Mindset – the First Step to Success

Mindset - The First Step to Success

Everything we do is an attempt to control our lives and despite what you may think, we are not controlled by external, but by internal forces – what we think and believe. In other words, our mindset.

The definition of mindset is a “particular way of thinking, a person’s attitude or opinion about something, an inclination of habit”. Nowhere does it mention “truth” or “facts”. This is because your mindset is merely your way of thinking, your perspective, your habits of thought. It’s not reality, it’s your version of reality. In “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz refers to it as a dream. It isn’t carved in stone and set for life. You can choose to change it at any time, by reframing the meaning you give it, especially if it’s not serving you.

In my own struggles to create a career I love, I realize now that my biggest obstacle wasn’t my age, lack of the “proper” degree, money, time or any other excuse. My biggest obstacle was my mindset. You are what you think.

Mindset – 5 Qualities to Foster

When considering what goals to focus on,  examining your mindset is a good place to begin. Of course, your habits of thoughts and beliefs aren’t going to announce themselves, they operate subconsciously so this is not a one time exercise. You’ll need to bring a lot of awareness to your thoughts and question them.  Are they helping or hindering you – and weed out the ineffective ones. Five qualities of a constructive mindset are: self-acceptance, a belief in yourself, optimism, resourcefulness and curiosity.

Self-Acceptance

Self-acceptance is about living from your genuine voice, “to the truth of your inner being in all the ways that it speaks to you and live from it” as Helene G. Brenner Ph.D describes it. The problem a lot of women have, myself included, is too often we let other people’s opinions, desires and assumptions govern us. We find fault and constantly tell ourselves we are “not enough”. When we listen to our authentic voice we realize that we don’t have to fix, change or improve anything to be happy. There is no test to pass, conditions to meet or anything to prove in order to pursue the life we want.

Belief in Yourself

When you believe in yourself, you have the confidence and faith that you are capable of doing what you need to do. You believe you have control over your life and you accept the responsibility and consequences of your actions.

We all have varying degrees of confidence depending on our interests and experiences. I’m a confident public speaker but not so confident in my computer skills. Competence breeds confidence, the more practice you’ve had doing something, the more confident you will be.

Optimism

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life, it means you choose to remain confident things will work out. As Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Resourcefulness

Being able to skillfully and imaginatively deal with difficult situations is a valuable skill. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. So many dreams have died a premature death, not because of a lack of money, but a lack of resourcefulness and creativity. They put all their eggs in one basket and hope it works. Successful people always have a plan B, C…Z, if needed. They don’t focus on the problem or the limitations. They focus on what they want and how they can accomplish it. It’s about making do with what you have, as the U.S. Marine Corp says – improvise, adapt and overcome.

Curiosity

Resourceful people are inquisitive. They want to learn about everything. They’ll take things apart to see how they work, ask lots of questions and like to explore and investigate. They have an open mind and are willing to see other perspectives. Avoid jumping to conclusions, making assumptions or value judgments. 

A good way to start cultivating a positive mindset is to first practice becoming aware of your thoughts and beliefs. Become aware of how a thought feels. When you think it, do you feel tense? Angry? If so, then challenge it. If it isn’t helping you, then it’s time to think differently.

Goal Setting – Don’t wait until you “feel like it”

goal setting“I just don’t feel like it” is one of the biggest killers of hopes and dreams. If you wait until you feel like it, chances are it’s never going to happen. Let me explain.

Goal Setting – Act First, Feelings will Follow

We set goals as a way to have control over our life. But you can set all the goals you want, until you take action they are all just dreams. And having unfulfilled goals (especially if you repeatedly set them…) can wear away at our self-esteem.

So how do we become doers instead of dreamers?

Our behavior is actually made up of four components: thinking (thoughts), feeling (emotions), doing (actively moving our bodies) and physiological (automatic responses like sweating). The key to achieving our goals is to focus on action instead of our thoughts and feelings.

