Stop Feeding Your Ego at the Expense of Your Self-Esteem

Stop feeding your ego at the expense of your self esteem.

Ego.

It’s only three letters but those three letters can wreak havoc on our lives.

The ego is a mean-spirited bully. It always wants to be right at the expense of making others wrong, makes us live small, is arrogant, untrustworthy, judgmental and most of all, this whole facade is because it is scared. The ego is all about “me, me, me” and it always has something to prove. It believes there’s only so much to go around so it better grab its share before someone else does. When we live by our ego, we are living in fear.

We all have an ego problem but we can lessen it by tapping into our higher power. I don’t mean this in a religious way. What I mean is we all have a spiritual side. Maybe you call it “intuition” or a “gut feeling”, whatever you want to call it, it is that voice or feeling that nudges us toward the good and warns us about the bad. At some point in our lives, we’ve all had that feeling that something or someone wasn’t quite right or felt so “in the moment” and joyous that time seemed to fly.This is when we are living from our spirit.

When we are connected and listen to our spirit, we become aligned with our true nature and life tends to flow and seem effortless. When we are living from our spirit, we are living in love. We are joyful, we see the abundance and beauty around us, we can tap into our creative energy, we are excited and engaged. When we are operating from our spirit instead of our ego, we feel safe and secure in who we are. We are enough. We can shine our light knowing it takes nothing away from anyone else. We become a light for others to shine. We seek to serve, to share our gifts and talents as only we can.

Obviously the better place to be operating is from our spirit, so why do we get trapped in the ego? Because the ego is sneaky. It plays on our fears and insecurities. It’s subtle. It’s hardwired into our brains.

For instance, I’ve seen this situation play out many times, with myself as well as my friends. You end a relationship because it wasn’t a good fit. No one did anything wrong (cheat, steal, was abusive, etc), it just wasn’t meant to be. But even if you were the one who ended the relationship, it still might take awhile to let go. You or the other party still try to maintain contact. Often, it’s because we don’t like being rejected. Rejection is the ego’s domain. We continue to engage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it gratifies our ego.

But at what cost? Our self-esteem, self-respect and dignity.

We give in to our ego because we fear rejection. It’s a very real fear as we are social creatures and in the early stages of mankind, being rejected from your “tribe” often meant death. There was safety in numbers and we are wired to connect.

But we can’t be everything to everyone. We don’t like everyone we meet so why should we expect everyone to like us? We are not suited to every job that is out there so why do we get depressed when we don’t get the job we never wanted in the first place. We are so concerned about being liked and wanted that we lose sight of what we like and want. 

When we operate from our ego we remain focused on our fears – we want to be validated, we want to win, we want to prove ourselves and as a result, we end up with a bunch of stuff we never really wanted in the first place. We settle for mediocre relationships, jobs that numb us and spend most of our days disengaged – “living for the weekend”.

When we live from our spirit, we live from grace, joy, empathy, compassion and authenticity. We focus on who we are, what we love and how we want to live. We honor ourselves and others by sharing our gifts and uplifting others.

Shifting from an “ego” to a “spirit”  mindset doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. It’s a lifelong journey. It takes awareness, patience, a sense of humor, compassion and a commitment in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of progression. It’s a balancing act of looking inward to love, accept and forgive ourselves, warts and all, and know that wherever we are, we are enough.

And looking outward with kindness, compassion and gratitude at the wild, messy sea of humanity that we share this planet with and not make assumptions, jump to conclusions, judge others or take things personally because every one of us is acting out from our own fears and desire to be accepted and loved.

As I see it, there are really only two paths in life – love and fear, ego or spirit. Our ego keeps us small but our spirit lets us step into our light and shine.

 

 

 

3 Tools to take action on your goals

3 tools to take action on your goals

What percentage of people do you think achieve their New Year’s resolutions? 50%? 33%? 12%?

It’s actually 8%. I’m not surprised. We sincerely want to quit our bad habits, pursue our dreams and be our best selves, but when it’s time to work on our goals, why are we suddenly compelled to clean out the vegetable drawer – or is that just me? Our intentions are good but our follow through, well, sucks.

To make matters worse, when I set goals I think I have superhuman powers and put unrealistic demands on myself and my time – who needs sleep? I never questioned this approach and each time I felt like a failure because not only did I NOT reach my goal, I barely got started.

