Archive for the ‘Success’ Category

Improve Your Management with Effective Leadership Strategies

August 31st 2012

I have a guest post today on my favorite topic, Leadership.  Thanks Jessica for sending this one to me and for your patience in getting it posted.  Please add your feedback and comments once you’ve read this.

leadership - ducks exampleThe manager has been a fixture of the workplace since the Industrial Revolution and the resultant factory- and goods-based economy; it was in that context that the primary role of management—distribution of labor, enforcement of deadlines, and insurance of set production outputs—developed. The economy and the workplace have changed dramatically since, but the concept of management has changed little.

Leadership, on the other hand, isn’t traceable to any particular economy or sociopolitical environment, and its principles remain as relevant today as they were 1,000 years ago. Human beings have always been drawn to leaders, whether in the personal, political, or professional spheres. Leaders have always inspired trust, secured loyalty, optimized output and radicalized entrenched procedure within their chosen fields.

Even though leaders don’t necessarily make good managers and not all good managers make good leaders, it’s not difficult to integrate the principles of leadership into those of good management, improving your management skills along the way.  This improvement process is important in any mid to large business and having a human resources management plan or strategy to help people develop those skills is crucial.

Five Tips on Improving Management through Leadership

1-      Lead By Example

Model your expectations of employee conduct and output at all times. Remember that your employees are always watching. Want to see more timeliness and efficiency from your employees? Get to work 5 minutes early every single day and stay 5 minutes late. Analyze your own routine for time spent on non-work related activity, such as web-surfing, chit-chatting, or procrastinating. Eliminating these things from your own routine will set a strong and lasting example for your employees.

Also, keep in mind that you are one of your company’s influential representatives. At work and in public, your behavior should embody your employer’s mission statement and core values. Avoid doing or saying anything that could discredit the company’s image. Never go against ethical procedure, and keep in mind that just because you make rules doesn’t mean you can break them. That is the quickest way to lose the respect of your employees, your most valuable asset.

Quick and Dirty: Managers tell their employees what to do; leaders show their employees how to be.

2-      Admit Your Mistakes

Never assume that passing blame for a mistake onto someone else, whether that person is above or below you on the corporate ladder, gets you off the hook, especially with your employees. When mistakes happen, the fastest and easiest way to fix them is always to focus on the solution and not the problem. The time and effort it takes to shuffle blame is always better spent on resolving the issue. Once that’s done, it’s important to figure out what went wrong and establish measures to prevent future occurrences. You won’t be able to do that if you’ve lost your employees’ respect.

Quick and Dirty: Managers fix mistakes; leaders prevent them.

3-      Be Loved, Not Feared

The personal qualities that attract us to leaders—trustworthiness, sensitivity, and enthusiasm—seem obvious, but they’re also some of the most elusive, as they may require an ongoing conscious effort. Don’t be ashamed of yourself if they don’t come naturally. In fact, they rarely do. That’s why leaders are so appealing in the first place.

Start earning the trust of your employees by trusting them first. Don’t micro-manage unless absolutely necessary and even then, take steps to insure that it doesn’t become a long-term practice. Remain cognizant of the fact that for most people, genuine praise is a better motivator than a reprimand or a warning. Find an aspect of your professional life that inspires your passion, whether it’s the opportunity to improve company output, the satisfaction of working in your field, or the basic fact that you are learning how to perform your job well, and let it inform your behavior at work. Your enthusiasm will prove infectious.

Quick and Dirty: Managers keep employees in line; leaders make them happy.

4-      Communicate Effectively

Be aware of what you say and how you say it, at all times. Never gossip, denigrate, or humiliate another person in the workplace, and be particularly sensitive in your delivery of constructive criticism, making sure to do it in a private setting.

Remain equally conscious of your listening skills. Your employees are all experts on their own duties and experience in your workplace. If an employee approaches you with a question, complaint, concern, or suggestion, hear that person out. If you can’t offer your full attention in the moment, schedule the conversation for the near future, and listen carefully for a set period of time, depending on the depth and complexity of the issue, before responding. Try not to interrupt unless absolutely necessary.

Finally, be sure to communicate in the medium most appropriate for what you have to say. All major issues with employee performance or deliverables should be addressed in-person whenever possible; use email, memos, and other written documentation to preserve vital instructions and policies; and reserve use of the phone for times when you can actually converse, not multi-task.

Quick and Dirty: Managers instruct; leaders communicate.

