3 Questions to Set An Intention of Happiness

inspirational-quotes-about-happiness

Martha Beck, a life coach, sociologist, and author of Finding Your Own North Star says that “Happiness – real happiness – is quieter and calmer [than euphoria], but that sense of peace is deeply satisfying and can sustain you through life’s challenges.”

You see, experts are now saying that the exhilarating moments of our life – winning the lottery, closing on a house, a big win – don’t provide a sustained level of happiness. And that by chasing fleeting highs, we may be missing the opportunity for true joy. Believe it or not, true happiness is not out of reach but available to us at all times, if you know where to look.

I recently read an article written by Ginny Graves for Health magazine called Find A Deeper Happiness. In the article, Ms. Graves states that despite our American desire for the pursuit of happiness, research shows that people who have happiness as an end goal tend to be less happy. Pursuing meaning leads to a more sustainable form of happiness. Having a strong sense of what matters will ultimately lead to greater happiness.

A simple way to do this is to start each morning by setting an intention for the day. This will set a more positive tone, help align your day with what matters, and keep you more present. The following three questions are recommended by Mallika Chopra, the daughter of Deepak Chopra.

  1. What will make me feel healthy today? Healthy body, healthy mind. Health mind, happiness.
  2. What will make me feel connected today? The relationships we have with the people we care about bring us a deeper sense of joy.
  3. What will give me a sense of purpose today? Doing something that aligns with what matters to you is incredibly uplifting.

The goal with happiness is not to eliminate all other opposite emotions. Without opposite emotions, how else would we know what happiness really is?

5 Steps for Effective Goal Setting

setting-goals

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on goal setting so I thought this would be a good time for a refresher.

One of the keys to effective goal setting is ensuring that the goals that you set move you from where you are to where you want to be. This can be where you want to be from a business or career perspective or from a personal perspective. But in order to have the motivation you need to achieve them, they must be relevant. Enthusiasm for a goal will only last so long without relevance.

Once you have identified your relevant goals, follow these steps to give you the best chance at achieving them.

1.       Get very specific about what you want to achieve

The more specific you are about your goals and why you want to achieve them, the better able you are to create a plan on how to get there. This includes the identification of key performance indicators (KPIs). Your KPIs will help you measure success. Think about how you will be able to recognize if you have achieved success or are on the right track for attainment. You should be able to clearly articulate and measure/quantify the KPIs. And they should be crucial to achieving your goal.

2.       Set Priorities

When people sit down to start the goal setting process they often times get over zealous and create a list of 100 things to accomplish in the next year. The problem with this is that while all of the goals may be interesting and intriguing, it’s physically impossible to accomplish that many things.

This is why prioritization is so important. You will find that trying to focus on everything at once just becomes too overwhelming. So, taking the time to prioritize based upon a few goals that will have immediate impact will ensure you have the bandwidth that you need to move closer to your desired state and receive the most reward for your efforts. It all comes down to ROE (Return on Effort).

Prioritizing does not mean that your other goals are less important. You have to understand that. You just have to be realistic in how much you can accomplish at one time. Starting with those goals that will have the biggest impact and celebrating those accomplishments will create momentum.

3.       Write them down

This one is easy and it’s something that all of you already know. Research shows that you are 42% more likely to accomplish a goal if you actually write it down. If you don’t consider yourself a writer please do not freak out over this. This does not have to be print worthy. You will likely not be producing this for public consumption so just get it on paper in whatever format makes it easiest for you. I tend to do everything in bullet points rather than full commentary. If bullet points make you happy, go forth and bullet away. If complete sentences and full blown prose is what makes you giddy, then please use that style. The point is to just have a formal record.

4.       Keep goals small/operational/achievable/incremental

Here’s a trick I like to share with people when creating goals. There is no rule that you have to do your goal setting for a 1 – 3 – 5 year period. Only setting goals in yearly intervals can feel discouraging some times because you have to wait so long to see results. One way to avoid that feeling of discouragement is to break those goals into small, achievable, and incremental milestones. Setting achievable incremental goals (I’m making $2k/month by July. Then my new goal is that I’m making $5k/month by December. Then my new goal is that I’m making $10k/month by next July.) keeps the momentum going. Doing it this way may feel like you are playing small, but it’s not. It’s a great way to demonstrate progress and to keep your encouraged in the journey.

