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achievement

3 Tips to Maintain Your Self-Respect

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3 Tips to Maintain Your Self-Respect

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (public domain picture)

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
(public domain picture)

 

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Our brains are constantly at work, processing messages and releasing hormones based on often-unconscious cues. These hormones influence our moods and behaviors, and I invite you today to become a little more aware of how your levels of self-respect can trigger them.

Last week, I wrote about how people from different cultures allocate respect – some value achievement and believe personal effort can get you anywhere if you just work hard enough; and that is worthy of admiration. Society can shift and people make their own luck.

Others, probably based on historical socio-political circumstances and stronger class-systems, believe your own personal effort can only get you so far: what matters most is the family you’re born into, or the position you hold. Society is mostly stable and so are its people. 

We also mentioned how different personality types and Temperaments probably pay attention to different key items: for the Theorist™ (NT) that’s expertise, for the Catalyst™ (NF) that’s meaning, for the Stabilizer™ (SJ) that’s responsibility, and for the Improviser™ (SP) that’s freedom.

Now let me ask you:

How much do you respect yourself, and what is that opinion based on?

I think our measure of self-respect depends on at least two scales:

a) How do we compare to others, and
b) How do we compare to our own internal compass of values and morals.

Let’s briefly look at our own internal compass first.

It is probably calibrated during the first few years of our life, as we unconsciously mimic and take on our parents’ (and when in our teens, peers’) demonstrated behaviors as points of reference.

Yes, that’s demonstrated behaviors, not talked-about principles. If your Dad yells at you STOP SHOUTING, what are you going to remember? When it comes to impressionable children that we all once were, actions speak louder than words.

Of course, I don’t necessarily mean children will repeat their parents’ example; I think we all know that children also like to rebel and do the complete opposite of what they see at home. Either way, home sets the first frame of reference.

Your internal compass of values and morals, then, depends not only on the culture and time you grew up in, but also in what you saw demonstrated during your formative years, and how your innate psychological type preferences predisposed you to interpret and act on what you learned.

If you think of yourself as a conscientious person, you’ll feel like you let yourself down when you forget a friend’s birthday, for example. If you think of yourself as an expert, you’ll feel embarrassed when you don’t know the answer to a question, and so on. (If you want to pour yourself a cup of tea now and stroll down memory lane to see where your today’s values and self-respect may be rooted in, be my guest. I’ll wait here til you come back. :-))

Ready to move on? Good! Now then, since we’re social animals, I have to ask:

How do you compare yourself to others?

This scale is equally as interesting, and equally wrought with unconscious processes that some reflection will hopefully help us become more aware of.

Thanks to new technologies like fMRI and EEG scans helping to understand how our brain works, research into social inter-personal neuroscience is a lot easier now than it used to be – and we’re still only scratching the surface.

  • For example, did you know that feeling better about yourself activates the same reward-systems in your brain than if you won the lottery (Izuma et al 2008)?
  • You’ve probably heard about women of all sizes feeling bad after reading the (retouched!) glossy magazines (Hamilton et al 2007).
  • Or how about the one that shows being excluded from a group, aka experiencing ‘social pain’, lights up the same brain regions as actual physical pain (Eisenberger et al 2003)?

As far as I know, neither of these studies controlled for cultural or Type preferences. Still, all show indications that we are wired to co-exist and experience ourselves as part of a social system. Yes, we feel better when we’re aligned with our own values, but it’s also natural to compare ourselves to others. Hey, we even compare us to ourselves – just think of beating your time jogging around the park, or cleaning those candy jellies in 5 moves instead of 7.

Comparison happens. (Tweet this.)

And when it does, your brain sends out either happy-hormones (oxytocin) or stress-hormones (cortisol), depending on whether you see yourself better-than or less-than whatever or whomever you’re comparing yourself to.

Since lower levels of cortisol are linked to living longer and healthier lives, it’s in your best interest to have healthy levels of self-respect. Here’s how you can work on that:

1. Remember that you are valuable, just as you are.

Many of us grow up learning conditional love, like getting an extra hug when we cleaned up our room and being scolded when we traipsed muddy footsteps across the freshly mopped floor. You are no longer a child, you are an adult, and you are worthy of love and belonging. You are enough. Excellent resources I’d like to recommend here in case you need reminders are Brené Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, and the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living.

