of the fear of criticism and the fear of rejection. The result, of course, comes in the form of embarrassment and not wanting to do something because one of these fears is prevalent in one’s life. They clearly understand that feeling embarrassed is all in the eye of the beholder. What one person finds embarrassing, another person will revel in. They overcome this fear by absolutely “owning” everything they do no matter how poorly they do it at first. These people also acknowledge that they are human and they are perfectly imperfect. That is why their self-confidence never wavers.

For a comprehensive analysis on how to get over the fear of embarrassment, please read Overcoming Embarrassment.

A Perspective for Dealing with Uncomfortable Change

People who have high levels of self-confidence see unexpected change as a natural part of life. Just like the seasons change every year, these people understand that life also goes through ebbs and flows throughout a lifetime. They accept these changes and adapt to them accordingly. In fact, often they revel in these changes because they clearly understand that an unwanted change can often bring unexpected benefits and new opportunities that would ordinarily not have occured.That is why their confidence never wavers.

For a comprehensive analysis on how to deal with both expected and unexpected change, please read How to Embrace Change and The Seasons of Transformation.

How to Construct Your Self-Confidence

Let’s now take a look at some guidelines to help you purposefully construct your self-confidence in the days, weeks and months ahead. Some of the suggestions that follow are quite straightforward. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that you tried this before and it doesn’t work. The key to success is “consistency”. Doing something once or even once in a while will not get you results. It is a commitment to consistent action that will get you the results you desire in your life.

Find Mentors and Role Models

It is said that you are the average of your five closest friends. Therefore if your five closest friends consistently experience low levels of self-confidence, then it is very likely that you also experience the same. The longer you hang around these people the more likely your levels of confidence are likely to plummet. You either raise other people up to a higher level, or they will pull you down to their level.

Given this, it is absolutely critical that we regularly associate with people who will raise our levels of confidence in various situations. I am talking about people who are energetic, upbeat, passionate and inspiring. People who seem naturally confident and capable in any situation, and who will do nothing but encourage you during the toughest of times. Those are the people you need to be around to get a sense of what having self-confidence actually feels like.

However, when it comes to finding mentors and role models it is also important to look outside of your social circle, and turn to books, movies and/or documentaries for guidance and inspiration. Read about how people overcame life’s greatest adversities and get a sense of how they surmounted their lack of self-confidence. It is these real-life stories that will give you a sense of what it takes to rise above all the things that at the moment give you jitters. But reading about these people is one thing; it is a whole step-up when you begin modeling their behavior, decisions, and actions.

Consistently Model of Confident People

Everything in life follows a set of patterns. From the planets to the moon, to the seasons, to the migration of animals, and to the behaviours of human beings. From the largest to the tiniest objects within the universe; absolutely everything follows a very specific pattern. This is good for all of us, especially for those who want to improve their self-confidence. Why? Because self-confidence can be modelled and practiced.

Your peers, mentors and role models who have the self-confidence you are wanting to instil within yourself, are lived out through daily patterns. Their daily patterns are reflected in the way they sit, behave, dress, talk, think, walk, interact with others, and even how they spend their time. Within each one of their actions they “ooze” self-confidence, and that is exactly what you need to bottle-up and drink for yourself.

Have a think about all the people with high levels of self-confidence and ask yourself:

How does this person behave in various situations?

How do they tend to talk even when dealing with uncertainty or when handling pressure?

How do they typically walk? What is their energy and vibe like when they walk?

How do they tend to sit? What is particularly striking about this? What insights can I gather?

How do they interact with others especially when dealing with conflict and other social pressures?

How do they typically dress? What does their style of dress say about them?

How do they tend to spend their time?

How do they think and reflect on their circumstances?

What is empowering about all this?

What do they typically believe about themselves, others and their circumstances?

What skills are they good at?

Why, specifically, are they proficient at these skills? 

 

What additional patterns of behavior can I see that might be of value to help me better understand what it takes to have self-confidence?

Taking the time to answer these questions will provide you with surprising insights about what it takes to “have” self-confidence”. The key then, of course, will be to use this information to make small adjustments in the way you live your life.

 

Ask yourself:

How can I begin modeling these people even in a small way at first?

How can I use this information to help improve my own self-confidence?

For instance, you can begin by dressing the part of a person with self-confidence. Immediately your self-image will improve and as a result, the confidence you have in yourself will expand. Remember, it is all about taking small progressive steps. Do not try to model everything at once.

Start with one thing first until you develop a habit, and then move onto the next thing. With consistent effort, what you started out consciously modeling will eventually become second nature.

For a comprehensive analysis of what it takes to model another person’s behavior, please read Modeling Successful People. Moreover, you might like to gain some practice by Modeling Richard Branson’s Mindset.

