The Power of Promises – How to Never Let Yourself Down Again

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Has someone ever really let you down?  Made a solemn promise and broken it?

career coaching, career change, new career, find work you love

Broken promises?

How did it feel?  Pretty horrible I suspect…

What about the other way around?  Have you ever broken a promise to someone else?

We typically try with all our might to stick to our word, to follow through, to do as we say we will.

Promises are serious and there are strong feelings when they are made and broken.

We place a lot of value on being honest and having personal integrity.

What about a different question – “have you ever broken a promise to yourself and let yourself down?”

I know I have, more often than I’d care to remember. I can’t count how many times I was ready to change “tomorrow”. Somehow it seems much easier to duck out on these personal promises.

The kind of promises we make include:

• “I promise to take better care of myself- I’ll get back into exercising tomorrow”
• “I promise to spend more time with my loved ones”
• “I promise to have a better balance and stop working so much”
• “I promise to start being smarter with my money after the next pay day”
• “I promise I’ll start my new job search next week”

More often than not, we don’t live up to these personal commitments – we screw ourself over.

Learning to look yourself in the eye

If you had a friend who constantly made promises and let you down, what would you think of them? What value would you place on their promises to change? How long would you tolerate their behaviour?

Sometimes we treat ourselves much worse than we treat others.

When you break promises to yourself, you send yourself a powerful message that  you are not important.  You also go against your values around being honest and acting with integrity.

It gets really hard to look yourself in the eye if you keep bombing out on commitments to yourself.

The good news is that learning to keep promises to yourself has huge value for boosting self-confidence, productivity and happiness.

Learning to be accountable means you start to trust yourself. Each and every commitment you keep to yourself builds your self-esteem and faith in your ability to deliver. You learn to consistently do what you say you will.

Developing this sense of integrity will start to radiate into your relationships with the wider world. When you trust yourself, others will trust you more. You’ll find it easier to be honest with the world and call things as you see them.

Finally, you’ll be more productive and focused as you follow through on your most important commitments.

Over to you – Making and keeping promises

If you’d like to start keeping promises to yourself, start today. I started out making one promise per day and sticking to it about a month ago. Some key lessons I’ve learned are:

1. Make promises you can keep – be realistic in your daily commitment
2. Make it your number 1 priority – don’t let anything get in the way
3. Be specific – make your promise clear – I will go for a 30 minute run today
4. Write down your promise – keep it somewhere visible at home and at work
5. Chart your success – keep track of your daily success on a star chart somewhere you see regularly
6. Reward success – how will you celebrate keeping a week of promises?

I’ve found a huge boost in my personal well-being, confidence and happiness comes from keeping personal promises – I hope you’ll find the same.

Please leave a comment and share how you keep promises to yourself.

Brilliant Ideas

Ralph J-P at Potential2Success on how to keep promises to yourself

Steven Covey on keeping promises and New Year’s Resolutions

Photo credit : (Flickr Creative Commons)

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25 Ways to be Happier Today

Why be happy? Why not?

career coaching, career change, find work you love

Be Happy!

Why today? Life’s too short to wait for tomorrow.

Why 25 ways? That was how many I could think of.

How? – pick any idea from the list and do it today.  Feel happier.  If you feel bold, pick more than one!

1. Take care of yourself – savour your shower, shave (if appropriate), moisturise, deoderize, wear that perfume or cologne (don’t overdo it unless you want space on the Tube).  Take care of yourself – because you’re worth it.

2. Dress the part – spruce yourself up and choose an outfit that makes you look and feel great.  When you look your best, you’ll feel your best.

3. Choose your head for the day – which head will you choose?  The happy one, the grumpy one, the angry one, the peaceful one?  Your choice will determine your day.

4. Smile – smile and the whole world smiles back – grimace and you’ll end up stepping in dog poo.

5. Take 10 minutes to do nothing – go on, it feels great – just space out and enjoy yourself.

6. Do one thing from your sh!t list – you know those little things that are driving you nuts – do just one of them.  Feel the weight come off.

