Young Journey – From Passion to Non-Profit

 

Young Journey Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to “inspire young people worldwide to be lifelong learners eager to contribute to society through project based workshops and community events.” I had the pleasure of meeting the founder, Jaha Wilder at a recent Texas Business Women’s meeting. When I heard she had been running Young Journey since 2000 I knew I had to talk to her because that is quite an accomplishment.( I learned it was nothing compared to the adversity she faced as a teenager.)

Jaha is Swahili for dignity – how great is that? My parents were lazy in the picking-out-a-name department. A cursory search said Lynn means “ruddy-complected”. That’s inspiring (not!)…but I digress.

Jaha grew up in east Austin, in a large, musically-oriented family(she’s the youngest of 10). Her experience as a young girl, taking free classes at Rosewood Park eventually came full circle. “I lived with what Young Journey is.”

Young Journey is a real world model for the children that participate. It gives them ownership of what they are doing while instilling a work ethic and providing character lessons while letting them know how valuable they are. Here is an example of their work. They are currently working on a short film and the kids are involved in every aspect from writing, production, marketing, etc.

However, she didn’t start out with grand dreams of starting a non-profit. Instead, she took to the road as an entertainer. After deciding the entertainment business wasn’t for her, she saw how the lower income kids lacked support, their needs were not being addressed. Using her passion for music and lyrics, she wrote a CD called “Young Journey Children’s Music”. Her sister told her to take it to the schools and eventually it grew into the performing arts, media and sports program it is today. Young Journey is in three states – New York, Texas and Tennessee.

We talked a lot but there are several key points Jaha brought up that I believe are pertinent to starting any kind of business, whether for- or non-profit.

Follow your passion.

First, follow your passion. While Jaha describes her position as a “quadruple full-time job”, she said it “unfolded” naturally. She just pursued her passion for music and kids. While it wasn’t always an easy road, she admits that her biggest obstacle was getting past herself (preaching to the choir!)

Young Journey had been in operation for four years before she pursued 501(c)3 status. She’d been stubbornly resisting that step. But through the summer it took her to do the paperwork to set up her non-profit and all of the other challenges, what kept her going was the children she was serving. “It’s challenging, that’s why people want to give up.” When you follow your passion you have a powerful “why” to get you through the rough times.

Jaha said, “Whatever you love will help somebody, don’t do if for the money.” We don’t need to have Mother Theresa aspirations. Jaha proves that everything can provide value, like her music, in unsuspecting ways.

Be clear,  specific and commit!

It’s important to form your vision and articulate it. “We need time for it to unfold in ourselves first. We need to be clear about what we are doing” and why we’re doing it. We need to be committed to it – if we aren’t committed, why should anyone else be? “But as you move forward, you begin to attract the people you need” and who need you.

Collaboration not competition

This brings up a good point. When people come into your life that can help you, it’s important to ask how you can help them. Collaborating with people is a win-win and can go far in helping your realize your vision. As Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Ask, don’t tell.

The program grew because Jaha asked the kids what they were interested in. How many of you ask your clients what they want or need and then develop products/services to meet them? Or do you fall in love with your idea without asking if there’s a market for it, investing a lot of time and energy on something that’s a bust?

There is a difference between buying and selling. Buying is willingly purchasing something you want or need. Selling is attempting to convince someone that they want or need your product. No one wants to be sold.

Talk to your clients or prospective clients, get to know their goals as well as their problems. Put more time into researching their pain points instead of selling your products. When you do they will buy from you. When you show an interest in them, they become invested in you.

Good Advice

I asked Jaha what advice she has for women that want to start their own non-profit:

“Do it! My father said ‘Just do it’ long before Nike. Just start doing something everyday, even if it’s small. Learn something about the industry as often as possible and surround yourself with positive people. ‘Get rid of the dead weight’, my aunt would tell me.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the resources at hand. It will come. Just go and HAVE FUN! Enjoy what your doing and learning. Reflect on what you’ve achieved. Remember to be a model, not just to the youth but to each other. Work together and support each other.”

