Category Archives: Personal Development

Let’s Talk About Your WHY?

Definition- of -Why

What’s your WHY?

Imagine for a second that you were in a conversation, or an interview and you were asked the question- What is your WHY? How would you respond? Would your answer explain why you do your job or had taken that specific career path? When asked this question, most people immediately begin by talking about their work and sharing what their job is all about. If you did this, you would be wrong, but you’re not alone. The What is your WHY question,” is not meant to uncover why you do your job. Instead, it is intended to have you think about the deep-seated reason that motivates you to get out of bed each morning (not money). Your WHY speaks to the purpose for which you were created, the thing you are most passionate about, or the role or contribution you play in the lives of others and the world around you.  So, what is your WHY?

Writing in his book ‘Start with Why’ Simon Sinek explains that, while every one of us has a WHY, a reason for being, not all of us know what it is, or are able to clearly or confidently articulate it. Sinek explains that, knowing your WHY, and being able to communicate it clearly, is a game changer and differentiator between highly successful and inspiring people and companies and their less successful or inspiring counterparts. He further adds that knowing our WHY, help us to wake up inspired to go to work and come home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled by the work we do. Knowing our WHY, provides us with the ability to inspire and influence people and enlist their support and loyalty. And the people who know their WHY, are driven by a purpose and a cause that enables them to push past their disappointments and mistakes to do what they believe they are called to do. Therefore, do you know your WHY?

Start with WHY!

In Start with Why, Sinek uses the “golden circle model” “to explain that every organization, every person regardless of their industry operates on three levels – what we do, how we do it and why we do it.  What we do refers to our job/role, products, or services we sell. The how we do it is related to what makes us different from our competitors and stand out in the crowd.” Sinek (2017) argues that once you understand your WHY, the better able you will be to express what makes you feel fulfilled and satisfied, and to better understand what drives your behavior when you are at your best. Knowing your WHY enables you to be more intentional about the choices you make for your business, career, and your life. Knowing your WHY, allows you to work with purpose, and to do things on purpose, to achieve your goals and create the life you want or desire. And when you do that, Sinek explains that you will have a point of reference or road map for everything you do going forward.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a passion for leading, learning, sharing and engaging with others. And when I look back at my life over the years, transitioning from childhood to young adulthood, whether it was student leadership, speech, drama or debating clubs, I can see many clear examples of me always being involved in activities that gave me many opportunities to influence others, use my voice, share ideas, and help others. While I didn’t always know my WHY, this passion led me to my first teaching opportunity where I tutored undergraduate students on campus while pursuing graduate studies. And it would later help me transition to my first professional role, where I facilitated adult learning with working professionals who were seeking to improve their knowledge and skills through lifelong learning, education and professional development.  

Today my journey continues, and I know that my WHY is to “lead, learn, engage, and develop people wherever I go.” Therefore, I am passionate about helping people grow and develop to become a better version of themselves- personally and professionally. As a result, I use my skills, lessons, experiences to share insights and resources to help others navigate their own journeys towards personal and professional development and to impact their world for good. It is this bigger purpose that motivates me to write this Blog even when I doubt anyone will read it, or to start a YouTube channel even though I questioned if anyone would find the content useful.

It is also this same WHY that drives me to volunteer at my daughter’s school, at church, at work and to pay it forward and serve my community. And in my day job, this strong belief drives my commitment to working collaboratively with others, to continue to bravely ask the hard questions that challenges the status quo and to share ideas and suggestions for new initiatives (Even when they are not approved or implemented.) And at the end of the day, this bigger purpose helps me to find meaning and fulfillment in my life.

So, how can you find or discover your why?

Find Your Why!

To discover your WHY, the authors of Find Your WHY offers up several strategies that organizations, teams and individuals can use for their WHY discovery. For individuals, they suggest that you work with a partner (preferably not a loved one or friend) to follow the three-step process below to develop your WHY story that will help you discover and articulate your WHY:  

Step 1- Gather Stories and Share them: According to the authors, “each of us has only one WHY. Our WHY is an origin story which we can develop by looking at the most significant experiences in our lives, the people who influenced us, the highs, and the lows to identify the patterns. Our WHY is not a statement about who we aspire to be, it expresses who we are when at our natural best. And this helps us to identify and play to our strengths (See previous post and video).

 Step 2- Identify Themes: As you reflect on your defining life experiences and share your stories with your partner, notice the themes and insights about yourself about yourself that you may never have expressed before. As the process unfolds, the themes will get bigger and more important.

Step 3- Draft and Refine a Why Statement: According to the authors, your WHY story should culminate in a WHY statement that starts with TO________SO THAT___________.  The first blank represents the contribution you make to the lives of others and the second blank represents the impact of your contributions. Your WHY statement should be simple, clear, actionable. It should also focus on the effect you will have on others and expressed in positive language that resonates with you. For example, my WHY statement is: To Lead, Learn, Engage and Develop People Wherever I Go, So That they can grow and develop to become a better version of themselves (personally and professionally) and impact their world for good.

Finally, I have seen individuals struggle with feeling a lack of self-worth, direction, and fulfillment with their lives because they didn’t know their purpose or how to discover it. Knowing your purpose will help you to stay committed to your beliefs, focused on your goals when you face setbacks, or are struggling to find the motivation to continue. So, if you or someone you know is finding it difficult to determine their WHY, find someone to help you take the time to use the three steps mentioned to start your process of digging deep . The process will help you to uncover the moments when you have been at your best and the defining life experiences that shaped you and influenced the person you have become. And as you do so, I hope you find your WHY and discover a new and more powerful reason for getting out of bed each morning and leave a legacy you can be proud of.

Until next time, Remember, It’sALearningLife!

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How to Get Relationship Goals at Work?

Building a Heart Shaped Puzzle

Are Relationship Goals for Workplace Relationships Too?
When it comes to romantic relationships, #relationshipgoals is the hashtag most used to
highlight the ideal or desired romantic relationships. According to Slangit, “relationships goals is a phrase that refers to an admirable relationship.” But in the context of work and workplace relationships, what does relationship goals look like? Do #relationship goals even apply?

According to research, we spend one-third of our lives at work. This means that during any given week, most of us spend more time with our coworkers than we do our loved ones.
Therefore, the quality of our workplace relationships has a significant impact on the quality of our lives. Most of us know from experience or observations how strained or bad workplace relationships can create toxic work environments and how good workplace relationships can help us to thrive. So, how much effort do we put into building and working towards relationship goals at work? In this article, I will explore the importance of relationships at work, how the worker -employer relationship is evolving in the new world of work and offer some tips to help us achieve relationship goals at work.

Why Relationship Goals at Work?

Think about your best and worst work or team experience? For the best-case scenario- what made it great and enjoyable and for the worst-case scenario- what made it so difficult or challenging? Chances are that the nature of your workplace relationships with your supervisor and coworkers accounted for the biggest difference in your experiences. Bad workplace relationships at work can lead to low levels of job satisfaction, poor cooperation and teamwork, low employee morale, lack of trust, breakdowns in communication and a loss of productivity due to conflict and a stressful work environment. On the other hand, when employees have good workplace relationships, it builds camaraderie, increases collaboration and team performance, fosters creativity, and boost overall performance and productivity.

