Overcoming Obstacles to Reach Your Goals: The Perils of Perfectionism

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a character trait characterized by a person’s quest for flawlessness and often involves critical self-evaluations and concern regarding others’ evaluations.

How does perfectionism hurt you?

Perfectionism is a really common obstacle that can hinder you from reaching your goals. It is closely tied to anxiety and the result is that you are so focused on everything being “right or perfect” that you prevent yourself from taking any action at all. That fear-based paralysis kicks in and you are so caught up in worrying whether something is totally ready that you don’t move forward. This is not to say that you should not worry about quality and go through life doing a half-assed job at everything; it’s saying that you should do the best you can and then keep on moving. Interestingly, perfectionism is more common in those who were identified as gifted/talented when in school so consider it an honorable problem to have.

Action breeds action while the reverse is also true. If you just wait and wait until you feel that something is “just right,” you will likely be waiting for a very long time. Conversely, if you do your best and then put something out there, that step helps you to create future steps.

The Car Analogy

If you’re planning to drive your car from, let’s say Missouri to California, and you look at Google Maps or whatever you use, and do some planning about the best route to take and pack your bags and plot out how to avoid rush hour, etc., you will still never get to California unless you turn the dang car on and start driving! Could you get lost? Yes, and luckily, you can turn the car around or go a different direction and learn as you go. Could it get dark out? Yes, and then your headlights will turn on to help you navigate in the dark. What if something goes wrong? Flat tires, dead alternators, and other assorted car problems happen—that’s part of being a car owner but those things can be remedied even if it causes a delay in your travel.

I don’t even live in Missouri so what’s the point? All goals involve some challenges and detours, but if you start taking action, you figure out how to overcome those challenges and sometimes the detours end up being even better than your initial intended goal. Basically, a car parked safely in your driveway will never go anywhere.  

3 ways to handle perfectionism:

  1. Take a step. Any step. Figure out the most logical place to start with your goal and then take that first step. Remember: there is boldness in action.
  2. Plan on missteps. If it goes smoothly, great—now you can plan the next step. But if something goes awry or a challenge presents itself, use it as a learning tool and make adjustments. Remember: you learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right! My son once complained about getting 98% on a test and missing one question. I asked him what that question was and he knew it right away (and the correct answer) and said he would never forget that one again.
  3. Get help. There are multiple things you could try to address perfectionism. Try a meditation practice for anxiety, such as through Headspace or Brainsync. Read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (I’ve recommended this book to many of my clients and they have gotten so much out of it). If your anxiety/perfectionism is crippling or preventing you from living your dream life, consider getting professional help from a therapist or counseling. Remember: getting help is a sign of strength because no successful person did it all on their own.  

Start today by taking a step toward your goal even though it might be scary or make you feel vulnerable. The more steps you take, the less scary it becomes and perfectionism will become a thing of the past. I’ll leave you with this quote that eloquently speaks to letting go of fear.

“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”—Andre Gide

Make sure to like the Prosperity Facebook page if you’re not already following! Already know you’re ready to invest in making your ideal future a reality? Schedule a free coaching consultation today with Dr. Kristi to see if coaching is a good fit for you!  

Overcoming Obstacles to Reach Your Goals: The “Lack” Mindset

This series of posts addresses common obstacles that people encounter when trying to reach their desired goals. Last week, we addressed how to overcome negative thinking. This time, we will talk about the common perceived obstacle of “lack.”

When people have difficulty reaching their personal and professional goals, they often point to a lack of something as a reason. Lack of time. Lack of money. Lack of energy. Lack of knowledge. Lack of skills. Lack of resources. And so on. This obstacle is common because if reaching goals were easy, everyone would do it. If your common lack belief is something along the lines of “lack of smarts” or “lack of being good enough,” then I encourage you to go back and read the first post in this series about negative beliefs. Also, what you tell yourself matters, so if you tell yourself that you can’t succeed because of some “lack,” then that will be the case (see above quote). For the rest of you, here are some tips for 3 of the most common “lacks.”

