Plans

How Do You Figure Out Your Life’s Purpose?

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from them.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

Someone asked me the other day how I figured out my purpose in life. It’s a question I don’t often think about, yet it is a good one. For one thing, when I was in my early 30s with two children to raise on my own, I struggled with life’s purpose. Indeed, everything that could go wrong in my life seemed like it did go wrong. Much of the damage was due to my own choices, although I seemed either unaware or incapable of recognizing my part in the outcomes at the time. Fortunately, through intensive psychotherapy and creating and developing a strong support network, I was able to build self-esteem, gradually add self-confidence, belief in myself, learn to make better decisions, and, yes, figure out my life’s purpose.

What is my life’s purpose, you might ask? I think the simplest answer is also the most appropriate: to be the best version of myself I can be. This may seem too easy, although the statement covers all there is to know about what I value. Here, allow me to share what helped me figure out my life’s purpose, in the hope that it will provide a preliminary glimpse at what might work for others in the same quest.

Make a list of your strengths.

Everyone is good at something. Take the time to think about what you do well, what comes easily to you and you enjoy doing. If you’re really good at an activity, yet don’t particularly enjoy it, list it anyway. There may well be value in the activity that you’re not capitalizing on. Perhaps by changing your approach, when you do it, the tools and resources you use or don’t, who’s dependent on you for results and your own perception of the activity’s importance in your life can turn this strength into a clear option to help you navigate toward what is meaningful in your life. In other words, help you find your life’s purpose.

By way of personal example, I have always been a good writer. I haven’t however, always made use of my talent in ways that could benefit my career, personal life or happiness. Indeed, I almost gave writing the heave-ho to pursue a career more lofty, prestigious, stable and extremely well-paid. I took the LSAT in the hopes of getting accepted to law school. Even though I did well enough, I quickly learned that the field was not for me. I found it tedious, hard work, not creative at all and not worth the expense and time. Instead, I returned to writing, taking night school college courses that gave me the opportunity in various formats (term papers, homework, writing scripts, commercials, crafting business plans, and so on) to grow and nurture my skill.

Find a mentor.

Starting off in a field or endeavor you think may hold promise for your life’s purpose can be intimidating, confusing and scary. You don’t know a lot at first, and you need allies to help guide you as you make choices. A mentor is excellent for this. Should you concentrate on this area or opt for a more diverse approach? Do you need additional education or a period of internship or practice? Who are the best role models, people you look up to whose success, demeanor and well-roundedness you hope to emulate? If possible, single out a few men and women who fit the role of a mentor and ask if they’d be willing to assist you in this manner. It may be someone where you already work, or a professor or instructor in a class or activity you find enticing, enjoyable and with potential. It could be a close friend, acquaintance, family member or loved one, although it’s more likely to be someone outside your immediate social circles. A mentor can help you steer clear of time-wasting projects and point out where you may get more favorable return for your efforts. Listening to his or her stories about how they got where they are today and what drives them to pursue their purpose in life may inspire you to chart your own course.

I was fortunate to encounter several mentors in my career. Two were naturals: I worked for them. One was a college professor, a man who served as my master’s advisor. Another was a psychotherapist who helped me navigate emotional turmoil to zero in on my core beliefs and solidify my feelings of self-worth. In fact, there were others who served in less official mentorship roles throughout my life to date. I am grateful for their commitment and ability to motivate and guide me to make my own successful life choices.

Learn to see the positive in every situation.

It might be difficult to get past certain negatives in a given situation, yet the process of figuring out your life’s purpose depends on your ability to see past roadblocks, seemingly insurmountable challenges, lack of support, medical conditions, financial hurdles and more. What may be a stretch to find the plus in such circumstances is going to be one of your best strategies to make progress toward finding your purpose in life. Indeed, have you ever known someone who seemingly had one failure or disappointment after another, yet somehow managed to always maintain an upbeat, optimistic view on life? Did he or she appear happy in a genuine way, regardless of circumstance? If you were to ask this person whether they knew their purpose in life, chances are they’d answer in the affirmative. Positive thinking encourages positive action, motivates desire to make necessary changes and pursue them to completion.