5-      Innovate

As a manager, you’re in a unique position in the workplace. Unlike your employers, you don’t just have responsibilities, you also have (at least some) flexibility in how you meet them. Your employer shares your long-term goals: improving employee efficiency, growing the consumer base, and saving the company money; your employees share your daily experience and practices. The resultant perspective is an ideal one from which to innovate.

So always keep your employees’ experiences and observations in mind when brainstorming long-term solutions. Don’t forget that you have the power to advocate for your employees’ good ideas, as well as your own. Never hesitate to bring an employee’s innovation to an employer out of fear he or she will wonder why you didn’t think of it first. It’s your job to apply your employees’ ideas to your employer’s concerns so that your employer doesn’t have to.

Quick and Dirty: Managers maintain good practices; leaders create them.

The Bottom Line

While there’s some debate around the finer points, the essential difference between a manager and a leader is simple: managers—whether good, bad, or mediocre—are all cast from the same mold; every leader is different. Your personality, experience, and priorities will play a large part in the leader you become. Take pride in your performance, treat yourself and others with respect, and don’t try to change who you are. The manager who knows how to lead maximizes employee and employer satisfaction, and that makes everyone happy.

This guest post was provided by Brad F. who is a contributor on taxreliefnow.co

Posted by Mike King under Success | 8 Comments »

Engaging in Personal Development

March 28th 2012

I am happy to introduce a new guest author today who has been in the field of personal development for many years.  I was asked for several writers to describe what impact personal development has had on their lives and Anita provides us with her account of it in her life below.  Please we’d love to see any comments and discussion on the topic and feel free to connect with her using her contact info at the end of the article.

I have engaged with personal development for over 20 years now.  On the one hand it saved my life. At the other end of that spectrum it has been the making of me, in terms of living with purpose and joy. The two areas of major impact were:

  • enabling me to survive tragedy
  • then to rediscover  that place beyond survival called living

This process was certainly not an overnight one, but I often think we find the true power of personal development when our back is against the wall, and we open our hearts.

Beginning in Personal Development

Personal development saved my life because at the time of first embracing it in my life, I was actually lucky to be alive, but having survived major family tragedy, I was not thankful to be alive initially.

It is something of a paradox that one can be alive yet dead on the inside, or die being alive on the inside.  Had I physically died at the time I would have died being dead on the inside. However my challenge in surviving tragedy was to move beyond and resurrect the life within me from that lifeless state.  Up till that point I had trained in psychiatry, yet my knowledge of psychiatry alone was insufficient for the journey I needed to complete.  Psychiatry was very much about helping people become functional and compus mentus, able to cope and manage situations.  That type of survival mode was not enough for me.  I write more about this in my book ‘Breaking Free From The Prison Of Survival – how I went from survival to living following major personal tragedy’

The difference that personal development made initially was to help me become more aware of my true nature, and that seed had been sown during my years as a psychiatric nurse. As I awoke to that I became more aware of my potential to change my life, something I had previously felt powerless or constrained to do.  The more I read about this aspect and listened to those who had  done likewise the more I started to feel inspired that these same processes could help me.  The next thing I started to grasp was about how my past conditioning had led me to feel so dis empowered and robbed of joy.

The Domino Effect

So my learning then involved reconditioning myself in the areas that felt greatly affected.  What I noticed then was that the questions I started to ask myself led to self awareness, as I observed my responses without judgement, and new solutions started to present themselves.  The increased self awareness led to a domino type effect. Insights led to seeing new possibilities. New possibilities bred new choices. New choices led to a feeling of empowerment with a new hope and confidence to change things.  This enabled me to identify the areas I wished to experience growth and change in, and then to draw up a plan of personal development that addressed each of those areas.

It was very much a case of practicing till new habits formed in my mind, emotions, body and spirit. This process of self awareness, new choices and skills acquisition was what enabled me to go from not being happy to have survived  major trauma, to surviving well.  However the journey felt far from complete at that point as being one of life’s survivors no longer felt such a noble destination point.

The key growth area for me now was learning to develop a deeply loving relationship with myself.

So many people have their identity invested solely in external things which can make for an inconsistent sense of joy and self-esteem. I replaced that with loving myself without condition and experiencing the joy that comes from genuine gratitude for all that I uniquely am and have. I added coaching and mentor-ship into the mix, as I had learnt about the power of these processes, and needed to form new habits.