Learn more about Young Journey at www.youngjourney.org.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Intellectual vs. Emotional Mind

The Intellectual vs. Emotional MindIn a recent post, I talked about how I knew, intellectually, that I wasn’t a fraud, fake or a failure. I have accomplished a lot in my life. I graduated college, raised a phenomenal human being, mastered various skills, created tons of stuff with my own two hands, became a certified coach, formed some fabulous relationships, am a dedicated runner and yoga practitioner and have overcome an eating disorder, just to name a few. I have plenty of proof to know that I am a capable, intelligent, resourceful, compassionate and ever growing individual.

Intellectually, I know this, yet I still occasionally have feelings of doubt and inadequacy. Like I don’t have anything worthwhile to offer and will never be good enough. I turn into an emotional basket case.

It’s a battle between my intellectual and emotional selves.  Can you relate?

It’s no surprise that this battle is fought in our mind. There are actually 3 parts to our brain. The reptilian brain handles our vital biological functions such as breathing and pumping blood. It’s “largely unconscious, automatic and highly resistant to change”, according to Integrated Wellness Therapies article “The Role of Three Brains”. 

The limbic brain handles our emotions. It’s where we make value judgments that influence our behavior and form social bonds. It connects events with feelings. It is “active in situations that arouse fear, anger, frustration and pity.” It also operates mostly on a subconscious level.

The neocortex is our thinking brain (our intellectual self) and is responsible for abstract thought, imagination, higher reasoning and language.

These three separate parts of our brains don’t operate independently of each other, they are connected and the limbic and neocortex “influence each other via ongoing communication, linking emotions with thinking and voluntary action…Whilst we like to think of our neocortex or thinking brain as being the conscious decision maker, it is, in reality only selectively conscious. Psychologists generally agree that at best we are only 15% conscious of our emotions and behaviors. This means that even when we think we’re being rational and conscious, we’re largely being driven subconsciously by previous similar experiences and emotions.

Here’s the thing you need to know – “our subconscious brain is the ultimate decision maker. It always wins.” If it’s a matter of survival, our reptilian brain takes over – the fight or flight response. If it’s not a life-threatening situation, then emotional memories that have become ingrained, will triumph. The challenge, then, when making changes, is to overcome that emotional conditioning to create new habits or patterns of behavior. When we sabotage our efforts to change, it is our subconscious mind merely trying to keep the status quo.

Growing up, I believed that mistakes were bad and determined my worth so I played it safe. I gave in and reinforced my fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy over the decades. I’ve taken jobs that I was overqualified for and settled for less than I was worth.

I grew up in a household that neither encouraged or modeled any type of risk. It was an environment rife with control and rewarded “good” behavior – doing what you were told and not questioning why. Looking back with some maturity, a fair amount of counseling and perspective, I now understand the dysfunctional dynamics and have compassion for what we all went through.

That’s all fine and dandy except it doesn’t change the fact that I’m now stuck with these subconscious emotional responses that no longer serve me and what I want to achieve.

As I strike out on my own, forging an unconventional path (at least compared to what I grew up in) and challenging my beliefs, I often find my intellectual and emotional minds at odds. I get caught up in the excitement of learning new things, the freedom of being the master and designer of my own life and helping others do the same but inevitably, like clockwork, my emotional side starts getting nervous and shaking things up because I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone.

It’s a pattern I’ve come to know over the decades. I’d get excited about doing something and would make all sorts of plans. I am a Master Planner. After some progress, I’d often lose interest. Sometimes it was legitimate, it just wasn’t my thing. More often, though, I had my first challenge and I was scared. Having taken the easy way out most of my life, I wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle it, so my brain kicked in and did what it does best.

After my divorce I realized that I had spent my life living in fear and decided to use this as a rebirth, if you will, to live my life in love. It’s an ongoing process which I liken to peeling an onion. Just when you think you’ve tackled one issue, you realize that you just scratched the surface and have to diligently be aware of your thoughts and habits, constantly reinforcing new ones to replace those that are counterproductive.