We have no control over our physiological responses and little over our feelings. We do have some control over our thoughts but the component we always have control over is our actions. All of these components act together, you can’t change one without it affecting the other. Most of us make the mistake of trying to feel our way into doing something. If you’re depressed or down on the dumps, forcing yourself to cheer up before you do anything is not going to accomplish a lot. But that’s what we do, we wait for our feelings to pass or change because we think they are happening to us so we have to wait until they are no longer happening to us.

It is possible to change your feelings by changing your perspective but given you have total control over your actions, and the only way you’ll get what you want is by taking action, this is the most productive place to start. There are tons of things we can do, regardless of how we feel. Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase “act as if…” or “act your way to a new way of feeling”. This works because as I previously stated: you can’t change one component of your behavior without it affecting the others. Since doing is the component we have the most control over, it’s what we should focus on. When you do something it will change how you think and feel. Instead of trying to feel your way into doing something, you need to do something and your thoughts and feelings will change.

Focusing on doing in spite of our feelings will take some awareness and practice. Don’t underestimate the power of your feelings. You’ll probably experience some resistance. First, acknowledge the feeling. Denying our feelings can negatively affect our health. Listen to it, give your emotions a safe place to vent (I find writing is helpful…) and then go do something. It’s best to start with small steps. If you’re depressed, make an effort to brush your teeth, shower and get dressed. When you do something, no matter how small, you are taking back control of your life. Practice doing something whether you feel like doing it or not. I bet there have been days you didn’t feel like going to school or work, but you went anyway so keep practicing. Start doing small things and see what happens.

 

 

 

Goal Setting – A little self-knowledge goes a long way

Goal Setting

In my last post, I talked about the formula for successfully achieving our goals. When you’re setting goals, a good place to start is knowing what makes you tick. We all have goals but if you want to increase your odds of actually realizing them, it’s important to know if you are setting the right goals. I can’t stress the importance of this. One of my goals was to go to college. I chose my major because it was the least repulsive of all the business majors, never even considering if I would like the jobs it would get me. I paid the price of that poor decision for decades!

Goal Setting – The First Step

The first step to setting a goal is to assess your personal preferences, what NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) refers to as meta programs. Basically, it’s how you like to operate. Some of us are detail-oriented, some of us are big picture. Do you prefer to work independently or do you thrive in a team – these sorts of questions.

It’s important consider how you work best and if your goal aligns with those preferences or if you’re going against your grain, so to speak. Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t take on new challenges and learn new skills, that’s the reason for goal setting. I’m saying achieving your goals will be easier if you can find a way to do it that utilizes your preferences and strengths. It’s criteria to evaluate not only which goals to set but also how you choose to accomplish them.

For instance, a common goal is to start an exercise program. Many people will rush out this time of year and spend money on fancy machines (which later become very expensive clothes racks…) or on a gym membership. Because that’s what we are programmed to think of when we think “exercise”. I don’t know about you, but I hate going to the gym and none of my memberships have lasted very long.

When this happens, our self-esteem takes a huge hit. We blame ourselves – we lack discipline and willpower and go back to our comfortable, sedentary lifestyle feeling like a failure.

But the problem isn’t us, the problem is we picked the wrong exercise. There are many different paths to achieving our goals, it’s up to us to find the right path, one which makes it easier for us to commit to the challenges we’ll face along the way. So if you don’t like the gym, try yoga, dancing, jump rope, martial arts, running, walking, swimming…you get the idea.

When setting goals, give it some thought. First, is this a goal you really want? Second, is it well suited to your temperament? Can you leverage your strengths?

How do you know if your goal is something you’ll ultimately be happy you spent your precious time on? The truth is, sometimes you won’t know until you try it. For major goals (i.e. going back to school, switching careers), I suggest a trial period before investing too much time and money. Do some research, talk to people who are doing what you want to do. See if you can do some volunteer work or an internship. Otherwise you might feel obligated to stay with it even though you hate it.

I thought it would be fun to be an interior designer but the reality of what one actually does vs. what I thought they did convinced me to stick to decorating my own home for fun.

