I remember when I first relocated to the US with my baby girl. I had a clear #vision of the life I wanted for us. So, I casted a vision of me working in a university setting or government organization that would give me flexibility, stability and a set schedule to care for my daughter, as we settled. 👉 I wanted my new opportunity to provide an environment for me to grow and develop &add value . 👉I wanted work life balance to have time to take my daughter to the playground in the evenings &church on the weekends. ❌I didn’t want a job that required travel, or night/ weekends. ❌I didn’t want the hustle & bustle of city life. Sounds like a clear& perfect vision right?
🎯Well, prior to our big move, I researched the area I was moving to, roles that were a fit for my educational background & professional experience & started applying for #jobs. By the time I moved, I knew where the Arlington Employment Center was, their schedule and services & hit the ground running.
😔 I would love do tell you that I found a job that fit my vision quickly and things turned out as planned.But one month became two, three , four & eventually six… I went to the center 5 days a week, applied up to 10 jobs a day, attended workshops on everything from #interviewskills, #resumewriting, #networking, #jobfairs etc. And still no job. There were many interviews & second interviews and applications that sunk to the bottom of sinkholes of applicant tracking systems. I grew anxious, worried, doubtful of my vision and whether I had made the right decision to move to the USA. I also struggled with the opinions & suggestions of friends and family about what I should be doing, jobs I should apply to and even suggestions to move again.
🙏But I held on to my vision and pushed on. By month 6, the job offers came trickling in, but none that matched my vision exactly. The job I eventually accepted landed me in a limited term role working as administrative assistant at Fairfax County Government . The role was not commensurate with my background and experience but it brought me closer to my vision. I reckoned a foot in the door was all I needed.
😀Now 9+ yrs later- the vision has been realized.
🎯So what am I saying here : *Having a clear vision doesnt mean things will go as you hoped or planned. *Preparedness does not equal automatic success . *Detours dont equal failure. *Acheiving your vision will require perseverance. * You can accept counsel but you have to ignore the noise * And most importantly, your vision must be clear, simple and easy to communicate to help you get the support you will need.
Over to you- do you have a vision for this stage or chapter for your life? How are you pushing past the obstacles to stay on track?
10 Reflections for 10 Years: On this day, 10 years today, my daughter and I embarked on a journey of a lifetime as we migrated from Jamaica to the USA. As I reflect on our journey, I can’t remember exactly why I choose this month or this day for our big move, I just know our steps were ordered and God covered us in every step and everyday. And I’m feeling truly blessed and grateful for where we are today.
In honor of our 10th year anniversary/milestone of #ComingtoAmerica, I will be sharing 10 reflections or top lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Lessons 1: You will need courage to achieve your dreams, goals, or to pursue your desire to walk in purpose. So, what is courage you ask? While, there are many definitions for courage, the one that resonates with me the most most is the one on a coffee mug gifted to me by a supervisor (now friend ) after she had heard my story. And it reads: “courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day saying- I will try again tomorrow”.
As I write out those words, I let out a deep, long sigh. A sigh of relief that …..my little princess (now young lady) and I , made it this far. I cab feel the tears welling in my eyes, as I think of all those painful and difficult moments when I had to cling dearly to that small voice and find the strength to try again tomorrow. In this moment , I am so very grateful that back then, I had the courage that roared and empowered me to bravely leave my successful job, home, professional network , friends and comfort zone to begin life again with my then 2 yr old daughter.
Even though that Big Roaring Courage served me well throughout the years, it was and still is, the small voice of courage that centered and steadied me through numerous failed job interviews in my efforts to transition back into my career field, and to continue to grow. It was that small voice of courage that whispered for me to keep trying when I lost out on so many offers when trying to buy our first home here in the US, until we did. And it’s that small voice of courage that encourages me still, to boldly use my voice, to play to my strengths and talents and to step out in faith to ‘lead, learn, engage and develop people where I go’.
I share all of this to say, we all have courage within us, that beckons us to try something new, step out of our comfort zones, push past setbacks and failures and fight for that which we aspire to.
So, if you are reading this, I hope today is the day you find your courage (Big or small) to chase your dreams and to pursue your goals. You’ve got this!
Until next time and my next lesson share, Remember #ItsALearningLife4Real. #10thanniversary#celebratingsuccess#comingtoamerica#courage#personalgrowth#personaldevelopment#selfleadership#motivation#life#lessons#reflection
Over the last few weeks, I have found myself drinking from the proverbial firehose in my new job. That is, meeting new people, navigating a new work environment, taking in new information, listening, learning the scope of my new responsibilities, and asking questions to better understand the operations of the organization. Prior to starting this new role, I had never heard of the metaphor of drinking from a firehose. However, as soon as I heard it used, I could not help but smile at how well it described what I had been experiencing as I settled into my new job. Afterall, the many meetings, the rapid flow of new information, new acronyms, names, faces and roles sometimes passed in a blur, as I attempted to take copious notes and prayed for good memory. Which I imagine is exactly what drinking from a firehose might feel like?
