3 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

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If your dreams seem too big and out of reach, here are 3 steps you can take right now to get you there.

1.       Create a crystal, clear reality

It is one thing to list things that you want. It is another thing to get crystal, clear on what that means. When you think about your dream life, it has to be more than a collection of things. What does it really look like? What does it really feel like?

Take a look at every area of your life. Your body and health. Your love and relationships. Your wealth or financial abundance. Your big dreams. Your call to give back or the way you want to contribute to those around you. Write each one on a sheet of paper and divide the sheet in half with a vertical line. On the left side of the line, write your current situation in each area. On the right side of the line, write your dream situation in each area. Be very specific on each side.

After you write your list (some may only have 1 item and some may have 10), take the time to recognize what achieving those goals will mean for you and write those at the bottom of the page.

For example, maybe your wealth page looks something like this.

Working 60 hours a week            |              Want to work no more than 40 hours per week

Making $2k a month                    |              Want to make $10k a month

Achieving these 2 goals in the area of wealth/financial abundance will allow me more freedom and flexibility in my life, will allow me to purchase a new car, will allow me to pay for my child’s college which will keep them from entering real life with a ton of student debt, and will allow me to travel. It will also give me the confidence to know that I can financially handle any situation therefore increasing my security long term.

What you write doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do need to take the time to put some real thought into what you really want and what that will mean.

2.       Visualization

Some of you have bought into the power of visualization and some of you are probably still on the fence about if it really works or not. I’m not going to spend the time here today to try to convince you that visualization really works but I will say there is scientific evidence that supports its power.

Once you complete your lists, start to visualize accomplishing those goals. Visualize yourself as you will be after you achieve the goals and do it through your own eyes (meaning not looking at yourself but looking out as yourself). Visualize what it will feel like. Visualize what it smells like. Visualize how your days will be, who will be around you, and all of the details associated with it.

Don’t stop visualizing until you reach your goals.

3.       Uncover blocks

This one is probably the most difficult because we often are not aware of our blocks. If you are unsure how to uncover your blocks, I wrote a post “How to Uncover your Self-Limiting Beliefs” on the subject a while back that you are free to check out for more guidance in this area.

But just uncovering your blocks won’t fix the problem. You must recognize them and then counter them. One of the easiest ways to counter these blocks is to speak an opposite truth.

For example:

·       If you have been telling yourself you are not deserving – instead tell yourself you allow yourself to be deserving

·       If you have been telling yourself it will always be hard – instead tell yourself that you allow it to be easy

·       If you have been telling yourself it will never happen – instead tell yourself that you allow it to be happen

Getting crystal, clear is the first step. And the one that people usually skip through too quickly. But it isn’t the only step. Following these three steps together will put you on the right path to achieving your biggest dreams. So go dream big my friends!

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The Problem with Assumptions

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J. Paul Getty has been quoted as saying, “There may be some substitute for hard facts, but if there is, I have no idea what it can be.”

A lot of people, me included, waste a lot of valuable time and energy guessing about what other people are thinking and intending. And because we don’t have any facts regarding what they are thinking or intending, we make assumptions. Then, to top it all off, we make decisions based upon the assumptions.

How many times have you caught yourself thinking:

·       “I wonder why they haven’t responded to me? They must be mad/don’t like what I sent/don’t want to work with me/my pricing is too high.”

·       “I can’t ask them for help, I’m sure they are really busy right now.”

·       “I can’t send them my information, I’m sure they aren’t really interested/don’t need anything from me.”

People always imagine the worst when they don’t know what is true.

The fundamental problem with assuming anything is that people are usually most afraid of what they don’t know. And, instead of checking into things, they assume facts that are typically not true and then make bad decisions based on these assumptions.

When you take the time to know all of the facts you can make decisions and take actions on the basis of what is real instead of the story you have created.

How much easier would it be to not assume but instead ask a couple of questions?

I remember a sales situation many years back when I worked for a large company. We had sent a proposal to a prospect and then heard nothing back from them. We immediately started making assumptions. We assumed that the price was way too high and they weren’t responding because they had sticker shock. So, a lot of time when in to strategizing an appropriate discount to offer. When our salesperson finally gave them a call to offer the discount we found out that the real reason they hadn’t responded was because our contact had been out of the office due to an illness and no one had seen the proposal yet. But, they were happy to accept the discount! If we had just followed up to see what the issue was before we made any assumptions, we would have won the account – and won it without a discount.

I could fill an entire book with illustrations on this point. We are reluctant to ask because we are afraid of bad news. So, we make up stories and then act on those stories. The end result is usually a misfired attempt at solving the wrong problem.