Things  started to crystallize the more I grew as a person.  In truth whilst I had survived near death, it took me a while to move from managing my life to embracing my creative power.  The realization that I could start to design my life from here on in, rather than create by default, was one that filled me with a new lease of life, yet took constant exposure to start to grasp

Brain Tools

Two particular tools that helped me were applied kinesiology and brain wave entrainment. Kinesiology has several applications.  In principle Kinesiology works with the human energy field beyond the mere conscious level through muscle testing, to check alignment across a number of issues.

Through this process I was able to gain more accurate insights where my conscious and subconscious were giving conflicting information.  I was able to progress more rapidly with this tool in my hand and I had one of the country’s best practitioners, which was equally important.  I incorporate this in my coaching business now.  I thoroughly recommend kinesiology to assist you along your path too.

Brain wave entrainment provided a more passive form of meditation where my concentration was deficient, and enabled me to access deeper levels of relaxation and capacity to process change.

Finally intuition has played an enormous part in the doors that have opened up to express the value I bring to the world. I used to be very left brain dominant, yet as I developed intuition, the insights gained caused opportunities to present quickly.

Conclusions

Now as I look to publish my book which has already received top industry endorsement, I am left in awe and amazement at the processes described above that took me from mere survival to living, with a sense of purpose and vision I know I can realize.

I leave you with some tips to turn your life round or take it to a new level:

  1.  Ask evaluative questions of your life and answer them honestly
  2. Use kinesiology to check out your alignment
  3. Learn to ask empowering questions of your life.  They will give shape to your life
  4. Develop a deeply loving relationship with yourself as you would a best friend.  This will result in great joy and provide a powerful platform from which to create with intent.
  5. Identify the areas of growth needed and identify those who have sufficiently mastered those areas that you can learn from
  6. Cultivate your intuition.  It will be priceless
  7. Constantly expose yourself to these processes till the areas you wish to see growth become second nature

Anita Narayan is a highly endorsed author, speaker and coach with specialities in reducing cardiovascular aging , accelerated learning and sports performance.  She is soon to release her book ‘Breaking Free From the Prison Of Survival – how I went from survival to living following major personal tragedy’ which has received top industry acclaim. You can find out more at www.mypersonalbestcoaching.com

 

Posted by Mike King under Success | 6 Comments »

The Keys To Advancing Your Career

February 12th 2012

Today I welcome a new guest author, Carolyn who brings us this great article on advancing your career.  I am always surprised how many people think that the next great job for them is not at their current workplace, but at the next company or job for them.  The reality is, every job can be your next level job and people would position themselves much better by continuously advancing their careers and building their skills in EVERY job, just by dropping one and seeking the next.  So, please add your comments to welcome Carolyn and you can find more of her articles at her link at the end of the article.

Gaining a promotion at work is something that many workers would put on their to-do list. But how exactly does one go about the task of climbing the corporate ladder? Well, the corporate ladder is less of a ladder and more a staircase. What I mean by that is that advancement doesn’t come in huge upward motions. It most often comes in slow, steady moves. Continually move forward, display a desire to learn more about your job and strive to do the best you can on all of your assignments and before you know it, you’ll realize you’ve ascended quite a bit from your original position.

Before I outline a few points about advancing within a company and furthering your career, let me begin with a short illustration.

The Two Workers

Two men began work at an accounting firm at roughly the same time doing Scientific Animations. The two new employees had attended rival schools but got along well enough. The first employee decorated his desk with memorabilia from his alma mater and the second chose to keep his work area sparse and sterile. At lunch during a coworker’s birthday celebration, while the cake was being passed out and “Happy Birthday” being sung, the first employee joined in with the chorus of voices while the other hung toward the back, not wishing anyone to hear his less than impressive singing voice. Both of the employees were well liked within the office. Neither participated in the intra-office politics or petty office gossip. Both were generally on time with their assignments and both pulled their weight. However, the first employee quickly got a feel for the office culture and began arriving in time to flip on the lights in the office in the morning. He was trusted with a key to the office because the bosses figured, if he wants to get here so early, why not let him?

Still the two men performed about the same amount of work. What the first employee accomplished in 9 hours at the office, the second employee could get done in 7.5 hours.

It wasn’t until an opportunity arose to get trained on new software that the first employee really set himself apart. The company was readying itself for a switch to a new type of software and it asked for volunteers to get trained on the new system. The volunteers would then turn around and train their coworkers on the new system. It was not a popular position — there were no benefits — but the first employee volunteered for the position, was trained and lent his new expertise to his coworkers.