What Does Drinking from the Firehose Mean?
According to the Urban Dictionary, the metaphor “drinking from the firehose” is defined as “to be overwhelmed (with information, responsibility, work, etc.); to do something intensely; to be inundated.” This experience or feeling is typical for most new hires during the first few days and weeks settling into a new job. During the onboarding process, (See previous article), new employees spend the majority of their early days getting to know their team(s), learning about business operations, key stakeholders, listening to customer needs and expectations, while scanning for opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge. And if not careful, one can quickly feel like the gushing firehose is spilling more water over one’s face and clothes, rather than what ends up in one’s mouth.
So, what can you do? How can you learn how to drink safely from the firehose and avoid the drowning feeling of being overwhelmed by the rapid flow of information, scope of work and many expectations that comes with your new role or job?
When I started my new role, I really wanted to do my best. So, I decided to draw on the wisdom of the crowd by asking my professional network on LinkedIn to share tips and advice to help me to position myself for success in my new role and confidently apply my skills and knowledge. I received over 100 valuable responses offering wisdom, tried and tested advice and key reminders that can help anyone achieve success when starting a new role or new opportunity.
How to Drink Well from The Firehouse
Here are the top eleven tips that you should keep in mind as you put your best foot forward and drink well from the firehose:
Believe in yourself and your abilities. Do not be consumed with trying to prove yourself- you are the person for the job
Listen twice as long as you intend to speak. As you do so, pay attention to what is said and to what isn’t. Keep your eyes and ears on the ground.
Be a learn it all, not a know it all. Rather than be an expert, be a sponge and ask questions to learn and understand. Be humble.
Be social. Try to say hello to everyone and try to meet as many people as you can. Remember to smile and be respectful of everyone.
Build relationships and connections. Surround yourself with the right people. The relationships you build will be the most valuable currency you have to spend.
Remember that trust and vulnerability go hand in hand. Be willing to be vulnerable and to trust your team as you get to know each other and vice-versa.
Learn the organization structureand culture. Understanding this will help you to get a sense of how you fit in and can contribute, as well as how things get done.
Maximize your first 90 days by setting realistic goals. Once you have gotten an understanding of your role and responsibilities, work with you manager to identify and agree key work priorities and goals to be achieved over the first 30-60-90 days.
Be open and ready to learn, fail and make mistakes. Things will not always work as planned, nor will all your bright new ideas be accepted. Don’t take this personally. Continue to listen and pivot. Fail fast and early and recover well. And as you do so. extend yourself grace and remember progression is better than perfection.
Ask your manager and team for feedback. Regular feedback will help you to gauge how you are doing, how you can add value and gain insights on your opportunities for growth. Allow yourself time to settle into your new space and work environment. And celebrate all your wins- no matter how big or small.
Be your authentic self. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not to impress others or fit in. Own your unique talents, perspectives, abilities and recognize the value you bring to the organization. Also remember to be patient and present for each step of your new journey.
At the end of the day, failing to manage the firehose and to drink safely while settling into a new opportunity will lead to frustration, burnout, stress, fatigue and less than optimal results. As you adjust to your new role, remember to pace yourself, and ask for help when and where you need it. Also, be willing to set healthy boundaries to maintain work – life balance and to ensure positive overall well-being.
So, what additional tips would you add to help others drink from the firehose and not drown? What has worked for you? What advice do you have for someone who is starting a new role or a new opportunity? Share and let me know.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
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Let’s face it – starting anything new can feel daunting, exciting, and challenging at the same time. Whether it’s a new job, new relationship/partnership or resettling to a new area, the process can be nerve-wracking. Because of this, it is not unusual for people to experience mixed emotions once the decision has been made. In fact, one of the most common emotions that many people experience is uncertainty -due to one or a combination of the following reasons:
Change isn’t easy and moving out of your comfort zone can prove difficult and painful.
People fear failure and want to do well and/or succeed in their varied endeavors. But the fear of failure, low risk tolerance and not wanting to make a mistake can be crippling.
The desire to do well or make an impact can create undue pressure and drive feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
No one can predict the future; the future is unknown and even the best laid plans can go awry.
Last week, all these things became real to me as I started my new job. While I knew I was capable and competent to do the job and felt confident that I had made a great decision, when the first day came around, I couldn’t be sure of how things would unfold. How would my first day turn out? How would I feel at the end of the first week? Would the people be warm and welcoming? Would they like me? Would the environment be open, positive, supportive – one where I could learn, apply my talents and grow?
It is safe to say that my musings and thoughts are not unique to me. Most new employees approach their first day on the job with excitement and hope for a great experience, but with lingering fears of the outcomes. Fortunately, by the end of my first week, I could happily report that all went well. The team was warm and welcoming, the scope of work was what I expected, and the work environment was one where I felt confident that I would make a positive impact and continue to develop.
While I was deeply grateful for the positive experience, I am keenly aware that this is not always the case for many new employees on the first day, week or month on a new job. This is primarily due to the approaches that various managers and organizations use in onboarding new hires.
