The current pandemic has led many people to wonder about changing careers; an not surprisingly so. Here are a few simple principles to consider when deciding on career reinvention, that can guide aspiring career-changers through the process during these hard times.
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.
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% occupancy. Twitter 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.
During these unprecedented times we all need a little help. Here are a few packages which may tickle your fancy and provide some help along the way to redefining your normal.. If any of these sound like something you may be interested in doing click here to connect with me and we can schedule a FREE consultation session with no obligation.
If this is not what you are looking for let me know how I may be of Service and we can tailor make a packed to suite your unique needs.
Click here to connect with Me
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Read part 2 next
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-worth, self-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-criticism, performance 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: fears, unhelpful thoughts, and rules which work together to satisfy your hunger for perfectionism.
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.
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.
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
What problems tend to result from indulging in these high standards?
How does this affect
- 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-esteem is not everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it. – Gloria Steinem
Is your Self-Esteem Low?
Do you lack the self-confidence and self-belief you need to make your own way in this world? Is this destroying your spirit and preventing you from moving forward in the way you imagined?
Many people suffer through periods of low self-esteem, and often for many different reasons. If you are one of these people, then you probably recognize the fact that you tend to judge and/or evaluate yourself negatively. You probably have a low personal value and opinion of yourself, or maybe a low appraisal and evaluation of your self-worth. In fact, low self-esteem might be making you feel somewhat useless, inferior, inadequate, incomplete and worthless. This is no way to live.
The Symptoms and Habits of Low Self-Esteem
There are many symptoms and habits of low self-esteem. However, taken in isolation, these symptoms do not indicate that you have self-esteem issues. Red flags should only be raised when several symptoms come bundled together and begin taking over your life.
Here is a list of the symptoms of low self-esteem you should look out for:
- Constantly striving for perfection.
- Having low or biased expectations of yourself.
- A tendency to exaggerate your problems.
- The habit of accentuating the negatives.
- Underestimating your personal ability.
- Ignoring the positives and potential opportunities.
- Being riddled with self-doubt.
- Constantly blaming and criticizing yourself.
- Lack of self-confidence in your ability to get things done.
- Inability to accept compliments.
- Unable to concentrate because of a lack of energy, which often results from poor sleep patterns.
- Hesitant and tense physiological movements.
- A tendency to avoid people and social situations in an attempt to steer clear of judgment, criticism, and the evaluations that other people might make about you.
- Often experiencing the emotions of loneliness, guilt, frustration, dejection, hopelessness, anxiety, anger, shame, worry, sadness and depression.
Experiencing one or more of these emotions from time-to-time is not a clear indication that you have self-esteem issues. However, if you tend to cycle through many of these emotions throughout your week, then it is a clear sign that something is not right and that low self-esteem could be the underlying problem.
How is Low Self-Esteem Maintained?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how individuals maintain low levels of self-esteem. There are however, certain factors that can often lead you down the self-esteem spiral.
Indulging in any of the low self-esteem habits discussed above will tend to keep you within a very poor state-of-mind that positions you on the low end of the emotional spectrum. In fact, the more of these symptoms you have, the more you will struggle with your emotions.
In addition to these symptoms and habits, low self-esteem is often maintained because you have very restrictive personal assumptions and rules. What this means is that you make assumptions about things in a very negative way that provides you limited options for moving forward.
You tend to see the worst in every situation, which gives you very little hope for the future. In addition your rules and personal standards are very restrictive. You don’t expect much of yourself, and as a result, you tend to stay constricted within the confines of your comfort zone and never take the necessary risks to break out of emotional slumps.
Your restrictive rules for living your life are often built upon poor language choices that provide you with minimal options moving forward.
For instance, you often use words such as:
- If I don’t… then…
- I should never…
- I must… or else…
- I can’t…
- I should do this… but…
The language you use provides insight into the rules that govern your life, decisions, and actions. These rules drain your self-esteem consistently. You tend to aggravate your self-esteem by making negative self-evaluations which are poor and limited. This leaves you feeling that you have no hope for the future, and no hope of improving your current circumstances. You do this because it helps “ground” you and gives you a sense of control.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem Over Time
Self-esteem encompasses your personal attitudes, beliefs, emotions, biased self-opinions and expectations, as-well-as your behaviours, decisions and actions. It also encapsulates the unhelpful assumptions you tend to make, the rules you live by, and the negative self-evaluations that tend to rob you of any hope for the future.