2. Remember that it’s the 21st Century

You’re no longer a great ape in a herd who’s not getting fed if you mess up. Basically, that’s when these brain functions were established and where many of those stress levels come from. So, when you’re comparing yourself to someone else and feel like you’re coming up short, your brain will release cortisol, effectively shutting down your pre-frontal cortex (PFC). That’s the region that’s used for reasoning and all sorts of executive decision-making. In other words, every time you’re feeling less-than, you’re actually unable to talk yourself out of it, because that reasonable part of the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen or glucose to function properly. Your IQ literally drops a few points.

Take a deep breath to calm down. You won’t be able to in the very moment, but hopefully this awareness will help you get to that “oh wow, that conversation / person / situation really makes me feel inferior, I need to take a calm breath now”-moment faster. (Some studies also show a sugary drink might help boot up the PFC faster - but you might want to consider your teeth, wallet, and weight before you grab a coke.) You are an adult in the 21st Century, and you will be fine. Your survival is not threatened by an airbrushed size 2 teenager on the cover of a magazine at checkout. (Tweet this.)

3. Remember your power

How many times have you bragged about your achievements or talked down to someone else? It’s one thing to be proud of what you’ve worked for, and yes – you earned that. Celebrate it. Just remember whom you’re talking to. If your friend just got sacked, this may not be the right time to bring up your promotion. If your friend is 8 months pregnant, this may not be the right time to share your latest weight-loss and fitness tricks.

You’re not the only one comparing yourself to others, others also compare themselves to you. And I think we all know what it’s like when we’re just plain happy, share the happiness, and have our friends react defensively. It’s easy to think “gosh, they’re jealous; why can’t they just be happy for me?” and they probably are. But now you know, their brain is sending out stress hormones making them feel less-than-you

To sum up, how we think of ourselves actually influences our hormone-levels and consequently our mental and physical health. Many negative triggers are unconscious and challenging to get a handle on without the proper awareness. Hopefully, this article gave you at least one strategy to get yourself out of the less-than hole faster, namely love yourself, breathe, and have empathy for others.

In case of doubt, what would Eleanor Roosevelt do?  

Image by hehaden, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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How do you show respect?

Pic Credit: Ambro

Pic Credit: Ambro

How we accord status and who we respect is largely influenced by our cultural programming. 

Generally speaking, if you're raised in Northern or Western countries, knowledge and experience are important. So you will more naturally respect people for what they do, especially when they are "self-made", "accountable", and "go-getters". Trompenaars called this an Achievement culture. 

If you're raised in Southern or Eastern countries, generally speaking, it's more important who you are. You are probably more likely to respect people for their family name, the position they hold, their age and seniority. Trompenaars called this an Ascription culture. 

What does this mean in global business teams? 

When people from achievement and ascription cultures work together, they will show trust, respect, and leadership in different ways. They will also negotiate and communicate differently.  

Achievement

For example, in Germany, team members may openly disagree with their boss during a meeting. This is seen as an exertion of their expertise; it is their job to speak up when they see something is not right or not working. That's what they were hired to do: take responsibility for their piece of the puzzle. They show respect by asking questions.

Someone who always agrees and says "yes" to everything will not be trusted.

Someone who doesn't keep eye contact will not be trusted.

Someone with various degrees may be respected, but only if they can follow up and apply their knowledge to actual problems.

To lead means to take responsibility and make decisions.

Communication is quite direct, simple yes and no answers are welcomed - they are short and efficient.

Negotiations will not be overly drawn out or going through too many rounds, because everyone is aware of the rules and pricing is set at a fair point from the get-go. 

Ascription

For example, in Korea, team members will not openly disagree with their boss during a meeting; on the contrary. They show respect by taking the blame on them if the boss messes up. 

Excessive eye contact may be rude, and trust is established over years of friendships or shared connections.