  1. Lack of time. I can’t tell you how often I hear this one from my life coaching and career coaching clients (hint: it’s a lot.) Here’s the thing. Everyone has 24 hours in a day: you, your boss, your friends, and even Bill Gates, and Beyonce. Whenever someone begins describing this lack to me, it becomes evident that the issue is actually “lack of time management” rather than time. I will do an entire post on time management in the future but people take great pride in listing off all of their responsibilities and things they do in their day and why they can’t possibly find time for anything extra. You don’t find time. You make time. If something is important enough to you, you will make the time. One quick tip: schedule that thing in your calendar and you are way more likely to do it. I am also a published sci-fi author, and someone once said to me, “I wish I had time to fritter away to write a book.” As though the magical time fairy sprinkled me with extra time that she didn’t have. I get up at 4:30a on weekdays before my kids get ready for school so that I can make time for writing before my other work. Make time for what matters to you.
  2. Lack of money. Unless you are the aforementioned Bill Gates or Beyonce, you likely have some limitations with your money. I tell clients that the quickest way to determine what they really value in life is to look at every penny they spent in the past month that wasn’t for a roof over their heads and electricity. Then, look for any areas where you could shift even a few dollars toward your goal. There are a ton of posts out there on ways to save more money (a google search is great for this), but start a fund for that goal, no matter how small it is. Online accounts even let you name the account whatever you want so make it your goal name or something fun, such as Trip to Ireland account, Start My Own Catering Business account, Freedom from Corporate Enslavement account, etc. In the meantime, be creative. What can you do with the funds you have now? I guarantee you can start somewhere, even if it’s a small step. All big things start with smaller things that add up. I know someone who sold their blood plasma to pay for editing of their first book. How badly do you want that goal?
  3. Lack of knowledge. Most of us are knowledgeable in certain areas but we may have goals that stretch beyond our expertise. I encourage this because I strongly believe that all growth happens outside our comfort zones. I’ve had clients want to shift jobs into entirely new fields, clients who wanted to remodel a room in their home, and even one who wanted to build a motorcycle even though they’d never done it before. Luckily, we live in an age where a plethora of information is literally at our fingertips. I’ve had clients take online classes through places like Harvard X to learn new information, look up YouTube videos on how to install/repair/remodel various things, and send out the word on social media and email that they were interested in a new career field. Remember: knowledge can always be obtained. Plus, being a life-long learner is the key to continued growth and evolving as a human.

In Summary: Those are the top 3 “lacks” that I hear from clients though there are obviously more. I’ve said this before but if you try to view challenges more as “opportunities in disguise,” you will become more creative to your approach in solving them and future challenges won’t seem as daunting. You can absolutely achieve your goals. The key is believing it.

Make sure to like the Prosperity Facebook page if you’re not already following! Already know you’re ready to invest in making your ideal future a reality? Schedule a free coaching consultation today with Dr. Kristi to see if coaching is a good fit for you!  

Overcoming Obstacles to Reach Your Goals: Challenging Negative Thoughts

We started the year with a series of posts on how to set amazing goals for yourself. However, setting goals is always easier than accomplishing them, so next, I thought I’d address some of the common issues that cause people to stumble along the way. Today, we will tackle the super common obstacle of negative beliefs or negative thoughts.

What is a negative belief? Any thought you have that undermines your belief in yourself, others, and the world. It’s that little voice in the back of your head that acts as a naysayer to your hopes and dreams. We will focus on one’s beliefs about themselves rather than others/the world, as that is what primarily impacts your goals. As anyone’s perception of themselves is truly their reality, isn’t it better to create a reality you love instead of a negative one? Research from Cleveland Clinic found that we have about 50,000 spontaneous thoughts per day and the negative thoughts tend to be “stickier,” meaning they stay with you longer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change how you think; and those researchers found that your brain does, in fact, change when you learn to think more positively.

What are some common negative thoughts? Some very common negative thoughts that I hear from my career coaching and life coaching clients are: I’m not experienced enough; I’m not lovable; I’m not smart enough; I’m not worthy; I’m not as good at “something” as others; etc. There are also extreme examples of this, such as when people say things to themselves, like: I’m stupid or I’m ugly.

How do negative thoughts impact my goals? Big goals aren’t easy to reach; otherwise, everyone around the world would be hugely successful and happy. Yet the difference between people who reach their goals and those who don’t isn’t typically incredible luck, skill, or lack of any obstacles. It’s perseverance and resilience. Talk to any so-called “overnight success” and they will tell you the hours of hard work and challenges they overcame to become successful.

Challenges are inevitable. They are a part of life. Plenty of people give up when they hit an obstacle due to negative thoughts, such as, I’ll never be able to do this or I’ll never be good enough. Learn to see challenges as opportunities in disguise and your life will change.

One of the greatest (if not the greatest) basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, who didn’t make the Varsity team in high school (he made JV) and interpreted that as being cut from the team, said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” He used his “failures” to drive him and motivate him to get even better. Everyone falls at times; the successful people are the ones who get up again.

How do I change my negative thoughts? Here are a few ways to tackle your negative thoughts.

