Tag Archives: Self Help

What to Do to Get Unstuck: Lessons From Out of the Maze!

Stuck Turtle On Its Back
Turtle -Stuck- on- It’s- Back-Image

At some point or another, you have experienced a time or moment in your personal or professional life where you have felt stuck. That is, having a worrisome frame of mind where you know that something in your life is not quite right and needs to change, but not being entirely sure of the what, the why, the who, or the when. This feeling of being stuck then resulted in you feeling indecisive, unsettled, or unable to move on or move forward. In this article, I want to explore what feeling stuck looks like  and how to  get unstuck  by applying the lessons from the book  Out of the Maze

Summary of Out of the Maze Book

In one my previous post about dealing with change based on the book Who Moved My Cheese), I shared the parable of four characters (Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw) who lived in a dark maze and  loved cheese. They all woke up one day to find that their cheese (what they saw as important in life) had disappeared. All four characters reacted differently to the change in their circumstances and experienced very different results.

In the sequel Out of the Maze, the story picks up with Hem who is left behind and finds himself stuck in a desperate and ‘cheese-less’ situation, feeling afraid, alone, and hungry for new cheese. He spends his time going back and forth between worrying about his friend Haw, blaming him for leaving him and hoping that things would go back to normal.  Day by day Hem’s situation worsened and as he got weaker, Hem realized that he had to do something. Hem saw he could no longer afford to stay and wait for the cheese to reappear and that he would have to go out into the maze and search for new cheese if he were to survive. Though Hem understood what he needed to do and that he was on his own, he still believed the maze was a dangerous place, filled with dark corners and blind alleys that led nowhere.

For days Hem wandered through the maze with his old tools searching for cheese and with no success. Each passing day, Hem grew weaker, hungrier, more discouraged and filled with regret that he hadn’t acted sooner. One day when Hem was feeling he couldn’t go on any further, he met a stranger name Hope who introduced him to apples. Still stuck on finding cheese and believing cheese was the only food there was, Hem took the apple, examined it, but refused to eat it although it smelled good. After some encouragement from Hope and sheer hunger, Hem eventually tried the apple. When he did, Hem was surprised and delighted to discover that he enjoyed the taste of apples and the new burst of energy they gave him to resume his search for new cheese.

For the remainder of the story, Hem came to realize that his old beliefs about cheese had trapped him into one way of seeing things and prevented him from moving forward to find new cheese. Hem decided to let go of his old beliefs, choose new ones, and bravely open himself up to new possibilities (including apples) and a world outside of the maze. In the end and after many failures, Hem is rewarded when he discovered a bigger, better, and brighter world outside of the maze that had cheeses and apples far sweeter than anything he had before.

How to Get Unstuck

What has left you feeling stuck and struggling to move forward in the direction of your life goals and career? What old ideas and thoughts are you still believing about your current situation that might be holding you back?

I’ve have never written an article about a topic that I have not struggled with personally or experienced. So, I can relate to having experienced moments (personal and professional) where I have felt trapped or stuck in situations that I couldn’t seem to make progress on or move forward.  That said, I also know that sitting around waiting and playing victim has never helped me get unstuck, nor will it help you.

Like Hem’s story, at the heart of every situation that has made you feel stuck are the beliefs and thoughts you hold to be true. Beliefs that say – things will never change, I can’t do this or that this goal is impossible or nothing good will ever happen for me. Your beliefs are powerful and can paralyze you into inaction or hold you prisoner in your own home, head, or job. Knowing you want and need more, but not believing you can do better, has led many people to settle for unhealthy relationships that do not serve them well, or to compromise themselves by accepting situations that go against their core values and beliefs.

Out of the Maze -Book Cover -Google Search Image
Out- of- The -Maze -Book- Cover-Google- Image

Six Lessons to Get Unstuck

So, here are six lessons from Hem’s story that you can apply to your own situation to help you get unstuck:

  1. Notice your beliefs: A belief is a thought that you trust is true. But not everything you think is true. Because you trust your old thoughts, you remain a prisoner to old memories and beliefs and sometimes refuse to change or venture outside of your comfort zone to try new things. If you closely examined your thoughts or beliefs, you might realize that some of these trusted thoughts aren’t true and might need to change.
  • Don’t believe everything you think: Sometimes “facts” are just how you see things. But the “facts” you believe are limited to the information you have, your exposures and the meanings you give to events. So, resist the urge to feel threatened or offended when someone challenges your beliefs and don’t be afraid to question and change them on your own.   
  • Let go of what isn’t working:  You can’t launch a new quest with old baggage. Stop blaming others and shaming yourself for the past.  As Einstein said, you cannot do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results. As you move forward, you must be brutally honest with yourself about your patterns, the things you have been doing that no longer work and what you might need to do or look at completely differently.  So, let go of what you have you been dragging around and anything that has left you feeling burdened or stuck.
  • Look Outside the Maze: Consider the unlikely, explore the impossible. The fear of change, the uncertainty it brings, and the challenges associated with trying something new and different are perhaps the biggest reasons people fail to get unstuck. And if you add the fear of failure into the mix, the more likely it is that people will stay stuck in situations no matter how bad they are. However, getting unstuck will require you to have the courage to act towards what you want, though the risks are many and the future is unclear.
  • Choose a new belief: Changing what you think doesn’t change who you are. You get to change an old belief and choose new and different thoughts. Sometimes you hang on to thoughts and beliefs that aren’t working because they are familiar. This is a sub-optimal way to live and will not make you happy or successful. You reserve the right to change your mind, your beliefs and consider what other options available to you.
  • There are no limits to what you can believe: Your whole world is held together by a complex web of beliefs and thoughts that you trust, and hold be true.  You can experience and enjoy a lot more than you think you can. To get unstuck from old cycles, you must choose to have an open mind and believe that something else is possible for you. Have faith to believe it before you see it. As you lean into that hope, commit to exploring, learning, and discovering yourself and the vast world around you.

Feeling stuck is not a death sentence, it is a normal part of life. It signals that something you need to be happy and healthy is lacking or that your need for growth and progress is unmet. Therefore, feeling stuck is your heart, mind, and body’s way of telling you that you need change your approach to make progress in your life, your job and in your relationships.

What will you do to get unstuck?

Until next Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Why Be Yourself (Be Authentic) is Terrible Advice!

Be Yourself-Graphic Art
Be Yourself- Graphic Art

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying is to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you have ever spoken with anyone about feelings of self-doubt, fear or uncertainty about doing something new, it is quite possible that you might have been encouraged or advised to just “Be yourself”. I’ll even admit that this is a prescription I have given to my 11-year-old daughter, friends, and colleagues when they have expressed concerns about joining a new team, exploring a relationship or navigating a tough situation. As a matter of fact, I recently received the same advice during a conversation where I was being vulnerable about an issue that was bothering me.  As I listened to this “be yourself’ advice, I couldn’t help but question whether those two words of assurance would be helpful to me as I worked through my issues. Yet, the givers of this advice (myself included) always appear convinced and confident that this simple advice is the best solution to the problem or issue. But, it isn’t.

On a surface level, telling someone to just be yourself or be authentic might seem like solid and great advice. But this advice can be confusing on many levels, and it raises a ton of questions. Afterall, which self are you advising them to be? Is it their past self, their today self, or their aspirational self (the better version of ourselves) that each of us hope to one day meet?  What if they haven’t yet figured out who they are or want to be? And to make it more complex- in which one of their roles?  As individuals, we have different layers and roles which are likely to affect or influence how we show up in different situations. I for one have several roles, that of mother, daughter, sister, manager to name a few. And how I show up or my abilty to be myself can depend on the context and the situation I am dealing with. So be yourself, can be very complex and problematic advice.

Why Be Yourself is Terrible Advice?

Definition of authentic-Image
Definition of Authentic

In her Harvard Business Review article, Herminia Ibarra offers up three ways for us to look at and understand the concept of authenticity:

  1. Being true to yourself and acting in ways that are true to your nature or personality
  2. Being sincere by saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
  3. Staying true to your values and the fundamental core beliefs that guide you.

Therefore, being authentic requires us to be fully self-aware and to practice acceptance of ourselves – values, beliefs, flaws, quirks, strengths and all. Being authentic encourages individuals to be at peace with themselves  despite the perceptions of others and other worldly influences. This is important because trying to be someone else drains energy and is the surest route to an unhappy and unfulfilling life.

However, depending on the definition we choose, being authentic or staying true to one’s personality can be used by an individual to mask stubbornness or an unwillingness to change. And if we are not careful, being authentic or staying true to our personality can stunt our personal growth, maturity and have major implications for our personal and professional development and advancement. For example, how many times have you heard or seen someone miss an opportunity because they were asked to do something that was outside of their comfort zone or require them to stretch a little to learn a new skill? I have seen people self-sabotage or pass up opportunities to advance in their career because of their own self-limiting beliefs that they didn’t have the personality to do one thing or another.