It’s a two step process really – being aware and questioning your thoughts and then taking SMALL steps outside of your comfort zone.

Awareness is probably the hardest part because most of our thoughts and behavior is reactive – that 85% of our brain that works subconsciously. And once you question a thought, belief or assumption, you have to replace and keep reinforcing it so it becomes the go-to response.

Taking it one small step at a time helps you ease into new behaviors, gain momentum and prevents the warning bells from going off in our brains, activating those old patterns. For instance, if you want to start an exercise routine after you’ve been a confirmed couch potato, telling yourself you’re going to go to the gym for an hour everyday is going to raise some red flags. Start small, maybe 5 minutes, or a walk after dinner. Grow into your goals slowly and you have a chance of achieving them rather than trying to strong arm your way to success.

It won’t be easy. You will have set backs. But you will also have triumphs. Show yourself some compassion, let your emotional mind know that you understand and just keep moving forward.

Don’t overthink – over do!

Don't Overthink - Over Do! Take action to get through resistanceIn my last session with my coach, I was in a funk and came to the realization that the problem was I was spending too much time analyzing it.

I am introspective by nature, so I spend a lot of time in my head. Most of the time it’s not a problem. I plan, dream, get ideas, find solutions, learn things and gain new insight but sometimes when I’m chugging along just fine – WHAM! – I hit a brick wall.

I feel like a pinball – my mind mentally bouncing around.  I’m unfocused, antsy and agitated. I fall into  Funkville (which is just the opposite of Funky Town). Once I rule out some obvious factors like hunger or need for sleep, I do what I normally do. I go inside my head.

This usually works. Sitting down with a pen and paper (or banging away on my laptop) and doing some stream of consciousness writing, I can often pinpoint what’s bothering me.

But sometimes my mind takes me into a dark place and the inner critic/demon/crazy lady, whatever you want to call it, comes out to play with a vengeance.

I happened to be in the middle of such an episode when I was talking to my coach. I was whining about how I was a fraud and a fake, comparing myself to others and generally whipping myself up into a full-blown tizzy.

I was suffering from a lack of belief in myself and I was trying to think my way out of it. But then it dawned on me, the way out wasn’t by thinking, but by doing!

When you suffer from a lack of faith/belief/confidence in yourself and your abilities, thinking only tends to exacerbate the problem. As I was talking to my coach, intellectually, I knew I wasn’t a fraud or a fake. I’ve accomplished a lot but I was having a problem shaking those damn little gremlins in my head telling me otherwise. Thinking wasn’t going to make them go away, in fact it had the opposite effect, it fed them. I had that “Aha!” moment when I realized I had to DO something. Anything.

I didn’t need motivation, I didn’t need confidence, I didn’t have to convince myself I wasn’t a fraud. I just had to ACT. So I looked at where my time would be best spent based on what I wanted to achieve and took the most logical small step to move me in that direction.

And the little voice in my head faded away as I concentrated on the next task at hand.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Get comfortable being uncomfortable - your ability to do so will make a huge differenceOne of the five truths about fear, according to Susan Jeffers in her book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway“, is the fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow. It’s part of change.

Humans are creatures of habit and most of us have settled nicely into couch potato status in our comfort zone. The problem with that is it’s a pretty boring spot, from my stand point. For me, a fulfilling life means growth and and meeting new challenges. This means risk, fear and a host of other possibilities that make me vulnerable. Will I embarrass or humiliate myself? Will I fail?

Maybe.

Then there’s the alternative – mediocrity, boredom, stagnation, resignation. A sure path to Regret-ville.

So if you hope to live a meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful life, one that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning, makes time fly, pushes you to the edge of frustration and then rewards you with joy, a sense of accomplishment and purpose, one that satisfies your mind, heart, body and spirit, you’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable.

There’s a big benefit to facing our fears and stepping outside of our comfort zone. When we push through it helps reinforce our feelings of resourcefulness and resilience. Living with a constant feeling of dread makes us feel helpless and adds more stress than if we took the chance. Taking risks helps us to cultivate our power – power over our thoughts and beliefs – boosts our confidence and self-assurance that will spill out into all areas of our life. We feel like we have control, making us happier.