When it came time for the accounting firm to consider applicants for a promotion to a recently vacated managerial position, whom do you think they chose?  It should be fairly obvious that the first employee demonstrated that he was worthy of the career advancement. But why is that? The second employee was technically the more efficient candidate. He worked at a rate that was about 17 percent faster than the first employee.

Eagerness

The fact is, most companies care about efficiency and your ability to carry a heavy workload only to a certain extent. The thing that many companies look for is eagerness. The first employee had that quality in spades. This is shown not only in his volunteering for the unenviable position of new software trainer but also in his loud singing at the coworker’s lunch time birthday party and his early arrival to the office each day.

Taking the time do something as small as stand by the water cooler for a few minutes on your break and chit chat with employees shows that you’re not just there for the paycheck. You’re taking an active interest in your work and your coworkers. It shows management that you’re eager to be there. You enjoy being there. So they should want to keep you.

Keep Learning

The software-training example (and even getting fake college degrees) is just a small example of a time that someone took an opportunity to learn more within their job. This often pops up at jobs in the form of new certifications, licensures or training opportunities. The first employee’s willingness to learn the new software demonstrated to management that they are looking to learn. The desire to take on new tasks is something that managers are constantly looking for in prospective recipients of promotions.

Respect Your Elders

The managers at your job got there for a reason. Although sometimes it may seem like they don’t quite know what they’re doing, they have a better job title than you for a reason. Part of learning on the job and using the knowledge you gain to advance your career is found in relationships made with management. Offer to take your boss out to lunch and ask how they achieved their successes, how they dealt with their failures and how you can get on track to follow in their footsteps.

This is not only a great way of learning about the company and its day-to-day operations, this is a great way of making sure your boss can pick you out of a crowd. If a chance for a promotion comes up, they’ll be much more likely to consider you if they can pick you out of a line up.

Contribute

The example of the first employee singing along to “Happy Birthday” is also a metaphor for something that too many employees fail to understand. Speak up. No one will promote you, let alone acknowledge that you’re in the room unless you make your voice heard. Contribute to the discussions. Put your two cents in at meetings. Don’t be afraid to put your opinions and ideas forth at meetings. This will raise your visibility within the office and, in the event that you say something incorrect, the correction you receive at the meeting will stick with you.

As the old proverb says, “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than 100 blows to a fool.” The implication is that if you’re wise, you will only need to be corrected once and you will heed that instruction. If you’re a fool, you could have someone try to beat the information into you, but it wouldn’t take.

If you’re looking to advance your career but are worried about the opportunities within your company, don’t abandon ship just yet. Advancement opportunities will inevitably open up if you apply these principles for moving forward.

Carolyn is a guest blogger who writes about employment topics and RN schools.

Posted by Mike King under Business & Success | 5 Comments »

Making Goal Setting Work for You

February 2nd 2012

I am happy to have another guest post by Jesse this week, who has posted previously a great article here at LearnThis.ca, Finding Happiness in Authenticity.  This time, Jesse writes a new guest post on goal setting. Goal setting has always been a favorite topic of mine so its great to have a new perspective on it and it can never be encourage enough to anyone interested in personal development.  Goal setting is a critical factor to success and is something everyone should be actively doing on a regular basis. So, it’s a great article and I encourage you to please add your comments and feedback below.

The whole point of making a list of goals for yourself is to meet them—so, why is it so hard for us to follow through? Part of it has to do with how we view goals; according to an article on productivity blog Lifehack, the more potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxious and stressed we are by not achieving it. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step—and sometimes, taking that first step can be tougher than the journey itself.

Nevertheless, you still have goals for different areas of your life: spending more time with your family, working toward a promotion at your job, or maybe pursuing higher education. But the problem isn’t that you don’t want to meet these goals—the problem is that you’re not working to improve your life and the lives of your family. So, how do you get back on the resolution wagon? How can you stay motivated to fulfill your aspirations?

Don’t give up

Seems like a simple directive—but it’s much easier said than done. Still, the fact is that you won’t reach your goals if you don’t work to achieve them. Find ways to keep yourself motivated: use a productivity app like Evernote on your computer, smartphone or tablet so you can keep track of both short-term and long-term tasks. You can also recruit friends and family to help you stay on track: if your goals are health-related, encourage your family to try a healthy eating plan or a family workout schedule; you can also share your goals with friends and ask them to help keep you accountable. The more encouragement and positive pressure you have in your life, the more likely you are to stick to your guns when giving up seems like an attractive choice.

