Category Archives: personal growth

Quit the Excuses!

What's- Your- Excuse -Image
What’s Your Excuse – Image

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”.

  1. 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.
  1. Uncertainty:  Robbins explains that “as human beings, we all have Six 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.
  1. 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 yet discovered 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:

  1. I don’t have enough time/money/ resources:
  2. I am afraid of failure
  3. I am not inspired/ I’m stuck
  4. This is not new/ it’s not original enough
  5. I am afraid of the competition
  6. This is not the right time to do it
  7. 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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Check- Your- Blindspots- Video

Time for Action: If Not Now- When?

Time to Act

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That:  Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left?

If your first answer to the question is one, you would be wrong. The correct answer is five. You and I know, there is a big difference between deciding to do something and acting on it. Day after day, many of us fail to follow through on crucial decisions and best laid plans and remain on various logs in our personal and professional lives. Deciding to something does not equate to taking the required action. And from time to time, our inability to act undermines our progress and success in important areas of our lives. So are you one of the five frogs sitting on the log?  

If you are struggling to act on your important decisions and plans, you’re not alone. Research suggests that every year, up to 70 percent of people who make new year resolutions in January, lose their resolve by March of that same year. And according to the statistics, “Of those that made a resolution in 2020, 35% kept all their resolutions, 49% kept some of their resolutions, and only 16% failed at keeping any of their resolutions.  So, what is standing in the way of you following through and actively pursuing your goals and dreams?

Common Reasons Why People Fail to Act?

There is no one reason to explain why people fail to act on their decisions. Like the frogs sitting on the log, the reasoning behind an individual’s failure to act, or follow through with their expressed intentions and plans, can be explained by any one or combination of the following factors.

The Law of Diminishing Intent

According to the Law of Diminishing Intent, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” For example, if you decided to take vacation and travel this year, but took no action to request the time off or buy your tickets by a certain time, that vacation is less likely to happen. Whether your decision or plan is to travel, go back to school, change careers, or make a big move, when you act is crucial. Nonetheless, many people use waiting for the “right timing” to justify not acting. And before you know it, days turns into a week, weeks into months, months into years and later regrets that they never did what they planned to.

So, is there ever a right time? That is, the perfect set of conditions for you to launch that new business, start that home project, expand the family, write that book, overhaul your finances, or make that lifestyle change to improve your health? Probably not. The last few years of the pandemic forced both individuals and organizations to pivot and adapt as the world as we knew changed. Whether we liked it or not, were ready or not, most of us were forced to learn new skills, adjust to new technologies, processes, and systems.

Many of us had to figure out how to work effectively and productively from home and to conduct business, serve customers, attend church, and school online. And we even had to get creative about keeping connected and celebrating holidays, milestones while socially distancing. If anything, we learned that “time waits for no man” and the true meaning of “carpe diem or “seize the day”.

Fear of Failure

Another reason why people fail to act in the direction of their dreams and goals is the “fear of failure”. At some point or another, we have all had to grapple with the fear of failure and to take big leaps of faith to overcome it. But for some people, the fear of failure is a bigger and potentially crippling emotion. According to the University of Kentucky,  the “ irrational and extreme fear of failing or facing uncertainty is a phobia known as atychiphobia.  And this “irrational fear of failure (caused by a traumatic event or experience)  can make a person doubt one’s abilities and believe that they are not good enough to try new things.

In extreme cases, atychiphobia keeps a person stuck within their comfort zone and prevents them from moving forward in life. Regardless of whether the fear of failure is mild or extreme (phobia), if not managed, it has the potential to prevent you from achieving your personal and professional goals or making progress towards having a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Analysis Paralysis

A third explanation for why people fail to act on the decisions they make is analysis paralysis. This is where you spend a great deal of time thinking about a decision to be made, researching to gather information on your options, weighing the benefits and risks, asking for additional advice to inform your decision and still fail to act. While analysis paralysis might be motivated by a strong desire to make the right choice, the decision making and planning process will yield nothing, if you do nothing. Overthinking a decision does nothing to move you forward. Instead, it can lead to further procrastination, self-doubt, and create the impression of acting but doing nothing at all. 