Humans are goal-oriented. Part of this journey we call life is setting goals and seeking out new opportunities to challenge ourselves and grow. The first step before embarking on any goal is to make sure it’s a goal you truly want and pick the plan best suited to your personality.

If you are having trouble achieving your goals and feel like you are spinning your wheels, check out my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It, Reignite your passion for life by achieving your goals.

 

Template for Success

Formula for Success

Success isn’t complicated. I could sum up success in four words:

Success = Vision + Action + Feedback + Perseverance.

Actually, it’s not so much an equation as it is a loop.

You have a vision of what you want to accomplish (your goal).

In order for you to achieve it you have to DO something. Action is required. And you need to focus on the RIGHT action – actions that will move you toward your goal and give you the results you want.

This is where feedback comes into play. How do you know if you’re getting results? One way is to measure them. If you can’t measure them, then you need to find another means to evaluate your progress (or lack thereof). Are there patterns? Do you need more time and and consistent effort before you see results? Do you need to start from scratch or just tweak your plan?

The key with feedback is to not take it personally or be married to any one path – remain flexible and explore other options.

Finally, you need to shore yourself up for the long haul. Our enthusiasm is high at the beginning of any goal but we will encounter set backs and obstacles. We need to be mentally and physically prepared to see ourselves through these times, perhaps even plan for them. This is a good time to revisit out vision, why we are doing this in the first place. We need to cut ourselves slack and not expect perfection.

That’s it – it’s really that simple but it is by no means easy. I’ll be exploring the four components of success – vision, action, feedback and perseverance – in more detail in upcoming posts.

Stuck? Try Something Different!

Stuck? Try Something Different

If you’re not getting the results you want, stop spinning your wheels and try something different.

They (whoever “they” are…) say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Guilty.

I spent a lot of time trying to create a business with no success. I learned a lot along the way and one lesson was just because something worked for one person, doesn’t mean it will work for everyone (i.e. me). I had blinders on, all my eggs-in-one-basket mentality, as if there was only one way to accomplish something. If it didn’t work, I blamed myself, dug in deeper and tried harder. It was as effective as hitting the gas when your car is stuck in mud. I was spinning my wheels, wasting time, energy and beating myself up for my lack of progress.

It’s important to understand when you are working on a achieving a goal, whatever it is, if you are not seeing the results you want, try something different, especially if this is a goal you’ve repeatedly tried.

For instance, if you are trying to lose weight, again, and decided to try the latest fad diet and/or join another health club, I beg you to reconsider. If the last diet didn’t work, maybe the problem isn’t you, maybe the problem is dieting doesn’t work (I’ll spare you my rant on diets…). If you’ve had a gym membership before and never went, what makes you think this time will be different? I’m not saying you lack willpower or should give up on losing weight and getting in shape, what I am proposing is there is more than one way to do it, find one that won’t make you feel deprived and tortured. It may take a couple tries until you hit on something that works for you. The key is to keep trying.

 

Lies we tell ourselves

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Everyday we tell ourselves lies that limit our potential. Here are some of them:

1.”It’s not my fault”

If you are talking about the weather or another person’s actions, then you’re right. But we often say these words when we have been called out on our behavior. In his book, The 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey talks about our birthrights and one of them is freedom of choice. We all have the power to choose and as a result, we need to take responsibility for our actions.

When you apologize for your words or actions, try to right a wrong, suffer the consequences, make amends, fix your mistakes, etc, not only do you have a chance to learn and grow, you release yourself from the pain and memory and can move on. You are able to take that failure and make it a win. When you play the blame game, you end up holding on to all that negative energy and carrying it with you, letting it eat at your confidence and self-esteem.

2. “I can’t…”

At 53 my chances of becoming a prima ballerina are slim but nothing is stopping me from taking ballet lessons, watching ballet, photographing dancers, creating a movie about ballet, hosting a fundraiser for the ballet or writing a book about it or in any other way expressing my love for ballet.