7. Commit a random act of kindness – whether someone needs help or not

8. Give yourself a break – at some point today you’ll probably start giving yourself a hard time.  Stop and apologize.

9. Slow down – try being the tortoise for a change.  Try walking half a pace slower, stopping to smell the flowers, looking more closely at the world around you.

10. Turn off email and your mobile for an hour – the world might collapse into a fiery ball… or nothing will happen.  Let them wait.

11. Organise some “spontaneous planned fun” – treat yourself or somebody you know to dinner, a massage, a walk in the park, some quality time.

12. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while – preferably someone you like

13. Buy treats for your office / team / colleagues – you have to live with them every day so bribe them to be nice with cake.

14. Stick your favourite up-tempo tune on the stereo at high volume – dance around the living room like a nutter (note to emos – feel free to sway instead)

15. Spend a little time outside – sit in the park at lunchtime, have a picnic, take a walk

16. Stretch yourself – try something new, take on that scary dream you’ve been meaning to start, face up to a fear

17. Make time for someone special – let them know how much you care

18. Take a TV sabbatical – it will forgive you and still be there for you tomorrow (this one goes for video games and the internet too)

19. Daydream – if you’re so inclined, let your mind wander for a while and enjoy it.

20. Set a new goal – it’s exciting to start something new – use 43 things to tell the world about it.

21. Plan a vacation – what kind of break are you craving and where would you like to go?  Make it happen.

22. Exercise – we have endorphins for a reason, so appreciate them

23. Get creative - Draw / Paint / Sculpt / Write / Photograph / Dance / Express yourself

24. Count your blessings – take a minute to be grateful for your life

25. Come up with your own plan – this is the best rule of all.  What is the thing you’d most like to do today?

It’s not too much to ask and you owe it to yourself.  Have a great day.

Penny for your thoughts

How did you make today a happier day?  Please leave a comment or pass this along to your friends.

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Photo credit : Lel4nd (Flickr Creative Commons)

Secrets to your Successful Career – Part 2

Reading time: 3 minutes and 33 seconds

Career coaching, career change, find work you love, fulfill your potential, find your career genius

Don't take it personally....

Less Ordinary Living is sharing 15 secrets to career success in the 21st Century - click here to subscribe and get them delivered straight to you.

    Secret 4: Don’t take it personally

I believe that one becomes stronger emotionally by taking life less personally. If your employer criticizes your report, don’t take it personally. Instead, find out what’s needed and fix it. If your girlfriend laughs at your tie, don’t take it personally. Find another tie or find another girlfriend.” -Marilyn vos Savant

The old adage says that “business is business – it’s nothing personal”.  This is a healthy lesson for the world of work.

Whether you’re an employee, temp, contractor or entrepreneur, you’ll face criticism, rejection, anger, fear and disappointment in the world of work.

  • Your brilliant project that you worked all night on will be torn up by the partner.
  • Your best customer will suddenly quit with no explanation.
  • Your boss will unload on you for no reason.
  • Everyone in your new workplace will treat you like a pariah and make you get the tea.

How does anyone survive this?

The answer is to not take these things personally.  A few thoughts that have helped me with this:

1)   Most people spend their entire lives in a self-obsessed bubble, barely noticing people around them.  If someone is ignoring your email, 90% of the time it is not because they hate you, but because they are too busy worrying about buying their new house, the fight they had with their husband, or which pair of shoes to wear today.  Don’t take it personally

2)   Knock-backs, failures and rejections are great.  They mean you are trying.  The more you fail, the more you are likely to succeed.  The rejections don’t mean you are doomed to eternal failure.  They mean you weren’t the right person at the right time, this time.  Keep knocking on doors and the right one for you will open.

3)   You always have a choice.  If things are getting out of hand and consistently unbearable, you have a duty to yourself to find another way to make a living.  There are always better choices.