  1. Identify them. Half the battle with anything in life is identifying the problem. Pick a day and catch yourself anytime you have a negative thought and stop and write that thought down (either on paper or in your phone). Do this for the entire day (or several days if you can). You will notice your patterns of typical thoughts and will likely be surprised at how often you have those thoughts. Don’t be hard on yourself. Negative thoughts are common and normal but if they’re keeping you from living your best life, you can address them.
  2. Challenge them. This is often hard to do at first which is why I have people do it on paper first. Look at your list of negative thoughts from the day and then write down a positive challenge to each thought. People who really believe their negative thoughts may have a hard time coming up with something positive they can believe. That’s okay. Start by pretending you’ve just told your best friend, a therapist, or a loved one the negative thought. How would they respond to you to challenge that thought? Write that challenge statement down even if you don’t believe it at first.
  3. Be consistent. Once you’ve written down the challenges to your negative thoughts, you are going to start catching yourself in the moment. As soon as the negative thought enters your head, immediately counter that thought with the challenge. You can do this anywhere since it’s a mental challenge, so your co-workers won’t wonder why you’re yelling “Yes, I am smart enough” at the office meeting.

Example:

Negative thought: I don’t have what it takes to get this promotion.

Challenge thought: I’m qualified for the job and have as good a chance as anyone.

Now what? After you consistently challenge those negative thoughts, you actually create new neural pathways in the brain. Eventually, instead of following the negative thoughts with a positive challenge, you will think the positive thought instead. Or you will have the negative thought and immediately dismiss it and not give attention to it. Then return to the positive statements that will help power you through to the next step. Next week, we will address the “lack” obstacle that can impact your goals (lack of time, money, resources, etc). Until then, challenge those thoughts!

Make sure to like the Prosperity Facebook page if you’re not already following! Already know you’re ready to invest in making your ideal future a reality? Schedule a free coaching consultation today with Dr. Kristi to see if coaching is a good fit for you!  

Part 2: Goal Setting: Breaking Down Big Goals into Monthly Ones

The last post discussed how to set overall goals for the whole year. Part of why people have trouble reaching their goals is that a year can seem like a long time so it’s easy to get overwhelmed with a larger goal and not know where to start. Unfortunately, sometimes when people don’t know where to begin, they either don’t start at all … or they start but give up before reaching the goal.

If you have a larger goal for the end of 2020, you want to reverse engineer that goal and break it down month by month. This way, you start with small, manageable steps that build on each other and it becomes way easier to reach your goal. I’ll give you a few examples and I’ll also provide a free monthly planning template you can try out.

Health Goal Example:

If you have a year-end goal of being healthier, think of a step you could implement first. Not ten steps–like exercising more, drinking more water, eliminating sugar, cutting carbs, increasing vegetables, meditating, etc. Pick one thing first and do that. Also, try not to be extreme in that one step. For instance, if you are currently exercising ZERO times per week and you put that your goal is to exercise every day for two hours … well, you are most likely going to fail in that goal. You want to set yourself up for success which will cause increased motivation and happiness. So, for my clients who exercise zero or once a week, we set the goal for the first month to increase exercise 2X per week. That’s it. Then, if they exercise more days some week, it feels amazing to them, like they’ve gone above and beyond. Keep it simple.

Financial Goal Example:

If you have a goal of saving for a specific vacation, kitchen appliance, etc, then research what you need to save per month given your desired timeline and make that a monthly savings goal–and put that money into a separate account for that specific thing if possible. Some online banks let you name your savings accounts whatever you want which is a fabulous idea as it creates excitement and motivation. So you can name an account “European escapades” or “kitchen remodel” which makes it even more fun to put money into it.

You would apply these same concepts to career goals, relationship goals, spirituality goals, etc. Start with the first step the first month and then assess how it goes before deciding what to implement the following month. Next week, we will go into specific weekly goal planning in a way that sets you up for success. In the meantime, you can grab this Monthly Planning Sheet to use if you want somewhere to list your goals for this month.

Make sure to check out plenty of other tips on the blog such as 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Ideal Career.  Already know you’re ready to invest in making your ideal future a reality? Schedule a free coaching consultation today with Dr. Kristi to see if coaching is a good fit for you!  

Why You Should Engage in Active Slacking Over the Holidays

You’re probably used to coaching posts about increasing productivity, time management tools, and maximizing each minute of the day—I’ve even written a few of those myself. 😉 However, this is not one of those posts. Part of being successful is figuring out the art of work/life balance. Notice I didn’t say “perfecting the art” because everyone reading this post is human (as far as I know anyway) and therefore will not attain perfection. I’m going to do a whole post on the concept of perfection in the near future but, for now, just know that I think the word hinders rather than helps people—it’s far better to focus on being a slightly better version of yourself than you were the day before.

The Case for Slacking

So, about this work/life balance thing. The holidays are a weird time when we have a combination of time off from work (for most people) yet still have a high level of stress due to the overall busyness of the season so it’s not always the most relaxing time. Combine that with the family dynamics involved in gatherings where relatives don’t always see eye-to-eye and it’s no wonder why some people are reaching for the nearest glass bottle of wine. Not that I’m against a good glass of pinot noir but in terms of more liver-friendly self-care techniques, I’m advocating for more slacking over the holidays.

