Spring is a time of change and a time of growth. Are you ready to create lasting change at work or in life? Then you won’t want to miss our Change Conqueror virtual workshop in April 15! 

In this era of eating at home more, it got me thinking about labels. They are on all our canned goods and help us identify what’s inside the can. Black beans here. Corn there. Have you ever opened a can without a label? It can be very disappointing to get canned vegetables when you were hoping for spaghetti o’s!

Labels also are used to get us to want things. Marketers know we’re drawn to fancy labels, bright colors, and interesting names. Sometimes, nothing changes about a product except the label and it’s enough to entice us to buy that product. New and improved! 33% more! All natural!

But we don’t just give labels to products. Have you thought about the labels we give to people? Or the labels people give to us? When we’re living into our personal brand and showing up at work the way we want to be perceived, it can be positive labels. When we’re under stress, overworked, and experiencing anxiety, we might not show up as our best selves and that makes it more likely that someone else will label us negatively.

Do you know someone who is enthusiastic? When you’re excited about what they’re excited about, it’s easy to label them enthusiastic. But… when we’re tired or not interested in their topic, we start to label them as too much, over the top, just so extra. Their enthusiastic behavior doesn’t change, only our perception of it does. One label is positive, the other is negative.

Perseverance is a trait we tend to celebrate in athletic events, but far less so in a business context. Today’s workplace wants adaptable workers, those that can adjust and change quickly as new information is learned. I think we need a balance of perseverance and adaptability, but when adaptability is valued more, we have a tendency to label perseverance negatively: slow, unable to change, stubborn even. 

Has anyone ever been rude to you at work? Yup, me too. Easy to label anyone that is rude as having no manners, a jerk, or worse! But maybe they are under a lot of stress or having a bad day.

We don’t limit our labeling to products and people… we do this for situations too. Think about your environment if you’re lucky enough to be at home during a global pandemic. Are you labeling your situation as much needed family time? Or forced to cancel plans? Quiet downtime or isolation and loneliness?

The more we tell ourselves a negative label, the more we’re going to feel negative toward that person or thing. 

Right now, being in confined spaces whether by ourselves or with others has the potential to bring out our negative labeling more (boring, noisy, undisciplined) and we need to work extra hard to show people compassion and use positive labels (a chance to learn something new, energetic, interested in many topics). It’ll create more harmony in your relationships and make all those things that have been annoying you far less annoying!

The more we tell someone they’re a screw up, the more likely they are to screw up. The more we call someone lazy, the less likely they are to do. The negative labels have a way of bringing out the worst in people, where the positive labels help people live into their strengths. It’s as true for our children as it is for our co-workers. If you’ve got someone that you’ve been labeling in a negative light, maybe it’s time to put a “New and Improved” sticker on your mindset and change to a more positive label! Try it for your current circumstances and see how they transform too!

#PositiveAction What label can you change from negative to positive to transform your experience today?

 

 

 

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

We talked about combating our fear of the unknown with familiarity. We looked at how changing our expectations and getting creative can help us survive and thrive. Here’s another way to use the familiar as we settle into the “new normal”.

Neil Postman reminds us, “Old things, like clothing or cars, act as living museums that help us to remember. Old things give a sense of continuity and history, which is of great value in today’s culture.”

An old thing at my house that has renewed life right now is my collection of books containing Calvin and Hobbes comics by Bill Watterson. My kids have discovered them on our bookshelf and have been spending hours reading together (including right now, giving me the time and space to write!). Unfamiliar? Start here with the first book or stock up for the next month at home and get the whole set

Whenever they start reading one, here’s how it goes. It’s quiet for a little while. Then I hear their giggles or full-blown laughter letting me know they’ve found yet another comic strip they enjoy.

I have lots of memories of reading those same books as a child and young adult, with similar effect. Back in those days, we would need to physically go to the bookstore at the mall to get a copy of the latest book. Then, we’d take turns in my family each reading the book from start to finish.

