“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” ― Yvonne Woon
When was the last time you stepped back to reflect on your performance? Are you meeting your own expectations? Better yet, are you exceeding the expectations you set for yourself? Reflecting on your performance towards your goals on a regular basis will ensure you stay focused on your path to your defined success.
Reflective practice is a skill that can be developed. Learning to reflect will help you move your goals from theory into behaviors that help your goals become a reality. Reflective practice will also help you increase your self-awareness, a key component of emotional intelligence.
Do you have people you can turn to that will provide you with candid feedback? How you see yourself and how others see you can be different. Create a list of people you can rely on to help you reflect and stay focused on your goals. Offer to do the same for others.
During your reflective practice are you keeping track of your progress through documentation? Capturing your goals and accomplishments in writing provides tangible results you can focus on when you need a boost or want to challenge yourself to go to the next level.
Schedule time to reflect and ask yourself:
- What am I doing well?
- What do I need to do differently?
- What have I been doing and what type of emotions have I been having?
- What prompts them?
- Do I need to make changes?
Personal development is a lifelong process that requires you to be honest with yourself. Taking time to reflect and measure your performance towards your goals provides you opportunities for continuous learning and growth. Taking time to reflect means slowing down enough to stop, enjoy the adventure and figure out what is really important to YOU.
To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work. – Sister Mary Lauretta
What does ‘meaningful work’ mean to you? According to Malcom Gladwell meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out.
When was the last time you reflected on the work you do? Are you focused and mindful with your pursuits? Are you able to answer the following questions?
- Am I being challenged?
- Am I growing and learning new skills?
- Am I respected by my colleagues?
- Do I believe in the mission of the organization I’m working with?
Think long term – Ask yourself what life you want. Think about where you want to be in five, ten, 20 years. Of course, you have to answer more immediate questions about what you want in your current job or your next, but do so only in the context of your longer, larger career goals.
Meaningful work will mean something different for each of us. I encourage you to look beyond the obvious things, like salary, title, or prestige of the company and reflect on the following categories:
This is about the concrete outcomes of your work. What do you want to achieve? Sure, you may spend a lot of your day responding to emails or attending meetings — most jobs entail at least some of that — but what evidence do you want of your work?
These are the strengths that you want to improve. The key is that you are using these strengths in a way that you find rewarding. Being good at something you don’t enjoy doesn’t count; it has to be something you love to do.
This is about the salary, benefits, and flexibility you need to live the life you want. For some people, this may mean a high paycheck that allows you to take exotic vacations. For others, it could be the freedom to work when and where you choose. Here you need to know the lifestyle you want and ask whether your job is helping you fulfill that.
This covers the culture and values of the place you work. This is not the same as mission; it is about whether you feel like you belong. What are the beliefs and priorities of the company and the people you work with? How do people treat each other? Do they collaborate? Have lunch together? It’s important to enjoy spending time with your colleagues and your manager.
The content of these categories will vary for each person. Make a list of all the things you value, and then prioritize them. This list will help guide your decisions and can be used to evaluate specific opportunities like a new assignment in your current role, a job at a different company, or a new career path.
Answers to the above questions are the things that will make the difference between being okay with your work and being truly happy.
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them. – George Bernard Shaw
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
It’s the middle of the year, are you on target to achieve the goals you set earlier this year?
Now is a great time to step back and analysis the progress you are, or are not, making with your goals. Use the below looking-back and looking-forward questions to identify how you want to spend the second half of your year.
- Key Accomplishments
- What are all of the great things that I got done over the past six months?
- What goals did I achieve?
- What things am I most proud of accomplishing?
- Which of my goals did I really miss the mark on?
- What opportunities to learn new things did I take advantage of?
- What were the things I learned most?
- What mistakes did I make and what did I learn from them?
- Time Management
- How well did I manage my time?
- Have I been focusing my time on the most important things in my life?
- Are there any significant “time wasters” that I need to reduce or eliminate from my life?
- Top Three Goals
- What are my top three goals for the remainder of the year?
- Why are those goals important to me?
- What habits and processes do I need to adopt to support those goals?
- Learning and Knowledge
- What areas of learning do I most need to focus on?
- What new skills do I need to develop or strengthen?
- What things do I need to “keep current” on?
- What one skill, if mastered, would have the greatest impact on the achievement of my goals?