Perfectionism + Procrastination

Like paralysis analysis, the twin combo of perfectionism and procrastination also prevent people from acting on their goals. According to Healthline, “people with perfectionism hold themselves to impossibly high standards and think what they do is never good enough.” This causes them to procrastinate and delay acting while they try to make every perfect. In so doing, the small imperfect efforts to just get started and the gradual improvements that can be achieved overtime are dismissed or overlooked as not good enough. To avoid procrastination and perfectionism, acknowledge that you might not have all you think you need. Recognize that sometimes all you truly need to get started, is what you have.  Don’t allow doubt (your and others) about your abilities to keep from taking action.

Time for Action

In the final analysis, people make decisions on big and small issues and fail to act on them every day. Decisions mean nothing without action, and acting requires courage and conviction. Since history does not reveal its alternatives, you will never know what your failure to act might cost you in the long run, or what life changing opportunities you gave up as a result.  Sometimes the best opportunities, are hidden beneath the cloak of wrong timing, not being the most qualified and not having all the money or support you need. By taking a leap of faith, you might come to realize how talented, resilient, resourceful, strong and creative you are.

So, back to the frogs on the log in the riddle – what decision or plan have you been sitting on? When will you jump? And if not now, when will you take action to leap toward your goals?

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Who Are You? How to Understand Your Identity!

Question -asking- Who -Are -You? Image
Who Are You? Image

Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Alice in Wonderland-Lewis Carrol

Who Are You, is not the typical question many of us get asked daily, nor is Who Am I, a question many of us normally ask ourselves. Yet as simple and straight forward as these questions might seem, many people struggle to conceptualize and communicate a response that clearly expresses their self-concept/self-identity or how they see themselves. When asked the question-who are you, many of us go with the obvious responses that include sharing our name, job title, family relations, hobbies, religious beliefs, and cultural background. While these responses explain parts of our self -identity, they barely scratch the surface of who we are as individuals. The “who are you” question challenges us to, pause and think about our beliefs, perspectives, experiences, values and how we make sense of the world around us.

So, who are you and why should you care?

Understanding Self- Identity

How do you identify yourself?

  • Do you identify according to your job/skills?
  • Do you identify yourself according to your family relations?
  • Do you identify according to your feelings or your natural talents?  
  • Do you identify according to you race or socio-economic status?  

Encyclopedia.com defines “Self-identity refers to a person’s self-conception, or self-definition that people apply to themselves because of the structural role positions he or she occupies or a particular behavior he or she engages in regularly. Self-identities reflect the “labels people use to describe themselves” (Biddle, Bank, and Slavings 1987, p. 326).”  

Based on this, there are no straightforward answers to the question of who we are.  Since none of us are any one thing, our self-identity is just as complex as we are. Like onions, our self-identity has several different layers and can shift as we grow, mature, and evolve. Nonetheless, our self-identity affects how we show up and approach life, bounce back from hardships, work with others, develop and maintain relationships, make decisions, and navigate life challenges.  And, understanding who we are, can help us cope with stress, improve work performance, and increase our overall psychological well-being.

What is Social Identity?

The societies we live in and our cultural backgrounds play a huge role in defining our self-concept/identity. And the concept of social identity offers us one of the best ways of developing a better understanding of who we are and how others experience us. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), defines social identity as “the labels that people use to categorize or identify themselves and/or others as members of specific groups.” Afterall, how we see ourselves influences how we interact with and treat others. And as organizations and workplaces become more diverse, understanding our social identity will also determines how we lead, manage and work with others.

CCL- Social Identity Model
CCL- Social Identity Model

Based on  CCL research, our social identity is made up of three parts represented by concentric circles.

  1. Given Identity: This is the outer ring which presents information about our ascribed characteristics for which we had no choice about. They include traits we received at birth such as name, nationality, race, ethnicity, sex, and personality and other physical descriptors such as height and age.
  1. Chosen Identity: This second ring represents characteristics that you control, the choices you made and the skills you have. Examples of your given identity includes your career or occupational choices, religion, hobbies, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and relationship status etc.
  2. Core Identity: The innermost ring signifies the qualities that make you unique. While some of these may change over your life, areas such as behaviors, values, and deep-seated beliefs remain constant.

Social Identity Example

Based on this social identity model, my given identity, includes being a 42 years old, 5ft. 6in. black woman who was born in Kingston, Jamaica to a teenage mom. I have two sisters and one brother. I’m extroverted, outgoing, assertive and love people. For my chosen identity, I am educated to the graduate level and have spent the last 18 years working as a learning and organizational development professional. I reside in USA and have dual citizenship. I am also a single mom to one beautiful daughter, a Christian and friend. I enjoy reading, writing, dancing, swimming, watching movies, great conversations and hanging out with friends. At my core, I believe God, I love people and I am passionate about learning. I value friendships, responsibility, consistency, communication, and love. And I am deeply committed to becoming a better version of myself and helping others so the same. So how about you?