The rule was that you couldn’t ruin the punchline for anyone that hadn’t read the book yet. So we’d wait anxiously until my brother, both my parents, and I had finished so we could talk about our favorites and laugh together at the hijinks that Calvin and Hobbes always managed to create. We spent lots of time re-reading and repeating the best ones to each other!

Now, the pages of the books are yellowed. Some of the covers are bent. All show signs of wear and much use. But they have a legacy of joy that hasn’t faded at all in 30 years.

#PositiveAction Dig up a relic from your past to celebrate and ponder the ideas and artifacts that connect us across time and space.

And speaking of history… Is your work history not what you wish it was? Are you ready to make a change at work or in life? Then you’ll definitely want to check out our Change Conqueror virtual workshop. For a limited time (the only time this year, in fact!), you can reserve your spot at a discounted rate! 

 

 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

In case you missed it, I’m hosting a FREE webinar on March 31. I’d love to see you virtually! Now, onto the blog…

 

 

 

Last week, we talked about our fear of the unknown and finding comfort in the familiar. We all need to find a way to deal with what we’re feeling. But for most of us, our everyday lives have been significantly altered, so let’s dive into where the proverbial rubber meets the road. We’re all primarily stuck at home. Now what do we do?!?!

Extroverts are miserable without the crowds and parties that sustain them. Introverts are miserable with their formerly quiet spaces being occupied (sometimes loudly!) by other family members with little means to escape. Ambiverts are miserable because they experience both sides.

Basically, everyone is experiencing some form of unhappiness, so right now, know that others are feeling the same as you. Uncomfortable. Frustrated. Freaking out! There are a lot of intense emotions. And with good reason. Many of us haven’t spent this much uninterrupted time with our spouses in years (or ever!). But honestly, whenever you put any more than one person into a confined space, whether tiny house or McMansion, eventually tensions are going to rise.

What can we do?

  1. Embrace the messiness
  2. Get creative

How do we embrace the messiness? Well, it starts by lowering expectations. You’re not going to be able to get as much work done with your kids home as you would if they weren’t there. You’re also likely not in a position where you have 7 hours free to teach your kids a full day of school following the exact schedule their teacher does. So cut yourself some slack and lean into the messiness. Once we stop expecting things to be like they “used to be” we can embrace where we actually are instead.

Then, it’s time to get creative! This week was supposed to be spring break for my kids. We’re not going anywhere (obviously!), but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be sitting around this week staring at each other!

We wrote down exotic destinations that would be fun to visit and drew one out of a hat yesterday. For the rest of the week, we’re going on a virtual trip to Australia! We’re making paper passports, doing kangaroo crafts, and learning about a place we’ve never been by checking some e-books out of the library. It’s simple, free, can be done from home, and it’s fun. In fact, my kiddos were so excited about it, they packed actual bags this morning to start the virtual trip!

Maybe you’re frazzled from all the change that’s happening now. That absolutely can stifle your creativity. But lucky for you, there’s lots of cool free things available right now that you can just start using! Here’s just a few ideas.

Audible (a division of Amazon) is offering free audiobooks for kids as long as schools are closed. The stories are for kids from preschool age into their teens. Stories are available in six languages.

While the kids are distracted, you can enjoy the sound of silence and catch up on your reading with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited (it’s for 30 days, so hopefully we’ll be past the worst of it by then). And if you don’t know where to start on Kindle Unlimited, my book, Change Authentically is available there! Happy reading!!

Maybe you’re missing music and being at concerts right now. I can’t help you with being jostled by a crowd and possibly spilled on, but you can listen to a million songs with no ads (and borrow Kindle books for free) with the Amazon Prime Music free trial. Dancing with wild abandon optional.

We’ve been checking in on zoo and aquarium cameras around the country. Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t still see the world. Check out the exciting action of the turtles at Discovery World! 

We’ve also been getting as much fresh air (no link needed, just open your front door!) as possible. Sometimes all together, Sometimes just the kids. Sometimes with one parent and the kids so the other one has a little time to themselves. Find something that works for you. My Fitbit tells me that last week I was more active than I have been in 2 months, so I guess that’s a positive outcome, even if my productivity was lower. Remember, changing your expectations will make all of this easier!!