All of these factors go into building or destroying your self-esteem and have manifested in your life over time and are built on certain events that have influenced your emotional growth over the years. Low self-esteem often stems from negative life influences and/or experiences you have had over the course of many years, often going right back to early childhood.
Your family, friends, peers, teachers, role models and society, all played an important part in the development of your self-esteem as you were growing up. They showed and taught you, directly and indirectly, how to best handle your emotions during difficult times, how to overcome obstacles, how to interpret the events and circumstances in your life, etc.
Some of these lessons were helpful. If you are experiencing low self-esteem at the moment though, then it’s likely that other lessons you learned over this period were quite unhelpful. The net result is now you have a set of ineffective emotional coping skills that are restricting you in a variety of ways.
There might have been significant moments of your life that left profound emotional and psychological scars. For instance, prolonged illness, neglect, abuse, hardship, and punishment can leave a lasting impression on your mind. These things are currently influencing how you process and interpret the world around you. You might have found it very difficult to fit-in socially at school and/or at home while growing up. This has left a very deep emotional scar that you tend to hold onto in the present moment directly affecting your levels of self-esteem.
Other reasons why you might be suffering from low self-esteem today could be because of a lack of attention, encouragement, warmth, praise or affection you received as a child. Maybe you simply failed to live up to other people’s expectations of you. They may have had very high personal standards and limiting rules that you found very difficult to live up to. This entire experience while growing up has made you feel somewhat incapable, incompetent, worthless, inadequate, inferior and useless.
You have no self-belief and meagre expectations of yourself and your ability. Your low self-esteem can also be attributed to the observations you made as a child. You would observe adults going about their daily lives and these adults experienced hardships, setbacks, and personal problems. How they dealt with these challenges was important, because the habits, behaviours, and emotions they displayed during these moments has left a lasting impression on your mind.
These adult mentors taught you how to handle life’s difficulties and how to cope with your emotions indirectly. Today, you are doing what you know what you have been taught; for better or worse.
All this goes to show that your low levels of self-esteem are not entirely of your own making. In fact, you learnt and picked up certain ways of doing things and responding to situations from other people. Your current levels of self-esteem and the coping mechanisms you use to work through your personal challenges are a result of many years of conditioning that you went through while growing up.
However, even though you might not be responsible for this conditioning, you are responsible for your own life today. If something is not working for you, then you must take responsibility for changing things for the better and reconditioning your mind in a more positive and empowering way that will help you to live the life you desire to create for yourself.
How to Improve Self-Esteem
There are certain things you can do that will naturally help you raise your self-esteem throughout the day. Many of these suggestions are very straightforward and simple to implement. Some might take a little more time and effort. Either way, there is no miracle cure here. You will need to commit and dedicate yourself to adopting new habits, behaviours, and ways of thinking and doing things to reap the rewards in the long-run.
Take Care Emotionally
Raising your self-esteem begins with your emotional health. Your emotions are the keys to your well-being and provide you with the stability you need to get through difficult moments of your life successfully. When you are in control of your emotions, you will be more capable of handling the challenges that life throws your way. However, this requires you to focus on developing your emotional coping skills to prepare yourself for these difficult moments of your life.
It is important that you prepare yourself by learning how to manage stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, guilt, anger and worry in more effective and productive ways. These are emotions you are likely to confront throughout your day. These emotions can either control you, or you can learn to manage them in ways that will help empower and strengthen you during difficult moments of your life.
Developing these important emotional coping skills will help you to take charge of your thoughts, behaviours and the decisions you make. This will provide you with certainty and confidence moving forward, and as a result, it will help raise your levels of self-esteem.
Take Credit for Your Successes
This is a straightforward idea. However, it can have a profoundly positive impact on raising your levels of self-esteem.