Importance of Effective Onboarding
Depending on the culture of the organization, the style of leadership and management and/or the quality of onboarding systems and policies, starting a new role can be equals parts chaotic, confusing and stressful. According to the Society for Human Resource Professionals (SHRM), “Onboarding is a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees”. Amy Hirsh Robinson also points out that “Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged”. And “it offers an imprinting window when organizations can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.”
Unfortunately, however, some organizations waste this opportunity by not creating the right conditions to set new employees up for success or the environment for them to feel safe and thrive. Robinson cautions that “new hires who experience such badly planned and executed initiations may conclude that the organization is poorly managed and decide that it was a mistake to take the job. And “rather than setting new employees up for success, organizations with poor onboarding processes are setting the stage for an early exit.”
How to Set New Employees Up for Success
Whether the role is in -person, remote or hybrid, new hires expect their managers and organizations to provide opportunities to help them learn and understand their roles, familiarize themselves with the organization and understand policies and procedures. Research suggests that “69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding. And “new employees who went through astructured onboarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years.”
So, what can employers do to ensure they are effectively onboarding new employees and get them started on the right footing.
According to Gallup, effective onboarding of new employees should focus on people, learning and processes. On the people side, the focus should be helping new employees meet and connect with new team members, ask questions and foster positive relationships. The learning should focus on helping new hires understand the mission and vision of the organization and how they fit in and can contribute in their respective role(s). With the processes, managers should provide new hires with a clear structure and journey for learning the job, the tools, systems, and technology, so that they have what they need to do the work.
Six Tips for Effective Onboarding
So, here are six tips recommended by Gallup that managers should consider as they seek to set their new employees up for success with effective onboarding practices:
Find creative ways to build connections: Whether it is in person or online, managers need to create opportunities for people to connect and build relationships as they acclimatize to the organization and their roles. This could include but is not limited to virtual coffee chats and or in -person meet and greets.
Encourage tenured employees to reach out: Ensuring that new hires feel supported is a crucial part of the onboarding process. As such, a word of encouragement or check in from senior staff can help to build confidence in new employees and provide reassurance that there is help should they need it.
Lean into Learning: Effective onboarding processes should help new employees understand the greater mission and purpose of the organization. Gallup emphasizes that “When employees understand why and how their job fits into the bigger picture, they can start delivering brand promises faster.”
Add experiences that bring your culture to life: According to Gallup, new hires need to see and feel how the organizational culture plays out and how they fit into it. This requires both communication and firsthand experiences and accounts from existing employees at all levels of the organization and/or provide opportunities for new hires to observe the culture.
Create a formal mentorship program: One of the main expectations that new employees have of their managers and their organizations is for them to provide opportunities for growth and development. Gallup suggests that “to meet this need and promote retention — leaders should pair new hires with a mentor or adviser who can answer their questions and help them learn and grow.” Mentors can also serve as a sounding board and a source of inside knowledge to help new hires navigate their roles successfully.
Preparemanagers for an active role: Gallup emphasizes that “managers must be present, involved, and available throughout new hires’ onboarding journey.” Managers should model the culture, demonstrate the values of the company, and provide learning experiences that bring the culture to life. For effective onboarding, managers need to become coaches and connect their new employees with the right people and provide the support and mentoring they need.
Finally, in today’s job market where most organizations are struggling to attract and retain top talent, the saying – “First impression counts”, does not just apply to the new employee who is trying to impress his/her boss. The research confirms that managers and organizations need to get their onboarding processes right and to create the right conditions for their new and existing employees to engage. For when all is said and done, the quality of the onboarding experience can make all the difference in whether new hires decide to stay or with the company or jump at the first opportunity they get.
So over to you- what has been your experience when starting a new job?
Did you feel supported? Did your onboarding process provide structure, clear information, specific job-related goals and the resources you needed to do the job? Did the onboarding process set you up for success?
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
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“The First”- is the label usually attached to the person or people who come before all others in the context of time or order. For those who have earned the distinction of being “the first”, great honor and fanfare go with the achievement. And while being “the first” to achieve a major goal or milestone event should be celebrated, being “the first” can easily become a double-edged sword.
The label of being “the first” can create lofty expectations of the title holder that might quickly become isolating and burdensome. In fact, when someone becomes “the first” to achieve a significant goal or accomplishment, you will often hear much about the accolades and the hard work that led up to it. But what happens after? Does being “the first” guarantee future success? Does the label help or hurt? Is being “the first” a blessing or a burden?
Being “The First”
There are many benefits to being the first. Being “the first” gives the title holder bragging rights, and honorable mention in the history books as the first male or female to ever do “it”. Whether it is a personal or career accomplishment, being “the first,” gives the individual an opportunity to blaze a trail to lead others into the future, make a difference and to pave the way for those that come behind them. At the same time, being a forerunner presents great risk as there might not be any precedent or roadmap for the novel big idea.
