Category Archives: Personal & Professional Development

7 Mistakes to Avoid in Giving Feedback!

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve

Bill Gates

The say that feedback is a gift. But do you struggle with giving this gift? Which mistakes do you often make? Which mistake have you suffered from?

Believe or not, many people struggle with fear or discomfort in giving feedback in both their personal and professional life. Regardless of how you feel about giving feedback, this is a skill we all need to build and maintain positive and healthy relationships and promote effective communication. And when we give feedback to our friends, families and coworkers, we help them to develop greater self-awareness and understand the behaviors they might need to stop, change or continue.

So how do you avoid the 7 top mistakes in giving feedback?

Watch this Video for 7 Top Mistakes to Avoid in Giving Feedback!

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How to Deal with the Problem with Love Languages!

Do you know your love languages?

Do your loved ones speak it?

How do you deal with the problems and complexities of love languages when you and your loved ones don’t express or receive love the same way?

According to Gary Chapman, “the 5 Love Languages are a simple and effective way to strengthen your connections, so you can experience greater joy and harmony in all of your relationships.” According to 5LoveLanguages.com, ” the premise of The 5 Love Languages™ book is quite simple: different people with different personalities give and receive love in different ways. By learning to recognize these preferences in yourself and in your loved ones, you can learn to identify the root of your conflicts, connect more profoundly, and truly begin to grow closer.”

This video is a conversation with my 11-year-old daughter where we discuss the five love languages and some of the problems, we experience in trying to express love and build and maintain positive, healthy and happy relationships.

Watch this video to learn about the 5 love languages, and some of the issues and problems that might arise when children and parents don’t speak the same love language and how we can deal with those problems and overcome them.

the-problem-with-love-languages-video

Until next time, Remember, It’sALearningLife4Real!

How to Help Children Cope with Trauma: Uvalde School Shooting

Another senseless school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, claimed the lives of 19 elementary students and 2 teachers. New of this latest mass shooting sent shockwaves across the United States and the world. But how do you help children who are impacted (directly and indirectly) cope with this kind of adverse childhood experience or trauma?

How do you support them when they feel physically and psychologically unsafe? How do you support children who have experienced any form childhood trauma to avoid threats to their mental health?

Watch this video to hear more about my recent experience supporting my 11-year-old daughter who was deeply affected by this traumatic event and awful tragedy.

How-to-help-children-cope-with trauma

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The Hidden Costs of Saying Yes!

Quotes About Saying Yes
Quote About Saying Yes

Why Do People Say Yes?

Many of us go through our daily lives, continually saying yes to a range of requests and demands from others around us. With each interaction, we say yes to new tasks, responsibilities, opportunities and relationships. And every time you and I say yes, we expand our varied roles, add to our existing workload, schedules and obligations. And before you know it, you find that your bandwidth has shrunken, and you feel overextended from having stretched yourself too thin. With so many people struggling with fatigue, burnout and stress, why do you continue to say yes?

There are many reasons people say yes to the seemingly never-ending demands on their time, resources and talents. Some of the main reasons they say yes include, but are not limited to their need to:

  • Respond to challenges and seize new opportunities
  • Build and preserve relationships personally and professionally.
  • Meet the expectations and needs of friends and loved ones.
  • Fulfill varied roles and responsibilities related to work.
  • Learn new skills to enhance their growth and development
  • Expand their influence and impact on the world around them.
  • Be recognized, valued or affirmed.
  • Respect the power dynamic in relationships and organizations (Playing politics).
  • Avoid the consequences of saying no, or the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Regardless of your reason for saying yes, have you ever paused to consider the hidden costs of doing so?

The Power of Saying Yes

In her TED Talk- My Year of Saying Yes, Shonda Rhimes talked about her experiment where for one year, she said yes to everything that scared her, made her nervous and pushed her out of her comfort zone. Rhimes shared how the act of saying yes and doing the things that scared her, made them less scary. And she further explained how saying yes to everything, changed her, her life, helped her rediscover her creativity and ultimately saved her career. She is not alone. Founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson is also a big champion of saying yes.  According to Forbes, he earned the nickname Dr. Yes, because he prefers to say yes instead of no. And his belief in saying yes and “fortune favors the bold” were instrumental in shaping the Virgin Story.