Likewise, I have also seen people fail because they didn’t acknowledge that the skills that got to them to one level would not take them to their next level. And in these trade off moments, we will need to balance doing what we need to be effective with being ourselves. Navigating these crucial moments can be tricky because most of us define ourselves in terms of the skills and competencies that got us to one point. Getting to the next level or moving up in the organization might require us to show up differently than we are accustomed to. This can be unsettling for some people who fear that they might have to sacrifice their values and integrity or be seen as a “sell out” because they changed paths. This uncertainty about what it means to be themselves then produces a version of them that is at best cautious, conservative but not truly authentic or reflective of who they want to be.

What Authenticity Really Means?

So, should we be authentic or not?

And what does it mean in real life?  

Truth is, none of us are the same today as we were five years ago, and we also won’t be the same five years from today. As we journey through life, from one stage to the next, we make decisions and experience life events (marriage, parenting, loss, career advancement) that shape us and challenge our perspectives and our deeply help beliefs. Therefore, subscribing to the idea of being yourself is unrealistic, risky and fails to acknowledge that we are never any one thing or person. It also locks us into people perceptions of who they think we are and their expectations of how they think we should be or act. But as individuals, we are constantly evolving, learning, unlearning and with that comes permission to change our minds, perspectives, and responses to the people around and the world around us.

So, in a world where so many of us feel so much pressure to live up to the standards and expectations of others, how can we be authentic? I suggest that you reflect on what that means to you and consider embracing a broader perspective that says that being yourself or being authentic is:

  • Choosing to lead your own self by digging deep to figure out what you truly want, your passions, your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses.
  • Freedom to let go of your fears and other people’s perception and expectations of you as you forge your own path.
  • Knowing that your best self isn’t a destination since you are still becoming.
  • Embracing a mindset that recognizes that you have many layers. You can be this and still be that.
  • Deciding not to hide your feelings, thoughts, your voice and standing by your convictions.
  • Meeting people right where they are at and not twisting yourself in/out of shape to become who they need you to be.  

In closing, navigating life journey will require us to balance doing  what we need to do and being ourselves. This can cause us to feel fake or inauthentic, but it isn’t. You can be authentic and change and grow. Being authentic considers who you are and the situation, not one at the expense of another. The key is to be intentional about shaping yourself rather than being shaped by your circumstances.

Until next time, Remember, It’sALearningLife!

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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 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 Law of Attraction: 11 Steps to Attract the Life You Want!

The Law of Attraction-Image
The- Law- of- Attraction-Image

One of my all-time favorite things to do is to curl up in a comfy space and read a good book. The kind of book that keeps you flipping the pages, forget that you were hungry and or fail to notice time passing by. And though I read all throughout the year, there is something about summertime that makes me want to read more and spend time reflecting on the gems and insights I gain from all the books I find while combing through the library shelves. So, when I came across The Law of Attraction Plain and Simple by Sonica Ricotti, I became curious about what the law of attraction is, how it works and/or even if it does work. So, I read it and thought I would share some of the main ideas and takeaways from what I learned about the law of attraction.

The Law of Attraction

The law of attraction states that you attract into your life what you project into the universe. This simply means that the people and events you attract into your life are based on what you focus on and direct your attention to. The law of attraction is based on the view that what we focus on expands. So, if you and I have negative thoughts, we will send out negative energy which will attract negative people and things into our lives. But if we think positive thoughts and feelings, we will generate positive energy which will attract positive events, people, and things to our lives. So, if you are feeling negative or positive in this moment- that is the energy you are sending out to your environment and the people around you.

As a person of faith, let me start by saying that I do not necessarily believe that all our life experiences (good or bad) are a result of the energy we put out in the universe. Like me, you might have had good and bad life experiences that you did nothing to deserve or could not control. However, what I liked about the concept of the law of attraction is the perspective that we can shift our thoughts, language, and emotions to stop negative energy flow and learn to project positive energy and attitudes. And when we intentionally project positive energy and attitudes, we will experience greater levels of contentment, inner peace, happiness, and success.