Most of us wouldn’t choose our current circumstances… but we CAN choose our response to them.

#PositiveAction Pick one creative excursion you can do from the comfort of your own home this week!

 

 

Image by tookapic from Pixabay

 

This has been a unique month. Particularly the past few weeks as nearly everything and everyone makes adjustments due to COVID-19. Because it’s a new virus, there’s a lot of unknown, and unknown often triggers the fear response within us.

Fear is a normal, healthy bodily reaction designed to keep us safe, especially in the not-so-distant past when our ancestors were literally face to face with death on the daily. Many of us are several generations removed from a hunter/gatherer, face-deadly-possibilities lifestyle, so the fear reaction becomes less helpful to us.

At its least productive, fear can stop us in our tracks and prevent us from taking action. And as a person who loves positive action so much I literally wrote the book on it, I’m not cool with fear that messes with that.

I find that when I’m facing any unknown, whether trying something simple like a new recipe or something complex like engaging in a full career pivot, it helps to keep as much familiar around me as I can in times of change. Neil Postman reminds us, “Change is tremendously stressful, so control the amount of newness you must face.”

My version of this sentiment is to take comfort in what brings you comfort. When your part of the world seems like it’s in flux, find something that grounds and steadies you. The familiarity of comfortable things can calm the fear when faced with one or many unknowns.

Here’s just a few options:

  • Music – this is one of those wonderful time machines that can immediately transport us to another time and place without ever leaving our homes. I often gravitate toward albums from my youth when there’s a lot of change happening. If you want to shake it up a bit, search out a great cover version of a song you love.
  • Pajamas (or any other comfortable article of clothing) – there are very few bad days that can’t be cured at our house with a pair of pajamas and curling up on the couch to read or watch a movie. Caveat: As a person who works primarily from home, this does not mean PJ’s 24×7! Use comfy clothes sparingly so they can still give you the boost when you need it! 
  • Friends – I know we’re supposed to be limiting contact, but let’s use the amazing technologies that are all around us to stay (or get!) connected in new ways. I’ve already seen some really creative uses of online gathering this week!

There are lots of possibilities to choose from! Maybe it’s old movies, books, family photo albums, or something else entirely. The important thing is that you embrace whatever creates comfort and familiarity for you (which will likely be different than for me). It won’t be nearly as effective at fighting back the fear if it’s not something that is authentically you!

#PositiveAction Use something familiar and/or comfortable to ease the fear of the unknown as you navigate change!

 

But wait, there’s more! Are you looking for help in managing fear as you embark on something new (whether by choice or by chance)? Are you ready to face the unknown confidently? I’m offering a FREE 30-minute webinar on exactly this topic! Learn more and register here!

 

 

 

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

A few weekends ago, I needed to dedicate some time to complete technology upgrades. I had reached the end of my subscriptions for my website and email hosting and needed to either take action or pay up for another term. 

I’d done some research and didn’t really want to stay with my current provider because the tools weren’t great and had become a limiting factor for me around growth. Of course, the alternative – selecting a new provider and enduring the steep learning curve of brand new tools – wasn’t appealing either.

I mean, who wants to spend a weekend doing a tech upgrade? It’s definitely not in my top 10 list of fun weekend things to do! Even though it was a necessary next step for my business, it basically would entail 72 hours of work to put me in the exact same spot I was before the weekend started (with a functional website and email marketing solution). 

Why did I willingly agree to this change rather than take the path of least resistance and stick with my existing toolset? The short answer is pain. I’d finally gotten to the point where the pain of my current situation (and staying in it any longer) was greater than the pain of the change.

And so, I made the choice to dedicate a weekend to the work in the hope that it would be a way for me to slow down in order to speed up. In other words, do the the hard thing now knowing that I’d be in the midst of a steep learning curve for a while, but with the belief that it would set me up better for the future.