This view is supported by a McKinsey & Company article which states, “there is a strong
connection between happiness at work and overall life satisfaction. The article points out that bosses and supervisors play a bigger role in employee happiness that we might have guessed. And that “relationships with management are the top factor in employees’ job satisfaction, which in turn is the second most important determinant of employees’ overall well-being.” I would also add that this works both ways as the job satisfaction of bosses and supervisors is also influenced by the quality of their relationships with their teams. Afterall, happy employees mean a happy and less stressful work life. Right?

Changing Nature of Relationships in the New World of Work

According to a Deloitte article, “the pandemic strained and tested the worker-employer
relationship beyond anyone’s anticipation. Employers were called upon to support workers’
health, livelihoods, and dignity to an unprecedented degree, and their success—or failure—to do so came under unprecedented scrutiny.” If employers supported their staff well, they were praised highly and rewarded with employee loyalty. If they ignored work conditions and failed to do enough to support and safeguard their employees, they faced the backlash and a wave of resignations. With the Great Resignation, and the War for Talent, employers are increasingly concerned about employer and worker relationships as they try to recruit and retain the best talent. At the same time, with the rise of hybrid and remote work, many employees are taking advantages of new opportunities to choose where they work and how they work as they seek to preserve work-life balance. So, going forward how can we build and maintain relationship goals at work?

How to Build Relationship Goals at Work

When it comes to assessing what employees want and need to be happy, productive and engaged at the workplace, the Gallup Employee Engagement Survey suggests that there are 12 questions that employers need to use to assess this. A quick review of the questions reveals that four of them are directly linked to building positive relationships between supervisors and direct reports, coworkers to coworkers and interactions of the whole team. The four questions are:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. My supervisor, or someone at, seems to care about me as a person.
  3. I have a best friend at work.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

These four questions reinforce the fact that at the heart of any healthy and positive workplace relationships are qualities such as good communication, care, support, and a feeling of being valued.

So, here are some tips to help you to build and maintain relationship goals at work?

  1. Establish needs and expectations: To build effective interpersonal relationships at work, it is important to clarify what the people you work with need from you and set expectations for working together from the start.
  2. Recognize and Affirm: People do their best when they feel valued and recognized for their efforts. If you are a supervisor, find out how your direct reports want to be recognized. As coworkers, use your team meetings to connect with each other and celebrate achievements and milestones.
  3. Help Others Feel Safe: Psychological safety is a huge component of employee wellbeing. Create environments where people feel safe to express themselves. As a supervisor, help your employees to know that they won’t be judged or penalized for failing or making a mistake. If anything, help them to fail fast and early and provide the supports they need to recover quickly.
  4. Show Empathy (That You care): According to Maya Angelou, people will forget what you did and said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Remember, there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach to leading and managing. Show that you care by taking time to listen and demonstrate empathy to colleagues that might be going through a tough time.
  5. Prioritize Communication: When it comes to workplace relationships, it is better to err on the side of overcommunication rather than under communication. In these uncertain times, it is important that managers and leaders’ share information clearly and frequently to help employees stay on track with the mission and navigate change and transitions. As an employee, seek feedback, ask questions to understand and clarify.
  6. Do What You Say You Will Do: Nothing breaks trust or confidence in a relationship than not honoring your word or doing what you said you would do. As you work in teams and support others, it is important to follow up and follow through with tasks assigned as people might be relying on you for key inputs to complete their task.
  7. Respect difference: We don’t have to agree to respect each other. People come from different backgrounds and bring varied experiences to the rooms they walk into. Avoid the way of thinking that suggests that the other personal must be wrong for you to be right. Despite our differences, we have more in common than what sets us apart.
  8. Assume Positive intent: With less and less in person interactions, it’s easy for communication breakdowns to occur. Due to language, channel, and tone, the message being sent might be different from the one received. Rather than taking offense, Assume Positive Intent (API). Ask for clarification rather than relying on your assumptions.
  9. Build Trust: Trust is a crucial ingredient for any relationships to work. But remember trust requires both competence and character. You can’t expect people to trust that you will do your job if you have not demonstrated the competence or capabilities to execute. Similarly, you might be skilled in an area, but if you show up as unreliable and inconsistent, you will not be able to gain the trust of those you work with.
  10. Be Adaptable: People are different in the way they lead and approach the world so avoid the comparison trap. Don’t let your biases for how you would like to see things done stand in the way of a new idea or process. Be open to new approaches, different personalities and leadership styles and try to understand the culture of your environment you’re in. Then be intentional about identifying ways that you can add value to the team.

So back to my earlier question, are relationships goals for work too? You bet they are. Great relationships take time and effort and are totally worth it. So, until next time, Remember, “ItsALearningLife”.

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It’s Not Your IQ, It’s Your EQ?

Head -with-A -Heart-Image
Head-With A -Heart

EQ or IQ- Which One Matters More?

Much like the soft skills debate, there is a seemingly never-ending debate about whether cognitive intelligence (IQ) or emotional intelligence (EQ/EI) matters more for your success. For a long time, IQ or book smarts has served as a key predictor for an individual’s success in life and to determine who is afforded opportunities and who is likely to be more effective on the job. Overtime, this bias towards cognitive intelligence has resulted in a perception that intelligence (IQ) matters more than its emotional intelligence counterpart. And this misguided approach has led many people to focus more on developing their intelligence (IQ) and to neglect or minimize the value of emotional intelligence (EQ)in their efforts to improve personally and professionally. But not so anymore.

An overwhelming amount of research suggests that “more real-world problems get solved with people skills than raw intelligence. That means you can get more bang for your self-improvement buck by focusing on EQ”.  Google, also adds that “leaders with high emotional intelligence make better decisions”.  “Emotional intelligence gives you the ability to read the environment around you, to grasp what other people want and need, what their strengths and weakness are; to remain unruffled by stress and to be the kind of person others want to be around” (Stein& Book 2011).

What is Emotional Intelligence?

According to the authors of Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, intelligence, or IQ “is the measure of an individual’s intellectual, analytical, logical and rational abilities. It gauges how readily you learn new things, focus on task and retain information, engage in a reasoning process and solve problems”. Simply put, your intelligence speaks to your capacity to carry out a specific activity, perform a technical skill and certain tasks. On the other hand, emotional intelligence can be defined as “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional informational in an effective and meaningful way”.  

Therefore, your ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence will determine your ability to influence others, communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and build and maintain healthy, positive, and productive relationships personally and professionally.  In other words, your emotional intelligence or street smarts are key to how you live and operate in the world around you. People operating with high IQ and low EQ are like wrecking balls that can potentially damage or destroy everything and everyone in their path. By not being able to identify and manage their own emotions and to recognize and respond to the emotions of others, they create conflict and toxic environments which make it difficult for people to live and work with them.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important at Work?