When you deflect credit for your successes, you deny yourself the opportunity to gain something of value from your experience. And because there is no psychological reward, there is no emotional gratification, and this will tend to keep you in a weak state-of-mind that provides you with no avenue for further emotional growth and development.
The moment you begin taking credit for your accomplishments, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you. You begin developing higher levels of self-belief and self-confidence. This has a tendency to improve your ability to make decisions, and the better decisions you make, the more confidence and self-belief you will have. Taking credit for your accomplishments will focus your mind on what’s working and on all the positive aspects of your accomplishments.
It is not unusual to only focus on or take notice of the negatives, and this would only leave you feeling discouraged and unhappy. Therefore, taking credit for your successes, owning them, and embracing your accomplishments is a good step to building you self confidence. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Use this ongoing momentum to help you to permanently raise your levels of self-confidence and with it your self-esteem.
Focus on Solutions
Whenever things do not go as expected and you are tempted to get down, take notice of these changes and switch on your solution-focused mindset. First, recognize the positives of the situation, and then look for ways you can make things better to improve your circumstances. Solutions might not always be immediately evident, however with a curious mind, and a desire to ask the right kinds of solution-focused questions, you will eventually find the answers you are after.
If you are suffering from low self-esteem, it is easy to exaggerate the negatives and minimize the positives of your situation. It is also easy to underestimate your own ability, to doubt and criticize yourself, and to ignore the opportunities that may be present. On the other hand, it is difficult to see things in a positive light. In such instances, you might like to focus on reframing your circumstances differently or simply asking someone else for their unique point-of-view or perspective.
Other people might often see things very differently, and you can use their view of the situation to build the confidence you need to move forward.
Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself that will help you shift your perspective about the situation:
What conclusions and/or assumptions am I making about this situation?
How am I exaggerating the negatives?
How am I minimizing the positives?
How else could I view this? How else could I think about this?
How could I view this situation in a more positive and empowering way?
How would another person view this situation? What would they tell me? Who could I ask?
What are the potential opportunities here?
What is there to feel good about and grateful for?
What positive action could I take right now to help me work through this successfully?
By focusing on what you want, as-well-as on potential solutions and opportunities, you are putting yourself in a primary position to find the answers you need that will help you move forward in a positive way.
Avoid Limiting Language
Raising your self-esteem requires you to consciously take charge of your language. This includes your verbal language as well as your self-talk or the thoughts you tend to indulge in that make you feel absolutely miserable.
Focus on talking to yourself more positively and encouragingly. Yes, you might not have all the answers or the confidence you need to get your desired outcome, just yet. The answers and confidence will come over time, however, what is most important here, is that you get yourself into a positive frame-of-mind. Do this by focusing on your strengths, on your positive qualities, and on the things that you are able to control and/or influence in the moment. Once you feel that you have some form of control over your circumstances, this will give you the confidence you need to move forward in a more positive way.
Create or Join a Support Network
There are many groups and support networks out there both online and offline. Like-minded individuals who are going through the same challenges you are attempting to work through gives you a sense that you are not alone. They are there to support you, and you can be there to support them. Sometimes just by sharing your story and experience with a group of supportive individuals will help you find the confidence you need within yourself to move through difficult moments of your life.
Alternatively, you could join a sports team. Even if you are not a sporty person, just getting involved in sporting activities can do wonders for your self-esteem. Sport provides a social and very supportive environment that can help build the foundations for your growth and development on a physical and emotional level.
Update Your Knowledge and Skills
Often a lack of self-belief is a clear indication that you simply do not have the necessary skills, knowledge or experience required to excel in a certain area. For this very reason, it is important that you actually take the time to assess what kind of knowledge, skills or experience you might need moving forward that will help you improve your confidence within specific areas of your life.
Where do I want to feel a little more confident?
What kind of knowledge might I need in this area of my life?
What types of skills might I need to develop?
What kind of experience might I need to gain?
How will I acquire this knowledge, learn the skills, and gain the necessary experience?
What small steps could I take daily that will help me move forward confidently in this area of my life?
Raising your self-esteem will take time, and it will take gradual steps. It is important you commit yourself to taking a long-term view of your journey. Your short-term results might be inconsistent, however, if you remain focused on the bigger picture you will find the motivation you need to persevere through the short-term pain.