There are some things that aren’t realistic anymore but there is a difference between accepting reality and fighting for our limitations. Don’t let your age, circumstances or physical abilities define what you can and can’t do. Ask yourself “Why can’t I?” “What if I did?” Maybe you don’t want to…but that’s OK, you’re making a choice which is different than accepting defeat before you even tried.

3. Letting your past determine your future.

The beauty of being human is that we are capable of learning and growing. What happened 1, 5, 20 years ago is inconsequential to what we are capable of doing today. Ten years ago I said I hated running and totally sucked at it. But today I am a runner and I can run an 8 minute mile. I’m not going to win any awards but my vitals (i.e. pulse, blood pressure, etc) not to mention my physique, have changed over time due to my commitment to running. The choices we make determine our future. If we want our future to be different, we do so by making different choices. Personally, if I’m still the same person in ten years as I am today, I’ll be disappointed. Living in the past is not living.

4. Life’s a bitch.

This isn’t a lie because life can be a bitch at times. As I write this post, it is my brother’s birthday. He passed away almost 20 years ago, leaving behind a wife and two-year-old son. That sucks, because if you ever met my brother you’d be instantly struck by how fun-loving and optimistic he was. He got sick when he was visiting me and I remember saying how it sucked and his comment when his wife brought him a bowl of soup was “Yeah, but I’m being taken care of.’ He wasn’t focused on how sick he was, he was just so grateful for the love and care his wife gave him.

People are probably tired of me saying it but it’s true – you get what you focus on. If you’re going to focus on the misery in life, that’s all you’ll see. And how does that make you feel? Not so good, I bet.

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life, it means you choose to remain confident things will work out. As Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Studies show optimists live longer, are healthier and more committed to and likely to achieve their goals. Dreaming about a better future motivates you to work towards it.

Personal control is one of the traits of happy people. When we feel we are in control of our life, we are happier, more productive and have more confidence. We can pursue our dreams and have a sense of purpose in our life, which gives us meaning and more fulfillment. Stop the lies, quit putting limitations on your life and take control of your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Self-Help a Scam?

I came across an article by Steve Salerno called “Tony Robbins, Donald Trump and the continuing self-delusion of our self-help nation” and it sparked some thoughtful conversation.

First, let me ask this: Is there a difference between self-help and self-improvement?

The definition of self-help is:

“the use of one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others.”

The definition of self-improvement is:

“learning new things on your own that make you a more skilled or able person.”

The two definitions are similar. Both are kind of vague when you think about it – what kind of help/improvement? Being a certified NLP Practitioner, I understand the power of language and being very clear about what you mean. I like the definition for self-improvement  better because it’s more specific and action-oriented. It’s about being inner driven or motivated (that’s how I interpret the “on your own” part of the definition) to make some change. It’s a process that requires action and you will be a different (i.e. improved) person as a result.

The problem I have with the definition for self-help is the “without relying on others”. I believe we are all students and teachers in life. We have this cultural myth about the “self-made” person but the truth is that no man is an island. We are all influenced by our social norms, upbringing, religious indoctrination, friends, teachers and experiences. It is what gives us our unique perspective of the world. The truly successful seek out mentors, coaches and partners that can help them gain the skills they need to move forward. No one knows it all, the learning process and growth we experience is what the journey of life is all about.

Many people at the forefront of the self-help/improvement movement provide motivation and the information can be a catalyst for change. But it’s up to you to implement it. You can buy all the books, tapes, workshops, etc you want, but unless you act  nothing’s going to change.

Side note: Too many people – and I was once in this category – think they should keep doing the same thing, that the reason they’re not getting the results they want is because they aren’t trying hard enough. It’s this kind of thinking that prevents change because it keeps you in a blame/shame mentality. If you are not getting the results you want, don’t “try harder”, try something different.

That’s the part that they don’t talk about. I don’t think it’s their message that’s wrong but their marketing. But then again, it is human nature to try to take the easy way out. Who wants to cut out cake or soda and exercise when you can just take a pill? Most people have goals and dreams and truly want to achieve them but they don’t want to do the hard work (mentally, emotionally and physically) necessary. So you have a bunch of people who become evangelists, who buy the books, seminars, workshops, conferences, etc without ever applying the message. All they are buying is the appearance of change. They get all the “feel-good blather”, as Salerno calls it and no substance. They can talk the talk but never walk the walk.