Team members take responsibility for one another, and would be uncomfortable if singled out. That's why incentives pay rarely work; when one person is selected to receive a bonus or even go attend a special training, they will feel obliged to buy presents for the rest of the team who can't go to save face and remain a member of the in-group.

To lead means to take responsibility for the people who work for you.

Communication is indirect, and a direct "no" would be considered rude.

Negotiations or business talk will take time, because trust has to be established first and can be a long drawn-out process. Contracts may be seen as a starting point for the relationship, and flexibility to change contracts is expected.  

 

Bridging the gap

If you're from an achievement culture working for an ascription leader,

  • try not to disagree out loud in front of others.
  • Know that they may not see you as equal and might therefore be uncomfortable if you invite them out for happy-hour after work.
  • If you work with ascription team members, ask open-ended questions and watch for body-language cues. They may not tell you "no".

If you're from an ascription culture working for an achievement leader,

  • know that your opinion is valued and that it's ok for you to give it.
  • Of course, Westerners also get embarrassed, but if your feedback is too indirect, they may not hear you.
  • If you work with achievement team members, prepare for constructive feedback and learn to differentiate between the relationship and the task.
  • Criticism is rarely directed at the person, but more on aspects of how the job is done. 

Within those broad cultural differences, I also believe our personality type plays a role. In this case, our Temperament: 

People with a Theorist™ Temperament value expertise, knowledge, competence, and self-control. If they have posters up on their walls or screensavers it's likely smart experts and pioneering visionaries like Einstein or Jobs. 

People with a Catalyst™ Temperament value meaning, significance, and unique identity. They are likely inspired by authentic role models who share their journey to self-realization like Brené Brown or Oprah.  

People with a Stabilizer™ Temperament value membership, belonging, responsibility, and duty. They are likely admiring others who serve society; the every-day heroes we see in soldiers, fire fighters, and nurses.  

People with an Improviser™ Temperament value the freedom to act now, and the ability to make an impact. They may be motivated to get active for causes they believe in, or be fans of entertainers. 

So - who do you respect, and how do you show it?

UPDATE / ADDENDUM:

I love how the answer to most question seems to be "yes, and" and "depends". The article below emphasizes how both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and I've laid out how the location / nationality makes a difference. In other words: use both as needed, and start with the people in mind.  

from "Connect, then lead" at http://hbr.org/2013/07/connect-then-lead/ar/1 

Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors. Fear can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage. (...)
A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.

 

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Self-Esteem Needs - Confidence, Achievement, Respect

Copyright Bill Watterson, Awesomest Cartoonist Ever. This one's for accompanying spouses without work-permit in particular: If you are used to being employed, not earning a living changes your sense of self. America is the country of “what do you do?” and the common lack of spousal employment during international assignments is the biggest factor of discontent. Maybe you’re choosing not to work, maybe you’re planning on starting a family, maybe you’ve never worked, or maybe you didn’t get a work-permit: living abroad will burst open even the tiniest cracks of self-doubt.

Become aware of your limiting beliefs that affect your

self-worth. Many are tied to numbers: the scale, the bank account, or friends on Facebook. If you find yourself spiraling into negative self-talk, try a coaching process called cognitive restructuring.

Cognitive restructuring works for thoughts or beliefs that are causing you pain. It helps you examine them and find more helpful alternatives, one belief or thought at a time. There are resources like The Work or of course you can talk with your Coach to get a personalized solution.

There are many ways to make a difference, even if you’re not allowed to work. Learn something in the local college or through an online course. Immerse yourself in the language and culture, you’ll be building marketable skills for your return! Learn to measure your contribution not in money or numbers, but in happiness, or time spent with your kids, or memories created with your partner.

What plans have you always postponed that you could now make time for? Write a book, start to paint, let out all the creative energy you’ve been storing up.

Self-Esteem-and-Perception

 

It is often said, Western civilization tends to follow the “having” and “doing” path, where a person’s value is measured by achievement. Eastern civilization, on the other hand, subscribes more to the concept of “being”. Consider the cultural difference in the two approaches: “doing” implies a person is the steward of their own fate, there’s the potential of upward mobility. “Being” implies acceptance and is often tied to the social status you’re born into.

