Category Archives: Professional Development

It’s Not Your IQ, It’s Your EQ?

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

EQ or IQ- Which One Matters More?

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

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

What is Emotional Intelligence?

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

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

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important at Work?

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

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

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

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Skills?

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

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

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

So, how do you rate your emotional intelligence skills?

Which area (s) might you need to improve?

Where do you intend to start?

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

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

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

How to Get Your Personal Board of Directors!

Chess Pieces- Image
Chess Pieces- Image

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Every successful company has a board of directors or governance structure that is responsible for providing the necessary oversight and direction for it to grow, perform and succeed. So, if you are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company called you, shouldn’t you also have a personal board of directors? I first came across the concept of a personal board of directors (PBOD), while participating in a leadership development program. The concept was introduced as a key tool or strategy for professionals to use to manage their professional development and career success. Not unlike a company’s board of directors, Forbes explain that “Your personal board of directors “exists to act as a sounding board, to advise you and to provide you with feedback on your life decisions, opportunities and challenges”. This article will explain why you need a personal board of directors and offer guidelines on how you can use this tool to advance your career goals.

Why a Personal Board of Directors?

Are you feeling stuck or wondering about your next career move? Do you need advice to deal with a difficult situation at work?  A personal board of directors can help you. Throughout my career, I have benefited from having trusted advisers who have provided input, guidance, and encouragement to help me navigate crucial career decisions and manage challenging work problems. Similarly, a personal board of directors exists to:

  • Provide advice and perspectives that will help you craft a vision and strategy for your career success.
  • Hold you accountable for your actions and behaviors, as you work towards executing key activities relating to your goals.
  • Help you identify new opportunities and provide feedback to help you to grow and improve.
  • Be an advocate for you in rooms where you don’t have an ear or a seat.

Who Should Be on Your Personal Board of Directors?

Who you select to be on your personal board of directors is critical for its success and yours. While your personal board of directors might include a friend or loved one, that should not be the main criteria for selecting the persons who will serve in these important roles. According to Harvard Business Review, “The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view. Choose people who can make different contributions to your thinking.”  Using these criteria, your board members could include a current or previous manager or a colleague you admire — or both. Regardless of your job, your PBOD should include people who are experts in your field or industry. Relying heavily friends or relatives for guidance on key career choices, will limit your ability to get the objective advice you need to pivot, grow, and take your professional development and career to the next level.  

Positions for Your Personal Board

While there is no fixed rule, your typical personal board of directors should have 3-4 members with the following roles or positions:

  • Coach:  By asking powerful questions, this is the person(s) who will engage you in deep and reflective conversations about your behaviors and actions. Your coach will provide feedback that might be uncomfortable to hear and help you to deepen your self-awareness by holding up a mirror to yourself.
  • Mentor: This is someone senior to you that you respect and trust. Your mentor(s) should have experience in navigating an area you are struggling with or have expertise on a subject that you aspire to grow or upskill.
  • Sponsor: This is a person of influence at your current organization. Your sponsor’s role is to look out for you, spot trends, and help you make connections to expand your professional network and boost your visibility and impact at work.
  • Peer Mentor: This is a trusted colleague that supports you and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Your peer mentor should be someone you often share, learn and collaborate with.

When it comes to putting your board together, bigger does not always mean better. The roles you choose might depend on your specific career goals. Ultimately, the size of your PBOD will depend on your needs and the availability of the people in your network to support you in this regard. It is also important to note that your PBOD does not need to meet at any one time. The key is to consult each member of your board when you have important career decisions to make, and when you need help with coming up with a plan of action.

Directional -Signs- Image
Directional -Signs- Image

Guidelines to Build Your Personal Board of Directors

I have utilized my personal board of directors at crucial stages of my career. I remember a few years ago when I was struggling to stay engaged at work due to a hurtful work situation. I shared my challenge with my coach, and our monthly conversations were instrumental in helping me move past the discouragement I was feeling and get back on track with my goals.  Similarly, my current mentor was the hiring manager for a job I interviewed for and failed to get. After the interview, I reached out to him for feedback to help me prepare for my next opportunity. That conversation led to me asking him if he would be my mentor and he agreed. Since then, he has helped me to come up with strategies to navigate challenges in my current role.