5.       Set performance goals, not outcomes

Quite simply this means to make sure your goals are based on things that are 100% in your control. For instance, “I will have 10 new clients by August” is more of an outcome goal. And it’s definitely not 100% in your control because it’s in your prospects’ control. However, stating “I will initiate 150 conversations by August” is in your control. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to write your goals this way. It just takes practice but once you master it, your goals will be more achievable because they will be in your control.

Please keep in mind that these steps are associated with effective goal setting not effective goal achievement. That is a whole other post. But you can’t achieve them if you haven’t set them first. Following these steps will help set you up for success.

The 5 P’s of Getting to Know Your Ideal Client

Who Do I choose to serve

A common struggle for entrepreneurs is identifying their ideal client or target audience. The problem is that it’s really scary to limit your client or customer base to a subset of people. I mean, I can coach anyone so why wouldn’t I have everyone in my target audience? The issue with trying to appeal to everyone is that you end up appealing to no one.

Even knowing this, it’s terrifying for entrepreneurs to narrow the focus. Mostly because of the fear of potentially leaving money on the table. No one wants to do that. However, being very specific in the creation of your ideal client or customer profile will actually help you make more money not less. The easiest way to narrow the focus is to ask yourself not “who can I serve?” but rather “who do I want to serve?”

One of the best processes I’ve heard for narrowing your client focus was presented by Mitch Matthews on one of his Dream. Think. Do. Podcasts. He teaches a process called The 5 P’s of Getting to Know Your Ideal Client. Following this process allows you to begin with the “who” in mind. Here is what Mitch recommends.

·         P – Profile

The first P in the process of defining who you want to serve is to create their profile. This profile can be based on demographics (gender, age, job description, hobbies, etc). It can also be value based, meaning based on your ideal client’s goals, interests, and beliefs. Or even a combination of the two.

The key here is to make the profile specific enough to help you make decisions. It’s amazing how much easier marketing and networking decisions become when you have a clearer picture of the profile of your ideal client/customer.

·         P – Problems

In order to have a viable business, you must solve a problem(s) for people. Having a deep understanding of the problems your potential clients/customers face and then being able to describe those problems better than they can will position you as part of the solution for the problem they are facing. What do they want to fix or change? They may not have even ever shared the problem with anyone before. Your ability to articulate what they are experiencing will make you seem like a mind reader to them.

The better you are at isolating the problems, the easier it will be to speak their language through your blogs, marketing, speaking opportunities, etc.

·         P – Passions

The third P in the process is to understand your ideal client’s passions. What would they love to become? What would they love to do? What are their desired outcomes?

Knowing their passions will allow you to paint the picture of how their life could look if they allowed you to solve their problems.

·         P – Paradigms/Mindset

The fourth P can be a little challenging because we know we can be helpful to people even before they know we can be helpful to them. Being able to recognize a person’s paradigm or current mindset will help you determine if they are ready for your solution. Are they open to what you are offering? What season are they in? Meaning, is the timing right? Some people will be a better fit later than they are now. And, often over looked but very important – are they jerks or someone you would really enjoy helping. It doesn’t matter if they are purchasing a sofa or hiring you to remodel their kitchen, no one really likes dealing with jerks and you shouldn’t have to if you don’t want to.

Understanding the current paradigm or mindset of a person ready to take action will help you identify when someone isn’t ready to take action. This will save you a countless amount of time and frustration.

·         P – Payment

The last P is very important. Just because they agree your solution will work, doesn’t mean they will pay for your solution. Identifying the type of person willing to spend money on what you have to offer will also save you a ton of time and frustration.

As a practical application of this process, sit down with pen and paper and follow these four steps.

1.       A & E – write down anyone and everyone you could work with.

2.       First Draft – experiment with an ideal client profile by working through the 5 Ps. This will start to give you clarity to focus your efforts.

3.       Experiment & Adjust – begin using your draft profile to guide your actions and efforts. This is an experiment. Review the impact and don’t be afraid to adjust the profile until it feels effortless and exactly in line with who you want to serve.

4.       Micro-niche – after a few adjustments you will end up with a very specific description of the micro-niche you were born to serve. You will know it and your ideal client/customer will know it as well.