Respect is a two-way street. As an expat, you are walking, living, and breathing diversity. What were your thoughts on immigration back home? How does it feel to be a foreigner yourself?

The more you know, the more you’ll understand what motivates our behaviors. Learn about your own culture and the one you’re moving to. Recognize behaviors are influenced by our values and our different interpretations of the same. The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do to you” does not work across cultures. Apply the Platinum Rule instead: “treat everyone the way they want to be treated”.

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Is there an Extraversion prejudice in the USA?

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Is there an Extraversion prejudice in the USA?

And by prejudice, we meant is Extraversion generally perceived as more desirable than Introversion? This was just one of the questions posed during last night's meeting at the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter of the Association of Psychological Type. Our presenter, Elizabeth Murphy (Murph), gave this thoughtful response:

by janie.hernandez55 - intended to show outside energy! ;-)
by janie.hernandez55 - intended to show outside energy! ;-)

When Isabel Myers began her exploration of Type and constructing the MBTI(r) instrument, she assumed the E-I distribution was around 75-25. More recent research today shows that it's closer to 50-50, with slightly more males reporting Introversion preferences, and slightly more females reporting Extraversion preferences.

Murph also mentioned something like "residual misinterpretation", where many people may still base their understanding of what E and I mean on the old trait instruments. A trait instrument measures "how much" of something and then pronounces a fixed-sounding result, as Vesa had mentioned in her comment to an earlier post. Very much to the contrary, Type instruments like the MBTI do not measure "how much", they do not measure "how well", but they do measure "which". Therefore, the results will not be plotted on a bell curve, they will show up as either - or.

So, according to the numbers, E and I are pretty evenly distributed. I'd like to add the following cultural perspective for your consideration.

Over the last few hundred years, the USA became the home to large numbers of immigrants. People who had to or chose to leave their home countries in Europe, for instance, due to political or religious persecution, as well as for economic motivations and dreams of a better life.

Were those immigrants more likely to have E or I preferences?

That's hard to tell. If you were a German "Dichter & Denker", i.e. poet & thinker, you may have had Introversion preferences, like Einstein (INTP). If you were ambitious to make a name for yourself, you may have had Extraversion preferences, like Heidi Klum (I'm guessing ESFP, but can't be sure). In any case, going back those hundreds of years when people first started arriving, the immigrants generally left behind their extended families, bringing with them a sense of adventure, and often not much else.

It became necessary to form new alliances, make new friends, find and build new communities.

pic found on edublogs.org
pic found on edublogs.org

Imagine you've just arrived on the East Coast. You step off a boat and need to find your way to that gold mine you heard about. You may want to travel on your own, but is that the safest option? Wouldn't it be more practical to join a group of wagons, all heading West? Well, taking a proactive approach was probably more likely to secure you a spot on that caravan than waiting to be asked.

These circumstances were fertile ground for the development of an individualism, specific, and achievement-focused society.

What does that mean?

In individualistic cultures, the needs of the individual are considered more important than those of the group he or she belongs to. To support individualism, values like self reliance, autonomy, independence, and personal responsibility develop naturally. Behaviors that support those values are readily visible, e.g. a focus on tasks and eating lunch by yourself at your desk where you can continue to check your email instead of taking time to go outside the office and relaxing with a group of colleagues.

Sounds like Introversion, but it isn't. Introversion explains that your mental energy tends to flow inward first. Individualism describes that your circle of primary focus is quite small, mainly on yourself and your nearest relatives.

In specific cultures, the approach to public and private life is compartmentalized and with that, communication patterns like small talk and the ability to form mutually beneficial, but not necessarily long-lasting relationships are the norm. The USA are home to a highly mobile people; moving around for work or studies multiple times throughout one's life is common. Check out the oldie but goodie video about this concept here.

We have already covered that Extraversion has nothing to do with how much a person talks, in fact, some people with Introversion preferences may talk "too much" if they don't pick up on external cues that the conversation partner is ready to move on. However, people with E preferences are more likely to taking action and seeing their thoughts and ideas realized in the outside world. Taking action and doing something is highly valued in achievement-oriented cultures, more so than "just" thinking about doing something.