The Science of Slacking

Why actively choose slacking? Because when you allow yourself time to decompress, chill out, get creative, have fun, and play, you are living more in the present moment—which is where all the good stuff happens anyway. In terms of basic science, your cortisol levels (stress hormones) go down and your endorphins (your body’s feel good hormones) go up. You will literally feel better, so by creating space to slack, you are making your body and mind healthier … and likely your relationships because you’re going to be more fun to be around. In turn, this will make you even more productive when you are ready to dive back into goals and activities because you’re more energized—you got your groove back. Choose to slack more over the holidays.

Slacking Summary

Life is filled with to-do lists, work demands, children’s activities, laundry, house payments, flu shots, and dental visits. It’s easy to get caught in a perpetual cycle of stress and frustration. Step back and try to simply your holidays this year by focusing on what’s most important. Spend less time on things that aren’t bringing you joy (like Marie Kondo but with activities instead of shirts) and more time doing things you love—play a game, watch a movie, take a walk, check out a museum exhibit (the new Pixar exhibit at the Nature and Science museum is awesome if you’re in Denver), go skiing, meditate, sit on the couch in front of the fireplace with a good book or Netflix show, or take a nap—or two.

In short, slack more and stress less. I hope everyone has a joyous and relaxing holiday season filled with love and family. I’ll be back in January with posts on goals for the New Year and hope you come back refreshed and energized. Until 2020…  

Career Coaching Insights: 5 Questions to Help Determine Your Ideal Career

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

The difference between a job and a career

While a job is something that one does solely for the money involved, a career involves a chosen occupation which often has room for progression in that specific field. Delivering pizzas for extra pocket money would be an example of a job, while teaching or medicine are possible career paths. If you work a typical 40-hours per week, that is 2,080 hours each year that you are spending at work, and a career often spans decades of a person’s life. Decades. That is a lot of hours devoted to one’s career and why it is so important to make sure you are doing what you love. The goal should be that you wake up excited by what you get to do each day—that you are thriving, not just surviving. While it’s never too late to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, the sooner you’re able to identify your ideal career, the more time you’ll have being happy and energized at work.

Here are 5 mindful questions to help determine your ideal career:

#1: What are your values?

In general, people are happiest when what they do in life matches their values. Examples of values can be things such as family, relationships, health, nature, travel, honesty, financial freedom, spirituality, success, and knowledge. There are many other values as well, but the key is that your day is spent in line with at least some of your core values. For instance, if two of your core values were social justice and equality, you would likely be miserable in a job on Wall Street, but might thrive in a non-profit setting.

There’s no right or wrong regarding values; just be honest in what yours are. If you aren’t sure what your top values are, the fastest way to figure it out is to ask yourself this question: where do you spend your 1) free time and your 2) money? People with family as their top value tend to spend their time and money on family activities, or someone who values the outdoors might go hiking or biking every weekend. List your values and then determine if your current career lines up with any of your top ones.

#2: When are you in the flow where you lose track of time?

The goal of mindfulness is to live as much as possible in the present moment, which is where all of the good stuff in life happens. When you are so absorbed in something that you lose track of time, you are fully immersed in the present. For many people, this state of flow occurs when they are involved in a favorite hobby. The definition of a hobby is: an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. It’s something done due to the love of doing it, rather than for a secondary gain such as money. Some potential responses could be: when you’re gardening, taking photos, building model cars, skiing, rock climbing, jewelry-making, writing, woodworking, or playing with your children. You get the idea. When answering this question, you will probably come up with more than one answer, which is great so think of all incidents where you lose track of time.

A fun extension of this question is: as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? No matter how far-fetched the answer might be, it often highlights what excited you as a child, and we often lose touch with that inner child as we grow. When you identify when you are most in the flow, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that your answer means you should make that hobby a career. Some people worry that making something they love into a job will cause them to lose their passion for it, whereas others would be thrilled to get to do their hobby full-time. The key is just to tap into those things that excite you, because you can use that passion to determine what is missing from your current career.

#3: What skills do you have that are unique?

Everyone has a combination of strengths, personality traits, and life experiences that make them unique. When you identify the things that make you stand out, you can better explore how to use those strengths. This could be having an amazing aptitude with numbers, whipping up an amazing meal without a recipe, or being someone who easily makes new friends.

