8 Guaranteed Ways to Boost Your Confidence
Successful people often exude confidence — it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they’re doing. It isn’t their success that makes them confident, however. The confidence was there first.
Think about it:
Doubt breeds doubt. Why would anyone believe in you, your ideas, or your abilities if you didn’t believe in them yourself?
It takes confidence to reach for new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones rarely expand on their own. That’s why people who lack confidence get stuck in dead-end jobs and let valuable opportunities pass them by.
Unconfident people often feel at the mercy of external circumstances. Successful people aren’t deterred by obstacles, which is how they rise up in the first place.
No one is stopping you from what you want to accomplish but yourself. It’s time to remove that barrier of self-doubt.
Confidence is a crucial building block in a successful career, and embracing it fully will take you places you never thought possible. With proper guidance and hard work, anyone can become more confident. Once you pass a certain point, you’ll feel it from the inside.
Here are eight bulletproof strategies to get you there.
1. Take an Honest Look at Yourself
Johnny Unitas said, “There is a difference between conceit and confidence. Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.” In other words, confidence is earned through hard work, and confident people are self-aware. When your confidence exceeds your abilities, you’ve crossed the line into arrogance. You need to know the difference.
True confidence is firmly planted in reality. To grow your confidence, it’s important to do an honest and accurate self-assessment of your abilities. If there are weaknesses in your skill set, make plans for strengthening these skills and find ways to minimize their negative impact. Ignoring your weaknesses or pretending they’re strengths won’t make them go away. Likewise, having a clear understanding of your strengths enables you to shake off some of the more groundless feedback and criticism you can get in a busy, competitive work environment–and that builds confidence.
2. Say No
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode confidence. Confident people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem to make their nos clear. When it’s time to say no, confident people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” They say no with confidence because they know that saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
3. Get Right with Your Boss
A troubled relationship with the boss can destroy even the most talented person’s confidence. It’s hard to be confident when your boss is constantly criticizing you or undermining your contributions. Try to identify where the relationship went wrong and decide whether there’s anything you can do to get things back on track. If the relationship is truly unsalvageable, it may be time to move on to something else.
4. Seek Out Small Victories
Confident people tend to challenge themselves and compete, even when their efforts yield small victories. Small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. This increase in androgen receptors increases the influence of testosterone, which further increases your confidence and your eagerness to tackle future challenges. When you have a series of small victories, the boost in your confidence can last for months.
5. Find a Mentor
Nothing builds confidence like a talented, experienced person showing you the way and patting you on the back for a job well done. A good mentor can act as a mirror, giving you the perspective you need to believe in yourself. Knowledge breeds confidence–knowing where you stand helps you focus your energy more effectively. Beyond that, a mentor can help educate you on some of the cultural inner workings of your organization. Knowing the unwritten rules of how to get things done in your workplace is a great confidence booster.
6. Schedule Exercise
A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher. Best of all, rather than the physical changes in their bodies being responsible for the uptick in confidence, it was the immediate, endorphin-fueled positivity from exercise that made all the difference. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, and your confidence will stay up.
7. Dress for Success
Like it or not, how we dress has a huge effect on how people see us. Things like the color, cut, and style of the clothes we wear — and even our accessories — communicate loudly. But the way we dress also affects how we see ourselves. Studies have shown that people speak differently when they’re dressed up compared to when they’re dressed casually. To boost your confidence, dress well. Choose clothing that reflects who you are and the image you want to project, even if that means spending more time at the mall and more time getting ready in the morning.
8. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
Aggressiveness isn’t confidence; it’s bullying. And when you’re insecure, it’s easy to slip into aggressiveness without intending to. Practice asserting yourself without getting aggressive (and trampling over someone else in the process). You won’t be able to achieve this until you learn how to keep your insecurities at bay, and this will increase your confidence.
Bringing It All Together
Your confidence is your own to develop or undermine. Confidence is based on reality. It’s the steadfast knowledge that goes beyond simply “hoping for the best.” It ensures that you’ll get the job done — that’s the power of true confidence.
Written by Dr. Travis Bradberry
Source URL :http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-travis-bradberry/8-guaranteed-ways-to-boos_b_8831752.html
How Successful People Make Smart Decisions
Some decisions are minor, like what to eat, which route to drive to work, or in what order to tackle tasks. Others are more difficult, like deciding between two job offers, whether to move to a new city for someone you love, or whether to cut a toxic person out of your life.
With so many decisions taking up each day, learning to prioritize them and make them effectively is essential to your success and happiness.
While I’m familiar with many strategies successful people use for effective decision-making, what follows are the cream of the crop.
They Turn Small Decisions into Routines …
Decision-making works like a muscle: as you use it over the course of the day, it gets too exhausted to function effectively. One of the best strategies successful people use to work around their decision fatigue is to eliminate smaller decisions by turning them into routines. Doing so frees up mental resources for more complex decisions.
Steve Jobs famously wore a black turtleneck to work every day. Mark Zuckerberg still dons a hoodie. Both men have stated that these iconic images are the simple result of daily routines intended to cut down on decision fatigue. They were both aware of our finite daily ability to make good decisions, as is Barack Obama, who said, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.”
… and Make Big Decisions in the Morning
Another great way to beat decision fatigue is to save small decisions for after work (when decision fatigue is greatest) and to tackle complex decisions in the morning, when your mind is fresh. When you’re facing a stream of important decisions, a great trick is to wake up early and work on your most complicated tasks before you get hit with a bunch of distracting minor decisions (phones ringing, e-mails coming in). A similar strategy is to do some of the smaller things the night before to get a head start on the next day. For instance, lay out your outfit at night so you don’t even have to think about it when you wake up.
They Pay Attention to Their Emotions
There’s an old saying: “Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions,” and it definitely rings true. Successful people recognize and understand their emotions (including their intensity and impact on behavior) so that they are able to look at decisions as objectively and rationally as possible.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t good at managing or even recognizing their emotions. TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that only 36% of us are able to accurately identify our emotions as they happen. Strong decision makers, on the other hand, know that a bad mood can make them lash out or stray from their moral compass just as easily as a good mood can make them overconfident and impulsive.
They Evaluate Their Options Objectively
When really wrapped up in a decision, successful people weigh their options against a pre-determined set of criteria because they know that this makes decision-making easier and more effective. Here are some helpful criteria to consider: How does this decision benefit me? How does it hurt me? How does this benefit ___? How does it hurt ___? Does the decision reflect my values? Would I regret making this decision? Would I regret not making this decision? Does this decision reflect my values?
They Sleep on It …
Sleeping on your decision ensures that you have clarity of thought when you approach it the next day. It also allows time for your emotions to run their course. When you act too quickly, you tend to react, but when you give more focus and time to your decision, you expose important facets of it that you didn’t see before.
… but Not for Too Long
Successful people know the importance of gathering as much information as they can, but at the same time, they make certain not to fall prey to analysis paralysis. Instead of waiting for the moons to align, successful people know that they need to have a timetable to follow in reaching their decision. Once they set that date, they are motivated to do their homework and some soul searching in order to meet the deadline.
They Use Exercise to Recharge
The stress of a major decision naturally produces cortisol, the chemical that triggers the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol clouds your ability to think clearly and rationally. When you find yourself stressing about a decision, try exercising. As little as 30 minutes is all it takes to get a good endorphin-fueled buzz and to return to mental clarity. Exercise also helps you get past that fight-or-flight state by putting the cortisol to practical use. Research shows that long-term exercise improves the overall functioning of the brain regions responsible for decision-making.
They Always Go Back to Their Moral Compass
Successful people know the importance of sticking to their morals when making an important decision. Morals serve as trusted guides when your emotions are pulling you in a different direction.
They Seek Outside Counsel
When approaching a decision, we have a natural tendency to pick an alternative and then to gather information to support that decision, instead of gathering information and then choosing a side (this is called confirmation bias). A great way to beat confirmation bias is to seek outside opinions and advice from people who bring different perspectives to your situation. Their perspectives help you weigh your options more objectively and to spot your subjective or irrational tendencies.
They Reflect on Previous Decisions
Mark Twain described the complicated nature of decision-making as follows: “Good decisions come from experience, but experience comes from making bad decisions.” This isn’t to say that the only way to become a great decision maker is to make a ton of mistakes; it just means that it’s important to keep past decisions front of mind. Successful people are aware enough of past decisions to use them to their benefit when something similar comes up.
Bringing It All Together
With repercussions that can last days, weeks, and even years, making great decisions is an effort that’s worth every bit of your time and energy.
Authour of article
Dr. Travis Bradberry
Coauthor Emotional Intelligence 2.0 & President at TalentSmart
9 Phrases Smart People Never Use In Conversation
We’ve all said things that people interpreted much differently than we thought they would. These seemingly benign comments lead to the awful feeling that only comes when you’ve planted your foot firmly into your mouth.
Verbal slip-ups often occur because we say things without knowledge of the subtle implications they carry. Understanding these implications requires social awareness—the ability to pick up on the emotions and experiences of other people.
TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and discovered that social awareness is a skill in which many of us are lacking.
We lack social awareness because we’re so focused on what we’re going to say next—and how what other people are saying affects us—that we completely lose sight of other people.
This is a problem because people are complicated. You can’t hope to understand someone until you focus all of your attention in his or her direction.
The beauty of social awareness is that a few simple adjustments to what you say can vastly improve your relationships with other people.
To that end, there are some phrases that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in casual conversation. The following phrases are nine of the worst offenders. You should avoid them at all costs.
1. “You look tired.”
Tired people are incredibly unappealing—they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come. Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some.
Instead say: “Is everything okay?” Most people ask if someone is tired because they’re intending to be helpful (they want to know if the other person is okay). Instead of assuming someone’s disposition, just ask. This way, he can open up and share. More importantly, he will see you as concerned instead of rude.
2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!”
Once again, a well-meaning comment—in this case a compliment—creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive.
Instead say: “You look fantastic.” This one is an easy fix. Instead of comparing how she looks now to how she used to look, just compliment her for looking great. It takes the past right out of the picture.
3. “You were too good for her anyway.”
When someone severs ties with a relationship of any type, personal or professional, this comment implies he has bad taste and made a poor choice in the first place.
Instead say: “Her loss!” This provides the same enthusiastic support and optimism without any implied criticism.
4. “You always…” or “You never…”
No one always or never does anything. People don’t see themselves as one-dimensional, so you shouldn’t attempt to define them as such. These phrases make people defensive and closed off to your message, which is a really bad thing because you likely use these phrases when you have something important to discuss.
Instead say: Simply point out what the other person did that’s a problem for you. Stick to the facts. If the frequency of the behavior is an issue, you can always say, “It seems like you do this often.” or “You do this often enough for me to notice.”
5. “You look great for your age.”
Using “for your” as a qualifier always comes across as condescending and rude. No one wants to be smart for an athlete or in good shape relative to other people who are also knocking on death’s door. People simply want to be smart and fit.
Instead say: “You look great.” This one is another easy fix. Genuine compliments don’t need qualifiers.
6. “As I said before…”
We all forget things from time to time. This phrase makes it sound as if you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself, which is hard on the recipient (someone who is genuinely interested in hearing your perspective). Getting insulted over having to repeat yourself suggests that either you’re insecure or you think you’re better than everyone else (or both!). Few people who use this phrase actually feel this way.
Instead say: When you say it again, see what you can do to convey the message in a clearer and more interesting manner. This way they’ll remember what you said.
7. “Good luck.”
This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.
Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.” This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.
8. “It’s up to you.” or “Whatever you want.”
While you may be indifferent to the question, your opinion is important to the person asking (or else he wouldn’t have asked you in the first place).
Instead say: “I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but a couple things to consider are…” When you offer an opinion (even without choosing a side), it shows that you care about the person asking.
9. “Well at least I’ve never ___.”
This phrase is an aggressive way to shift attention away from your mistake by pointing out an old, likely irrelevant mistake the other person made (and one you should have forgiven her for by now).
Instead say: “I’m sorry.” Owning up to your mistake is the best way to bring the discussion to a more rational, calm place so that you can work things out. Admitting guilt is an amazing way to prevent escalation.
Bringing It All Together
In everyday conversation, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Try these suggestions out, and you’ll be amazed at the positive response you get.
Authour of article
Dr. Travis Bradberry
Coauthor Emotional Intelligence 2.0 & President at TalentSmart
How To Exceed Your Goals In 2016
For many of us, 2016 begins with a promise—a promise that this year we will accomplish that which has eluded us. Often it’s the everyday things that prove most difficult—managing your schedule, treating people the way you ought to, and keeping things in perspective when chaos is at hand.
The sad truth is that nearly 80% of us will fall off the resolution bandwagon by Super Bowl Sunday; and by this time next year, a mere 5% of us will have succeeded in reaching our goals.
There are two reasons why we’re so bad at reaching our goals:
The first is that we bite off more than we can chew. It may seem reasonable to pick up three or four new skills to add to your repertoire, but that’s an expectation the mind can’t execute. When we try to develop too many new skills at once, they become competing priorities that leave us distracted, discouraged and overwhelmed.
The second reason most self-improvement efforts are doomed to fail is that our emotions have a nasty habit of hijacking our behavior. Without a strong ability to recognize and manage our emotions as they occur, old habits are sure to die hard.
The Good News
The good news is that you can address both problems and make the changes you desire by resolving this year to develop a single skill—emotional intelligence (EQ).
Piles of research over the last two decades has shown that emotional intelligence is likely the single most powerful success factor yet discovered, affecting everything from your performance at work, to your mood and the quality of your personal life.
We’ve tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other critical skills and found that it subsumes the majority of them. It’s no wonder that 90% of top performers are high in EQ and people with high EQs make $28,000 more annually than their low EQ counterparts.
But how does emotional intelligence play such a large role in so many important skills? Our brains are wired such that emotions are the root of all human behavior. Whether we’re aware of it or not, the motivation behind every action (no matter how small) is inherently emotional.
Here’s how it works:
All of your primary senses enter at the base of your brain (the light blue shaded area below). Before you can think rationally about what you’re experiencing, these signals must travel through the limbic system—the place where emotions are generated. This ensures you have an emotional reaction to events first.
Emotional intelligence ensures effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of your brain. As you improve your emotional intelligence, you improve your ability to understand and control the primary motivations for your behavior, which reaps dividends in everything you do every day. Emotional intelligence is powerful and efficient—it allows you to focus your energy on a single skill with tremendous results.
What Does Emotional Intelligence Look Like?
Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.
Personal competence comprises your self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually than on your interactions with other people. Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies.
- Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.
- Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.
Social competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills; social competence is your ability to understand other people’s moods, behavior, and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships.
- Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.
- Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.
While working on your emotional intelligence will improve a lot of different skills, there are five in particular that people tend to set goals around when the year changes. I’ll explain how you can improve each of these skills solely by focusing on your emotional intelligence.
In this age of abundance, time is the one thing nobody has enough of. Perhaps that’s why Google receives 111 million searches a month for Time Management. Few people recognize how time management depends upon the emotional intelligence skills of self-management and relationship management.
Creating a good schedule is a very rational thing, but sticking to that schedule is decidedly emotional. Many of us start out every day with the best intentions to manage our time wisely. But then we receive a complicated email from a co-worker, a consuming phone call from a friend, or otherwise get sidetracked until our well-laid plans go up in flames. We spend the rest of the day trying to put out somebody else’s fire, or working to resolve issues that weren’t there in the morning. Before you know it, the day is gone and you’re completely off schedule.
When the distractions are your own, sticking to a schedule requires self-management. When the needs of others try to impede upon your plans, it takes effective relationship management to finesse the relationship while ensuring that your priorities are still addressed.
Show me somebody who claims to love change, and I’ll show you a well-intentioned liar. Change is uncomfortable for everyone at times, and for many of us it makes our skin crawl. Those who apply well-honed self-awareness and self-management skills tolerate change much more successfully than others. Self-awareness enables you to adjust comfortably to change because it gives you the perspective needed to realize when change is coming and how it’s affecting you.
Self-management keeps you cool in the moment—often with a reminder that even the most stable, trusted facets of your life are not completely under your control. Those most averse to change, who possess great self-awareness and self-management skills, even set aside a small amount of time each week to list possible changes and what actions they can take in response.
Emotional intelligence is commonly mistaken as a synonym for “nice.” In fact, the most emotionally intelligent response is often one where you openly and directly express yourself. To paraphrase Aristotle, getting angry is easy. Getting angry with the right person, at the right time, and to the right degree requires emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence doesn’t allow lashing out, or making yourself into someone else’s doormat. To be assertive, you have to know what you’re feeling, read the other party accurately, and express yourself in a way that garners the best result. People with high EQs do this naturally.
Making Great Decisions
It has taken the world far too long to wake up to the fact that emotions simply cannot—and should not—be ignored when making decisions. Neuroscience shows us that sometimes the most rational thing you can do is trust your emotions when making a decision. But in order to make this work, you have to be aware of the emotions you’re feeling, know why you’re having them, and see how they factor into the situation at hand. Here, there is no substitute for emotional intelligence.
Giving Outstanding Presentations
Few things strike primal fear in people like standing under the spotlight in a room full of people. Even the most eloquent among us can be reduced to spewing verbal garbage once the sheer anxiety of public speaking takes hold. That’s why a knock-’em-dead presenter’s most inspiring presentation is often the one he delivers to himself. A bit of positive self-talk—reminding himself of all the times he has succeeded and how qualified he is to speak on the topic—enables the effective speaker to use his performance anxiety to sharpen his focus and make him more articulate. If you think that’s silly, then you probably haven’t tried it. Emotional intelligence doesn’t just make you aware of your emotions; it equips you with strategies for keeping them from holding you back.