11 Steps to Attract the Life You Want!

While the book is not prescriptive, it outlines 11 valuable steps or suggestions for you to consider as you seek to attract and manifest the life you truly want to live and follow your dreams:

The Law of Attraction
Positive- Attracts- Positive-Image
  1. Decide What You Want: The first step of the law of attraction requires you to think about what you want- what you really want if you want to attract and manifest it. It also points out that some people struggle to figure out what they do want or are fixated on the things they do not want. And when you fixate on what you do not want, you experience negative thoughts that releases negative energy which then attracts negative people, situations, and experiences into your life. The solution to this is to become clear about what would want for yourself if anything was possible. Once you have decided on what you want- write or type your list and post it somewhere where it will be a constant reminder of what you want to focus on and where you are going.
  1. Choose Your Thoughts and Feelings: The second step in the law of attraction is to become aware of what you are thinking and feeling. So, on a scale of 1-10 (1 is feeling bad; 10 is feeling great) how are you feeling right now? The more positive you feel, the more positive the energy you will send out. Similarly, negative thoughts lead to negative feelings which will cause you to send out negative energy. One way to increase your awareness of how you feel is to draw a big wheel with eight spokes representing the areas of your life: finances, health, family/friends, romance /significant other, career, fun and recreation, personal growth, and service to others. Then give yourself a rating for each area. This awareness will help you to shift your thoughts and energy to help you focus on where you want to be.
  1. Keep in End in Mind: The next step of the law of attraction is to think about what you want to be remembered for. What would you want to be said at your memorial service? This will help you to determine what your most important values (The things that are most important to you) are and help you to make the choices that align with your purpose or the life you want to live. Once you have figured this out, write out a list of your core values and reflect on them to determine if you are living in alignment with your values. This will also help you to generate the positive energy required to attract all that you desire for your life.
  1. Remove meaning: This step is based on the perspective that you create and attach meaning to everything you experience in life. You get to decide whether an experience is positive, negative, or neutral. You have the power to choose what feelings you attach to each situation, event, and experience by how you interpret the things happening to you. The best way to do this is to separate the facts of the situation from your interpretation of the situation. If you can recognize the difference between the facts of what happened and your interpretation of what happened, you are free to choose an interpretation that is more positive in nature.
  1. Let Go: This step of the law of attraction advocates that you let everything that is currently happening in your life be and the accept your life exactly the way it is and exactly the way it is not. Acceptance does not mean you are giving up or resigning yourself to any condition, it simply means that you stop resisting. Resisting does not change the situation and only generates negative energy, which then attracts more of the same negative situations in your life. Additionally, whenever you use the word should to describe how things should be in your life, you are resisting what is. And this generates more negative energy.
Positive Mind-Positive Vibes-Positive Life-Image
Positive- Mind-Positive-Vibes-Positive- Life-Image
  1. Forgive: Forgiveness is one of the ultimate keys to emitting and creating positive energy but is arguably one of the most difficult things to do. However, nothing produces more negative energy than unforgiveness. Holding on to grudges and resentment can feel like an anchor is dragging you down. The key is to free yourself from those negative thoughts and emotions. Because according to Ann Lamott “not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
  1. Unleash the Past: While your past plays a big role in who you are today, holding on to the regrets and mistakes of the past can create negative feelings which some people take into their present and future. This step of the law of attraction recommends that rather than feeling like a victim of your past, you should release past experiences and the negative energy they produce. By freeing yourself from the past, you create a clear space to generate positive energy. And by being aware that you are holding on the past and recognizing that your choices are influenced by that, you develop the consciousness to make other choices.
  1. Be Grateful: The step of the law of attraction recommends being grateful for what you already have in your life by simply taking the time to recognize your many blessings. When you focus on what you already have, you feel good and release positive energy. One way that you can practice being grateful is to start and end your day thinking about 3 things that you are grateful for.
  1. Choose Your Friends Carefully: This step draws on the old adage that says “show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.” Reflect on how you feel after you have spent time connecting with your friends. Do you feel energized, encouraged, and inspired? Or do you find yourself always giving advice or feeling drained after you have been around them. Surround yourself with people who are living the life you want to live or those that will push you towards the direction of your dreams.
  2. Connect Mind, Body and Spirit: This step makes the point that most people make excuses that they are too busy juggling all their responsibilities to take care of themselves. However, self-care is an important part of taking care of your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. So, ask yourself- what are the obstacles in your life that have prevented you from taking time for yourself and recharging your batteries? Then set aside some time to do activities to improve your mind (reading) your body(exercise) and your spirit (meditation).
  1. Allow It: The final step is the law of attraction is to allow that which you desire to manifest in your life. For you to receive it, you must be prepared to receive it and have no doubt. So, dream big and believe anything is possible if you believe.