The bottom line is this: it doesn’t matter whether you want to call it self-help or self-improvement, the only way to elicit positive change is through action. You’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone. It’s going to take work and the understanding that human behavior is complex – our thoughts, beliefs, habits and impulses control our behavior though most of us aren’t even aware of it. We try to use willpower, rational and analytical thinking, but they are ineffective. Just look at the failure rate of dieters. There is good news though, once you have the motivation and understand how to tap into and leverage your inner resources to your advantage, you can create the positive, permanent change that the self-help movement preaches.

4 Questions to keep you on target

4 Questions to keep you on targetSo you have a goal – lose weight, start a business, get over your fear of public speaking, learn new software – whatever it is. That’s wonderful! Life is really just a series of goals – growing into our full potential. Before you dive in, it’s time to do a quick assessment of where you are at. This is not a one shot deal, you should check in with yourself often. Asking these questions will help keep your impulses/emotions from side-tracking your progress.

Am I hungry?

“Wait,” you say, “that’s great if I was on a diet but that’s not my goal…” Have you ever heard of the word “hangry”? It’s actually in the Urban Dictionary and is a composite of the word hungry and angry and defined as:

“When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.”

Since I mention diet, I will bring up two cases to illustrate the importance of this question.

First, I had a client who’s goal was to lose weight. She tried every fad diet, which are usually full of restrictions and create a deprivation mentality. Her enthusiasm would be high in the beginning but sooner or later (usually sooner) her hunger would become unbearable and she’d end up gorging on junk food. This would put her in a cycle of shame and blame that got her nowhere.

My second client wanted to finish her degree and start a new career. She was working full time and enrolled in night classes. Three nights a week she was driving from work to class and would be there for 3 hours. Her first semester grades weren’t good. She questioned her commitment and her intelligence and came to me as her one last hope before giving up. One of the things I discovered is that on the day of class, she didn’t eat dinner until she got home, usually around 9 pm. She would snack on soda and a bag of chips or a candy bar.

The problem was that both of my clients were hungry! Food is both a need and a basic pleasure in life so eating a well-balanced, nutritionally dense meal is important for mental and physical performance. I worked with both clients to develop healthy options so they were getting the nutrition they needed to function at an optimal level while also feeling satisfied. I knew why my first client couldn’t lose weight – she thought she had to eat salad all the time and hated every minute of it! After some research, she was able to come up with some healthier versions of her favorite meals as well as some snacks that satisfied her but were still nutritious.

My second client started planning some time into her schedule to have a light, nutritious dinner or pack a healthy snack that would still keep her focused during class.

Are there any emotional issues that need to be resolved?

I’m not talking about childhood or other big emotional traumas here. For those you should seek the appropriate help, such as a licensed therapist. I’m referring to those little emotional blips that we get caught up in a daily basis such as being stuck in traffic, oversleeping or dealing with a grouchy child. Little things that just seem to yank our chain and get us angry or frustrated. It’s best to clear the air before you try to do anything else.

Especially if you need to deal with someone else, one of the best tools is to write it out. Journal your feelings and frustrations. Have a little hissy fit on paper, rather than doing it in person and escalating the situation. Most of us get tired of our pity party and when that happens you can sit back and look at the situation objectively and do what you need to do to get back on track whether that means laughing it off as just one of those days or apologizing.

Is your social calendar bare or overloaded?

We are social creatures but we all need downtime. Is there a balance in your life? Is every spare minute filled up with work and social activities that you have no time to yourself? Or, are you starved for a little social interaction? Extroverts are rejuvenated by spending time with others. Introverts recharge by withdrawing into themselves. Know which works best for you and make sure that you schedule enough time so you don’t feel deprived and drained.