Over the last few years of the pandemic, we have seen a huge amount of change and disruptions in every area of our personal and professional lives. Now more than ever, many employees find themselves struggling to navigate the new emotional landscape at work and to cope with unprecedented levels of stress, burnout, uncertainty, and grief driven by the pandemic. The pressing need to constantly pivot and change the way we do business, work, or serve clients, have taken a physical and psychological toll on employees mental and emotional well-being. Today, many employees report feeling increasing levels of anxiety, unhappiness, social isolation, and fatigue.

To respond effectively to all these challenges in the environment, emotional intelligence matters individually and organizationally. For leaders in organizations, leading with emotional intelligence means communicating clearly and frequently to reduce uncertainty, having a pulse on what employees are feeling in response to change, determining what is motivating them or not and implementing strategies to support the emotional and mental well-being of their employees. Managing with emotional intelligence will require supervisors to be flexible with how they manage the performance of their direct reports who might be struggling with meeting deliverables and showing empathy to employees who are experiencing tough times.

On an individual level, having emotional intelligence will help an employee to build and maintain positive and healthy personal relationships with their co-workers, show care and empathy for each other, collaborate, work effectively in teams, solve problems effectively, cope with stress and navigate change. Employees with strong emotional intelligence, are more self-aware and better able to manage themselves and their emotions and set boundaries to protect their overall well-being. 

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Skills?

To build your emotional intelligence skills, it is important to understand the different dimensions of EQ. According to the Bar-On Model  of emotional intelligence and social intelligence, EQ can be broken down into five dimensions and 15 characteristics  summarized below:

  1. Self-Perception: This refers to your ability to understand your emotions (emotional self-awareness), pursue self-improvement (self-actualization) and the extent to which you have confidence and respect yourself (self-regard).
  1. Self-Expression: This speaks to your ability to be self-directed (independence), communicate your feelings and beliefs in a non-offensive way (assertiveness) and constructively express yourself (emotional expression).
  1. Interpersonal:  This focuses on your ability to form and maintain mutually satisfying relationships (interpersonal relationships), appreciate how others feel(empathy) and help others around you (social consciousness).
  1. Decision Making: This includes your ability to be objective (reality testing), find solutions when emotions are involved (problem solving) and to delay or resist an impulse to act.
  1. Stress Management:  This deals with your ability to cope with stressful situations (stress management), overcome adversity, maintain a positive outlook on life(optimism) and to be adaptable with your thoughts and behaviors (flexibility).

One additional indicator of this emotional social intelligence model is – happiness. This measures the degree to which you feel content with your life, your ability to enjoy yourself and others and experience joy in a range of activities. Altogether, these elements represent what it means to be emotional intelligent and the skills you will need to demonstrate it. It is important to note that your performance in any one or combination of these dimensions can be stronger or higher than the others. The key here is to identify areas where you have gaps and work towards strengthening them.

So, how do you rate your emotional intelligence skills?

Which area (s) might you need to improve?

Where do you intend to start?

The good news is- emotional intelligence is a skill that you can develop and strengthen overtime. Your journey toward becoming emotional intelligent will need to start with an honest self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, a recognition of your limitations and intentional efforts on your part to address them. Enlist the support of trusted friends, coworkers, and family members to provide you with feedback that will help you to identify the blind spots that might be affecting how you show up and impact others. When all is said and done, your emotional intelligence will determine the quality of your relationships at work and in your personal life, ability to bounce back and overcome adversity, manage stress, make decisions, and find meaning and satisfaction in your life. 

So, when it comes to intelligence – Your EQ, not Your IQ Matters More! Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Who- Moved -My- Cheese- 7 Tips for Dealing with Change -Video

Hard vs Soft Skills: Why You Need Both!

 Hard Vs. Soft Skills? -Image
Hard Vs. Soft Skills? -Image

“While hard skills may get a candidate’s foot in the door, it’s soft skills that ultimately open it”.

Lydia Lui – LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 Report

When it comes to hard and soft skills, there is a big debate about which of these skillsets bring a greater value or a higher premium to the workplace.  This debate usually raises questions about whether employers should hire more for hard or soft skills? And which one of these skills (hard or soft) makes for the most effective employees?

When recruiters and hiring managers post new positions or write job descriptions, they usually outline the preferred qualifications, skills and experience they want in the ideal candidate for the job. For a longtime, the typical position description and recruiting process were skewed towards prioritizing candidates’ hard skills rather than soft skills. Afterall, the successful candidate selected for any job needs technical skills to perform effectively. While hard skills still remain important, this dynamic is changing. The last few years has seen an increasing recognition and strong demand from hiring managers and companies who are looking for employees who have both strong soft and hard skills. This shift signals that now, more than ever, soft skills matter for your success.

According to the LinkedIn Global Trends Report 2019, “80% of companies say that soft skills are increasingly important to company success.” The report also stated that while “Soft skills have always been important, they’re increasingly vital today. Hard skills alone are no longer enough to be successful.” Moreover, “Most hiring and firing decisions come down to soft skills”. This trend toward prioritizing both hard and soft skills is also reflected in the increasing use of behavioral interview questions to assess candidates hard and soft skills in job interviews. So, what are hard and soft skills?

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

Balance Careers define soft skills as the “interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. They are how you work with and relate to others. Soft skills enable you to fit in at the workplace.” No matter what you call them (interpersonal skills/people skills or transferable skills), this set of skills are of huge importance to employers trying to find people with the right attitude and character traits needed to do the job well. Hiring managers are also using situational interviews to assess candidates people skills to determine whether they might be a good fit for their teams. Your soft skills include and are not limited to your personality, attitude & mindset, your communication style, your flexibility, ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively with others in a team, how you lead, adapt and deal with change.  

On the other hand, GCF Global defines hard skills  as “Concrete skills that are specific to your job and are required for you to actually do your work. For example, if you’re a chef, cooking would be a hard skill. Or if you’re a computer programmer, coding would be a hard skill.” These technical skills are usually developed as a part of your formal education, training, and experience.

Different -Skills- Needed- for- the -Job-Image
Different Skills Needed for the Job- Image

Making the Case for Both Soft & Hard Skills

Since the start of the pandemic, people across the world have had to deal with more change, stress, uncertainty, and loss than ever before. Both employees and employers have been forced to constantly pivot and adapt to respond and cope with the challenges in the environment. And mental health, stress and burnout have now become hot button issues for organization to tackle to support their staff. Consequently, the need for employee to have and utilize soft skills such as communication, empathy, interpersonal skills, teamwork, critical thinking has never been greater or more urgent. As such, companies have had to become more intentional about equipping leaders and managers with the soft skills to care for their teams and to create a culture that supports their mental, physical, and emotional well-being

So, what are the soft skills that are in high demand?

Based on the Monster’s The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook report, the most important skills that employers want are: Teamwork/collaboration, Communication and Problem solving/critical thinking. Meanwhile, the LinkedIn 2019 Global Talent Trends report, suggested that the top five soft skills that are organizations need, but they have a difficult time finding are:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Time Management

So, how do you measure up with these skills? Where might you have a soft skills gap or an opportunity to develop.