Bringing It All Together
Give improving your emotional intelligence a real shot in 2016. You’ll be surprised where it takes you.
Authour of article
Dr. Travis Bradberry
Coauthor Emotional Intelligence 2.0 & President at TalentSmart
11 Signs You Have The Grit You Need To Succeed
1. You have to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again, without even flinching. In a recent study at the College of William and Mary, they interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs and found that the most successful among them tend to have two critical things in common: They’re terrible at imagining failure and they tend not to care what other people think of them. In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs put no time or energy into stressing about their failures as they see failure as a small and necessary step in the process of reaching their goals.
2. You have to fight when you already feel defeated. A reporter once asked Muhammad Ali how many sit-ups he does every day. He responded, “I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting, when I feel pain, cause that’s when it really matters.” The same applies to success in the workplace. You always have two choices when things begin to get tough: you can either overcome an obstacle and grow in the process or let it beat you. Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if you force yourself to push through it, the grit begins to grow in you.
3. You have to make the calls you’re afraid to make. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do because we know they’re for the best in the long-run: fire someone, cold call a stranger, pull an all-nighter to get the company server back up, or scrap a project and start over. It’s easy to let the looming challenge paralyze you, but the most successful people know that in these moments, the best thing they can do is to get started right away. Every moment spent dreading the task subtracts time and energy from actually getting it done. People that learn to habitually make the tough calls stand out like flamingos in a flock of seagulls.
4. You have to keep your emotions in check. Negative emotions will challenge your grit every step of the way. While it’s impossible not to feel your emotions, it’s completely under your power to manage them effectively and to keep yourself in a position of control. When you let your emotions overtake your ability to think clearly, it’s easy to lose your resolve. A bad mood can make you lash out or stray from your chosen direction just as easily as a good mood can make you overconfident and impulsive.
5. You have to trust your gut. There’s a fine line between trusting your gut and being impulsive. Trusting your gut is a matter of looking at decisions from every possible angle, and when the facts don’t present a clear alternative, you believe in your ability to choose; you go with what looks and feels right.
Troubling Habits of Chronically Unhappy People
Happiness comes in so many different forms that it can be hard to define. Unhappiness, on the other hand, is easy to identify; you know it when you see it, and you definitely know when it’s taken ahold of you.
Unhappiness is lethal to everyone around you, just like second-hand smoke. The famous Terman Study from Stanford followed subjects for eight decades and found that being around unhappy people is linked to poorer health and a shorter life span.
Happiness has much less to do with life circumstances than you might think. A University of Illinois study found that people who earn the most (more than $10 million annually) are only a smidge happier than the average Joes and Janes who work for them.
Life circumstances have little to do with happiness because much happiness is under your control—the product of your habits and your outlook on life. Psychologists from the University of California who study happiness found that genetics and life circumstances only account for about 50% of a person’s happiness. The rest is up to you.
“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin
When people are unhappy, it’s much more difficult to be around them, let alone work with them. Unhappiness drives people away, creating a vicious cycle that holds you back from achieving everything that you’re capable of.
Unhappiness can catch you by surprise. So much of your happiness is determined by your habits (in thought and deed) that you have to monitor them closely to make certain that they don’t drag you down into the abyss.
Some habits lead to unhappiness more than others do. You should be especially wary of the ten habits that follow as they are the worst offenders. Watch yourself carefully to make certain that these habits are not your own.
Waiting for the future. Telling yourself, “I’ll be happy when …” is one of the easiest unhappy habits to fall into. How you end the statement doesn’t really matter (it might be a promotion, more pay, or a new relationship) because it puts too much emphasis on circumstances, and improved circumstances don’t lead to happiness. Don’t spend your time waiting for something that’s proven to have no effect on your mood. Instead focus on being happy right now, in the present moment, because there’s no guarantee of the future.
Spending too much time and effort acquiring “things.” People living in extreme poverty experience a significant increase in happiness when their financial circumstances improve, but it drops off quickly above $20,000 in annual income. There’s an ocean of research that shows that material things don’t make you happy. When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy because, beyond the disappointment you experience once you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that can make you happy, such as friends, family, and hobbies.
Staying home. When you feel unhappy, it’s tempting to avoid other people. This is a huge mistake as socializing, even when you don’t enjoy it, is great for your mood. We all have those days when we just want to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to talk to anybody, but understand that the moment this becomes a tendency, it destroys your mood. Recognize when unhappiness is making you antisocial, force yourself to get out there and mingle, and you’ll notice the difference right away.
Seeing yourself as a victim. Unhappy people tend to operate from the default position that life is both hard and out of their control. In other words, “Life is out to get me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The problem with that philosophy is that it fosters a feeling of helplessness, and people who feel helpless aren’t likely to take action to make things better. While everyone is certainly entitled to feel down every once in a while, it’s important to recognize when you’re letting this affect your outlook on life. You’re not the only person that bad things happen to, and you do have control over your future as long as you’re willing to take action.
Pessimism. Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like pessimism. The problem with a pessimistic attitude, beyond it being hard on your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you expect bad things, you’re more likely to get bad things. Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognize how illogical they are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.
Complaining. Complaining itself is troubling as well as the attitude that precedes it. Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking—and therefore thinking—about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs. While talking about what bothers you can help you feel better, there’s a fine line between complaining being therapeutic and it fueling unhappiness. Beyond making you unhappy, complaining drives other people away.
Blowing things out of proportion. Bad things happen to everybody. The difference is that happy people see them for what they are—a temporary bummer—whereas unhappy people see anything negative as further evidence that life is out to get them. A happy person is upset if they have a fender bender on the way to work, but they keep things in perspective: “What a hassle, but at least it wasn’t more serious.” An unhappy person, on the other hand, uses it as proof that the day, the week, the month, maybe even their whole life, is doomed.
Sweeping problems under the rug. Happy people are accountable for their actions. When they make a mistake, they own it. Unhappy people, on the other hand, find problems and mistakes to be threatening, so they try to hide them. Problems tend to get bigger when they’re ignored. The more you don’t do anything about a problem, the more it starts to feel as though you can’t do anything about it, and then you’re right back to feeling like a victim.
Not improving. Because unhappy people are pessimists and feel a lack of control over their lives, they tend to sit back and wait for life to happen to them. Instead of setting goals, learning, and improving themselves, they just keep plodding along, and then they wonder why things never change.
Trying to keep up with the Joneses. Jealousy and envy are incompatible with happiness, so if you’re constantly comparing yourself with others, it’s time to stop. In one study, most subjects said that they’d be okay with making less money, but only if everybody else did too. Be wary of this kind of thinking as it won’t make you happy and, more often than not, has the opposite effect.
Bringing It All Together
Changing your habits in the name of greater happiness is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. But it’s also important for another reason—taking control of your happiness makes everyone around you happier too.
Dr. Travis Bradberry
Coauthor Emotional Intelligence 2.0 & President at TalentSmart
The 6 Secrets of Self-Control
When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on our failures that our successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid digging into that bag of chips after dinner because you want to lose a few pounds and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by eating four servings’ worth of the empty calories, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back.
With this success/failure dichotomy in mind, I give you six strategies for self-control that come straight from new research conducted at Florida State University. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you eliminate those pesky failures and ensure your efforts to boost your willpower are successful enough to keep you headed in the right direction for achieving your goals.
Self-Control Secret #1 – Meditate
Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason.
Self-Control Secret #2 – Eat
File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling your eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company candy bin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.
Self-Control Secret #3 – Exercise
Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.
Self-Control Secret #4 – Sleep
When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished. As I explained in Secret #2, your brain’s ability to control impulses is nil without glucose. What’s worse, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.
Self-Control Secret #5 – Ride the Wave
Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.
Self-Control Secret #6 – Forgive Yourself
A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behavior. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Putting These Strategies to Work
The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at the Six Secrets and giving them a go before you give in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
9 Things Successful People Won’t Do
They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
They Won’t Forget
Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Emotionally intelligent people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.
They Won’t Die in the Fight
Emotionally intelligent people know how important it is to live to fight another day. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.
They Won’t Prioritize Perfection
Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.
They Won’t Live in the Past
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.
They Won’t Dwell on Problems
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.
They Won’t Hang Around Negative People
Complainers are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix a problem. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.
They Won’t Hold Grudges
The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event involved sends your body into fight-or-flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Learning to let go of a grudge will not only make you feel better now but can also improve your health.
They Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
10 Fundamental Truths We Forget Too Easily
It’s surprising how easy it is to lose sight of the important things in life. Busy schedules and weekly routines have a tendency to put the brain on autopilot.
Some of life’s essential truths need repeating. Keep this list handy and give it a read any time you need a boost.
1. BEING BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING PRODUCTIVE
Look at everyone around you. They all seem so busy—running from meeting to meeting and firing off emails. Yet how many of them are really producing, really succeeding at a high level?
Success doesn’t come from movement and activity. It comes from focus—from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively.
You get the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. Use yours wisely. After all, you’re the product of your output, not your effort. Make certain your efforts are dedicated to tasks that get results.
2. GREAT SUCCESS IS OFTEN PRECEDED BY FAILURE
You will never experience true success until you learn to embrace failure. Your mistakes pave the way for you to succeed by revealing when you’re on the wrong path.
The biggest breakthroughs typically come when you’re feeling the most frustrated and the most stuck. It’s this frustration that forces you to think differently, to look outside the box and see the solution that you’ve been missing.
Success takes patience and the ability to maintain a good attitude even while suffering for what you believe in.
3. FEAR IS THE #1 SOURCE OF REGRET
When it’s all said and done, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
I often hear people say, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Will it kill you?” Yet, death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.
The worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.
4. YOUR SELF-WORTH MUST COME FROM WITHIN
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own destiny. When you feel good about something that you’ve done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments to take that away from you.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
5. YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS THOSE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH
You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better. And you probably do. But what about the people who drag you down? Why do you allow them to be a part of your life?
Anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them. Life is too short to associate with people like this. Cut them loose.
6. LIFE IS SHORT
None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. Yet, when someone dies unexpectedly it causes us to take stock of our own life: what’s really important, how we spend our time, and how we treat other people.
Loss is a raw, visceral reminder of the frailty of life. It shouldn’t be.
Remind yourself every morning when you wake up that each day is a gift and you’re bound to make the most of the blessing you’ve been given. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing is the moment it will start acting like one.
After all, a great day begins with a great mindset.
7. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT FOR AN APOLOGY TO FORGIVE
Life goes a lot smoother once you let go of grudges and forgive even those who never said they were sorry. Grudges let negative events from your past ruin today’s happiness. Hate and anger are emotional parasites that destroy your joy in life.
The negative emotions that come with holding on to a grudge create a stress response in your body, and holding on to stress can have devastating health consequences. Researchers at Emory University have shown that holding on to stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease.
When you forgive someone, it doesn’t condone their actions; it simply frees you from being their eternal victim.
8. YOU’RE LIVING THE LIFE YOU’VE CREATED
You are not a victim of circumstance. No one can force you to make decisions and take actions that run contrary to your values and aspirations.
The circumstances you’re living in today are your own—you created them. Likewise, your future is entirely up to you. If you’re feeling stuck, it’s probably because you’re afraid to take the risks necessary to achieve your goals and live your dreams.
When it’s time to take action, remember that it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.
9. LIVE IN THE MOMENT
You can’t reach your full potential until you learn to live your life in the present.
No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future. It’s impossible to be happy if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of this very moment.
To help yourself live in the moment, you must do two things:
1) Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and, in doing so, it will create your future.
2) Accept the uncertainty of the future. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”
10. CHANGE IS INEVITABLE – EMBRACE IT
Only when you embrace change can you find the good in it. You need to have an open mind and open arms if you’re going to recognize, and capitalize on, the opportunities that change creates.
You’re bound to fail when you keep doing the same things you always have in the hope that ignoring change will make it go away.
After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Life doesn’t stop for anyone. When things are going well, appreciate them and enjoy them, as they are bound to change. If you are always searching for something more, something better, that you think is going to make you happy, you’ll never be present enough to enjoy the great moments before they’re gone.
Bringing it all together
Are there important truths that I’ve forgotten? Please share them in the comments section. I learn from you just as much as you learn from me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Travis Bradberry
15 Body Language Secrets of Successful People
Our bodies have a language of their own, and their words aren’t always kind. Your body language has likely become an integral part of who you are, to the point where you might not even think about it.
If that’s the case, it’s time to start, because you could be sabotaging your career.
TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90% of top performers, to be exact). These people know the power that unspoken signals have in communication and they monitor their own body language accordingly.
What follows are the 15 most common body language blunders that people make, and emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid.
1. Slouching is a sign of disrespect. It communicates that you’re bored and have no desire to be where you are. You would never tell your boss, “I don’t understand why I have to listen to you,” but if you slouch, you don’t have to—your body says it for you, loud and clear.
The brain is hardwired to equate power with the amount of space people take up. Standing up straight with your shoulders back is a power position. It maximizes the amount of space you fill. Slouching, on the other hand, is the result of collapsing your form—it takes up less space and projects less power.
Maintaining good posture commands respect and promotes engagement from both ends of the conversation.
2. Exaggerated gestures can imply that you’re stretching the truth. Aim for small, controlled gestures to indicate leadership and confidence, and open gestures—like spreading your arms apart or showing the palms of your hands—to communicate that you have nothing to hide.
3. Watching the clock while talking to someone is a clear sign of disrespect, impatience, and inflated ego. It sends the message that you have better things to do than talk to the person you’re with, and that you’re anxious to leave them.
4. Turning yourself away from others, or not leaning into your conversation, portrays that you are unengaged, uninterested, uncomfortable, and perhaps even distrustful of the person speaking.
Try leaning in towards the person who is speaking and tilt your head slightly as you listen to them speak. This shows the person speaking that they have your complete focus and attention.
5. Crossed arms—and crossed legs, to some degree—are physical barriers that suggest you’re not open to what the other person is saying. Even if you’re smiling or engaged in a pleasant conversation, the other person may get a nagging sense that you’re shutting him or her out.
Even if folding your arms feels comfortable, resist the urge to do so if you want people to see you as open-minded and interested in what they have to say.
6. Inconsistency between your words and your facial expression causes people to sense that something isn’t right and they begin to suspect that you’re trying to deceive them, even if they don’t know exactly why or how.
For example, a nervous smile while rejecting an offer during a negotiation won’t help you get what you want; it will just make the other person feel uneasy about working with you because they’ll assume that you’re up to something.
7. Exaggerated nodding signals anxiety about approval. People may perceive your heavy nods as an attempt to show you agree with or understand something that you actually don’t.
8. Fidgeting with or fixing your hair signals that you’re anxious, over-energized, self-conscious, and distracted. People will perceive you as overly concerned with your physical appearance and not concerned enough with your career.
9. Avoiding eye contact makes it look like you have something to hide, and that arouses suspicion. Lack of eye contact can also indicate a lack of confidence and interest, which you never want to communicate in a business setting.
Looking down as you talk makes it seem like you lack confidence or are self-conscious, causing your words to lose their effect. It’s especially important to keep your eyes level if you’re making complicated or important points.
Sustained eye contact, on the other hand, communicates confidence, leadership, strength, and intelligence. While it is possible to be engaged without direct, constant eye contact, complete negligence will clearly have negative effects on your professional relationships.
10. Eye contact that’s too intense may be perceived as aggressive, or an attempt to dominate. On average, Americans hold eye contact for seven to ten seconds, longer when we’re listening than when we’re talking. The way we break contact sends a message, too. Glancing down communicates submission, while looking to the side projects confidence.
11. Rolling your eyes is a fail-proof way to communicate lack of respect. Fortunately, while it may be a habit, it’s voluntary. You can control it, and it’s worth the effort.
12. Scowling or having a generally unhappy expression sends the message that you’re upset by those around you, even if they have nothing to do with your mood. Scowls turn people away, as they feel judged.
Smiling, however, suggests that you’re open, trustworthy, confident, and friendly. MRI studies have shown that the human brain responds favorably to a person who’s smiling, and this leaves a lasting positive impression.
13. Weak handshakes signal that you lack authority and confidence, while a handshake that is too strong could be perceived as an aggressive attempt at domination, which is just as bad. Adapt your handshake to each person and situation, but make sure it’s always firm.
14. Clenched fists, much like crossed arms and legs, can signal that you’re not open to other people’s points. It can also make you look argumentative and defensive, which will make people nervous about interacting with you.
15. Getting too close. If you stand too close to someone (nearer than one and a half feet), it signals that you have no respect for or understanding of personal space. This will make people very uncomfortable when they’re around you.
Bringing It All Together
Avoiding these body language blunders will help you form stronger relationships, both professionally and personally.
Are there any other blunders I should add to this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Travis Bradberry
How (And Why) To Become A Fabulous Listener
Listening is a bit like intelligence—most everyone thinks they’re above average, even though that’s impossible.
And listening is a skill you want to be great at. A recent study conducted at George Washington University showed that listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s job performance.
“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” –Alfred Brendel
There’s so much talking happening at work that opportunities to listen well abound. We talk to provide feedback, explain instructions, and communicate deadlines. Beyond the spoken words, there’s invaluable information to be deciphered through tone of voice, body language, and what isn’t said.
In other words, failing to keep your ears (and eyes) open could leave you out of the game.
Most people believe that their listening skills are where they need to be, even though they aren’t. A study at Wright State University surveyed more than 8,000 people from different verticals, and almost all rated themselves as listening as well as or better than their co-workers. We know intuitively that many of them are wrong.