And that’s how many changes we make in our lives feel, isn’t it? The decisions to eat better or spend less are challenging in the moment, but will set us up for future success. Most of the time, they don’t feel like they’ve moved the needle toward our goal at first. In fact, it feels almost the same as before that decision but worse, since change is hard AND we don’t see immediate progress! Case it point: my tech upgrades actually took a full week before everything was running smoothly-ish again.

Eventually, it comes around, though. I take great comfort in this wisdom from Agnes de Mille, “No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.”  

The decisions that “future me” will thank me for aren’t always obvious in the moment. Sometimes we need a little distance and some hindsight to see the benefit of a particular choice. I don’t know yet if my choice of website providers will pay off big, but I am enjoying the early benefits of improved ease of use. That’s a win I’ll take as I continue to monitor progress!

The same is true for any decision you need to make to set yourself up for future success.

Want to learn more about change and get ideas that you can start using immediately? Check out our new release Change Authentically: A guide to transform your job and life through positive action. No money? No problem! You can read it for FREE with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited!

#PositiveAction What area of your work would benefit from the slow down to speed up approach?  

BTW: If you haven’t checked it out yet, I’m really happy with how my website changes turned out! Also, if you’re in the market for a new website and business email addresses, I’d recommend DreamHost

 

 

 

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

I’m sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned from writing and publishing my first book. Check out Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 for more details.

Lesson 3 – Focus on the process, not the results. Because even when you follow the process, the results aren’t guaranteed.

The world is filled with stories of stuff that didn’t work. Failed inventions. Business ideas that a person poured their heart and soul into, only to see that the market didn’t support it. Sometimes, we even use those stories as a reason not to try.

I loved Seth Godin’s book, What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn). It very eloquently describes the exact phenomenon I experienced as part of the process. There is no guaranteed, tried-and-true method to create a #1 song, a bestseller, or a viral sensation. But wanting these results often changes our approach. We try what worked for someone or something else and hope it will apply to us. And it’s disappointing when that doesn’t work.

But the value is in the process itself. To quote David Whyte, “Good work, done well for the right reasons and with an end in mind” is the reward. Not the positive or negative reviews from others.

It’s about putting your best into the end product authentically, regardless of how it’s received by anyone else.

An awesome friend and fellow writer helped me keep my eye on the process every single time I got distracted by fear of possible results. Sidebar: if you love football (and who doesn’t really?!?!), check out his books on the NFL draft and free agency.

So what sorts of fears were distracting me? Fears like: What if everyone hates it? They might. What if no one buys a copy? Definitely a possibility. What if I spell a word wrong and get a bunch of negative reviews and angry emails? Some people do get upset with poor grammar.

All of those things I listed are possibilities. There are lots of others too, like selling a million copies or becoming a New York Times bestseller (funny how we don’t worry about those positive results like we do the negative!). Either way, I don’t control the results. So I can’t let it change what I’m doing or how I’m doing it or why I’m doing it!

Easy to say… much harder to let go of the results when we’re in the thick of things at work. Sometimes we need the results in order to earn a bonus or reward. Sometimes we need the results to keep our jobs. It can become high stakes, high stress really quickly.

The interesting thing is that when we keep our focus on doing good work for the right reasons, the results often follow.

#PositiveAction What results or fears do you need to let go of so you can focus your attention on the process of doing good work?

 

 

 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The boring, unglamorous steps help bring the dream to life!

In case you missed it last week, I wrote a book! And now I’m sharing a few of the lessons I learned through that process. You can see Lesson 1 here. 

Lesson 2 – The vision never included these steps, but they’re integral to the process.

Our biggest dreams are often very detailed. We dream with our 5 senses, experiencing the achievement long before it ever comes to fruition. When someone imagines themselves holding the academy award and giving their acceptance speech, they can hear the applause and cheers. They can feel the joy in that moment! 

No one imagines filming 50 takes in the pouring rain after putting on makeup for 6 hours, just to get the exact right emotion into the exact right sentence only to have it cut out of the film in final editing. But the 50 takes and the award go together; you need both.

