Get Started Where You Are

starting-line

Raise your hand (I love saying that in my posts because I can visualize all of you reading this with your arm up in the air…) if you have an idea/goal/dream that you really want to accomplish but haven’t started working on it because [fill in the blank] the timing isn’t right, you don’t have enough money/resources, you don’t know what steps to take, etc.?

By the way, my hand is raised right now, too.

If not having all of the answers is keeping you from pursuing an idea or a dream, here’s a little secret. You don’t have to have all of the answers to get started. Most, if not all, successful people didn’t wait until they had all of the money or resources that they needed. They didn’t wait until they had all of the answers. And they didn’t wait until all the stars were aligned. They got started because they knew enough for today. They knew enough to keep moving forward, even if they couldn’t see the entire path.

My big dream is to open a coworking space for women. I see it in my dreams. I obsess over it all day long, even while working on other things. I talk about it constantly and have most of the interior design in my head already. But I’m afraid to really commit to getting it up and running because I have no idea where the funding for the space will come from.

The bad part is that if I don’t keep moving with what I do know, then I won’t be ready when the right opportunities and/or people present themselves to help me make it happen. So, I have to keep moving forward.

I heard this analogy once and really like it. Think of all of this like car headlights. When you are driving at night you use your headlights to illuminate what’s in front of you. But headlights only allow you to see about 100 feet in front. Then as you drive down the road (keep moving forward) they allow you to see the next 100 feet and then the next 100 feet.

Making an idea or dream come to life works much the same way. You may feel like you are operating in the dark because you can’t see the entire path. However, you do know enough today to at least illuminate the next 100 feet. As you keep moving forward, another 100 feet will present itself and then the next 100 feet until you reach your destination.

So, get started where you are. And if you keep moving, the right ideas, solutions, and people will present themselves at the right time to bring that dream to reality.

PS: Let me know if you have a dream that you just need to get started where you are. Leave your dream in the comments along with how you are going to get started or how you are going to take that next step. We can keep each other accountable.

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Satisfaction and Happiness Comes from Solving Problems

problem-solving

A lot of us think that happiness and satisfaction come from a life full of smooth sailing. That those people who are happy are those who have not had to face many challenges or difficulties in their life. In actuality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  

The truth is that everyone is going to feel bad sometimes in their life. It’s okay to feel bad. The key to living a healthy life is to accept this fact and stop beating yourself up over it.

The question is, if we all feel bad, then why do some people just seem to be happier than others? Happiness and satisfaction come from the solving of problems – not a life devoid of problems. If we had no problems, then happiness would actually go away.

Problems are the building blocks of happiness. The key is not to get rid of the struggles but to find the right struggles. That sounds weird, right? What do I mean by the right kind of struggles? I mean, struggles that invigorate you. Struggles that are important to you. Struggles that contribute to those around you. All of these contribute to meaning and purpose in your life.

People feel stuck when they feel they don’t have the power to change a situation. That powerlessness is what leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Here’s another truth: you always have the power to choose how you react or to create the meaning around a situation. You always have the power to find a solution to an issue. It’s not about eliminating a problem, its about finding something more worthwhile and meaningful from the problem.

What produces happiness in our life? Our ability to enjoy the struggle and the challenge involved in it.

The Easiest Way to Eliminate Overwhelm

overwhelm

Raise your hand if you ever feel overwhelmed by everything you have on your plate. I’m sure most of you are reading this right now with your arm straight up over your head.

It’s okay that you feel this way. And, its completely normal. So, how to we control this feeling of overwhelm?

The easiest way to eliminate overwhelm is to hone in on the things that matter so you can stop worrying about the things that don’t. Don’t focus on more – instead care about less.

Easy, right??

I know, it’s much easier in theory than it is in real life. But here’s the deal. If you are clear on what you want your life to look like and therefore clear on your priorities, then you don’t have to spend time, energy, and mental capacity on those things that don’t impact that picture.

For you entrepreneurs – if your target audience does not spend time reading blog posts, then don’t kill yourself trying to publish posts, even if everyone else does them. If you really need to spend a lot of time right now building your business, then don’t volunteer to serve on six committees within your community/your child’s school/at church. That volunteer work can wait until you are at a place in your business where it makes sense.

As a mom – if your priority right now is to attend every sporting event your child is involved in, then don’t accept an invitation to speak at a conference that will have you away from home for a week. And don’t attend evening events that conflict with games. And hire someone to clean your house/do the grocery shopping/run errands to free you up to keep your priorities your priority.