Effective listening is something that can absolutely be learned and mastered. Even if you find attentive listening difficult and, in certain situations, boring or unpleasant, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You just have to know what to work on. The straightforward strategies that follow will get you there.
Focus. The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to listening is they’re so focused on what they’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect them that they fail to hear what’s being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost. Focusing may seem like a simple suggestion, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Your thoughts can be incredibly distracting.
Put away your phone. It’s impossible to listen well and monitor your phone at the same time. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.
Ask good questions. People like to know you’re listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows not only that you are listening but that you also care about what they’re saying. You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking good questions. In addition to verifying what you’ve heard, you should ask questions that seek more information. Examples of probing questions are “What happened next?” and “Why did he say that?” The key is to make certain that your questions really do add to your understanding of the speaker’s words, rather than deflecting the conversation to a different topic.
Practice reflective listening. Psychologist Carl Rogers used the term “reflective listening” to describe the listening strategy of paraphrasing the meaning of what’s being said in order to make certain you’ve interpreted the speaker’s words correctly. By doing this, you give the speaker the opportunity to clarify what she meant to say. When you practice reflective listening, don’t simply repeat the speaker’s words to her. Use your own words to show that you’ve absorbed the information.
Use positive body language. Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the speaker are all forms of positive body language employed by great listeners. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation.
Don’t pass judgment. If you want to be a good listener, you must be open-minded. Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen. Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace, where approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require that you believe what they believe or condone their behavior; it simply means that you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what they are saying.
Keep your mouth shut. If you’re not checking for understanding or asking a probing question, you shouldn’t be talking. Not only does thinking about what you’re going to say next take your attention away from the speaker, hijacking the conversation shows that you think you have something more important to say. This means that you shouldn’t jump in with solutions to the speaker’s problems. It’s human nature to want to help people, especially when it’s someone you care about, but what a lot of us don’t realize is that when we jump in with advice or a solution, we’re shutting the other person down. It’s essentially a more socially acceptable way of saying, “Okay, I’ve got it. You can stop now!” The effect is the same.
Bringing It All Together
Life is busy, and it seems to whirl by faster every day. We all try to do a million things at once, and sometimes it works out. But active, effective listening isn’t something you can do on the fly. It requires a conscious effort.
How do you know when someone is really listening to you? How would you rate your listening skills? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Travis Bradberry
5 Powerful Ways To Get Your Stress Under Control
I’ve written volumes on the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.
Graphic by TalentSmart.com
Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.
“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.
Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.
While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that you can employ when faced with stress, what follows are some of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.
Appreciate What You Have
Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23 percent. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.
Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.
Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even — gulp! — turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.
Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted — maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough — or the right kind — of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.
Bringing It All Together
If this isn’t motivation enough to get your stress under control, remember that the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.
Editor’s note:“The First 90 Days” is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you’re making the First 90 Days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.
You are your business. You know that. But do you act like you know it? Do you do everything you can to maximize your most valuable asset — you?
Probably not. No matter how hard you try, the pressures of work and family and life in general make it tough to focus on being as healthy — and therefore as focused and on-point — as you possibly can.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t change a few simple things that will make a huge difference — and set you up to enjoy an even more productive year. After all, success is never overnight but is the result of a series of small, incremental, repeated steps.
That means you can start small, incorporating a few healthy habits that will not only pay dividends now but will also inspire you to take further small steps.
Every day, start doing these simple things.
1. Drink one glass of water 20 minutes before you eat.
We all need to drink more water. But instead of trying to start drinking 10 glasses of water a day, just drink a glass before you eat lunch and dinner. That’s an easy way to up your intake.
Plus, there’s a side benefit if you’re trying to control your weight: If you drink before you eat, when you sit down at the table you’ll already feel a little more full and won’t be as tempted to eat past the point of hunger.
Need convincing that drinking more water is a good thing? Even mild cases of dehydration make you feel more gloomy and pessimistic, possibly because certain neurons may detect dehydration and alert areas of the brain that impact your mood. So don’t just drink more water for yourself — do it for the people around you, too.
2. Eat lunch differently.
Should you eat differently at every meal? Probably so — but going all in is almost impossible to maintain. So just pick one meal to change.
The easiest is lunch. You’re at work so you should probably keep it simple anyway, and you’re away from your family so what you choose to eat has no impact on meals you eat together.
What’s a healthy meal? One portion of protein (consider a portion an amount that fits in the palm of your hand) and a vegetable and piece of fruit. That could be a chicken breast, some carrots, and an apple. Or a can of tuna, a couple of cucumbers, and a banana. Or a piece of fish and a small salad.
(What if you’re a vegetarian? You already know how to eat healthy — so just make sure you haven’t added a bunch of useless carbs to your meal.)
Think of it this way: A healthy lunch gives you plenty of energy for the afternoon. See it not as a “meal” but as “high performance fuel” that makes you more productive.
And it’s one small step toward better controlling your portions at every meal.
3. Take a short walk.
One benefit of eating a healthy lunch is that you’ll have a little time left over. (Or, if you want to free up more free time, eat what you brought for lunch while you’re working.)
Then get up, get out, and take a walk. Cruise around the building. Get out and get some fresh air. Or do what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner does and try walking meetings: Not only will new scenery change your perspective, but you’ll have many fewer distractions as well.
A 15- or 20-minute walk will let you burn a few calories, burn off some stress, and feel better when you climb back into the work saddle. And you’ll start to make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle without adding to your already busy schedule.
4. Help someone out.
Of course you don’t have to formally volunteer. An easier way is to be alert for times when someone you work with needs a little help. Then pitch in; not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll build better connections and professional relationships, while helping someone who really needs help but probably would never have asked.
5. Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
Generally speaking, you need seven or eight hours of sleep a night. (I know–you’re not getting that much. But you should.)
So go to bed earlier and get up around sunrise. The more daylight hours you’re awake, the higher your levels of vitamin D. Research shows vitamin D deficiencies are widespread — which is unfortunate, since vitamin D impacts genes that help you resist autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and even cancer.
So start going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, and start making hay while the sun shines. As a bonus, you’ll get a head start on your competition — and that’s an advantage you can always use.
The next time you tell yourself that you’ll sleep when you’re dead, realize that you’re making a decision that can make that day come much sooner. In this article, originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse, I explain why pushing late into the night is a health and productivity killer.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.
Why You Need Adequate Sleep to Perform
We’ve always known that sleep is good for your brain, but new research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why your brain cells need you to sleep (and sleep the right way—more on that later). The study found that when you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix.
Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity.
What Sleep Deprivation Does to Your Health
Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. It stresses you out because your body overproduces the stress hormone cortisol when it’s sleep deprived. While excess cortisol has a host of negative health effects that come from the havoc it wreaks on your immune system, it also makes you look older, because cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. In men specifically, not sleeping enough reduces testosterone levels and lowers sperm count.
Too many studies to list have shown that people who get enough sleep live longer, healthier lives, but I understand that sometimes this isn’t motivation enough. So consider this—not sleeping enough makes you fat. Sleep deprivation compromises your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and control food intake. When you sleep less, you eat more and have more difficulty burning the calories you consume. Sleep deprivation makes you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and makes it harder for you to get full by reducing levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin. People who sleep less than six hours a night are 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who sleep seven to nine hours a night.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel sufficiently rested. Few people are at their best with less than seven hours, and few require more than nine without an underlying health condition. And that’s a major problem, since more than half of Americans get less than the necessary seven hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
For go-getters, it’s even worse.
A recent survey of Inc. 500 CEOs found that half of them are sleeping less than six hours a night. And the problem doesn’t stop at the top. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of U.S. workers get less than six hours of sleep each night, and sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses more than $63 billion annually in lost productivity.
Doing Something About It
Beyond the obvious sleep benefits of thinking clearly and staying healthy, the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are high in emotional intelligence (EQ). These individuals are skilled at understanding and using emotions to their benefit, and good sleep hygiene is one of the greatest tools at their disposal.
High-EQ individuals know it’s not just how much you sleep that matters, but also how you sleep. When life gets in the way of getting the amount of sleep you need, it’s absolutely essential that you increase the quality of your sleep through good sleep hygiene. There are many hidden killers of quality sleep. The 10 strategies that follow will help you identify these killers and clean up your sleep hygiene. Follow them, and you’ll reap the performance and health benefits that come with getting the right quantity and quality of sleep.
1. Stay away from sleeping pills.
When I say sleeping pills, I mean anything you take that sedates you so that you can sleep. Whether it’s alcohol, Nyquil, Benadryl, Valium, Ambien, or what have you, these substances greatly disrupt your brain’s natural sleep process. Have you ever noticed that sedatives can give you some really strange dreams? As you sleep and your brain removes harmful toxins, it cycles through an elaborate series of stages, at times shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams). Sedation interferes with these cycles, altering the brain’s natural process.
Anything that interferes with the brain’s natural sleep process has dire consequences for the quality of your sleep. Many of the strategies that follow eliminate factors that disrupt this recovery process. If getting off sleeping pills proves difficult, make certain you try some of the other strategies (such as cutting down on caffeine) that will make it easier for you to fall asleep naturally and reduce your dependence upon sedatives.
2. Stop drinking caffeine (at least after lunch).
You can sleep more and vastly improve the quality of the sleep you get by reducing your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that interferes with sleep by increasing adrenaline production and blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. Caffeine has a six-hour half-life, which means it takes a full 24 hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at 8 a.m., and you’ll still have 25 percent of the caffeine in your body at 8 p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be near 50 percent strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream—the negative effects increasing with the dose—makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates most. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with a cognitive and emotional handicap. You’ll be naturally inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel more alert, which very quickly creates a vicious cycle.
3. Avoid blue light at night.
This is a big one—most people don’t even realize it impacts their sleep. Short-wavelength blue light plays an important role in your mood, energy level and sleep quality. In the morning, sunlight contains high concentrations of this “blue” light. When your eyes are exposed to it directly (not through a window or while wearing sunglasses), the blue light halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes you feel more alert. This is great, and exposure to a.m. sunlight can improve your mood and energy levels. If the sun isn’t an option for you, try a blue light device.
In the afternoon, the sun’s rays lose their blue light, which allows your body to produce melatonin and start making you sleepy. By the evening, your brain does not expect any blue light exposure and is very sensitive to it. The problem this creates for sleep is that most of our favorite evening devices—laptops, tablets, TVs and mobile phones—emit short-wavelength blue light. And in the case of your laptop, tablet and phone, they do so brightly and right in your face. This exposure impairs melatonin production and interferes with your ability to fall asleep as well as with the quality of your sleep once you do nod off. Remember, the sleep cycle is a daylong process for your brain. When you confuse your brain by exposing it in the evening to what it thinks is a.m. sunlight, this derails the entire process with effects that linger long after you power down. The best thing you can do is avoid these devices after dinner (TV is OK for most people as long as they sit far enough away from the set). If you must use one of these devices in the evening, you can limit your exposure with a filter or protective eye wear.
4. Wake up at the same time every day.
Consistency is key to a good night’s sleep, especially when it comes to waking up. Waking up at the same time every day improves your mood and sleep quality by regulating your circadian rhythm. When you have a consistent wake-up time, your brain acclimates to this and moves through the sleep cycle in preparation for you to feel rested and alert at your wake-up time. Roughly an hour before you wake, hormone levels increase gradually (along with your body temperature and blood pressure), causing you to become more alert. This is why you’ll often find yourself waking up right before your alarm goes off.
When you don’t wake up at the same time every day, your brain doesn’t know when to complete the sleep process and when it should prepare you to be awake. Long ago, sunlight ensured a consistent wake-up time. These days, an alarm is the only way most people can pull this off, and doing this successfully requires resisting the temptation to sleep in when you’re feeling tired because you know you’ll actually feel better by keeping your wake-up time intact.
5. No binge sleeping (in) on the weekend.
Sleeping in on the weekend is a counterproductive way to catch up on your sleep. It messes with your circadian rhythm by giving you an inconsistent wake-up time. When you wake up at the same time during the work week but sleep past this time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired because your brain hasn’t prepared your body to be awake. This isn’t a big deal on your day off, but it makes you less productive on Monday because it throws your cycle off and makes it hard to get going again on your regular schedule.
6. Learn how much sleep you really need.
The amount of sleep you need is something that you can’t control, and scientists are beginning to discover the genes that dictate it. The problem is, most people sleep much less than they really need and are under-performing because they think they’re getting enough. Some discover this the hard way. Ariana Huffington was one of those frantic types who underslept and overworked, until she collapsed unexpectedly from exhaustion one afternoon. She credits her success and well-being since then to the changes she’s made to her sleep habits. “I began getting 30 minutes more sleep a night, until gradually I got to seven to eight hours. The result has been transformational,” Huffington says, adding that, “all the science now demonstrates unequivocally that when we get enough sleep, everything is better: our health; our mental capacity and clarity; our joy at life; and our ability to live life without reacting to every bad thing that happens.”
Huffington isn’t the only one. Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Sheryl Sandberg have all touted the virtues of getting enough sleep. Even Bill Gates, an infamous night owl, has affirmed the benefits of figuring out how much sleep you really need: “I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat.” It’s time to bite the bullet and start going to bed earlier until you find the magic number that enables you to perform at your best.
7. Stop working.
When you work in the evening, it puts you into a stimulated, alert state when you should be winding down and relaxing in preparation for sleep. Recent surveys show that roughly 60 percent of people monitor their smartphones for work emails until they go to sleep. Staying off blue light-emitting devices (discussed above) after a certain time each evening is also a great way to avoid working so you can relax and prepare for sleep, but any type of work before bed should be avoided if you want quality sleep.
8. Eliminate interruptions.
Unfortunately for those with small children, the quality of your sleep does suffer when it is interrupted. The key here is to eliminate all the interruptions that are under your control. If you have loud neighbors, wear earplugs to bed. If your mother likes to call at all hours of the night, make certain you silence your ringer before you go to bed. If you had to wake up extra early in the morning, make sure your alarm clock is back on its regular time when you go to bed. Don’t drink too much water in the evening to avoid a bathroom trip in the middle of the night. If your partner snores…. Well, you get the idea. If you think hard enough, there are lots of little things you can do to eliminate unnecessary interruptions to your sleep.
9. Learn to meditate.
Many people who learn to meditate report that it improves the quality of their sleep and that they can get the rest they need even if they aren’t able to significantly increase the number of hours they sleep. At the Stanford Medical Center, insomniacs participated in a six-week mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy course. At the end of the study, participants’ average time to fall asleep was cut in half (from 40 to 20 minutes), and 60 percent of subjects no longer qualified as insomniacs. The subjects retained these gains upon follow-up a full year later. A similar study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that 91 percent of participants either reduced the amount of medication they needed to sleep or stopped taking medication entirely after a mindfulness and sleep therapy course. Give mindfulness a try. At minimum, you’ll fall asleep faster, as it will teach you how to relax and quiet your mind once you hit the pillow.
10. When all else fails, take naps.
One of the biggest peaks in melatonin production happens during the 1 to 3 p.m. time frame, which explains why most people feel sleepy in the afternoon. Companies like Google and Zappos are capitalizing on this need by giving employees the opportunity to take short afternoon naps. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re likely going to feel an overwhelming desire to sleep in the afternoon. When this happens, you’re better off taking a short nap (even as short as 15 minutes) than resorting to caffeine to keep you awake. A short nap will give you the rest you need to get through the rest of the afternoon, and you’ll sleep much better in the evening than if you drink caffeine or take a long afternoon nap.
Bringing It All Together
Dr. Travis Bradberry
Why Attitude Is More Important Than IQ
When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people blessed with brains are inevitably going to leave the rest of us in the dust. But new research from Stanford University will change your mind (and your attitude).
Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her entire career studying attitude and performance, and her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.
Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.
People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.
Common sense would suggest that having ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset welcome setbacks with open arms.
According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. She describes the approach to failure of people with the growth mindset this way,
“Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’”
Regardless of which side of the chart you fall on, you can make changes and develop a growth mindset. What follows are some strategies that will fine-tune your mindset and help you make certain it’s as growth oriented as possible.
Don’t stay helpless. We all hit moments when we feel helpless. The test is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down. There are countless successful people who would have never made it if they had succumbed to feelings of helplessness: Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a TV anchor in Baltimore for being “too emotionally invested in her stories,” Henry Ford had two failed car companies prior to succeeding with Ford, and Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC’s Cinematic Arts School multiple times. Imagine what would have happened if any of these people had a fixed mindset. They would have succumbed to the rejection and given up hope. People with a growth mindset don’t feel helpless because they know that in order to be successful, you need to be willing to fail hard and then bounce right back.
Be passionate. Empowered people pursue their passions relentlessly. There’s always going to be someone who’s more naturally talented than you are, but what you lack in talent, you can make up for in passion. Empowered people’s passion is what drives their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Warren Buffet recommends finding your truest passions using, what he calls, the 5/25 technique: Write down the 25 things that you care about the most. Then, cross out the bottom 20. The remaining 5 are your true passions. Everything else is merely a distraction.
Take action. It’s not that people with a growth mindset are able to overcome their fears because they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anxiety are paralyzing emotions and that the best way to overcome this paralysis is to take action. People with a growth mindset are empowered, and empowered people know that there’s no such thing as a truly perfect moment to move forward. So why wait for one? Taking action turns all your worry and concern about failure into positive, focused energy.