Until next time, Remember It’sALearningLife!

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Dare to Be YourSELF: Everyone Else Is Taken

Love You Self- Image
Love You Self

As a Jamaican immigrant living in the US, amongst people from diverse backgrounds, owning my self-identity and being authentically me – has not always been easy. This February, as we celebrate Black History Month, I have found myself thinking about how the concepts of self-identity, self-belief, self-acceptance and how they interconnect and shape our lives and actions.  

Here is what I mean-as individuals, we see and understand ourselves in relation to the world around us. How we see ourselves, what we accept and believe to true about ourselves, what we believe we can or cannot achieve, is heavily influenced by our upbringing and our early socialization. In turn, our sense of self determines, how we see ourselves and others, how we present ourselves, how we engage with others and ultimately, how other people experiences us.  So, I wanted to explore, how our understanding of all these self-related concepts can and do influence the trajectory of our lives for better or for worse.

What Does Self-Identity Mean?

Let us start with self-identity -which refers to how we describe ourselves and the labels we use. When asked to describe ourselves, our answers can typically range from references to our given identity (things that are true about us at the time of our birth) such our gender, ethnicity, family to our chosen identity (choices we make later in life) such as profession, religion, marital status, or whether you are a parent or not.  Another important aspect of our self-identity is our core identify, which reflects our deeply held beliefs about what is good and important i.e., our values and attitudes. Here you will find insights on what truly matters to the individual and what drives them. So, our self-identity is the sum of our given, chosen and core identity-all that we hold dear. For me, all these elements of my self-identity, continue to be a source of pride and influence my attitudes to everything- from relationships, faith, work, parenting, education and even my notions of success.

However, owning my self-identity and operating from it has not always been that simple. In the 8-years that I have lived here in the US, I have always been surrounded by people from all walks of life. Coming from Jamaica before that, where our motto is “Out of Many One People”, I have always valued and respected diversity. Yet, my experiences have proved to me that some people and environments- welcome, respect and value diversity more than others. And even where diversity is welcomed, immigrant minorities like me, can still struggle in building, maintaining, and navigating positive interpersonal relationships (personally and professionally).

Dr. Seuss-Truer Than You -Quote
Dr. Seuss-Truer Than You Quote

One example of how this plays out for me as Black Jamaican woman is when I am complimented by people who hear me speak – they talk about my accent and how lovely it sounds. In response, I typically smile and say thank you, because I very proud of my Jamaican heritage (100% Born and Grown). However, I have also worked in environments where, I have had a coworker (Who looks like me) say- “I don’t like you all” (meaning immigrants) and accuse me of receiving preferential treatment (due to my Caribbean heritage) , as compared to other African American women like herself. I have even had another colleague (Who does not look like me) say- “your energy is shutting me down”. When asked to expand on her statement, she alluded to my use of hands (gestures) when speaking -which is part and parcel of how I express myself.

These interactions have always given me pause and led to moments where, I have had to turn to my comfort circle for advice and encouragement. For individuals less self-assured than myself, these experiences can undermine one’s sense of psychological safety and can cause an individual to begin to doubt and question him/herself , values, and abilities. Afterall, how do you react in situations where you have been disrespected and treated unfairly, (because of another person’s biases and stereotypes)? Do you stop speaking up in meetings? Does it make you want to step back and not own your space at the table?

I know first-hand, how challenging it can be – to be the only black person and immigrant in a meeting, to speak even when your voice is unpopular, to be the youngest manager in the room, to walk into a classroom on back-to-school night as the only single parent surrounded by married couples. I have also known the frustration of always having to police myself and my daughter (Due to my knowing that, the standards used to judge one set of people, will be different from those used to judge her or me). Yet, at the end of the day, I continue to resist the urge to blend in and instead, resolve to be authentically me and not dim my light for anyone.

Self-Belief or Self-Regard

The next important self-concept to unpack is self- regard. Whether you call it self-regard or self- belief, this one speaks to how we see ourselves as individuals. Do you believe/ see yourself as worthwhile, important and valuable?  Our answer(s) to this question, often determines how we interact we with others, how we behave and how we allow people to treat us. Self-regard is also key aspect of developing our emotional intelligence. Having high self-regard will help us to communicate confidence, positivity, and improve our ability to influence and engage others, as well as, bounce back from hardships. On the other hand, having poor/low self-regard, can result in tendencies towards self-doubt, negative self-talk and not feeling empowered to use our talents and skills to pursue our goals and dreams.

