Category Archives: Self Improvement/ Self Help

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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5 Ways to Avoid the Stress of the Holidays

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

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

The Biggest Holiday Stressors

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

So where does that leave many of us?

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

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

5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress

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

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

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

Until next time- Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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5 Things to Know About Coping with Grief and Loss!

Broken heart stitched up
Broken heart stitched up

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

Vicki Harrison

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

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

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

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

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

Stages of the Grieving Process
Stages of the Grieving Process

Stages of the Grieving Process

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

So, what does the grieving process involve?

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

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

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

Tips for Coping with Grief and Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Remember ItsALearningLife!

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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!

How The Path We Take Shapes Our Lives

Questions About Which Road to Take-Picture
Questions- About -Which- Road- to- Take- Image

For as long I have known myself, I have always believed in the value of taking personal responsibility for my actions, charting my own path, and working hard to overcome adversity and hardships. Though this has been my personal philosophy, I fully aware that not everyone lives by these principles. Wrongly or rightly, some people choose to blame their current reality on the curve balls that life throws at them, the opportunities they didn’t get, the ones they did take, the talents they don’t have, the decisions of their parents, the actions of their loved ones, and the friends and colleagues who hurt them. And while some of their conclusions might be fair, they fail to account for the fact that we all have the abilty to forge or our paths, write our own stories and make decisions and choices that are uniquely our own as we pursue what we believe as in our best interests.

During this year, I have written many articles on a range of personal growth and professional development topics (See previous posts) based on research and my own experiences. However one of the simplest lessons on the power of taking taking charge of your life and personal growth came to me by way of a poem by Portia Nelson called the ‘Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.” The poem (See below) reminded me that life is essentially a journey filled with challenging situations that we have to navigate as we make choices and decisions to create the life of our dreams. And as we do so, we will try new and different things, we will fail from time to time, and we will have opportunities to learn key lessons. Because as we stumble or fall, we also get the chance to course correct, to change and to choose another path. In those moments, we must find the courage to take stock of where we are, clearly establish where we want to go and take bold actions to become who we want to be.

Road Sign- What Do You Want to Change?
What Do You Want to Change?

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson -Poem

Chapter 1.

I walk down the street.

There is deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost…… I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

 I walk down the same street.

 There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

 I see it’s there.

 I still fall in …it’s a habit.

 My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter 4.

I walk down the same street.

There is a hole in the sidewalk

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Key Takeaways

As you read the poem, did it resonate with you? Could you relate it to a current or past experience you’ve had?

For me, the poem spoke to the fact that each of us are on a journey in pursuit of happiness, success, and whatever we define as a good life for ourselves and our loved ones. While our individuals’ paths are different, nothing insulates us from the bumps, failures, setbacks and disappointments we will undoubtedly encounter as we make decisions and choices on everything (from relationships, careers, finances, parenting) to create the lifestyle we desire. Some days we will get it right, but all too often we will also get it wrong. Our best laid plans will not always work out like we hoped and our very best efforts will sometimes fall short. What matters most in those defining moments are not the things that happen to us, or situations in which we find ourselves- but our reactions to them. The key is in knowing when you need to change and what you need to change. We don’t grow in places in comfort, so there are times that you will need to find the courage to make a decision that alters your life and pushes you out of your comfort zone towards something new and different.  Afterall, the best paths are not always the easiest.

Reflective Questions for You

  • Where do you see yourself 3, 5, 10 years from now?
  • Is your current path taking you where you want to go?
  • Are you on your current path because its familiar or comfortable?
  • Is there another, less troublesome path you could take towards achieving your dreams?

When all is said and done, it’s your life and your path. Others might travel with you, but you have to walk it. The successes, failures and consequences are all yours. If the path you’re on no longer serves you, it’s never too late to begin again. You ultimately get to choose.  

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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What It Means to Feel Safe..

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid

When we hear the word safe, most of us automatically think about the absence of harm or danger. If that is where your mind went, you would not be wrong. Depending on where you live, work or your everyday environment, the need to feel physically safe can be a pressing need and reality. However, physical safety is but one dimension of safety and does not replace the need we all have to feel emotionally or psychologically safe. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (A theory used to explain human motivation), the need to feel safe is one of the most basic human needs. And this need for safety and security must be satisfied before we can focus on other higher order needs for growth and development. The longer the need is unmet, the stronger it becomes, but when the need is met, the hunger /desire goes away.