Then go the extra mile (or two). Empowered people give it their all, even on their worst days. They’re always pushing themselves to go the extra mile. One of Bruce Lee’s pupils ran three miles every day with him. One day, they were about to hit the three-mile mark when Bruce said, “Let’s do two more.” His pupil was tired and said, “I’ll die if I run two more.” Bruce’s response? “Then do it.” His pupil became so angry that he finished the full five miles. Exhausted and furious, he confronted Bruce about his comment, and Bruce explained it this way: “Quit and you might as well be dead. If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
If you aren’t getting a little bit better each day, then you’re most likely getting a little worse—and what kind of life is that?
Expect results. People with a growth mindset know that they’re going to fail from time to time, but they never let that keep them from expecting results. Expecting results keeps you motivated and feeds the cycle of empowerment. After all, if you don’t think you’re going to succeed, then why bother?
Be flexible. Everyone encounters unanticipated adversity. People with an empowered, growth-oriented mindset embrace adversity as a means for improvement, as opposed to something that holds them back. When an unexpected situation challenges an empowered person, they flex until they get results.
Don’t complain when things don’t go your way. Complaining is an obvious sign of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks for opportunity in everything, so there’s no room for complaints.
Bringing It All Together
Accomplishments are based on actions, not on thoughts–yet the thought is always father to the deed. Achievement starts with an idea, a perspective, a point of view, or even just an attitude. (Ideas, perspectives, and points of view like these, for starters.)
Here are some of the things extraordinarily successful people say every day–and how those statements spur them to take actions that lead to even greater success:
1. “I can’t do everything today, but I can take one small step.”
You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something.
Every day, we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Take one small step. (For example, here’s how to start a small business while still keeping your full time job.)
The first step is by far the hardest. Successive steps are always easier.
2. “I will do what no one else is willing to do.”
Often the easiest way to be different is to do the things other people refuse to do.
So pick one thing other people won’t do. It can be simple. It can be small. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, do it. You’ll instantly be a little different from the rest of the pack.
Then keep going. Every day, think of one thing to do that no one else is willing to do.
After a week, you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year, you’ll be incredible, and you definitely won’t be like anyone else. (And, in the process, you will develop remarkable determination and willpower.)
3. “I will face a fear.”
The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown (at least, it is for me).
Yet nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as we think. Plus, it’s incredibly exciting to overcome a fear. You get that “I can’t believe I just did that!” rush, a thrill you may not have experienced for a long time.
Every day, do one thing a little scary, whether physically or emotionally. (If you need a quick boost of confidence to get you going, here are some simple tricks that really work.) Trust that you will figure out how to overcome any problems that arise.
Because you will.
4. “I will appreciate someone unappreciated.”
Some jobs require more effort than skill. Delivering packages, bagging groceries, checking out customers — the tasks themselves are relatively easy. The difference is in the effort.
So do more than say a reflexive “thanks” to someone who does a thankless job. Smile. Make eye contact. Exchange a kind word.
All around you are people who work hard with little or no recognition. Vow to be the person who recognizes at least one of them every day.
Not only will you give respect, you’ll earn the best kind of respect — the respect that comes from making a difference, however fleeting, in another person’s life.
5. “I will listen 10 times more than I speak.”
I used to talk a lot. I thought I was insightful and clever and witty and, well, I thought I was a real hoot. Occasionally, very occasionally, I might even have been one of those things.
Most of the time I was not.
Genuinely confident people (here’s how to tell if you’re one of them) don’t feel the need to talk. While I hate when it happens, I still sometimes realize I’m not talking because the other person is interested in what I have to say but because I’m interested in what I have to say. (Ick.)
Never speak just to please yourself. When you do, you please no one.
6. “I will not care what other people think.”
Most of the time, we should worry about what other people think–but not if it stands in the way of living the lives we really want to live.
If you really want to start a business — which you can do in just a few hours, mind you — but you’re worried that people might say you’re crazy, do it anyway. Pick one thing you haven’t tried because you’re concerned about what other people would think or say and just go do it.
It’s your life. Live it your way.
7. “I will answer the question that wasn’t asked.”
Sometimes people are hesitant. Sometimes they’re insecure. Sometimes they’re shy. Whatever the reason, sometimes people will ask a different question than the one they really want you to answer.
One employee might ask whether you think he should take a few college courses. What he really wants to know is whether you see him as able to grow in your organization; he hopes you’ll say you do and he hopes you’ll share the reasons why.
Your husband might ask if you thought the woman at the party was flirting with him. What he really wants to know is if you still think he’s flirt-worthy and attractive; he hopes you’ll say you do, and he’ll love when you share the reasons why.
Behind many questions is an unasked question.
Pay attention so you can answer that question too — because that is the answer the other person doesn’t just want but needs.
8. “I will be OK with less than perfect.”
Yes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yes, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. In fact, the quest for perfection can often be your worst enemy.
Work hard, do great work, do your best, and let it go. Your customers and colleagues will tell you what needs to be improved, and that means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter to people.
You can’t accomplish anything until you let go. Do your best, let go, and then trust that you’ll work hard to overcome any shortcomings.
9. “I will try to do better.”
We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we could have done better. Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive.
Successful people don’t expect to be perfect, but they do think they can always be better.
So think back on yesterday. Think about what went well. Then think about what didn’t go as well as it could have and take ownership. Take responsibility.
And promise yourself that today you will do a lot better.
10. “The one thing I can always do is outwork them.”
Like Jimmy Spithill, skipper of America’s Cup-winning Oracle Team USA, said, “Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.”
You may not be as experienced, as well funded, as well connected, as talented, but you can always outthink, out hustle, and outwork everyone else. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland–everyone talks about the extra mile, but few people go there.
Even when everything else seems stacked against you, effort and persistence can still be your competitive advantages–and they may be the only advantages you truly need.
11. “I will stop and smell my roses.”
You have big plans and big goals. And you’re never satisfied, because satisfaction breeds complacency.
Unfortunately, most of the time that means you’re unhappy, because you think more about what you have not achieved, have not done, and do not have. (Of course, the key is to instead do things that make you happy more often.)
Take a moment and think about what you do have, both professionally and especially personally.
At this moment, you have more than you once could ever dream possible.
Sure, always strive for more, but always take a moment to realize that all the things you have, especially your relationships, are more important than anything you hope to have.
Unlike a want, what you have isn’t a hope, a wish, or a dream. What you already have is real.
And it’s awesome. And it’s yours.
By Jeff Hadden
The smartest thing any of us can do is to help other people succeed—because that way, we also succeed.
And that’s why you should never:
1. Thoughtlessly waste other peoples’ time.
Every time you’re late to an appointment or meeting, it says your time is more important. Every time you wait until the grocery clerk finishes ringing you up to search for your debit card says you couldn’t care less if others have to wait unnecessarily. Every time you take three minutes to fill your oversize water bottle while a line stacks up behind you says you’re in your own little world — and your world is the only world that matters.
Small, irritating things, but basically no big deal? Wrong. People who don’t notice the small ways they inconvenience others tend to be oblivious when they do it in a major way.
How you treat people when it doesn’t really matter — especially when you’re a leader–says everything about you. Act like the people around you have more urgent needs than yours and you will never go wrong — and you will definitely be liked.
2. Ignore people “beneath” your level.
There’s an older guy at the gym that easily weighs 350 pounds and understandably struggles on the aerobic and weight equipment. Hats off; he’s in there trying.
Yet nobody talks to him. Or even seems to notice him. It’s like he’s invisible. Why? He doesn’t fit in.
We all do it. When we visit a company, we talk to the people we’re supposed to talk to. When we attend a civic event, we talk to the people we’re supposed to talk to. We breeze right by the technicians and talk to the guy who booked us to speak, even though the techs are the ones who make us look and sound good onstage.
Here’s an easy rule of thumb: Nod whenever you make eye contact. Or smile. Or (gasp!) even say hi. Just act like people exist.
We’ll automatically like you for it– and remember you as someone who engages even when there’s nothing in it for you.
3. Ask for too much (especially too soon).
A guy you don’t know asks you for a favor, a big, time-consuming favor. You politely decline. He asks again. You decline again. Then he whips out the Need card. “But it’s really important to me. You have to. I really need [it].”
Maybe he does, in fact, really need whatever it is. But a person’s needs are his or her problem. The world doesn’t owe someone anything. No one is entitled to advice or mentoring or success. The only thing a person is entitled to is what he or she earns.
People tend to help people who first help themselves. People tend to help people who first help them. And people definitely befriend people who look out for other people first, because we all want more of those people in our lives.
4. Ignore people in genuine need.
At the same time, some people aren’t in a position to help themselves. They need a hand: a few dollars, some decent food, a warm coat.
Though I don’t necessarily believe in karma, I do believe good things always come back to you, in the form of feeling good about yourself.
And that’s reason enough to help people who find themselves on the downside of advantage.
5. Ask a question so you can talk.
You ask a guy at lunch, “Hey, do you think social media marketing is effective?”
“Well,” he answers, “I think under the right circumstances …”
“Wrong,” you interrupt. “I’ve never seen an ROI. I’ve never seen a bump in direct sales. Plus, ‘awareness’ is not a measurable or even an important goal…,” and you drone on while he desperately tries to escape.
Don’t shoehorn in your opinions under false pretenses. Only ask a question if you genuinely want to know the answer. And when you do speak again, ask a follow-up question that helps you better understand the other person’s point of view.
People like people who are genuinely interested in them–not in themselves.
6. Pull the “Do you know who I am?”
Many people whip out some form of the “I’m Too Important for This” card.
Maybe the line is too long. Or the service isn’t sufficiently “personal.” Or they aren’t shown their “deserved” level of respect.
Say you really are somebody. People always like you better when you don’t act like you know you’re somebody–or that you think it entitles you to different treatment.
7. Forget to dial it back.
An unusual personality is a lot of fun … until it isn’t. Yet when the going gets tough or a situation gets stressful, some people just can’t stop “expressing their individuality.”
Look. We know you’re funny. We know you’re quirky. We know you march to the beat of your own drum. Still, there’s a time to play and a time to be serious, a time to be irreverent and a time to conform, a time to challenge and a time to back off.
Knowing when the situation requires you to stop justifying your words or actions with an unspoken “Hey, that’s just me being me” can often be the difference between being likable and being an ass.
8. Mistake self-deprecation for permission.
You know how it’s OK when you make fun of certain things about yourself, but not for other people to make fun of you for those same things? Like a receding hairline. Weight. A struggling business or career. Your spouse and kids.
It’s OK when you poke a little gentle fun at yourself, but the last thing you want to hear are bald or money or “Do you want fries with that?” jokes. (Bottom line: I can say I’m fat. You can’t.)
Sometimes self-deprecation is genuine, but it’s often a mask for insecurity. Never assume people who make fun of themselves give you permission to poke the same fun at them.
Only tease when you know it will be taken in the right spirit. Otherwise, if you feel the need to be funny, make fun of yourself.
Humblebragging is a form of bragging that tries to cover the brag with a veneer of humility so you can brag without appearing to brag. (Key word is appearing, because it’s still easy to tell humblebraggers are quite tickled with themselves.)
For example, here’s a tweeted humblebrag from actor Stephen Fry: “Oh dear. Don’t know what to do at the airport. Huge crowd, but I’ll miss my plane if I stop and do photos … oh dear don’t want to disappoint.”
Your employees don’t want to hear how stressed you are about your upcoming TED Talk. They don’t want to hear how hard it is to maintain two homes. Before you brag — humbly or not, business or personal — think about your audience. A gal who is a size 14 doesn’t want to hear you complain that normally you’re a size 2, but you’re a size 4 in Prada because its sizes run small.
Or better yet, don’t brag. Just be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Let others brag for you; if you’ve done cool things, don’t worry — they will.
10. Force your opinions.
You know things. Cool things. Great things.
Awesome. But only share them in the right settings. If you’re a mentor, share away. If you’re a coach or a leader, share away. If you’re the guy who just started a paleo diet, don’t tell us all what to order.
Unless we ask. What’s right for you may not be right for others; shoot, it might not even turn out to be right for you.
Like most things in life, offering helpful advice is all about picking your spots–just like winning friends and influencing people.
By Jeff Hadden
Perspective always clears away the fog. When we look forward, the path seems uncertain and the future unpredictable. When we look back, all the dots seem to connect.
The key is to never be forced to look back and regret certain decisions — and that means standing strong in the face of challenges, adversity, and stress. (In other words, staying mentally strong.)
Here are nine decisions that successful people refuse to make.
1. Choosing to give in to fear.
Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid — in fact, the opposite is true. Courage without thought or meaning is simply recklessness. Brave people aren’t fearless; they’ve simply found something that matters more to them than fear.
Say you’re scared to start a business (something you can do in just a few hours). Find a reason to do that that means more: creating a better future for your family, wanting to make a real difference, or hoping for a more rewarding and fulfilling life.
Once you find a greater meaning, you also find courage. See fear not as something to shrink from but as something to overcome, because that’s all it is.
2. Choosing the pain of regret over the pain of discipline.
The worst words you can say are “If only I had…”
Think of all the things you’ve wanted to do but never have. What did you do instead? If you’re like me, you don’t even remember. All that time is gone, and whatever I did instead wasn’t even worth remembering.
Think about something you dreamed of doing five or 10 years ago but didn’t work to do — and think about how good you’d be today at that thing if you had. Think about all the time you wasted and can never get back.
Then, today, start pushing yourself to do what you hope to do, so, five or 10 years from now, you won’t look back with regret.
Sure, the work is hard. Sure, the work is painful. But it’s a lot less painful than thinking back on what will never be.
3. Choosing to not say “I will.”
A boss once gave me what I thought was an impossible task. I said, “OK. I’ll try.”
He told me trying didn’t matter — as long as I didn’t quit, I’d finish it. Trying didn’t enter into it. Persistence was all that mattered.
Often we say “I’ll try” because that gives us an out. Our ego isn’t on the line. Our identity isn’t on the line. After all, we’re just “trying.”
Once we say “I will,” our perspective changes. What previously seemed insurmountable is no longer a matter of luck or chance but of time and effort and persistence.
When what you want to do really matters, don’t say “I’ll try.” Say “I will,” and then keep that promise to yourself.
4. Choosing to not take lots of small risks.
You may never create the perfect business plan, or find the perfect partners or the perfect market or the perfect location, but you can find the perfect time to start — because that time is now.
Talent, experience, and connections are important, but put your all into enough new things, and some will work.
Plus, after you take enough chances, over time you’ll grow more skilled, more experienced, and more connected. And that will mean that an even greater percentage of your efforts will succeed. Take enough shots, and learn from each experience, and in time you’ll have all the skills, knowledge, and connections you need.
Ultimately, success is a numbers game; it’s all about taking a shot, over and over and over again. The more shots you take, the more times you will succeed. So get the power of numbers on your side and take as many shots as you can.
There is no guarantee of success, but when you don’t take any shots at all, you’re guaranteed to always fail.
5. Choosing to not move.
Familiarity creates comfort. But comfort is often the enemy of improvement.
If you have a great opportunity and the only thing holding you back is the thought of moving, move. If you want to be closer to family or friends and the only thing holding you back is the thought of moving, move. If you want to be closer to people who think and feel and act like you, move.
You’ll soon find cool new places to hang out. You’ll soon develop new routines. You’ll soon make new friends. When the fear of moving is the only thing holding you back, move. You’ll meet cool new people, do cool new things, and gain a cool new perspective on your life.
Besides, Thomas Wolfe was wrong: If it doesn’t work out, you can go home again.
6. Choosing to not let go.
Bitterness, resentment, and jealousy are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You are the only one who loses.
Life is too short to resent all the people who may have hurt you. Let hard feelings go.
Then spend the energy you save cherishing the people who love you.
7. Choosing to not say you’re sorry.
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, to be there when we’re needed.
Swallow your fear — or pride — and say you’re sorry. Then you’ll help the other person let go of her resentment or bitterness.
And then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts, sooner instead of later — or instead of never.
8. Choosing to not throw out your backup plans.
Backup plans can help you sleep easier at night.
Backup plans can also create an easy out when times get tough.
You will work a lot harder and a longer if your primary plan has to work because there is no other option. Total commitment — without a safety net — will spur you to work harder than you ever imagined possible.
Then, if somehow the worst does happen (although the “worst” is never as bad as you think), trust that you will find a way to rebound.
As long as you keep working hard and keep learning from your mistakes, you always will.
9. Choosing to be too proud.
Don’t be too proud to admit you made a mistake. To have big dreams. To poke fun at yourself. To ask other people for help.
And to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go again.
Instead, take pride in the fact that no matter what might happen, you will always get up and go again.
That way, you never truly lose — and your dreams can never die.
By Jeff Hadden
11 Tweaks to Your Morning Routine Will Make Your Entire Day More Productive
I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a little boost in their energy and self-control.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham recently published findings from their exploration of 83 separate studies on energy and self-control. What they found will change the way you start your day.
The researchers found that self-control and energy are not only intricately linked but also finite, daily resources that tire much like a muscle. Even though we don’t always realize it, as the day goes on, we have increased difficulty exerting self-control and focusing on our work. As self-control wears out, we feel tired and find tasks to be more difficult and our mood sours.
This exhaustion of self-control kills your productivity, and it makes the morning hours, when self-control is highest, the most important hours of the day.
But the trick isn’t just to spend your morning hours working; it’s to do the right things in the morning that will make your energy and self-control last as long as possible.
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs
The Nottingham research has led me to uncover 11 powerful ways we can break bad habits in the morning and maximize our energy and self-control throughout the day.
Whether you naturally wake up feeling alert and productive or wake up with the brainpower of a zombie, these tips will help you transform your morning routine and set a positive tone that lasts the entire day.