Addressing Your Soft Skills Gaps

While soft skills are not as easy to measure as hard skills, they are easy to observe and spot when lacking. In today’s world of hybrid work, poor communication, and problem-solving skills, coupled with an unwillingness to change and work collaboratively in a team, will undermine your success. So how can you develop or strengthen your soft skills to improve your chances for success and promotion at work?

  1. Do a Self-Assessment: Start by reviewing your job description to identify the soft skills needed for your role. Then conduct a personal SWOT analysis or some other form of self-assessment to identify the key soft skills needed to be successful in your role. These could be social, emotional, or cognitive. You could also ask your coworkers, supervisor and those closest to you for feedback on one area you can improve. Use the insights gained to make efforts to address your soft skill weak spots.
  2. Find a Coach or Mentor:  We all have blind -spots and depending on your level of self-awareness, you might be operating in yours. By working with a coach, you will be able to share your challenges and benefit from having a trusted person ask you deep questions that can help you work through your issues and come up with better ways to handle difficult situations. Similarly, your mentor might be an expert in an area you are trying to improve. Take advantage or their knowledge and experience to help you learn how to tackle your growth and development.
  3. Utilize Soft Skills Building Training/Learning Resources: There are no limits to the variety of resources and personal development opportunities available to you online. Depending on how you like to learn, choose between trainings that are self-paced, live on-line or an in-person workshop (if available).  Alternatively, you can also use other informal tools such as books, videos, and podcast (see previous post) to provide you with insights and advice to level up your soft skills.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice: For some people, soft skills might be harder to develop and could require a considerable investment of time and effort. Even so, the only way to get better at active listening or being empathetic is to intentionally put these skills into practice in your everyday interactions. The more frequently you flex your soft skills muscles, the stronger they will become.

Finally, when it comes to hard and soft skills, you do not get to choose. If you are talented or highly skilled and cannot get along with others, you will not be successful in the long term. And if you are a super nice person but are lacking the core hard skills required for your role, your overall performance will suffer. To be hirable and successful, you need both hard and soft skills. Therefore, you need to continually assess your hard and soft -skills and find opportunities that will enable you to develop and improve both!

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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How to S.T.A.R. Your Next Job Interview!

Image showing Your Chance of being selected at the Job Interview- Adobe  Stock Image
Your Chance -Adobe Stock Image

You’ve dusted off your resume, applied for a couple of jobs and have landed a job interview. You’re excited, but now, it’s time to prepare for the job interview and to polish up your interviewing skills. Whether the interview is in-person or online, many people find formulating the best responses to the interviewer(s) questions to be the trickiest or most nerve -wracking part of the job search process. And today, most companies are shifting away from traditional interview questions in favor of behavioral type questions which provide the interviewer(s) with greater insights on the candidates’ capabilities to perform the role being hired for. So, being able to effectively respond to behavioral type interview questions will help you stand out and be a star in your next job interview.

Traditional vs Behavioral Interviews

When it comes to job interviews, there are two types of questions that are commonly used- behavioral and traditional. Behavioral type interview questions are based on the premise that past behavior is a great predictor of future performance. As such, interviewees are asked to respond to questions by using specific and concrete example of how they have successfully applied their skills and expertise in the past. The examples or stories they provide for these behavioral interview questions give the interviewer(s) crucial information about the candidate’s capacity and capability to do the job.

Behavioral type questions usually begin with or include phrases that ask you to:

  • Tell me about a time when…
  • What do you do when…
  • Have you ever…
  • Give me an example of…
  • Describe a…

On the other hand, traditional(classic) interviews uses specific questions that produce straight forward responses. Examples of traditional interview questions include but are not limited to:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What do you see yourself 3-5 years from now?
  • What makes you the best candidate for this job?
  • How do you deal with conflict?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would your previous supervisor say about your work performance?
Three Flags with Interview Questions-image
Interview Questions- Adobe Stock Images

How to Use the S.T.A.R Interview Method

S.T.A.R. is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result.  This method provides interviewees with an effective way of ensuring that their responses to interview questions are clear, concise and demonstrates their competence and expertise. With this approach, interviewees are encouraged to use the different elements of the method, to provide clear examples/ stories of how they have performed in previous roles to showcase their knowledge, skills and experience.

  • Situation:  For this first step, you will need to draw on past experience to provide the interviewer(s) with a relevant example of a situation you were in and explain what you were required to do. Your response should help the interviewer understand the who, what, where, when, and why of the scenario.
  • Task: Having described the situation, the next step is to state your position, your objective and what you were responsible for doing in the scenario being shared.
  • Action: In this step, you will need to clearly outline the actions you took to achieve the goal or complete the assignment.
  • Result: Finally, you will be required to describe the outcome or what happened because of the actions you took. Bear in mind that your response should reflect positive outcomes. If you failed or things didn’t go as planned, be ready to share with the interviewer (s) what you learned or gained from that experience.

As you share your stories or examples, remember that the star in the scenarios you share should be you. Interviews that use behavioral type questions are not an opportunity for you to show off your teamwork skills (unless asked to share an example of how you work in teams). The questions are intended to draw out what you have done in the past and your expertise. Use I statements, instead of We to help the interviewers understand what you have done and what you are capable of. So, use the suggested prompts to keep your answers brief and don’t ramble on.

How to Develop Your S.T.A.R. Example/Story

I frequently have opportunities to conduct interviews as a member of interview panels. Before the interview starts, the panel meets to discuss the position, interview questions, what we are looking for in the ideal candidate for the job and to go over the rubric or scoring sheet that we will be using to assess each candidate. While all candidates being interviewed qualify for the position and might be able to do the job, how they respond to the interview questions is the key differentiator or litmus test for who will be selected for the role. I have seen instances where someone who is acting in the position interviews for the role and not get selected, and instances where the best candidate on paper interviews poorly. From the experience of being on both sides of the table/screen, I know the importance of answering interviewing questions effectively.

How can you share stories or examples that tie your experience and accomplishments back to the question to showcase your skills and expertise?

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

Every job posting/ announcement carries a description of the responsibilities of the position, key words and the important skills and abilities that the employer is looking for. To use the STAR method effectively, you will need to prepare by reviewing the job description to identify the essential skills needed to execute the role successfully. Examples of these could include project management, customer service, leadership and management, database management, financial management/budgeting and so on. Since these skills will be the focus of the interview, you must be ready to share your relevant experience with the interviewer/panel.

Once you have identified the key skills, reflect on your previous experiences and exposures (work or volunteer) to find specific examples of a time when you used those skills.  Then use the S.T.A.R. method to write a clear and positive story of your best example managing a project, leading a team, or developing budgets. Write down an example/story for as many of the key that were listed in the posting. While you won’t know the questions beforehand or the type that will be asked in the interview, the examples you have prepared will help you tie in your experiences and accomplishment to whatever questions you are asked.  