It takes a ton of courage to draw a line in the sand when it comes to target clients/customers. However, if you are able to take this step in your business, you will definitely reap the rewards. First, your ideal clients will know you are talking specifically to them. And second, you can leverage your efforts and your resources by focusing them in and on the right activities. And who wants to work with anyone when you can work with the exact right someone?

3 Actions to Shift Into Your Greatness

Life-is-too-short-to-be

I have a mantra that I use on a regular basis. “Life is too short to be mediocre.”

You don’t want to look back on your life and figure out you were just average. You don’t want to realize, in retrospect, that all of the years of work, all of the years in a relationship, all of the years of “doing” resulted in just middle of the road. No one wants to be average. We want to be great!

So, how do you turn mediocre into earth shattering greatness? You do it by eliminating the clutter so that you can focus your energy on realizing your greatness. Here are three actions that can help you do just that.

1.       Remove the clutter from your calendar

I hear this phrase all of the time. “I’m too busy to….” Think about it for a second. Every time you run into a colleague or a friend and you ask them how it’s going, they almost always answer by saying how busy they are. They are too busy to take care of themselves. They are too busy to get all of their work done. They are too busy to hang out with people they really care about and who feed their soul. They are just too busy.

We wear “busy” as a badge of honor. As something for others to be jealous of. “I just don’t know how she does it all. She’s so busy all of the time. I wish I could do everything she does.”

I’m here to tell you. Busy is mediocre. Being busy leaves no time for greatness.

So, take a look at your calendar or how you spend your days. What items are crucial to you reaching your greatness goals? What items should be removed because they don’t benefit your business/career, relationships, or happiness in life?

Removing those items that don’t benefit the important areas of your life frees up space for greatness to grow.

2.       Remove the clutter from your physical space

Have you ever heard the saying, “a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind”? (I think it’s an old proverb but maybe it’s not. I may have made it up. But if it’s not an old proverb, it should be.) Whether you’ve heard it or not, this statement is true. Research shows that an untidy workspace leads to a decrease in productivity and a lack of motivation.

A decrease in productivity and lack of motivation makes greatness impossible and leaves you stuck in the land of mediocre.

Take a look at your desk and your office to identify all of the items that distract you or don’t serve you in your business. Remove them. Take a look at your house and your car to identify all of the items that don’t serve you in your life and remove them. Doing so allows you to focus and process information. It also keeps you from wearing down your mental resources. Increased focus, increased ability to process information, and increased mental resources all support the development of greatness.

3.       Remove the clutter from your mind

Finally, take a look at clutter in the less obvious places in your life. For instance, your mind. A cluttered mind is restless. It moves in so many directions at once that it gets nowhere.

Mental clutter can include worrying about things outside of your control, not letting go of the past, refusing to forgive, keeping a mental “to-do” list, harboring complaints, etc. Decluttering your physical space, like we’ve already discussed, will help to a certain extent. You can also write things, like your “to-do” list down so you don’t have to remember everything. You can also keep a journal to acknowledge and deal with worry, things from your past, and big dreams/goals.

Another great way to handle mental clutter is to stop multi-tasking. Research shows we are less effective and less efficient when we multi-task. So, allow yourself to focus on only one thing at a time so that you can do each task with greatness, instead of with mediocrity.

This week, I want you to work on removing the clutter from your life. Removing the clutter allows us to remove the things that hold us back energetically so that we can make space for the items that do help us move forward and flourish. And every time you add something to your calendar, your space, or your mind, be sure they fit with your grandest vision. Be sure they fit with your greatness.

The Quickest Way to Diffuse the Angry

diffuse bomb

We all have to deal with angry people. People get angry all of the time. Maybe you have a family member upset with you for some reason. An unsatisfied employee or customer. Or a fourteen year old daughter livid over limited screen time on her phone. (Unrealistic, I know. But it could happen. Just sayin’.)

Whatever the scenario. Whatever the situation. The easiest and quickest way to remedy an experience with an angry person is to ask these two simple questions.

1.       “What’s wrong?”

2.       “What do you think would be an appropriate way to handle this?”

No one really enjoys conflict and confrontation. So, when we think that someone may be angry with us, we stress over why they are angry and what to do about it. Then we pile on a big ‘ol helping of taking it personally.