Be specific

When you’re making goals, envision exactly what you want. While the journey is important, it’s the destination that matters—so be specific when you set objectives. If you want to improve your education, explore the subjects you’re interested in and decide on a degree program that works for you. From there, you’ll be able to plot a clear path to earning a degree or certification. Having clear and detailed goals can also give you clues on how to proceed: if you’re a working dad with a growing family, perhaps an online degree program or attending classes part-time would be your most beneficial course of action. With a clear set of goals, you’ll also be able to track your progress.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Staying on track can be especially difficult when you’ve got a million things to worry about: by the time you’ve finished your workday, chances are you’ll still have a long list of chores to complete. But not everything is essential—and that can be hard to accept. You can’t be everywhere and do everything, so learn to let some things go in order to concentrate on others. That might require you to ask for help—and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so. Your spouse might need to do dinner duty a few more times a week; you could ask a friend to be your workout partner in order to keep you on schedule; or your older kids might need to pick up a couple more chores around the house. When you’re trying to stay on track to meet your goals, keeping your eye on the prize is essential—it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life.

Make some changes

Reaching your goals will require rearranging your priorities—whether it’s committing to spending less time at the office, rearranging your school schedule, or passing on activities with friends or coworkers. Try this exercise: keep track of every single thing you do for one week. From the moment you wake up every morning until you return to your bed for the night, jot down how you spend your time. How much TV do you watch? How much of your day is eaten up with Internet surfing? How long are you stuck in traffic on your daily commute?

After a week, look at the hours you spend not working toward your goals, and cut out the non-essential activities. If you have an hour to watch TV, then you’ve got an hour to work out on an elliptical machine. If you wile away your evening hours tweeting or Facebooking, consider using that time to study instead. The key is to trim the fat from your life and devote more energy to your resolutions. The more free time you have, the more easily you can fill it with tasks that move you closer toward your goals.

Celebrate

That’s right—when you reach your goals, you should reward yourself! One of the reasons why may goals tend to be difficult to meet is that many of us have been conditioned to expect instant gratification or reward. But giving yourself a reward—like a vacation, or a new electronic gadget, or maybe a party—at the end of your journey can make it easier to stay motivated and keep going. Acknowledging your own hard work—and taking a little time to review how you got what you wanted—can go a long way toward making your all your work seem worthwhile.

Of course, just because you’re committing to making your dreams come true doesn’t mean that you’ll always succeed. And that’s totally okay: the most important element of working toward your goals is that you stay persistent and focused. While you might not meet your goals within the timeframe you set for yourself, if you keep at it, you’ll get there eventually—and that’s what’s most important.

Jesse Langley specialilzes in writing about education, professional and personal development, and career building.  He writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University.

Posted by Mike King under Success | 11 Comments »

10 Ways to be Performance Oriented

November 19th 2011

One more of the traits I referred to and read about recently in “The Good Among the Great” that I wanted to explore in more detail is Performance and Process Oriented.  I especially value the performance oriented and while I know the process piece is associated with that, to me it is a subset of performance.  This article explores how to put performance as a focus in much of what you do.joy

Work for Joy and Not for Money

Performance occurs when you are happy doing the job you do.  Study after study shows that money does not bring happiness to life or a workplace and so you have to find joy in what you do to truly perform at your best.  Finding ways to enjoy your work are important regardless of what you do with your used cell phones.  At the same time, I don’t think you need to quit your job or find a new career that is more satisfying just to have a joyous reason to work.  Every job has its joys or satisfactions and it requires the person doing them to discover them.  In whatever job you do, you can either choose to complain about it (which many people seem to do in work) or you can find ways that you can value the work, the results you get and make the job more enjoyable.  Perhaps this is through the people you work with, adding some humor or fun to the culture, making some friendly competition or self challenges to make the work more than just showing up for a pay check.  If you don’t enjoy your job now, ask yourself, “Will it really make a difference to liking your job if you get a 10% raise?”  Probably not, however, it will make a BIG difference if you can positively change the culture, make work more fun, know and have fun with the people you work with or simply love the results you can produce in that job.  The great part of having more joy in the workplace, is that you will still end up having better performance which will always lead to that better pay in the long run anyway.