Our self-belief will serves as the blueprint for our lives and drive our actions. Having high self regard, does not mean that, you see yourself as better than others. To the contrary, it means that, you have high aspirations for yourself, confidence in your abilities and you are actively working towards reaching your full potential.

What is Self -Acceptance

Self-Acceptance begs the question- do you accept you? This is not a trick question and the answer is not straightforward for some.  A huge part of self-acceptance is having an awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, limitations and opportunities for growth and development.  Accepting some truths about ourselves can be difficult, especially, when we are confronted with feedback or information that challenges how we see ourselves. When and where this happens, try not to dismiss all negative feedback because of how it makes you feel. Chances are, if you have received similar feedback from more than one person, you should take some time to look at it objectively and see what you can learn from it or do differently. At the same time, do not feel obliged to accept everyone’s opinion of you. The more self-aware we become, the less likely we will be blindsided by our actions and how we impact others.

 Another factor that might impact our ability to accept ourselves is social media. Every day, we are bombarded with images of what our bodies, beauty, family, relationships, success and achievement should look like. One unfortunate result is that, many of us feel pressured to ‘Keep Up with the Jones’s, or find ourselves in a comparison trap, where we assess our progress and achievement by looking at other people’s ‘highlight reel’.  In so doing, we struggle to come to terms with the reality that, each of us have a different path, different skill, talents, and challenges. Your season and timeline for any key milestone or goal (Marriage, children, financial freedom, home ownership, education, fitness) is different from mine. Work your own plan. Run your own race. Accept where you are right now, at this stage of your life and celebrate your small wins.

Your thoughts and experiences on any of these self-concepts may be similar or different than mine, I’d like you to, spend some time thinking about how you see yourself, what you believe is true about yourself and how you will honor /accept yourself at whatever stage of growth and development you currently find yourself in. At the end of the day, it is not about perfection but progression. Just commit to honoring who you are, where you are right now, while committing to work toward becoming the best version of yourself.

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

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Rethinking Self Care: 5 Things You Need to Do Right Now

Self Care Isn't Selfish-Sign
Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

In my last post , I shared some of the key lessons I gained for 2020 and how we might apply them to navigating 2021 and beyond. I did not focus on the self-care piece, because I wanted to dedicate an entire article to the importance of taking care of ourselves and the consequences we face when we do not.

I will be the first to admit that, I have not always honored my own self-care or prioritized it. Until recently, I had a very narrow view of self-care. It was that extra thing I did at the end of a day, week, or month. I took pride in the fact that I travelled for annual vacations, never worked on my birthday, and pulled out all the stops to treat myself on my special day. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities and I am sure that you probably have your very own version of the same. However, the problem with this approach is that, it does not paint a full and proper picture of self-care and its importance to our overall well-being.

What is Self- Care?

There are many definitions of self care. One of the definitions I particularly like is from the -UK Department of Health Steering Group. Joining Up Self-Care in the NHS. 2003

“Self care is a part of daily living. It is the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well being, and includes the care extended to their children, family, friends and others in neighborhoods and local communities. Self-Care includes the actions individuals and carers take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after acute illness or discharge from hospital.”

What is Self-Care? – ISF (isfglobal.org)

This definition emphasizes the fact that, self-care is a part of our everyday life and encourages us to take a broader view of self-care, one that includes the physical, emotional, mental, and social dimensions of our well-being. Therefore, we should not regard taking care of ourselves as a luxury. or as that optional thing we do when we find the time. It is an essential part of ensuring that we are caring for ourselves, as we carry our varied roles and responsibilities. I have often watched my friends, family and colleagues neglect to take care of themselves, as they poured all their time and energy into getting the job done, caring and providing for their families, studying, and meeting all the demands on their time.

The inevitable result is that they get sick, experience burn out, develop lifestyle diseases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension), develop poor sleeping habits, suffer from aches and pains and poor mental health.