#1 Start with exercise
Researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercise during the workday have more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical to getting things done. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Exercising first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll have the time for it, and it improves your self-control and energy levels all day long.
#2 But drink some lemon water first
Drinking lemon water as soon as you wake up spikes your energy levels physically and mentally. Lemon water gives you steady, natural energy that lasts the length of the day by improving nutrient absorption in your stomach. You need to drink it first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach) to ensure full absorption. You should also wait 15-30 minutes after drinking it before eating (perfect time to squeeze in some exercise). Lemons are packed with nutrients; they’re chock full of potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. If you’re under 150 pounds, drink the juice of half a lemon (a full lemon if you’re over 150 pounds). Don’t drink the juice without water because it’s hard on your teeth.
#3 No screen time until breakfast
When you dive straight into e-mails, texts, and Facebook, you lose focus and your morning succumbs to the wants and needs of other people. It’s much healthier to take those precious first moments of the day to do something relaxing that sets a calm, positive tone for your day. Jumping right into electronics has the opposite effect—it’s a frantic way to start your day. Exercising, meditating, or even watching the birds out the window are all great ways to start the day.
#4 Eat a real breakfast
Eating anything at all for breakfast puts you ahead of a lot of people. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese, they have more stable blood-sugar levels, and they tend to be less hungry over the course of the day. And these are just the statistics for people who eat any breakfast. When you eat a healthybreakfast, the doors to a productive day swing wide open. A healthy breakfast gives you energy, improves your short-term memory, and helps you to concentrate more intensely and for longer periods.
#5 Set goals for the day
Research shows that having concrete goals is correlated with huge increases in confidence and feelings of control. Setting goals specific to the day puts everything into motion. Narrow your goals down to a few achievable ones that can easily be broken down into steps. Vague goals such as “I want to finish writing my article” are counter-productive because they fail to include the “how” of things. The same goal re-phrased in a more functional way would read something like this: “I am going to finish my article by writing each of the three sections, spending no more than an hour on each section.” Now, you have more than simply something you want to achieve—you have a way to achieve it.
Getting your morning started off right at home is important, but it’s only half the battle. If you fail to maintain that tone once you set foot in the office, your morning can lose momentum quickly. Here’s how you can maintain a productive tone once you hit the office:
#1 First, clean your workspace
Even though it’s a pain to clean right when you get into work, it makes a big difference to your ability to concentrate. A Princeton University study found that people who worked in a clean workspace out-performed those who worked in a cluttered one because clutter pulls your attention away from your work. In fact, the effects of clutter on concentration are not all that different from the effects of multi-tasking.
#2 No e-mail until you’ve eaten three frogs
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain
“Eating a frog” is the greatest antidote to procrastination, and the most productive people know the importance of biting into this delicacy first thing in the morning. In other words, spend your morning on something that requires a high level of concentration that you don’t want to do, and you’ll get it done in short order. Make a habit of eating three frogs before you check your e-mail because e-mail is a major distraction that enables procrastination and wastes precious mental energy.
#3 Assign times to your to-do list, and monitor your progress against your goals
To-do lists are helpful for making sure you don’t forget anything, but beyond that, they can be misleading. For example, if you have three hours of meetings and eight hours of work, chances are you won’t be able to get everything done. However, a typical to-do list doesn’t tell you that you have eight hours of work; it only tells you that you have ten things you need to do. When you add time frames to your do-list, it becomes exponentially more effective. It pushes you to avoid procrastinating or multi-tasking in order to complete things within the allotted time. It also shows you what is and isn’t feasible so that you can prioritize your day accordingly.
There’s no point in setting goals in the morning if you don’t check in on them. Look at what you’ve done so far with a critical eye. If you realize you’re behind schedule or doing a shoddy job, it’s important to adjust your goals or your work ethic so that you can move intentionally through your day.
#4 Keep morning meetings on schedule
Meetings are the biggest time waster there is, and they can ruin an otherwise productive morning. People who use their mornings effectively know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient. Keep your morning meetings on time, and your entire day will stay on track.
#5 Don’t multitask
Multi-tasking in the morning—when you have lots to do, tons of energy, and it feels like you can do two or three things at once—is tempting, but it sets your whole day back. Research conducted at Stanford University confirmed that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.
But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers (those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance) were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch!
Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus adequately on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
#6 Say no
No is a powerful word that will protect your precious mornings. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them while your mind is fresh. Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Learn to use no, and it will lift your mood as well as your productivity.
Bringing it all together
The right morning routine can make your day, every day. The trick is to be intentional about your mornings, understanding that a.m. hours are precious and should be handled with care.
By Traviss Bradberry
3 Types of Questions Smart People Never Ask (and 5 They Do)
I thought I had the answer. Still, I wanted to be sure, so I asked a key employee.
“I’m thinking of moving two crews to a different shift rotation to get a better process flow,” I said. “I’ve run the numbers, and overall productivity should go up by at least 10 percent. What do you think?”
He thought for a minute. “I suppose it could work,” he said.
“I think so, too,” I said. So I moved them.
My new shift rotation worked on paper. It even worked in practice. But it screwed up the personal lives of a bunch of great employees. (Luckily, I pulled my head out of my ass and shifted everyone back to their old rotations.)
What happened? I asked the wrong question.
We all do it. We ask leading questions. We ask limiting questions. We ask questions that assume a certain answer. (Shoot, sometimes we don’t even listen to the answers–we’re too busy presuming we’re right.)
Here are some ways people ask questions the wrong way.
1. They lead the witness.
Asking a question that assumes a particular answer is easy to do when you already think you’re right and just want people to say you’re right.
- “Don’t you think we should go ahead and release that order?”
- “Do you think we should wait any longer than we already have?”
- “Can anyone think of a good reason not to discipline Joe?”
Each question assumes an answer: You clearly think you should release the order, stop waiting, and write Joe up. Though a few people may disagree, most won’t–the answer you want to hear is obvious.
A better way:
- “What do you think we should do about that order?”
- “Programming isn’t complete yet. What do you think we should do?”
- “What do you think is the best way to deal with Joe’s situation?”
Each is objective and direct, and does not include an answer in the question. And each also leaves room for a variety of options, which won’t happen when…
2. They ask only either/or questions.
You have a quality problem and have thought of two possible solutions. There are positives and negatives to both. So you seek input from a team member. “Should we just scrap everything and rework the whole job,” you ask, “or should we ship everything and hope the customer doesn’t notice?”
Most people will pick one answer or the other. But what if there’s a better option you haven’t considered?
A better way: “There are defects throughout the whole order. What do you think we should do?”
Maybe she’ll say scrap it. Maybe she’ll say ship and hope.
Or maybe she’ll say, “What if we tell the customer up front there is a problem, ship everything to them, and take a crew to their warehouse to sort product. That reduces the impact on the customer. They can use whatever is good and won’t have to wait for the entire job to be rerun.”
Either/or questions, just like leading questions, assume some answer. Instead of sharing options, just state the problem. Then ask, “What do you think?” Or “What would you do?” Or “How should we handle this?”
And then be quiet and let people think. Don’t rush to fill the silence.
3. They don’t seek to genuinely understand.
Asking questions can make you feel vulnerable when you’re in a leadership role. (You’re supposed to have all the answers, right?) That makes it hard to ask questions when you don’t understand–especially when you’re supposed to understand.
Don’t worry: Asking for clarification is easy. Just say:
- “I’m impressed. Now pretend I don’t know anything about how that works. How would you explain it to me?”
- “That sounds really good. Let me make sure I don’t miss anything, though. Can you walk me through it one more time?”
- Or, best of all: “I have to be honest: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying, but I really want to.” (A little humility goes a long way.)
Above all, don’t pretend you understand when you don’t–all you do is waste the other person’s time and make the person wonder later why you didn’t try his or her idea.
Now let’s flip it around. Here’s how to ask great questions.
1. Limit your question to one sentence.
Feel free to state the problem or issue in detail, but limit your question to one sentence. “How can we increase productivity?” “How can we improve quality?” “What would you do if you were me?” Sticking to one sentence helps ensure your questions are open ended.
2. Provide options in your question only if those truly are the only options.
But keep in mind those rarely are the only options. The odds that you’ve already thought of everything are pretty slim.
3. Don’t shade or slant question.
You may think you know the answer. Great. Keep that to yourself. Make your questions answer-neutral.
4. Follow the same principles for follow-up questions.
Stay short. Stay open ended. Stay neutral.
5. Talk as little as possible.
You already know what you know. Great questions are designed to find out what the other person knows. So stay quiet and listen. You never know what you’ll learn when you ask the right way.
By Jeff Hadded
Why You (and I) Need to Be More Positive
We’ve all received the well-meaning advice to “stay positive.” The greater the challenge, the more this glass-half-full wisdom can come across as Pollyannaish and unrealistic. It’s hard to find the motivation to focus on the positive when positivity seems like nothing more than wishful thinking.
The real obstacle to positivity is that our brains are hard-wired to look for and focus on threats. This survival mechanism served humankind well back when we were hunters and gatherers, living each day with the very real threat of being killed by someone or something in our immediate surroundings.
That was eons ago. Today, this mechanism breeds pessimism and negativity through the mind’s tendency to wander until it finds a threat. These “threats” magnify the perceived likelihood that things are going—and/or are going to go—poorly. When the threat is real and lurking in the bushes down the path, this mechanism serves you well. When the threat is imagined and you spend two months convinced the project you’re working on is going to flop, this mechanism leaves you with a soured view of reality that wreaks havoc in your life.
Maintaining positivity is a daily challenge that requires focus and attention. You must be intentional about staying positive if you’re going to overcome the brain’s tendency to focus on threats. It won’t happen by accident. That’s why positivity is the skill that I’ll be giving extra attention in 2016.
Positivity and Your Health
Pessimism is trouble because it’s bad for your health. Numerous studies have shown that optimists are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists.
Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has conducted extensive research on the topic. Seligman worked with researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Michigan on a study that followed people from age 25 to 65 to see how their levels of pessimism or optimism influenced their overall health. The researchers found that pessimists’ health deteriorated far more rapidly as they aged.
Seligman’s findings are similar to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic that found optimists have lower levels of cardiovascular disease and longer life-spans. Although the exact mechanism through which pessimism affects health hasn’t been identified, researchers at Yale and the University of Colorado found that pessimism is associated with a weakened immune response to tumors and infection.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky went so far as to inject optimists and pessimists with a virus to measure their immune response. The researchers found optimists had a much stronger immune response than pessimists.
Positivity and Performance
Keeping a positive attitude isn’t just good for your health. Martin Seligman has also studied the connection between positivity and performance. In one study in particular, he measured the degree to which insurance salespeople were optimistic or pessimistic in their work. Optimistic salespeople sold 37% more policies than pessimists, who were twice as likely to leave the company during their first year of employment.
Seligman has studied positivity more than anyone, and he believes in the ability to turn pessimistic thoughts and tendencies around with simple effort and know-how. But Seligman doesn’t just believe this. His research shows that people can transform a tendency toward pessimistic thinking into positive thinking through simple techniques that create lasting changes in behavior long after they are discovered.
Here are three things that I’ll be doing this year to stay positive.
1. Separate Fact from Fiction
The first step in learning to focus on the positive requires knowing how to stop negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that — thoughts, not facts.
When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity. Evaluate these statements to see if they’re factual. You can bet the statements aren’t true any time you see words like never, always, worst, ever, etc.
Do you really always lose your keys? Of course not. Perhaps you forget them frequently, but most days you do remember them. Are you never going to find a solution to your problem? If you really are that stuck, maybe you’ve been resisting asking for help. Or if it really is an intractable problem, then why are you wasting your time beating your head against the wall? If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you can trust, and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out.
When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
2. Identify a Positive
Once you snap yourself out of self-defeating, negative thoughts, it’s time to help your brain learn what you want it to focus on — the positive.
This will come naturally after some practice, but first you have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your brain’s attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps there is an exciting event you are looking forward to that you can focus your attention on.
The point here is you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative. Step one stripped the power from negative thoughts by separating fact from fiction. Step two is to replace the negative with a positive. Once you have identified a positive thought, draw your attention to that thought each time you find yourself dwelling on the negative. If that proves difficult, you can repeat the process of writing down the negative thoughts to discredit their validity, and then allow yourself to freely enjoy positive thoughts.
3. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels.
You cultivate an attitude of gratitude by taking time out every day to focus on the positive. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.
How to Get Hired: 16 Steps to the Perfect Job Interview
Maybe you haven’t started a business yet. Maybe you’re a serial entrepreneur in between startups. Or maybe you’re trying to gain additional skills while you launch your venture.
Whatever your reason, if you’re interviewing for a job, you want to land the job. And that means preparing to do your absolute best.
Here’s a guest post from Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur and marketer who teaches people how to create profitable side businesses. At CreativeLive, he helps the world’s top business experts market their transformational online classes.
Interviews can be tough.
If you want to stand a chance of landing the job, you have to be well-versed on the industry and company, and command a deep understanding of the value you’re bringing to the table for your potential new employer.
Throughout my career in content marketing, I’ve spent countless hours researching companies, reading reviews, and asking for tips from current employees before walking into an interview for a dream job.
Despite all the preparation I put into my interviews, I’ve still had a handful where I left wondering how I could possibly have done any worse. From making no-brainer people-skills blunders to conveying insecure body language, we all know how easy it can be to slip up on your critical first impression.
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to regularly interview new marketers here at CreativeLive, I’m able to very quickly assess whether or not someone will be a good fit for the job.
Based on my experience on both sides of the interview table, here are my 16 best interview tips to help you land your next dream job.
Before the Interview
1. Research the Company.
Did you know that 47 percent of hiring managers have eliminated candidates after an interview because they had little to no knowledge of the company? Nearly half of professionals are going into interviews without having a well-formed understanding of the company and what they do. Take the time to do your homework on the company’s website, blog, social channels, Glassdoor, and Wikipedia, and be sure to check out their competitors and make a mental list of what differentiates them.
2. Find Out Who You’re Interviewing With and Research Them, Too.
With 43 percent of hiring managers reporting that cultural fit is the single most influential factor in determining which candidate gets the job, how you come across in your interview is a big deal. Based on your research and email conversations ahead of time, be sure you have as clear an idea as possible of how well you’re going to relate with the people you’re interviewing with, and prepare accordingly.
3. Prepare Creative, Insightful Questions and Craft Your Personal Story.
Sure, some of the standard questions like, “Where do you see the company in five years?” can be useful in some cases, but make sure that the act of asking them doesn’t compromise your own credibility. Depending upon your potential role in the company, the person interviewing you likely doesn’t want to hear you asking about what the day-to-day activities will be–they want to hire an expert in your field, so act like one. Be sure to refresh your memory on your most relevant recent experience and craft an engaging story that effectively communicates your employment journey. Focus on how your experience will benefit your potential new employer.
During the Interview
Here’s an insightful statistic: Over 33 percent of hiring managers say they know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they’ll make a job offer to the candidate. That makes your interview prep even more important.
4. Dress for the Job.
Should I wear a suit or play it more casual? The real answer is, it depends on the job you’re interviewing for. If you’re not dressed for the job you want, you’re not doing yourself any favors. A whopping 70 percent of hiring managers say they’ve eliminated candidates after an interview because they were too fashionable or trendy. Don’t be afraid to ask how you should dress ahead of your interview.
5. Bring Two Extra Copies of Your Résumé.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m surprised at how many people show up to an interview without any copies of their résumé–leaving it to chance that the person they’re meeting with was given a copy, or had the chance to research them beforehand. Plan for the need to have a résumé for every person you’re meeting with and you’ll never be caught off-guard.
6. Perfect Your Handshake.
Some 26 percent of hiring managers say they’ve eliminated candidates after an interview because their handshake was weak. Mastering the art of the perfect handshake is required homework before heading into an interview.
7. Turn Your Phone Off and Arrive Five to 10 Minutes Early.
It may seem like overkill with all of the options we have for silencing ringers and putting your phone on vibrate without actually turning the device off, but there’s another reason you need to turn your phone off before an interview: so you won’t be tempted to check it. You’re at an interview for one purpose, and one purpose only: toland your dream job. Don’t allow any distractions to creep in.
Naturally, you don’t want to arrive late to an interview. If you’re running late, call ahead and be honest as to what’s setting you back. Aim for showing up five to 10 minutes early, as anything earlier can really throw a wrench into a busy person’s schedule if they feel that they need to accommodate your arrival.
8. Use Confident Posture.
Some 33 percent of hiring managers say they’ve eliminated candidates after an interview because of bad posture. As you’re waiting in the lobby, standing, and walking around the office, be mindful of how your posture looks to the people around you. Are you slouching, or confidently arching your back? Take a launch stance while standing, and keep your back arched while sitting down for conversation.
9. Use the Triple Nod When Listening.
Some 38 percent of hiring managers say they’ve eliminated candidates after an interview because of a lack of smiling and engagement during conversation. With employers consistently citing having a positive attitude as one of the most important factors in choosing to hire one candidate over another, showing that you’re excited and engaged while listening to your interviewer will go a long way in showing off yourstellar people skills.
10. Use Hand Gestures While Speaking.
Within reason, utilizing a healthy amount of hand gestures to illustrate your points will significantly help reinforce your communication skills and show them your confidence in what you’re saying.