S.T.A.R. Method Example

Here is an example below of the S.T.A.R. Method in action from Flex Jobs:

1. “Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict on the team and how did you resolve it?

  • Situation: I was tasked with implementing a new project management system. This meant I had to coordinate the tasks and goals across several teams. Unfortunately, there was a long-simmering conflict between two of the team leaders who were going to have to work closely on this project.
  • Task: I started by creating the timeline, then figuring out when those two people would work together to accomplish joint tasks.
  • Action: I met with each of them individually to explain that they would be working together and asked how I could help things work smoothly. As a result of those meetings, I was asked to sit in on all of their project meetings as a neutral third party and provide feedback. I was also copied on every written communication to ensure things were handled professionally and appropriately.
  • Result: There were a few times when friction was a problem. But, because I was involved from day one and acted as a neutral third party, we were able to finish the project on time. Projects that were completed on time increased 20% during Q1 and Q2 this year”.

Finally, regardless of whether you are contemplating a career change or are preparing for your next opportunity, you will have to get through an interview process. The S.T.A.R. method has proven to be an effective approach to preparing and communicating the best responses to behavioral type interview questions. So, when you have your next interview, arm yourself with some great stories or examples (Developed using the S.T.A.R. method) which will help you stand out, star your next interview and land that job.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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7 Ways to Tackle Your Personal & Professional Development in 2022

Feeding Your Mind- Personal & Professional Development
Feeding- Your -Mind- Personal- &- Professional -Development

In my last post, I wrote about how some people use the new year to set new intentions, goals, and resolutions to improve their lives. Personal and professional development are two areas that they typically focus on for self-improvements. But what is the difference between the two? While personal and professional development are inextricably linked, they are not one and the same. According to Indeed, “Personal development is the ongoing act of assessing your life goals and values and building your skills and qualities to reach your potential.” Personal development efforts are usually geared towards changing mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors to improve individual effectiveness and to increase one’s satisfaction with life. On the other hand, professional development refers to any effort taken to improve one’s effectiveness and performance on the job, increase knowledge and skills and to continue learning/education after entry to the workforce.  

While making improvements in any one of these areas can result in significant progress and provide positive benefits to one’s life, not everyone takes them seriously.

Importance of Personal &Professional Development

There is a popular quote by Albert Einstein that states “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” While the quote might sound morbid, it underscores the importance of being a lifelong learner and being intentional about pursuing ongoing growth and development to stay relevant and adaptable. Yet, one of the common mistakes that some people make is, assuming that their growth and development is a destination that they get to. Truth is that life and the world around you is constantly changing, and your development is dynamic. The skills and experiences that got you from one level or stage will not take you to your next level of success. Areas of strength in one season of your life can become weaknesses in another. And the weaknesses that you considered minor at one time, can become major issues or blind spots that can undermine your interpersonal relationships and overall effectiveness. 

Therefore, to maximize your potential and increase your chances for success and fulfillment in your personal and professional life, you will need to be proactively engage in ongoing self-reflection and seek feedback to pinpoint the hard and soft skills you might need change or improve.

Who’s Responsible for Personal Growth &Development

There is a commonly held belief amongst many employees that their professional development is their employer’s responsibility. And rightly so, since employers have an obligation to invest in their talent and workforce by equipping them with the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to execute their roles in a way that meet or exceed their organization’s productivity standards. With this expectation, many employees go to work with the expectation that their supervisor and/or organization is responsible for training them and equipping them with the skills they need to be efficient and effective in their roles. While this expectation is valid and fair, the rapidly changing nature of today’s work environment now demands that, employees be proactive about their development and not rely only on mandated trainings or wait for the annual performance review where the supervisor recommends training for a performance issue as a cue for development.

This passive and reactive approach to personal and professional development can prove risky at a time when the technologies you use, the way you work, the skills you need and the demands of the customers you serve are changing quickly. The reality is, your employers might not have the necessary supports in place to help you stay relevant and build your skills. In fact, many people complain about getting promotions on the job and not being adequately trained to perform effectively or not having the time to attend trainings due to the volume of work. Therefore, though employers have a responsibility to develop their people, you must become an advocate for your own personal and professional development and ultimately take ownership for it.

Time to Own Your Development

So how can you take action to become more proactive about owning your personal and professional development?

In an age where you have unprecedented access to information at your fingertips, there is really no excuse for not investing in your personal growth and professional development.  Regardless of your interests, how you like to learn or process information, there are many different options and formats that you can use for lifelong learning and self-improvement. Here are 7 ways that you can tackle your personal and professional development in 2022:  

  1. Do a SWOT Analysis: This process will require you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and to take intentional actions to address them. Ask trusted and objective friends, coworkers, and family members to provide you with feedback that will help you to identify behaviors you need to Stop, Start and Continue.  
  • Invest in Continuing Education:  Depending on where you are in your career, this could involve going back to school to pursue a degree or diploma to gain new knowledge or to help you switch career paths. For others this could mean attending webinars, conferences, enrolling in a course or certification program to develop a new skill or improve an existing one. Remember ongoing learning is a great resume builder.
  • Attend YouTube University: YouTube is probably one of the most underutilized or underrated ways to access learning for free. If you can think of a topic, there is content on YouTube that can help you learn more about it. So, find a topic or skill you are interested in learning about, look for credible people speaking on the topic and get learning.
  • Read, Read, Read: In this social media age where attention spans are short and people are overwhelmed with snippets of information and tweets on their timelines, it is easy to become lazy about how you access and acquire knowledge and information. Rather than relying on your feed, join a book club, read books, articles, and blogs that are related to your industry and interests to ensure that you are staying abreast of current ideas and insights to improve your personal effectiveness.
  • Listen to Podcasts: Podcasts have gained popularity in the last few years. They provide a convenient and flexible way of learning on the go. If you are not a fan of reading, you can listen to podcasts as you exercise, complete chores, do errands or while driving. And like YouTube, you can find a podcast hosted by experts on any topic for free. So, search for podcasts apps on your devices and start listening.
  • Volunteer: Whether it’s at work or in your community, volunteering to serve on project teams or committees can be a great developmental tool and a way to build your network, learn new skills, help others, and pay it forward.  
  • Follow Subject Matter Experts on social media: Apart from showcasing the highlight reel of your life and that of others, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Meta can also provide you with access to thought leaders who teach and share content/ideas that can inspire you to action or provide resources you can use for your development. Be sure to find these experts and follow them.

In conclusion, pursuing a path towards personal and professional development will require deliberate effort on your part and changes to how you spend your limited free time. Although it might seem overwhelming at first, enlist the support and help of trusted and objective coworkers, friends, and family members to help you figure out areas you need to focus on.  But ultimately, you are in the best position to act on the changes you need to make, chart your career journey, identify your next job opportunity, identify the skills and talents you need to hone to keep growing and achieve satisfaction with your life.

Until next time, “Remember ItsALearningLife! “

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It’s A New Year: How Will You Make 2022 Count?