Take the time to ask the questions rather than make assumptions. Checking out assumptions improves your communication, your relationships, your quality of life, and your success and productivity. You start to get better results because you become focused on solving the right problems, instead of the made-up ones.

Need Better Self-Esteem?

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Who here can use a positive shot in their self-esteem every once in a while? Now, who here waits for someone else to make that happen for them?

If you find yourself guilty of the second question, here are some ways you can start taking responsibility for the development of your own self-esteem.

1.       Rewrite your story: If you aren’t the hero in your own story, you need to rewrite it. I recently saw a suggestion on how to do this. The suggestion was to purchase a new, beautiful journal and on the very first page, write your story. Once complete, take an objective look at what you’ve written. Is it sad? Angry? Unlucky? Are you portrayed as a victim or do you take ownership of the things that have happened in your life?

On the next page, change something. Take ownership of a piece of it. Be more accountable for the things that have happened (good and bad). You will notice that as you continue to literally rewrite your story shifts will begin to happen in your real life.

2.       Stop criticizing: Are you your worse critic? If you are talking to yourself in a way that you would never speak to a friend, nip it in the bud immediately. 

3.       Remove toxic people: Do you have people in your life that suck the energy right out of you? Do you have people you hang around with but aren’t sure why? If so, you need to take responsibility for distancing yourself from that kind of negative energy. 

4.       Quit comparing: Comparison is the killer of dreams! Focus on the work you have to do on yourself. Never look outside at others. You never get the full picture by looking out instead of in. 

5.       Let go of things that don’t serve you: Are you holding on to bitterness or anger in your life? Are you finding it difficult to forgive someone? While these things may have served you in your past, they will wear on your self-esteem. Let them go. The burden of carrying them through life leaves no room for the good that awaits you. 

6.       Accept imperfections: As a recovering perfectionist, anything less than perfect is difficult for me to accept. But demanding perfectionism keeps me from taking risks. Give up on perfection and give yourself permission to try something new. 

7.       Say no to the things you don’t want to do: Saying no to what you don’t want to do frees you up to focus on what you do want to do. 

8.       Celebrate the people who love you: Focus on the people who love and support you. Give them your time and your attention. They deserve it for their support and their positive reinforcement will give you wings. 

9.       Own your internal Boss Lady: You are your boss. Own it by making decisions based upon your goals and desires, not the expectations of others. 

10.   List what you are good at: The fastest way to increase self-esteem is to recognize all of the things you are good at. Make a list and look at it regularly. Make sure to include not only the areas where you excel but also the things in life that make you happy.  

11.   List what challenges you: In the same spirit, list all of the things that you find challenging. Maybe its talking to strangers, maybe its learning a new skill. But write them down and note every time you attempt to do something from that list. Feel proud of all of the times you do things you didn’t think you could do. 

12.   Learn to accept compliments: In general, most of us don’t accept compliments very well. If someone compliments us on our outfit, we tell them we grabbed it off the sales rack. If someone tells us they appreciate our help on something, we tell them it was no big deal. Don’t minimize the impact of a compliment by shrugging it off. Just say “Thank you”. 

13.   Take care of yourself: Self-care is a hot topic and it has been made into this overcomplicated, always preached, almost impossible to implement routine. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be trying to get more sleep or eating better. Or, finally being brave enough to say no to the things you don’t want to do. Self-care does a lot for self-esteem. 

14.   Practice being a better person: The best way to feel better about yourself is to just be a better person. Practicing kindness, consideration, patience, empathy, and understanding has as much a positive impact on you as it does the person you are demonstrating it to. 

Its easy to fall into the trap of needing validation from others. However, the real power lies within. When you take responsibility to create things like value, worth, and self-esteem for yourself, you become owner of something that no one can take away.

“My Life is Mine” – Tracee Ellis Ross

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I have many frustrations in life. Don’t we all. But one I struggle with is living life based on other people’s expectations. I do it. You do it. We all do it. We are so afraid of letting others down by not living up to their expectations that we never end up reaching our full potential as an individual.

And this is not an isolated issue just for women. Men endure the same pressures. They have been instructed from birth that they must have a masculine job that supports their family. For women, we are judged not only on the type of job we choose (it must be the safe and responsible career choice, of course), but also if we get married and have kids. Many imply that if you are married and have children that your life has more meaning than those who don’t. As if everything else in your life has no merit or who you are doesn’t matter if you don’t have a family.

I recently read an interview of Tracee Ellis Ross in Glamour Magazine – February 2018. (Please don’t judge, I had airline miles that were about to expire and had to use them on something!) Even though Tracee is a Golden Globe winning actress, a hard worker, a good sister, and the daughter of Diana Ross, because she is unmarried and has no children she is constantly being judged for that choice. And while she is a confident and accomplished individual, it still confuses her as to why her choice to not get married and have children is so important to everyone.