I thought I lacked discipline but the problem wasn’t me, the problem was my approach. I didn’t need iron-clad willpower, what I needed was a system that took me from planning to DOING. Action is the only way to build momentum and create new habits and I’ve discovered a few tools that helped me move through my fears and resistance to reach my goals.

But first, I’d like to talk about how our brain works. Our brains have 3 parts:

  • the primitive brain handles our survival instincts,
  • The limbic is our emotional brain and is used for building social bonds.
  • The neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic and reasoning.

For goal-setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience fear or stress, the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every. Single. Time. It’s going to do everything in its power to alleviate that stress. My unrealistic plans triggered some fear and my primitive brain reacted, thus the overwhelming desire to clean the fridge. I needed a subtler approach so my brain worked for, not against me. The tools that work for me are: break it down, the 5 minute plan and low expectations.

1. Break it Down

In my previous process, to use a writing analogy, I tried to jump from never writing to a finished novel overnight. It’s like expecting a baby that just learned how to roll over to start running. I was depriving myself of the learning opportunities in all those little steps and the habits and confidence they built. I finally realized that achieving a goal means growing into it, one step at a time.

2. Commit to 5 Minutes

The 5 minute plan is a another great tool to overcome resistance. I actually thought I could work 3 hours a night, 5 nights a week and another 16 hours on the weekend to work on my goals, in addition to my full-time job and everything else life threw at me. And I wondered why I couldn’t get started! Then a coach suggested I turn it down a notch and start with 5 minutes. It seems counter-intuitive, What could I accomplish in 5 minutes? Never mind that I wasn’t accomplishing anything before

Here’s the thing, getting started is often the hardest part and 5 minutes is ridiculously easy and non-threatening (remember that primitive brain?), that it was easy to commit to. And if you know Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Five minutes is usually all I need to overcome inertia and get the ball rolling.

3. Lower Expectations

The final tool is lower your expectations. Now, I’m not saying lower your standards, always do your best. Just accept in the beginning your best might not be all that good. But in order to improve you have to practice. I read about a pottery teacher that did an experiment. He told one class that they would be graded on the quantity of pots they made. He told another their grades would be based on one pot. The class that was graded on quantity actually produced the best pots. Why? Practice! They were focused on the process while the one pot class was focused on the product. In the beginning quantity is more important than but will eventually lead to quality. It’s the process, all that practice that matters, not the product, which is just the end result. So quit worrying about how good it is.

Pursuing our goals is gratifying but the path is seldom easy. It’s good to have some tools that we can use that work with our brain to get us started as well as get us back on track if we slip into old habits when the novelty and excitement of our goal wears off. When you are having trouble getting started I challenge you to apply breaking things down, the 5 minute plan and lowering your expectations.

Scorecard for Success

success is consistently doing the right things

I’m working with a client who wants to start her own business. Her idea is solid; she spent a lot of time researching it and putting together a business plan and website. But when it came time to implement it, she suddenly found herself distracted and losing interest. Her enthusiasm waned and she ignored it for a year. She hired me after she was laid off from her job and the thought of looking for another “soul-sucking” position (her words) made her sick and depressed. She realized it was time to go for it.

With coaching, she saw how her lack of confidence, self-doubts and fear of rejection were holding her back from marketing and promoting her business.

Marketing and self-promotion are vital to the success of any business. It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if no one knows about it. This was the problem my client was running into. She was focusing on her fears and doubts it triggered and stopped her from doing anything.

I’ve been in her shoes. When I created my business I wasn’t getting much attention. I knew the next step was to promote it and I procrastinated. I suffered from the same self-doubts and fear of rejection many of my clients have. (It’s a common issue with many woman). Suddenly it dawned on me. Building a client base is nothing more than consistently taking the right action. It’s a numbers game and a scorecard is the perfect tool. Not only can you track your progress, it also diverts your attention away from all those imaginary goblins in your mind (that trigger your worst fears) by giving you concrete steps to focus on.