If this question is hard for you, think about the last time you received a compliment. Has someone told you that you’re great at solving puzzles, a great cook or that they admire your homemade curtains? Did someone ask you where you got that awesome table or bookcase only to find out that you made it? NOTE: Don’t discount a skill based on not liking an aspect of it. For instance, if you are great with numbers, but didn’t enjoy being an accountant, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another great fit for you, such as data analysis or forecast modeling.

#4: What does your ideal work day look like?

You can try a fun visualization exercise before answering this one. Try closing your eyes and visualize what an ideal day at work would look like, and more importantly, feel like, for you. Don’t focus on what the actual job involves. What type of co-workers do you have in this ideal job, e.g. motivated, collaborative, creative, or independent? Or do you not picture co-workers at all, and see yourself working mostly alone? What is the management style of your dream boss, such as detail-oriented or more unstructured but supportive? Or are you the boss or business owner? What does the environment look like, e.g. bright open space, private office with door, your own house, or frequent traveling to different cities or countries?

When you feel excited and happy in the visualization, like it almost seems real, then you’ve succeeded in tricking your brain, so now you can open your eyes. Jot down everything you experienced in this visualization. Notice how close or far this ideal work day is from your current work experience. Also, keep in mind, that your ideal work day may look very different than your friends or family’s version, and that’s okay—own your vision and don’t let peer pressure talk you out of it.

#5: What would you be doing right now if money was no object?

What would you be doing if money did not matter at all to you? Even if your first inclination is to say “nothing,” think past the initial period of lounging on the couch playing video games or binge-watching Game of Thrones. People thrive when they feel they are living up to their full potential. Would you start your own charitable foundation? Your own business? Would you travel the world and experience new cultures? Move closer to family or loved ones?  Hint: Answering this question also helps you identify your true values in life.

Begin the Journey Toward Your New Career

Your new career starts now.

Too often people stay stuck in careers that aren’t satisfying to them, many times to fears or limiting beliefs about what they think is possible for them. So many of our challenges in life are mental, rather than physical, so use these questions as a starting point. Read through all your responses and notice any common themes, words, or ideas. These repetitions give clues as to potential career ideas. Keep in mind that there is usually not one perfect job out there for you, just like there’s not one perfect partner, so you’re just opening yourself up to possibilities at this point. Use your answers as food for thought in your journey toward a new career, and take the first step today. Did you notice any similarities in your responses to these questions? Did any of your answers surprise you? What step will you take next?

Kristi Helvig, Ph.D., C.P.C., is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified professional life and career coach who works with clients all over the world via the magic of Skype. Contact Dr. Kristi to set up a free coaching consultation at drhelvig (at) yahoo.com.

5 Steps to Smart Goal-Setting in 2019

I’m not a fan of resolutions because they often don’t work—my husband tells me every year how crowded his gym gets in January but then empties out each February after people give up on their yearly gym resolution. However, I am a big believer in goal setting and the New Year is a great time to get started. Why set goals? Well, if you do the same thing you’ve always done, you will get the same results. Therefore, this year will look pretty much the same as last year if you don’t change anything, which is great as long as everything is already amazing for you. If not, decide what changes would feel good to you and make those your goals. I do an annual goal-setting session with all of my clients at the outset of each year and the following is the basic outline so you can set your own goals in order to make 2019 your best year ever!

 

  1. Begin at the end. Close your eyes and flash forward in your mind to the end of 2019 where you see yourself happy and satisfied with your year. I often use creative visualization with my clients as it helps to quickly clarify what they want out of life. The trick to visualization is to do it until you really feel the emotions of happiness, excitement, well-being, etc. Then evaluate what you just experienced in the visualization by asking “what was different than right now?” In that visualization, are you in a different, more rewarding job? Are you healthier or in better shape? Is your relationship with partner lighter and happier? Did you save more money? Does parenting feel easier and more enjoyable? Did you write that book? You get the idea. Jot down what would make the next year feel amazing to you.

 

  1. Use reverse engineering. After writing down some notes about what you would like to have happen in the next year, work backwards to see where you would need to start now. This can be tricky, especially if the difference between where you would like to be and where you are now feels huge to you. If you want to write a book but have written zero words, then pick the very first step—e.g. decide on a book topic. If you want to save more money, your first step might be exploring savings accounts or investment options. Starting a business and running your own company is a common goal I see with clients, so creating a business plan might be the first step for you before looking for office space, etc. Picturing the end goal and then breaking that down helps to see where to start.

 

  1. Start small. This may seem counter-intuitive to the “go big or go home” thinking that is prevalent in the U.S., but stick with me a minute. Too often, I have clients with a big goal and the amount they have to do to reach that goal can be overwhelming. If you want to get healthier, but your initial goals are “drink 8 glasses of water a day, give up sugar, exercise daily, master yoga, and become a vegetarian,” then you are likely setting yourself up to fail. When we cannot do everything, we often throw up our hands and say “oh well, I tried” and give up (hence the emptier gym in February). It is better to pick one thing until it becomes habit before adding another. If you currently exercise 0-1 time per week, then setting a goal of exercising 2 times per week is a realistic goal where you are setting yourself up to succeed—and then you can increase or add the next goal.