Having established that we all have a need to feel safe, it is also important to recognize that when people do not feel physically or psychologically safe at work or at home, you will not get the best of them. When we talk about feeling physically safe, we are talking about being in an environment that is free from threats of violence, hazards and anything that can present harm or danger to us as individuals. And while physical safety can be obvious, psychological safety is hidden and more complex to observe. Psychological safety focuses on the emotional and behavioral well-being of individuals in relationships. Because psychological safety is interpersonal, it requires that people feel comfortable expressing themselves around others without fear or risks.

Two Teddy Bears Hugging
Two Teddy Bears Hugging

The Importance of Feeling Safe

Whether it’s at home or at work, feeling safe is also about creating a trusting environment with supportive relationships where people are not distracted by concerns about whether they are valued, or feel threatened that something good in their life will disappear at any moment. In the world of work, psychological safety is key part of working well as a part of a team. When psychological safety exists within a team, team members will openly share their ideas without fear of judgment, feel safer to fail or make a mistake and be their authentic selves without any risk to their jobs. On the other hand, when people on a work team do not feel safe, communication suffers, trust is low, productivity suffers, and the team will not function effectively.

On the personal side, when and where psychological or emotional safety is lacking, this can negatively impact an individual’s mental health and overall well-being.  In that, people who feel unsafe are less likely to express their feelings and thoughts openly because of fear of rejection and are more likely to suffer from increased levels of stress and anxiety. They might also shut down or rely on passive aggressive behaviors to express their feelings. So, when and where people do not feel safe to be themselves and express their feelings and thoughts without being labeled or rejected, this can escalate into toxic communication patterns and relationships.

So, when do you feel most unsafe?

Is it when the zeros in your bank account starts to dwindle?

Is it when you are home alone or walking down a dark street?

Is it when you are experiencing conflict with a supervisor or coworker on the job?

Is it when you’re in danger of losing a loved one or when your relationship with your partner has broken down?

How to Foster Psychological Safety

For me, the need to feel emotionally or psychologically safe probably dates back to difficult early childhood experiences. And today, feeling safe has become a crucial ingredient for me to have lasting, meaningful and successful personal and professional relationships. So when I join a new team or establish a new personal relationship, I usually communicate my need for frequent, open, and honest communication and feedback to build and maintain healthy relationships and to minimize conflict. On the professional side, the preference for quality communication is due to the fact that I dislike not having information I need to do my job well and my fear that not having information relevant to my role will make me look incompetent and not function effectively. The same is true on the personal side as well. I have found that the absence of open and honest communication creates conflict, reduces trust and forces people to rely on assumptions, wrongly judge and label other people’s action and behaviors. I find all of this to be unproductive, emotionally draining and a big contributor to toxic relationships that are not good for my peace of mind.

So, how do we foster safety in our personal and professional relationships? There is no simple answer to this question. We all deserve to feel safe.The things that trigger you and cause you to feel unsafe might be different from mine and will require different responses. To better understand your triggers, think about a time when you felt safe or unsafe and identify what was happening in that particular situation and how it made you feel . Doing so will help you develop greater self awareness and improve your abilty to avoid the triggers and manage your responses when psychological safety is lacking. Here are a few additional tips for you to consider:

  • Build trust by providing clear, consistent, and transparent information.
  • Work as team to make decisions towards a common goal.
  • Show respect by recognizing and understanding perspectives that differ from your own.
  • Practice resiliency by learning lessons from tough situations and choose to hope and heal.

None of these tips guarantee that we will always feel safe. Being safe is not about never taking risk, never being challenged by new perspectives or never being uncomfortable. Being safe is about feeling secure, feeling protected and feeling you can be responsive―no matter the environment or situation. But we cannot do it alone. We all need people to help us feel safe. So, surround yourself with people that will help you feel safer than not.

Until next time, Remember It’sALearningLife!

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What Vulnerability Really Means!

                                                                                

What Vulnerability Really Means
Frayed Rope

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.     

Brene Brown, Rising Strong

Have you ever felt vulnerable?

Vulnerability is one of those touchy feely words that women fear, and men rarely admit to. However, being vulnerable is a crucial ingredient of forming true connections with others, communicating effectively, and building healthy relationships. Being vulnerable involves being honest and open about our emotions, feelings, fears, insecurities. And sometimes, being vulnerable is about asking people for help.

Like it or not, we have all been vulnerable to something or someone. But what exactly does vulnerability look like? In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Being vulnerable can make us feel raw, exposed, and uncomfortable, because it puts us in position for us to be seen by others at moments where we might not feel confident or be at our best. At the same time, being vulnerable can help us to practice self-acceptance, gain confidence in our own abilities to overcome hardships, and show empathy and compassion to others. However, there is no mistaking the fact that that being vulnerable is tough. Vulnerability requires us to trust that the person we are being vulnerable with, will not take advantage of us or use our vulnerability against us.