Spend Time Pampering Yourself
Take time for yourself. Take time to relax, to play, and to pamper yourself.Self care and self love is very important to ensure you reward yourself for your efforts. Maybe you could get a massage, go to a spa, relax in a steam room, or enjoy a nice warm bath. Not only will these moments give you time to relax, but they will also provide you with an opportunity to reflect and gain some perspective on your life’s choices, decisions, and actions. When you are relaxed, you will tend to think differently about circumstances, and this could potentially help you gain the perspective and confidence you need to make better decisions moving forward.
Creativity, Confidence, and Passion
It is very possible that the reason why you are suffering from low self-esteem is simply because you are focusing on the wrong things. Maybe all you need is to tune-in to your passions and your life’s purpose. Maybe you simply need to tap into your talents and strengths. Or just maybe you need to focus on activities you are good at and enjoy doing.
Take time to have a think about some of the things you are passionate about. Have a think about the activities you enjoy, and consider your talents, strengths and your core values. Within these areas, you will find the answers you need to build your life with purpose. Also, within these areas is where you will find your creative spirit.
Once you are living with purpose, you will find the confidence in yourself to do things that otherwise seemed very difficult and problematic. You will finally have the self-esteem you need to make those tough decisions and to take the chances that will help you improve your life for the better.
Set Inspiring Goals
To live with purpose, you need to set inspiring goals that keep you motivated and excited.
What’s something that inspires and motivates me to get out of bed in the morning?
How could I turn this passion into a concrete goal?
How will I go about pursuing this goal?
As you work towards your goal, keep track of your progress and thoughts within a journal. The act of putting your thoughts and problems down on paper will help you to more effectively work through any emotional challenges you might face along the way. In fact, use it as a tool for self-improvement and self-reflection.
Over time you will make progress. However, it is sometimes difficult to recognize these advances. This is where your journal comes in handy. Every week take some time to read over your thoughts and reflect upon the progress you have made and the lessons you have learned along the way. This by itself could provide you with the boost you need to raise your levels of self-esteem moving forward.
Make Better Decisions
Raising your self-esteem mainly comes down to making better choices throughout the day. Instead of choosing to accentuate the negatives, you choose instead to focus on the positives. Instead of exaggerating your problems, you choose instead to look for solutions. It all comes down to the choices you make.
To improve your choices, take the time to evaluate your behaviour, thoughts and the emotions you tend to experience on a daily basis. Keep track of these things within your journal and periodically assess how your behaviours, thoughts, and emotions are influencing the choices and decisions you make. The insights you gain from this exercise could help you make better choices in the future. And the better the choices you make, the higher the levels of self-esteem you are likely to experience.
Was this article helpful? Please leave a comment I would love to hear from you. 🙂
But I do nothing upon myself, and yet I am my own executioner. – John Donne
Are You Caught Up in a Repeating Cycle of Self-Sabotage?
Have you ever wanted something so badly… for so long… trying so damn hard… but time and again you ended up failing miserably?
Have you ever set goals and objectives that you just didn’t or couldn’t reach?
Have you ever wondered why you keep repeating the same patterns of behavior over and over again and keep getting precisely the same pitiful results?
All of us at one point or another go through these repeated cycles and phases. In fact, many of us go through our standard self-sabotage cycles like clockwork each day. As a result, we rarely live up to our full potential in any area of our lives.
What is more, is that we continuously regret the things we did not do then wonder why we keep getting stuck indulging in these limiting patterns of behaviour.
Given all this, you might be wondering whether there is an answer for getting unstuck? Is there an actual solution for avoiding these repetitive and limiting patterns of behavior?
And the answer to these questions is a resounding YES. There is a solution, but first, we must come to understand what self-sabotage is all about.
What Exactly is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is any behavior, thought, emotion or action that holds you back from getting what you consciously want. It is the conflict that exists between conscious desires and unconscious wants that manifest in self-limiting patterns of behavior.
Self-sabotage prevents you from reaching your goals and plays the part of a safety mechanism that protects you against disappointment.