Value The Journey more than The Achievement

Being performance oriented often leaves people solely focused on a outcome instead of truly optimizing the process or journey towards that achievement.  While obviously results are an important aspect of any performance oriented person, they are not the only thing that matters.  The methods, the journey and the process used to get to that outcome is often more important since it is where the learning occurs along the way.  The journey is where the experience is really coming from, not the end result and that experience is what you will remember and be able to repeat.  If you achieve something and don’t know how you achieved it, does it really have any value?

Study The Results of Everything You Do

performance

So, if you look at the journey or your performance and not only the results, it helps to pick apart the results and examine them to help uncover the truths of why they work or how you got them.  Of course the journey is part of this to know the process and methods, but the results are often not as obvious as they might seem at first either.  What impact does the result actually have?  Does the result reach other people, other areas or aspects of that job that you didn’t intend at first?  Are those positive or negative results?  What about the repeat-ability of your results, is there someone else who you could teach or help achieve the same thing?  Can you repeat them yourself?

Reflect on Your Talents and How to Use Them

Something leads to great results and sure the journey is part of that, but often that journey is shaped by a talent that you have.  Do you know what your greatest talents are and is it clear to you when you are using them and how to make them more effective? Being performance oriented will require you to use all of your skills and talents.  Reflect on them to figure how you can use them more?  You are way better off spending your time on your strengths and talents than you are on weaknesses when you are looking to be performance oriented.  Weaknesses may be an area you want to improve on to help get results, but every hour spent using a talent will always get you more than an hour spending working on a weakness.  That is exactly why you would call it a weakness in the first place, you are not as good at it!

Learn From your Mistakes

I am amazed how many people seem to be afraid to make mistakes, want to hide mistakes they do make, and don’t seem to tolerate others making mistakes.  These are not the behaviors of performance oriented people, as hiding and avoiding mistakes is something that limits people from learning from them.  Obviously making mistakes  on purpose is not valuable here, but tolerating mistakes for what they are and then maximizing them by learning from them is incredibly valuable.  Ask yourself why the mistake happened?  Can you avoid it from happening again?  What did you learn from the mistake and can you share that or teach it to others?

Create Experiences Over Acquiring Things

The materialism and disposable world we have created is shifting people more and more towards what they want instead of why they want it.  Acquiring things is often at the top of people’s goal lists or wish lists and it happens more and more as people achieve more.  To be truly performance oriented however, one has to care more about the experiences they gain and wish for over the things they might be able to acquire.  Every thing (even a status item or symbol of prestige) is still for the purpose of the feeling it gives the person.  That is even more true with experiences that don’t come with some item or thing.  The stuff we accumulate often holds us back from being able to do and experience more.  If you want to be more performance oriented, you must think about and shift from acquiring things to creating experiences.  It is the experiences you will remember and value years later and its the experiences you can share with others on a personal level.

Change What Doesn’t Work Quickly

performance oriented

Many people get their mind set on something and keep being persistent, without exploring new options.  Persistence has its merit when it is the only option to accomplish something (like my article on perseverance climbing a mountain) but most of the time there are alternatives choices and methods to get a similar result from.  This is why it is good to react when something doesn’t work and to change it before wearing yourself out or wasting too much time on the wrong thing.  If you can change something that is not working quickly for another method, this is much better than just continually pushing through when there is tiring resistance (either skills, circumstance, etc).  Optimizing the way to get results is important to do at all times, so change what doesn’t work quickly and you will certainly find the optimal path and be more performance oriented.

Kill Distractions and Find Solitude

Distractions seem like they have become part of everyday life now for most people but the truth is that they are chosen by people and it is quite possible to choose to eliminate distractions just as easily as it is for people to choose to have them.  Whether it is how many times a day you check your facebook page, whether or not you stop a personal conversation to answer a phone or simply how you fill your productive and spare hours with extra things like music, a bit of web surfing or checking your email 25 times a day;  all of these are distractions you choose to have or allow.  If you want to be more productive identify the distractions that don’t help you and choose to kill them.  Maybe for an hour to start, a day or if you are determined, forever, but no matter the time frame you have to choose to kill the distraction to gain performance.  Combine that with some solitude where you can actually think about your life and the things you need to accomplish and you suddenly find yourself more performance oriented with an ability to get a lot more done in the same period of time.