Since it is considered important that you can show your worth, or display your ability in achievement cultures, everybody has equal opportunity to do so and be considered successful. You don't need to have Extraversion preferences to have a big house, a fast car, go on expensive holidays, enjoy a golf club membership, or lead thousands of Twitter followers.

Are you more likely to achieve such outwardly visible success when using behaviors attributed to Extraversion types in the USA?

Perhaps. In traditional business probably more so, but online and social media are a completely different story. In any case, I don't think we can reduce the expression of Extraversion to the Type principles alone. In my view, the cultural values that have developed over time as a response to environmental circumstances and that continue to influence the behavior we see as desirable today also play a role.

Image by Daryl L. Hunter, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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Effective goaling, Part 2

comfortzonecomicsmWelcome to the second of three blog articles on effective goaling. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about setting goals the SMART way. You know where you want to go, you're feeling good about it, you're motivated, and you're aware of what you are truly pursuing. Now let's get to the beef, the juice, the action! Let's start by having a look at that Time-box again: you have answered the questions of when you want the goal accomplished and when you want to make your first step. Can you be sure that you are able to begin your journey right now, or are there any inner or outer obstacles that you need to get rid of first? One way of finding out is simply starting and then dealing with obstacles as they arise. This is particularly advisable if you're prone to procrastination, so don't give yourself any excuses, get on with it!

The questions I invite you to work through this week are designed to help you figure out how to break down your goal into manageable steps. Few things in life can be accomplished from one moment to the next. Goals are complex, they have to do with change, they challenge the status quo, and they may even alter your personal relationships. What does the road to your goal look like? For example, if your goal is to learn a language, you may want to give yourself some time to figure out whether you'd prefer going to classes or doing a home-study course, you'd be well advised to set aside an hour or so on a daily basis for vocabulary training, grammar exercises, and perhaps invest in additional history and culture lessons to round off the experience. Immersing yourself even further by watching original movies without the subtitles, taking cooking classes of the region, and reading their most famous poetry are also options.

What I would ask you to do in the first instance is to brainstorm ideas of what you would need, who and what could help you reach your goal. As you may know, brainstorming means that you take note of every idea that pops into your head regardless of how wild and crazy it may appear - there is neither judgment nor censoring in brainstorming. I suggest to write the points down so your mind doesn't get a chance to wonder off too far into one direction, although some people have the ability to remember all the ideas they have. Personally, I'm not of them, I have to write things down or they're gone. Ready? Alright then, grab pen and paper, or open a new word-processing document, and start writing. If you get stuck, keep repeating the last thing you wrote down until another idea pops up - you have 8 minutes to find as many ways as possible to reach your goal. Go.

Done? Excellent. Now you take a deep breath and have a glass of water to rehydrate your brain and body. Let's take a look at all the wealth of ideas you came up with, and decide which ones you can realistically make work, and how. To continue with the language example, if you want to take additional classes to your home-study language course, the first step would be to decide which classes you want to take. Say history and culture. Where can you find out about what's on offer? Who can help you? You could ask your friends, or search the internet for educational institutes or evening classes at your city's college, or contact the embassies of the country whose language you're interested in. Maybe they also have a chamber of commerce or expatriate gatherings that you could join. Follow-up question: When are you going to go online / call the chamber / sign-up / send the necessary cheque? On a personal side-note, once you've learned the basics I recommend to try and find someone native to practice the language with, because you won't always learn how people actually speak through a book. Hey, if you have the resources - take a vacation! Travel! Broaden your horizon, even better. :-)

Once you figured out what the in-between steps for reaching your end-goal are, plan for them, think how long each step might take, which order they should come in, and add in some buffer times so you don't get stressed in case one bit or another takes longer than expected. Depending on how comfortable you are with detailed planning, you might want to get your organizer out (or calendar, or hand-held device, or blackberry, etc) and schedule certain time slots for your activities. Mondays 5.30 to 6.00 pm - vocabulary. Tuesdays 7.30 - 8.00 pm - grammar. Wednesdays 7.00 - 9.00 pm - meeting Jean-Luis and Françoise at La Madeleine for conversation. Thursday - night off! Going like this you could have the basics down in three to six months. Too long? Back to the brainstorming! More ideas, filtered out according to workability, put in order, and allot time. How about: buy audio CDs (next Saturday) to listen to in the car on the commute from work, subscribe to blogs or magazines (Sunday), and read for an additional hour every day. Is that realistic, or would "every other day" be more manageable?