Scorecard for Success

Here’s how it works. Write down all the steps needed to achieve your goal. In my client’s case, it’s increasing traffic to her website. How do you get traffic to your website? There are a number of things you can do:

  • start a blog and post regularly
  • offer a freebie for subscribers
  • build a presence in your industry’s community (think Linkedin or professional associations)
  • guest blog
  • be a podcast guest
  • give a speech
  • submit articles

Pick a few things you think will give you the best results and be consistent in your efforts. If you don’t know where to start, look at what other successful people did and start there.

Marketing is about building a presence and trust. It’s not a one shot deal, you need to do it consistently and this is where most people fail. They are impatient, want results too soon and give up. But if you are patient and consistently take the right action, eventually things will tip in your favor.

Create your Scorecard

Create a spreadsheet (or just write it on a piece of paper, it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated) and write down in one column all your steps. Every time you do something on your scorecard, mark it. I find a weekly scorecard works best. At the end of the week tally up how many times you did each step (i.e. wrote a blog post, articles submitted, etc). Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many things. Start with three things and re-evaluate after a couple of months.

Keeping score accomplishes a couple of things:

  1. Weekly “to-do” list of action items. We tend to complicate things. Having a scorecard creates a system. All you have to do is work it.
  2. Stay focused. In the beginning, you will expend more effort and energy on your goal because you haven’t gained any momentum. Ideally, after consistently taking the right action and things are moving, it will take less effort to maintain your momentum. Focus on your action steps and give them time to work instead of jumping all over the place and wondering why nothing’s working.
  3. Feedback. How do you know if you’re taking the right action? Numbers don’t lie. Try something and give it sufficient time (three months) and if you aren’t getting the results you want, try something different! When you have quantifiable data you can properly asses your progress and switch gears where needed.
  4. Build good habits. When you do something consistently, you end up creating a habit. Good habits simplify life.

The scorecard was a game changer for me and my clients. It’s simple and effective. Give it a try for one of your goals.

Self Confidence Tips

Tips for Self-Confidence

My clients often ask me “How can I become more confident?” Lack of confidence appears to be a major stumbling block for many women. The problem is we think confidence is the source of our success when it is the result of our success.

Self-confidence is a trust in our abilities. We have faith we are capable of doing what we need to do. Where does this trust and faith come from? Experience. Think about something you’re really good at, for example, cooking. Chances are you weren’t so good in the beginning. But it held your interest and you kept at it, practicing it until it became second nature. Over time you became confident enough to experiment and create your own recipes. You didn’t begin confident, but you grew confident with practice.

So what do you do in situations when you’re entering new territory, moving outside of your comfort zone and learning new skills? Situations where your confidence is low?

Confidence is nice to have but it isn’t required to proceed. When we were toddlers, learning how to walk and talk, we weren’t concerned about confidence but we were motivated. We just kept practicing until we became proficient.

As toddlers, our efforts were praised, no matter what the outcome was. Later on, especially in school, we learned mistakes were “bad” and to be avoided so many of us developed an aversion to going outside of our comfort zone lest we look stupid. Right around this time we start developing the Voice of Judgement.That’s the voice in our head that tells us we aren’t good enough, we’ll be laughing stocks, etc. Unfortunately you’re not going to get rid of that voice but you can choose to refocus your thoughts and drown it out. Here are some tips for cultivating confidence:

Self Confidence Tips

Acknowledge your Successes

Often we take for granted the things we are good at and what we accomplished. Recognize all you have already succeeded at – and by succeed, I mean know how to do proficiently – both personal and professional. Mastering language (reading, writing and speaking) is one of the most complex things we had to learn and we did it at a very young age. No matter how good you are at something, you started out as a beginner. Remember that the next time you take on a new challenge. You may not have confidence specifically in this new area but you do have the confidence of knowing you were able to learn and become proficient at other tasks.

Focus on your Desired Outcome

Fear of speaking in public is suppose to rank higher than death. What causes people to get up in front of an audience, sputter, go blank and generally mess up? They are focused on…drum roll please…sputtering and going blank! Focus on what you want to happen. Visualize yourself confidently giving your speech, remembering all your points with ease and the audience listening attentively and clapping enthusiastically when you’re done.

Prepare & Practice

Confidence comes with practice. If you have to give a speech, write out what you are going to say and practice it. Practice it in front of family members, practice while you’re stuck in traffic, practice it while you’re showering. Even if you’ve never given a speech in your entire life, preparing what you are going to say and practicing it will breed confidence.