    Secret 5: Ask for help (and give it back)

I’m just no good at asking others to help – I feel like I have to do it myself”.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this phrase, I’d be writing this post on the beach in Waikiki, rather than on a train in Wakefield.

If you’re an expert in everything, skip this step.  If you’re a normal human being then you’ll have strengths and things you’re not so good at.

Whatever you are hoping to get out of work – enjoyment, learning, growth, meaning – there will be times when you need to ask for help.

It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to in helping out.  Since I started my business, I’ve had friends and acquaintances help me with my marketing strategy, my PR approach, my web presence.  I’ve had a huge amount of feedback and help from people I really respect.

In my office based days, I got help on any number of things – how to use Excel, how to deal with a difficult team member, what to do when the boss melted down 24 hours before the end of a long project.  Without this support, I’m not sure I’d have made it through and I certainly wouldn’t have learned much.

The bottom line is learning to ask for help can make you better at your job, help you learn and grow, help you enjoy your work more and build solid relationships that can transcend jobs and even go beyond work.  Learn to ask for help.

In return,  help others generously if you can. Do your best to genuinely and graciously give back when you are the expert.  If you believe in karma, its good karma – if not it’s just the right thing to do.

And, no this lesson doesn’t clash with Secret Number 1 (You get out what you put in).  You will only get help if you know exactly what to ask for and who to ask. You have to actively seek the right help at the right time.

    Secret 6 Know why you are at work

If you haven’t seen the movie Office Space, it is one of the best films ever made about the world of work.  In this scene, the hero Peter tells the management consultants about his typical day at work.

Peter is the ultimate demotivated employee – “The truth is I probably only do about 15 minutes of real actual work” Peter’s attitude is “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I don’t care”.  He has no motivation to be at work.

The average human works for somewhere in the region of 75,000 hours during their career. There is no right answer for anyone to be at work, but without a good reason to be there it can become soul destroying.

Some of the most important reasons to be at work include:

  • Doing something meaningful – making a difference to the world around you
  • Learning something new – developing new skills that you can use profitably
  • Doing something you enjoy – work can provide energy and fun
  • Enjoying and being surrounded by great people – finding a great work culture
  • Making a good living – this is a good reason to work, but on its own sometimes this isn’t enough

Knowing why you are at work provides the motivation to get out of bed every day, and to get through the inevitable tough times.  If you’ve been spacing out for an hour a day and living on Facebook in the office, it may be time to take a long hard look at yourself and figure out a better way to get through those 75,000 hours.

To check out part 1 of career success secrets, click here.

If you want to get started figuring out why you are working, click here to find out more about career coaching.

Photo credit: Taylorkydd (Flickr Creative Commons)

15 Secrets to Thriving in the 21st Century Workplace –Part 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes 12 seconds

career coaching, career consulting, find work you love, careershifters

21st Century Office?

The world of work has changed beyond all recognition in the 21st Century – learn how to survive and thrive in the new world of workclick here to subscribe and get  every instalment delivered to your inbox.

1. You get out of work what you put in to work

I have a friend, let’s call him Stan.  Stan had been at the same employer for 12 years, in the marketing team.  Whenever I met Stan, this is what I’d hear:

Those b@st@rds don’t appreciate me, they work me so hard and I sweat blood for them.  Every year, they give me a terrible performance review, no bonus and a rubbish payrise.  They pass me over for promotion.  It makes me sick, I just don’t care any more.

Stan was notorious in his office for his legendary procrastination skills.  He spent all day complaining to anyone who didn’t manage to avoid him.

His nickname was Levi, because he was always out the door at 5.01.

Stan had told me many times that he didn’t care and wasn’t prepared to work his fingers to the bone for no gratitude in return.  He had given up.

When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Stan’s employer let him go.

Stan was mystified, angry, indignant and talked about suing.  Of course he didn’t.

No-one else at his office was surprised.  They saw it coming a mile off.