Exactly how does one become comfortable with discomfort?

Acknowledge your fears.

Get to the root of your fears. Look past the excuses (“I don’t have time”) and find out what’s really at the core. Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that could go wrong. What’s the worst case scenario?  What are the odds that it could actually happen? Bring those fears into the light, acknowledge and challenge them.

Preparation and practice.

Once you have your list and narrowed it down to concerns grounded in reality. Let’s say you have to give a speech, the microphone exploding is a possibility but not a probability. “Going blank” is, so what can you do to avoid that? You can do research, prepare notes, practice your speech, mediate beforehand to calm yourself or find some other pre-speech ritual or focus on a friendly face in the audience.

I’m still nervous getting up and talking in front of people and I’ve done it at least a 100 times. I’ll probably still get nervous after I’ve done it a 1000 times, but because of the preparation and practice I put in, I’m not paralyzed by it.

Focus on the positive

When we are out of our comfort zone, we tend to focus on the negatives – what if I can’t do it? What if I look foolish? What if I embarrass myself? What if other people hate it? What if I fail?

Instead, focus on the benefits – learning something new, getting a promotion, helping others, being healthier, having more energy to play with your kids, being in control of your life, conquering a fear.

One of my running routes has an uphill section that I dread. To make matters worse it is at the end of my run so I am already tired. But the minute I turn that corner I start saying my mantra “This will make me stronger”, over and over until I make it to the top of that hill. It doesn’t make it easier but it reminds me why I’m doing it.

Take small steps

If you decide to start exercising after decades of inactivity, don’t try to run a marathon or come up with ridiculous expectations of exercising for an hour a day because that’s a sure fire way to not accomplish anything (ask me how I know this…). Start small. Teeny tiny small. Like 5 minutes. Ease into it. Get up and do jumping jacks during a commercial break or take a walk after dinner. Getting started is often the hardest part so make it as non-threatening as possible.

Once you’ve started, then work on expanding your comfort zone, in small steps. When you notice yourself becoming uncomfortable (not unbearable mind you, uncomfortable), sit with it awhile. Don’t give in right away. You don’t think you could possibly do one more jumping jack? Do a couple more. And then do a couple more after that. Don’t quit on the first try. We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit. Stick with it for a little bit longer, notice the discomfort, acknowledge it but don’t give into it right away.

Change is an inevitable part of life, especially if you want to keep learning and growing. Making peace with discomfort is a skill and asset that will help you conquer just about anything.

 

 

 

 

Formula for Success

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I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, to create my own business that had flexible hours, aligned with my talents, strengths, values and passion and let me choose which projects I wanted to work on and who I wanted to work with. I’ve explored many ideas and much to my frustration and disappointment, none of them really worked out.

My biggest obstacle? Me.

One of the problems was I made these ridiculous plans that not only ignored my own natural tendencies but overwhelmed me before I even got started. I had schedules where I literally thought after a full day of work, I would come home and devote a full 3 hours to my venture-du-jour – everyday! And I expected to spend all of my weekends on it also. Not sure when I was planning on eating, sleeping, spending quality time with my family and friends, showering or dealing with all the other stuff life threw at me.

Finally I took stock of the things that were going right in my life. I’ve been a runner for nine years, practicing yoga for about 3 – consistently. Exercise has become a daily habit. So why have I been successful there and not other areas of my life?

Find your compelling reason for committing.

Motivation is the key to success. If we decide to do something because we were told to (by our doctor, spouse, boss, etc) or because we “should” (all good leaders should have an MBA) then we’re starting out handicapped. To increase our chances of achieving our goals, it should be our choice.

I started paying attention to my diet and exercise when a friend was diagnosed with cancer. She is the type to research everything and found that her daily soda habit was probably not helping. Even though I’ve always been a healthy eater (I was the kid that actually liked snacking on celery and carrots…) I had a 2-liter soda as well as some other unhealthy habits. Being over 40, I wanted quality in my years, not just quantity.