I know this works, because it worked for me. Once I stopped seeing everything as failure waiting to happen and overcame the belief that I deserved to fail because I was inherently bad, my life began to change. No, it didn’t happen overnight. I had many little successes and unfortunate experiences along the way. What did happen, and I began to notice it (with the help of my therapist, mentor(s), close friends, loved ones and family members) more often, was that my outlook became decidedly positive. People started asking me for advice and to give my opinion. I was regarded as a kind of expert on various topics. Imagine what a boost to my self-confidence that was. Once you adopt positivity, you can find work-arounds for every problem, or find someone to help you discover and implement a workable solution. This is effective for everyday challenges as well as making headway toward your life’s purpose.

Pay attention to the signs.

Getting caught up in an activity, project, pursuit or endeavor may blind you to helpful signs along the way. For example, you may be so focused on making sure you craft a department budget that comes in on time and under budget in every category that you fail to find creative ways to fund an activity that’s deemed high-priority. Maybe you’re recognized as the best in your class and others ask for your help, yet you’re so enamored of your newfound celebrity status that you allow your ego to get in the way. When you ignore others to pat yourself on the back, you’re chipping away at your integrity and doing yourself no good in being generous of self. You’ll know the signs when you see them – if others don’t point them out to you.

In the case of my writing, I was fortunate to win several writing contests at UCLA, first in professional program of screenwriting and then in the MFA screenwriting program. I loved every minute of class, all the assignments, getting together with other writers, talking about and sharing the craft. The awards and recognition were terrific morale boosters, yet they were also the most prominent signs that I was pursuing my life’s purpose. Find your signs and pay attention to what they’re telling you.

If it feels good and time flies when you’re doing it, you’re on the right track.

I could spend days writing about how to discover your life’s purpose, but this is probably a good start. Getting to the crux of the matter, I’ll offer this. If what you do makes you feel good, productive, alive, refreshed and satisfied, let alone happy, and time goes by unnoticed, it’s another of those signs to pay attention to. It’s highly likely you’re on the right track to living your life’s purpose, one day at a time.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash

 

“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.”Anne Frank

 

Does your to-do list today fill you with the desire to chuck it all and chill out somewhere? Maybe you’ve gotten so jammed up that your schedule simply has no breathing room, no time for you to do anything you want because you’re overcommitted, unable to say no, or way behind on projects, tasks and chores already. You might, indeed, feel downright lazy. This laziness doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible or that you lack skills and abilities. Rather, it may mean that you need to do a little prioritizing, let some things go and learn how to get what matters done.

Do a needs-based analysis of your workload.

How much of what you’ve allocated to do today – or that others put on your schedule – is an absolute must? Is it a task or project you could delay for a time and focus on something else that’s more pressing, that has an urgent deadline, or you’re pressured to get done? Not everything you’ve penciled in on today’s list must be completed today. Some items can wait. The key is to carefully analyze everything to determine what’s necessary and what’s not. This isn’t an idle exercise. It’s an essential part of organization and crucial to getting things done.

Give every task a number.

After you’ve examined every item on your list, some stand out as more pressing than others. These are the ones to prioritize. Go through the list again and assign every task a number, with 1 being the most important to get done, and 10 and beyond less time-sensitive. Hopefully, your list doesn’t go much past 10, since that’s a clear sign you’re overcommitted.

Have a work list and a personal list.

One way to avoid getting lost in numerous tasks in one list is to carve out two lists: a work list and a personal one. What’s important here is to draw the line at the end of the work day and don’t allow work to cross over into your personal time. When work intrudes on home, family and relationships, or vice-versa, there’s bound to be unnecessary conflict. You’ll also get little accomplished as you waver between tending to one area of responsibility at the expense of the other. Clear work-home boundaries help a great deal.

Take a break – literally.