Happy New Year 2022
Happy New Year 2022

For many people the start of a new year is a time to make bold new resolutions, big plans and to declare a ‘word for the year’ which reflects the positive changes they want to make in their lives. For others, the beginning of a new year is just like any other day that passes without fanfare, not unlike the others before it. Celebrating a new year can be difficult in situations where even though a new year has started, the old problems and issues from the preceding year still persist. Whether you choose to celebrate the new year or not, there is no denying that time is passing, and life is moving on. So, how will you make 2022 count?

New Year, Fresh Start?

With every new year, we all get a fresh start and a new set of 365 days to use as we will. In fact, many people are already thinking about the changes they want to make to improve their lives and the goals they want to pursue. People who are highly motivated usually express their intentions in resolutions, vision boards or carefully thought-out action plans. While people who are less motivated or are uncertain about their goals or future might be more reluctant to make any plans or set new intentions. Regardless of how you motivated you are, resolutions and plans do not sustain themselves.

As the days and weeks progress, motivation can fade very quickly, and even the best laid plans and resolutions might be forgotten in the cut and thrust of daily life. In fact, the results from one study suggest that “an enormous 77% of resolvers lost their resolve in under two weeks.

But why?

One possible reason why people fail to achieve their goals is offered by James Clear, (author of the bestselling book Atomic Habits,) who explained that “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.”

So how do you sustain your goals and avoid abandoned goals in 2022?

There is no fool proof way of ensuring that you stay true to your personal goals, plans or resolutions. The people who make resolutions to lose weight, save more, find that new job or start that new business or project, typically do so with the best of intentions and with a strong desire to do so. But like the earlier statistics suggest, somewhere between the first two weeks of the month to perhaps March, gym memberships are abandoned, and people begin to procrastinate or push back their goals to a later date. And before you know it, they lose their mojo and plans are shelved indefinitely. 

Personally, I seize the opportunity of a new year to formulate new plans and establish goals for my personal and professional life. And while I don’t make resolutions, since 2007, I have chosen a word to guide my actions and approach towards the different aspects of my personal and professional life. This gives me an opportunity to clearly define the attitudes, actions, and behaviors I will engage in and that are consistent with my word. For example, my word for 2022 is FOCUS and my primary objective will be to eliminate or minimize anything that would undermine my efforts to achieve the financial, physical, spiritual, professional, and relational goals I’ve set.  I’m also happy to share that over the years, this approach to tackling each new year and a few proven strategies, have helped me achieve continuous success in both my personal and professional lives.

This Year I Will- Planning
This Year I Will -Planning

Strategies to Tackle the New Year

If you are looking to set new intentions/ goals for 2022 and need help to stick with them, or are thinking about that you might do differently, here are 7 strategies that might help you make the new year count:

  1. Remember your why: At a time when people are sharing plans about how they want to improve their lives, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and the hype. But before you set your goals or declare your intentions for the new year, think carefully about where you are at this stage of your life, what is important to you, the things that will bring meaning to your life or help you achieve purpose. Align your goals and actions to these things and ignore the noise.
  1. See habit change as identity change:  Changing habits is a big part of making self-improvements. But what if you have been approaching habit change all wrong? According to James Clear, when most people think about the habits they want to build, they focus on outcomes they want to achieve. E.g., I want to lose weight. He suggests that a better approach is to build identity-based habits by focusing on what you want to become, not what you want to achieve. E.g. The goal is not to lose weight but to become a person who makes healthy food choices.
  1. Smart Small: Making a change of any kind can be hard. So rather than biting off more than you can chew, set yourself up for success by starting with small changes that can lead to large changes in behaviors overtime. In Atomic Habits, James Clear recommends that if you focus on getting 1% better every day, you will be 37% times better at the end of a year. So, if exercising more is one of your goals, what is one tiny change you can make and consistently maintain?
  1. Set realistic goals:  A huge reason behind why people fail to act on or achieve their goals is that they were not SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timebound) or practical in the first place. Take the time to carefully think about what you want to achieve, the resources you have at your disposal and what you will need to support your success. Then do it.
  1. Anticipate the barriers: Acknowledge the fact that you are going to hit setbacks in your efforts to execute your plan or achieve your goals.  So, spend some time identifying the things that are likely to stand in the way of you achieving your goals. Once you have identified the potential obstacle(s), devise a plan for dealing with them when they occur.
  1. Consider the cost: In a lot of instances, people give up on their goals and dreams because of fear, doubt, the sacrifice they will have to make or due to life events that aren’t convenient at that point in time. And often they do so without fully considering how making that choice/decision, or not taking a particular course of action might cost them in the future. Therefore, before you decide to act or not to act on a goal, consider what you might be losing, saying no to, or giving up if you don’t follow through. What will it cost you in the long run?
  1. Build in accountability: Having come up with a SMART goal or plan, ensure that you have something or someone to help you stick to your plan(s). You can build in accountability by sharing the goal or plan with your inner circle or someone who will check in with you periodically to help you stay on target and offer encouragement when you need it. Additionally, you can use apps such as your calendar or organizers to set affirmations or reminders for activities you need to complete or things you need to focus on.

Ready or not – 2022 is here and 2021 is gone. There is no changing the past, the mistakes, or the things that didn’t go as you hoped or planned. Celebrate the gains or progress you made last year- however small.  You now have another year with new opportunities to create the future you want, build on the progress you’ve made, and move purposefully in the direction of your goals and dreams.

So, what will you do in 2022? How will you make this new year count?

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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A Look Back at 2021: 11 Questions to Ask Yourself!

2021 Year in Review
2021 Year in Review

With only a few days left in 2021, many of us are looking back at the stories that made the news, the personal and professional challenges we overcame, our wins and losses, what we want to leave behind and our hopes for the new year. Coming out of 2020, many had hoped 2021 would bring a return to some semblance of normalcy, an end to the COVID -19 pandemic and some relief from the stress and anxiety arising from all the changes and uncertainty in the environment. Instead, 2021 brought even more political tensions and sparked a raging debate about to vax or not to vax which threated to divide societies as well as friends and families. We watched decisionmakers and governments struggle with decisions about when and how to reopen the office, public spaces, business, schools, churches, and relaxing mask mandates.

2021 became the year of the “great resignation” or the “great reshuffle” as many people pivoted to make new career moves or shifted their attitudes towards work to achieve greater flexibility and work/life balance. But most importantly, 2021 raised significant concerns about mental health as people struggled to cope with the pressures of the ongoing pandemic and the unrelenting need for them to adapt or keep up with the constant changes happening all around them. All across the world, we saw an increase in demand for treatment of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, while both employees and employers struggled to address the damaging effects of fatigue and burnout.

Calendar with December 31, 2021
Calendar with December 31, 2021

My Year in Review

Since 2007, every new year I have chosen a theme or word to guide all areas of my life for the given period. For 2021, I declared that I would be intentional about pursuing wholeness in my emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, professional, and social areas of my life. For me, this meant I would strive to ensure that my words, actions, and mindsets led to improvements in my overall sense of well-being. In keeping with this commitment, my goals included eliminating all personal debt except for my mortgage; improving my physical fitness and nutrition; spending more time praying and studying the bible; honing my craft by learning new skills; consistently publishing my blog; and building and strengthening my relationships.