All the stress and worry wears on us. The attempt at finding every possible way to avoid the person and the situation is exhausting. These two questions eliminate all of this immediately. How? By taking the guess work out of it. Most people just want to be heard and to know that their feelings are valid. Asking the questions confirm for them that they have been heard and that their feelings are important to you. And instead of you stressing over the exact right way to handle it, it’s just easier to ask what they want.

By taking out the guesswork, you immediately diffuse the situation and eliminate the possibility of making it worse by guessing wrong.

I’ll challenge you to try this the next time you are dealing with an angry person, in any capacity. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below. Are there other techniques you have used to solve similar issues? I’d love to hear about those, too!

(I told you it would be quick!)

Female Executive Leadership in America – A Tipping Point (An OpEd)

woman leaving

I was reading the article, “The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down” in the May 2017 issue of Money that looks at the unpaid burden of running a household. It’s a great read, if you get the chance. I also love that they have an insert that looks at it from the male perspective as well. But reading the article reminded me of a soapbox I’ve been on for a while. It’s a topic I’ve shared with my closest circle but haven’t written about to this point. So, here it goes.

Even with all of the discussion around equal pay for women and the gender pay gap we are missing an even larger point – the potential extinction of female executives in the Corporate American landscape. If this issue is not fixed, we stand to lose one of the greatest competitive advantages that corporations have.

Research shows that companies with women in executive positions, and even more specifically in the C-suite, add 6% to net profit margin compared to those without. Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an economics and business professor at the Haas School at the University of Berkeley, told a panel at the 2016 World Economic Forum that women improve innovation and complex decision-making. With Baby Boomers retiring, GenXers leaving to start their own businesses, and Millenials opting for a more fulfilling and balanced life than climbing the corporate ladder, the threat of the extinction of female executive leadership is real. While there isn’t much that can be done to keep Baby Boomers from retiring we can do things right now to save our current and future generations of female business professionals.

How would I know?

I’ve always had very lofty career aspirations that included letters in my title and a corner office on the top floor. So, I started my career in corporate America working in a fast-paced, high-stress environment for an international company. Working 60 hours a week to “prove my worth” I realized I was at a disadvantage. My male colleagues were married with children but almost every single one of them was married to a woman that didn’t work outside of the home. I would arrive one day a week at 5 AM, would put my daughter to bed at night and then log back in to continue working, and was sending emails at midnight just to prove how committed and dedicated I was to my job. I was killing myself trying to keep up.

Years later, I found myself at a crossroads. Do I continue killing myself working for others on their terms or do I begin working on my own terms? So, I chose to join the ranks of female entrepreneurs and launch Minerva Management Partners – a vehicle by which I can support my fellow working women in creating the business and career of their dreams.

Now I coach really smart, driven, goal oriented women every day and it breaks my heart that they – almost without exception – face a point in their career where they start to question why they are killing themselves and have to make a very difficult choice, do they stay true to their original career ambitions or do they get off of the hamster wheel and take control of their life? Do they stay because they love what they do or do they leave because it’s just not worth it any more, especially with the gender pay gap?

None of the women I work with that are faced with this decision would opt to leave their positions if they thought there was any other way. For the most part they enjoy what they do but they hate the guilt, shame, and exhaustion that come from trying to keep up at work and at home. They would love to stay where they are if they could earn equal pay, work with more autonomy, and play a leadership role. According to a 2014 survey by PayPal, 55% of American women who leave corporate positions to start their own business leave to achieve work-life balance. Having a large number of female entrepreneurs is great, but not at the expense of great female corporate leaders. When you look at it in terms of women graduating from college at higher numbers than men and the women who make it into management positions are outperforming their male peers in several areas – can we really afford to have women leave companies in droves because they don’t feel they can be successful both at work and at home?

I believe we are at a tipping point. If this is not fixed women are going to continue to leave traditional corporate jobs and new generations aren’t even going to try.

I also believe that if we continue to focus solely on the gender pay gap we will miss the bigger picture. Fixing the pay gap, while imperative, only makes it better for a little while because it doesn’t fix the issue that professional business women are killing themselves in a system and a business success culture that is broken. An amazing side effect of correcting the problem is that fixing this culture not only helps women but men as well. Can you imagine a world where women and men alike are able to give their very best at work because they are given the time and freedom to be their very best at home? Companies will see increased productivity and families will see increased presence at home. Employees across the board will experience less stress, guilt, and shame while experiencing more fulfillment.