11. Maintain Eye Contact.
Some 67 percent of hiring managers say they’ve eliminated candidates after an interview because they failed to make enough eye contact. This is a big one for me, too. I have a difficult time trusting someone who’s constantly looking down or around the room instead of confidently communicating with me. According to many studies, people who have strong eye contact are perceived as being more persuasive, a necessary skill that every company places value on.
12. Get the Email Address of Everyone You Speak With.
If you’re unsure about the company-wide email naming convention, then be sure to ask each person you interview with for the best email address to reach them at. This will come in handy after the interview.
13. Ask When to Expect a Decision and With Whom to Follow-Up.
If you’re interviewing with multiple people, be sure to ask the hiring manager (or last person you interview with) when you can expect to hear back on next steps. There’s nothing worse than leaving an interview feeling left in the dark about when the company is looking to make a final decision. If you’re paying close attention, how they respond will also tell you a lot about how they felt the interview went.
14. If You Want the Job, Say So!
Don’t allow there to be any ambiguity about whether or not you actually want the job. If, by the end of your interview, you’re still feeling excited about the opportunity and want to move forward with the company, you need to say it! Never leave anything up to chance with the interview process.
After the Interview
15. Send a Follow-Up Thank You Email.
Before you go to bed on the date you had your interviews, be sure to send a brief, personalized thank you email to everyone you met with earlier in the day. Make sure to mention a small personal detail, mutual interest, or topic point you discussed with each person, and it’ll solidify your great impression in their minds. Bonus points for sending a handwritten card, which has become a much-appreciated lost courtesy.
16. Follow-Up If You Don’t Hear Back Soon (One Week).
If you don’t hear back within four or five business days of your interview, it’s completely acceptable to follow-up with either the person who’s been your point of contact throughout the interview process or the hiring manager for the position. Keep the follow-up very short and seek to provide value, rather than coming across as pushy or as trying to nudge them toward making a decision.
Will this be the year you land your dream job?
By Jeff hadden
How Much Is A Leader’s Integrity Worth?
From Enron to Volkswagen, we’ve watched in horror as leaders who lack integrity have destroyed businesses time and again. But the real tragedy happens when regular leaders, who are otherwise great, sabotage themselves, day after day, with mistakes that they can’t see but are obvious to everyone else.
In most cases, it’s slight and often unintentional gaps in integrity that hold leaders, their employees, and their companies back. Despite their potential, these leaders harm their employees and themselves.
“Look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother.” –Warren Buffet
Dr. Fred Kiel did the difficult job of quantifying the value of a leader’s integrity for his book, Return On Character, and his findings are fascinating. Over a seven-year period, Kiel collected data on 84 CEOs and compared employee ratings of their behavior to company performance.
Kiel found that high-integrity CEOs had a multi-year return of 9.4%, while low integrity CEOs had a yield of just 1.9%. What’s more, employee engagement was 26% higher in organizations led by high-integrity CEOs.
Kiel describes high-integrity CEOs this way: “They were often humble. They appeared to have very little concern for their career success or their compensation. The funny point about that is they all did better than the self-focused CEOs with regard to compensation and career success. It’s sort of ironic.”
Kiel’s data is clear: companies perform better under the guidance of high-integrity leadership. “Companies who try to compete under the leadership of a skilled but self-focused CEO are setting themselves up to lose,” Kiel says.
Every leader has the responsibility to hone his or her integrity. Many times, there are integrity traps that have a tendency to catch well-meaning leaders off guard. By studying these traps, we can all sharpen the saw and keep our leadership integrity at its highest possible level.
Fostering a cult of personality. It’s easy for leaders to get caught up in their own worlds as there are many systems in place that make it all about them. These leaders identify so strongly with their leadership roles that instead of remembering that the only reason they’re there is to serve others, they start thinking, ‘It’s my world, and we’ll do things my way.’ Being a good leader requires remembering that you’re there for a reason, and the reason certainly isn’t to have your way. High-integrity leaders not only welcome questioning and criticism, they insist on it.
Dodging accountability. Politicians are notorious for refusing to be accountable for their mistakes, and business leaders do it too. Even if only a few people see a leader’s misstep (instead of millions), dodging accountability can be incredibly damaging. A person who refuses to say “the buck stops here” really isn’t a leader at all. Being a leader requires being confident enough in your own decisions and those of your team to own them when they fail. The very best leaders take the blame but share the credit.
Lacking self-awareness. Many leaders think they have enough emotional intelligence (EQ). And many times, they are proficient in some EQ skills, but when it comes to understanding themselves, they are woefully blind. It’s not that they’re hypocrites; they just don’t see what everyone else sees. They might play favorites, be tough to work with, or receive criticism badly. And they aren’t alone, as TalentSmart research involving more than a million people shows that just 36% of us are accurate in our self-assessments.
Forgetting that communication is a two-way street. Many leaders also think that they’re great communicators, not realizing that they’re only communicating in one direction. Some pride themselves on being approachable and easily accessible, yet they don’t really hear the ideas that people share with them. Some leaders don’t set goals or provide context for the things they ask people to do, and others never offer feedback, leaving people wondering if they’re more likely to get promoted or fired.
Not firing poor performers. Sometimes, whether it’s because they feel sorry for an employee or simply because they want to avoid conflict, leaders dodge making the really tough decisions. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being compassionate, real leaders know when it’s just not appropriate, and they understand that they owe it to the company and to the rest of the team to let someone go.
Succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent. The tyranny of the urgent is what happens when leaders spend their days putting out small fires. They take care of what’s dancing around in front of their faces and lose focus of what’s truly important—their people. Your integrity as a leader hinges upon your ability to avoid distractions that prevent you from putting your people first.
Micromanaging. You see this mistake most often with people who have recently worked their way up through the ranks. They still haven’t made the mental shift from doer to leader. Without something tangible to point to at the end of the day, they feel unproductive, not realizing that productivity means something different for a leader. As a result, they micromanage to the point of madness and fall off schedule. An important part of a leader’s integrity rests in giving people the freedom to do their jobs.
Bringing It All Together
The bad news is that these mistakes are as common as they are damaging. The good news is that they’re really easy to fix, once you’re aware of them.
15 Secrets Successful People Know About Productivity
I recently interviewed over 200 ultra-productive people including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, 20 straight-A students and over 200 successful entrepreneurs. I asked a simple, open-ended question, “What is your number one secret to productivity?” After analyzing all of their responses, I coded their answers into 15 unique ideas.
SECRET #1: They focus on minutes, not hours.
Average performers default to hours and half-hour blocks on their calendar. Highly successful people know where are 1,440 minutes in every day and there is nothing more valuable than time. Money can be lost and made again, but time spent can never be reclaimed. As legendary Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller told me, “To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute.” You must master your minutes to master your life.
SECRET #2: They focus only on one thing.
Ultra productive people know their Most Important Task (MIT) and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. Tom Ziglar, CEO ofZiglar Inc., shared, “Invest the first part of your day working on your number one priority that will help build your business.” What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goal? What accomplishment will get you promoted at work?
SECRET #3: They don’t use to-do lists.
Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar. It turns out only 41% of items on to-do lists are ever actually done. And all those undone items lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect. Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live from that calendar. “Use a calendar and schedule your entire day into 15-minute blocks. It sounds like a pain, but this will set you up in the 95th percentile…”, advises the co-founder of The Art of Charm, Jordan Harbinger.
SECRET #4: They beat procrastination with time travel.
Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are “time inconsistent”. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future. I bought P90x because I think I’m going to start exercising vigorously and yet the box sits unopened one year later. What can you do now to make sure your future self does the right thing? Anticipate how you will self-sabotage in the future, and come up with a solution to defeat your future self.
SECRET #5: They make it home for dinner.
I first learned this from Intel’s Andy Grove, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.” Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, but also what else they value. There is no right answer, but for many, values include: family time, exercise, giving back. They consciously allocate their 1440 minutes a day to each area they value (i.e., they put it on their calendar) and then they stick to the schedule.
SECRET #6: They use a notebook.
Richard Branson has said on more than one occasion that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. In one interview, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down…That is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!” Ultra-productive people free their mind by writing everything down.
SECRET #7: They process email only a few times a day.
Ultra-productive people don’t “check” email throughout the day. They don’t respond to each vibration or ding to see who has intruded into their inbox. Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their email quickly and efficiently. For some that’s only once a day, for me, it’s morning, noon and night.
SECRET #8: They avoid meetings at all costs.
When I asked Mark Cuban to give me his best productivity advice, he quickly responded, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander in their topics and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can, hold fewer of them yourself, and if you do run a meeting, keep it short.
SECRET #9: They say “no” to almost everything.
Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And James Altucher colorfully gave me this tip, “If something is not a “hell, YEAH! Then it’s a “no!” Remember, you only have 1440 minutes in every day. Don’t give them away easily.
SECRET #10: They follow the 80/20 rule.
Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases 80% of outcomes come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results, and focus on those and ignore the rest.
SECRET #11: They delegate almost everything.
Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead they ask, “How can this task get done.” They take the “I” out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues and they are not micro-managers. In many cases good enough is, well, good enough.
SECRET #12: They theme days of the week.
Highly successful people often theme days of the week to focus on major areas. For decades I’ve used “Mondays for Meetings” and make sure I’m doing one-on-one check-ins with each direct report. My Friday afternoons are themed around financials and general administrative items that I want to clean up before the new week starts. I’ve previously written about Jack Dorsey’s work themes, which enable him to run two companies at once. Batch your work to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness.
SECRET #13: They touch things only once.
How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail—a bill perhaps—and then put it down only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an email, and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than five or ten minutes—whatever it is—they’ll deal with it right then and there. Reduces stress since it won’t be in the back of their mind, and is more efficient since they won’t have to re-read or evaluate the item again in the future.
SECRET #14: They practice a consistent morning routine.
My single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with me. Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, told me, “While most people focus on ‘doing’ more to achieve more, The Miracle Morning is about focusing on ‘becoming’ more so that you can start doing less, to achieve more.” While I heard about a wide variety of habits, most people I interviewed nurtured their body in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast and light exercise. They nurtured their mind with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, and journaling.
SECRET #15: Energy is everything.
You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy which will increase your attention, focus, decision making, and overall productivity. Highly successful people don’t skip meals, sleep or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and pulse and pause with “work sprints”.
Tying It All Together
You might not be an entrepreneur, Olympian, or millionaire—or even want to be—but their secrets just might help you to get more done in less time, and help you to stop feeling so overworked and overwhelmed.
By Kevin Kruse
NY Times Bestselling Author | Speaker | Leadership Expert | Serial Entrepreneur
4 Simple Ways Successful People Build Awesome New Habits
Editor’s note: “The First 90 Days” is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you’re making the first 90 days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.
As an entrepreneur, you are your business, so doing just what you’ve done before will only make you less productive, less effective, less healthy, less fit — less everything – than you could potentially be.
The growth of your business is at least in part based on you: improving your performance, increasing your output, focusing even more on the things that matter most….
The solution? Build great new positive habits.
Here are four easy ways to build new habits from Belle Beth Cooper, co-founder of Hello Code, which makes Exist, a cool app that connects all of your services to turn that data into insights about your life — think a quantified self on steroids.
1. Start small.
BJ Fogg is the king of starting small with new habits, and his program Tiny Habitsfocuses on this approach. The idea is to focus on building the habit itself, rather than worrying about how big the impact is.
- Here’s a good example: Say you want to start a habit of flossing your teeth every night. To build a successful habit, start with something tiny: flossing just one tooth. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. If you’re building the habit of flossing just a single tooth each night, three things will happen:
- You’ll feel silly about not doing it. Flossing a single tooth is so easy, it’s hard to feel OK about skipping it.
- You’ll probably floss more than one tooth. Getting started on anything is the biggest hurdle. Once we’ve started, it’s almost easier to just keep going.
- You’ll build the habit. Although flossing just one tooth each night probably won’t make your dentist happy, after a few weeks the action will start to become a habit — something you do automatically, without thinking.
Once you’ve built up the habit, then you can incrementally add to it. In our example, you’d start flossing two teeth per night, then three, and soon you’d be flossing all of your teeth without having to think about it.
Now let’s look at some examples of how you could apply this method to building healthier work habits:
Develop the habit of single-tasking. If you’re struggling to stay focused and beat distractions, try building the habit of working on one task at a time. Start by doing that for five minutes at a time. After five minutes, relax and allow distractions.
Later, try another five minutes of pure focus. When five minutes becomes easy, work on doing 10 minutes at a time, and then 15.
Soon you’ll find you can spend half an hour on a task without struggling to stay focused.
Develop the habit of drinking more water. What if you wanted to drink more water during your workday? Start small with just one extra glass of water. You can even make it a really small glass. Just drink one extra glass a day for a month.
If you’re still struggling after a month, keep practicing (and check the other strategies I’ve mentioned here for more help). Once you have the habit down you can upgrade to a larger glass and later add a second one.
Develop the habit of staying organized. Trying to stay on top of your calendar? Start with a weekly reminder to look over your calendar for the coming week.
Each Sunday night, when your reminder sounds, take a minute to look at the events you have scheduled for the week. When you find that’s easy and can do it without thinking, try setting an alarm every night to review the next day’s calendar.
2. Stack habits.
One of the most powerful methods for building new habits is to stack them on existing habits.
We all have plenty of existing habits: getting your morning coffee, logging on to your computer, walking to the train station, eating a snack. You do those things without thinking about them. They’re habits. Now use those habits as triggers for new habits.
Here are some examples:
- Increase exercise. To exercise more, stack a new habit on your morning coffee. Every time you get coffee, take a walk around the block. Or start getting your coffee at a cafe a little farther from work, so you naturally have a longer walk.
- Strengthen work relationships. To get to know colleagues better, stack a new habit on your midmorning snack or bathroom breaks. Every time you get your snack, stop for five minutes to chat with people in the break room. Or, when you go for a bathroom break, stop and chat with someone on the way back to your work area.
- Read more. To read more, stack a new habit on your commute. Grab an audio book to listen to. Or, every day when you have lunch — which is surely an existing habit — take a book with you.
There are plenty of ways to stack habits. Start with something you already do every day and use that as a trigger to remind you to do your new habit.
Just pick a habit so small and easy that it’s not difficult to perform, and attach it to a trigger that happens every day around the same time — that’s an awesome way to build new work habits.
3. Make it obvious.
Another of my favorite tricks for building habits is to put the tools you need right in front of you. Having whatever equipment you need easily available removes the barrier of getting started and acts as a reminder.
- Drink less soda. Say you want to drink less soda and more water while you’re at work. Keeping a water bottle on your desk means you don’t have to get up; you can just reach out and take a sip while you’re working. Plus, seeing the water bottle all day serves as a reminder to keep up your habit.
- Exercise at lunch. If you want to go for a jog or hit the gym during your lunch break, put your equipment in easy reach. Set your running shoes or gym bag beside your desk so you can quickly grab them as you head out the door at lunchtime.
- Leave work on time. When your habit isn’t based on something physical, you can still use this technique. The trick is to make any barriers to acting on your habit easy to overcome. If you make plans with your family or friends after work each night, you’ll have a good excuse that pulls you away from your desk. Your plans don’t have to be complicated; they could be as simple as setting a specific time your family has dinner every night. Take it a step further by making it an appointment in your calendar.
4. Reward yourself.
Now for the fun part: Every time you perform your new habit, celebrate. Reward yourself for putting in the effort.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, is a big proponent of rewarding yourself after completing a habit. Duhigg’s approach to habits is based around a simple three-part cycle: the cue (or trigger), the habit itself, and then the reward.
After building up enough of these, Duhigg says, “when your brain is exposed to a certain cue, it’ll kind of go on autopilot, because it craves the reward it expects to come at the end.”
Building habits over time means focusing on doing something small every day (or at least very often). Celebrating each time you complete a habit reinforces the value of doing that small thing over and over, rather than reaching for a far-off goal.
If you’re trying to lose weight, daily weigh-ins can be de-motivating. Rewarding yourself every time you go to the gym, on the other hand, helps you to build up a lasting habit of regular exercise — regardless of the long-term consequences.
Rewards can come in any form that makes you feel good about sticking with your habit. It might be stopping for a break, having a snack, or simply patting yourself on the back.
A good way to make sure you’re staying on track and rewarding yourself for your progress is to use an app like Lift or Balanced to check off your habit each time you perform it.
If you struggle to stay on track or you need a bigger reward to stay motivated, try grabbing an accountability partner. Find a colleague or friend who will keep you accountable and cheer you on when you succeed. (I always tell my co-founder when I go for a run, and his support makes me feel even better about sticking with my habit.)
Most important, just pick one habit to build up at a time. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by trying to make several changes at once.
Plus, once you’ve successfully built one new habit, you have another starting point for stacking on a new habit!
By Jeff Hadden
Are You An Ambivert?
I’m sure you’ve been asked many times whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. For some people, it’s an easy choice, but for most of us, it’s difficult to choose one way or the other.
It’s hard to choose because the introvert/extrovert dichotomy reflects a tired and outdated view of personality. Personality traits exist along a continuum, and the vast majority of us aren’t introverts or extroverts — we fall somewhere in the middle.
Personality consists of a stable set of preferences and tendencies through which we approach the world. Personality traits form at an early age and are fixed by early adulthood. Many important things about you change over the course of your lifetime, but your personality isn’t one of them.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” –Bruce Lee
The continuum between introversion and extroversion captures one of the most important personality traits. It’s troubling that we’re encouraged to categorize ourselves one way or the other because there are critical strengths and weaknesses commonly associated with each type.