Being “the first” might also mean longer hours devoted to building a new business, huge sacrifices to personal life, costly mistakes and failures, and tireless efforts to get support, develop new systems, and incredible pressure to be a great example. Because, when you are “the first” to do something big or new, you have both the burden and opportunity to cast the vision, get buy in, create access, identify opportunities, or transform systems.
So, whether you earned the first-place position, are a first born, was the first to start the business, first to graduate college, first to purchase a home, first male or female president/vice president- being “the first” is hard. Research tells us that many first-time entrepreneurs fail, in their first attempts to establish a business. First generation minorities to attend college, suffer from high dropout rates due to an absence of adequate resources and support. And first-time leaders are prone to make mistakes that can permanently derail their careers or set them back personally and professionally.
The hardships, uncertainty and risks associated with being the first is also true for anyone taking on a new role or doing something for the first time. For example, many first-time supervisors and managers lament the many mistakes they made, in making the transition from being a member of the team, to becoming the manager/leader of the team. First time managers often find themselves struggling after landing the job because they were not properly trained, or prepared to handle on the scope of work, varied expectations, and new responsibilities. As a result, they find it difficult to perform important functions such giving feedback, managing the work, engaging, and developing their people. Usually, after some trial and error, they gain the experience and confidence to help them turn things around. So, there many growing pains associated with doing anything for the first time.
Blessing or Burden?
I remember the first time I heard of the newest U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson. Brown Jackson became “the first” black female justice in America’s highest court. Prior to the confirmation hearing, I had never heard of her of President Biden‘s nominee. And though all of whom watched the hearing were very impressed by her credentials, legal acumen and background, most of us were equally appalled by how she treated by the republican senators during the hearing.
While the treatment of the Justice might have been partisan, the hearing and the subsequent favorable outcome for Justice Ketanji JacksonBrown shone a light on the significant hurdles that black and brown people and other minorities in America and elsewhere face, in their journeys to become “the first”. Her ascension to the bench also highlighted the disparities in holders of the highest offices of the land and why representation matters. To her credit, Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown navigated the confirmation hearing with poise, grace and patience and made people who looked like her- very proud.
Personal Reflection on “Being the First”
For me, Justice Ketanji JacksonBrown‘s journey to becoming “the first”, though different, is similar to the experiences that may people face in their efforts to be “the first” and achieve their career or life goals. It also struck me that being “the first” does not guarantee future or continued success either. In fact, history books are littered with men and women whose initial success never amounted to much. And many first timers suffer from imposter syndrome or the fear of not able to sustain the success they have achieved. If anything, the scrutiny, pressures that come with being “the first” and the need to live up to expectations, can create undue stress, anxiety and fear that might cripple many first timers and holders of the title “the first”.
So, how do you avoid the dangers of being “the first”? From my perspective people who earn the distinction of being “the first”, as well as first timers, need three basic things to thrive and build on their past success:
Self-Belief /Assurance: When no one else sees or trusts your vision or the mission you are seeking to accomplish, you will need the conviction to believe in your talents and abilities, trust your judgement and to walk in the purpose you have defined for your life. This will help you to hold true to your values, ignore the noise and push past fear to pursue your goals and dreams.
Support: No matter how hard you work, how talented you are, you will never be able to fully realize your goals and objectives without support and engagement from key stakeholders and partners. In fact, most organizational change efforts fail because of the lack of leadership support, inadequate resources and the absence of employee participation. On a personal level, efforts to get to the goal might be tougher, if you do not have support of friends and family to help you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Perseverance: When you look at successful and famous inventors and inventions, their history is marked by repeated failures on the path to success. As such first timers will need to demonstrate the resilience to able to pivot and bounce back when their best efforts fail. And to choose to hope again and again.
So, what advice would you offer up to a first-timer or someone who is struggling with being “the first”?
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearninglife.
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I can still remember my high school’s days when the then popular “My Dog Ate My Homework” caption was plastered on 3 ring binder folders to serve as the classic excuse for students who had not done their homework. As funny and implausible as that excuse was back in the day, today, many of us use varied excuses to justify our inaction or failure to follow through with important daily tasks and activities. One might even argue that it is human nature for people to come up with reasons or excuses to justify or explain why work projects and tasks were not completed, phone calls were not returned, emails went unacknowledged, key decisions were not taken or dreams and goals were never fully realized. And while there might be good explanations for any or all the above, how do you distinguish between when it is an excuse or a valid reason? Why do people make excuses anyway? And at what point do the excuses no longer add up and need to stop? This article will attempt to answer all these questions.
People use a mix of reasons and excuses to account for their thoughts, behaviors, or actions. And though reasons and excuses are sometimes used interchangeably, the two concepts are not one and the same. Difference Between explains that “a reason simply refers to a cause or explanation. Reasons explains why someone did something or why something happened. On the other hand, “An excuse, is also a type of reason that specifically justifies or defends a fault.” Based on this, the main difference between the two is – a reason is merely an explanation, and an excuse specifically focuses on justifying a fault. So, how do you account for your behaviors and actions? Do you have good reasons, or are you merely making excuses?