I want to issue a challenge to all companies, large and small. For the most part, this is not policies and procedures issue. Most companies today have decent vacation and sick leave as well as maternity and paternity leave policies. The problem stems from the corporate culture of an organization. It’s more about the stares you get if you arrive at 8 AM and leave at 5:15PM because you obviously are not committed to your job. It’s the way people notice that you’ve stepped out for lunch three times this week. It’s the comments that are made about women and their potential inability to handle things once they have a baby. It’s the way that less impressive projects or assignments are given to someone because they protect their weekend time for their family. It’s the fact that companies think you owe them your entire life (24/7) in exchange for hiring you. If we continue the shaming of our corporate leaders/executives, especially women, who set boundaries between their work and family lives, we are going to lose them. Period.

So, I challenge companies to take stock of their current corporate culture to see if and where shaming and “guilting” occur.

I want to encourage you to audit your leave policies to see how many managers and executives actually take their earned leave and if they do, how many times their leave is interrupted by the office.

I want companies to stop rewarding the person who spends the most time at the office and start rewarding people for quality contributions to the team.

I want to encourage you to speak to all of your managers and executives, but especially your female managers and executives to see what can be done to make their lives easier. This interview process can be tricky because of lack of trust but hiring a third party to conduct those interviews can make it easier to get honest data.

Then start making small culture shifts. Note: these must take place from the top. Respecting vacation time, maternity time, and reasonable work hours without making anyone feel guilty or thinking they will be seen as less committed is a great first step. The list of changes that can be made is long but the rewards if the changes are made are great.

How many of you are in current working environments where you feel you have to choose between work or home? How many of you are in working environments who appreciate and encourage you to be your best at work and at home by respecting boundaries? I would love to hear those places that are doing it right so that I can include them in my research.

Three Strategies for Effective Problem Solving

problem solving

The women I work with are inherently good problem solvers. They are smart and creative in the way they approach obstacles. But every once in a while, they stumble across a challenge that stumps them and leaves them feeling stuck. In this post, I want to introduce you to three question-based strategies to help you get unstuck when you find yourself in a similar situation.

1.       The Power of Might

How many of you suffer from perfectionism? It’s something that I’ve struggled with my whole life and have written posts on the subject. I am proud of the fact that I now consider myself a “recovering perfectionist”. It’s taken years to get to this point and while I still struggle I’ve come a long way in dealing with this sometimes crippling condition. When you strive for absolutes you can lock up resulting in no action at all.  

One tip that I give my clients when dealing with perfectionism in their problem solving is to find a way to give themselves permission to experiment. One of the best ways to do this is to harness the power of the word “might”.

Instead of putting pressure on yourself to find the right next step, ask yourself what might be a good next step. What might you want to focus on next? What might a feasible solution be?

Making the shift from “is” to “might” releases you from the obligation of perfection. It opens your mind to possibilities that may or may not work allowing you the freedom to experiment with what may end up being the best solution.

2.       Keep it Safe

It’s not very often that you will come across a situation you’ve absolutely never been exposed to before. Meaning, when faced with a challenge you can typically look back on your life and find a similar situation that you’ve dealt with before. It may not be the exact situation but you usually can find some similarities.

Knowing that you’ve dealt with similar challenges before gives you comfort and a certain feeling of safety in your decision-making ability. The best way to keep it safe is to actually ask yourself what were some of the steps that you took last time. Then ask yourself why you think those steps were effective. So, essentially ask a WHAT question and then follow up with a WHY question.

Following a what with a why will help you find comfort and safety in your past decision-making ability freeing you up to trust your decision-making ability in the current situation.

3.       Consult Thyself

This is one of my favorite question-based strategies for problem solving. We all love giving advice and counsel to others. All of us feel we are really good at it. And we are. It’s usually much easier to solve problems for others because we aren’t attached to the situation.

So, if you are great with solving the issues of others, then what might you suggest to someone else in your situation? If you were going to walk a friend through their options, what would you suggest they do?

Giving yourself some distance will likely help you see solutions you hadn’t seen up to this point. Then offering advice to yourself like you would a friend will help the right solution come to light.

The bottom line is asking better questions can help you get unstuck and make you a more effective problem solver. Bonus: not only do these three question-based strategies work well within your own life, they are also great for teaching your kids how to become better problem solvers. Give them a try and let me know how they work!