Over the last few years, I have had a few sponsors at different levels of my organization. My sponsors have provided leads and opportunities for me to make important connections to expand my network and increase visibility for the work I do. My peer mentors remain a source of ongoing learning, shared collaborations, and encouragement.

So, are you ready to set up your personal board of directors?

Forbes offers some guidelines that you can use to put your board of director in place:

  1. Choose people who you regularly keep in touch with, so when you ask for their help, it feels like a natural partnership to them. It is also important to build rapport and maintain positive relationships with them.
  2. Once they have agreed to serve on your board, let them know that you appreciate their guidance and will carefully consider it, whether you follow their advice or not. You should also let your PBOD members know how their assistance helped you with a decision or moved you closer to achieving your career goal.
  3. Since serving on your board is an unpaid role, think of ways that you can give back to your board. Think about what you can do for them or who you can introduce them to. You can also offer to help them out with a project that you are skilled in.
  4. Respect your PBOD’s time. Establish what their availability looks like from the start, the most convenient time to meet and the best channel to use to stay in touch. When you do meet, be prepared, and have clear objectives for the check in.

Finally, your career and professional development are serious matters and should be treated as such. Surround yourself with the right people who have the experience, expertise and connections to help you position yourself to level up!

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Hard vs Soft Skills: Why You Need Both!

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

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

Lydia Lui – LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 Report

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

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

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

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

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

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

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

Making the Case for Both Soft & Hard Skills

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

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

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

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Time Management

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

Addressing Your Soft Skills Gaps

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

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

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

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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

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

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

Traditional vs Behavioral Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

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

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

S.T.A.R. Method Example

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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7 Ways to Tackle Your Personal & Professional Development in 2022

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

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

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

Importance of Personal &Professional Development

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

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

Who’s Responsible for Personal Growth &Development

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

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

Time to Own Your Development

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

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

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

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

Until next time, “Remember ItsALearningLife! “

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

Happy New Year 2022
Happy New Year 2022

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

New Year, Fresh Start?

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

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

But why?

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

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

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

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

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

Strategies to Tackle the New Year

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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

2021 Year in Review
2021 Year in Review

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

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

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

My Year in Review

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

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

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

But what about you? How was 2021 for you?

11 Questions to Ask Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Gratitude is A Must: 5 Ways to Practice an Attitude of Gratitude!

Gratitude WordCloud
Gratitude WordCloud

One of my personal favorite reggae songs about gratitude and giving thanks  is Toast, courtesy of  Grammy winner and international recording reggae artist  Koffee. In her hit single and feel-good song, Koffee talks about her journey to stardom, acknowledges the people who contributed to her success along the way and shares her gratitude for all the many blessings she is experiencing. Giving thanks or expressing gratitude is one way of acknowledging the kindness and thoughtfulness of others, accepting help, motivating others as well as showing love, appreciation, and support. Expressing gratitude is also a sure way of boosting your mood (And that of others) and helping you push through life’s difficult and challenging moments.

Why is Gratitude Important?

According to  Harvard Health, “gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” Feeling gratitude helps people to appreciate the goodness in their lives, and to recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As such, being grateful helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals- whether to other people, nature, or higher power. Additionally, research tells us that, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness (See previous post). Receiving and expressing gratitude also help people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

These powerful benefits of gratitude are not just limited to your personal life and can also extend to your environment at work According to Forbes, “People like to be valued at their jobs, with appreciation being one of the most sought-after forms of praise in the workplace. Showing appreciation to employees is not only motivating and encouraging, but it also contributes to job satisfaction, thereby resulting in better performance, reduced stress and burnout and less turnover. Expressing appreciation also builds trust and promotes employee engagement.”

Start Each Day With A Grateful Heart -Sign
Start Each Day With A Grateful Heart -Sign

Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

For as long as I can remember, expressing gratitude has been a basic social grace and a huge part of what it means to be well-mannered and brought up. So crucial is this social grace that, children are taught to say thanks before they can even utter the words properly. And while this practice is an important part of the socialization process, practicing gratitude is equally important for adults. So lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and just the importance of expressing thankfulness for all the ways I have been blessed, the health and well-being of my daughter and I, the family and friends I have in my life, the people and community I get to serve and influence, the varied opportunities available for me to use my gifts and talents and the list goes on.