Focusing on what matters blocks out the noise that makes you feel overwhelmed. Every time I feel particularly overwhelmed, I sit down and make a list of what I have on my plate. I almost always, without exception, find several things on my list that aren’t necessary or don’t really matter. Crossing those items off my list either by delegating them or eliminating them all together immediately allows me to shift from overwhelm to doable. I mean, let’s face it. Most of our overwhelm is self-inflicted any way. Either we don’t want to ask for help or we have this image we feel we need to uphold. It’s just BS ladies. If we have the power to inflict it on ourselves, then we have the power to make it stop.

The next time you feel overwhelm, stop, breathe, and focus on what really matters. You will decrease the feeling of overwhelm, increase the feeling of control, and look like a rock star doing it.

How to Beat Guilt

guilty

I love podcasts. I typically reserve my Mondays for listening to podcasts, watching personal development videos, reading personal development articles/books, and prepping for my week. I find that reserving Mondays for these types of activities “eases” me into my week and helps me get the most from the next four days.

So, back to podcasts. I was listening to the Dream.Think.Do podcast this past Monday and Mitch Matthews had Dana Malstaff – of Boss Mom fame – on as his guest. She covered a lot of valuable things during this program but I came away with one particular nugget I really want to share with all of you.

I feel that all Moms, and in particular, working Moms, struggle a lot with this thing called guilt. I’ve written about guilt in the past because it tends to be a consistent theme for so many of us. Dana had an incredibly insightful take on guilt.

Dana says that guilt is a symptom or an outcome of not feeling confident about a decision you have made. She goes on to say that you can’t get rid of guilt by simply telling yourself you shouldn’t feel guilty or having someone else tell you not to feel guilty. That doesn’t get rid of guilt at all.

You see, when dealing with difficult situations or problems we tend to try to solve the symptom instead of solving the cause. We are still solving a problem. We are just solving the wrong problem.

Dana relayed a story in illustration of this tendency. She told of a civilization where the women washing clothes at the river were constantly finding babies in rafts in the river. They would rescue the babies and then assimilate them into their village. Over the years they developed a very elaborate system for pulling the babies from the water, assigning them to families, educating them, and ensuring they became valuable contributors to society. In their minds, they had solved the problem of the babies in the river. One day, a young woman challenged this elaborate system and whether or not it really solved the problem. So, she travelled to the village up the river from hers and told them to stop putting the babies in the river.

Now, I know this is a simple illustration but it hammers home the point in any case. We aren’t really solving the problem of guilt if we are just telling each other not to feel guilty. The real way to beat guilt is to solve it at the root.

If guilt is caused by not being confident about a decision, then the way to solve it at the root is by knowing what future you are trying to create and then making decisions that support that future. If you are certain and confident about the future you want to create and certain and confident about the priorities you must have to create that future. Then, you will be certain and confident in the decisions you make, therefore, eliminating guilt.

How do you make that work in real life? You have to take the time to sit down and determine what that future looks like.

Let’s say one of the goals I have for my business is to be a nationally recognized coach for women entrepreneurs. In order to do that, I need to secure speaking engagements all over the US. However, I have new born at home (not true, this is for illustrations purposes only) and want to be as present for her/him as I possibly can. So, I make the decision that until my child is two years old, I’m not going to say ‘yes’ to anything work related that takes me away from home for more than 2 days at a time.

Now that I’ve thought this through, I know the rules. I’m confident in my decision and therefore I have no guilt associated with turning down speaking opportunities that don’t fit the 2-day requirement. It’s also important to understand that even though you have a rule, you can still be flexible. If the most amazing opportunity pops and you’ve thought it all the way through and then decide to say ‘yes’, that’s great. You still shouldn’t feel guilt after the decision because you thought it through and the exception makes perfect sense.

There will also be times when your business comes first. Take the time to define those times and then have a backup system to take care of the kids while you are focusing on the business. And this is okay.

It’s okay to have these small periods of time where your children don’t come first because what you are doing in your business is so important, big, and impactful. And, it’s for a finite period of time. I think when we always choose our children first and always sacrifice the business for the sake of our family we are really doing our children a dis-service. It is so valuable for our children to see us growing something bigger than ourselves, making a positive economic impact, and having intention in our actions. What an incredible gift to give them.

If you are struggling with guilt, then take control and beat it with a renewed confidence in your decisions. Take the time to sit down to design your ideal future. Then honor the priorities and decisions you need to make it happen. The guilt will go away. You will be happier…and your family will notice.

Retrain Your Brain to Focus in 3 Steps

REFOCUS

Even when we know something is important, it doesn’t mean we have the discipline to focus on it. It’s one of the things that causes so much frustration for entrepreneurs. I hear it from my clients (and, honestly, from myself) all of the time. “I know what needs to be done. Why can’t I make myself just sit down and do it?”