Take Risks and Ignore Conventional Thinking

Performance oriented individuals are those who are willing to take risks and they know that a risk is often necessary to take a leap forward instead of always playing everything safe and conservative.  Often conventional wisdom or wisdom of crowds forces conventional thinking that keeps us from trying something new, being creative or experimenting with some idea that might fail.  Without the guts to take the risk, we limit every possibility of it working and kill what might have turned out to be an amazing ideal if only it was acted on.

Relationships Must Come First

Last but certainly now least in this list of being more performance oriented is relationships.  Relationship are absolutely crucial to great success and are one of the strongest areas to help accelerate and connect a person for success. Whether it is for support and empathy from people we know, trust and love, or connecting businesses and networks of business people towards win win situations, no matter what the performance you are after, relationships will help it come faster, make it easier to enjoy and share, and empower you with more passion and emotion than when others are not involved with you.

Posted by Mike King under Success | 16 Comments »

Finding Happiness in Authenticity

October 29th 2011

This week I have a wonderful guest post by Jesse who takes on the challenging topics of authenticity and happiness.  If you like this subject, I recommend you also check out my review of and buy Daniel Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness

I always thought that there was a formula to life, a recipe that if you got just right would result in success.  And I thought I’d know success when I found it.  I’m not even referring to financial success, although that’s always nice.  I guess I’m referring to a kind of happiness, though not the kind of euphoria that most folks seem to mistake for happiness generally.  As I began to get older, I started to realize that many of the people I’d been emulating all along didn’t have the answer.  In fact, nobody I talked to seemed to even have formulated the right questions.

I think this is a feeling many people have, especially if they tend at all toward introspection.  And we’re natural imitators.  It comes out of our early social construction I suppose.  Even our basic likes are borrowed.  You may love baseball, but you likely inherited that from your father or older brother.  When we start digging into the things that compose our “self” it can look like a layering of borrowed likes.  I think that this is what people are referring to when they say they need to go “find” themselves.  I think it’s really just a longing for authenticity.  What is it that you really like?

In the search for personal authenticity (it’s like buying dodge ram parts), it can be helpful to ask yourself what you really like.  We become so accustomed to acting in non-authentic ways that by the time we’re adults we’ve created a subterfuge that even fools ourselves.  But do you really like reading Tolstoy novels?  Or are you happiest reading cheesy detective novels.  We convince ourselves constantly that we like things because we intuit throughout our lives that liking certain things commands more respect from other people.  Reading Ulysses always commands more respect than admitting a fondness for old comic books.  But I would suggest that we would all be happier if we were less interested in pretension and more focused on what we really truly find pleasurable.

I was nearly thirty when I realized that the education and resulting career path I’d chosen weren’t the result of pursuing what I really liked.  I quit my job and went back to college and got a degree in English literature.  I realize that most folks can’t just quit a job for four years to pursue a degree that may not have huge economic potential.  But if you’re doing something you don’t love and you really wish you’d studied history instead of accounting, you can still do it.  Pursuing your original authentic academic interests with online education classes at home in academic areas in which you always had interest means that you can enrich your life without drastically changing your routine.  Just because you chose an academic major at eighteen based on income potential, or because your parents wanted you to study medicine or law, doesn’t mean it’s too late to pursue your authentic interests.

There’s a phenomenon that happens to folks as they grow older that’s common enough that we have a name for it in our culture.  The “mid-life crisis” as it’s called I think is just a belated response to a longing for authenticity.  But a new convertible or some other material acquisition is unlikely to solve anything—although this seems to be a popular way to self-medicate.  And it’s understandable.  Those of us that have come of age anytime after the post World War II economic boom have been raised in a society driven primarily by consumerism.  It makes sense then that we tend to believe, whether or not we’ll actually admit it, that the ability to consume can make us happy.  And the ability to consume is measured in dollars.  We may not verbalize it, but we’ve internalized consumerist attitudes and tendencies so completely that it still forms our underlying attitudes about success and happiness.  And that can form a real roadblock to encountering one’s personal authenticity.

It’s sort of a shame that so many of us don’t encounter true personal authenticity until fairly late in our lives—if ever.  I had a conversation with a young man—fresh out of law school—recently and I asked him about happiness.  What is it that would make him truly happy?  He told me, with no hint of irony, that a $200,000 annual salary by the time he was thirty would be his true measure of personal success.  I asked him about happiness and he responded with a definition of personal success.  It makes me wonder if we’ve created an entire generation of individuals who’ve tied their ideas of happiness so completely to a vision of financial success that any hope of real personal happiness is almost impossible to achieve.