Here’s a huge discovery I made that I’ll share in case there are any aspiring writers out there. The best way to write a book? It’s to actually start writing a book! Can you believe it? But for 20 years, I’d imagined seeing the book on a shelf (or in later years in an online bookstore). I didn’t necessarily dream about writing every day. And yet, that’s a key step in the process. 

Unfortunately, the process is often not glamorous or even fun. There are days when you don’t have time or you don’t feel like doing it or you have nothing to say or there’s no inspiration to be found anywhere. But without putting in the work, the dream doesn’t happen.

There are lots of people that have a dream job that is different than their current role. They can see the awesome job, company, and co-workers as part of it. They can feel the joy. But guess what’s needed to get there? Lots of unglamorous steps in the process. Updating their resume, gaining new skills, applying to jobs, and facing the rejection that applying to jobs inevitably brings. 

So what should we do? First, we need to recognize that the path to where we want to go is filled with distractions and unglamorous, though necessary steps. 

Then, we need to commit to making progress in the face of that knowledge. For me, it was committing to write regularly. In the case of the dream job, it’s committing to do the steps to take you there. Like any interesting journey, it’s not always fun, but it’s definitely worth it!

#PositiveAction What do you need to commit to doing to allow you to achieve a goal or dream? Take one small step today!

 

Image by fvoellmer from Pixabay

 

I’ve been sharing my becoming-a-published-author journey over the past few months and today it’s officially official! Change Authentically: A guide to transform your job and life through positive action is published! And confetti rains down Super Bowl style!! 

At least, it did in my head! And if you know me, you know I’d hate to have to sweep and vacuum up all that confetti, so it’s probably better it was imaginary. Let’s keep the celebration clean and orderly, shall we?

I’ve had a little time to reflect on the process of writing and self-publishing. It was a surprising, exciting, sometimes terrifying journey, a lot like anything new. There are things I would do differently next time (yes, there WILL be a next time!) now that I’ve been through the process. And there are some interesting lessons I wanted to share, since they apply to work.

Lesson 1 – A bunch of details that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things stand between you and the ONE THING that does matter

I’ve wanted to write a book for at least 20 years (you can read an excerpt here). There are lots of reasons and excuses as to why I didn’t up to this point. But I knew someday, I eventually would do it. The writing part was fun for me – it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. The many details of the self-publishing process on the other hand, were not.

Did you know that you can pick between three different paper colors for your printed book? AND that each paper choice is a slightly different thickness? AND that slightly different thickness when stacked on top of each other in book format changes the width of the spine of the book? And by the way, the width of the spine then has implications for a whole bunch of other choices to be made!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when faced with so many interconnected decisions. But the funny thing is, as much as they all impact the final product, they don’t really matter all that much. I’ve never chosen to read or not read a book based on the spine size. Or the color of paper. Or a whole bunch of other inconsequential details.

All those choices can become distractions if we let them. It’s easy to spend hours on the internet reading about which paper is the absolute best paper for a specific usage. To endlessly debate and agonize over each decision to be made. And it also could prevent me from moving toward the end goal of publishing a book, which was my big aspiration all along.

I needed to instead focus my attention on the minimums. Fill out the required fields and move on. Trust me, even this approach took WAY longer than I expected, and was not without its fair share of debating before deciding!

I sure wish life came with a required fields indicator! It’s easy to get caught up in the details of the everyday, the things that seem so important in the moment. It’s much harder to sift through those things objectively to figure out what matters. Sometimes it’s only through the benefit of hindsight that we can see more clearly what did and didn’t help us in the process. 

Whether we figure it out in the moment or through the benefit of time, hopefully we’re taking those lessons forward with us so that the next time we’re faced with an endless sea of distractions, we can more easily move forward toward that one thing that matters most.

#PositiveAction What tiny distractions are keeping you from making real progress on your big goal? Set a deadline to figure them out and then commit to moving forward!