I have a strong commitment to a healthier lifestyle because there is so much more I want to do with my life and I want to be in good health to do it…hopefully for decades to come.

Start Small

Once I made the commitment, I decided to start exercising again. I eased into it with small steps. After I walked my son to school, I took a 2 mile brisk walk around the neighborhood. Nothing drastic. Then I started adding ankle weights. Walking became a habit.

Small steps are a great way to start anything. It helps us to overcome inertia and start, which is often the hardest part. It’s easy to commit to something small and easy – say five minutes. Five minutes can easily turn into 15, 30 or 60 if we get engrossed in a project. Five minutes doesn’t raise any alarms or bells in our brains (if it so much as gets a whiff of something stressful, it will go into survival mode and do everything it can to eliminate that stress and shut down our efforts to change) so it slips quietly under the radar . For me, walking was my “five minutes” because it’s something I know how to do and it fit easily in my schedule. It was non-threatening. I wasn’t demanding that I put my body, which was more used to being a couch potato than a track star, through some torturous “Biggest Loser” exercise-till-you-barf routine. I just opened my front door and walked out.

Another thing about small steps is that it allows us to grow into our goals. I often made schedules without taking into consideration that I was a beginner. We don’t expect a baby to come running out of the womb. That’s a good 1-2 years down the road. There are a lot of other little milestones that need to take place first. She needs to build muscle strength so she can hold her head up, sit up, roll over, crawl, walk and eventually run. I needed to take a step back and start at the beginning instead of trying to jump in at a higher level. Small steps help advance us through various skills and learning so we are mentally and physically prepared for the next challenge.

Find a buddy who will help you with your goals

Next, I was “dared” to do a six week boot camp with my co-workers. Five of us signed up for the 5:30 am class and I never missed one. At the end I was the strongest and healthiest that I’ve ever been. I didn’t want to lose all my hard work so when one of my co-workers suggested I run with her, I accepted.

I suffered those first couple of months. Fifteen minutes into the run and I’d be gasping for air and waved her on as I stopped to walk. But in a short time, I was able to keep up with, if not surpass her. The thing that kept me going was being accountable to someone. I didn’t like getting up at 5 am but I knew she’d be there waiting for me and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I know she’s part of the reason I developed the habit.

Having a buddy who is trying to reach a goal too and being accountable to each other can make things a lot easier. You have someone who can give you another perspective, you have someone you can commiserate with (it was either too hot or too cold – we complained about it but we still ran), you have someone cheering you on, you have someone who keeps it real. My running partner did so much more for me that just help me run, our running connected us on so many other levels and made the experience richer.

Find the formula and repeat it.

Once I saw the formula for achieving my exercise goals, I realized I could apply it to anything I did with the same success. I expanded my workout routine to include yoga. I may have been a yoga beginner but my running habit easily transferred into a yoga habit with little effort because I had already developed the “exercise” muscle.

When I applied this formula to other areas of my life, I found I had less stress, enjoyed the process more, moved forward quicker and saved myself a ton of time and aggravation.

I spent way too much time listening to the “experts” instead of looking at what actually worked for me. Take stock of your own success, those times you achieved your goal, and find the pattern. Test it out on your next goal. I’d love to hear your success formula.

 

Celebrating Failure

flagon-1331087_1280Failure has gotten a bad rap. It’s one of those charged words and often a fear of failure is cited as a reason why some people can’t move forward. And that’s a HUGE problem, especially if you want to pursue a fulfilling, meaningful life.

Failure is defined as the lack of success. It’s nothing more than a way to evaluate our progress. Without failure, we can’t grow. Success teaches us nothing. Failure always teaches us something.

The problem is that at some point we started making a judgement about failure, attaching a negative connotation to it when, in actuality, it’s a neutral event. All failure means is you didn’t achieve the outcome you wanted.  This is how children (and everyone else…) learn and grow. The square block didn’t fit into the round hole. So we tried a different hole.