For women, the tendency to neglect self-care is compounded by the fact that, society normalizes women as the primary care givers in the home. Women learn very early to shoulder their responsibilities, juggle multiple obligations, to not complain and carry on as best as we can. Men also struggle with self-care as they seek to fulfill their roles of provider and protector. Some neglect doing their annual physicals, internalize their emotions and fail to pay adequate attention to their nutrition. And at times, the stereotypes, and perceptions of what is “manly”, can prevent men from engaging in some types of self-care activities that can enhance their emotional and mental well- being. So, while some of us are better at taking care of ourselves than others, if you are reading this, your self-care practice might need some improvements

As a single mom, working fulltime from home, I have been guilty of neglecting my self-care and the reality of it – hit home for me last year. In mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic started, my team and I were deployed to work remotely from home. The team was relatively new, and we were still in the throes of group formation (you know how that process is), as well as learning about the agency we were established to support. Around that same time, I bought a new home and was working with contractors, while helping my 10-year-old daughter adjust to virtual school. The fear of getting COVID-19 was palpable, everyone was social distancing, and everything was stressful in preparing for the move. I was burning the candle at both ends and did not have much help.

No sooner than we had settled in our new home, George Floyd was murdered. This single act and the events that followed, affected me and people across the world in ways that I could never imagine. Growing up in Jamaica, I had not had to deal with the reality of race. And when I moved to the U.S. 8- years ago (see my Coming to America story), I had never experienced individual and structural racism, in the way that my black brothers and sisters here in America had. But, just the year before, my daughter had gone through a very painful experience with discrimination. The racial and social justice protests triggered both of us, and we struggled to make sense of how to navigate what it is like to be black in the country we now call our second home.

5 Tips to Improve Your Self- Care

During this time, my only self-care (more like self-preservation) was wearing a mask, washing my hands and social distancing. I was super stressed, suffered hair loss, felt irritable all the time, and just felt ‘dry” in every area of my life. I was not ok, and I had not put my mask on first. Fortunately, I had a comfort circle to help me work through it. I made some changes and committed to placing a greater value on my overall well- being. Becoming intentional about my self-care worked and I am in a much better place today.

So, here are 5 things you can do (right now) as you rethink your approach to valuing and caring for your whole self:

Make It Happen-Photo
Make It Happen-Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com
  1. Identity your stressors and know your signs: We all react to stress differently. And it is important for us to recognize what happens in our bodies when we are stressed. Signs of stress can range from (but not limited to) overeating, aching muscles and pains, tendency to self-isolate, alcohol abuse and drugs, worry, depression, irritability, feelings of anxiety, insomnia, forgetfulness, or spikes in blood pressure. Knowing your sign(s) will help give you a heads- up to take actions to address it. Another key part of this is figuring out, what has helped you in the past to manage your stress and stay healthy.
  2. Develop a SMART Self Care Plan: There is no one size fit approach to coming up with a personal plan for self-care. We are not all athletes or meditation enthusiasts, so whatever works for you, will not necessarily work for me. The key is to focus on the essential elements (emotional, physical, mental) of sustaining your well- being. Draft your plan by outlining the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time- bound activities, that you commit to doing in support of the different elements. So, for physical self-care, do not just say you plan to exercise more. Set a goal of walking 7500 steps x 5 days a week or taking 2 x 15 minutes break at work (a.m. and p.m.) and getting 7- hours sleep nightly.
  3. Find an accountability partner: This is the person or persons you share your SMART plan with and who will help you stay on track (or encourage you when you hit a setback.) This can be someone in your family, friend(s) or a colleague(s) who will check in with you frequently to see how you are working the plan. My biggest accountability partner at home is my daughter. She happily points out -when it is time for me to do my workouts, when to log off from work and how many dark chocolates I have eaten.
  4. Prioritize Mental Health: Mental health is no joke. The unprecedented events of 2020 brought this issue front and center and revealed that, we are all vulnerable and no one is immune. The grief of losing loved ones or coming close, the fear of getting sick, the uncertainty of not knowing when things will return to ‘normal’, loss of employment, economic challenges and social tensions impacted everyone. Yet, the stigma associated with mental health, sometimes cause us to not seek help, self-isolate, internalize our problems, pretend to be OK and suffer alone. This results in increased rates of depression and anxiety, loss of hope and purpose and the development of lifestyle diseases. So, if you are struggling in any area- please ask for help.
  5. Be a support for someone else: Truth is we all need people, and we need each other. If we are to be out brother’s /sister’s keeper, we need to be intentional about reaching out to someone that we have not heard from in while. Though your plate may be full, pick up the phone and call that person you just thought about and if you cannot call- text. This is the time to check on your “strong friend’. A listening ear or a quick word of encouragement might be the thing they need to brighten their day or give them the strength to push on.