Book cover image by Erin Zastrow

Positive action is an iterative process. We try something small, learn from it, and react to the information we’ve learned. It follows this pattern: 

Action–>Assess–>Adjust  

Yes, it really can be that simple. Try something small. See what happens. Make an adjustment and do it again. The point is to keep taking action without getting bogged down by trying to plan everything out from now until the end of time. When we take the plan-everything approach, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and then most of us, myself included, take no action. Starting small is key.

Positive psychology has had an exponential growth in popularity and overall, that’s a wonderful thing. I also believe that while our thoughts are extremely powerful, they aren’t the only thing for us to rely on. The positive gets you so far, but it needs to be coupled with action in order for you to be truly successful. You need action to implement the changes you want to see in your life and your work. And because change is hard, it’s critical that you see progress quickly, rather than in days, months, years. As you learn from one Next Step, it will inform the rest of the Next Steps you take. 

If your Aspiration is to get a new job in an industry you’ve always dreamed would be fun to work in, you don’t want to plan out every possible step from now until you retire from that job. Instead, try something smaller, like researching job descriptions to compare your current skill set to your desired role. What did you learn? What will you do next?

This is the fun of the Next Step! I love that it is a manageable chunk I can quickly and easily do. It goes back to the old (and somewhat gross!) adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 

The same is true for each of us. How do we achieve our Aspiration? One Next Step at a time.

The intent is not to find the most perfect thing to do; it’s about testing, learning, and moving forward. It’s easy to get paralyzed by the sheer number of choices when you’re looking for the perfect thing, so if you find yourself struggling with this step, try to think about the absolute smallest thing you can do. It might be so small, it seems insignificant, but when done consistently, it’ll become significant progress.

Each Next Step is something that brings you closer to your Aspiration, while maintaining alignment with your Identity. Remember that the best Next Steps are small and something you can do quickly to assess progress and make any needed adjustments. The point here is to avoid getting too far down a particular path before discovering you need to course correct. 

#PositiveAction What is the smallest Next Step you can take today toward an Aspiration?

Next Steps are the sixth element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. Here is the full series:

 

Image by Gerd Altman on Pixabay

Entire books have been written on the importance of understanding your why (and I recommend that one!). I’m not going to rehash all of them, but I will agree with the fact your why, aka being On Purpose, is a key element of the ACTION plan. It’s such an important element, that I’ve already talked about it here on this blog. 

Until you have a compelling why driving you to achieve an Aspiration, you’re unlikely to take meaningful steps to get there. This is the reason so many new year’s resolutions fail. Without a why, we lose interest. We can’t stick with the change. The why is our motivation to be Consistent and keep taking positive action. 

Even if you and I have the same Aspiration, it’s highly unlikely that we would share the same why. When I’m taking positive action On Purpose, it reflects my unique experiences and interests; yours will too. My why would likely not motivate you because our experiences are different.

Let’s take exercise as an example. The reason why I exercise is because I want to walk unassisted when I’m in my 90’s, just like my great uncle. For another person I know, their why is because many of their relatives died at younger ages and they exercise to hopefully not have the same happen. For another, it’s that they want to continue to fit into their current clothes so they don’t have to buy new ones. There are endless why’s for something as simple as choosing to exercise. The key is to find the why that is true for you.

Another way to think about your why if you’re struggling is to determine what you stand for or against. This is often a meaningful reason that leads into a compelling why. My family has been significantly impacted by cancer, so I support causes and engage in activities around finding a cure. I also have a love of the natural world and the environment, so again this helps me direct my energy toward volunteer efforts

In a world where we have unlimited choice and access to information, being On Purpose also helps to narrow your focus and stay Targeted. You can easily filter out those positive actions that are good, but not necessarily aligned either with your Identity or your why and what you stand for (On Purpose).

#PositiveAction Struggling with your resolutions? It’s time to revisit your why and get clear about how you can approach them On Purpose this time!

On Purpose is the fifth element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

 

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay, edited by me, which is maybe why the sizing seems off!