MAKE PROGRESS DESPITE THE ODDS

journey“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” — Frederick Wilcox

Most people take more risks than they’ll like to admit. Each time we take a step out of our front door we are taking a risk and betting that all will be well and we will return. I could go further to say that mere existence is a risk. After all anything can happen at any time. It would therefore appear that we are prepared or more inclined to take risks when faced with situations where we feel we have no choice or where non-action impacts our survival. For example we risk travelling to work because we need the finances to pay our bills. So why are we less inclined to take risks related to our progress or future? Here are a few insights on why and alternative responses to help move you into taking steps that translate into progress:

  • Fear of the unknown – When deciding to take bold actions, the first challenge is fear of what might result. You can overcome this by analysing the risk and determining the risk-reward profile. If you are confident that the potential reward outweighs the impact of the risk materialising, then you are over the first hurdle. This is called risk calculation.
  • Control – The human nature has a great tendency to want to retain control. We want to be in charge of everything that impacts us and as a result we put measures in place to prevent undesired events. There is nothing wrong with this as long as it does not stop us from achieving our goals. In actual fact this in itself is at the heart of risk taking. You can take risks while retaining control. This is called mitigation. Assess the situation, identify what is at stake (the impact) and put measures in place to handle any unintended consequences of taking the risk. Remember to circle back to check the cost of putting your mitigations in place does not erode the potential reward to be gained. If it does then you have to ask yourself if the risk is still worth taking.
  • Security – Lets face it, risk taking means some amount of security is lost. therefore if you have decided to take a “calculated” risk, as you embark on your journey it is important to monitor the risk by reviewing it. Life happens and things change. You must therefore ensure that the risk you have taken is still what it is, the impact is still the same and that your mitigations are still valid. You may even find that the risk becomes immaterial as you make progress.

Remember – nothing ventured, nothing gained. Try some thing new today. Take a calculated risk in this journey called life.

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Avoid the Blues

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”
Audrey Hepburn

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Last Monday was Blue Monday. We are told this was the most depressing day of the year. I marvelled at the effort many organisations went to so as to create awareness and to help employees through it. Such was frenzy surrounding this phenomenon that it was difficult to ignore.

I wondered if there was a science behind it. I soon learnt that a psychologist from Cardiff, Dr Arnall, using a formula he devised based on research data determined that the 3rd Monday of the year was the most depressing day of the year. While there is no scientific evidence to back-up this claim, many people believe it – after all our organisations, the media and every outlet we lend our ears to tell us it is blue Monday, so we believe it!

The same parallels can be drawn for our goals and aspirations. Challenges, circumstances, people including ourselves give us reasons why we cannot achieve our goals. We sometimes give ourselves a myriad of reasons why we can’t or why it is impossible to do. Next we begin to experience self-doubt. We question our ability to achieve our goals and reach our full potential.

My conclusion: If you tell yourself enough times, you will start to believe it whether it is true or not. So Why not tell yourself that you can? There are certainly just as many reasons “for” as there are “against” you achieving your goals and  your full potential. Tell yourself those “for” reasons as often as you need to until your subconscious believes it too. Surround yourself with positivity and great examples of success.

I leave you with this video someone shared with me last week. You are what you say you are. Believe.

 

STOP! ASSESS! RECALIBRATE!

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Happy New Year!

It’s the start of a new year and like many I feel energised and ready to take on the world. Those that follow my blog may realise that I haven’t been blogging for many months. I started a new role leading a very challenging project and somehow never found the time to come up for air.

Having been forced up for air by the numerous bank holidays we have been afforded (God Save the Queen!), I have had time to take stock and evaluate things. 2016 had been very challenging for me in my career as well as personally. I was overwhelmed. With this came the tendency to take irrational steps and short-sighted decisions. My decision making process and reactions became impaired. Rather than calculated and deliberate responses, I became reactive and on edge. My performance was affected. Thankfully the end of the year brought some much needed respite. I was able to take stock and evaluate why some things had happened the way they did but more importantly what I needed to do to move forward.

As I thought about making new resolutions I realised that had I not taken the time to assess and evaluate I would most certainly have crashed and burned out in a matter of weeks. I so desperately needed that time away from work and everybody (well almost everyone – still had to be a mom and a wife, sister and daughter!) I figured my vision for the future had not changed and my goals still needed to be geared towards realising the vision. With that in mind I knew that in the pursuit of my goals and vision there will always be challenges. In dealing with these challenges our plans might change but ultimately the goals and vision remain the same. These challenges, if not addressed in a timely manner can overwhelm and derail you from achieving your goals.

So here’s my advice and what I have determined to do- In 2017, know when its time to stop and evaluate. Create a space for yourself  – you may need to take a couple of days off to adjust your strategy. Take yourself out of the thick of the situation and just breathe. Don’t get stuck in the rut. Recognise when you are at the end of your tether because it is time to start over. Don’t wait till the situation overwhelms you. Have a new year resolution as often as you need it throughout the year. Don’t wait till it falls apart or till it’s time for your mid-year reviews or year-end reviews. Once you get to a place where you are starting to sink it’s time to Stop! Assess! Recalibrate!