Adam Grant at Wharton set out to study this phenomenon, and his findings are fascinating. First, he found that two-thirds of people don’t strongly identify as introverts or extroverts. These people (aka, the vast majority of us) are called ambiverts, who have both introverted and extroverted tendencies. The direction ambiverts lean toward varies greatly, depending on the situation.
Think of introversion and extroversion as a spectrum, with ambiversion lying somewhere in the middle:
Ambiverts have a distinct advantage over true introverts and extroverts. Because their personality doesn’t lean too heavily in either direction, they have a much easier time adjusting their approach to people based on the situation. This enables them to connect more easily, and more deeply, with a wider variety of people.
Grant’s research also disproved the powerful and widely held notion that the best-performing salespeople are extroverts. He found that ambiverts’ greater social flexibility enabled them to outsell all other groups, moving 51 percent more product per hour than the average salesperson. Notice how sales increased as extroversion increased, peaking with those who were just moderately extroverted.
Grant explained the finding this way:
“Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale, but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.”
How Ambiversion Works in the Brain
How social you are is largely driven by dopamine, the brain’s feel-good hormone. We all have different levels of dopamine-fueled stimulation in the neocortex (the area of the brain that is responsible for higher mental functions such as language and conscious thought). Those who naturally have high levels of stimulation tend to be introverts — they try and avoid any extra social stimulation that might make them feel anxious or overwhelmed. Those with low levels of stimulation tend to be extroverts. Under-stimulation leaves extroverts feeling bored, so they seek social stimulation to feel good.
Most people’s levels of natural stimulation don’t reach great extremes, though it does fluctuate. Sometimes you may feel the need to seek out stimulation, while other times, you may avoid it.
Finding Out Whether You’re An Ambivert
It’s important to pin down where you fall in the introversion/extroversion scale. By increasing your awareness of your type, you can develop a better sense of your tendencies and play to your strengths.
If you think that you might be an ambivert, but aren’t certain, see how many of the following statements apply to you. If most of them apply, you’re most likely an ambivert.
- I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
- Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I tire of being around people too much.
- Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
- Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
- I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
- I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
- Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
- When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
- If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained.
The trick to being an ambivert is knowing when to force yourself to lean toward one side of the spectrum when it isn’t happening naturally. Ambiverts with low self-awareness struggle with this. For example, at a networking event, a self-aware ambivert will lean toward the extroverted side of the scale, even when it has been a long day and he or she has had enough of people. Mismatching your approach to the situation can be frustrating, ineffective, and demoralizing for ambiverts.
Bringing It All Together
TalentSmart has conducted research with over a million people and found that those in the upper echelon of performance at work also tend to be highly self-aware (90 percent of them, in fact). By gaining a better sense of where you fall on the introversion/extroversion scale, you can build insight into your tendencies and preferences, which increases your self-awareness and emotional intelligence. This will help you improve your performance.
So, are you an ambivert? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Travis Bradberry
Painful, Valuable Lessons From Taking Charge of My Career
Sticking your neck out and taking charge of your career is no trivial matter. Whether that’s switching careers, going back to school, or walking away from a j-o-b to start your own business, it takes a lot of guts.
But guts will only get you so far. Once you build up the nerve and make the leap, you’re no more than 5% of the way there. You still have to succeed in your new endeavor, and trying to succeed is when your worst fears (the ones that made you hesitate in the first place) will come true.
I’m going to assume you’re like me and don’t have a brilliant mentor, a rich uncle, or some other person who is going to show you the ropes and explain each step you need to take to take charge of your career.
You see, it’s been almost 20 years since I last had a boss. I went from working in a surf shop to striking out on my own, eventually starting TalentSmart (with a partner) before I’d finished grad school.
When I set out on my own, I had all the gumption and appetite for risk that I needed to take charge of my career. At the time I thought that was all I needed to succeed.
It wasn’t. I also needed guidance. Without it, I learned some difficult (and often painful) lessons along the way.
I’d like to share some of my biggest lessons learned with you so that they can help you as you take charge of your career (in whatever form that takes). As I look back on these lessons, I realize that they’re really great reminders for us all.
Confidence Must Come First
Successful people often exude confidence — it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they’re doing. It isn’t their success that makes them confident, however. The confidence was there first.
Think about it:
- Doubt breeds doubt. Why would anyone believe in you, your ideas, or your abilities if you didn’t believe in them yourself?
- It takes confidence to reach for new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones rarely expand on their own. That’s why people who lack confidence get stuck in dead-end jobs and let valuable opportunities pass them by.
- Unconfident people often feel at the mercy of external circumstances. Successful people aren’t deterred by obstacles, which is how they rise up in the first place.
Confidence is a crucial building block in a successful career, and embracing it fully will take you places you never thought possible. No one is stopping you from what you want to accomplish but yourself. It’s time to remove any barriers created by self-doubt.
You’re Living The Life That You’ve Created
You are not a victim of circumstance. No one can force you to make decisions and take actions that run contrary to your values and aspirations. The circumstances you’re living in today are your own — you created them. Likewise, your future is entirely up to you. If you’re feeling stuck, it’s probably because you’re afraid to take the risks necessary to achieve your goals and live your dreams.
When it’s time to take action, remember that it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.
Being Busy Does Not Equal Being Productive
Look at everyone around you. They all seem so busy — running from meeting to meeting and firing off emails. Yet how many of them are really producing, really succeeding at a high level?
Success doesn’t come from movement and activity. It comes from focus — from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively. You get the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. Use yours wisely. After all, you’re the product of your output, not your effort. Make certain your efforts are dedicated to tasks that get results.
You’re Only as Good as Those You Associate With
You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better. And you probably do. But what about the people who drag you down? Why do you allow them to be a part of your life? Anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them. Life is too short to associate with people like this. Cut them loose.
Don’t Say Yes Unless You Really Want To
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which make it difficult to take charge of your career. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
Squash Your Negative Self-Talk
When you’re taking charge of your career, you won’t always have a cheerleader in your corner. This magnifies the effects of self-doubt. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that — thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
Avoid Asking “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to reaching your goals. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend taking action and staying productive. Asking “what if?” will only take you to a place you don’t want — or need — to go. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking about your future.
Schedule Exercise and Sleep
I can’t say enough about the importance of quality sleep. When you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think — something no amount of caffeine can fix.
Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough — or the right kind — of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer. Ambition often makes you feel as if you must sacrifice sleep to stay productive, but sleep deprivation diminishes your productivity so much throughout the day that you’re better off sleeping.
A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher. Best of all, rather than the physical changes in their bodies being responsible for the uptick in confidence, it was the immediate, endorphin-fueled positivity from exercise that made all the difference. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, or the days will just slip away.
Seek Out Small Victories
Small victories can seem unimportant when you’re really after something big, but small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. This increase in androgen receptors increases the influence of testosterone, which further increases your confidence and your eagerness to tackle future challenges. When you have a series of small victories, the boost in your confidence can last for months.
Don’t Seek Perfection
Don’t set perfection as your target. It doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.
Focus on Solutions
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions which hinder your ability to reach your goals. When you focus on the actions you’ll take to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance.
When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Success lies in your ability to rise in the face of failure, and you can’t do this when you’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.
Bringing It All Together
I hope these lessons are as useful to you as they have been to me over the years. As I write them, I’m reminded of their power and my desire to use them every day.
By Dr. Travis Bradberry
How do you deal with failure? One word…”Good”.
“Disciple equals Freedom”
It’s a book that provides incredible insight into leadership techniques tested under the most trying circumstances. The information in this book, and its application to every day leadership, is far more practical and tested than most advice out there. A compelling narrative with powerful stories and direct advice,Extreme Ownership revolutionizes business management and challenges leaders everywhere to fulfill their ultimate purpose: lead and win.
If you want to succeed in business, or if you aspire to a leadership position, do yourself a great service by reading, and internalizing the principles in this book.It’s a must read.
Before this book became a New York Times #1 Best Seller, Jocko first appeared as a guest on ‘The Tim Ferriss Show’ podcast and ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’podcast. With the advice from these two hosts, Jocko started his own podcast with his friend Echo Charles.
After listening to his first show, I immediately knew this podcast is unlike any other. The wisdom shared is incredible, fascinating, motivating, and powerful. You’ll leave with a new attitude to get up and attack your day for the better. I wake up with such excitement when a new show is released.
On his third podcast (released on Dec. 31st, 2015), Jocko finished a Q&A session that gave me chills running through my body.
How do you deal with failures? One word… “Good“.
You’ll look at setbacks in a totally new way after hearing how Jocko handles defeats.
I’ve transcribed this particular gem from the podcast for all to read below and included the podcast/audio clip to listen to below;
Echo Charles –“How do you deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeats, or other disasters?”
Jocko Willink –“I actually have a fairly, simple way of dealing with these situations. It’s actually one word to deal with these situations…
And that is “Good“.
This is actually something that one of my direct subordinates, that worked for me, pointed out to me. He would call me up, pull me aside with some major problem, some issue that was going on…
He would say “Boss, we have this, and that, and another thing…”
And I would say “Good“.
Finally one day, he was telling me about an issue that he was having, some problem…
He said “I already know what you’re going to say.”
And I said “What am I going to say?”
“You’re going to say ‘Good‘. That’s what you always say. When something is wrong and going bad, you always just look at me and say ‘Good‘ .”
And I said…
“Well yeah and I mean it.”
And that is how I feel. When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that is going to come from it…
Oh, the mission got cancelled? – Good…. We can focus on the other one.
Didn’t get the new high speed gear we wanted? – Good…. We can keep it simple.
Didn’t get promoted? – Good…. More time to get better.
Didn’t get funded? – Good…. We own more of the company.
Didn’t get the job you wanted? – Good…. You can get more experience and build a better resume.
Got injured? – Good… Needed a break from training.
Got tapped out? – Good…. It’s better to tap out in training, then tap out in the street.
Got beat? – Good…. You learned.
Unexpected problems? – Good…. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution.
That’s it. When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated…. No.
You just look at the issue and you say“Good”.
And I don’t mean to say something all cliche and I don’t mean to sound like Mr. Positive. Find the positive, but do that! Focus on the good. Take that issue, take that problem, and make it something good. It’ll bring that attitude to your team too! You go forward.
And lastly, to close this out. If you can say the word “Good“, guess what….it means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, well then you still got some fight left in you.
So get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack.
And that right there is about as Good as it gets. “
Don’t always consider a problem or a setback to be bad. Even if the situation appears negative, always find the good from it. Learn from the mistakes, reevaluate the situation, and go after the next goal.
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Be inspired, be disciplined, be proud, and get after it.
As the great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said,
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
The Importance of Being Genuine
There’s an enormous amount of research suggesting that emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical to your performance at work. TalentSmart has tested the EQ of more than a million people and found that it explains 58% of success in all types of jobs.
People with high EQs make $29,000 more annually than people with low EQs. Ninety percent of top performers have high EQs, and a single-point increase in your EQ adds $1,300 to your salary. I could go on and on.
Suffice it to say, emotional intelligence is a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with tremendous results.
But there’s a catch. Emotional intelligence won’t do a thing for you if you aren’t genuine.
A recent study from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington found that people don’t accept demonstrations of emotional intelligence at face value. They’re too skeptical for that. They don’t just want to see signs of emotional intelligence. They want to know that it’s genuine—that your emotions are authentic.
According to lead researcher Christina Fong, when it comes to your coworkers,
“They are not just mindless automatons. They think about the emotions they see and care whether they are sincere or manipulative.”
The same study found that sincere leaders are far more effective at motivating people because they inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that authenticity is important to them, but genuine leaders walk their talk every day.
It’s not enough to just go through the motions, trying to demonstrate qualities that are associated with emotional intelligence. You have to be genuine.
You can do a gut check to find out how genuine you are by comparing your own behavior to that of people who are highly genuine. Consider the hallmarks of genuine people and see how you stack up.
“Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity,” -Janet Louise Stephenson
Genuine people don’t try to make people like them. Genuine people are who they are. They know that some people will like them, and some won’t. And they’re okay with that. It’s not that they don’t care whether or not other people will like them but simply that they’re not going to let that get in the way of doing the right thing. They’re willing to make unpopular decisions and to take unpopular positions if that’s what needs to be done.
Since genuine people aren’t desperate for attention, they don’t try to show off. They know that when they speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, people are much more attentive to and interested in what they have to say than if they try to show that they’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what or how many people you know.
They don’t pass judgment. Genuine people are open-minded, which makes them approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen.
Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace, as approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you to believe what they believe or condone their behavior; it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick. Only then can you let them be who they are.
They forge their own paths. Genuine people don’t derive their sense of pleasure and satisfaction from the opinions of others. This frees them up to follow their own internal compasses. They know who they are and don’t pretend to be anything else. Their direction comes from within, from their own principles and values. They do what they believe to be the right thing, and they’re not swayed by the fact that somebody might not like it.
They are generous. We’ve all worked with people who constantly hold something back, whether it’s knowledge or resources. They act as if they’re afraid you’ll outshine them if they give you access to everything you need to do your job. Genuine people are unfailingly generous with whom they know, what they know, and the resources they have access to. They want you to do well more than anything else because they’re team players and they’re confident enough to never worry that your success might make them look bad. In fact, they believe that your success is their success.
They treat EVERYONE with respect. Whether interacting with their biggest clients or servers taking their drink orders, genuine people are unfailingly polite and respectful. They understand that no matter how nice they are to the people they have lunch with, it’s all for naught if those people witnesses them behaving badly toward others. Genuine people treat everyone with respect because they believe they’re no better than anyone else.
They aren’t motivated by material things. Genuine people don’t need shiny, fancy stuff in order to feel good. It’s not that they think it’s wrong to go out and buy the latest and greatest items to show off their status; they just don’t need to do this to be happy. Their happiness comes from within, as well as from the simpler pleasures—such as friends, family, and a sense of purpose—that make life rich.
They are trustworthy. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel. Genuine people mean what they say, and if they make a commitment, they keep it. You’ll never hear a truly genuine person say, “Oh, I just said that to make the meeting end faster.” You know that if they say something, it’s because they believe it to be true.
They are thick-skinned. Genuine people have a strong enough sense of self that they don’t go around seeing offense that isn’t there. If somebody criticizes one of their ideas, they don’t treat this as a personal attack. There’s no need for them to jump to conclusions, feel insulted, and start plotting their revenge. They’re able to objectively evaluate negative and constructive feedback, accept what works, put it into practice, and leave the rest of it behind without developing hard feelings.
They put away their phones. Nothing turns someone off to you like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When genuine people commit to a conversation, they focus all of their energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them. When you robotically approach people with small talk and are tethered to your phone, this puts their brains on autopilot and prevents them from having any real affinity for you. Genuine people create connection and find depth even in short, everyday conversations. Their genuine interest in other people makes it easy for them to ask good questions and relate what they’re told to other important facets of the speaker’s life.
They aren’t driven by ego. Genuine people don’t make decisions based on their egos because they don’t need the admiration of others in order to feel good about themselves. Likewise, they don’t seek the limelight or try to take credit for other people’s accomplishments. They simply do what needs to be done without saying, “Hey, look at me!”
They aren’t hypocrites. Genuine people practice what they preach. They don’t tell you to do one thing and then do the opposite themselves. That’s largely due to their self-awareness. Many hypocrites don’t even recognize their mistakes. They’re blind to their own weaknesses. Genuine people, on the other hand, fix their own problems first.
They don’t brag. We’ve all worked with people who can’t stop talking about themselves and their accomplishments. Have you ever wondered why? They boast and brag because they’re insecure and worried that if they don’t point out their accomplishments, no one will notice. Genuine people don’t need to brag. They’re confident in their accomplishments, but they also realize that when you truly do something that matters, it stands on its own merits, regardless of how many people notice or appreciate it.
Bringing It All Together
Genuine people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. They are firmly grounded in reality, and they’re truly present in each moment because they’re not trying to figure out someone else’s agenda or worrying about their own.
By Travis Bradberry
Why We Struggle to Communicate (and How to Fix It)
Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business put this theory to the test and what they discovered is startling. In the study, the researchers paired subjects with people they knew well and then again with people they’d never met. The researchers discovered that people who knew each other well understood each other no better than people who’d just met! Even worse, participants frequently overestimated their ability to communicate, and this was more pronounced with people they knew well.
“Our problem in communicating with friends is that we have an illusion of insight,” said study co-author Nicholas Epley. “Getting close to someone appears to create the illusion of understanding more than actual understanding.”
When communicating with people we know well, we make presumptions about what they understand—presumptions that we don’t dare make with strangers. This tendency to overestimate how well we communicate (and how well we’re understood) is so prevalent that psychologists even have a name for it: closeness-communication bias.
“The understanding, ‘What I know is different from what you know’ is essential for effective communication,” said study lead Kenneth Savitsky, “but that insight can be elusive. Some [people] may indeed be on the same wavelength, but maybe not as much as they think. You get rushed and preoccupied, and you stop taking the perspective of the other person.”
Communication is the real work of leadership; you simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator. Great communicators inspire people. They create a connection that is real, emotional, and personal. And great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs in a manner that they are ready to hear.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw
The eight strategies that follow will help you to overcome the communication bias that tends to hold us back with everyone we encounter, especially those we know well. Apply these strategies and watch your communication skills reach new heights.
Speak to groups as individuals. As a leader, you often have to speak to groups of people. Whether a small team meeting or a company-wide gathering, you need to develop a level of intimacy in your approach that makes each individual in the room feel as if you’re speaking directly to him or her. The trick is to eliminate the distraction of the crowd so that you can deliver your message just as you would if you were talking to a single person. You want to be emotionally genuine and exude the same feelings, energy, and attention you would one-on-one (as opposed to the anxiety that comes with being in front of people). The ability to pull this off is the hallmark of great leadership communication.