Feel your chest getting tight? A bad headache coming on? Jitters or queasiness? These may be signs of stress from internal and external pressures to perform, be the top achiever, nail the contract, settle the dispute, or find the optimal solution to a problem. The best way to relieve stress in this instance is to do a hard stop and get some fresh air. This is a literal recommendation, as being outside in nature is well documented to reduce stress and increase a sense of overall health and well-being. After your break – and it needn’t be much more than 15 minutes to a half-hour – you’ll return to your responsibilities feeling refreshed and more motivated to tackle what must be done. You may even find you’ve come up with an ingenious solution or idea.

See the end game.

Sometimes you can’t envision what your efforts contribute to the desired outcome. This may or may not be your own goal. You may be so tied up in minutiae of details that a successful result is not easy to see. Here is where it helps to step back and separate the individual pieces of the project or task and put them into perspective with the ultimate goal in mind. When you can better see how everything links together, it can serve as impetus to get moving again. While it’s better to focus on the positive aspects of your part well done, it can also be motivating to recognize what might happen if you fail to deliver on your responsibilities. In any event, seeing the end game can be a powerful tool to overcome laziness.

Ask for help.

Suffering with a piled-on workload or shouldering more-than-your-fair-share of responsibilities is enough to make anyone stall in enthusiasm. No wonder you feel lazy. One of the most effective ways to pare down a heavy workload is to ask for help when you need it. Be sparing in how and when you request assistance, though, as you don’t want to appear as whining, incompetent, shirking your duties, or lazy. Also, be sure you reciprocate by helping others when they ask, if you’re able to do so. Once you’ve asked for and received help, your mountain of assignments or tasks won’t seem such a hurdle. There’s a lot to be said for cooperative spirit in getting things done.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Best Way to Effect Change

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

No matter what you do in life, you can’t escape Mondays. You can dread them, try to avoid them, delay the inevitable by coming up with all sorts of excuses not to do what you must, but Mondays will still arrive each week like clockwork. The best you can do is figure out how to embrace them. Here are 10 ways to make Mondays better that may change your mind about this day of the week.

1. Have something to look forward to when work is done.

Nothing motivates more than the prospect of doing something enjoyable after the workday is done. What that is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you put it in your schedule. Having fun, spending time with loved ones and friends, working on a hobby, participating in sports or a recreational activity, engaging in an educational pursuit, shopping, writing or whatever gives you a positive endpoint to your Monday that puts a lift in your step and jazzes your spirit. Mondays may even turn out to be one of your favorite days of the week. If not that, at least they’ll be more pleasant.

2. Get to work early.

Sleeping in, trying to grab the last few winks, throwing the alarm clock or jangling cellphone across the room won’t do anything to make your Mondays better. What may give you a leg up, however, is becoming an early riser — getting your legs out of bed a little earlier than usual. Go for a half-hour ahead of your normal wake time. That’s sufficient to help you gather your thoughts, prepare for the day, allow for unexpected traffic, weather or last-minute family details and get to work ready to go. Stopping for your favorite latte along the way is another reason you might want to get up earlier.

3. Go big.

Many employees put off the tough and difficult tasks until they’re smack against a deadline or the boss is banging on their door looking for answers. Another way to make Mondays better that seems counter-intuitive is to charge ahead and tackle something you know is important and demands your full attention. While it causes you to work a little harder than you probably want to first thing Monday morning, the sense of accomplishment and progress you’ll feel be getting to it is a huge boost to your self-esteem, self-confidence and overall well-being. Besides, the boss will likely take notice, and that’s always good for raising your work profile.

4. Prepare with good self-care.

If you’ve made a practice of partying until all hours from Friday night on, chances are you are still hung over or feeling the effects of such disdain for your well-being. You can turn this around by instituting good self-care. In addition to getting sufficient rest (forget the three hours of sleep; go for 8 hours), eating well-balanced meals (and no late-night snacking), cutting down on alcohol and curbing smoking, find other ways to relax, restore and rejuvenate. These include meditation, yoga or Pilates, walks in nature, listening to calming music, self-reflection and prayer. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. Greeting Mondays with a healthy body-mind-spirit makes the day so much better.