And while it’s easy to gloss over our blessings and/or to take them for granted, we really shouldn’t. Because chances are, some of the very blessings we now enjoy (the career or job, health, finances, relationships) are things we all struggled to achieve and prayed earnestly for in another season. And for that alone, we should always give thanks. It is also important to remember that, feeling gratitude doesn’t mean that we ignore the hardships we are currently experiencing and all that is not going right in our personal and professional worlds.

Being thankful or feeling grateful simply means that that we are intentionally choosing a mindset that allows us to:

  • Focus on the positive in every situation.
  • Bounce back from challenges, fears, and obstacles.
  • Simply appreciate and be content with what we have and where we are.
  • Embrace the lesson we gain from painful experiences and find meaning.
  • Adjust our perspectives and self-perceptions and learn more about ourselves.
  • Cherish the memories of good times shared with others even when a relationship has been broken.
  • Celebrate our small wins and every indicator of progress (Not just the big ones).
  • Stop comparing ourselves and lives to others or holding ourselves hostage to our self-projected images and expectations of ourselves.
  • Be present in the moment and take in the natural beauty and sounds around you.
  • Still, yourself long enough to breathe, smile, feel your body and just be grateful that in this very moment you are alive.

5 Way to Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

In light of all the challenges you are currently facing, how can you practice an attitude of gratitude in this moment or this week?  Here are five suggestions from Harvard Health that you can try:

  1. Write a thank- you -note: You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter or email expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
  2. Thank Someone Mentally: No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
  3. Keep a Gratitude Journal: Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
  4. Count your blessings: Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
  5. Pray: People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

To help you flex your gratitude muscle, here is my gratitude challenge for you to do after you have read this article:

The Gratitude Challenge
  • Pause and reflect on 1 positive thing about your day.
  • List 3 things you are things you are grateful for
  • Call or text someone who you are grateful.

Finally, there is always something to be grateful for. Thankful people focus less on what they lack and more on what they do have. Practicing gratitude in your everyday life can also inspire others to be kind and more helpful and is essential for maintaining a happy and fulfilling life.

Until next time, Remember ItsALearning Life!

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How to STAR Your Job Interview-Video

How to Get More Happiness into Your Life!

Two Balloons with Happy Smiles
Two Balloons with Happy Smiles

Everyone wants to be happy, and everyone deserves to be happy. But on a scale to 1-10 (1-Low and 10-High), how happy are you? How satisfied are you with your life?

According to the World Happiness Report 2021,  the happiest people in the world live in Finland, followed by Denmark. The report suggests that these two Nordic countries have figured out the secret formula for happiness that so many people yearn for in their personal and professional lives. To determine happiness levels, the report assessed people’s happiness based on six factors: levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. Finland scored high on all these indicators because if you live there, you get to benefit from a great healthcare system, free education, five weeks of paid holiday every year. Your sick leave is paid and both maternity and paternity leave are guaranteed. With all these needs covered, it should come as no surprise that the Finns are happy indeed. But what about the rest of us? And what does happiness mean?

The Importance of Happiness

In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky defined happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” Research suggests that happy people are kinder, more helpful, more productive at work, more creative, enjoy better health, and are better able to cope with stress and trauma. Additionally happy people are better able to build and maintain healthy and positive relationships in their personal and professional lives. However, unhappy people find it much more difficult to turn outward and to consider others beyond themselves. 

With all the obvious benefits of happiness, why are so many people unhappy? In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shaw Anchor explains that in today’ society, there is a commonly held assumption that if you work hard you will be successful. And if you become successful, you will be happy. But Anchor argued that this formula is backwards, since success does not lead to happiness, instead happiness fuels success.  He explains that every time we achieve success in an area of our life, we move the goal post to the next milestone we want to achieve. And if happiness is on the other side of success, happiness becomes an elusive thing that we are constantly in pursuit of- but remains constantly out of reach. He argues that if we reverse this formula, and change the way we think, we are much more likely to achieve happiness.

