Did You Do Better?

dreamstime_xs_83897954When we tell ourselves that we did something well, that’s positive.  Maybe we did well in an interview, in a discussion, or in confronting an employer, employee, or customer.  Maybe we did well in something that benefits our health, such as exercising.  Maybe we handled a difficult situation with a friend or family member with respect.  When we give ourselves credit for doing something well, that helps our self-esteem and helps us to do well again.

Sometimes, though, we do not do well.  We handle a situation poorly.  Unfortunately, when this happens we sometimes focus too much on how poorly we did.  We then sometimes extend that into other areas.  If we are bad at “A” then we must be bad at “B,” for example.  This, of course, hurts our self-esteem and makes it more difficult to do well next time.

When we do not handle a situation well, or do not do as well as we could at something, it’s important to recognize it and learn what we can from it.  But it doesn’t do us any good to beat ourselves up over it.

A question that helps me is, “Did I do better than I normally do?”  If the answer is “yes” then I know that at least I am improving and can do even better the next time.  It encourages me to keep trying rather than giving up.  As long as I am progressing, there is a good chance that eventually I will do well in that situation.

Often it is not a matter of doing “good” or “bad” but doing “better.”

If You Made the Rules, You Can Change the Rules

dreamstime_xs_37880536I recently realized that there are many things that I do that I don’t care to do anymore.  These are mostly little things like getting Christmas gifts for my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews and getting birthday gifts and cards and holiday cards for my nieces and nephews throughout the year.

When the family was smaller, this was fun.  I enjoyed it.  Over the years, though, as my extended family has continued to grow, and as my husband’s sons have married and had children, it has become less fun and a little overwhelming.

At first I felt guilty about not wanting to do these things anymore.  Then I realized that I was the one that told myself that this is what I needed to do to be a good sister or aunt.  There are no laws stating that I must do this.  These are things that most people do not do anyway.  No one has ever even told me that they expect me to do these things.

I made the rules on what I “needed” to do.  Which means that I can change the rules.  And I have.  And everyone has been very supportive.

I am using this concept for other aspects of the holidays as well.  Who made the rule that I must send out holiday letters?  I did.  I’m not doing it this year, and I may not send out cards next year.  With social media, I’m not sure it’s necessary to send cards to stay in touch.

Who made the rule that the house must be decorated so completely?  I did.  We had already decided to limit the decorating because we have a 6-month old kitten that believes everything, breakable or not, is his toy.  If I want to decorate more next year, fine.  If not, that’s fine, too.  No one else really cares.  (My husband cares about having a tree, but the rest is fluff.)

Who made the rule that I must cook big holiday dinners for both sides of the family?  I did.  This year we are doing appetizers for my husband’s side and everyone is bringing something.  They really seem to be looking forward to it.  I’m not sure what we’ll do for my side, but I already know it will be more convenience and less scratch.

I write and speak on encouraging women to think about what they do, why they do it, and do they want to change.  This is another way to think about the same concept.  Who made the rules that you must do something?  If you did, you can change them if you want.

This is something that you can use for little things, as discussed here, or for big things.  Who made your rules on what success means?  If you did (and you did) then you can change them if they are not right for you.

Self-Limiting Belief Systems

dreamstime_xs_30823517We all have belief systems.  We all have beliefs on how the world is and who we are.  Some of these can be beneficial.

For example, a belief system that I have had since I was a child was that if I wanted something, I needed to work for it.  If I wanted “A’s” in school, I needed to study and do the assignments well.  If I wanted nicer clothes than what my parents could afford, or more books, I needed to earn the money to buy them.  As an adult, this belief system continued.  I needed to complete college, to work hard to get promotions, to get raises, to earn money to buy the things I wanted.  I needed to save money, to invest money, so I could take care of myself in the future.  My husband shares this belief system and together we have been very successful.

Sometimes, though, we have self-limiting belief systems that can get in our way of being successful (however we define success).  “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve it” limits our ability to achieve what we want.  Too often, these self-limiting belief systems do not even have a basis in reality.  We believe them because we have been telling ourselves these things for years.  This is something that probably most of us need to address, at least at some point in our lives.

I am beginning to realize, though, that belief systems that worked well for us in the past may become self-limiting as our lives change.

The reason I say this is that my husband and I are at the point where we can retire.  We may semi-retire first as there are still things professionally that we want to do.  However, we want to have time to do things we want, like travel, while we are still healthy enough to be able to do them and enjoy doing them.

The belief system that I have always had, to work hard to earn money, is hindering the new belief system that I am developing on what semi-retirement means to me.  I can slow down now, I can do things I want to do, rather than what I have always had to do.  This is a new concept for me, and is a difficult adjustment—not unpleasant, but difficult.