5. Map out time chunks.

Instead of looking at your to-do list with a grim demeanor and a sinking feeling that you’ll never get it all done, try this: map out time chunks. For example, if you have a report that’s due tomorrow, allocate one to 1-1/2 hours or so to work on it today. If it’s something critical, move everything else aside until you get it done. Set aside a half hour to tend to emails at a scheduled time, not whenever they come in. If you must answer emails from your boss, give them a priority with an alert. The point is to arrange your day in time chunks. This provides a sense of order and a schedule you can easily follow.

6. Craft a plan.

For any project or task, your best approach is to craft a plan. How will you arrive at the result you’re looking for – or that someone else demands? What resources do you need? Will you need the assistance of others? Are some elements missing? How will these items affect timing or delivery? With well-crafted plans, you’ll boost your self-confidence, knowing that you’ve taken variables into consideration and have a workable approach to pursue.

7. Take mini-breaks.

You can’t go breakneck speed without a break, not unless you want to risk crashing to a dead stop along the way. Exhaustion, physical or mental, work stress, tension, irritability, anger, disappointment and other negative effects from working nonstop will take their toll. Ward them off by the simple and quick practice of taking mini breaks throughout the day. Walk to the water fountain on the next floor. Get up and stretch. Do isometric exercises. Close your eyes and meditate. Take the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator. Whenever possible, walk outside instead of within the building so you get some fresh air and a different perspective.

8. Go somewhere different for lunch.

Like having something to look forward to at the end of the workday is the idea of going somewhere different for lunch. If you always brown bag it at your desk, go to a park or somewhere in your work complex to eat. If you go out for lunch only on Wednesday or Friday, switch to Monday to give your first work week day a changeup. Not only will this brighten your day, it will make it speed by.

9. Skip coffee and go for a walk.

Coffee may be a workday staple, but it doesn’t have to be a boring routine you’re locked into. For one of those times you’re headed to the coffee room or vending machine, skip the brew and indulge yourself with a brisk 10-minute walk. Outside is best, but even a walk in the building will suffice. You’re getting up and moving, always good for mental stimulation and physical exercise.

10. Celebrate all the things you accomplish.

While you’re busy working on Mondays, be sure to take the time to celebrate all the things you accomplish today. It may seem like a trivial thing, but giving yourself credit for your hard work is important to your sense of completion, tending to your responsibilities, seeing the fruit of your labors, and making progress. It also helps make Mondays better. What better way to start the work week than with a string of accomplishments?

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Related articles:

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

5 Tips on How to Make Plans

Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

How Do You Get Ready for the Day?

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

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5 Tips on How to Make Plans

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

“You can never plan the future by the past.” – Edmund Burke

 

Looking toward the future is an exercise many are afraid to do, principally because they’re held captive by the past. With so much baggage carried forward, is it any wonder that plans sometimes get cast aside for fear they’d turn out to be failures, just like so many did before? This is shortsightedness in the extreme, for no momentum or traction can be gained when your eyes are firmly planted on the past.

“You are not today who you were yesterday.”

It takes a certain amount of courage to pull down the door on the past, particularly if those memories are recent, disastrous, and painful or one more in a long line of failures. But this is an important point to keep in mind: You are not today who you were yesterday.

Hopefully, you’ve learned from what didn’t work so

that you don’t endlessly repeat those mistakes. Having a good support system is also critically important as you draft plans for how you’ll go about completing goals you consider worthwhile.

But do give yourself some credit for having the tenacity to slog through some incredibly hard work. It’s rough going through failure and disappointment. It stings, saps your immediate energy and definitely puts a temporary damper on plans for the future.

You are here today, however, living testament to the restorative power within you. It’s time now to move ahead, look for new opportunities to get involved in, an interest that fires you up and you just can’t wait to pursue, and people whom you haven’t yet met who may provide that added spark that you need to take action.

What you really want to know, however, is what can you do now. Here are five tips on how to make plans – and stop thinking and obsessing over the past:

  • Adopt a hopeful outlook.