Why Do People Make Excuses?
According to Tony Robbins, “Making excuses can almost always be traced back to one of three reasons: fear, uncertainty or lack of purpose”.
Fear: The fear of failure is perhaps the biggest fear that most people have. Robbins goes on to explain that fear and more specifically the fear of failure can cripple some people and cause them to make excuses that prevent them from going after their dreams. This fear of failure might play out as self -doubt or self-limiting beliefs and result in a lack of confidence in one’s potential and ability to succeed.
Uncertainty:Robbins explains that “as human beings, we all haveSix Human Needs that drive our decisions. And one of our most powerful needs is certainty- that is the desire to avoid pain and seek out things that we know will bring us pleasure”. Because of this, people are more likely to remain in their comfort zone and situations that are less than ideal. So, when we are faced with circumstances that we feel uncertain about, our brains prefer, or are likely to default to making excuses over dealing with uncertainty. Nonetheless, you can override these natural impulses and stop making excuses.
Lack of Purpose: According to Robbins, “people who make excuses often come across as lazy, uninspired and apathetic.” However, he notes that this perception might not be true as it is more likely that they haven’t yetdiscovered their purpose. Therefore, Robbins advocates that “People are not lazy. They simply have goals that do not inspire them.” So, if you focus on finding your passion and living a meaningful life, the tendency to make excuses will stop.
Top Excuses People Make
Sometimes, I am just as guilty of making excuses as anyone else. For years, I have used both reasons and excuses about timing to justify not starting a doctoral program I have done the research to identify. I have also used excuses about not knowing how, to delay writing and publishing a book that I hope to. But all my excuses and reasons really mask- is my fear of failure and doubts about my abilities. I share all this to say, making excuses is a part of the human condition and is as natural to many of us as breathing.
So, while the following list of common excuses people make is not exhaustive, you might easily find that the excuses you make are only slightly different from the ones below and might be linked to the reasons given above. Here are seven common excuses that people typically make:
I don’t have enough time/money/ resources:
I am afraid of failure
I am not inspired/ I’m stuck
This is not new/ it’s not original enough
I am afraid of the competition
This is not the right time to do it
I have too much going on /I don’t have the support
So, how do we move past the excuses and avoid sitting like a frog on a log?
How To Stop Making Excuses
According to Tony Robbins, “making excuses is normal from time to time. But if your excuses start to interfere with your life and prevent you from reaching your goals, it might be time to learn how to quit doing so. As such, Robbins suggests the following tips that you can use to stop making excuses and take meaningful action towards your goals and dreams:
Take Responsibility:Robbins suggest that “the first step to stop making excuses is always to realize that you alone control your destiny. Robbins reminds us that “No matter what has happened to you in the past, your future is up to you.”
Shift Your Perspective: Robbins argues that “when you take responsibility, you begin to see that problems are opportunities, not obstacles. Life is happening for you, not to you. Everything that has happened in your life brought you to this moment – and you can either transform your life or keep making excuses.”
Uncover Your Limiting Beliefs: According to Robbins, “People who make excuses are likely have certain limiting beliefs that are holding them back. These are the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. If you believe deep down that you’re not deserving of success or that you don’t have the inner strength to overcome failure, you’ll continue making excuses to avoid going after what you really want.”
Change Your Story: Robbins recommends that “Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs, you can change your story and stop making excuses for good. Do this by identifying negative self-talk and replacing any limiting beliefs with empowering ones. When you change your words – and your story – you change your life.”
Find The Lesson: Robbins says that “People who make excuses don’t bother to look closely at their mistakes and determine what went wrong. They blame others and never learn the valuable lessons that failure can provide. Successful people always look for the lesson and apply it to future decisions.”
Stop Overthinking: Robbins tells us that “The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” So, to quit making excuses, you must stop overthinking, let go of the past and take decisive action.”
Define your vision: Robbins encourages that you “Go back to the drawing board and examine your blueprint for your life. What do you really want? Create a powerful vision that you’ll be proud to follow, and you’ll never make an excuse again.”
Set Goals: Here Robbins points out that “Discovering your purpose is valuable, but setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Working toward actionable goals forces you to stop making excuses and start creating a compelling future. Start small and set achievable SMART goals. As you build confidence, set bigger and bigger goals.”
Get Support: When all is said and done, Robbins emphasizes that “The key to stop making excuses is to hold yourself accountable for your actions – but this isn’t always easy.” Therefore, lean on your trusted friends and family for your support.
Over to you- what excuses are you using to undermine your progress and chances for success in your personal and professional life? Whatever they are, it’s time to quit. Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
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“Be Kind. For Everyone You Meet is Fighting A Battle You Know Nothing About.”
The need to feel affirmed, supported or appreciated is one of the most deep-seated needs that all human beings have. From time to, we all will need a “pick me upper”, a personal boost, or a word of encouragement to help us move forward. Afterall, some days are better than others. Some struggles longer and harder, and some experiences more painful and disappointing than the ones before. So, what do you tell yourself when the going gets tough and your best laid plans or best intentions fail or fall short?