In the article, she says, “that in her confusion about these expectations, she took to her journal where she had an epiphany. She wrote, ‘My life is mine’.”

What an incredibly profound and brave statement. “My life is mine.”

She goes on to say that “the realization opened a door for her to sort out what her life could look like if she had full ownership of it. [If she paid] attention to the reality of [her] life and the audacity of [her]dreams instead of the expectation [she] was raised with.”

I want each of you to think about that for a moment. What if we each lived our lives with the audacity of our dreams instead of the expectations others have for us? What if we accepted the fact that we are whole and complete as ourselves, not in relation to anyone else, any job, where we live, or what we spend money on.

My challenge for you is to determine what your life looks like if its really yours. What does it look like when you silence the expectations of others and really focus on taking full ownership?

As the article by Emily Mahaney says, we are individuals made up of many parts. What happens when you get to know yourself, when you own your own dreams and desires, when you take the time to celebrate your individual path, and make space for other people to follow their paths as well?

I think we become the person we were meant to be…and allow others to do the same.

3 Ways to Ensure Message Sent = Message Received

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My #1 rule for communication is “not message sent…but message received.” It doesn’t make any difference whether it is verbal or written communication, what matters is not what you think you’ve said, but what the receiver thinks you’ve said.  Right or wrong, the receiver’s perception becomes your reality.

Communication is pretty straight forward in its own right, but today’s fast paced world and the advance in technology makes it really easy to muck it up and cause miscommunication or disconnects between what the sender thinks they have said and what the receiver thinks they have heard.  If you think about it, we can communicate instantly with just about anyone, anywhere, at any time through email.  And, while I love technology, it can easily mask emotion and tone, allowing the receiver to create their own emotion and tone, leading to miscommunication and misunderstandings. 

How many of you have sent a perfectly harmless email to someone, only to have that person get really upset over the tone of the email?  How long did it take you to fix the damage? If you are like most people, you probably went back and forth about 4 more times and then finally picked up the phone so that you could explain it in person.  It’s such a waste of time. 

So, what do you do to keep this from happening? 

1.       Take Your Time

If sending written communication, read, re-read, and re-read. Take your time before sending any written communications.  Can it be misinterpreted? Can a tone be implied?  If there is any chance that it could be misunderstood, I would pick up the phone and have a verbal conversation.  If having a verbal conversation, then be sure to be prepared by thinking through the message you want to convey and the outcomes you want to achieve.

2.       Understand Communication Styles

Another cause of message sent does not equal message received is conflicting communication styles.  Identifying and understanding communication styles is important because before you can help someone move from point A to point B, you must first neutralize their defenses. 

One way is to notice body posturing.  And what I mean by this is the formality of their posturing.  The main concern is how relaxed the other person is – if the person is sitting or standing in a very relaxed posture, do the same.  If the posture is very formal then match that as well.  This is called mirroring and matching.  It’s a good way to break down any walls or defenses that can be hard to overcome when you first meet someone.

Another thing you can mirror or match is vocabulary.  Pay attention to the kind of vocabulary a person uses.  Is it formal, informal, sophisticated, slang, intellectual?  Match your language to their speech. 

These mirroring and matching techniques are really good for building rapport when you first meet someone.  Once you start interacting with them on a regular basis, you get the opportunity to kind of figure out their communications profile.  By identifying and understanding a person’s style, you can break down their communication barriers to ensure that your message sent will equal their message received.  There are two steps to determine the communication style of any other person you are trying to communicate with. 

1.       The first step is to pay attention to personality indicators such as base line behavior, the way they dress, their speech patterns, and body movements.

2.       The second step is to try to determine the other person’s primary motivations.  Are they trying to avoid failure, avoid rejection, secure achievement, keep everyone happy, dominate the interaction, etc?  Once you understand someone’s primary motivations, then you can come up with a plan on how to communicate effectively with that person.  I know it sounds pretty silly, but if your entire business is built on relationships, you can’t afford any disconnects.  People cancel contracts for all kinds of reasons and you certainly don’t want to have that happen because a client feels that they are not being heard or they can’t understand what you need from them.

Once you determine their style, you can continue your mirroring and matching as well as find ways to establish commonality. 

3.       Get a second opinion

Getting a second opinion is particularly helpful in written communication. Have someone who knows nothing or very little about the subject read it to see if they understand.  If they get it, you’re golden, if not, try it again.

The point to all of this is, when message sent equals message received, you have harmony…you win sales, you have happy clients and happy employees.  When message sent does not equal message received, you have discord…you lose sales, you lose customers, you lose good employees and you lose opportunities.  It is worth your time to ensure that your message sent = message received.