Instead of condemning yourself to repeated failure, reverse that trend. Tell yourself that this is a new day and you are moving ahead with excitement and purpose. You may need to repeat this mantra daily for it to begin to take root – and it will, it you allow it.

  • See the lesson in everything.

There’s always something valuable to learn from everything you do, regardless of the outcome. If you train yourself to find the kernel of wisdom in all your actions, you will boost your self-confidence and feel more empowered.

  • Share what works with your network.

Even when plans don’t turn out to be completely successful at first, there are some aspects of your action that does work. Be willing to share what works with those in your network who support your efforts – and listen to the suggestions they offer. You might learn something incredibly valuable that will further your own efforts.

  • Embrace change.

You may be fearful of change, likening it to past disastrous outcomes, but the truth is that life is filled with constant change. Without change, there would be no growth. Instead of fearing change, make it a point to embrace it, to eke every last bit of knowledge and opportunity from it and make it your own. When you are in charge – and you are – change doesn’t look as formidable. That’s because you’ve put change in your go-to bag and are running with it.

  • Use the building-block approach.

A house doesn’t get built without going through many stages of construction. Similarly, achieving a successful outcome when working toward a goal almost always involves a number of steps. It isn’t just point A to point B. You may need to accommodate layers and a building-block approach. Capitalize on what you’ve learned and apply it to the next stage of development of your plan.

                                        

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7 Tips on Mastering Change

Photo by Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

Photo by Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” – Brian Tracy

 

Change is nonstop. Life coaches and proponents of positive thinking are nearly unanimous in recommending that we accept and embrace change.

While that is good advice, sometimes change brings with it uncertainty, fear, doubt, failure and dashed hopes. We may start off with an optimistic outlook, only to encounter some difficulty or unexpected problem that throws everything we had planned off-kilter.

We might just give up on the change we’re trying to make.

Or, we might become even more determined to see it through.

The attitude we adopt is really the key to what comes afterward. Granted, we cannot predict what will happen or what will ultimately be the result of our actions, but we can control how we think about our prospects, what we believe our strengths are and how self-confident we are.

It does take practice to see the hopeful, rather than the dismal, but we can learn how to do this.

Here are some tips on mastering change:

  • Keep your eye on the goal.

While interruptions and challenges are bound to occur, if you have a firm grasp of what you want to achieve, you’ll be poised to weather distractions and detours along the way.

 

  • Revisit your plan often.

Sometimes, with everything being thrown at you, it’s tough to stay focused on the plan. That’s why you write it down, so you can refer to it as often as necessary to remind you of your goal – and the steps you need to take to be successful.

 

  • Be optimistic about being able to find solutions.

Problems will occur, but you have been through these kinds of situations before and figured out solutions. Remind yourself of this and it will help bolster your resolve and maintain your optimistic attitude.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to adapt and revise.

Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to it so rigidly that you miss opportunities. The key here is to remain flexible so that you are able to adapt and modify your plan to incorporate new ideas and perhaps take advantage of a different approach. Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of mastering change.

 

  • Surround yourself with positive people.

When you’re embarking on change, or making a decision to change, you don’t need naysayers around you challenging your actions. Choose to be with others who are upbeat, supportive of your ideas and goals, and whose success and demeanor you admire. Positivity is contagious, and you’ll benefit from associating with positive friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances.

 

  • Find the lesson in failure.

No one likes to think about failure, but the fact is that it happens. Should this quash your attitude about ultimately succeeding? Not if you study what happened and discover the lesson the experience holds. This makes you that much more prepared to handle whatever comes next and to take proactive measures to deal with them.

  • Be open to new ideas.

You wouldn’t eat the same meal day after day, would you? Just as variety is the spice of cuisine, so, too, is the willingness to entertain new ideas. Even if what you read, see or hear is a somewhat different way to accomplish a goal than you’ve used before, it might hold some merit in terms of adaptation, revision or addition to what strategies you have in your toolkit. Knowing you have options is a great confidence-builder.