When faced with new, uncertain, or challenging situations, one of the first thing that many people do is to question themselves and their abilities. In so doing, they risk becoming paralyzed or overwhelmed by fear, fatigue, doubt and a lack of focus. Others may even become overwhelmed by negative thoughts as they question their abilities, resources, or self-worth. Affirmations have been touted as a powerful strategy for people to use to tackle and overcome negative thinking and inspire themselves and others.
Importance of Affirmations
According to Psychology Today , affirmations are defined as “positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.” Love them or hate them, “affirmations are used to reprogram the subconscious mind, to encourage us to believe certain things about ourselves or about the world and our place within it.” This view is supported by Walter E. Jacobson, M.D., who argues that, “there is value in affirmations of this nature, because our subconscious mind plays a major role in the actualization of our lives and the manifestation of our desires. What we believe about ourselves at a subconscious level, he says, can have a significant impact on the outcome of events.”
Afterall, you can’t do difficult things with negative thoughts. Just as you use positive affirmations to shape your thoughts and actions for good, if you flood your mind with negativity, this is likely to lead to negative outcomes. In that, the more often you speak negative affirmations (E.g., I can’t do it) about yourself and your situation, the more likely you are to believe it and act accordingly. And overtime, these self-limiting beliefs and self-defeating behaviors will hold you back and become a form of self -fulfilling prophecy. So, if you get to choose what you affirm about yourself or your situation, why not make it positive?
The Power of Affirmations
I know first-hand, the importance of using words of affirmations to encourage myself and others as one of my daughter’s love languages is words of affirmations. In his book the 5 Love Languages, Chapman describe words of affirmations as “unsolicited compliments and encouragement offered to someone to express love or appreciation.” So, every day before she goes to school, I place a handwritten card with words of affirmation in her lunch box to encourage her, remind her who she is and build her self-confidence. Although I write her a card daily, I never stopped to think about what she does with the cards after she reads them.
One day, she came home upset about a stack of cards that had somehow gotten wet in her lunch bag pocket. As she tried desperately to dry and save them, I asked her why it was so important for her to keep them. She then shared that her cards served as a ‘pick me upper’, she turns to when she is experiencing doubt and fear or feeling sad or bad. After she shared that, I bought her a huge photo album which she now uses to archive her words of affirmation cards.
While I don’t write positive affirmations and words of encouragement to myself and others as frequently as I do my daughter, I frequently use words of affirmations to encourage myself to push through low moments, remind myself of who I am, what I am trying to do, why I do what I do and to show myself compassion and grace. But I know my daughter and I are not alone with these struggles. None of us are immune from experiencing doubts, regrets, or disappointment from decisions made, words spoken, actions taken or not.
So, can develop your own affirmations?
How to Write Your Own Affirmations
While not for everyone, positive self-talk or affirmations are used by many to overcome adversity, banish negative thoughts and to empower them to work towards their purpose and goals. HuffPost offers 5 steps below that you can use to write your affirmations and make them work for you:
Step 1: Make a list of what you’ve always thought of as your negative qualities. Include any criticisms others have made of you that you’ve been holding onto; whether it’s something your siblings, parents and peers used to say about you when you were a child, or what your boss told you in your last annual review. Make a note of them and look for a common theme, such as “I’m unworthy.”
Step 2: Now write out an affirmation on the positive aspect of your self-judgment. You may want to use a thesaurus to find more powerful words to beef up your statement. For example, instead of saying, “I’m worthy,” you could say, “I’m remarkable and cherished.”
Step 3: Speak the affirmation out loud for about five minutes, three times a day — morning, mid-day and evening. An ideal time to do this is when you’re putting on your make up or shaving, so that you can look at yourself in the mirror as you repeat the positive statement. You can look at yourself in the mirror as you repeat the positive statement.
Step 4: Anchor the affirmation in your body as you are repeating it by placing your hand on the area that felt uncomfortable when you wrote out the negative belief in step one. Also “breathe” into the affirmation while you are saying or writing it. As you reprogram your mind, you want to move from the concept of the affirmation to a real, positive embodiment of the quality you seek.
Step 5: Get a friend or coach to repeat your affirmation to you. As they are saying for example, “you are remarkable and cherished” identify this statement as ‘good mothering or good fathering messages. If you don’t have someone who you feel comfortable asking them to use your reflection in the mirror as the person who is reinforcing the healthy message.
Words of affirmation can be powerful sources of inspiration and positive self-change for the person who repeats or hears them. No one likes to feel unsupported, unappreciated or to have their hard work and efforts go unacknowledged. Positive affirmations provide another technique you can use to reframe negative thoughts, overcome hardships, spread kindness, peace, and love. Our words and actions have the power to make to break someone, to positively shape their lives or turn moods and day around.
So, over to you- how will you affirm yourself and become more intentional about encouraging others?
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
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“No is a complete sentence. It does not require justification or explanation”.