Stan walked straight into Secret Number 1 – you get out of work what you put in to work.

He was barely in the office and when he was he did nothing productive.  He distracted other team members with his negative attitude. In return, Stan got poor performance reviews.  In fact he’d been on three performance plans over his career.

He was passed over for promotion because he gave out the signals that he couldn’t care less.

However you make a living, your career will have ups and downs. There will be times when you are flat out and giving everything and calmer fallow periods.  Learning to make this choice consciously and being aware that you will get back what you put is key to managing this flow.

Please, don’t be a Stan.

2. You have to take ownership of your career

career coaching, career counselling, new career, work you love

Suited and booted

Picture me as a tender 21 year-old dressed in my three-piece pinstripe suit with natty pink shirt back in the mid-1990s.

I’m striding into my shiny corporate office for the first day of world domination.

I’d arrived – from now on my benevolent employers would shower me with money, support, training and appreciation.

All I had to do was show up and collect the daily kudos.

I deluded myself that it was in my firm’s interest to take care of me, promote me and sky-rocket my career for me.  I barely put in any effort for the first year.

When it came to review time, I showed up expecting a pat on the head, a bone for being a good boy and a dazzling review.

My bubble popped.  It seemed that I was somewhere below half-way down my peer group and my managers were questioning my attitude.

It slowly dawned on me that I and only I really cared at all about what happened in my career.  It was my responsibility to set the direction, ask for the good projects, demand the training I needed, find the right mentor, look for ways to use my strengths and skills.

If I didn’t do it, these things simply wouldn’t happen.

You have to take ownership of your career – no-one is going to hand success and career satisfaction to you on a plate.

3. Everyone should learn how to make money independently

This lesson hit home to me the day I got my first cheque from a client after starting Less Ordinary Living.

Ten years of sucking at the corporate teat had brainwashed me into believing that the only way I could possibly make money was through steady employment.

Without a job I felt as vulnerable as a baby seal wandering through an Eskimo village.  When I quit my job, I really did see myself “living in a van by the river” as Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation eloquently puts it.

It took a week or two to start finding clients and in that period, I was close to running back to the corporate edifice and begging forgiveness.  The prodigal son, on a rapid return visit.

Yet when the work started to come and I took that first cheque to the bank, something amazing happened.  I felt liberated.

I actually managed to make some cash, under my own steam, without anyone else’s benevolence.

This feeling is not to be underestimated.   It symbolises that you have the ability to fend for yourself.  I almost felt primal – like a prehistoric man bringing back the first woolly mammoth to the cave.

I’d recommend that everyone tries making some money independently.  Figure out something you are good and passionate about and find a way to make a little bit of money from it.

Sell a service (doing someone’s garden, being a handy man, helping someone write their CV, wallpapering, painting, anything really) or something you’ve made (at a local fair, on ebay, through a website you made).

Once you’ve done this, you’ll realise that having a job is not the only way – even if you never choose to freelance or be an entrepreneur, you’ll know more about how to make ends meet in the worse case scenario.

You’ll take away some of the doomsday fear of redundancy and see that you have more choices than you might appreciate for making a living in the 21st Century.

A great way to do this would be the start a small business for $100 in 28 days program from Chris Guillebeau

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on these secrets and what you’ve learned about the 21st Century workplace.

Photo credit: jhderojas , Laverrue

Change your Story, Change your Life

Reading time – 3 minutes 22 seconds

Career coach, career counselling, change your career, find work you love

Change your story, Change you life

Part 2 of Spring Clean your mindsubscribe now and get a 6-step process for a clearer mind and better living delivered to your inbox

What stories do you tell the world about yourself?  If you changed it how would your life change?