- What time management habits do I need to develop and strengthen?
- What three habits, if developed and sustained, would have the greatest positive impact
on my life?
- What habits do I need to drop or replace?
Taking time to check in with your goal status provides you an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments and regroup where needed.
If you are having challenges with meeting your goals taking time explore why, how, and where will help you create an action plan to overcome your obstacles. Methods to overcome hurdles:
Taking time to be mindful with your goal pursuit will give them a more gentle, realistic, and achievable tone. Find a quiet place to sit, take a few deep breaths, relax, and visualize what it
will be like when you achieve your goals. Imagine what it will feel like to be in this space of accomplishment.
“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will alw
ays have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish”. ~ Chuck Norris
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ― Marcus Aurelius
When was the last time you had an awe-inspiring moment that made you say “WOW!”? When did you last feel a moment of wonder because you were in the presence of something vast? Do you have places that spring to mind when you think of moments that left you in awe?
Awe has been described as an emotion in the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear. Awe consists of two qualities: perceived vastness (something you think to be greater than yourself), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into your current mental structure.
Experiences of awe can change the course of life in profound and permanent ways. It’s an emotion that can have a tremendous impact because it takes you out of your own head. It minimizes your individual identity and attunes you to things bigger than yourself. It shifts your focus from your individual needs to a greater good. Awe helps you to see things in a new light; giving you a sense of hope and the ability to see the bigger picture of life. When you experience awe, you are more likely to feel that you’re rich in time because awe expands your perception of time, anchoring you in the present moment.
The actual feeling of awe and experiences that inspire it benefit you in all sorts of ways, from stronger health to improved relationships. Awe experiences make you more generous and more humble. Recent research is showing that positive emotions such as awe may help increase your immune system, lower inflammation and reduce the risk for heart disease, arthritis, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
There is awesomeness in your everyday life, take a gander at your miraculous body. Look at yourself in the mirror, stare into your own eyes and contemplate what it takes for them to work at all. For many of you, it is awesome that water pours out of a faucet with the turn of a knob and you can have heat and cooled air with the turn of a dial. It is awesome that communication is beamed through time and space right into your hands.
Some peak experiences can be once-in-a-lifetime… but there are also everyday peak experiences that are equally amazing and available to you if you have your antennae up for the sense of wonder and awe that is everywhere. You are capable of experiencing awe, which can be invoked by anything that takes you out of your usual mindset and allows you to experience a connection with something greater.
Here are tips on how to attract awesomeness into your life:
- Reminisce – Awesome experience. Perhaps it was a pristine place or a time you connected deeply with others during a special moment. Recall the details. Where were you? What touched you about it? What did it sound like? Feel like? When you can draw on your memories of awesomeness, you experience those feelings again.
- Seek out beauty – Beautiful music, amazing art, or stunning natural views can invoke feelings of awe, so seek them out. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and make you feel good. Take time to notice and savor them. Common triggers for awesome experiences come from nature; in particular, water, mountains, trees, and flowers; dusk, sunrise, sunlight; dramatically bad weather and spring are often a catalyst for feeling awe.
- Become present to the awesomeness in others – Look out for awesome performances. Surround yourself with people doing amazing things. Tune into the peak moments of life such as watching a baby being born, or someone you love triumphing after challenge. Savor the amazing and you will be elevated by awe.
When you experience awe, you are filled with positive emotion. You feel happier and more fulfilled. You are also healthier and experience greater vitality.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats
What songs inspire or nurture you? Do you have a theme song that captures the essence of you or your day?
When you play music, you are exercising your brain. Music is strongly associated with the brain’s reward system; influencing the brain to release the chemical dopamine. Scientists have found music and mood are inherently linked, listening to happy or sad music can change the way you identify with the world. Music can also be used to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. Recent scientific studies have found listening to music:
- Can have a beneficial effect on your body by slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels ofstress hormones.
- Can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings.
Music can be a tool you can use to dial up a mood or mindset on demand by choosing music that elicits a specific emotional response. Emotional responses to music is very individual; not all ‘happy’ songs are universally perceived as being uplifting or are guaranteed to put you in a good mood all the time. Experiment with music to find songs that strike a particular emotional chord in you, use music to create a targeted mindset. Ask yourself: “Does this song make me feel like the glass is half empty or full? Does this song make me feel energized or depressed? What state-of-mind do I want to be in right now?”