For example, a friend and colleague recently asked if I would be interested in being a delegate for a professional association.  One of her selling points was “It would look great on a resume.”  Initially I agreed that, yes, it would look good on a resume.  Then I thought a little more.  I no longer need to build a resume.  The question now isn’t whether this will benefit me professionally, will it make money for me, but do I want to do it?  Do I want to take time away from what is most important to me professionally (write books) to do this?  Do I want to take time from personal pursuits (travel) to do this?  The answer was a very easy “No.”

We do not change our belief systems overnight.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  I know I will be working on my change for some time.  And that’s fine.  The important thing is that I am consciously working on it.

Do you have self-limiting belief systems?  Any that have always been limiting and need to be addressed?  Any that may have served you well in the past, but now, not so much?

You Don’t Like It. Are You Sure?

dreamstime_xs_68280848I have never liked sales.  At least that is what I have been telling myself for years.  I like sales in that I like people to buy my books and speaking services.  I do not like trying to make the sale, however.  I don’t like sales and I’m not good at it.  Or so I have told myself repeatedly.  Something happened a while back, though, that has made me question the accuracy of what I have been telling myself my entire career.

I attend many book shows and conferences to sell my books.  Generally, the procedure is that the author is responsible for setting up her table, making the sales, collecting money, and packing up her stuff at the end.  This particular conference had an area set up as a book store with volunteers collecting the money.  All the authors had to do was drop off their books and collect the unsold ones at the end of the event.  The organization sent a check to the author later for the books sold.

At first I thought this was a great idea.  It meant that I could attend conference sessions instead of sitting at my table all day.  It also meant that someone else would be doing what I didn’t like—selling my books.

What I realized at the end, however, was that I missed not selling my books myself.  I missed not talking with the people that came to my table.  I missed not trying to find how my books could help them, or those they knew.  I also discovered that no one at the book store was going to try to sell my books.  They would collect money, but no one was trying to sell any of the books there.

I missed not selling my books.  Did that mean that I actually liked selling?  Did that mean that what I had been telling myself all these years was wrong?  Was it possible that I actually liked sales, but had convinced myself that I didn’t?  Maybe.  I’m still assessing the situation and the ramifications.

I think the most important question is “why?”  If there is something that we do not like, it can be very beneficial to ask ourselves why we don’t.  We may find out that there really isn’t any reason that we don’t like it, we have just convinced ourselves that we don’t.

Also, sometimes we may start out not liking something because it is new to us and so we aren’t that good at it.  It’s important, though, to regularly evaluate if how we feel has changed or if we are telling ourselves the same old story out of habit.

What things do you not like?  Are you sure you don’t like them or have you just convinced yourself that you don’t?

Success and Happiness

dreamstime_xs_37716893A friend of mine, Larry Cockerel, recently posted a YouTube video. I keep thinking about it. It’s on happiness and success. I recommend you listen to it before reading the remainder of my blog. His message and mine are slightly different, but both relevant. Here is the link to Larry’s “Happiness and Success: The Happiness Rule.”

Although I have had many happy times in my life, and enjoyed those times, I realize now that I could have been happier. Like Larry, I thought success had to come first. I remember the following as some of my thoughts throughout life:

“I’ll be happier when I finish high school and move out.”
“I’ll be happier when I finish college.”
“I’ll be happier when I finish my internship and can get a real job.”
“I’ll be happier when I make more money.” (I thought that many times.)
“I’ll be happier when I buy a house.”
“I’ll be happier when I get the next promotion.”

I’m sure you get the idea. How many of you have had similar thoughts throughout your life?

Again, I have had a great deal of happiness in my life, but I could have had more if my focus was different. My main focus was on success. Had I balanced that with an equal focus on happiness and fully enjoying everything I had at every point in my life, I would have had an even happier life.

I am working on that now. How about you? Do you need to change your focus?

Gems or Gravel?

Gems or Gravel? (Video Link)

dreamstime_xs_45482889When people give you advice, it is important to sift through the gravel to find the gems.

I learned this several years ago when I belonged to an association. The members were very friendly, helpful, and full of advice. I took in everything everyone told me and tried to apply it all. It did not work.

I realized that although everything they gave me were “gems” to them, because these things had worked for them, not everything was right for my situation. Of the advice I received, some could be considered precious gems and worthwhile to implement quickly. Some advice was more in the line of semi-precious gems, advice that was worthwhile to implement at some point, but not a priority at the time. And some advice, for my situation, was gravel and best discarded.

I spent quite a bit of time and money trying to implement everything. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I realized that it would have been better had I analyzed every piece of advice first to see if, for me, it was a gem or gravel.