Anchor also points out that people who are rich aren’t necessarily happier. While money is required for well- being and happiness, it doesn’t guarantee it. Because once you get to a certain amount dollar amount, money doesn’t result in higher levels of happiness. People who pursue only money, nice things or surroundings aren’t happier than people without. Therefore, balance is the formula for happiness

How to Deal With Happiness Blockers

It is important to note that humans are complex beings with a range of emotions, and no one is happy all the time. The absence of happiness isn’t sadness and not being sad doesn’t mean you are happy. In fact, the Happiness Rule states that  “50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, 10% by our circumstances and 40% by our internal state of mind.” This means that to a large extent, happiness is a choice and our overall satisfaction with our lives is influenced by how we think and our mindsets. Our happiness isn’t determined by external events, but by how our minds process them. Therefore, just as we focus on the negatives around us, we can change and train our brains into having a more positive mindset. So, are your thoughts getting in the way of you being happy?

According to M. J. Ryan,  author of the book Happiness Makeover,  each of  have particular mental habits that keep us from experiencing the maximum happiness we could feel at any given moment. She points out that some the most common blockers of happiness are:

  • Negative self-talk and perceptions of the world around you.
  • Feeling discontent with what you have and where you are in life.
  • Worrying about things you cannot control
  • Regretting decisions and experiences.
  • Being envious of others or comparing your life to others.
  • Focusing on failures and disappointing outcomes.
  • Holding grudges against others or being in conflict.
  • Striving for perfectionism.

So, which of these blockers do you struggle with?

As a “recovering hyper-achiever”, I have repeatedly been told by friends that I don’t celebrate my wins long enough. As soon as I have reached a personal goal or professional achievement, I move to tackle the next one. While this works for being ambitious and driven, the dark side is that, this can produce a feeling of discontent, as I don’t always pause to celebrate or savor the moments/achievements despite how hard I worked to get there. As a result, the moments of joy and happiness are short lived or never fully acknowledged or celebrated.  

Happiness Loading..Please Wait
Happiness Loading..Please Wait-Image

How To Improve Your Happiness and Well-being

I’ll be the first declare that I am no happiness coach, nor do I have happiness all figured out. I am on my own journey to discovering and doing more of what makes me happy to improve my overall well-being. So, while happiness is a subjective and emotional state and your source of happiness might be different from mine, there is consensus that happiness is something we can all cultivate and is not just a benefit to be enjoyed by the rich, successful, or famous.  

So here are some suggested tips from Action for Happiness that you can use to improve your happiness and get more satisfaction in your life:

  1. Do things for others: Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them; it’s good for us too. So, if you want to feel good, do good.
  2. Connect with people: Our relationships with other people are the most important thing for our happiness. People with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer.
  3. Take care of your body: Our body and mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as healthier. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of depression.
  4. Keep learning: Learning affects our wellbeing in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged.
  5. Have goals to look forward to: Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these have to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable.
  6. Find ways to bounce back: All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. How we respond to these events has a big impact on our wellbeing. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to what happens.
  7. Take a positive approach: Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride – don’t just feel good when we experience them.
  8. Be comfortable with who you are: Nobody’s perfect. But so often we compare a negative view of ourselves with an unrealistic view of other people. Dwelling on our flaws – what we’re not rather than what we’ve got (See previous post)– makes it much harder to be happy.
  9. Be part of something bigger: People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. You might find meaning and from doing a job that makes a difference, your religious or spiritual beliefs, or your family. While the answers vary for each of us, they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.

At the end of the day, it is not what is happening that makes us happy or unhappy. It is how we respond that determines that. Don’t outsource your happiness to other people and external circumstances. Our happiness is our responsibility.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

It’s Celebration Season: 9 Top Tips for Navigating Change!

9th Year Anniversary Celebration-Photo
9 Year Anniversary Celebration

It’s not an easy road

And many see the glamour and the glitter so them think a bed of rose, mi say

Who feels it knows, ooh

Lord help me sustain these blows

I cry!