Take constant inventory of how a specific song affects your mood and mindset. Play around with a variety of songs, artists and different genres to create a playlist of ‘power songs’ that are anthems when you need to trigger a specific state of mind on demand.
One caveat, by overplaying any song you will dilute the original mindset associated with that song. This is why a song that you haven’t heard in decades can take you right back to all the emotions, and feelings of the original time. (The same is true with scent.) If you want a song to have an emotional impact linked to a specific person, place or experience from your past listen to it sparingly and make it part of a time capsule memory vault that you consciously preserve.
Have fun searching the vast amount of music to find what works for you. Use music to click into a desired conscious state-of-mind.
“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt – 1884-1962
When is the last time you stopped to reflect upon the type of choices are you making? Every day you make choices, more choices than you may realize. Some choices may not seem like choices at all. These mindless choices are our habits or normative behaviors. Habits are choices we make so regularly that over time they demand less and less executive control. As a consequence, they start to seem automatic. But they aren’t. When it comes to habits, you may even be motivated to make an excuse that you are at the mercy of the automatic choice that has become a habit.
There is always a choice, even when life gets bumpy because of choices you had made along the way. When you reach a bumpy path or fork in the road, take time for yourself to reflect and evaluate the choices you had made and identify alternative or new choices you can make to bring you back to your desired path. Use positive energy to focus on solutions and positive changes you can make. Choosing to turn bumps and forks in the road into an experience that will put you back on the path to success will inspire you, enhance the quality of your life, and bring positive transformation.
Taking time to reflect on the daily choices you are making will also motivate you to achieve more in life, to reach new levels of learning and self-awareness. This can then lead to an increased sense of self-esteem, confidence, courage, wisdom and inner peace.
Here are some tips to help you reflect and determine which path to take next time you find yourself standing at a fork in the road:
- Listen to your intuition. Tap into your intuition. You intuitively know what you want.
- Weigh the pros and cons. Take time to thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of each situation. Work to determine which situation will provide you with the best choice.
- Get outside input. Seeking input from others may provide different perspectives on your choices. A variety of opinions and words of wisdom may help you make your decision.
- Don’t let fear decide. Change can be scary. Making choices can be intimidating. Fear tries to convince you that keeping things the same is better and that change is not worth the risk. Learn to push fear aside and recognize that you need to make a choice that’s based on what’s best for you, not a choice based on avoiding what you are afraid of.
- Do what’s best for you. Do what’s right for you. This can be hard to determine sometimes when you’re weighing all of the options and getting various words of advice, but ultimately you have to focus on yourself. Tune everything else out and really ask yourself, “What is the right choice for me?” If you took away all of the details and distractions and “What if” questions, you’ll come to the realization that you know what’s best for you. Once you determine what’s best for you the question is: are you going to do what’s best for you? Sometimes this is much easier realized than acted upon.
- Trust in yourself. This ties in with the first point, but it’s not entirely the same. Once you’ve done all of the things above and you reach a decision, you may find yourself stepping back and questioning the choice your about to make. Even after all of the work you’ve done to get to this point, your mind might be filled with doubts. Don’t let those doubts overcome you. Remind yourself that you are doing what’s best for you and you’ve taken great steps to come to this conclusion. Believe in the choice you’ve made and, above all, remind yourself that everything is happening just as it should.
- Don’t ever look back. Once you’ve made your choice, make sure that you commit yourself to it and refuse to look back. It’s easy to begin doubting your choice, but looking back and wondering about what could have happened if you had made a different choice will do you no good. Realize that there is no such thing as a bad choice – if you choose with the right mindset then every choice brings learning and growth. When you accept and move forward on your journey then choosing loses some of its daunting weight and becomes a joyful experience.
- Choose something. Analyzing, assessing and agonizing are important, but can only go on for so long. Life is lived through actions; acting on your choice is the most important.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Feeling a bit stressed? High levels of personal stress within and outside of the workplace are becoming commonplace. Stress is not going away, which is why focusing on developing your resilience will help you deal with the daily stressors you are faced with. Resilience is being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Resilient people have an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situations. They are able to find potential or value in most challenges. The following characteristics will help you develop your resilience.