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GRAVITAS

GRAVITAS

“I gravitate towards Gravitas” – Morgan Freeman.

What do successful and confident people have in common and why are some people effortlessly charismatic? From Kennedy to Obama, Thatcher to Oprah, these people simply have the X-Factor and a captivating presence. This commanding presence is Gravitas, a personality trait that is seemingly exclusive to a set few. It makes the world want to listen and follow.

Gravitas is simply about roots that give you a solid foundation to express yourself with confidence and authority and wings that enable you to ascend to great heights. Thankfully Gravitas is not as exclusive as it seems. We all can have gravitas. To find gravitas, you need eliminate anxieties, bad habits of speech and body language, and negative beliefs about yourself. It helps to get to the root of who you really are and what you are passionate about.

Knowledge + purpose + passion (-anxiety) = Gravitas

KNOWLEDGE: To express yourself in a way that makes others listen requires a breath of experience. What is it that you have to say? Do you have the right expertise to support it? If you do, then are you able to express yourself confidently? Knowledge is about the mind and to demonstrate sound knowledge you must be able to convince your audience that you have the expertise. Expressing yourself confidently requires you to coordinate your tone and body language in a way that convinces the listener.  Getting Your Message Across gives a deep but concise summary of how to express yourself successfully.

PURPOSE: Your purpose relates to your values. It doesn’t have to be a grand idea but a sincere and true purpose to make a difference. It is simply what matters to you and others. Finding a common purpose or goal gives you a way into hearts rather than minds. Gravitas is expressed strongly when you serve a greater good. Your purpose is what gives you the impetus to reach and captivate your audience.

PASSION: Passion and purpose go hand in hand. Your purpose is at the center of your passion. People will naturally engage with you when you let your passion show. Your passion creates the positive energy that brings your ideas to life, inspires others and sets you apart.

ANXIETY: Just like passion, anxiety (worry, nervousness, or unease) has energy. It has negative energy that draws you in and drains your passion. Find your true north. Get comfortable with yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Be flexible and natural.

Practice makes perfect. The more you work on increasing your knowledge, discovering your purpose and igniting your passion, the less anxious you will be. You will acquire the Gravitas needed to be more confident and charismatic.

 

UNLEASH YOUR STRENGTHS FOR SUCCESS

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Are you projecting the best “You”?

Success lies in our ability to discover your strengths and to organize your life so that these strengths can be applied to achieve your goals. If we manage our weaknesses, instead of focusing on them, we will be able to build up our strengths.

STRENGTHS or TALENTS?

Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behaviour that can be productively applied. A strength is the ability to consistently provide perfect or near-perfect performance in a specific activity.  Talents, knowledge, and skills, together with the time spent (i.e., investment) practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base — combine to create your strengths.

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Your talents provide the multiplier effect that transforms your investment/effort into a strength. It is the power that propels you towards success.

 

A STRENGTH-BASED APPROACH

Hard work does not equal strength. You have several times more potential for growth when you invest energy in developing your strengths instead of correcting your weaknesses/deficiencies. For those unable to focus their energy on what they do best – i.e. their strengths- the cost to them, their career or their business can be staggering!

  • A strength based approach improves your confidence, direction, hope and interaction with your individual and business environment.
  • A strength-based approach will increase your ability to innovate and generate creative ideas that add value.

 

FOUR PRACTICAL STEPS TO UNLEASHING YOUR STRENGTHS

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Peter Drucker asserts that most people think they know what they are good at but are usually wrong. Our natural talents and passions are the things we truly love to do – they are the purpose for which we exist. They define our unique brand and make us stand out from the crowd.

I once heard the tale of the “Greatest General” of all time. A certain man had died and went to heaven. Upon getting to heaven he asked the angel a question which had baffled him all his life. He asked: “I have been interested in military history my whole life. Who is the greatest general of all time?” The angel answered – “That man over there.” He replied, “Oh you must be mistaken, I knew that man on earth. He was a common labourer.” “That’s right”, answered the angel, “he would have been the greatest general of all time – if only he had been a general.”

You owe it to yourself – unleash your strengths and be the greatest YOU that you are meant to be.

The Pursuit of Happiness

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Be happy… Not because everything is good, but because you can see the good side of everything” -Author Unknown

The world around us is chaotic. Life and work is moving fast and can often bring stress and undue pressure even for the most composed and organised ones among us. Many think that the harder they work the more successful they will become and hence the happier their lives will be. While there is a direct correlation between success and happiness, we all know that success does not always bring happiness. The question is: does happiness increase your chances of success?

Most people I come across are generally happy and positive but not enough people pursue happiness. Research has shown that people are more successful when they are happy and positive. This is because happy people are more likely to behave in ways that lead to success. If therefore, our ability to achieve success somewhat depends on happiness, will we be more inclined to pursue it? Shawn Achor offers us the Happiness Advantage. In his book, he describes 7 principles of positive psychology that may help us perform better and achieve success:

  • The positivity factor – This encompasses what Achor calls the Happiness Advantage. A positive brain does have a biological advantage because happiness is characterised by emotions of joy, hope, inspiration, serenity, pride, love etc. all of which fuel creativity. The happier we are, the more motivated we are to do the things that help us achieve our goals and consequently make us successful.