When people offer advice, be careful not to use the gravel. Do not discard everything without analyzing it first, however, because there probably will be some gems in there somewhere.

Personal vs. Positional Power

Personal vs. Positional Power (Video Link)

dreamstime_xs_50156327, resizedMany years ago I read about personal power versus positional power. The concept has stayed with me; the source, unfortunately, has not.

As I remember the concept, positional power is the power that comes with our position. It is the power we have over people because of the position we hold. We may have the power to hire, fire, and discipline employees. We may have the power to give or withhold pay increases and promotions.

Personal power is the influence that we have over others because of who we are as a person. We may have the ability to influence others because they trust us, because they believe in us, because they respect us.

Positional power is external. It comes from outside of us. It is bestowed upon us when we take a particular position. A difficulty with positional power is that when we lose the position, we lose the accompanying power.

Personal power is internal. It comes from within us. It comes from our character. We create it. No matter where we are, or what position we hold, we will always have our personal power with us. (Unless, of course, we do things so that people no longer trust or respect us.) No one can ever take our personal power away from us.

Which do you depend upon more, positional power or personal power? Is it time to make a change?


Adapt (Video Link)

dreamstime_xs_39505553I have read that the ability of a species to survive is dependent upon its ability to adapt. I think this is true. I think it is also true that our ability to succeed is in part dependent upon our ability to adapt.

The only constant is change. As things change, we need to be able to adapt.

We do this in very simple ways without even thinking about it. If the weather turns cold, we dress warmer. (Well, most of us do. I still do not understand flip-flops in the snow.)

Most of the time, though, adapting to change is not this easy. A new job, a new position, a new supervisor, a new owner, a new corporate culture all creates change and requires us to adapt to the new situation. We need to adapt to remain successful. The way we used to do things may not be acceptable anymore.

Frequently changes in our professional life are the result of changes in the economy and the world in general. We need to adapt to these changes.

We need to adapt in our personal lives as well. Changes occur. Our parents get older and require more assistance. Our children get older and require less assistance. Our lifestyles change and we need to adapt.

Change is often good and adapting can be fun. However, even when we do not want to adapt to a new situation, it is usually best if we do. The only other alternative is to leave the situation. We need to embrace the changes and adapt, rather than bemoaning the past.

“Why” vs. “What”

“Why” vs. “What” (Video Link)

studentI think that why we do things is almost always more important than what we do.

For example, if someone says something to us at work that we do not agree with, we can say something or we can say nothing. Either can be good or bad. The difference is why. If we say something because we want to clarify the issue, that is a good reason. If we say something to embarrass or humiliate the person, that is poor reason. If we do not say anything because it is not that important, that is fine. If we do not say anything because we want to avoid conflict at all costs, that can be a poor reason and may cause other problems later.

Before we do something, it can be very beneficial to ask ourselves, “Why would I do this?” An important follow-up question is, “And why else?” Asking this several times can help us determine the complete answer.

After that it is easy. Are those good answers? If yes, then continue. If not, then think again about what to do and why.

The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen (Video Link)dreamstime_xs_40324783, resized

My paternal grandmother’s favorite story was “The Little Red Hen.” I am not sure if it was because she liked the message or that she liked chickens.  (Chickens on a farm were important then.)

For those of you who have not heard the story of the little red hen, or have forgotten it, the basic story line follows. The little red hen found some wheat grains. She wanted to grow and harvest the wheat so she could make bread. At each step in the process (planting, weeding, and harvesting the wheat, grinding it into flour, and making bread) she asked each of the other farm animals if they would help. Each one, at each step, said, “No.” When each one said they would not help, she replied with, “Then I’ll do it myself.” Finally, after months of work, the little red hen had her bread and was sitting down to enjoy the results of her efforts. Each of the farm animals came up and wanted some of her bread. She told each one, “No, I’ll eat it myself.”

There are many people in the world who are like the little red hen. They know what they want and they work hard to make it happen. If they do not get support from others, they do it anyway.

Unfortunately, there are also many people who are like the other farm animals. They want the results, but they do not want to work for them.

This can occur in very obvious ways. For example, there are people who want money, but do not want a job. They want someone else to give them money without giving anything in return.

This can also occur in less obvious ways. For example, there are people who have a job and want to make more money. But they do not want to gain the additional knowledge, skills, or experience necessary to be promoted. They want to receive more without giving more.

Another example is group projects. I hated group projects in college. Usually everyone in the group wanted an “A.” Usually it was me and maybe one other person that was willing to work hard enough to actually earn an “A.”  The same thing happens in work situations.

Think about your professional and personal relationships. In each relationship are you a “little red hen” or are you one of the “farm animals?” Which do you want to be?