The Real Reason Why You Indulge in Self-Sabotage
Moreover, we suffer from self-sabotage patterns because we have great difficulty managing our daily emotional experiences. We tend to react to events, circumstances, and people in ways that hinder our progress and prevent us from reaching our goals and objectives.
Self-sabotage is also used as an effective method for coping with stressful situations or high expectations.
For example we sabotage ourselves when we are unable to reach the high bars of expectation that have been set for us. We feel incapable of reaching these expectations and thereby indulge in self-sabotaging behaviour as a means of coping with the situation.
No matter what our reasoning for self-sabotage, it is quite clear that if we do not do something about it, we will continue to live a life full of regrets and unfulfilled expectations.
The Manifestation of Self-Sabotage in Our Lives
Self-sabotage can come in many forms and often manifests in our lives in various ways.
Here is a list of typical methods we tend to use to sabotage our own success.
- We succumb to the fear of failure.
- We hold ourselves back from taking risks.
- We do not take proactive action because we fear to make mistakes.
- We choose not to listen to instructions carefully.
- We don’t take the time to plan ahead.
- We are incapable of saying no to others.
- We don’t take the time to consider the consequences of our actions.
- We don’t take the time to think carefully before making decisions.
- We don’t make an effort to think critically or practically about our circumstances.
- We are too set in our ways and don’t take the time to think flexibly about our problems.
- We have too much pride to admit to our mistakes and errors.
- We worry incessantly and needlessly without looking at our situation objectively.
- We set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for others.
- We allow our critical voice to take charge and thereby persistently judge ourselves and others.
- We continuously indulge in comparison thinking where we measure our value based on what others are doing.
- We are always complaining about people, life, circumstances or about perceived bad luck.
- We knowingly indulge in the habit of procrastination and perfectionism.
- We blindly accept other people’s advice without question.
- We struggle with limiting beliefs, debilitating emotions, and poor attitudes.
- We persistently indulge in unhelpful thoughts that sabotage our mind.
- We regularly focus on what’s not working or on wishful daydreams.
When it comes to our limiting thoughts, we must pay close attention to the excuses we tend to make that prevent us from moving forward. Here are some examples:
This won’t work…
I can’t do this…
I’m too busy right now…
I’m just not ready yet…
I’m just not good enough…
Here are 19 more excuses you’re making that might very well be keeping you stuck.
Each of the patterns listed above has its own set of consequences that manifest in a variety of ways in our lives. Some are very obvious, while others might be a little more difficult to identify.
The key for us here is to list down and pinpoint the thoughts, feelings, and actions that lead us down the path of self-sabotage.
Only then, through conscious self-awareness can we begin to put a stop to these patterns of behavior.
4-Steps for Eliminating Your Self-Sabotage Patterns
There is a simple yet very effective method we can use to eliminate self-sabotage patterns from our lives.
The process involves 4 steps. These 4 steps can help you take conscious control of the behaviours that are currently influencing your choices, decisions, and actions.
These steps include:
- Identifying Your Self-Sabotaging Behavior
- Recreating Your Self-Sabotage Patterns
- Identifying a Healthy Replacement Behavior
- Practicing the New Behavior Until a Habit is Formed
Let’s have a look at how each of these work
Step 1: Identify the Self-Sabotage Behavior
Your first objective is to Identify the Self-Sabotaging Behavior that is preventing you from moving forward.
To do this, we must become consciously aware of our daily choices, decisions, actions, and the resulting consequences. Use the list in the previous section to identify the various types of self-sabotaging behaviours you tend to indulge in.
Once your behaviours have been identified, it’s necessary to pinpoint specific triggers that may be causing these behaviours to manifest in your life. These triggers could include people, objects, specific times, events, locations, etc. Ask yourself:
What specifically triggers this behavior?
How exactly does this behavior manifest in my life?
Next, we must ask ourselves whether it’s possible to avoid these triggers altogether.
Simply removing these triggers from our lives we will be better prepared to take conscious control of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
However, there is another factor that we must take into consideration. This factor is the limiting beliefs we have associated with each particular self-sabotaging pattern.