ACTION: Figure out the things that bring you joy, hope, inspiration, serenity, love, pride and surround yourself with those things.

  • How do you see the world?-  A glass is either half full or half empty. It just depends on your outlook – positive or negative. We are able to significantly change our outcomes based on our perception of the situations we find ourselves in. I was once told the tale of a man who tried to escape captivity. He had scaled nine fences in a bid to reach freedom. After the ninth fence he managed to convince himself there was no way out and proceeded to scale the nine fences back to captivity. Well it turns out there was only one more fence he needed to scale to reach his freedom!

ACTION: Change your mind-set. You can empower yourself to experience life differently by changing the meaning that you give to things and situations you find yourself in.

  • Train Your Brain To See The Opportunities – Our brains are programmed to act in patterns that we create. If we respond to an event, time and time again in a certain way, then we create a pattern for our brains to follow. The “tetris effect” is the notion that you can retrain your brain to spot patterns of possibility instead of impossibility and to seek out opportunity instead of weaknesses.

ACTION: Consciously look for opportunities in everyday life. Do it consistently for one month and your brain will naturally adjust itself.

  • Find A Way Out – Life happens. Sometimes negative things will happen or failure happens. What matters is how we respond. My pastor always says failure is an event not the definition of a person. You must find a way out of the situation and move forward. The only way to deal with a negative event or failure is to confront it and deal with it.

ACTION: “Falling up” is a strategy to get yourself up when things go wrong. Find a path that not only takes you out of the challenge, but makes you stronger.

  • Zero In –   Some people love a challenge, others don’t. What is important is that we know what our capacity is. When life becomes chaotic or challenging the tendency for many people is that they become flustered, confused and likely to act irrationally.

ACTION: Focus on smaller goals or targets that you can manage and gradually increase your capacity as you get comfortable.

  • The 20 Second Rule – Deciding to become a happier person requires you to commit to seeing and doing things differently but that in itself presents a challenge – the willpower to commit! When given a choice we are more likely to choose activities that are comfortable over those that challenge or stretch us. This is because good habits take effort and that’s where the problem lies. We often focus on the effort required to complete a task and immediately become overwhelmed by it. Achor offers a cracking solution which is to focus only on the initial action to start the activity and make it really easy to do. Achor states that   – “In physics, activation energy is the initial spark needed to catalyse a reaction. The same energy, both physical and mental, is needed of people to overcome inertia and kick-start a positive habit.”  For example if you have committed to eating healthily and you find that you don’t because you have to clean and peel fresh vegetables after a long day at work then you may want to opt for frozen or prepared vegetables which takes little or no time (20 seconds) to get out of the fridge and start cooking. That way you eliminate the challenge of preparation! The opposite is also true for eliminating bad habits. Make it hard enough to access the habit and your brain naturally drops the habit.

ACTION: Decrease the activation energy you need to do positive habits and increase it for negative habits.

  • Social Investment – Networks are valuable. The value of social capital is an indication of the size and health of your social network. Your social network are the people and relationships you rely on and are often key in helping you navigate challenging times and situations.

ACTION: Invest time and energy in the people that make up your social network. 

“Happiness is not the lack of troubles, it’s the capacity to deal with them” – Author Unkonwn

Getting Your Message Across

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Do you often struggle to get your point across to an audience or group? I’ve certainly been in situations where I know exactly what message I need to communicate, but somehow my message gets lost in translation. I wondered how certain people manage to simply and effortlessly get their message across to an audience while the rest of us struggle. It almost seems that these people are born with an innate ability to captivate or mesmerise. These people are said to have gravitas and a commanding presence. But can this ability be developed or learned? Thankfully – Yes! I recently read Roger Ailes book You are the message: Getting What You Want By Being Who You Are and was amazed at how in four simple steps, you can transform the way you communicate to become a great communicator, capable of captivating and mesmerising your listening audience. Ailes suggests:

  1. Be Prepared – A great communicator is usually one who understands their subject matter. You cannot communicate what you don’t know so invest time and effort in developing your knowledge. It also pays to extend your knowledge beyond the immediate scope as this gives you an edge. Knowledge is power, preparation inspires confidence.
  2.  Be Comfortable – Getting comfortable when standing before an audience sounds easier said than done.  By finding simple ways to be light-hearted and humorous, you can ease any tensions that may have. Don’t take yourself too seriously and loose the anxiety. When you’re comfortable your audience will be too. I found that just by sharing my personal experiences helps to set people at ease.
  3. Be Committed – This is by far my favourite one. Its all about your convictions and your purpose. Be clear on what you are talking about and why its important. Convey what the greater good is. Let your passion for the subject shine through anew others will relate to it or buy into it.
  4. Be Interesting – This is a difficult one! At least for most people myself included. The good news is you can easily be interesting just by being your authentic self. It is often those unique things about us that make us interesting. Don’t be afraid to let the real you come out to play.