This is probably where I've lost the more creative and free-spirited minds who don't like to be bogged down by conventional time-tables, who are used to working when they're inspired, be that last-minute-panic or simply less structured. I understand completely, so here are some questions that are useful to look at when trying to overcome any kind of obstacle:

  • Which resources do I need to work through the smaller as well as the bigger steps towards my goal?
  • Am I already using those resources, or similar variations, in other areas of my life?
  • Is this the first time I've encountered this problem?
  • How was I able to overcome similar obstacles in the past?
  • Do I know anyone who is successful in what I'm trying to accomplish?
  • How can I get in touch with them? WHEN will I do that?
  • Which support can my family and friends give me? WHEN will I ask for it?
  • What would I need to learn to deal with the steps and reach my goal? WHEN will I go out and buy that book?
  • How am I limiting myself, how am I standing in my own way?

Come back next week for more tips on how to reach your goals and make 2009 the best year yet. If you have any questions about goaling, find yourself stuck, or think there's another aspect I should have mentioned, please leave a comment and do not hesitate to contact me.

Til next time!

Thank you Mike for the cartoon!

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Effective goaling

bballhoop*goaling = pondering over, setting, achieving, and generally working with GOALS.

Welcome to the first of three blog articles on effective goaling. Right in time for the looming new year's resolutions that you might be tempted to make, or indeed for any other goal you want to set yourself. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed (available in the top right-hand corner) and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own personal coaching alert, your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about being thankful for what we've achieved this year, now it's time to set some goals for what's ahead. Whether you want to learn a language, lose some weight, start a business, get married, or become the mayor of your hometown, you won't know how to get there if you don't know where you're going. First thing: set your goal. In case you haven't heard of it yet, one way of making sure your goals won't turn into regrets is setting them up the SMART way.

S - specific. "I want to lose weight" is too vague for your brain to kick into gear and actually help you achieve it. "I want a BMI of 25" or "I want to fit into a size 10" is better, because you'll definitely know when you've reached that goal. Same with, "I want to be more balanced" or "I want to be happier". "I want to remain calm next time my boss yells at me" is more specific. Find a way to describe your goal in your own definite terms. These should be terms that feel right and that your subconscious or your values cannot argue with.

M - measurable. The weight-goal is an easy one to quantify, e.g. gain 10 pounds, or lose 5. If you can't put a number on your specific goal, the question to ask yourself is, "How or when will I know that I've achieved it? How would my friends or any outsiders know?"

A - attainable. "Aim for the moon, because even when you miss you'll be amongst stars." W. Clement Stone said that, and I agree. I also think that it's better for the self-esteem in the long run if a couple of your goals actually do come true. In part this plays into knowing yourself, your strengths, and your limitations. Even Superman has his kryptonite, so there's no need to feel bad about them, and by acknowledging your challenges you'll save yourself arguing with reality. If you're unsure of what your areas for improvement might be but really want to know, don't be afraid to ask your co-workers, friends, and family for feedback. It's only natural we have blind spots, so it will be easier for other people to notice something we may struggle with. For best chances of success, make your goals attainable in a way that makes use of your strengths while stretching your comfort-zone a little. You'll be all the prouder for reaching it if there's a challenge that's not too easy. The other part attainability plays into is regarding the involvement of other people. Can you alone make this goal a reality, or would somebody else have to change in order for you to reach it? I'm not saying you have to do it all on your own, of course you can involve people and other resources to help, as we'll discuss next week. But if your goal is "Have Adam propose by Christmas", you might get disappointed.