 

  1. Schedule regular check-ins. Too often, people set amazing goals…but then the whole year goes by before they revisit them and are disappointed when they didn’t reach them. Goals take time and energy to reach which is why it’s important to revisit them often. I have most of my clients do weekly assessments of their goals and it does not take much time at all. Schedule 10 minutes on a Sunday and assess where you are. Then decide what small step or steps you need to take the following week and write those down. If you do even 1-2 steps per week, think where you will be at the end of the year compared to doing nothing. Small steps add up to huge accomplishments when done consistently.

 

  1. Do it now. As in, right now. Stop and do one thing related to your goals you just created. Drink that first glass of water, open an online savings account, schedule your two weekly workouts into your planner, make plans for a date night with your spouse. Getting started is always the hardest part, but action begets action. You will feel better the sooner you take that first small step and the next steps become easier to take once you get started. Once you start making progress, the intrinsic motivation kicks in and the excitement level builds until you are well on your way to the amazing year you visualized for yourself.

 

Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified Life Coach who helps clients reach their goals all over the world through the magic of Skype. If you would like more help reaching your goals or would like a free consultation to see if coaching is right for you, please email her at kristi@prosperitycoachingandconsulting.com.

The Power of Words

 

The words you use matter. Not just words that are spoken out loud, but your written words and thoughts as well. I can’t tell you how many times a client has said something to me, like, “I’m terrible at….” or “I’ll never be able to…” Words are more powerful that most people know which is why it’s important to put some energy into choosing your words wisely. As humans, we tend to be amazing at the self-fulfilling prophecy thing, meaning we are masterful creators of our reality. Whatever we speak, write and think on a daily basis has immense power to become real. In the course of a career or life coaching session, I will often point out a client’s word choice around certain issues because it reveals a lot about where they are stuck. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  1. “I’m Awful/Terrible/No Good/Very Bad at…” No, I’m not talking about the amazing picture book based on Alexander and his not-so-great day, though that book perfectly highlights the snowball effect that bad thoughts can have. It’s why bad days tend to stay bad–because we put our energy on the negative rather than what we want. Instead, practice speaking, writing, and thinking what you are good at. What if there is something that you want to better at but don’t feel you are there yet? That’s okay. Just choose different words. The fix: Instead of “I’m terrible at dating.” “I’m awful at numbers.” “I can’t lose the weight.”  Say this: “I’m getting better at dating.” “I’m learning better budgeting.” “I’m working on a healthy body.”                
  2. “Should” versus “Want”: We all get advice and suggestions from others, whether that is our spouse, parents, friends, or co-workers. Though that advice is often well-meaning in intent, the challenge comes in determining whether it is right for YOU. Too often, I see people who chose career field because of influence by others (parents telling them it would be a secure field, friends telling them it’s a money-making job, etc.) rather than them following their own passions. The word “should” is a huge red flag, because it usually means the influence is external rather than coming from inside yourself. For instance, “I should go into accounting because there are tons of jobs open.” “I should marry this person because they have many good qualities.” “I should get my Master’s Degree because it will open more opportunities for me.”  The fastest way to discover if that thing is right for you is to substitute the word “want” instead. The fix: Replace the word “should” with “want” and ask it as a question: “Do I want to go into accounting?” “Do I want to marry this person?” “Do I want to invest my time and energy into a Master’s Degree?”
  3. “Someday I will…” “Once I do/have/become this, then…” Too often, we are not living in the present moment which is where all the good stuff happens. We delay our ultimate happiness by saying that once we attain something (a great career/relationship/perfect health), we will be satisfied. By all means, have goals for yourself but whenever possible, frame them in the context of the present moment. If in each moment, you choose things that are healthy, happy, and moving toward your goal, you will get there faster than by staying 10 steps ahead in your mind. When you are always thinking 10 steps ahead, you aren’t enjoying where you are and life is all about the journey. If you’re not happy now, you won’t be happy 10 steps ahead either. The fix: Use present tense language to keep yourself grounded in the moment. Think thoughts in line with this, such as: “I am excited to exercise today to be healthy.” “I love playing this game with my children.” “I’m feeling great about this work project I’m completing.”

Bonus Tip: Whenever possible, use language in your thoughts and speech that generate more of what you want in life. Use words like “excited” “passionate” “love,” etc. If you know any negative Nellie’s in your life (the ones who find the down side of absolutely everything), pay attention to the language they use–their energy is about finding more of those negative things, and there will always be more to find if that’s where your focus is. Think of your energy as akin to plants or a garden–the things you focus on will grow by where you put your attention (water). Water your thoughts with good feelings and energy to create more of that in your life.