One of the words that toddlers love to say as soon as they start talking is NO. While toddlers and young children have no qualms about saying no to everything and everyone, the older we get, the more we seem to struggle with repeating this simple yet powerful two letter word. In my last article, I wrote about the Hidden Costs of Yes, and how our yeses place our relationships, resources, and reputation on the line. For the purposes of this article, I want to explore the other end of the spectrum- that is saying no.
It is easy to say no to something or someone when a request goes against rules, policies, laws, and established codes of conduct for behavior. Saying no might even get easier, when it goes against your expressed values, deeply held beliefs, purpose and priorities. But what about those situations when the lines are blurry, and the parameters less clear? That is, when the person making the request is in a place of power, when your no might impact your future, when the consequence of saying no is uncertain, when you are overwhelmed by the fear of missing out? How do you decide when to say no?
In some instances, your decision to say no is going to be heavily influenced by the person asking. Whether it’s at work or at home, the power dynamics between you and the person doing the asking, or the nature of the relationship might significantly impact your answer. Afterall, it’s not hard to say no to someone with who you don’t have a personal or professional relationship or are seeking to build one with. However, saying no becomes much trickier when the person doing the asking, is someone with whom you have a valuable relationship, or one with whom you aspire to have one or preserve for personal or professional reasons.
Additionally, saying no, has the potential to take a toll on the person saying it, as well as to the person receiving it. For some people, the desire to help and do more while not being able, can drive negative thoughts and frustrations about their abilities and deep-seated emotions such as guilt and shame. While it’s important to acknowledge these emotions when they surface, dwelling on them after you have said no, is neither healthy nor helpful.
Why People Fear Saying No?
Many people fear saying no, because they don’t want to appear unambitious, unsupportive, lazy, uncaring, or selfish. They also avoid saying no to prevent themselves from disappointing others or hurting people’s feelings. In the process of doing so, they say yes, to the ever-increasing demands and priorities of their colleagues, friends, loved ones. Overtime, their inability to say no and set appropriate boundaries add up, and results in increased levels of stress and burnout. And they sacrifice themselves, their goals, their happiness and what is truly important to them. But what if you learned to say no as boldly as young children do? Would saying no make you any less caring, supportive, or hardworking? Truth is, saying no does not make you any less of those things.
When you say no to a request, relationship, or opportunity, you might simply be stating any one or a combination of the following things:
I have the right to change my mind.
I don’t have the time, or this is not the right time for me.
This opportunity or relationship is not for me, or this is not what I want to do.
I have the right to decide how I spend my time, talents, and resources.
I have established clear and healthy boundaries for my relationships
I am choosing to put me first, and not the other person or the opportunity.
I will no longer choose to engage or invest my time, talents and energy in people, relationships and activities that do not uplift me or move me forward.
Just be careful to ensure that your no is not driven by bias, malice, resentment, or the desire to get back at someone.
How to Say No!
According to Susan Newman, PhD, “Saying ‘no’ is not something that comes naturally to the majority of people. Learning to say no is a skill that all of us can learn or get better at.” So, if you are struggling with saying no, here are seven tips from psychotherapist and author Johnathan Alpert (writing at INC Magazine) that can that help you deliver your no more effectively:
Say it: Rather than stalling or not providing a clear answer, it is recommended that you give a straight answer to the person making the request. While you are not required to give an explanation, you can provide a brief one if you feel inclined to do so. But the general rule to note is less is more.
Be assertive and courteous: Though your answer might be disappointing to the requestor, the key is to be respectful. Whether you are saying “I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can.” Or “I appreciate your asking me for help, but I’m stretched too thin right now to devote the time to be of quality help to you.”, be clear about what you do or don’t have the capacity for.
Understand peoples’ tactics: People will use different tactics and emotional appeals to get you to do what they want. Be aware of these manipulation techniques and be ready to hold firmly to your no.
Set boundaries: One reason people sometimes have a hard time saying no is because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate their relationships and understand their role within the relationship. When you truly understand the dynamic and your role, you might not feel as anxious about the consequences of saying no. If your relationships are strong, they will withstand, they can withstand your saying no.
Put the question back on the person asking: This is highly effective in a work situation. Let’s say a supervisor is asking you to take on several tasks–more than you can handle. Alpert suggest that you might say, “I’m happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?”
Be firm: If someone can’t accept your no, that is probably a good indicator might not be a genuine friend or respect you. In such case, stand firm, and don’t feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.
Be selfish: Here Alpert suggests that you “Put your needs first. Not those of the person asking you for something. If you prioritize that person’s needs over yours, you’ll find your productivity will suffer and resentment will mount. Perhaps we can learn from Warren Buffett, who said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
Though you might still struggle with saying no, remember it is not possible to say yes to everything and everyone. Don’t allow yourself to be overtaken and stretched too thinly by the ever-increasing demands of those around. You will only make yourself miserable and become resentful in the process. Every time you fail to exercise the courage to say no, you sacrifice your peace of mind, your right to choose and your overall wellbeing for others. Saying no could simply mean you are choosing to follow your gut instincts, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and you are listening to your body at this time.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
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Many of us go through our daily lives, continually saying yes to a range of requests and demands from others around us. With each interaction, we say yes to new tasks, responsibilities, opportunities and relationships. And every time you and I say yes, we expand our varied roles, add to our existing workload, schedules and obligations. And before you know it, you find that your bandwidth has shrunken, and you feel overextended from having stretched yourself too thin. With so many people struggling with fatigue, burnout and stress, why do you continue to say yes?