And just as our social identities can change, some aspects of identity can be less or more noticeable depending on where we live. For example, when I lived in Jamaica, I never paid much attention to what being Jamaican meant. But, when I moved to the Northern Virginia area with a more diverse population, my identity as a Jamaican became increasingly significant. As I interacted with my new environment, I experienced a need to maintain my self-identity, while I sought to reinvent myself and to establish who I am and where I come from. Suddenly, my car had Jamaican plate holders and little flag, my ID lanyard at work was in Jamaican colors and I made sure to speak Patois more often than I ever did while living in Jamaica.  

Challenges to Self Identity

So, what happens when who you are changes? That is, the way you see yourself and your identity is challenged.

Major life events such as migration, an accident, death, divorce, debilitating illness, and other hardships can fundamentally change aspects of our identities. These changes to identity may cause some people to question their WHY, lose their way, their sense of purpose and to struggle with how they see themselves as well with other people’s perceptions of them. In fact, studies by Harvard Business Review, reveal that transitional experiences, such as job changes or romantic breakups, typically decrease self-concept clarity.

The research also goes on to state that “when living abroad, people’s exposure to novel cultural values and norms prompts them to repeatedly engage with their own values and beliefs, which are then either discarded or strengthened.”  On the other hand, the studies also states that another common response some people have to moving abroad is culture shock. In that, the “anxiety that results from losing all of our familiar signs and symbols can produce a level of anxiety  that leaves them feeling alienated and isolated and unable to establish a clear sense of self”.

When all is said and done, understanding our self-identity may help us to find commonalities with others around us, bolster our self-confidence and improve our overall self-awareness. In turn, this can improve our abilty to develop and maintain positive relationships, reduce communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. And best of all, knowing who we are can also enhance our capacity to deal with stress, adapt to change, be resilient and navigate life’s challenges. So, know thyself.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearninglife!

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What’s- Your- Mindset?- Are -You- Fixed- or -Growing? YouTube Video

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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Habit Check : What Your Habits Say About You!

Habit Check
Change Habits

All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.”

Zig Ziglar

Have you ever driven home or to work with no memory of how you got there, or completed a chore or task without any recollection of what you did?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Much of what we do from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep is based on habits we perform on autopilot. In fact, research tell us that “approximately 43% of our daily behaviors are performed out of habit.” So, where you park your car, whether you park facing in or out, what you reach for first when you wake up and what you do next, your entire morning routine is made up of small or big habits.

How Habits Work?

A  habit  is defined as “A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Our habits usually emerge from decisions we made long ago, stopped thinking about but kept on doing thereafter. But when you think about it, it should be quite unsettling that we live so much of our lives largely unaware of our unconscious behaviors. Nevertheless, our habits become so much a part of us that people come to know us by them and form expectations of us from them as well. While some of our habits and routines are beneficial and help us to be more efficient and effective, not all of them are. Bad habits can undermine our overall personal effectiveness and negatively impact our relationships, finances, health, productivity as well as our physical and mental well-being.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle
Habit Formation Process-Image
The Habit Formation Process

The Habit Formation Process

Habits help us get through our daily lives by removing the need for us to make tiny little decisions on everything and free us up to focus on things that are new and different. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explained that once a behavior becomes a habit, the decision-making part of our brains go into a sleep mode of sorts and the brain starts working less and less and can almost completely shut down. The real advantage of this is that we can do complex activities such as parallel parking a car without having to think about it while devoting our mental activity to something else.”

So how do habits form? Duhigg explained that every habit functions the same way and has three parts: the cue, the routine, and the reward.  Together, these three parts create a habit loop which is innate in all of us and is like a tape that plays repeatedly.

  1. The Cue – This is the trigger that prompts our behavior and makes our brain go in autopilot mode. The cue can be an emotion, a time of day, something in the environment, other people or a pattern of behavior that consistently trigger a certain routine.
  2. The Routine – This is the behavior itself; the action you take in response to the cue.
  3. The Reward – This is the why you do it or the benefit you gain from doing the behavior. This is perhaps the most important part of the habit loop and is the reason the habits exist.