Remember: Like attracts like. Challenge yourself for the next week in terms of the words you say out loud and think to yourself. Focus your energy on what you want to create. Then you will have a book more similar to Alexander and the Wonderful, Amazingly Awesome, Very Good Day. 🙂

 

 

5 Mindful Questions to Help You Determine Your Ideal Career

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

The difference between a job and a career

While a job is something that one does solely for the money involved, a career involves a chosen occupation which often has room for progression in that specific field. Delivering pizzas for extra pocket money would be an example of a job, while teaching or medicine are possible career paths. If you work a typical 40-hours per week, that is 2,080 hours each year that you are spending at work, and a career often spans decades of a person’s life. Decades. That is a lot of hours devoted to one’s career and why it is so important to make sure you are doing what you love. The goal should be that you wake up excited by what you get to do each day—that you are thriving, not just surviving. While it’s never too late to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, the sooner you’re able to identify your ideal career, the more time you’ll have being happy and energized at work.

Here are 5 mindful questions to help determine your ideal career:

#1: What are your values?

In general, people are happiest when what they do in life matches their values. Examples of values can be things such as family, relationships, health, nature, travel, honesty, financial freedom, spirituality, success, and knowledge. There are many other values as well, but the key is that your day is spent in line with at least some of your core values. For instance, if two of your core values were social justice and equality, you would likely be miserable in a job on Wall Street, but might thrive in a non-profit setting.

There’s no right or wrong regarding values; just be honest in what yours are. If you aren’t sure what your top values are, the fastest way to figure it out is to ask yourself this question: where do you spend your 1) free time and your 2) money? People with family as their top value tend to spend their time and money on family activities, or someone who values the outdoors might go hiking or biking every weekend. List your values and then determine if your current career lines up with any of your top ones.

#2: When are you in the flow where you lose track of time?

The goal of mindfulness is to live as much as possible in the present moment, which is where all of the good stuff in life happens. When you are so absorbed in something that you lose track of time, you are fully immersed in the present. For many people, this state of flow occurs when they are involved in a favorite hobby. The definition of a hobby is: an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. It’s something done due to the love of doing it, rather than for a secondary gain such as money. Some potential responses could be: when you’re gardening, taking photos, building model cars, skiing, rock climbing, jewelry-making, writing, woodworking, or playing with your children. You get the idea. When answering this question, you will probably come up with more than one answer, which is great so think of all incidents where you lose track of time.

A fun extension of this question is: as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? No matter how far-fetched the answer might be, it often highlights what excited you as a child, and we often lose touch with that inner child as we grow. When you identify when you are most in the flow, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that your answer means you should make that hobby a career. Some people worry that making something they love into a job will cause them to lose their passion for it, whereas others would be thrilled to get to do their hobby full-time. The key is just to tap into those things that excite you, because you can use that passion to determine what is missing from your current career.

#3: What skills do you have that are unique?

Everyone has a combination of strengths, personality traits, and life experiences that make them unique. When you identify the things that make you stand out, you can better explore how to use those strengths. This could be having an amazing aptitude with numbers, whipping up an amazing meal without a recipe, or being someone who easily makes new friends.

If this question is hard for you, think about the last time you received a compliment. Has someone told you that you’re great at solving puzzles, a great cook or that they admire your homemade curtains? Did someone ask you where you got that awesome table or bookcase only to find out that you made it? NOTE: Don’t discount a skill based on not liking an aspect of it. For instance, if you are great with numbers, but didn’t enjoy being an accountant, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another great fit for you, such as data analysis or forecast modeling.

#4: What does your ideal work day look like?

You can try a fun visualization exercise before answering this one. Try closing your eyes and visualize what an ideal day at work would look like, and more importantly, feel like, for you. Don’t focus on what the actual job involves. What type of co-workers do you have in this ideal job, e.g. motivated, collaborative, creative, or independent? Or do you not picture co-workers at all, and see yourself working mostly alone? What is the management style of your dream boss, such as detail-oriented or more unstructured but supportive? Or are you the boss or business owner? What does the environment look like, e.g. bright open space, private office with door, your own house, or frequent traveling to different cities or countries?

When you feel excited and happy in the visualization, like it almost seems real, then you’ve succeeded in tricking your brain, so now you can open your eyes. Jot down everything you experienced in this visualization. Notice how close or far this ideal work day is from your current work experience. Also, keep in mind, that your ideal work day may look very different than your friends or family’s version, and that’s okay—own your vision and don’t let peer pressure talk you out of it.

#5: What would you be doing right now if money was no object?