Myths vs Facts Call Out
Myths vs Facts Call Out

Six Myths of Vulnerability

Due to the real and perceived risks that come with being vulnerable, many of us struggle with it and avoid it at all costs. Being vulnerable is necessary part of connecting with ourselves and others. Being vulnerable helps us to get in touch with our own feelings and emotions and to seek and receive support. But, if being vulnerable is so important and beneficial, why do so many of us struggle with it? Answers to this question can probably be found in the hurt that people carry from past experiences and the common misperceptions that some people have about vulnerability. To better understand what being vulnerable means, let us look at what it does not, using the six common myths about vulnerability identified by Brene Brown.

  1. Vulnerability is weakness:  Have you ever choked up in a conversation or felt tears streaming down your face in while talking about something personal? I have. In fact, I used to feel embarrassed and annoyed that the more I wanted the stop the tears, the more freely they seemed to flow. In those moments, I have felt vulnerable, self-conscious, weak, and frustrated and that somehow it meant I didn’t have it all together. I was wrong. Feeling our emotions and expressing ourselves are healthy responses to dealing with difficult experiences. Being vulnerable takes courage and strength to share our thoughts and feelings with another person despite the fear of what they might say or that we will be judged. You can be vulnerable and strong.
  1. I don’t do vulnerability: Does the idea of being vulnerable scare you or make you uncomfortable? You’re not alone. When you’ve always had to be tough or to operate in “keep it together and push through mode”, it can be hard to embrace your vulnerable side. When we repress our emotions, we turn inwards and in some instances, we build walls that keep us isolated from others and hurting. From time to time, we all need to set our egos aside, take off the strong and tough person mask and open ourselves up to others for help and support- no matter how difficult it might feel. Afterall, we have all failed, made mistakes or done things that we aren’t proud of. In those moments, we need to surround ourselves with people who will listen, give us feedback, and offer comfort and support.  
  1. I can go it alone:  I know that we sometimes face situations that might lead us to the conclusion that it is better to go it alone. And there are times when this might feel like the best course of action. However, like the says goes “No man is an island, and no man stands alone.” Though this might seem cliche, we all need each other to get through the challenges and curve balls that life throws at us. So, from time to time, we need to reach out to our village for help and support and to lend a listening ear or helping hands as well. We build stronger and more intimate relationships with others when we can freely admit that we are not ok, when we are not o.k. For as the quote says – “What do we live for if not to make things a bit less difficult for each other?”
  1. You can be vulnerable without being uncomfortable:  There is no avoiding the discomfort that being vulnerable will make you feel. In our most vulnerable moments, we are likely to experience the fear of rejection, shame, guilt, abandonment, or judgment.  While the risks are real, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we also open ourselves to the possibilities of love, compassion, acceptance, and support. So, think of being vulnerable as that weak muscle that you rarely ever exercise. Whenever you exercise it, it might feel sore for the first couple of days, but if you keep working it, the muscle becomes stronger and so do you. Embrace the discomfort of being vulnerable, it is a necessary part of the process.
  1. Trust comes before vulnerability: Most of us grew up hearing the stern warning to be careful of who we trust because the more we let people in or share, the greater the chance that they might hurt you. It’s no wonder then that some of us struggle with trust and intimacy in our relationships or find it hard to let our guards down. So, which comes first- is it trust or vulnerability? According to the research, the answer is not either or. It’s both. We need trust others to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable to build trust with others. Simply put, it you want people to trust you, you must be vulnerable and to be vulnerable you need to trust others. Tag you are it!
  1. Vulnerability means sharing all the private details of your life with everyone: While vulnerability requires honest and openness in communication, it isn’t about spilling your guts to everyone or oversharing information that might be inappropriate. It always important to respect and maintain personal and professional boundaries. You should only share what you feel safe to share and never put out information that might compromise you or put others at risk. So be smart and use common sense as you engage and connect with others.  

When all is said and done, deciding when we to be vulnerable and who we can be vulnerable are dilemmas that we will all face from time to time. However, don’t let the risks and perceived myths about what vulnerability means discourage you from doing so. The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation or have an opportunity to build a healthy and positive relationship (personal or professional) take a chance and exercise your vulnerability muscle. Because when you do, you and your relationships will thrive and become richer, stronger and more meaningful that ever before.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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The Fred Factor: 4 Ways to Be the Best At What You Do!