Every time we perform the behavior and experience the reward, our brain releases dopamine (feel good hormone) or a sense of relief that communicates to our brains that the activity is meaningful and whether to remember it or not. And so, a habit is formed. Some habits have immediate rewards, while others have hidden rewards. As you might appreciate, habits with immediate rewards are easier to pick up, whereas those with delayed rewards are more difficult to commit to and maintain. This explains why people find it easier to pick up their phone and scroll through Facebook and Instagram or, sit on the couch and watch TV rather than exercising or going to the gym.

Habit Word cloud-Image
Habit Word Cloud

Your Habits and You

One example of how the habit loop works for me is with my nightly routine of cleaning the kitchen before I go upstairs to prepare for bed. My cue for cleaning the kitchen comes around 10:00 p.m. when I started feeling tired am prompted to go upstairs for bed. My routine is to wash the dishes, wipe the stove, clean the counter, and ensure that there is nothing left in the sink. The reward I get is the pleasure of seeing a clean and clear kitchen because I really dislike going to bed with a dirty kitchen. So, every night when I turn the lights out and head upstairs to prepare for bed, I feel satisfied knowing that when I go downstairs in the morning, a clean kitchen will greet me as I start my day.

Some of my other habits include saying grace before meals, craving a cup of warm team with cinnamon and vanilla every night as I relax, to even checking the doors before I go to sleep. I perform these tasks automatically without making any decision to. So, what are the cues, routines, and rewards in your life? What is your cue for exercising, picking up your cellphone several times a day to check for messages or notifications or scroll mindlessly? Is it an emotion? For those of you who enjoy a drink after work or at the end of the day- what is your prompt? And for the bingers who enjoy watching movies– is it moving to the couch, picking up the remote that leads to a 3–6-hours binge of Netflix series or movies?

It is also important to note that our habits can be dangerous. For some people, poor habits can show up as addiction to smoking, alcohol, junk or comfort foods, social media or as procrastination, poor relationship decisions, lifestyle diseases and huge amounts of credit card debt due to online shopping. When we stop thinking about our decisions and take all of actions based on habit, we run the risk of operating on fixed mindsets (see last post), bias and stereotypes. When and where we do so, our decisions can impact other people negatively and sabotage the best outcomes for ourselves. Additionally, our habits can cause us to be absent-minded in our interactions with others and not be present in the moment, thereby preventing us from engaging with our loved ones in meaningful ways. 

Final Thoughts on Habits

So, are we stuck with our habits?  No, not all. Habits can be hard to change but not impossible. The first and most crucial step in fixing or changing our habits is to become aware of them.  So, what is one habit that you really want to change? How does that habit serve you or not serve you? What new habit do you want to build? Stay tuned for next week post ‘Building Better Habits – The Fours Laws of Behavior (Part 2.) Until next time, Remember It’s A Learning Life!

If you want to change your life, change your habits.

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Level UP!!

Balloons Up In the Sky-Photo
Balloons up in the Sky-Photo by Padli Pradana on Pexels.com

Catchy phrases and  cool slangs have always been attractive to people trying to ensure that they are “in the know” and/or keeping up the times. And so, in professional circles you might have heard your colleagues drop phrases such as “Lean In” (made popular by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook titled book), “circle back”, “weigh in” and/or refer to “serial tasking” (Instead of multitasking) and so on and so forth.

“Level Up” or “levelling up” is the one of the newest and trendy phrases now being used in various circles across the globe to describe an attitude or mindset towards upgrading oneself or performance and/or the desire to go to another level in one’s personal or professional development or career journey. The Urban Dictionary describes level up as “To make a move in your life or career for the better”. Based on that definition,  who among us could not think of an area(s) in our lives that we want or need to level up or improve ?

Why Level Up?

According to Business Wire, there is a  $9.9 billion market for motivational self-improvement programs and products that seek to improve us physically, mentally, financially or spiritually. A quick at YouTube quick look at Amazon’s platform or YouTube respectively,  will reveal a  plethora of self-improvement books, podcasts on everything from how to improve finances, learn a new skill, motivational content on personal development and how to videos geared at people who want to try something new. So, regardless  of where you fall on Maslow’s  Hierachy of Needs , the concept of “levelling up” appeals to individuals who are  looking to  their improve skills or performance, advance in their career  or  wanting to step outside of  their comfort zone. It also provides motivation for those of us seeking to pursue bold new goals whether its buying a new home, starting that degree, taking a relationship to the next level or taking steps to improve nutrition and fitness for improved health and well-being. Additionally, the organizational environments in which we operate and the tools and technologies we use are always changing. Failure to adapt and our agility in responding to such change can affect our success and progress in the varied roles we perform.