Consider your preferences when you are setting your goals. I had a client who was taking online courses but as convenient as they were, she often made excuses instead of doing them. Turns out she preferred the interaction of being in a classroom. Once she switched over, her motivation and enthusiasm returned.

Are you tired?

According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is a public health problem. Not enough sleep can result in difficulty concentrating and remembering things as well as lower reflexes resulting in vehicle crashes, industrial accidents and medical and other work related errors. People who are regularly sleep deprived also have more medical problems such as depression, obesity and hypertension. The amount of sleep we need depends on our age but the average adult should be getting 7-8 hours a night.

Trying to make changes in our life requires energy and it’s hard to stay on track if you aren’t getting enough sleep. It helps to establish a regular bedtime, turn off the electronic devices, avoid caffeine and alcohol and avoid large meals before bed.

Working towards our goals is part of what makes us happy but in order to give them our full, focused attention, we need to make sure some of our basic needs are taken care of.

In Praise of Toastmasters

In Praise of ToastmastersI don’t care who you are or what you do, being a good communicator is an essential skill in life and for that, Toastmasters is probably one of the best learning experiences that your money can buy. I recommend it for everyone.

It is the eve of my final Toastmasters speech, after tomorrow I will officially be a Competent Communicator (you can go to the Toastmasters header to see all my speeches. I tried videotaping all of them but the first few had some operator errors…as in I forget to press the shutter button so it would actually record…)

For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, everyone starts out with the Competent Communication (CC) manual and there are 10 speeches to complete. Each speech focuses on a particular part of public speaking – tone, body language, organization, persuasion, etc. The tenth speech is a culmination of everything you learned – it is the inspirational speech. After you finish the CC manual you are free to choose from a variety of other manuals based on your individual goals (titles include: The Entertaining Speaker, Technical Presentations, Special Occasion Speeches, Communicating on Video, Facilitation Discussion and Storytelling)

My goal was to finish the manual in 10 months – one speech for every month. I will have achieved this goal but I wasn’t paying attention in the early months so I didn’t sign up fast enough. In order to finish in 10 months I’ve had to do four speeches in a row. I’ll be very happy when I complete this last one and will take a break from the speech writing/giving for the summer. There are other roles in the club that I’d like more experience in anyway, such as being Toastmaster or an evaluator.

As I said, everyone can benefit from being in Toastmasters. It doesn’t matter what your job is, whether you’re a stay at home mom, blue collar worker, student or CEO, we are always communicating. Even when we aren’t talking, we communicate through our body language, how we dress, our eye contact, mannerisms…everything we do says something about us.

Let me walk you through a typical meeting at my local club. Other clubs might have slight differences but there is a basic structure to most clubs.

Our club has several different roles that are filled each week by members. There is a Toastmaster, who determines the theme of the meeting and is kind of like the Ringmaster in a circus. There is a timer, speeches and evaluations are timed. A general evaluator who evaluates the overall meeting – and speech evaluators. Feedback is critical to our growth as speakers. I was resistance to “areas of improvement” because I saw that as a criticism but I soon realized that it was more important for me to grow than get praise (see this post). The Table Topics master picks out topics and then chooses someone from the audience to speak about it for 1-2 minutes. Table topics can be intimidating but it helps you think on your feet. We also have what we call a WAG, who comes up with the word of the day, counts “ah’s” and other superfluous words (some people might use “like” a lot or “and”) and checks grammar. Sometimes we have a meeting listener who will ask questions about the meeting to see if we have been paying attention. Participating in these roles, along with doing the speeches, helps build a well-rounded communication education.