Improve Your Physiology

One critical area to work on to help you develop self-confidence rests within your physiology. I have already discussed in detail the link between physiology and our mindset in the Physiology of Excellence article so I won’t go into too much detail here.

However, it is important to point out that how you move your body, how you walk, how you sit and how you breath all have an impact on how you think about the events and circumstances of your life. If you take a little time to compare the physiology of a person with self-confidence and a person without it, you will find that they use their body very differently. In fact, it is worlds apart.

A person who has self-confidence will move faster, breathe more deeply, walk and sit more upright, etc, than a person lacking in confidence who will often move sluggishly, breathe in a shallow manner and sit slouching over. These are all key factors that influence how both these people experience reality. Making adjustments in any one of these areas will immediately transform how you see the world and the circumstances of your life.

Be Curious and Adventurous

People who are self-confident are very curious and adventurous. They are willing to try new things and step outside their comfort zone to expand their horizons. Moreover, they accept the fact that by trying new things they will make mistakes. And all this is okay because they have an adventurous spirit.

Being adventurous is not easy for the person who has close ties to his/her comfort zone. Adventure always begins with a curious mind, and therefore cultivating curiosity is certainly a great place to start.

Curiosity is what will encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, to take risks and chances. It is the one thing that will open your mind to new possibilities and perspectives. Curiosity begins with the act of asking effective questions. The more questions you ask about what exists outside of your comfort zone, the more curious you will become. And with more curiosity, you will naturally develop a more adventurous spirit, which is, of course, a requirement for developing self-confidence.

Set Achievable Goals

In order to stretch your comfort zone and follow your adventurous spirit, you will need to set some achievable goals that are just beyond your comfort zone. These goals should be challenging but reachable with a little work and some discomfort.

Goals are important because these will help you live with a deeper sense of purpose while also keeping you focused and motivated on what is most important. However, effective goals are set using either The GROW Model method or the SMART Goal Setting method. Either style of goal setting can be of value to help you get the results you desire to create in your life.

Always Encourage Others

One very simple and overlooked way to develop your self-confidence comes through encouraging others in times of difficulty. When you encourage others you boost their levels of self-belief and self-confidence. They have someone who supports and believes in them, and that goes a long way towards helping them break down barriers they struggle to move through by themselves.

All this is helpful for you because through the simple act of encouraging others you begin to feel better about yourself. Moreover, people will very often give back to you what you gifted to them. They will encourage you in return, and you now you have someone in your corner who supports you through thick and thin.

That by itself can do wonders to help you develop self-confidence. However, you must be wary not to rely on others in this way for the long-term because they might not always be there for you. You must instead internalize that self-confidence and draw it out of from within. More about that in the self-confidence mindset.

Improve Ability to Solve Problems

One sure way to improve your self-confidence is to become a better problem solver. We often struggle with our self-confidence because of our inability to solve problems. Unfortunately, this is something that we cannot escape from because the sad truth is that problems are simply a part of life. In fact, life is full of endless problems. And your ability to solve those problems essentially determines the quality of life you live.

It is therefore absolutely paramount that you work on developing your ability to solve problems creatively and even commit yourself to using specific models such as the six thinking hats method for solving problems. With practice, what you will find is that your self-confidence will naturally grow from “within” every time you successfully solve one of your life’s  dilemmas. 🙂

Unlocking a Self-Confidence Mindset

Earlier in the article, I mentioned that there is a major difference between “feeling” confident and “being” self-confident. And that “difference” essentially comes down to our mindset.

A person who is feeling confident only feels that way because of how things are externally. The moment circumstances change, their feeling will likewise change and their confidence levels will subsequently be affected.

On the other hand, when someone is self-confident this means that their confidence comes from within themselves. The events and circumstances going on around them are irrelevant.

Therefore, no matter how things change in the external world, their confidence remains at the same level because they gauge their confidence from internal sources. This comes down to “mindset”.

It is the mindset that these people bring into every situation that makes all the difference. Bringing a very specific mindset into a situation influences the decisions one makes and the actions one takes in that particular situation. Therefore a “mindset” in this context is not only about how you think or perceive a situation, it also encompasses how you behave and act in that situation as a result of your thoughts and perspectives.

Let us now take a look at the mindset of self-confidence in a little more detail by breaking down all the relevant components that go into shaping it.

The Qualities of Self-Confidence

When thinking about the individual components of self-confidence, what typically comes to mind?

Maybe

passion or curiosity?

courage and gratitude?

self-discipline, patience, and determination?

Self-confidence is made up of these parts working together as a unit. Therefore in order to develop more self-confidence, it is important to focus on growing yourself in each of these areas. The more you grow and develop yourself in each area, the higher your levels of self-confidence grow.