Not An Easy Road- Buju Banton

November is celebration season for me! It is the month the earth was blessed with my presence (Birthday Edition Loading), the month I made the big change to move to America and the month some of my favorite people were born. So, for the month of November, I’ll be sharing lessons and insights based on my key milestones, and the deep sense of gratitude I feel at this stage of my life for all the experiences I have had and the people who have journeyed with me so far. This post will share my reflections about the top 9 tips I have learned on this my 9th Year Anniversary of moving to America.

November 1st, marked 9 years since my daughter (then two years old) and I migrated from Jamaica to the United States. As we celebrate the milestone, I find myself reflecting on that big change I made nine years ago and our journey over the years. For me, the title of (International singer /songwriter) Buju Banton’s song “Not An Easy Road, succinctly captures the struggle and  hardships I have had to overcome over the last 9 years to be where we are today. In fact, I have often told people that I cried more tears in the first 5 years of making the transition, than I did in my entire life- before or since. So, when I think of the lines from the song, I’m reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness and how he has always provided for us and protected us.

Why Change is Hard?

I know you will agree with me that change is hard. This is true whether you are an immigrant to another country, just made an important life decision to get married, divorced, have children, change career, move to another city, sell or purchase a home, lost a loved one or are dealing with a scary health diagnosis.  According to Psychology Today, one reason that makes change difficult  “is that we are not ready and willing for change. We may be comfortable where we are and even scared to step into the unknown. If our current state provides us with comfort and security, making the change will be difficult.”  

Nevertheless, change is a constant and necessary part of life- personally and professionally. Our abilty to deal with change (See previous post based on Who Moved My Cheese)at work and at home will directly impact our progress in life, the quality of our relationships, our stress levels and whether we will thrive or merely survive.

Stepping into Comfort Zone vs Risk Zone
Stepping into Comfort Zone vs Risk Zone

9 Top Tips for Navigating Change

That said, there are huge benefits to celebrating milestones such as birthday and anniversaries. Celebrating significant events in your life provides you with opportunities to remember all the difficulties that you have had to overcome; take stock of your life and assess the progress you have made in key areas; think about the future and begin to plan for what lies ahead. And while this is uncomfortable and difficult for many, it is necessary for personal and professional development growth.

As I reflect on my journey so far, I am deeply aware that our testimonies, lessons, and experiences are not just for us. Sometimes we go through difficult periods in life that cause us to struggle with self-doubt, insecurity and that can drive feelings of despair and discouragement. And when we get through them, some of us are inclined to keep them a secret to keep up appearances that all is well or because we are ashamed of these painful experiences. When in fact, these experiences taught us crucial lessons to inform the way forward and that we can share and use to encourage other people who might need encouragement and wisdom to walk through their own valley moments.

So, if you are navigating your own life events and challenges, here are my top 9 tips and takeaways for dealing with change and navigating transitions:

  1. .Don’t ever let fear prevent stop you from taking a bold and brave leap toward the direction of your goals and dreams.
  2. Have a clear vision for yourself and the life you hope to have. This will help you on the days when you feel desperate, discouraged, and tempted to settle for less than you deserve or need.
  3. Dreams might be deferred but not forgotten. Be careful not to hold yourself hostage to specific timelines. Have faith throughout the journey and trust the process.
  4.  Preparation is important, but it never guarantees the desired outcome. The best laid plans might go awry but be prepare anyways.
  5. Be humble enough to embrace the discomfort of starting over, trying something different and learn something new.
  6. Relationships are the most valuable currency you have. If you build and invest in positive and supportive relationships, they will show up for you when times are good and bad, and you’ll always have a shoulder to lean on.
  7. Always show up as your best self. This means you must commit to keep learning and growing and making the changes that will help you become the best version of yourself.
  8. You are not your failures or your mistakes. When you fall or fail, cry If you need to but always pick yourself up and try again. You are stronger and more resilient than you know.
  9. Pay it Forward: Your gifts, talents and resources and experiences are not just for you. They are intended for you to help and support others. Give back, serve and help others.

I’m so excited for what the #NextNine years will bring!

What milestones are you #celebrating?  Share and let me know!

Until next time Remember, ItsALearningLife!