Therefore, there is no denying that saying yes can be life changing. Whether it is to a marriage or business proposal, this three-letter word has the potential to open doors to great possibilities and to unleash power to those who say it. Afterall, saying yes to a call for volunteers can expand your personal and professional network and give a new sense of meaning to your life. Saying yes to a work assignment, can equip you with new skills or shift you towards a new and exciting career path. Saying yes, can provide you with limitless experiences and exposures that could expand your horizons.

The Hidden Costs of Saying Yes

Every yes you give, has an opportunity cost. With only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year, time is a precious and scare commodity. Each time you say yes, you are saying no to something and someone else. And before you know it, your yeses can add up, and become very expensive to your well-being and overall personal effectiveness. For example, saying yes to a project team at work, might mean less time during the workday to complete your primary duties and potentially longer hours in the office. And saying yes to a new opportunity, could result in less time for leisure activities and downtime on the weekend with loved ones. So, with each yes you give, you risk taking on increasing responsibilities, which left unchecked can lead to you becoming overworked, overused and burnout.

And if your word is your bond, or you do as you say you will do, saying yes also obligates you to show up for others. A yes to a simple, small or random request from a co-worker, stranger or loved one, will require you to organize yourself and your resources to respond. This can become especially problematic for people who hold themselves to high standards. In that, the need to perform, meet expectations and fulfill promises, can create additional stress and pressure which can become burdensome fast. Ultimately, saying yes will require you to practice greater levels of prioritization and to make deliberate efforts to maintain work -life harmony.  So, each time you say yes, you put your reputation, resources and relationships on the line.

Additionally, being labelled a “yes- person” isn’t exactly flattering.  Saying yes to everything and everyone could create the impression that you’re a people pleaser. And that you lack the ability to communicate assertively what your needs, goals and priorities are. It might even suggest that you lack the ability to manage your time and set appropriate boundaries. So how do you decide when to say yes?

When to Say Yes?

I recently came across a quote that says, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” This means that in saying yes, you should consider how your yes aligns to your priorities, broader objectives for your life and how you want to impact your world. But as you do that, you will still need to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.

So, here are two tips from A.T. Gimbel that you can use to evaluate your yes /no and still maximize opportunities to achieve your goals and live a successful and fulfilling life:

  1. Evaluate your gum balls vs your glass balls:  According to this analogy, “Glass balls break when dropped and need to be handled immediately or the mess from it breaking is even worse to clean up. Rubber balls will keep bouncing over and over again and do not need to be immediately picked up. Eventually they stop bouncing and often roll away; worst case you have to stop and pick it back up. Say yes to the glass balls over rubber balls.”
  2. Be explicit about tradeoffs:  Ask yourself, “What am I saying no to if I say yes to this? If I am choosing between A or B, how do I make it clear to my customer/team/partner that I am making this prioritization?” Doing this will make it easier for you to explain and get support for the tradeoff you are making and why.

In the final analysis, you cannot and shouldn’t say yes to everything and everyone. Your yes should mean something and be given after you have considered your existing roles (at work and at home), the potential costs and benefits to you and your loved ones, and the impact you wish you have on the world around you.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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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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Birthday Edition: It’s All About Celebrating Life!

Celebrating Happy Birthday-Image
Celebrating Happy Birthday-Image

Life should not only be lived; it should be celebrated.”

Osho

Have you ever wondered how the tradition of celebrating birthdays came about? I have. So, I did a little digging and found some fascinating fun facts about the history of celebrating birthdays. And since my birthday is just a few days away, I am dedicating this article to all thing’s birthdays- the history of celebrating birthdays, how that tradition has evolved and the importance of celebrating these anniversaries and other important milestones.  

From my research I learned that:

  • Birthdays didn’t begin until calendars were created.
  • Birthdays started with the Egyptians.
  • The Greeks came up with the birthday candles.
  • Birthdays first started as a form of protection.
  • The ancient Romans were the first to celebrate the birth of the common “man.”
  • Birthdays were first considered to be a pagan ritual in Christian culture.
  • German bakers invented the birthday cake as we know it today.
  • The Industrial Revolution made a way for everyone to enjoy sugary cakes.
  • The tune of “Happy Birthday” was a remix of sorts.
  •  October 5 is the most common birth date in the U.S. (Nine months before October 5 is New Year’s Eve, a common conception date.)

To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate?

Regardless of the history, today, birthdays are a time of year when friends and families come together to celebrate the anniversary of a loved one’s birth and/or when an individual celebrates life and it’s many blessings. Birthdays also provide an opportunity for people to pause and reflect on their progress and growth and intentionally think about how they want to improve and what they want their future to look like. For some people, birthday are auspicious occasions filled with family and friends, gifts and treats, the best of music, food, fashion and all the best that life has to offer. While for others, birthdays go unacknowledged, without any distinction from any other day of the year.  