I ran across a Marie TV episode (Marie Forleo) where she covers a 3-step method to make progress on what’s important. I shared the tips with one of my clients and she’s having a lot of success with it so I though I would share her tips with you, too.

1.       Do creative work first

Typically, our first instinct when we sit down at our desks in the morning is to plow through all of the little things first. We tell ourselves that these won’t take very long so we might as well knock them off the list quickly and first thing so that we can move on to the big things.

There are two things wrong with this approach. First, it always takes longer to do the little things than we anticipate. Or we keep adding little things to the list and we never get to the big things we need to do.

Second, as humans, we have a finite amount of cognitive fuel. If we use it all up on the little things, we have no fuel left for the big things. Don’t let the little things drain your tank. Do your creative work or big things first while your tank is still full. If you have any fuel left after the big things, then tackle the little things on your list.

2.       Eliminate temptation

This is obvious but we rarely do it correctly. We know to turn off notifications and resist the urge to toggle back and forth between open browsers, etc. Sometimes we are strong enough to resist the urge but when we are facing a task we really don’t want to do, the resistance is futile.

So, don’t just resist the temptation, completely eliminate it by putting, what Marie calls, your entire life in airplane mode. Turn your phone off. Don’t open any browsers or windows not directly associated with what you are working on. All of that will still be there when you are done.

3.       Write a onesie

This one is fun. There are a lot of variations to this suggestion but this version seems a little more in your face than others.

Identify the one thing you must get done that day. Grab a sheet of paper and a marker and write down that one thing in big, bright letters. Then set the sheet of paper in your line of sight so that you can’t ignore or avoid it. Make sure to write it in action form by using a verb. For example, instead of just writing the word “blog” on the paper, put “write and upload blog”. Believe it or not, using verbs actually increases your chance of successfully completing what you’ve written down.

The interesting thing about this 3-step method is that over time it will actually retrain your brain to focus on what’s important. Do you have any tips or tricks that help you refocus when you feel off-track? Please share them with us below. I can use all the tips I can get!!!

“The Learning Trap” (David Covey + Stephan Mardyks)

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David Covey and Stephan Mardyks’ book, Trap Tales: Outsmarting the 7 Hidden Obstacles to Success  is a guide to avoiding the seven obstacles that ensnare people every day. The thing about traps is that we usually don’t realize we’ve fallen into one until we are in completely over our heads.

I had the opportunity to listen to an interview of David where he discussed a few of the traps that he and Stephan cover in their book. One of the traps that he discussed jumped out at me in particular.

The Learning Trap

We all know that there is no growth inside of our comfort zone. Growth only happens outside of it. In order to get outside of our comfort zone, we must stretch or learn something new. However, we are so afraid of making a mistake that we either don’t fully commit or we beat ourselves up over any little misstep.

The problem is that we spend so much energy trying to minimize the mistakes that we forget that mistakes are part of the process. And here is the trap. We are so focused on outcomes and results that we discount the process of learning.

Rarely do people get it right the first time. To be honest, getting it right the first time isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. There is no real learning to be had if you nail it out of the gate. The value comes through the evaluation of mistakes and the adjustments that come from them.

If you have been following my posts for a while then you know that my daughter plays volleyball. She’s a freshman in high school and plays on the JV team for her school. This week the Varsity coach has had her scrimmaging with the Varsity team, which puts her with the upper classmen. These girls have been playing together for four years and know each other so well that they just instinctively understand where each person is going to be on the court at any given time.

Yesterday, our daughter came home from practice pretty discouraged. She said she keeps getting yelled at by the other girls for being in the way. She’s so discouraged that she doesn’t want to scrimmage with them anymore. She’s fallen into the Learning Trap. She wants so badly to minimize the mistakes so that they don’t yell at her that she’s not appreciating the process. The more she is in the way, the quicker she will understand where to go to get out of the way. She’ll begin to understand each girl’s natural zone and begin to develop those same instincts with them that they’ve developed with each other over the years. Making the mistakes and then correcting them will develop her instincts. Making the corrections will develop the Varsity girls’ trust in her as a player.  

Not embracing the process will keep us from really learning, progressing, and succeeding. I see our lives as being broken into seasons. And for each of us, those seasons change. Our daughter is in her skill level where she is in this season of her life/volleyball “career”. Where she is now is not conducive to her volleyball dream of playing at a collegiate level. But she likely will be at a different level in the next season of her life/volleyball “career”- which could be much more conducive to achieving her volleyball dream. If she waits until the next season of her life to start getting prepared, she’ll never be ready when that time comes.