What would you be doing if money did not matter at all to you? Even if your first inclination is to say “nothing,” think past the initial period of lounging on the couch playing video games or binge-watching Game of Thrones. People thrive when they feel they are living up to their full potential. Would you start your own charitable foundation? Your own business? Would you travel the world and experience new cultures? Move closer to family or loved ones?  Hint: Answering this question also helps you identify your true values in life.

Begin the Journey Toward Your New Career

Your new career starts now.

Too often people stay stuck in careers that aren’t satisfying to them, many times to fears or limiting beliefs about what they think is possible for them. So many of our challenges in life are mental, rather than physical, so use these questions as a starting point. Read through all your responses and notice any common themes, words, or ideas. These repetitions give clues as to potential career ideas. Keep in mind that there is usually not one perfect job out there for you, just like there’s not one perfect partner, so you’re just opening yourself up to possibilities at this point. Use your answers as food for thought in your journey toward a new career, and take the first step today. Did you notice any similarities in your responses to these questions? Did any of your answers surprise you? What step will you take next?

Kristi Helvig, Ph.D., C.P.C., is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified professional life and career coach who works with clients all over the world via the magic of Skype. Contact Dr. Kristi to set up a free coaching consultation at drhelvig (at) yahoo.com.

Meditation and Mindfulness for Success in Business: Part One

Meditation and Mindfulness for Success in Business: Part One

This is the first part of a 3-part series of how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your life, and specifically, in order to maximize your career and business decisions.

I’m the first to admit that when I first raise the idea of mindfulness and meditation with my clients, I sometimes get a raised eyebrow in response. Not to be stereotypical, but this has been most true of my male clients who are in high positions (CEO’s, CFO’s, entrepreneurs who own their own companies, surgeons, etc.), and suspect that meditation might be too “woo woo” for them … until they do it. Then, every time, they are also the ones most likely to tell me it has changed their life.

I start by telling them about the billion-dollar hedge fund manager, Ray Dahlio, who is widely considered the most successful of all time in his position, and how he considers daily transcendental meditation to be the one thing he attributes most to his success. Meditation increases mindfulness, which can be most simply explained as “the state of being aware of something.” Mindfulness trains you to stay in the present tense which is where all the best decisions in life are made. In fact, think of every great thing that has happened in your life, and I guarantee it was while you were in the present tense, rather than when you were focused on the past or future. As soon as you are making decisions based on worrying or are ten steps ahead of yourself, you have lost the state of being mindful. Decisions based on fear or anxiety are never as good as the ones you make based on the present moment.

One of my clients told me a great story which highlights this concept. A client came to him offering a lot of money for the type job he does all of the time. His gut sent him warning signals that accepting this client wasn’t the right decision, yet due to the amount of money involved, he took the job anyway. He said the job turned out to be a nightmare which took him a long time to clean up and he wished he never accepted that “great paying client.” He began meditating daily, and soon after, a client came to him with a small job which almost didn’t seem worth the time or money to do the job, but he felt strongly that he should do it. This time, he listened to his gut, and did the job, and the client ended up recommending him to a much larger high-paying client which turned into a huge profit for him. This same client is well on his way to his first multi-million dollar year in income.     

What exactly is meditation anyway?

Meditation is a practice wherein you train your brain to “let go,” and is technically defined as an act of reflection or deliberation. I think of it as yoga for the mind. It brings about a state of relaxation, yet also heightened awareness at the same time. Some people use it along with prayer, but meditation itself is not inherently religious, and it has been incorporated into many spiritual beliefs. It dates back thousands of years and the earliest known record of it is in 5,000 year old Hindu scriptures.

Fact: If people fully understood the power within their brains, they would spend just as much time exercising their brains as they do their bodies. I will present a mind-blowing study which highlights this power in Part 2 of this series.

What are the benefits of meditation?

The benefits of meditation are numerous, but a few key ones include:

  • relaxation
  • increased focus
  • stress reduction
  • helps depression and anxiety
  • enhanced learning ability

One of the best benefits of meditation is stress reduction. When the body relaxes, the cortisol levels in the body drop, and meditation has also been found to increase the body’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as seratonin. In fact, many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications work by boosting the production of seratonin in the brain.

When you are under extreme stress, the stress hormones flood the body to create a “fight or flight” response, which means blood is going to your muscles and away from your brain. Under chronic stress with elevated cortisol levels, we are less likely to make the best decisions because our brains are not functioning at their optimal level. Daily meditation for just 5-10 minutes can make a drastic difference in how our brains work, and helps it to work for us rather than against us.

In next week’s post, we will dive into the science behind meditation (why it’s quite far from “woo woo”), and what your brain looks like on meditation. Until then… 🙂 Kristi