What Does Levelling Up Look Like?

This truly will depend on your end game and what you are trying to achieve at this stage of your personal life or career. One of the things  that I learned very early in my leader development is that, development is dynamic. Our strengths can become weaknesses and gaps in skills that we have (that were not critical at one time) can suddenly become urgent. Simply put, the skills and talents that got us to one level, may not take you to your next or ‘What Got You Here Won’t Take You There’ . Plus, we all have blind spots, those things that people know about us that we don’t know about ourselves.  For example, the way we  make decisions, how we ‘show up” when working with others or perform everyday tasks,  that can potentially undermine or derail our very best efforts.

For me, I have identified a couple areas in my interpersonal and technical skills where I am seeking to grow and level up. For you, the area(s) for improvement will be different. What matters most is that you take the time to process feedback you might have received, and or spend some time reflecting on where you are vs. what you want to achieve. Once you’ve  identified  your  opportunities to growth, challenge yourself not to focus  on the barriers but instead, commit to  taking little steps as you work towards change.

So, ask yourself- what is one area (s) in my personal /professional life that I would like to or need to grow/improve? Whatever you answer might be- that is the place to start becoming the person you truly want to be.

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!  

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Coming to America..4 Years Later

animal-1524168_1920 Four years ago (Today), I migrated to the USA to embark on a brand new chapter of my life. Excited about my visions of success, the lure of new opportunities and the well wishes of friends and family, I flew out bravely. But, like any big life event or major change, the journey has been filled with challenges and opportunities that I had to navigate to transition successfully. I quickly learnt that, even the best laid plans go awry and that research never fully prepares you for what is to come. Now, three jobs later, after many second interviews, even more informational interviews, some serious networking efforts, CPLP certification, volunteering, starting a Blog, the ground has finally settled under me and I am moving forward steadily. So, as I reflect on my own experience and progress to date, here a few insights that might help you.

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan:  If you fail to plan, prepare to fail.  Having a clear vision or set goals about what you want to and achieve will help to you stay focused regardless of what is happening around you. Share your goals often and openly, as this will help the people you meet figure out how they might best help you.
  2. Accept that setbacks and detours are normal: If you are super lucky, you might land a job in your field of choice before you even make the move.  If you didn’t, your job hunt will likely start shortly thereafter and your first job might not be what you envisioned. It might be a job that gets you employed and earning, but, it may not be a good fit for your skills and background. That just means you have to keep looking
  3. Be positive and persistent: Chances are, you are going to have some disappointments particularly with the job search process. Acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them. Your failure to get that job you wanted is not necessarily an indictment on your own value, skills and experiences. Instead, treat every interview as a learning experience, assess your performance after and use it to prepare for your next opportunity.
  4. Ask for and find help: Your success is really up to you. Start by identifying the organizations you would like to work with and try to make connections with people who are doing the kinds of work that you would like to do. Professional networks such as Linked In and/or your local professional organizations are great for establishing new relationships.
  5.  Practice a growth mindset:  Your ability and willingness to quickly learn, unlearn and relearn and will be important as you acquire the new skills required to be successful and adapt to the new culture or your environment. Be open to feedback and trying new ways of doing things.
  6. Believe in yourself and value your experiences: Though you might be in a new setting, all your experiences are valid. Your challenge is to find new ways of thinking about your skills and prior experiences and how to leverage them. Being able to determine your transferable skills, articulate and demonstrate them, will help you to reinvent yourself and position you for success.
  7. Surround yourself with good people: Like any good fighter knows, the roar of the crowd might be nice to hear but it doesn’t win the fight. When life knocks you down, all you really need are a few good supporters in your corner helping you get up to resume the fight and cheering you on.

Until next time, Remember, It’s a Learning Life!

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Rated R: That Resillence Factor

If you’re going through hell, keep going!” Winston Churchill

I’ve often heard that quote and found some humor in it (As you might as well). As I wrote this post, I couldn’t think of a better reference for framing what resilience truly means. This quote from Winston Churchill, named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, and widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, provides timeless wisdom that help us understand the concept of resilience. Simply put, resilience (resiliency) refers to one’s ability to bounce back from the adversities (Illness, failures, trauma, disasters, tragedy or loss) experienced in either or personal, or professional lives. Resilience speaks to courage, determination, hope, that will to win or succeed, no matter how tough the race gets, how great the obstacles are, or how difficult the fight.  That resilience factor,  determines not only  how well we adapt and  cope with change, and the challenges life throws at us, but also whether we merely survive or thrive, and even influences how we see ourselves as victors or victims.