Keep in mind that the way you regard change says a lot about who you are. You can be in control of your attitude and master change, or allow change to master you.

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How Do You Get Ready for the Day?

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

It may seem like a simple, even inconsequential question, but how you get ready for the day sets the stage for everything to come. While advance preparation isn’t all that difficult, it does require a mindset and diligence to ensure you do it every day.

Here are some of the best ways to ready yourself to greet the day – any day, not just work, school or special occasions.

  • Get a Good Night’s Sleep – This is absolutely paramount. You can’t run on empty, and going without sufficient sleep is like trying to coax extra miles out of a gas tank that’s already on fumes. Whether you believe you can get away with 4-5 hours of sleep or less, you’re only kidding yourself. Aim for a good 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night and you’ll awaken well-rested and ready to take on the world.

 

  • Put Some Nutritious Food in Your Body – Just as adequate sleep is a prerequisite for tackling the day ahead, so is making sure you eat nutritious food before you set out. This doesn’t need to be a full breakfast, but simply downing coffee won’t cut it. Aim for some protein, fruit and whole-grain product. That will keep your energy up and tide you over until lunch. While you’re at it, make sure you hydrate throughout the day. Water is the body’s best friend, so drink plenty of it.

 

  • Remember to Take Your Supplements – While eating well-balanced meals is a good practice, the fact is that you may need to take additional vitamins and minerals or other supplements to get what your body needs. Women, in particular, need folate and everyone can use Vitamin B-12. Whatever your supplement regimen, be sure you’re consistent with it.

 

  • Plan Ahead – If you know you’ve got a big presentation to make the next day, put the appropriate amount of time in beforehand. Ditto if you’re about to go on a long trip. Trying to take care of last-minute details, well, at the last minute, will only add stress to your day, increase the likelihood of forgetting something important or cause you to rush through details that shouldn’t be compromised. On the other hand, carefully planning out the day will help you feel more organized and on top of things.

 

  • Schedule Free Time – If what you’re anticipating is a solid day of nonstop tasks or activities, that’s going to wear you down very quickly. Even if the day is routine, consisting of nothing out of the ordinary, it’s important that you bake in or schedule time to do whatever you like. Meditate, go for a walk, read a chapter in a book, tend to your social media or chat with a friend. Everyone needs a little down time, especially when life tends to get in the way.

 

  • Be Sure to Pace Yourself – Even with a plan for the day and schedule free time, the tendency to overdo it is always there. You want to hurry through this or that project or task so you have extra time for yourself. Or the boss is demanding that you take on yet another hot project and you need to leave on time to do something with your family. If you go at a breakneck speed, however, you’re going to falter, make mistakes, not finish on time, or disappoint yourself and others. Factor in the necessity to pace yourself and you’ll get where you need to be in one sane piece.

 

  • Be Willing to Say No – You don’t need to feel obligated to say yes to everything others ask of you. It’s not that you don’t want to help out or that you’re selfish, but have some self-consideration. There are times when you will be able to lend a hand, and say so, but this may not be the time. Be willing and firm enough to say no and mean it.

 

  • Adopt a Hopeful Outlook – You can’t predict what’s going to happen during the course of the day, but you do have the power to choose how you deal with what does. To this end, it’s helpful to adopt a hopeful outlook. Whatever happens, you’ll find a way to deal with it, proactively and effectively. How you view life is how life will treat you. Be positive and optimistic and you’ll be rewarded.

 

  • Surround Yourself with Like-minded People – If you want to really sail through the day, easily overcoming obstacles and vigorously pursuing your goals, another tip is to be with people who share your ideals, interests and other commonalities. There’s nothing like group enthusiasm to encourage creativity, getting things done and finding a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

 

  • Begin (and End) the Day with Gratitude – We each have a limited amount of time on earth. Whatever that turns out to be is an unknown, which can be scary if we let it bother us. What we can do, however, is be grateful for each and every day we have. That’s why it’s important to say thanks and acknowledge our gratitude each morning and again at night. In each instance, gratitude sets us up for the day ahead.