Falling into the Learning Trap keeps us from preparing for the next season of our life. We want to wait until all of the stars are aligned and we already are who we need to be in order to accomplish our dreams with as few mistakes as possible. If you wait for it to be perfect to get started, you will miss it. You will have missed the opportunity to be prepared. Don’t wait for the next season to get started. Start now and embrace the process. Embrace the mistakes and missteps and all that you will learn from them. The learning comes not from the outcome but from the journey.  

Getting the Most from a Sponsor

Sponsor

This is the final installment in a 4-week series on Mentors, Coaches, and Sponsors. You can review week 1: Mentors, Coaches, and Sponsors – OH MY! by clicking here. The purpose of this series is to not only cover the important role that all of these can play in the advancement of your career, but also to cover how to find and work with each to get the most of your relationship.

This week, the focus is on Sponsors.

As a reminder, a sponsor is an advocate for your business/career success. A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. A sponsor will believe in your potential and is prepared to take a bet on you. They get satisfaction from discovering your talent and showcasing you to the world.

Having the support of a sponsor is like having a safety net, allowing you to confidently take risks like asking for a stretch assignment or a promotion. They provide a protective bubble and can shield you from organizational change like reorganizations or layoffs. And they bring your name up in those high-level talent development discussions that take place behind closed doors. Sponsorship is how power is transferred in the work place.

Attributes & Benefits

A sponsor must have power, clout, and the respect of others (or “a seat at the table”) in order to be an effective champion. It doesn’t matter how much someone believes in you, they can’t really be a sponsor unless they are in a position to make others listen. Without that clout, they are more like a mentor.

I’ve heard it said that a mentor sees your potential and helps mold you. A sponsor polishes you to perfection and then invites others to invest in your future. So, while mentors listen, sponsors act – by telling you what you need to know, clearing obstacles from your path, and making your success their business.

When to Seek a Sponsor

Just like mentors and coaches, sponsors are appropriate at any stage of your career. As a matter of fact, you may need multiple sponsors over the course of your career. You may need a sponsor that is willing to go to bat for you and help open doors when you are a college graduate looking for your first job. You may need an internal sponsor when you are going for that big promotion. Or you may need an external sponsor when you are making a big career transition.

How to Find a Sponsor

You must choose your sponsors very carefully. Meaning they must be the appropriate person for what you are trying to accomplish. It doesn’t do you any good to select a VP from another division to help you with a promotion if they don’t know any of the people who will decide if you get the promotion or not. You have to be strategic.

The best way to know who the good sponsors are is to identify the leaders in your organization who have a track record of being talent developers and talent scouts. For example, listen for leaders who publicly praise subordinates, back them up when necessary, and offer challenging assignments to up-and-comers who have not yet proven themselves. That’s who you want on your side.

It’s also very important to note that it is not uncommon for a sponsor to choose you instead of the other way around. If you are a rising star at your company or within the community, more than likely someone already has their eye on you and has selected you as someone they would like to sponsor without you even knowing.

Sponsorship is not a gift. You can’t just walk up to someone and ask them to be your sponsor. You have to earn it. You have to get on their radar, you have to exceed expectations, and you have to make your stellar performance known. Nothing makes you easier to sponsor than outstanding results. But you have to show it before you can ask anyone for assistance. So, make your value visible by being prepared to share your recent accomplishments when a potential sponsor asks how things are going. Another great way to make your performance known is to find a special project opportunity working directly for one of the potential sponsors you’ve identified.

How to Work with a Sponsor

Much like a mentor, sponsors act out of the kindness of their hearts but only if they are convinced you are a winner. If a sponsor decides to go to bat for someone, they have to be sure that person is going to come through. They can’t afford to champion for someone who can’t live up to the hype. This makes sponsors very thoughtful and calculated when deciding whether or not to sponsor someone.

And just like mentoring, you must make sure the giving is not a one-way street.

Not only do you have to outperform to make your sponsor look good, you have to ensure you have their back. By advocating for you, sponsors are putting their own reputations on the line, so you have to be willing to help them succeed, too. Demonstrate that you have your sponsor’s back by sharing valuable information, offering your assistance, and aligning yourself with them and their viewpoints in public.

Don’t expect sponsors to keep track of everything you are doing and everything you have going on – they have jobs, too. It’s your responsibility to make sure your sponsor knows about your success. This is important because if they can easily point to your past successes, they’ll be better equipped to push for you to get a big assignment or promotion.  

Summary

In summary, a sponsor is appropriate any time you are looking to advance your career and climb higher in your profession. Sponsors will not only talk to you, they will talk about you – to the right people. They will intentionally and proactively seek out opportunities that will help you move up, making your success their success. A sponsor can mean the difference between having a glass ceiling or a glass floor.