Finding authenticity isn’t always easy.  It’s an inward journey that requires introspection and personal searching.  And those things can be difficult to engage in when we’re surrounded by the accoutrement of postmodern life.  It’s easy to get sucked into a lifestyle where multi-tasking and work has crept stealthily into our personal lives and we have increasing difficulty staking out time that’s truly ours.  I work as hard as I can at my job.  And there are times that I bring work home with me.  But I try to make that an exception.  I’ve begun to get better at defining the difference between success and happiness.

It’s a gradual process.  But it’s possible.  And it’s a journey.  A year ago I began to fall into the habit of working about an hour later every day at my office because of a high priority project.  I’d shut my laptop and drive home, give my wife a peck on the cheek and then promptly open my laptop to do a few more work-related items.  Guess what?  My project was completed on time and under budget, but I continued bringing work home.  I was letting my job deprive me of what makes me authentically happy—the simple routine of spending time with my wife and reading in my overstuffed chair while she putters around the house doing what makes her authentically happy.  And I’m not reading Tolstoy anymore either; I’m reading Mark Twain.  I like it.  I like it a lot.

Begin Your Own Quest Toward Finding Happiness in Authenticity

If you find the idea of taking a journey toward authenticity and inner happiness appealing, there are concrete steps you can take to get you started.  It’s not a bad idea to take some time to unplug from your normal hectic workweek schedule to pursue some solitude and quiet introspection.

Unplug for a Weekend

This is tougher than it sounds.  Spend a quiet weekend without your usual distractions.  Shut off your TV, close your laptop and turn off your mobile phone.  This may sound easy, but we’ve become so used to over-stimulation and the postmodern barrage of electronic gadgetry, that a shift into uninterrupted solitude can be unsettling.  My father used to refer to these kinds of weekends as “hermit weekends.”  That’s a good way to think of it.  If your surroundings are quiet enough that the loudest sound is the clock ticking on the wall, you’re off to a good start.

Self Examination

Start thinking about what you used to prize more than anything else.  I’m not talking about anything work-related either.  What did you used to be passionate about?  What did you enjoy more than anything else before you became consumed with measuring happiness by financial success?  These are usually simple things.  For some people it may be a form of communing with nature.  Quiet walks, kayaking, hiking in the great outdoors through riotous autumn colors and the smell of wood smoke.  Whatever it may be for you, focus on it and identify it.

Re-think Your Goals

Start thinking about the goals you have in place.  What are they measuring?  Are they motivated by consumption?  Do they revolve around material acquisition?  If you find yourself answering yes consistently, that’s a great first step to identifying self-built barriers to experiencing real happiness. Begin a process of changing goals from strictly material ones to “happiness” goals.

Substitute Old Goals for New Goals

Shift goals and personal drive away from material goals toward person-centered goals.  Personal happiness isn’t the only thing sacrificed on the altar of materialism and conspicuous consumption.  The happiness of family members and bonds between spouses and children tend to be casualties of consumption-driven goals as well.  The goals we have shape our outlook and activities.

Focus On Relationships

If you’re focused on constantly working overtime to boost income for a new house or new car, you may want to reexamine your motives.  Are these things necessities?  Or are you single-mindedly pursuing the accoutrement and trappings of success?  If a new home isn’t a real necessity, you may find that experiencing simple happiness is a lot easier if you work less and spend more time with family members instead of co-workers.  Unhappiness often results from neglecting relationships.

Re-define Yourself

We have a unique way of defining ourselves in Canada and the United States.  I first noticed this when traveling through Europe.  When I asked people what they did—a common question here in North America—they tended to respond very differently than I was used to.  They didn’t respond by giving me their profession.  Instead they responded with the activities that made them happy.  So rather than saying they were surgeons or lawyers, they might say they were mountain bikers or rock climbers, triathletes or poets.  These folks did not define themselves by their professions or by how they made their incomes.  They defined themselves by their sources of great happiness.  Just changing how you define yourself can make a huge impact on your happiness.  Defining yourself as a parent instead of a stockbroker will inexorably begin to shift how you perceive yourself and what your priorities are.  If you undertake some serious introspection about authenticity and happiness—and realize it requires a journey—you’re on the right path.  The beautiful thing about a journey toward happiness is that it’s really never too early or too late to begin.

Jesse Langley enjoys spending time with his family, watching athletics, and writing about professional and personal development strategies.  He writes regularly for Professional Intern

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