The key is to identify these limiting beliefs, then work on converting them into positive empowering beliefs.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to question the validity of your belief. Take just two minutes and ask yourself:
What is it that I believe in this situation?
What is it that I believe about myself and my own abilities?
How did my belief about this, trigger my self-sabotage pattern?
How is this belief ridiculous and/or impractical?
What would others say about this belief?
What is another more helpful perspective I could take of this situation?
These questions are a good starting point. Use these to help you weaken the beliefs that govern your self-sabotaging behavior.
Step 2: Recreate Your Self-Sabotage Pattern
Having worked through the previous step, you should now be able to consciously recreate the self-sabotage patterns by outlining all the triggers and the associated behaviours that manifest as a result of these triggers.
It’s important that you are very clear about how this behaviour manifests in your life before moving onto the next step.
How exactly does this self-sabotaging behaviour tend to manifest in my life?
What typically triggers this behaviour and how?
What patterns am I seeing that could help me to better understand this behaviour at a deeper level?
Once you have a good understanding of the patterns surrounding this behavior, you can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Identify a Healthy Replacement Behaviour
To eliminate an old pattern of behaviour, we must first replace it with a new pattern that is more practical and helpful.
This is fundamental…why … because at times it is difficult to avoid certain triggers such as people, objects or circumstances that cause us to react in unresourceful ways.
We must take time to develop a more resourceful and appropriate way of responding.
How could I respond in a more appropriate, resourceful, and practical way that would help me get what I want in this situation?
How and why is this a better way to respond in this situation?
What are some reasons for making this change?
What are the long-term benefits of changing how I respond in this situation?
What are the key advantages of this new behavior?
Remember that change will not happen if there is a lack of motivation behind that change.
If you cannot find reliable enough reasons to make a change, then you simply won’t have the necessary desire or drive to follow through with the change.
Step 4: Practice the New Behavior Until a Habit is Formed
Once you have identified your new behavior, you must now take the time to practice implementing it as often as possible until a new habit is established.
To do this, begin by going through your response (your healthy replacement behavior) to the situation in your imagination. See every detail in large pictures with lots of colour or music or anything else that is fun for you. Feel the positive energy churning through your body as you continue to enlarge the details of your new habit. Do this a few times daily and each time add more colour, more fun to your picture in your head and very soon you will overcome the old self-sabotaging pattern.
Now that your imagination has been activated, you are ready to put yourself in real-world situations that will naturally trigger your old patterns of behaviour. This time though, you are primed with a new response mechanism that you will continue to practice over the next four weeks until a new empowering habit is formed.
10 Practical Ideas for Eliminating Self-Sabotage
To eliminate our self-sabotage patterns, we must make a concerted effort to stay conscious and aware of our behaviours and actions at all times.
At the same time, it’s helpful to put into action a variety of strategies and tactics that can help to eradicate these behaviours once and for all.
Here are 10 suggestions for you to experiment with.
Consistently Learn from Mistakes
Take time at the end of the day to reflect on how you responded to events and circumstances. Learn from these mistakes and experiences by writing down how you will respond differently tomorrow and in the future.
The more you reflect and learn, the better prepared you will be to face these scenarios in the future.
Think Bigger and Bolder
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own destructive patterns of behavior that we lose sight of what’s most important. When we have a narrow focus, we fail to see the bigger picture.
Given this, it can, therefore, be helpful to take the time to think bigger and bolder. This can help you to expand your understanding and perspective of the situation.
Ask Better Questions
Questions are the keys to the locks that hold our problems in place.
Asking better and more effective questions, we naturally gain a different perspective on our situation. This can help us to become more consciously aware of the self-sabotage patterns that are ruling our lives.
What have I learned from this experience?
What would I do differently given another opportunity?
What could the potential benefits be?
How will changing my response allow me to get what I want faster?
The questions you ask will help expand your choices and options moving forward. Giving yourself more choices and options you will be in a better position to work through your self-sabotaging behaviours in optimal ways.
Treat the Process of Change as an Experiment
Just like we did not master the process of walking in one day, changing old habits will also not happen in one day. However, it does happen over time.