Some of the specific benefits of Toastmasters are:

  • Confidence – it’s said that public speaking is more feared than death. Preparation and practice are the only way to overcome it.
  • Leadership skills  
  • Clarify your writing. Writing the speech is one of my favorite parts. Not only do you have to structure your writing in a way that makes sense, but you have to stay within a certain time frame so being succinct, knowing what to keep in and take out as well as narrowing your focus are important skills to hone.
  • Think on your feet. Sometimes we’re called upon to make a few impromptu words at a special occasion or your boss asks you for your opinion. Learning to think on your feet and be articulate is an important skill.
  • Listening skills. Communication is not just about talking, but also about listening and unfortunately our listening skills aren’t as developed as our speaking skills. Being an evaluator helps refine those skills
  • Critical thinking skills. Coming up with speech topics, research and organizing your thoughts into a coherent whole requires thought. As an evaluator you have to discern what the speaker is doing well and what they could improve upon.
  • Memory. I have yet to use notes in any of my speeches (though highly paid public speakers say they still use notes and there is nothing wrong with it.) I don’t say this to brag, I memorize my speeches because it’s good for my brain. My first speech I took 2 weeks to memorize. My ninth speech I learned in a day. I’ve given myself 3 days to learn the 10th speech because it is the longest speech and I didn’t want to be rushed. I’m hoping to finish strong!
  • Learn to take criticism. Criticism might be too harsh a word. We like to call them “grow” points but the fact is, if you want to learn and grow, you have to be able to objectively take constructive criticism.
  • Look for the positives. Everything about Toastmasters is geared toward being positive. Let people know their strengths, find something good in everything and when you do have a “grow” point, we phrase it in a positive light.
  • It’s fun! Turns out I’m a bit of a ham so getting up in front of an audience is fun. I love being animated and I always try to be either entertaining, informative or inspiring. Not sure if I achieve any of them but that’s always my goal.
  • Support. Finding a good club to call home is crucial. My club, while small, is filled with some of the kindest, funniest, supportive people that I’ve ever met.

I look back on my body of work with Toastmasters so far and I’m proud of everything I’ve done and have learned a lot. Maybe there’s a TED talk in my future…

 

One model for creating change

One model to make permanent changeIn my last post, I talked about how our subconscious mind, where our thoughts and beliefs reside, can sabotage our efforts to change without us even realizing it. It’s often the reason most new year’s goals are abandoned within the first month. Our beliefs and habits (including habits of thought) are so ingrained in our minds that no matter how much conscious exertion we put on trying to change (i.e. willpower), we often fail because we aren’t addressing underlying beliefs. The biggest problem is we usually aren’t aware that it’s our beliefs stopping us. We are trying to create change by using the wrong tools.

I’d like to share with you one model for making change.

Before I get into the specifics, I’d like to point out that change is not going to happen overnight, in most cases. It’s going to take practice so don’t be hard on yourself if you slip. Please don’t give up because it didn’t work the first time. You’re working against some pretty powerful forces.

Cognitive behavior therapy offers one model for change. It’s called the ABC model and this is how it works:

A = Activating event

B = Belief or perception

C = Consequence

So let’s say you decided to lose weight and just inhaled a whole quart of ice cream. You’re feeling a little disappointed in yourself (to say the least…) Here’s what you do. Get a piece of paper and write down the activating event – “Ate a quart of ice cream”. Stick with the facts.

Now write your belief or perception. You might write something like “What’s the use of even trying, I have no willpower.” “I’m a big, fat pig! I don’t deserve to be happy!” Get it all out. Often we’ll use absolutes (always, never) or words like “should”, “must”, “have to”, “ought to” which are indicative of irrational thinking.

What’s the consequence of those beliefs? Write them down. These are self-defeating emotions – guilt, anger, depression, a sense of worthlessness, self-pity, etc. These emotions don’t serve us, they leave us stuck and put us into a cycle of shame and blame.

In order to change you need to challenge/dispute your original belief. It could go something like this “I was stressed and hungry from skipping lunch. There are plenty of times when I’ve made healthy choices. I’ll ask my coach for some stress relieving tactics  and make sure that I make time for a healthy lunch so I’m better prepared.”

Now note the effect that this has on you emotionally. Do you feel differently than when you described the consequence? This part of the exercise elicits more positive emotions (disappointment, concern, sadness, hope). You recognize that you had a set back and have come up with some proactive solutions to keep it from happening again. This gives us a feeling of control and we often recommit to seeing our goals through.

Give this a try next time you’re having trouble making changes in your life