But whether you choose to celebrate birthdays or not, there is no disputing that, birthdays mark significant life events and serve as important markers of life’s stages, changes and progression. According to Wikipedia, “In most legal systems, one becomes designated as an adult on a particular birthday (usually between 12 and 21) and reaching age-specific milestones confers particular rights and responsibilities.” While birthdays represent a coming of age, they also usher in fundamental rites of passage, new responsibilities and give access to certain activities such as the ability to get married, vote, consent to sex, purchase lottery tickets, drink legally and consume other controlled substances. And while this age can vary from country to country, the typical age is usually 18.

In addition to these obvious benefits, celebrating birthdays also provide some additional opportunities for you to:

  1. Express gratitude by being present and appreciating where you are in your journeys, all you have and all that you have accomplished.
  2. Celebrate you, the person you are and are becoming by practicing self-acceptance, self-respect, and self-regard.
  3. Focus on feel good and positive emotions which reduces stress, promotes happiness, and contributes to overall well-being.
  4. Practice self-love and self-care which honors your basic need to feel loved, affirmed and valued.
  5.  Take stock of the ways you can continue to grow, the things you might need to change and how to move closer towards your goals and dreams.
Tameca in Paris-Happy Birthday Me-Image
Tameca in Paris-Happy Birthday Me-Image

How I Celebrate My Birthday

For me, birthdays are super special. And as I mentioned in a previous post, November is my favorite month of all. It is the month I celebrate my birthday, the month I relocated to the US, and come to think of it, it is the month I conceived my one and only child. That said, I take birthdays seriously, and really try to celebrate myself on my birthday and honor my friends and loved one on theirs. My intentionality around celebrating birthdays, probably stems from the fact that I never had birthday celebrations while growing up. So, I promised myself that I would always celebrate me, once I got to the age and stage where I could do something about it.

In fact, I remember that, during my college years, every birthday I would get dressed in my nicest outfit and go to the mall where I would treat myself to a movie and my dessert of choice (cheesecake back then). And once I started working, I also promised myself that I would never work on a birthday. The way I see it is, if you have paid leave, your birthday should be included in one of those days. Plus, I also plan all my summer vacations around my daughter’s birthday, so I never work on her birthday either. Another thing I decided a long time ago is that, I would not allow myself to get upset on my birthday and would only entertain positive people, vibes and feel-good emotions on my special day. Anything else will be handled the following day.

That said, ever since I moved to the U.S., one of my biggest pet peeves is that, my birthday frequently falls on the Thanksgiving Holiday. And because this is such a prominent holiday, my birthday tends to get overshadowed by people who wish me Happy Thanksgiving first, instead of Happy Birthday. I am so annoyed by this practice that, when I realized my 40th birthday would fall on Thanksgiving Day, I decided to leave the country, and go on a solo trip to Europe. And there I experienced one of my best birthdays, and spent 12 memorable days exploring London and Paris.  

Although some people prefer big birthday parties and grand celebrations to mark the occasion and nice gifts (Nothing wrong with that), I prefer having an opportunity to experience something new, travel to a new country or destination, eat at an expensive restaurant or try something I’ve never done before. And I also use my birthday to reflect on the past year and assess how I am progressing physically, emotionally, financially, professionally, and spiritually and set new goals and intentions for my next 365 days around the sun.

So, what about you- what do birthdays mean to you? And how do you celebrate your birthdays? Share and let me know.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife

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How to Set SMART Goals & Make Dreams Happen!

SMART  Acronym-Image
SMART Acronym

A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

Unknown

Did you know that 1/3 of new year resolutions do not make it beyond January, let alone the middle of year? Even with the best of intentions to improve health, finances, make career moves, year after year, many people abandon their goals and plans by the end of February. There are many reasons to explain why some people fail to stick with their goals and execute their plans for personal and professional success. But perhaps the first and most important reason is that, they were not clear about their goals, the why behind them, what would be involved and the difference it would make if they achieved them. So, they put off their goals for another year or time and sometimes never get back to them.  Another reason for abandoned goals and plans is that some people get overwhelmed by the challenges of juggling competing priorities, managing their resources, or struggling to distinguish between the urgent and important. And others simply find it difficult to think long term and plan for their future.

So why is this problematic?