Folks- it’s called self- care for a reason- you have to do it. Please take good care of your whole self!

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

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6 Lessons From 2020 We Should Not Forget in 2021!

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Look Ahead, Look Back

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, 2020 was a year like no other and no one saw it coming. Whether it was the COVID pandemic that shattered our notions of normal, or the physical and social isolation that revealed the quality of our relationships and threatened our mental health/well-being, or the racial and social justice unrest- that resurfaced simmering issues about structural racism, or the elections- that challenged our democracy, or the loss of loved ones that stunned us, the end of 2020 left us with a collective sigh of relief and many lessons.

Though we made it, none of us were left unscathed or unchanged by our experiences. Some of  us entered 2021 with a somber attitude, as many of the issues of  the last year travelled with us into the new one. Others entered 2021, hopeful and cautiously optimistic about their prospects for relationships, health/well-being, career and life in general. In my case, I determined that  for  2021, I will not focus on all the uncertainty looming  in the environment. Instead, I am going to concentrate on the things within my control and push forward. And so, I  have taken all the lessons I have personally learned, insights gained from the  stories I have heard and seen in the media, and come up with six  key takeaways, that I believe can help  you make sense of  the 2020, and continue to  forge ahead in 2021.

Do You Bend or Break-Photo
Do You Bend or Break?

Lessons Learned in 2020

  1. The only thing constant is change’: If  you didn’t  believe that statement before, 2020 and 2021 made believers of  us all. Your ability to pivot and adapt to the rapid pace of change (Happening all around you) has never been more crucial. However, reacting immediately and negatively to these changes, or perspectives that challenge your own, won’t help you cope. That approach, will only only produces stress and conflict, as well as undermine your  personal well-being and overall effectiveness. A better response is to,  increase your ability to manage change, by seeking information and asking questions such as – what can I learn from this and how will I make this change work for me?
  2. Learning never stops: For you to be successful in any of  your roles, you need to stay relevant. This is especially true for both individuals and organizations in times of uncertainty. Keeping abreast of the trends and innovations occurring in your industry, will enable you to demonstrate the capabilities necessary to respond to new developments and challenging situations. So, take responsibility for your own learning and development and proactively look for opportunities to add value to your team and organization.
  3. You are stronger than you know: Your experiences will undoubtedly show you that, you do not grow in places of comfort. Hardships, setbacks, and pain, reveals more to you, about you, than anything else ever could. When faced with a difficult situation,  what matters most,  is not what happened to you, but how you choose to respond.  Choosing to hope, to find the positives and making the decision to not give up, will build your resilience for the next adversity that comes along.
  4. Gratitude is a must:  Amidst all the things  that  you could legitimately complain about, there are still many things that you can be thankful for. Resist the tendency to compare your live to the  “shiny” appearance of others. The grass isn’t greener on the other side. Each and everyone of us is walking through something. Practicing  gratitude can  improve your well-being and happiness. One way to do this,  is to  start or end of your day  by reflecting on, or writing down-  three things that you are grateful for.
  5. Relationships Matter: Times like these remind us that,  our relationships are the most important and valuable currency we have. Here, it is not the quantity of the relationships (like, follows, number of “friends”) that is important,  it is the quality of  our relationships that truly counts. Nurture supportive and  life-giving connections with people with whom you can laugh, cry and relate. Practice tolerance, honesty, patience and forgiveness daily. And, be intentional about reaching out and maintaining  those relationships whether you are social distancing or not.
  6. We are all equal, but We are not all OK: 2020 evoked an heightened awareness of the  simmering issues of  inequity, racism, prejudice and discrimination. The events we witnessed, re-opened many wounds and revealed the painful and deleterious effects that these issues have on people of color. No longer is it OK to say- I didn’t know, I didn’t know what to say, or I was afraid to to speak up. Oftentimes, your silence screams consent and  complicity, or an unwillingness to be our brother’s/sister’s keeper. Each of us have a responsibility to educate ourselves about these issues, show empathy even when its uncomfortable, and to speak up when and where we see something wrong. In the words of Maya Angelou- “Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”

Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”

What were your lessons learned? Pause and reflect on your experiences in 2020, identify your takeaways, and commit to applying them to making 2021 a better year for you and your loved ones.

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

‘Our relationships are the most important and valuable currency we have.’

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Level UP!!

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

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

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

Why Level Up?

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

What Does Levelling Up Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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Coming to America..4 Years Later

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

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

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

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