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8 Tips to Help Decision-Making

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Do you agonize over choices or waffle back and forth before finally settling on one? Even if you don’t think you have much difficulty arriving at a decision, everyone can always use a few pointers, right?

Here are some suggestions on how to make the decision-making process a little easier, less stressful, and a lot more satisfying. 

Get organized

To get started, you need a clean and clear space. A cluttered desk, sloppy workspace or no space to sit comfortably do not help you do anything productive – least of all make an important decision.

Take the time to put things where they should go, wipe up spills, toss out unused and unwanted items or trash, and for the files and materials you will need, arrange them neatly on your desk or work area.

If the project or task that requires your decision involves specific files, folders, artwork, renderings or other items, keep them front and center. 

Eliminate distractions

When it’s time to think about a decision, you can’t afford any distractions. Simple tips to eliminate them include:

  • Turn off your cell phone or let it go to voicemail.
  • If you’re in a physical office with a door, close the door.
  • Turn off email notification sounds on your computer.
  • Better yet, get out of your email client for the time being.
  • Let co-workers and your boss know you’re working on a project and are trying to concentrate. (It helps if this is something you’re on deadline to do, as the boss will likely understand.)
  • Avoid the tendency to doodle, no surfing the Internet to kill time or game-playing just because you think you can.

Clear your mind

Now it’s time to get down to the business at hand. In order to begin the process of decision-making, it’s necessary to clear your mind. This is often one of the hardest things for people to do, especially in today’s non-stop world.

Since it’s next to impossible to completely wipe out extraneous thoughts, the best way to deal with them is to acknowledge their presence and allow them to go away on their own.

You need a bit of time for all the “noise” in your head to die down, so don’t be in a rush. Gradually, your mind will quiet and your thoughts can become better focused. 

Focus on the goal

Speaking of focus, once you’ve cleared your mind it’s the right time to focus on the goal. What do you hope to achieve? What’s your optimum outcome? Are you trying to solve a problem, brainstorm ideas, come up with a creative approach, make a tough choice involving conflicting ideas or options?

Knowing what you want to achieve as an outcome will help you in selecting various avenues and possibilities to consider.

Analyze the pros and cons

The things that come to mind will each have plusses and minuses that you’ll need to take into account. To get through this part of the decision-making process involves the ability to envision what might happen if you choose option A over option B or C, and so on.

Really take the time to think this through. Jot down into columns what the potential outcomes or ramifications for each choice might be. When you can look at these pros and cons on paper, the decision you need to make will be easier, if not obvious.

Sometimes, however, the decision you make will need to be the lesser of two negatives. Always strive to select the choice with the most positive outcome.

Finalize the approach

By now you’ve probably narrowed down your choices and selected the one that you think will serve your needs and help you arrive at the goal you intend.

You’re not done yet.

This is the time to fine-tune your approach, adding the various elements that will make it stand out and shine. You want it to be the best you can do, to reflect your strengths and talents and the benefit of your experience.

It’s possible that you’ll want to make use of one or more facets of other approaches or solutions you were considering. If it helps solidify your ultimate choice or gives it a better chance of success, by all means add it to your approach.

Factor in follow-up

Once you zero in on your decision, the final step before taking action on it is to spend some time figuring out what you’ll need in the form of follow-up.

Will reports help determine the success or failure of your decision? How will the choice you make affect others in the workplace? What benchmarks are important to achieve in order for the decision to be considered effective, valuable, repeatable or industry-first?

Follow-up is one aspect of decision-making that many overlook; yet it is critical to the success of any major decision.

Make the choice

This is the final stretch in decision-making: actually making the choice and beginning to take action. There’s no turning back now. If you’ve gone through the process in a thoughtful and purposeful manner, the decision you make now reflects your attention to detail, your creativity and vision.

Go ahead. Make the choice. And feel good about your decision.

 

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Can You Name Your Top 5 Goals?

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Chances are you want a lot more out of life. And you’re well aware that success requires ongoing effort, a plan and willingness to do what it takes.