R - relevant. Take a moment to listen to your inner self-talk. Is there a "should" involved in your goal? "I should set up a regular cleaning schedule and do the dishes every night" sounds to me like that's really a goal someone else might have for you. In fact, that sounds alarmingly like my mother! ;-) I'm not saying you don't want to live in a clean and sanitary household, and if that's your goal, you will find a way to make it reality. But it's also ok to take as long as necessary to question the goals you have and identify which of them will actually serve to make your life better, and which would serve the purpose of getting somebody else off your case. And that is another set of goals that may be achieved in different ways. Another - in my opinion - interesting tangent that you may want to explore is what your goal's good intentions are. What are you ultimately hoping to improve or achieve? Could it be that the goal you are working on is really a placeholder for another, superficially hidden, purpose? Talk to your coach about underlying beliefs and cognitive restructuring, you may find out some pretty interesting stuff!

T - timely. Or time-boxed, or time-limited, whichever you prefer, as long as you put a deadline on it. "I'll travel to France" is a great goal that will remain a dream until you actually set in motion the chain of actions and events that will get you there. By when do you want to reach your goal? When will you take your first step? When will you call that person who can help you? Check back next week to see what to do if your time-line isn't working out. And again, this is where working on your goals with a coach comes in really handy, because they are the best accountability partners. Did you know that WeightWatchers members who go to meetings lose 30 % more weight on average than members who follow the program online? Your coaching appointments will do the same thing, they help keep you on the straight and narrow, and your coach will call you or send you emails and ask you how you've been getting along.

There are many ways to aid your goaling, e.g. you can write affirmations every night, make a wishing board, a scrapbook, even go all out and buy one of Jack Canfield's "dream big" products - the imagery will serve as motivation and reminders to keep your goal fresh in your mind. However, keeping reminders, looking at pictures, even knowing exactly and SMARTly what you want to achieve isn't going to get you there. Just like when you go on a road trip, you'll need a map to figure out how to get to your destination, plus actually get in the car and drive. Check back next week for more tips on how to do just that.

Til then, have a good time!

Thanks to Raycan for the free image!

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Gratitude

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Gratitude

It's the season to be thankful, and I'm sitting here lazying about after a big meal of hot dogs with pickles and dried fried onions, baked crisps, and coke zero, thinking about what to write. The year is drawing to a close, and it might be time to take a little inventory, see what's been accomplished and which goals will be deferred to 2009. I usually try to keep this blog more professional than personal, but hope you won't mind taking a wee trip down memory lane with me today.

One assignment of my coaching studies last year was to formulate a plan for personal, professional, fitness, and spiritual goals for 2008. I'm glad to say, I've accomplished most of them. I was thinking about getting a dog, but only once we had a proper yard to let it run in. We had planned to move into a house this year, which we didn't, so we're still quite happy renting sans canine. I had also wanted to travel to Europe this year, but I couldn't, due to Visa complications. And you know what? I actually look forward to all these goals keeping me company for another 12 months or so.

What I did accomplish in 2008 is keeping in touch with friends and family, starting my own business, and losing 30 pounds, thankyouverymuch. Finally, finally, "losing weight" will not be on my list of new year's resolutions for 2009, which means I've freed up concentration, motivation, and energy for other things! Can you imagine how good that feels? :-)

Hey, ok, back to business - why only "imagine", why not do it yourself? I invite you this week to take a look back down your own memory lane and acknowledge everything that went well for you this year. People you met, who touched you, whom you've left a positive impression on, projects you've finalized and initiated, flowers you picked, loved ones you kissed, babies you held, relationships you built, connections you forged, prizes you won, accolades you earned, lessons you learned... all that good stuff. I promise, it's a nice road and it might even bring one or t'other smile to your face! Go on, make a list, write it all down, and remind yourself of what you've achieved in case there comes a moment when you feel small and melancholy. The upcoming holiday season has been known to have that effect sometimes, and if it does, you'll be prepared!

If you would like to find out more about how I achieved my goals, which baby-steps had to happen in between the many, many "ugh"s and the occasional "yeay!"s, drop me a line. In fact, I think I might dedicate the posts over the next couple of weeks to goaling effectively, how's that? Get your new year's projects off to a great start. 

Til next time, thank you for sticking around!

Image by Matt Champlin, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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