Think Positively

You’ve heard the saying “garbage in garbage out” as it relates to computers. Well, the same thing can be said for your brain. What we say and think will be literally translated by our brains. If you constantly tell yourself “I can’t…” your brain will follow your instructions. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Beware of the negative self-talk and the Voice of Judgement. If you catch yourself saying “I can’t…”, challenge yourself – “Who says I can’t?” Take the confidence you have in other areas of your life and use it to assure yourself that if you can master knitting (car repair, baking, etc) you can master this too.

Ask for Help

If nothing else works, ask for help. This can take on many different forms – finding a mentor, taking a class, reading a book, joining a group, asking someone who’s done it before. Ask in a respectful manner, being cognizant of their time. Some people will say no, thank them and move on until you find someone who can help you.

Overcoming Procrastination

Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is a common problem. Clients often tell me that it’s a huge problem for them. But procrastinating is not the real problem, it is merely the symptom of an underlying issue.

Before I get too deep into procrastinating and how to overcome it, I’d like to talk about incubation. When in the creative process or working out a problem, it is typical to go through a “ruminating” phase, when you turn over all of your work to your subconscious and give it a chance to work on the problem. This is where those “aha!” moments come from. Do not confuse this important phase with procrastination. You should be able to tell the difference. For me, when I’m letting ideas percolate, my thinking is fuzzy. I feel slightly agitated because I don’t like not knowing. When I am procrastinating there is a feeling of avoidance and resistance.

Procrastination – Why we do it

As I previously stated, procrastination is not a cause but a symptom of a larger and more complex issue. Some of the reasons why we procrastinate include:

  1. Fears – Fear is uncomfortable and we often choose to relieve our discomfort by distracting ourselves with T.V., surfing the web, cleaning (notice how appealing cleaning is when faced with something you don’t want to do?), etc.
  2. Lack of confidence
  3. Perfectionism – As a recovering perfectionist, I understand how hard it can be to risk doing something that doesn’t live up to your (often unrealistic) expectations. In order to avoid making a mistake, looking bad or failing, our modus operandi is to do nothing.
  4. Bad habits – We become comfortable with our routines and bad habits and don’t realize how big of a hold they have on us. Habits are hard to change.
  5. Expecting things to be easy – If things have been relative easy for you all your life, taking on something that requires an effort can be, well, hard.

Tools to Overcome Procrastination

While it helps to understand and be aware of where our procrastination stems from, these tools don’t require identifying the origin in order to be effective.

Small Steps

Break down what you need to do into the smallest step possible, such as sticking with the task for 5 minutes. Small steps actually works on several levels. First, getting started is often the hardest part. When I am avoiding a task, I often tell myself I only have to do it for 5 minutes. It seems counter intuitive, how will you accomplish anything if you only do it for 5 minutes but it works. If I stop after 5 minutes, I’ve achieved my goal (and built up a little confidence). But what happens more often than not, is I continue because I’ve broken through that wall of inertia and gained some momentum.

Second, we often overwhelm ourselves by making that first step unrealistic. I used to make these ridiculous schedules, leaving little breathing room for anything else. And -surprise – I never followed them! It’s much less daunting to write a sentence than a book so break things down. Then break them down even further.

Find a Buddy

Find someone who is also working on a goal. Make it a habit to meet and work on your goals together (5 minutes at a time, if you have to), supporting and cheering each other on. Be picky about who you choose. I’ve been running consistently for nine years because I had a running partner when I started. Not just any partner, but someone who already had a running habit making it hard for me to back out. I knew if I did she would not go easy on me. She was the perfect partner because her good habits rubbed off on me and appealed to my competitive nature.

What Worked in the Past?

This is a powerful question. It gets our minds thinking about what we are trying to accomplish instead of what’s getting in our way. We procrastinate because we are focused on the negatives – I’ll make a fool of myself – instead of what we are trying to accomplish. We all have areas we’ve had success in and feel confident about. What did you do then that you can apply to your current situation?

You can not tell me that you’ve never had any success in your life. If you are reading this, you’ve mastered one of the hardest skills there is and you did it at a relatively young age – language and the all intricacies involved with it such as reading and writing.

I have found these tools to be easy to use and produce incredible results in a short period of time. Give them a try the next time you find yourself procrastinating.

 

 

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.