When you took your first steps, you must have stumbled more than once. However, you got back up and continued to struggle until you eventually mastered the mechanics of walking. It was one of your little life experiments that I imagine you succeeded at over time. 🙂
The process of change is precisely the same. Treat it as an experiment that will take some time and effort.
You will probably not be victorious after the first or even second attempt. However, over time you will get better at it as long as you persist. Eventually you will win the war over your self-sabotage patterns.
Seek Advice from Other People
It’s important to always ask for help .Seek advice from people who have had practical experience dealing with what you are currently struggling with. Trust me, you are not the only one who is /or has gone through this. They know from personal experience the struggles you are likely to face along the way. They will, therefore, be more than happy to give you practical advice and suggestions that have helped them; to try. You never know if one of those pearls of wisdom will allow you to move beyond your self-sabotage patterns.
Make Sure to Plan in Advance
We often struggle through life when we do not know what to expect, or have little to-no-idea how circumstances will unfold.
However, when we begin to lay down solid plans for how we will respond to situations, people, and circumstances, we begin taking control of our lives.
While laying out these plans; take a moment to consider possible challenges and obstacles that you might face along the way. Acknowledge that obstacles may exist, then consider how you will respond if or when these occur. Even if you don’t deal with these effectively at the time, you will at the very least learn from your experience. This will allow you to adjust your approach the next time around.
Focus on Exploring Solutions
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own inadequacies and limitations that all we see are problems and setbacks. This particular way of looking at life only leads to further challenges.
Instead, take time to consider possible solutions to the problems you are dealing with. This begins by asking more effective questions that focus your brain on finding answers, insights, and ideas, not problems.
Adjust Your Expectations
Our expectations can sometimes lift us up to new heights, or they can demoralize us emotionally. This is why it is so important to always keep our expectations in-check. Managing expectations ensure that we are not aiming too high too quickly and allow us to avoid disappointment.
Set your expectations high, however, give yourself permission to be flexible to make changes should your circumstances, conditions, and resources change.
Remind yourself that you didn’t master the process of walking in one day. You instead mastered it over time. The same is true when it comes to mastering your own behaviour patterns.
Take Intelligent Risks
You need to take risks, you need to take a chance on yourself, and you need to snap out of old unresourceful limiting patterns of behaviour that no longer serve you.
The best time to start making changes was yesterday. The second best time is Right Now.
The only person can make the change is YOU.
Take Time for Self-Reflection
The people who get ahead in life are the ones who actually take the time to consistently think through their daily choices, decisions, and actions.
Successful people learn from what worked or failed to work. They adjust their course of action by taking a different approach.
Only through self-reflection will you gain the necessary insight, perspective, and understanding to begin the process of change and transformation.
Self-sabotage is like a grenade that suddenly and unexpectedly explodes; pushing us away from our deepest wants and desires. However, there are no excuses, because we are the ones who consciously control the movement of the pin.
It is therefore, up to us to make the decision that we will no longer fall prey to our self-sabotaging patterns of behavior ever again.
The choice is yours. It’s in your hands. You now know what to do and how to do it. The real question is when will you get started? When will you finally commit to putting an end to the self-sabotaging behavior that is preventing you from living the life you truly desire to live? Are your goals worth making the change? Are you worth making the change? 🙂
What have you done to change your limiting beliefs? Leave a comment – I would love to hear from you.
I have Coached Over 200 Career Transitions — Here is A Routine That Helps People Bounce Back Faster
Losing your job takes a serious toll on your confidence and stirs up all kinds of unpleasant emotions.
Realistically though, it is likely that we’re going to face some kind of job loss or significant job change at one point or another in our careers. Sometimes this change reaches far beyond the scope of our individual control and comes as a surprise to us. The best we can do is be prepared to manage this adversity and take some time to focus on ourselves. I’ve worked through over 200 career transitions over the years – including a couple of my own (most have been my clients’). Self-care is critical to successfully getting through this time. Here are five ways I practiced self-care after I was laid off — and I think you should try this routine, too
Losing your job can often be a big shock to your system. Sometimes we know our organization is going through significant changes, but sometimes the change comes as a complete surprise. Whatever the case, when the change impacts you personally, it can really hurt and take a toll on your confidence.