So, why are you floundering? Or are you just confused, unclear or unmotivated?

When the thought occurs to you that you’re not where you want to be, the next question to ask yourself is, “What are my goals?”

This basic self-query is essential to achieving anything in life, whether it’s success in business or career, at home, school, in relationships, and in finding happiness and purpose.

Goals are the key.

With this in mind, can you name your top five?

If not, all is not lost. Here’s help to get you back on track.

 

What All Good Goals Have in Common

Goals are as plentiful as grains of sand on a beach. They’re also as unique. Your goal for achieving success at work is different from mine, from that of your friend and co-worker, the neighbor across the street, your best pal in high school.

Yet good goals have a few characteristics in common:

  • They’re meaningful, highly desirable to the individual.
  • They can be separated into smaller, specific goals for different parts of your life (such as career, relationships, health, self-fulfillment, hobbies, etc.).
  • They’re realistic.
  • They’re achievable.
  • They generate inner excitement.
  • They spark enthusiasm and drive to achieve them.

 

How to Understand What Really Matters

Everyone’s heard the story about the patient who learns she has only six months to live. What will she do with that remaining time? A lot gets clarified in a hurry when time is short.

Translate that to your situation – and that means putting yourself in the life and death scenario. Think about the people and dreams that are most important to you. Are you making progress toward doing what makes you most happy and fulfilled?

Suppose you always thought that having $100,000 in the bank would be a sign of success, that this was a worthwhile goal. Is the bank statement showing you’ve got $100,000 in your account a manifestation of what you believe is truly important in life?

Will it sustain you and bring you comfort over the next 180 days?

Granted, it’s painful to envision the end of your life. Yet this exercise may help you drill down to the essence of your values and beliefs. It may be easier to strip away the nonessential and hone in on goals that really do make a difference.

These will be the goals that are meaningful, can be broken into workable parts, are realistic, achievable, exciting and motivating.

 

Step-by-step Process to Achieving Goals

After you’ve completed your self-awareness analysis and gotten to the crux of what means most to you, you’re ready to begin work on goals.

Specifically, this is an eight-step process to achieving goals:

  1. Identify goals. Remember the various aspects of your life that matter? Take the time to write down goals that affect your career, attitude, health, relationships, financials and more.

 

  1. Prioritize goals. Assign a number to each, from most- to least-important. Do this for each category.

 

  1. Create sub-goals. While you have already identified primary goals, each of these need to have sub-goals that you create. A sub-goal is a goal that must be achieved before you can succeed in attaining the primary goal.

 

  1. Develop intermediate goals. Take each goal category and list what you feel you need to achieve in several timeframes: a month, six months, one year, five years and 10 years. Make these intermediate goals specific. Write them down.

 

  1. Do a present status assessment. Next, figure out where you are today relative to your goals. If you find that you’re far short of where you need to be, consider what you need to do to either change your circumstances or reconstruct your goals. This isn’t giving up on your goals. It’s revising them to acknowledge the constraints you’re experiencing while still giving you the opportunity to achieve them.

 

  1. Get used to achieving goals. You want to become familiar enough and comfortable with attaining goals. Once you succeed, instead of considering that you’re done, revise the goal again to the next level up. As you gain more self-confidence with continued goal achievement, you will experience continued growth.

 

  1. See yourself being successful. A crucial part of goal setting and achievement is actually visualizing yourself a success. Engage in a little daydreaming here to see how that success looks, sounds and feels.

 

  1. Set a timeline and plan. Having gone through steps one through eight, you’re not done yet. Now it’s time to put down a timeline and a specific plan in order to achieve each of your goals.

 

The more you go through this process, the easier it will become. After a while, it’s going to become second-nature. Instead of struggling to figure out where you’re going from here or not knowing what really matters, you’ll have an instinctive blueprint.

You may not end up with five top goals. You may have only three, or you could have 10. The number isn’t important. What matters is how these goals help you to live a vibrant and purposeful life.

If they don’t, are they really that important after all?

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