Filtering information and interpreting your world
- Personal Responsibility – the extent to which you believe that your success at work is determined by you talents and motivation as opposed to external factors such as luck or good timing.
- Realistic Optimism – seeing the world in a positive way, but also remaining grounded in reality. It is noticing and appreciating positive experiences whenever and wherever they occur, not taking things for granted.
- Personal Beliefs– seeking and embracing the sense that life has meaning and purpose. This may be in the form of religious observance, spirituality, or devotion to a particular value system or cause.
- Self-Assurance– the extent to which you believe you can
successfully perform work-related tasks or behaviors. Challenge your reflexive thoughts and negative self-talk; change emotional patterns, restrain your negative thinking and stoke your positive thinking.
- Self-Composure – the extent to which you manage your stress and remain calm under pressure. Take stock of how things might have been otherwise, instead of just how they are, use strategic positive thinking to increase gratitude, which then builds resiliency.
- Self-Care – good physical health, including a regular routine of healthy habits is foundational to both mental and emotional resilience. This includes taking mental breaks and time to relax, especially spending time outdoors and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy. Research suggests that spending just 20 minutes outside leads to more expansive and open thinking.
- Problem-Solving– the extent to which you can plan and resolve problems effectively. One strategy to fostering a learner mindset is to use “question thinking” (“What is useful here?’ or ‘What are my available choices?’), as opposed to ‘Judger Questions’ (‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Why me?’)
- Goal Orientation– the extent to which you set appropriate goals and monitor your progress on those goals. While it might sound cliché, the more you can consider challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and develop, the more resilient you are likely to be.
Communicating and connecting with others
- Courageous Conversations– the extent to which you communicate with others in a candid and courageous way in the face of difficulty.
- Social Support– the extent to which you have a supportive social network. Being of service to others is a potent way of fuelling resilience. Studies have shown that serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being) is used more efficiently by people who have just engaged in an act of kindness. There is a cumulative effect to continued acts of kindness and the serotonin boosts that accompany them. You can fill up your well of resiliency when you consistently add to it. When times get difficult, you can draw upon this well
What are you going to do today to start depositing into your resiliency account?
“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” ~Humbert Wolfe
The autumn equinox marks the arrival of the season of fall, traditionally seen as a period of changes leading to the dark of winter. This change in the amount of light is a signal to animals, plants and, before the light bulb, people, of changing seasons. Darkness can be a place of silent nurturance, where the slow, steady gestation needed for inner growth can occur. It’s a time to look inside yourself and reflect on what you see. It’s a time of focus. The hustle and bustle of the warmer months is dying down and you have more time to focus on change; it’s quieter and easier to listen to your inner voice.
As you watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, be reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in your life. Autumn is a time for letting go
and releasing things that have been a burden. The energy of your surroundings changes, and as energetic beings you reverberate that. What fulfills you in the winter is not going to energize you in the summer. Just as what invigorates you in the spring will not humble you in the fall. Change is important. It keeps you alive and present; it keeps you going. And it’s the only constant you can rely on.
As the seasons change, it is a good time to take a good look at your health and lifestyle. Review your dreams, hopes and desires for your personal and professional life. Do you need to make changes to your behaviors to realign to your goals?
Whatever changes are calling you this season, honor them. If it’s your job, feel inspired and excited to begin the search for a new one. If it’s your diet, enjoy the bounty of nature’s harvest available in the fall. If it’s your exercise routine, be grateful that the heat of the summer has died down and it’s easier to be outside, enjoying nature. Whatever it is welcome that change into your life. Use this change in seasons, this change in the Earth’s energy to move forward, out of the now and into the new.
Learning about and living in harmony with the nature of each season will help you stay healthy. Live in harmony with the world around you, see that nature is slowing down and contracting; preparing to rest so it is good for you to do the same. Sleeping a little longer, eating warming, nourishing foods, and moving inward – paying extra attention to your internal life. This is the season for you to give yourself some extra attention and self-love. Be content inside; be thankful for your present state because it is a gift that is meant to help you experience your life in an exceptional way.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
When is the last time you let go and had the pure joy and ecstatic feeling of play? Play is an important source of relaxation and stimulation. It gives us time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured, creative way. There doesn’t need to be any point or goal to the activity beyond just having fun and enjoying yourself. Play could be simply goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee on the beach, wearing a costume on a Holiday, building a snowman in the yard, playing fetch with a dog, a game of charades at a party, or going for a bike ride with no destination in mind. Play may or may not involve smiles and laughter; it is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.”