“Whether you think you can, or  you think cant- you’re  right.” Henry Ford

Is resiliency a skill, a trait, a talent that comes more naturally to some than other? Probably, but this might not matter in the long run. For me, resiliency is more of a personal quality, a mindset that influences the behaviors some people show in times of great difficulty. And while it may seem that, some people are more disposed or more proficient at it, this might be a result of their different life chances and experiences. We all know someone in our circle(s) of influence (client, friend, family member, and coworker) who has faced adversity. And at one extreme, there are those who seem unable to recover from the situation or event, or move forward. Their stories are filled with despair and hopelessness. On the other end of the spectrum, there are others, who despite the pain, hardships and  setbacks, push pass their circumstances and display that inner courage, determination and a will to succeed despite the odds. How then do we account for these different responses in people? Truth is, we are all wired differently, but that resilience factor can certainly determine an individual chances for success or failure and even their  performance on the job.

“Almost Every Successful Person Begins With Two Beliefs, The Future Can Be Better Than The Present And I Have The Power To Make It So.” Author Unknown

 In today’s unpredictable and rapidly changing environment where organizations exist, resilience has become a highly desired trait for both leaders and employees alike. Organizations are investing significant research, time and money into talent management and leadership development programs to build resilience in their teams and to help employees understand the importance of resiliency. In so doing, resilience is being touted as a “new skill” valued in employees, much like customer service in its heyday. After all, resilient employees make resilient companies.

7 Tips to Become More Resilient

So whether you were born or not born with resiliency as a special skill or trait, you can certainly, develop or hone it. You can deliberately choose to demonstrate resiliency in our responses to setbacks, change and adversity at work or in our personal lives. As you choose, here are a few tips that might help you develop your resiliency:

  • Practice self-awareness by understanding who you are (Strengths, gaps, and talents), and by defining what is important to you (Values).
  • Establish a vision for yourself by determining what your goals are and how you would like your life to be. Once you’ve done this, be resourceful by finding ways and opportunities (Using long and short terms plans) to leverage your skills and talents to achieve your goals.
  • Learn from your failures and mistakes and don’t get derailed by focusing on them. Truth is, you will not be the first or last to suffer setbacks and detours. Acknowledge your current situation and your role in it, and then move forward.
  • Embrace a positive mindset and perspective that will help you make sense of all your experiences and help you overcome your challenges. There is a lesson in every experience and these provide great opportunities for learning.
  • Believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities (even when no one else does) and keep striving towards your goals even when things do not work out as you planned. There will always be people who do not support your goals, surround yourself with the ones who do.
  • Develop positive relationships at work and healthy friendships. Not only will these relationships help you to cope with stress, they will give you key support when times are difficult and also people to share and celebrate your successes.
  • Practice a balanced lifestyle that embraces your spiritual, physical, and emotional self. Remember to pray, rest when you need to and have fun on your journey.

Therefore,  the next time  you find yourself in a difficult situation– Choose to Be Resilient! For as the  great  Jamaican reggae singer and legend  Bob Marley once said, “You Never Know How Strong You Are, Until Being Strong Is The Only Choice You Have.”

Until next time-  Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Perspective is a Helluva Thing!!

elephant

Much of what we think, how we think, what we see, how we feel, and how we act is determined by our personal biases, and limited experiences. However “valid” or “right, “we believe these perspectives to be – they might not always be so. By failing to consider this, we often miss opportunities for meaningful learning , or risk missing the bigger picture. The Blind Men and The Elephant  poem below, reminds us that, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. For though our individual  perspectives might  differ, what matters more is, how we engage to collectively share our opinions, and respectfully consider the viewpoints of others through dialogue and teamwork. So, let’s challenge ourselves to not be blinded by our particular experiences, or mindsets of what we know to be “true” or “right”. Instead, let us continually look beyond the part(s) in front of us, and seek to discover the whole picture, and everything that is involved.

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The journey continues…

Tameca N. Brown

Copyright ©2015 http://www.itsalearninglife.com

Image Source : The blind men and the elephant. Poem by John Godfrey Saxe (Cartoon originally copyrighted by the authors; G. Renee Guzlas, artist).