Say No to the Good

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Every once in a while, I will recommend a book that I think everyone should read if you want to be successful in achieving your life goals. I know this one has been out there for a while (as a matter of fact the 10th Anniversary Edition came out in 2015), so I’m a little behind, but if you haven’t read it yet, you need to. I’m talking about Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles.

This book is 500+ pages of incredibly insightful and time-tested principles to help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Among those pages is a chapter dedicated to keeping one from being “terrorized by the expectations of others”.

I’ve written on this subject before. Most of us tend to live our life based upon what other people expect of us and what they think we should do. For example, we pick professions that our parents feel would be the responsible career path instead of what inspires us. We take on more than we can manage at work in order to impress others or get ahead instead of focusing on delivering the best work for our top priorities.

Unfortunately, living to everyone else’s expectations keeps us from living to ours.

According to Mr. Canfield, “To be successful in achieving your goals and creating your desired life-style, you will have to get good at saying no to all of the people and distractions that would otherwise devour you. Successful people know how to say no without feeling guilty. To them, “No” is a complete sentence.”

The way to benefit from saying no is not just to say no, but to say no to those things that don’t have a high payoff. The key is to say no to the good so that you can say yes to the great.

So, how can you determine what’s truly great so that you can say no to what’s merely good? Mr. Canfield has four suggestions.

  1. List your opportunities

Start by writing down all of the options, opportunities, requests, activities, etc. that have been presented to you. Seeing them in writing will allow you to figure out what questions to ask and what additional information you will need. Then review the list to see which truly align with your overall life purpose. The ones that align with your goals are great options. Those that don’t are probably just good options and will do nothing but take you down a side road instead of take you closer to achieving success.

  1. Talk to advisors

Talking to advisors is not the same as seeking out the expectations of others. Talking to advisors means talking to those who have experienced what you are considering and can offer insight, lessons learned, expected challenges, amount of commitment required, etc. Learning from the experiences of others will help guide you to make the right decision and shorten the learning curve.

  1. Test them out

Determine if there is any way to test a new opportunity without investing a lot of time and money. Is there any way you can integrate the opportunity on a part-time basis before going all in? If it’s a new sales and marketing strategy can you implement it with a test group before sinking your entire budget into the strategy? If it’s a new business location can you try a pop-up shop before signing a long-term lease? Testing in order to collect data to determine potential success will go a long way in protecting your time, money, and sanity.

  1. Review where you spend your time

Finally, determine if the activities on your list truly serve your goals or if saying no would free up your schedule for those pursuits that do serve your goals. This is not a delegation exercise but an elimination exercise. For instance, I’ve had a newsletter for the past three years. I had one because every other business coach I know has one. I assumed it was just something that you were supposed to do. But, when I take a step back to evaluate whether or not it truly serves any of the goals in my business, I have to admit that it doesn’t. So, effective this year, I have stopped publishing a newsletter. Eliminating this activity frees me up to focus on other items that do serve my goals.

It’s not easy to draw a line in the sand and start saying no to the good so that you can say yes to the great, especially when others expect you to do certain things.  No one ever wants to let people down or not live up to the expectations of others. But believe it or not, people will respect you more for being clear on your goals and clear on what you will do or won’t do to advance those goals. This practice will take you from, what Jim Collins calls, just good to great (another awesome book if you haven’t read it yet – Good to Great).

The Best Way to Sign Emails

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Over the years I’ve toyed with using different email closers, like “best”, “regards”, “all the best”, and others. Most times than not, the motive for switching them up had less to do with the impact I felt it made on the reader and more to do with the fact that I just get bored. It doesn’t really matter any way, right?

Well, research is now showing that the way you close your emails really does matter.

According to the article, “This Is the Only Way You Should Sign Your Emails”, in the November 2017 issue of Money Magazine, the email scheduling app Boomerang analyzed more than 350,000 email threads to see which closing got the best response rates. The clear winner? “Thanks”, or some variation of, got a response at least 62% of the time. That’s compared with a 46% response rate when using a closing that was not “thankful” in nature.

Of all of the sign-offs measured in the survey, “Thanks in advance” got the best response at 65.7%. That was followed by “Thanks” at 63% and “Thank you” at 57.9%.

When you think of it, it seems pretty reasonable to see “Thanks” perform so well. It is appropriate for just about every type of email conversation and you can use it to end a note to any level of individual.

Which closing had the lowest response rate? “Best”. This closing came in at an average response rate of 51.2? The thought is that people tend to feel that it sounds a bit cold or rushed. So, it may be “best” to steer clear of that one. (See what I did there?)

It all comes down to this. When in doubt, closing an email with gratitude is always your best bet. It makes perfect sense. Gratitude is the best way to go in just about all aspects of your life, so why not email as well.