By giving yourself permission to play with joyful abandon, you can reap numerous health benefits.
- Play relieves stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Play has been scientifically provento be good for the brain. Older people who get regular exercise and play are less likely to suffer cognitive decline. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
- Play stimulates the mind and boost creativity. Play nourishes your ability to be adaptive and problem solve. It is nature’s great tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. When you play, dilemmas and challenges naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out. Even a few hours spent doing something you love can make you new again. One reason why play is such an ideal state of mind for creativity and learning is because the mind is focused on means. Since the ends are understood as secondary, fear of failure is absent and you feel free to incorporate new sources of information and to experiment with new ways of doing things.
- Play improves relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
- Play can keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best. Play nourishes the spirit.
Incorporating more play into your daily life can improve the quality of your relationships, your mood, and outlook. Play can help you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. Even in the most difficult of times, taking time away from your troubles to play or laugh can go a long way toward making you feel better. The good feeling that you get when you laugh and have fun remains with you even after the fun subsides.
It’s never too late to develop your playful, humorous side. Reclaim your inner child by setting aside regular, quality playtime. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want for the time you’ve allotted. Be spontaneous, set aside your inhibitions and try something fun, try something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Enjoy the change of pace; you never know what magic may happen!
People are living longer, staying active in the work force longer, and need to continuously learn to keep up with the ever changing world.
Your ability to anticipate your organization’s needs, tailor your learning to meet your own unique learning style, and acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to create value for your customers, employer, and organization is critical to your success. Information and knowledge in every field is doubling every 2-3 years, this means that your knowledge has to double every 2-3 years, just for you to stay even.
Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in your field. Learning is profit and competitive edge. The soul of business is innovation; the soul of personal success is the innovation of self. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to have, run, or be part of a business that succeeds in a time of change, you need to be willing and able to change.
Learning is a physical and emotional based process. It requires you to be connected with thinking, acting, and feeling. Active learning experiences (discussion, simulations, games, and role plays) change your brain as you learn new knowledge; you create new brain cell connections. These changes in the brain will reverse when you do not have the opportunity to use the skills you developed. Optimal sleep and silencing the mind through meditation will also enhance the availability of these brain cell connections.
To stay in the continuous learning and continuous growth mindset add the following active learning experiences to your daily habits:
Be great at your job
- If you want to get ahead, first be great at what you do. If you’re great at what you do, people will take notice and have you in mind for special projects and maybe even for a promotion. There are three way to do this:
- First, get clarity on the expectations of your current job.
- Second, ask your manager, customers, and peers for feedback and regularly ask what you can do to improve.
- Third, take action! Set and achieve learning goals.
Explore and apply what you learn
- Keep an open mind:
- On a regular basis take time to honestly assess your progress and current skills. Update your learning plan as needed.
- Follow your intuition – let your intuition guide you to make learning enjoyable.
- Keep a “Want to Learn” list; write ideas for new areas of study. Whatever motivates you, write it down.
- Identify your personal learning style. Maximize on how you prefer to learn. (This link will take you to a learning style assessment created by Marcia Conner, author of Learn More Now.)
- Actively silence the mind through meditation for at least 15 minutes a day. Sustained focus is essential for learning and creative thinking.
- Have a book to read, take it with you so you can read it when you have ‘waiting’ time.
- Spend at least 15 minutes a day on learning.
Develop leadership skills
- Learn leadership skills and take action on them. Leadership is everyone’s business. Anyone can be a leader in an organization, no matter their job. Leaders solve problems. Leaders make things happen. Leaders inspire others to be their best. Anyone can do that.
- Teach others – you learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning. Start a blog, mentor someone, or even discuss ideas with a friend.
- Spend more time with people who think; people who invest time in learning new skills.
- Get involved with organizations that teach skills. Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.
- Join industry associations and organizations that encourage and support individuals with learning current information and ideas on their fields.
Learning is life. Your vision and goals will be infused with a new sense of exuberance when you commit to learning what you need to learn in order to achieve them.
DEDICATE YOURSELF TO CONTINUOUS LEARNING AND CONTINUOUS GROWTH