What is a story and how can it make a difference?  Here is a life-story in 87 words:

I was born in the north of England in the 1970s during a time of economic turmoil.  I never really felt comfortable or confident as a child, and I was bullied by the other kids in my neighbourhood.  At school, I did reasonably well, somewhere in the middle.  I stumbled my way into an ok university, again with average results.  When I graduated, through sheer desperation, I took a job with an accounting firm – certainly not what I was passionate about, but frankly about what I deserved.”

  • How do you respond to this story?
  • What sort of person do you think this is?
  • How do you think they feel?
  • How would you respond to this person if you met them?
  • What lasting impression would you have about them?

In less than 60 seconds, this story has set the foundation for how you relate to someone, and we all know that first impressions are hard to change.

This, of course, is my story. Or more importantly, one version of my story.

Everything in this story really did happen to me.  If someone asked me to “tell me about yourself” I could choose to tell this story.

Two truths about storytelling

Two things that happen when we tell stories:

1) We choose which “facts” to include in the story.

The building blocks of stories are experiences and memories, which we often think of as “facts”. When we tell the world our story, we have literally billions of these building blocks to choose from.  In my story I count somewhere in the region of 16 that I selected to let you know about me.

You may think that your story is your story – yet you choose the building blocks in every story you tell yourself or anyone else

2) We add our own editorial.

We choose how to present these “facts”.  We pick the tone and the editorial direction.

Clearly in my story, I’ve chosen to tell a hard luck story.  At every turn I am playing my little violin.

I was born in a time of economic turmoil” – really?  I was 1 year old at the time and my parents both had jobs.  Yet I chose to add this little zinger in.  I’m trying to make you feel sorry for me.

I never felt comfortable or confident.”  Find me anyone who can’t say something similar about parts of their childhood.

About what I deserved” – now I’m busy making judgements about myself.  I’m telling you that I’m not self-confident, that I feel pretty worthless and inviting you to feel the same way.

In storytelling, the narrator chooses whether to create a hero, anti-hero or villain.  We have the choice on HOW to tell the story.

Our life is little more than the sum of all our experiences.  When we tell others about who we are, we tell them our story. We weave together some selective memories from the past, and bind them together with our interpretation of those “facts”.

Choice is good

The important thing is that we always have a choice when we tell any story.  We can pick the building blocks and we have a choice over the narrative glue we use to stick them together.

Once we become aware of what stories we tell and what impact that has on us and the world, we can start to tell stories that we love and stop telling stories that drag us down.

Here is my story again in 87 words:

I grew up in a happy home and went to a school that I loved.  I thrived and was able to study history at a great university, after travelling the world in my gap year.  I met and married my soul mate along the way.  I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and live in different cultures.  It took me a while to find what I love to do, however now I’ve found my vocation and am thriving by helping others live life to the full.”

Ask yourself the same questions about this person that you did about the first story.

When we change our story, we really can change our world.  We also change how the world around us responds.

Even writing the first story, I could feel myself getting drained of energy.  I literally slumped in my chair, and felt overcome by worry.

Writing the second story, I felt my energy growing.  I felt great about myself, clear and confident.

In my mental spring clean, I’m going to look at the stories I tell the world.  For each story, I’ll ask:

1) Choosing Facts

  • What facts did I choose to share?
  • Why did I choose these facts?
  • What other facts could I have chosen?

2) Narrative / editorial

  • What kind of story am I try to tell?
  • What is this story telling the outside world about me?
  • What is this story telling me about me?

3) Alternatives / changing the story

  • What do I really want to tell the world?
  • What other stories could I tell that would serve me better?

If you are taking part in spring-cleaning your mind, ask yourself the same questions.

Good stories to look at include

  • How you introduce yourself at a work or networking function
  • What stories you tell at a job interview
  • What stories you are telling on your resume
  • What stories you share with your friends
  • What stories you tell your family, what stories you tell your other half and if applicable children.

I know I’ve found some stories I love and others that need junking.

Try changing your story and see how your life changes.

Next time – we’ll look at the stories we tell ourselves.

Picture credit : Victoria Peckham (From Flickr Creative Commons)