 

Here is a quick break down of the value of each area:

  • Passion is required to keep you focused and motivated on the highest value activities. It fuels your self-confidence.
  • Curiosity is required to help you gain the insights you need to work through problems successfully.
  • Courage is required to help you face your fears head-on, giving you the self-confidence you need to overcome your problems.
  • Gratitude is required to help you see the blessings in every problem and situation.
  • Self-Discipline is required to help you stay focused and on target for extended periods at a time even when things might not seem to be working in your favour.
  • Patience is required because to have self-confidence you must be willing and able to grow from each experience. Self-confidence only comes through experience, and for that, you need ample patience.
  • Determination is required to help you persist through the difficulties you will inevitably face.

Using Empowering Language

Self-confidence is about how we think about our lives and circumstances, it is also how we tend to talk to ourselves about our lives and circumstances. Those people who are self-confident use empowering language that helps them break down barriers that stop other people in their tracks. But it is not just about the words they speak, it is also about how they express those words and the power of their language that makes all the difference.

Expecting Positive Outcomes

One of the primary differences between a person with self-confidence and a person without it comes down to having positive expectations. A person who has high levels of self-confidence always expects the best. Yes, things will go wrong at times. In fact, Murphy’s Law may come into play time-and-again, however, this does not change their demeanour. They clearly understand that every problem presents an opportunity. It is a blessing in disguise, and they, therefore, look for the positive outcome in every situation, and that is what gives them the confidence to keep moving forward.

Asking Solution-Focused Questions

This, of course, comes back to cultivating curiosity and having the willingness and courage to ask solution focused questions that move you towards your desired outcome. What this habit actually helps you avoid doing is making excuses.

When you ask solution focused questions you cannot make excuses. You are instead looking for answers and potential opportunities that you could take advantage of. That is what is required to develop high levels of self-confidence, because the more questions you ask the better answers you will get and the more you will know what to do the next time around. This will improve your levels of self-confidence.

Challenging Limiting Beliefs

We all have at some level limiting beliefs about certain aspects of our lives. However, self-confidence requires that we consistently challenge these limiting beliefs whenever possible. If you fail to do this then you will lack the necessary self-confidence you are searching for because your limiting beliefs will always get in your way.

These limiting beliefs will sabotage you time-and-again because they are in conflict with your desired actions. Self-confidence simply cannot exist unless and until you eliminate these limiting beliefs from your life. If you ignore this fact, then you will constantly struggle with self-sabotaging forces controlling your life.

Cultivating Laughter and Humour

Laughter and humour are very important for self-confidence because along our journey through life we will undoubtedly face a great many struggles. For most people, the struggles are a burden. Emotionally they struggle to handle these problems and as a result their self-confidence plummets but it doesn’t have to be this way.

People who have self-confidence face problems that they are unable to solve all the time. Typically this would deplete their self-confidence, right? If I can’t solve something I am obviously not feeling very confident about it. But if I laugh about it or find the humour in the situation, then just maybe I can start seeing the situation from a very different perspective. I no longer see myself as a “victim” of circumstance, but rather I see the situation as something I can potentially control because it doesn’t affect me emotionally. And the fact that I mm laughing about it relaxes me and this immediately frees my brain to search for answers.

Upgrading Personal Standards

People who have high levels of self-confidence set very high standards for themselves. Their high standards encourage them to think and act in a way that goes above and beyond how normal people would think and act in typical situations.

These people expect more from themselves in every situation, and because they expect more they are naturally more confident that they can get the job done. Confidence comes from reaching those personal standards, which is why they don’t set standards that are beyond what they are capable of.

They instead set achievable standards and then raise the bar over time and as they gain more experience and confidence. That is one of the key ways to grow your self-confidence over time.

Avoid Self-Confidence Depleting Habits

Self-criticism, procrastination, perfectionism, dwelling on failure and mistakes… all of these things will immediately deplete your levels of self-confidence, which is why people with high levels of self-confidence never dabble in these habits. In fact, they avoid these habits like a plague because they fully understand the negative impact these can have.

Criticizing yourself goes against the habit of curiosity and using humour and empowering language. Dwelling on failure and mistakes go against the habit of gratitude and asking solution-focused questions. Indulging in procrastination goes against the act of setting higher standards.

Perfectionism, this is a form of “patience”, however, it is also a form of procrastination that hides fear and indecision, which certainly does not mesh very well with self-confidence.

Ultimately, you have a choice. You can either choose to indulge in habits that deplete your levels of self-confidence, or you can choose alternate habits that will over time raise your levels of self-confidence. And that choice, of course, is yours to make, so choose wisely by asking:

Is this habit I have chosen for myself building up or tearing down my level of self-confidence?

 

Did you gain value from this article? Please leave a comment I would love to hear form you?  🙂