Make the Difference Word Collage
Make- the- Difference- Word -Collage

At some point or another, we’ve all met a ‘Fred’, needed a ‘Fred’, been helped by a ‘Fred’ or better yet have been a ‘Fred’ to someone else. So, what is a ‘Fred’? A ‘Fred’ is someone who goes above and beyond to deliver excellent service or stands out in his or her work regardless the role or circumstances. Reflect on your most memorable customer service experience or a time when met someone who provided the high-quality service that blew you away or left a lasting and positive impression on you- that was a Fred. Or think about that co-worker that always takes full accountability for getting his /her job and can still be counted on to help pick up the slack when necessary- he /she is also a “Fred”. Freds exist in every profession and provide great examples of engaged employees whose consistently outstanding performance and attitude serve as inspiration and motivation for us all.

However, in today’s environment where employee engagement is at an all-time low and many employees are struggling to stay motivated, it can be hard to be a ‘Fred’ or find a ‘Fred’.  According to Gallup, only 15% of employees worldwide and 35% in the U.S.  fall into the engaged category. Gallup identifies three types of employees in the workplace: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. Employees who are engaged (Freds) show up as highly enthusiastic and involved about their work and workplace. Whereas employees’ people who are not engaged put in their time but are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work — they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

Colored Pencils With Different Emotions
Colored- Pencils -Expressing -Different- Emotions -Image

Are You A Fred?

In his book The Fred Factor, “Mark Sanborn tells the true story of Fred, the mail carrier who passionately loves his job and genuinely cares about the people he serves. Because of that, he is constantly going the extra mile handling the mail and sometimes watching over the houses of the people on his route, treating everyone he meets as a friend. Where other might see delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, Fred sees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he serves.

When I think of Fred, I think of those awesome frontline workers especially in health care workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic and still showed up to work every day at great risk to their own lives and that of their families showing compassion and empathy to those they cared for. I also think of those garbage collectors, teachers, public safety officers who go the extra mile despite trying circumstances and all the other everyday people who we rely on for the provision of goods and services. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always show up as a Fred. There have been times in my work life where the toxic working environments and difficult relationships with coworkers have left me feeling disengaged and resigned to doing enough to get by.  But because I pride myself on doing my best, when and where I find myself struggling, I have found other ways to engage myself and relied on the support and encouragement of my inner circle to help me remember my why and get back on track.

Different Elements of Excellence-Infographic
Different- Elements- of -Excellence-Infographic

Four Principles of the Fred Factor

So if you are feeling disengaged, actively disengaged or discouraged by your current work/life situation, consider using the following four principles of the “Fred Factor’ to refresh your energy and find your mojo to unleash creativity and enthusiasm in your personal and professional lives.

1.Everyone Makes A Difference: It doesn’t matter how large or even how screwed up an organization is. An individual can still make a difference within that organization. An employer can hinder exceptional performance, choose to ignore it, and not adequately recognize or encourage it. Or an employer can train employees to achieve exceptional performance and then reward it. But ultimately, only the employee can choose to do his or her job in an extraordinary way, either because of, or despite, circumstances.

 2. Everything Is Built on Relationships:  Here Sanborn explained that the service performed by the U.S. Postal Service of delivering his mail gave him what he paid for-nothing more, nothing less. However, the service he received from Fred was amazing because of the relationship he had with Fred. It differed from the relationships he had with any other postal carrier, before or since. Indifferent people deliver impersonal service. Service becomes personalized when a relationship exists between the provider and the customer. Fred took time to get to know and understand his customers needs and preferences. And then he used that information to provide better service and excellence.

3. You Must Continually Create Value for Others, and It Doesn’t Have to Cost a Penny: Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources? Have you started believing that “more with less” is an impossibility? Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? All Fred had was a drab blue uniform and a bag. But, he walked up and down streets with that bag full of mail, and his heart and head full of imagination. That imagination enabled him to create value for his customers, and he didn’t spend an extra dollar to do it. He just thought a little bit harder and more creatively than most other postal carriers.

4. You Can Reinvent Yourself Regularly:  According to Sandborn, if Fred could bring such originality to putting mail in a box, how much more could you and I reinvent our work? He recommended that on the days when you wake up tired, and your professional commitment is wavering and just getting the job done and going home at the end of the day becomes your primary objective- think about Fred. Because if Fred the Postman could bring that kind of creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box, you and I can do as much or more to reinvent our work and rejuvenate my efforts.

At the end of the day, while we cannot control the things that happen to us, the circumstances we face, we can choose how we respond, to have a positive ‘can do” attitude and to stay engaged.

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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