There are many reasons people say yes to the seemingly never-ending demands on their time, resources and talents. Some of the main reasons they say yes include, but are not limited to their need to:
Respond to challenges and seize new opportunities
Build and preserve relationships personally and professionally.
Meet the expectations and needs of friends and loved ones.
Fulfill varied roles and responsibilities related to work.
Learn new skills to enhance their growth and development
Expand their influence and impact on the world around them.
Be recognized, valued or affirmed.
Respect the power dynamic in relationships and organizations (Playing politics).
Avoid the consequences of saying no, or the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
Regardless of your reason for saying yes, have you ever paused to consider the hidden costs of doing so?
The Power of Saying Yes
In her TED Talk- My Year of Saying Yes, Shonda Rhimes talked about her experiment where for one year, she said yes to everything that scared her, made her nervous and pushed her out of her comfort zone. Rhimes shared how the act of saying yes and doing the things that scared her, made them less scary. And she further explained how saying yes to everything, changed her, her life, helped her rediscover her creativity and ultimately saved her career. She is not alone. Founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson is also a big champion of saying yes. According to Forbes, he earned the nickname Dr. Yes, because he prefers to say yes instead of no. And his belief in saying yes and “fortune favors the bold” were instrumental in shaping the Virgin Story.
Therefore, there is no denying that saying yes can be life changing. Whether it is to a marriage or business proposal, this three-letter word has the potential to open doors to great possibilities and to unleash power to those who say it. Afterall, saying yes to a call for volunteers can expand your personal and professional network and give a new sense of meaning to your life. Saying yes to a work assignment, can equip you with new skills or shift you towards a new and exciting career path. Saying yes, can provide you with limitless experiences and exposures that could expand your horizons.
The Hidden Costs of Saying Yes
Every yes you give, has an opportunity cost. With only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year, time is a precious and scare commodity. Each time you say yes, you are saying no to something and someone else. And before you know it, your yeses can add up, and become very expensive to your well-being and overall personal effectiveness. For example, saying yes to a project team at work, might mean less time during the workday to complete your primary duties and potentially longer hours in the office. And saying yes to a new opportunity, could result in less time for leisure activities and downtime on the weekend with loved ones. So, with each yes you give, you risk taking on increasing responsibilities, which left unchecked can lead to you becoming overworked, overused and burnout.
And if your word is your bond, or you do as you say you will do, saying yes also obligates you to show up for others. A yes to a simple, small or random request from a co-worker, stranger or loved one, will require you to organize yourself and your resources to respond. This can become especially problematic for people who hold themselves to high standards. In that, the need to perform, meet expectations and fulfill promises, can create additional stress and pressure which can become burdensome fast. Ultimately, saying yes will require you to practice greater levels of prioritization and to make deliberate efforts to maintain work -life harmony. So, each time you say yes, you put your reputation, resources and relationships on the line.
Additionally, being labelled a “yes- person” isn’t exactly flattering. Saying yes to everything and everyone could create the impression that you’re a people pleaser. And that you lack the ability to communicate assertively what your needs, goals and priorities are. It might even suggest that you lack the ability to manage your time and set appropriate boundaries. So how do you decide when to say yes?
When to Say Yes?
I recently came across a quote that says, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” This means that in saying yes, you should consider how your yes aligns to your priorities, broader objectives for your life and how you want to impact your world. But as you do that, you will still need to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
So, here are two tips from A.T. Gimbel that you can use to evaluate your yes /no and still maximize opportunities to achieve your goals and live a successful and fulfilling life:
Evaluate your gum balls vs your glass balls: According to this analogy, “Glass balls break when dropped and need to be handled immediately or the mess from it breaking is even worse to clean up. Rubber balls will keep bouncing over and over again and do not need to be immediately picked up. Eventually they stop bouncing and often roll away; worst case you have to stop and pick it back up. Say yes to the glass balls over rubber balls.”
Be explicit about tradeoffs: Ask yourself, “What am I saying no to if I say yes to this? If I am choosing between A or B, how do I make it clear to my customer/team/partner that I am making this prioritization?” Doing this will make it easier for you to explain and get support for the tradeoff you are making and why.
In the final analysis, you cannot and shouldn’t say yes to everything and everyone. Your yes should mean something and be given after you have considered your existing roles (at work and at home), the potential costs and benefits to you and your loved ones, and the impact you wish you have on the world around you.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
Watch & Subscribe to My YouTube Channel for More Personal Growth &Professional Development Insights!