In my last post, I talked about the importance of effective time management and life management as keys to help us live meaningful and successful lives. And I know that some people see setting goals as a waste of time since we cannot control every aspect of our lives. But even though it is possible to achieve some of our objectives without setting SMART goals, the process will be a lot harder and longer than it needs to be. People who fail to set clear goals and plans are more likely to miss out on life changing opportunities, be disorganized, stressed, frustrated, and experience a lack of progress in both their personal and professional lives. If you are feeling stuck with where you are compared to where you hoped to be or find yourself wondering why others are crushing their goals while yours are crushing you, setting smarter goals might help you move forward.

How to Set SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym used to explain a simple and effective approach to goal setting for your personal life and professional career. For me, setting SMART goals has been the game changer that has helped me navigate life ups and downs and stay focused on achieving my long- and short-term objectives. Whether it was the dream of travelling and seeing the world, migrating to the USA, homeownership, finances, education, professional growth, overall well-being, to all the things that fit into my “big picture” for my life, setting SMART goals have been crucial.

The setting SMART goals approach advocates that you make every goal you set for yourself –specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound as described below:

  • Specific: Here the focus is to ensure that your goal is clear and practical and answers questions such as what, why, who and where. For example, saying you want to visit Europe would be a vague goal since it fails to provide clarity to those key questions. To make your travel goal to Europe more concrete, you would need to need to pinpoint the exact city or cities in Europe that you plan to visit. In my case, I planned and executed a wonderful trip to London and Paris for my 40th birthday celebrations in 2019. While I have always loved travelling and have been fascinated with travelling to Europe since my early teenager years (when I spent too much time reading romance novels), I could not visit all the places I wanted to on that trip. So, I did my research and narrowed my birthday trip to two cities (London and Paris) for 12 days.
  • Measurable: This is where you have to give careful thought and attention to assessing your progress in meeting that meaningful goal. After I decided on London and Paris, I then had to set clear deadlines for when I would book my flight, plan my accommodations and transportation for moving between the two countries (and getting around each city), develop an itinerary for activities since I was travelling by myself and set a budget for how much money I would need for the trip. As a single mom, I also had to think about childcare arrangements for my daughter during my absence as well as appropriate coverage for my work team while I was away on leave. To keep focused and track the progress I was making, I also had to pay attention to documents I needed to have when the important  activities were finalized (confirmed reservations and tickets etc.)
  • Achievable: Biting off more than you can chew is the easiest and surest way to sabotage a goal. Always be careful to consider whether your goal is realistic and achievable or if the time is right. While I wanted to see more the two cities, time and money were huge determinants of where I went and the duration of the trip. Planning to do more than those two cities could have become burdensome and easily sabotaged my ability to achieve my goal. So I planned that next time around, my goal is to take my daughter along with me and spend up to three weeks touring Italy and Spain. And again, that trip will also require SMART goal planning.
  •  Relevant: Does the goal really matter? Is your goal aligned to your plan for your life? These are questions you will need to ask yourself when setting SMART goals. If the goal is important to you, you are more likely to stick with it. I decided to go to Europe for my 40th birthday one year before the actual trip. I shared the idea with a few friends and family members and invited them to join me. As the deadline for booking flights came, the two persons who had said they would join me declined because the timing no longer worked for them. I was forced to consider if I would postpone the trip or go alone. I decided to go alone as my milestone birthday was too important to me and for me to not do it.
  • Timebound: As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Your SMART goal needs a target date. Give your goals a better chance for success by coming up with realistic timelines. I came up with the 12-day visit by looking at the places I wanted to visit in London, and the sights I wanted to see in Paris. I also had to build in travel time between the two countries and down time so that I would not feel stressed on the trip. Planning a clear itinerary helped me to relax and put things in place to make my trip enjoyable.

By using the SMART approach to setting this goal, my birthday found me waking up in Paris, spending the morning taking selfies with Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum, touring The Eiffel Tower just before lunch and dining on the Seine River with a four-course meal while being serenaded by my French waiter and other passengers on the cruise. My trip was all I hoped it would be and more and I returned home safely.

Over to you, what is one goal that you have been stalling on or have abandoned? Now is the time for you to revisit that goal or think of a new one and seize the day to action it. If you can see it, you can achieve. Give the SMART goal setting approach a try and get ready to celebrate your next achievement.