Somewhere along the way we started getting a different message. That success was right and failure was wrong. And we lost the distinction between an event/outcome and our very identity. Instead of thinking “that try was a failure”, we tend to think “I’m a failure”.

I like how Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour reframed failure in their book Introducing NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming:

“There is no such thing as failure, only results. These can be used as feedback, helpful corrections, a splendid opportunity to learn something you had not noticed. Failure is just a way of describing a result you did not want. You can use the results to redirect your efforts. Feedback keeps the goal in view. Failure is a dead end. Two very similar words, yet they represent two totally different ways of thinking.”

Failure is our teacher. Maybe you didn’t achieve what you had hoped but find the lesson and try something else. Eventually you will find something that does work. And as a result you will have grown and learned and changed in ways that you never could have imagined.

So from now on, celebrate failure!

 

 

ACT your Dreams into Reality

I love writing speeches for Toastmasters. Writing has always been a way for me to work through problems and clarify my thoughts so it’s no surprise that with each speech I learn something new and gain valuable insight.

I had several epiphanies  working through Speech 3 that were so powerful that I wanted a way to remember them. Acronyms work and ACT fit perfectly.

I chose ACT because each point got me from planning to DOING.These ideas reframed my thinking so I could move past my fears and start but also keep me going when the novelty and excitement of my goals wear off.

So here is how you ACT your dreams into reality:

A – Accolades do NOT equal growth.

I got a lot of good feedback  and encouragement for my first speech and was riding high afterwards. I worked hard on my second speech and, in my mind, it was even better than the first. Not only did I think the content was inspirational but I thought I delivered it well. My head swelled with anticipation at my critique. While I got high marks, my evaluator did exactly what he was suppose to do. He pointed out both the good and bad (areas he thought I could improve on).  But there was no fawning, so I was deflated. I became unmotivated and it took me two weeks to recover. It was Speech 3 that helped me see what happened and change my perspective.

The reason I signed up for Toastmasters was to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, learn and grow. Accolades are great but can be a double edged sword. It’s wonderful to get feedback that you’re on the right path, doing a good job, that all your hard work has paid off BUT it can stunt your growth if you’re not careful. I focused on approval and when people (rightly) didn’t fall all over themselves to tell me how great I was…it stopped me in my tracks. But when I switched my focus to improving myself, my motivation returned.

The takeaway – Switch mindset from approval to improvement.

C – Create value.

I had a fear of being rejected. It was so big and ingrained in my belief system that I didn’t realize it drove every thought and action. Or more accurately, inaction. I wanted to do great things and be so much more but I rarely followed through resulting in frustration and self-incrimination.  Once I quit focusing on myself (“what do they think of me?” “I don’t have the right degree”, “I’m too old”, etc) and focused on creating value, something amazing happened. I was no longer paralyzed by fear because it wasn’t about me anymore (phew!). It’s about making a difference.

The takeaway – Albert Einstein said it best – “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

T – Tiny steps.

The buzzword in the goal-setting community is Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Dream big! And I whole heartily agree but I overwhelmed myself into couch potato status and the cycle of frustration and incrimination would begin all over again.

One of the cornerstones of the Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach model (where I received my certification) is small steps. The concept isn’t new and is based on ‘kaizen”, a Japanese word meaning continual improvement (weren’t we just talking about that?)

One aspect of small steps is committing to something for just 5 minutes (I’ll write for 5 minutes, I’ll exercise for 5 minutes…you get the idea). It works by overcoming the inertia or resistance we have to getting starting by being so ridiculously easy and non-threatening. If you become engrossed in the project, you can keep going or stop after 5 minutes and celebrate that you met your goal (these small successes keep us motivated and moving forward).

But thinking about small steps made me realize something else. Breaking a big goal down into little steps  not only keeps us from being overwhelmed, taking our goals one small step at a time helps us gain the knowledge and confidence we need to GROW into our Big Hairy Audacious Goals. My mistake had been thinking that I could skip right past “beginner” and be an expert. Growing into my goals was a game changer for me.

The takeaway – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

Do any of these ideas resonate with you? What do you do to get started and keep motivated? I’d love to hear from you.