But like many of you, I too experienced my fair share of challenging situations in 2021 that threatened to derail my goals and plans for myself. At times, the issues I faced brought tears and feelings of doubt and discouragement that I had to push through to stay on track and encouraged. Fortunately, I recognized the areas and times I was struggling and got the support I needed to help me recover well and tap into a new level of resiliency. Despite those difficulties, I was also blessed with many new and amazing opportunities to expand my sphere of influence, build and leverage new relationships, enhance my knowledge and skills, use my talents to encourage and help others and make a positive impact at work and in my community.

Needless to say, I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do, but I made great progress with my goals, and I will continue to build on them in the new year. Better yet, I believe I’m ending the year better than I started it.

But what about you? How was 2021 for you?

11 Questions to Ask Yourself

As we close out 2021, it is easy to focus on all the things that didn’t go right or things that didn’t go as you hoped or planned. But as you reflect on the past year, remember that your progress and success should not only be assessed by whether your plans unfolded exactly as you wanted them to. Rather than taking that approach, assess yourself on the progress (big or small) you made during 2021, the steps you took towards your goals, the new perspectives you developed, the knowledge you gained and the experiences you benefited from. Chances are that your low moments, setbacks, or failures revealed more to you about you and others than anything else could ever do. Therefore, your task is to take those insights and lessons and use them to help you make better choices in the future as you strive to become a better version of yourself.

So regardless of the challenges you might be facing today, you survived 2021 and made progress in some way shape or form.  As you take a few moments to look back at 2021 and celebrate your experiences, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How did I make time to have fun?
  2. How did I make self -care a key part of my regular routine?
  3. How did I set myself up for success financially and physically?
  4. What is an important lesson I learned this year?
  5. What is the best thing that happened to me?
  6. What challenges did I overcome?
  7. What new skills did I learn to enhance my career?
  8. What did I do to enhance my personal growth and development?
  9. What did I do to nurture/strengthen my relationships?
  10. What do I need to change/improve or do differently?
  11. Did I steward my resources well?

I’m sure your answers to those questions might be different from mine since we might be at different stages in our lives. Whatever your answers to those questions might be, acknowledge your feelings about how things went for you and the lessons learned- even the painful ones. And as you do that, remember to stay true to who you are and the person you are becoming, while holding firmly to the vision you have for your life.

In closing, my hope is that you would have joy, love, and peace as you celebrate the holidays and look forward to a new year full of successes big and small!

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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5 Ways to Avoid the Stress of the Holidays

The upcoming holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for many, the pressure to clean the house; buy or find the right gift; cook and host the festivities; navigate strained relationships with family and friends is nothing but stressful. While the holidays provide opportunities for friends and family to gather, share and recharge, people quickly find themselves struggling with all the pressures and expectations that the holidays bring. And what makes it even more stressful is that we are still 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic with a new variant that continues to threaten the lives and livelihood of many people across the world. So, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with all these different stressors, rest assured that you are not alone.

Christmas List Brainstorm -Adobe stock image
Christmas List Brainstorm -Adobe stock image

The Biggest Holiday Stressors

According to the  American Institute of Stress,  “while the holiday season typically drums up visions of sugarplum fairies, bright lights, gifts, and cheer, many people admit this time of year is filled with an overwhelming amount of physical and emotional discomfort.”  “Recent statistics related to holiday stress reveal that nearly 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time” and perceiving a “lack of money.” And over 50% are stressed about the “pressure to give or get gifts.” These statistics further indicate that “many health experts believe that exceedingly high expectations for peace, love, and joy during the holiday season can negatively impact both your physical and mental health — and much more than many people realize.”

So where does that leave many of us?

With only 11 days left before Christmas, many people are experiencing heightened amounts of stress as they try to get everything ready for the festivities. And perhaps the three biggest stressors during this season are as follows:

  • Hosting Christmas Dinner/Party: Recently, I was talking to a friend about her holiday plans. She shared that she would be hosting a Christmas dinner for about 15 of her closest family and friends. As we spoke about the menu, she shared that she was doing it potluck style to avoid a repeat of her last Christmas dinner, where she was so worn out from all the preparations that she could not participate in the celebrations and had to be sent to bed to rest. Her experience is echoed by the results of an American survey which found that  “Fifty-one percent of respondents said hosting a party or dinner during the holiday was the most stressful part of the holiday season.”
  • Increased Holiday Spending: Another big source of stress during the holiday season comes from increased spending and expenses that come with gift giving, travelling and other festivities. A survey of “2,000 Americans conducted by Yelp with OnePoll discovered that 28% of respondents said they’ve gone into debt during the holiday season.” The pressure to give gifts or to make loved ones happy, force many people to overspend or ignore their budget which in turn creates debt that results in other forms of stress. And for many people, “That debt has an average life-span of three months, which leaves family and friends chipping away at bills and credit card payments all the way through March.”
  • Strained Family Relationships:  As families and friends come together for the holidays to spend time with each other, personalities and personal preferences and unresolved conflict can easily spoil the atmosphere and prevent everyone from having a good time. Navigating these tense relationships during the holiday gatherings can trigger anxious feelings and thoughts for those who have complicated relationships with their loved ones. And for people dealing with loss (see previous post) the holidays can present painful reminders of loved which can be difficult to process.
Happy Holidays-Adobe stock image
Happy Holidays-Adobe stock image

5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress

Though the holiday season can create stress, this does not have to be the reality. A huge part of dealing with stress of any kind is recognizing the potential stressors and finding ways to lessen them. This will allow you to truly focus on enjoying the positive vibes and warm feelings  that the holidays bring. So, here are 5 ways to avoid holiday stress and create lasting and positive memories with your loved ones.