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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That Commitment Thing….

comit 2Making a commitment is sometimes easy, but staying committed is most times hard. This is true of most commitments, whatever their shape or form. Nonetheless, at the start of a New Year, many people declare themes, set goals and share resolutions about what they hope to achieve in the long and short-term. Unfortunately though, some people are permanent non-starters, and their plans stay in their heads, on the papers they were written on, and/or are soon forgotten. Others might actually launch their plans with much enthusiasm, but fizzle out by the end the first month. For the remaining few, it is often a struggle to stay the course, juggle competing priorities and honor their commitments.

I am no different from those persons who struggle to stay committed to my goals. I started 2014 declaring ‘Increase’, as the theme that would guide my personal and professional goals for the year. I set lofty goals and plans to publish my Blog and post weekly, gain professional certification, pursue career advancement, lose weight, and the list goes on. For a while, I made steady progress with my goals and was feeling quite accomplished, as I successfully managed to balance everything. Suddenly, distractions and curve balls popped up everywhere. My rhythm was disrupted, and I began struggling to cope with all the changes, and challenges coming my way. Inevitably, I was unable to keep up with all the things I needed to do, planned to do, wanted to do, and some things started to slide. Blogging and exercising were the first activities to go, as did my little social life, while work, interviewing and studying competed aggressively for time. Fortunately though, I weathered this rough and difficult period, achieved some important goals (professional certification, career advancement) and things have begun to settle quite nicely.

Despite  my recent successes, I’m still struggling to stay committed to  my other goals. You would probably think that, success in one area of your life would automatically motivate you to push forward with your other goals. However, this is not always the case. The truth is, the road to success can be so tiring, time-consuming, energy sapping that, after you’ve succeeded in meeting a goal all you feel is relief. Relief and a strong desire to do nothing … nothing but pause, watch mindless TV, read books with titles you can’t remember, sleep, or just lie in the dark for hours of a time as you ponder what to do next.

comitThis recent experience made me think of  other people who are struggling to stay committed to the goals they’ve set. Year after year, many people struggle in their efforts to find that new job, buy that house, save to take that vacation, start or finish that degree, lose the weight and/or overcome a physical or health challenge. To the onlooker, they might seem to be failing in their efforts, but that picture of slow/no progress does not tell the full  story. At times, these people grapple with matters of survival, risk becoming  “burnt out”, and find it difficult to stay focused. Overtime, the lack of progress in meeting their goals can result in feelings of frustration, weaken their  resolve, and ultimately lead to disinterest in continuing to pursue said goals. In turn, this can fuel feelings such as inadequacy, which  further prevent them from moving forward, or even picking up where they might have dropped off.

So from one ‘struggler’ to the next, I urge you to not give up. Keep pursuing your goals. It doesn’t matter how far behind you are, or how late in the year it is, your goals are still important. Therefore, as you tackle your own life situations, here are some helpful reminders for you:

  1. Establish your priorities: Avoid being/becoming a slave to self-ambition,and spreading yourself too thinly. When you begin to feel  overly stretched and stressed, focus on the one or two activities that are likely to produce the most meaningful impact in terms or that important goal. Anything else is untenable.
  2. Put a plan in place: While it good to dream, our plans should be realistic and practical. Do not set yourself up to fail by setting goals that aren’t S.M.A.R.T.
  3. Pause and pace yourself: Give yourself some downtime. Watch a movie, read a book, or simply  do something that relaxes you. This will help you to either keep the balance in your life, or find it.
  4. Finish at least one thing and cut yourself some slack: You should always strive to put your best foot forward in whatever you do. But, bear in mind that your best effort at a particular point might be far from perfect. In these instances, do your best, learn the lesson(s), and accept the result(s).
  5. Assess yourself and your motives: Often times, the pursuit of a goal or plan can become so intense that you begin to feel burdened  by the fear of failing, or what people might say or think. If and when this happens, pause and ask yourself Why am I doing this? Does the goal still serve me or am I serving the goal? The goal should always serve you and reflect your best interest –not anyone else’s. If it doesn’t, forget it.
  6. Have a good support system: There are times when you will need to vent your frustrations and fears as you encounter difficulties. Lean on your friends and family. They will give you the much-needed encouragement you need to keep going even when you feel you can’t.
  7. Practice some self-discipline: Nothing worth having comes easy. Just ask the successful people you know. You will have to work tirelessly to meet your goals, and  honour your commitments whatever they are.

As the wise Jamaican Proverb says, “If yuh waan good yuh nose haffi run”.

Translation:  If you want good your nose has to run.

Meaning:  In order to achieve success you  will have to make sacrifices and/or work hard.

Images Courtesy of Google.

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