Depending on who we are and how we react to things, we might become emotional as we react to the news. The best advice I can give here is to take a breath. If your employer is presenting you with a severance package, make sure you DO NOT sign anything in the heat of the moment. Take some time to review the severance package offer after you get over the initial shock factor that will inevitably happen.
Reach out to a friend or colleague that you trust and get their input. Lean on your support system and let your feelings out in this safe environment. You don’t want to be embarrassed by emotional, irrational behavior in front of your former employer. Save the insanity for close family and friends (lucky them).
For me, the pause was critical because getting laid off was a very emotional experience. Taking time to breathe allowed me to have a rational and professional discussion with my employer about severance.
I resolved the outstanding issues with my employer, A.S.A.P.
After the ‘pause’, it might still take you a few days to get your emotions back in check. Once you can get through thinking and discussing your new situation without bursting into tears or fuming in anger, set your sites on closing the loop on outstanding items with your employer.
For your own mental health, you’ve got to get the details resolved as quickly as possible. Having the details of a severance looming over you for days, weeks or months is simply exhausting. You owe it to yourself to get closure so you can move on.
In most cases, your employer should appreciate that this is an emotional situation and provide an appropriate deadline (a week or so) for you to get back to them on their offer of severance. If they don’t give you some time to get your act together, count your blessings that you no longer work for them.
So, you have done your due diligence in terms of reviewing the details and terms of the severance offer, now you need to respond to them. I always suggest having this conversation via email so everything is documented. Avoid the phone if you can it can muddy the waters. You also don’t know what might set off potential emotional outbursts. Make sure you get all of the details from your employer such as how and when the severance will be paid, what happens to your benefits, what happens to any sort of other company programs and any additional amounts owing. Get all the information that you can to minimize any need for follow up contact. You likely won’t want to talk to them again.
I didn’t try to find out why I was laid off.
I have heard people say time and time again that they need to understand why they have lost their job in order to move on. They want to know what they have done wrong, or how the employer decided that they should be the employee to exit.
The fact is, a lot of time, the reason that an employer provides a severance package for you is so that they don’t have to share this information with you. Quite frankly, it might even be none of your business, and part of some broader organizational plan.
For me, adopting an ‘I don’t need to know’ attitude was the key to self-care when I was laid off. What value is there in knowing the organization’s point of view, anyways? Would it really change the current situation? Probably not. If anything it would only serve to inflate your anger and frustration levels. So take time to make peace with the reality that you are out the door and see it as an opportunity rather than a set back.
I got into a routine.
I allowed myself some time to mourn the loss of my job. This is an important step many people seem to forget to do or chose not to do. Loosing a job is much like loosing a loved and the lose needs to be mourned. For me, this was the end of the longest-term relationship I had ever had. Grieving was important, but I set myself a deadline to be sad. I cried and moped, but only for a week. At the end of the week, I started into a routine.
It was summer and I wanted to take advantage of the time away from work and focus on the positives of being away from work. I got up every single morning and planned an outing with my little guy. Every day we were up and dressed. You’d be surprised how therapeutic getting up and going outside can be.
Getting into a new routine is critical to your career transition success. Part of establishing this routine was knowing what I would say when people asked ‘How’s work?’ I actually practiced my response so I could answer confidently without stumbling or feeling insecure.
I set an unemployment deadline.
While I only allowed myself a week to be sad about losing my job we all know the grieving process has no hard and fast deadline. The reality is that, sometimes, we have to work through the emotions of things , and that can take a while. While I wasn’t sitting at home and moping, I was still going through all the feelings of job loss. I wanted some time and space between that job and my next one. Since I was laid off in the summer, I set myself a deadline of autumn (fall) to get on a structured job hunt. Setting parameters and clear goals for myself were really key parts of my self-care and managing my overall mental health.
Job loss is hard. Period. There is no magic formula to work through the grieving process and there are no standard timelines. When it comes to self-care and job loss, you’ve got to take a moment to reflect what will work for you. Focus on those things that give you comfort, structure and a sense of purpose. It’s inside those things that you will find a transition process that is uniquely yours. On the other side of that transition is your future career success.