  1. Remember the reason for the season: With the commercialization of the Christmas holiday, promotional sales and emphasis on gift giving, it is easy to forget the true meaning behind the season. For those who celebrate it, the Christmas season is about celebrating Jesus’s birth, God’s love and of giving of self to others. The Christmas holiday gives friends and families opportunities to come together in peace and enjoy each other’s company, share food and laughter with a spirit of joy and happiness. So, make that the main thing as your gather.
  • Avoid overcommitting: Whether you’re visiting your family or friends or giving to others, you should avoid overcommitting. You can’t please everyone and there is no point in stretching yourself too thinly, making yourself unhappy or taking on debt to do so. Manage your time and energy and be realistic about your budget or what you can afford to spend. The best gift and joy of the season should be in the quality of time spent in the company of those you love and not how much you gave or received.
  • Practice Self Care: In your efforts to be all things to everyone during the holidays, be a good host or make the festivities fun, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Be intentional about setting aside some “me” time to do something that is just for you. Ensure that you get enough sleep and rest when you need to. This will help you to avoid become overly tired and irritable and dampening spirits anyways. And while the holidays might involve indulging in your favorite foods, don’t overdo it. Be careful not to consume anything that will seriously derail or compromise your overall health goals or make you sick. Eat and drink responsibly!
  • Be kind to yourself and others: The holidays are supposed to be a time of cheer and joy with loved ones celebrating with each other. Be sensitive to the people who are coping with loss and who might be triggered by the holiday season. Regardless of the type of loss (Death of a loved one, a broken relationship, loss of employment or hardship) be respectful, understanding, and supportive. It costs you nothing to show empathy and offer a word or encouragement to someone who is struggling. And if you are struggling with feelings of unhappiness or any form of mental health issue, remember that is ok to acknowledge your feelings. Just try not to dwell on them and ask for help when you need to.
  • Manage your thoughts and emotions: You really can’t control the behaviors and actions of anyone else but yourself. Resist the temptation to become offended or respond to careless comments made by friends and family members that will lead to arguments. Choose not to engage in any interactions that drains your energy and leaves you feeling sad or down. Sometimes being right or having the last word simply isn’t worth it. Give your self-permission to be quiet when you need to. Assume positive intent, ask questions, and don’t make assumptions. Life is too short for you to spend time creating stories that are only real in your head.

In conclusion, just as with make-up, less is more during the holiday season. The children in your life do not need expensive gifts to be happy and the adults in your life already have what they need. The true spirit of the season lies in creating memories that will last a lifetime and spreading joy and peace wherever you go. Happy Holidays to you and your family!    

Until next time- Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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How- to- STAR- Your- Job- Interview-Video

5 Things to Know About Coping with Grief and Loss!

Broken heart stitched up
Broken heart stitched up

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

Vicki Harrison

Last week, I had conversations with two men who were struggling with grief from recent losses they had experienced.  One of the gentlemen had lost his promising young adult son in a harrowing car accident two months ago, and the other had just gone through a divorce. Despite the differences in their personal situations, age and background, both were grieving and struggling to cope with the painful and overwhelming emotions associated with their losses. These conversations reminded me of my own most painful experience in dealing with loss and prompted me to do some research on how to best cope with grief and loss.

I know from other people in my circles that these men are not alone. Over the last 2 years, many people have dealt with loss in some area of their personal or professional lives. Some of have lost friends, coworkers, neighbors and loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic or were unable to be with a loved one when they died or to mourn the death in person with friends and family. Other kinds of loss that people have suffered from include a big move, illness, divorce, loss of employment, reduction in earnings, and even a loss of normalcy in their everyday routines and lifestyles due to drastic changes associated with the pandemic. But regardless of the type of loss experienced, grief is a part of life and a natural response that everyone has to loss. 

Though everyone deals with or processes grief differently, some of the common responses to loss include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Anger and resentment
  • Strong feelings of sadness or depression
  • Loss of sleep and appetite
  • Shock, disbelief, and denial
  • Decline in mental health and overall well- being.

It is also important to note that there is so set time for grieving a loss. Grief like happiness is a universal emotion and people go through the process of grieving at their own rate and pace. Notwithstanding, understanding the grieving process will help you to cope with your own feelings when you experience a loss or help you show empathy and support to a friend or loved one who might be grieving. Additionally, it important to remember that you cannot measure another person’s grief or judge how they express their grief. Even with two people dealing with the same loss, you might find that one person is able to bounce back quickly, while the road to recovery might be longer and more challenging for the other person. Grief can be a singular and deeply personal matter. So, if anything, be patient and kind and do not judge.

Stages of the Grieving Process
Stages of the Grieving Process

Stages of the Grieving Process

As you can imagine, grieving a loss of any kind can be challenging in normal times and becomes even more so during the holiday season. For people grieving, holidays, anniversaries, and other key milestones can present painful reminders of loved ones lost or the drastic changes in life as they knew it. And this can make it even harder for people who are suffering to move through the different stages of the grieving process.

So, what does the grieving process involve?

According to WebMD, the grieving process includes five stages as follows:

  • Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to think, “This isn’t happening.” You may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It’s a defense mechanism.
  • Anger: As reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. To be angry with a loved one who died and left you alone is natural, too.
  • Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
  • DepressionSadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
  • Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. It can’t be changed. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life.

Having established the different stages of the grieving process, it is important to recognize that each individual moves through the different stages at their own pace and might go back and forth between the stages or skip a stage altogether. And when people who are grieving are triggered by events or something, they might experience feelings of loss all over again.

Tips for Coping with Grief and Loss

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an expert in dealing with grief. My most significant loss occurred when I lost my guardian around age 16. I can still remember feeling a loss of security and a sense of regret for words of love not spoken often enough. I also felt immense guilt for choosing to skip a hospital visit to finish a school assignment the night before she passed, because I had planned to go see her the next day. And I can still remember how drastically life changed after she passed as the family struggled to maintain order and stability. Christmases were never the same thereafter and for a long time I found it difficult to celebrate Christmas or even to be around friends who were celebrating with their own families. But overtime, I was able to make peace with my loss, move pass the regrets and start to find joy in celebrating Christmas again.

People who fail to process their loss and grieve sometimes disconnect and become numb to their pain. However, this approach to internalizing pain and walking around as if things are normal is unhealthy and can undermine one’s ability to live a positive and healthy life. So here are 5 tips from the experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center to remember about coping with grief:

1. It won’t feel like this forever: MSK bereavement counselor Kimarie Knowles likens grief to waves cresting and then crashing at the shore. “Part of what people find helpful is riding the wave,” she says. “Understand it’s coming up, try to find support, take care of yourself, and allow it to go.”

2. You can handle it, even when you feel like you can’t: It’s human nature to want to avoid painful experiences. When we lose someone important to us, we may feel like we won’t be able to cope with the pain of grief. But “we only learn about our capacity to handle things by moving through them,” says Wendy Lichtenthal, Director of MSK’s Bereavement Clinic. When we try to stifle or avoid our feelings, they can come on that much stronger when something triggers them, she says. Making space to experience painful emotions allows us to practice our resilience and grow our own internal resources.

3. Be gentle with yourself: “Grief is exhausting,” says Reverend Jill Bowden. She suggests caring for your body during periods of intensive stress. Carve out time for naps, eat nourishing foods, and drink plenty of water. Alcohol and sugar may seem like quick fixes, but they can actually have the opposite effect.

5. Your feelings are normal: “The pain of grief itself is hard enough to tolerate,” says Ms. Knowles. “What can make it more challenging is when you or other people around you tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.” Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel: anger, sadness, even relief. The emotions that accompany grief are all valid, adds Dr. Lichtenthal. “Everyone comes to their loss experience with their own story, their own unique context and meaning,” Dr. Lichtenthal says. “Whatever they are feeling at a given moment, it always makes sense.”

In closing, if you or someone you know is grieving a loss, just know that time heals. Be kind and patient with yourself and others. You don’t need to know the right words to say, being silent is okay. Just be present or what the person needs in that moment.

Until next time, Remember ItsALearningLife!

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