Talk so people will listen. Great communicators read their audience (groups and individuals) carefully to ensure they aren’t wasting their breath on a message that people aren’t ready to hear. Talking so people will listen means you adjust your message on the fly to stay with your audience (what they’re ready to hear and how they’re ready to hear it). Droning on to ensure you’ve said what you wanted to say does not have the same effect on people as engaging them in a meaningful dialogue in which there is an exchange of ideas. Resist the urge to drive your point home at all costs. When your talking leads to people asking good questions, you know you’re on the right track.
Listen so people will talk. One of the most disastrous temptations for a leader is to treat communication as a one-way street. When you communicate, you must give people ample opportunity to speak their minds. If you find that you’re often having the last word in conversations, then this is likely something you need to work on.
Listening isn’t just about hearing words; it’s also about listening to the tone, speed, and volume of the voice. What is being said? Anything not being said? What hidden messages below the surface exist? When someone is talking to you, stop everything else and listen fully until the other person has finished speaking. When you are on a phone call, don’t type an email. When you’re meeting with someone, close the door and sit near the person so you can focus and listen. Simple behaviors like these will help you stay in the present moment, pick up on the cues the other person sends, and make it clear that you will really hear what he or she is saying.
Connect emotionally. Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” As a leader, your communication is impotent if people don’t connect with it on an emotional level. This is hard for many leaders to pull off because they feel they need to project a certain persona. Let that go. To connect with your people emotionally, you need to be transparent. Be human. Show them what drives you, what you care about, what makes you get out of bed in the morning. Express these feelings openly, and you’ll forge an emotional connection with your people.
Read body language. Your authority makes it hard for people to say what’s really on their minds. No matter how good a relationship you have with your subordinates, you are kidding yourself if you think they are as open with you as they are with their peers. So, you must become adept at understanding unspoken messages. The greatest wealth of information lies in people’s body language. The body communicates nonstop and is an abundant source of information, so purposefully watch body language during meetings and casual conversation. Once you tune into body language, the messages will become loud and clear. Pay as much attention to what isn’t said as what is said, and you’ll uncover facts and opinions that people are unwilling to express directly.
Prepare your intent. A little preparation goes a long way toward saying what you wanted to say and having a conversation achieve its intended impact. Don’t prepare a speech; develop an understanding of what the focus of a conversation needs to be (in order for people to hear the message) and how you will accomplish this. Your communication will be more persuasive and on point when you prepare your intent ahead of time.
Skip the jargon. The business world is filled with jargon and metaphors that are harmless when people can relate to them. Problem is, most leaders overuse jargon and alienate their subordinates and customers with their “business speak.” Use it sparingly if you want to connect with your people. Otherwise, you’ll come across as insincere.
Practice active listening. Active listening is a simple technique that ensures people feel heard, an essential component of good communication. To practice active listening:
- Spend more time listening than you do talking.
- Do not answer questions with questions.
- Avoid finishing other people’s sentences.
- Focus more on the other person than you do on yourself.
- Focus on what people are saying right now, not on what their interests are.
- Reframe what the other person has said to make sure you understand him or her correctly (“So you’re telling me that this budget needs further consideration, right?”)
- Think about what you’re going to say after someone has finished speaking, not while he or she is speaking.
- Ask plenty of questions.
- Never interrupt.
- Don’t take notes.
Bringing It All Together
As you work to employ these strategies, try to avoid biting off more than you can chew. Working on one to three strategies at a time is sufficient. If you try to take on more than you can handle, you’re not going to see as much progress as you would if you narrowed your focus. Once you become effective in one particular strategy, you can take on another one in its place. Communication is a dynamic element of leadership that is intertwined in most of what you do each day. You’ll have ample opportunity to improve your abilities in this critical skill.
By Travis Bradberry
Critical Things Great Leaders Do Differently
Great leadership can be a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time articulating what it is that makes their leadership so effective.
It was recently rumored that Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz would run for president, but Schultz shut the idea down almost immediately. He wrote in an article:
“Despite the encouragement of others, I have no intention of entering the presidential fray. I’m not done serving at Starbucks.”
Schultz commitment to his company over the temptation of the limelight is interesting. What’s admirable is his desire to be a leader who serves.
Service isn’t just something Schulz gives lip service to in the press; his mission is to create a company where people are treated with respect and dignity, and he backs this rhetoric up with his money and time. Starbucks will spend $250 million over the next 10 years to put benefit-eligible employees through college, and Schultz wakes up every day at 4:00 a.m. to send motivational e-mails to his employees (the email he wrote yesterday asking employees to show empathy for customers who have been affected by the plummeting stock market is an interesting, recent example of this).
It’s through a leader’s actions—what he or she does and says on a daily basis—that the essence of great leadership becomes apparent.
“Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible. Care more than others think wise.” -Howard Schultz
Behavior can change, and leaders who work to improve their skills get results.
In Schultz’s case, he’s been honing his leadership craft for three decades through, among other things, the direct coaching and mentoring of leadership expert Warren Bennis at USC.
Not everyone can take on Warren Bennis as a mentor, of course, but when it comes down to it, improving your leadership skills is within your control. You just need to study what great leaders do and to incorporate these behaviors into your repertoire.
There are six critical things that great leaders do that really stand out. Any of us can do the same.
They’re kind without being weak
One of the toughest things for leaders to master is kindness. Kindness shares credit and offers enthusiastic praise for others’ work. It’s a balancing act, between being genuinely kind and not looking weak. The key to finding that balance is to recognize that true kindness is inherently strong—it’s direct and straightforward. Telling people the difficult truth they need to hear is much kinder than protecting them (or yourself) from a difficult conversation. This is weak.
True kindness also doesn’t come with expectations. Kindness is weak when you use it in a self-serving manner. Self-serving kindness is thin—people can see right through it when a kind leader has an agenda. Think of Schultz, who dedicated $250 million to employee education with no strings attached, and as soon as employees finish their degree, they are free to walk out the door. That’s truekindness.
They’re strong without being harsh
Strength is an important quality in a leader. People will wait to see if a leader is strong before they decide to follow his or her lead or not. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show strength themselves when their leader does the same.
A lot of leaders mistake domineering, controlling, and otherwise harsh behavior for strength. They think that taking control and pushing people around will somehow inspire a loyal following. Strength isn’t something you can force on people; it’s something you earn by demonstrating it time and again in the face of adversity. Only then will people trust that they should follow you.
They’re confident, without being cocky
We gravitate to confident leaders because confidence is contagious, and it helps us to believe that there are great things in store. The trick, as a leader, is to make certain your confidence doesn’t slip into arrogance and cockiness. Confidence is about passion and belief in your ability to make things happen, but when your confidence loses touch with reality, you begin to think you can do things you can’t and have done things you haven’t. Suddenly it’s all about you. This arrogance makes you lose credibility.
Great, confident leaders are still humble. They don’t allow their accomplishments and position of authority to make them feel that they’re better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they don’t ask their followers to do anything they aren’t willing to do themselves.
They stay positive, but remain realistic
Another major challenge that leaders face is finding the balance between keeping things positive and still being realistic. Think of a sailboat with three people aboard: a pessimist, an optimist, and a great leader. Everything is going smoothly until the wind suddenly sours. The pessimist throws his hands up and complains about the wind; the optimist sits back, saying that things will improve; but the great leaders says, “We can do this!” and he adjusts the sails and keeps the ship moving forward. The right combination of positivity and realism is what keeps things moving forward.
They’re role models, not preachers
Great leaders inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that integrity is important to them, but great leaders walk their talk by demonstrating integrity every day. Harping on people all day long about the behavior you want to see has a tiny fraction of the impact you achieve by demonstrating that behavior yourself.
They’re willing to take a bullet for their people
The best leaders will do anything for their teams, and they have their people’s backs no matter what. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up. Great leaders also make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insights, and ask good questions is destined for failure.
Bringing It All Together
Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. Incorporate the behaviors above into your repertoire, and you’ll see immediate improvement in your leadership skills.
What other behaviors define great leadership? Please share your thoughts on leadership in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
you do each day. You’ll have ample opportunity to improve your abilities in this critical skill.
By Travis Bradberry
How to help YOUR negative friends
One of the most important considerations when helping someone in a negative state is that you must avoid falling into negativity yourself. Negative people are energy vampires. They have an almost endless capacity to dwell on what they don’t want, whining and complaining about their lives while denying responsibility for their results. Their fear blocks the natural flow of energy from within, so they must get it from other people instead. After spending a few hours with them, you’ll usually feel drained, tired, worried, or stressed.
Positive people, on the other hand, have overcome their fears to such a degree that their energy flows outward. Consequently, they give energy instead of taking it. After spending time with very positive people, you’ll tend to feel energized, uplifted, and inspired. Most people are somewhere in the middle though, so the energy exchange tends to be close to neutral.
It makes no difference what particular circumstances negative people blame for their negative outlook. Ultimately it’s still a choice rooted in free will. No matter how unconscious the person was when making the decision to sink into negativity, in this moment that person still has the power to choose otherwise. So if you decide to help such a person, your primary role is to help guide him to make a more conscious choice, one that will likely be much more empowering.
How can you help negative people?
Let’s consider how this same process can be used to help someone who’s stuck in a negative mindset.
Negative people are a danger not only to themselves but also to those around them. Consequently, it’s important to preserve your own state of mind while trying to help them. You won’t help a drowning victim by jumping in the water, flailing your arms, and screaming right beside him. Yet some people use this highly ineffective strategy when trying to help negative friends out of depression. Joining a negative person in a whining session only reinforces his negativity and makes you feel worse about your own life, even though it can temporarily make someone feel better to know he doesn’t have to drown alone. Negative people have an endless supply of pity party invitations. If you receive one, don’t RSVP.
If the person isn’t too far gone, you can reach out and try to hoist him back up to a more positive state. This is best used on people who are within range of you, especially someone who’s normally positive or neutral but has become temporarily lost under a pile of fear and worry. Reach out to him with a kind gesture.
Reaching out to someone in a negative state is effective in combating mild or temporary negativity. Sometimes a kind word and some attention from a friend is all that’s needed to turn things around. But when this solution isn’t effective or appropriate, then we move on to…
If the person is a bit farther out in the sea of negativity, you might not be able to reach him directly. Perhaps he refuses your initial attempts to help him. Maybe he’s in denial of the problem even though it’s obvious to everyone else. In this situation you can try a more indirect approach by throwing him a life preserver.
But sometimes your best throws still aren’t enough, and in that case you may decide to…
When people just won’t grab the lines you toss them, but you aren’t ready to give up on them yet, you can hop into a boat and row out to help them. This is known as an intervention. You put together a bunch of positive people who will reinforce each other and keep the group’s energy high. Then you go visit the negative person and use your combined positive energy to help lift him out of the water. Cast the light of awareness on what he’s doing to himself, and offer him all the combined help, resources, and assistance you can muster.
Just like a rowboat keeps you safe, a cadre of positive people will keep your energy from being drained by the negative person. This is especially important if the negative person is surrounded by other negative people, and you need a powerful wedge to break them free. If you go by yourself, you may not have nearly enough leverage — a common problem especially when drugs or alcohol are involved.
But for some people even rowboats aren’t enough, and that’s when you might decide to…
As a last resort, you can consider working one-on-one with the person yourself to help lift them out of their negativity. For this to work, you must be very conscious of your own state and possess the ability to keep your energy positive even when surrounded by negativity. Not many people are able to do this successfully.
Because we all have free will, you won’t always be able to help someone who refuses to accept your assistance. It’s important to release your attachment to any particular outcome and remain open to all possibilities, even if the person is very close to you. If you become too attached to specific outcomes, you’ll drag your own awareness down, drain your energy, and ultimately diminish your capacity to help.
Remember that you cannot help a victim by becoming one yourself. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to let go with love and have faith that everything will turn out for the best. Turn your attention to helping those you’re able to help.
How does this resonate with you? Do you have a clear direction to follow? Join the discussion, let me know via twitter.
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Fayaz Shah Marketing Director
As emotional creatures, the way we feel plays a large role in the decisions we make.
That’s why learning more about how emotions work is so valuable. Emotional intelligence (also known as EI or EQ), describes a person’s ability to recognize emotions, to understand their powerful effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior.
Sharpening your own EQ begins by learning to ask the right questions. Doing so will give you valuable insight into the role emotions play in everyday life.
So which questions help you get in touch with your emotions, and the emotions of the people you interact with most on a daily basis?
The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, which will serve as a practical guide to developing emotional intelligence. (You can find details about the launch here.)
To be clear, this isn’t a checklist one needs to tick through periodically. Rather, these questions will help you develop understanding of emotions (both yours and others’), as well as their powerful effect.
Get familiar with them, and you’ll find that you naturally become more thoughtful–and start to be more proactive, and less reactive.
1. In terms of my emotional behavior, how would I describe myself?
2. Why do I answer that way?
3. Would others agree with that assessment?
4. Who is someone I trust, who could provide valuable perspective into how others see me?
5. How might my general disposition affect my communication style and decision-making?
6. What type of mood am I in right now?
7. What are the reasons for my current mood?
8. How might my current mood affect my decision-making and communication style?
Specific thoughts, feelings and actions
9. How would I rate my own self-esteem and self-confidence?
10. How does my self-esteem and self-confidence affect my decision-making?
11. What can I do to raise my self-esteem or self-confidence? (Or, how can I keep it in check?)
12. What are my biggest challenges or weaknesses?
13. Why do I find managing these so difficult?
14. How can I mitigate my weaknesses?
15. Do I need to apologize more?
16. Do I apologize too often?
17. Do I say “no” too often?
18. Do I need to say “no” more often?
19. Do I get easily jealous? Why?
20. Do I find it difficult to forgive? Why?
21. What do I spend most of my time thinking about?
22. What should I spend more time thinking about?
23. How do I spend most of my spare time? Why?
24. On what do I wish I spent more time?
25. Am I open to other perspectives?
26. Can I be more open, while maintaining my own core values?
27. Or am I too easily swayed by others?
28. Should I be more skeptical? Or less?
29. What traits in others do I find most annoying? Why?
30. Is my communication aggressive?
31. How have my beliefs changed over the years? Why did they change?
Dealing with emotionally-charged situations
32. In what situations do I respond differently than I would like?
33. In these situations, how can I be more proactive, instead of reactive?
34. How do I want to face this challenge the next time it arises?
35. When struggling with a situation (dead-end job or unpleasant relationship), what don’t I like?
36. Why don’t I like it, specifically?
37. What can I do about it?
38. Despite the negatives, what positive aspects can I identify?
39. When I feel strongly about a situation–whether positively or negatively–how might my emotions cloud my judgment?
40. What are the established facts, versus what I feel (or what someone has convinced me) is true?
41. What may I have misunderstood or could I be getting wrong?
42. How important is this to me? (How will I feel about it tomorrow? In a week? In five years?)
43. How does this relate to my general priorities and values?
44. How does this fit into the big picture?
45. How will my decision affect others I care about?
46. If I say or do this, what happens next?
47. Who is someone I trust, who could provide valuable perspective into how others see this situation?
When receiving criticism
48. Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?
49. Is the criticism rooted in truth?
50. Is the person delivering the criticism trying to damage me or my self-confidence?
51. Instead of focusing on the delivery, how can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve?
52. What do I generally share in common with my communication partner?
53. How did I feel when I went through a similar situation as this person?
54. If I haven’t been through it, how would I feel?
55. Why might this person feel differently than me?
56. How might his or her background affect their feelings?
57. What additional, extenuating circumstances could play a role in how they feel?
58. If I can’t relate to their feelings in this situation, what is another set of circumstances when I felt (or would feel) similarly?
59. How would I want someone to treat me in those circumstances?
60. What can I do to make the situation better?
General dealings with others
61. Do I tend to focus on the positive or negative traits of others?
62. Do I generally give others the benefit of the doubt? Why or why not?
63. Do I separate judging actions from judging individuals?
64. Do I tend to “freeze people in time?” That is, do I associate them with a specific action in the past (either positive or negative)?
65. Regarding individuals with whom I interact regularly, what do I like about each of them?
66. What potential do I see?
67. When was the last time I paid this person a sincere (and specific) compliment, on a one-to-one basis?
68. If I strongly dislike a behavior, how should I communicate it?
69. If I can’t voice my dislike (or voicing it has proven ineffective), how else can I deal with the situation?
Understanding others’ emotions
70. In terms of emotional behavior, how would I describe my communication partner? Why?
71. How might this person’s general disposition affect his or her communication style and decision-making (and their reaction to my own)?
72. What type of mood is this person in right now? Why might he (or she) feel this way?
73. How might this person’s mood affect his or her decision-making and communication style (and their reaction to my own)?
74. How can I work more with my partner, as opposed to against them?
Preparing for an emotionally charged discussion
75. When would be the most ideal time to speak about this?
76. Where is the best location to have this conversation?
77. How can I frame the discussion in a way that that relays my true intentions?
78. In addition to concentrating on my message, how can I phrase things so that I am properly understood?
79. What context does my partner need to know to better understand my position?
80. How can I express my displeasure at an action, instead of at the person?
81. What failures can I admit, in order to demonstrate sincerity and humility?
(Hungry for more? Here are three short questions that will immediately increase your emotional intelligence.)
Putting it into practice
None of us can perfectly understand, much less control, every emotional reaction.
But getting familiar with these questions will cause you to naturally think about the role emotions play in your everyday life–and help you to manage them more effectively.