You’re Not the Boss of Me!

All of us talk to ourselves.

You may not want to own up to it, but if we’re being honest, we would ALL admit to an almost constant conversation with an inner self (or several!).

That proverbial voice inside our heads is alternately a comfort and a nuisance. We turn to that inner adviser when we’re in the midst of an important decision yet we struggle to silence it’s opinions when we lean toward something that it argues against.

That voice is always there. Day and night. It keeps us from sleeping. It preoccupies us when we should be paying attention to the road, or listening to our kids. It locks us in a seemingly endless debate about prospective outcomes of complex business decisions or of challenging professional interpersonal exchanges, or the costs and benefits of various paths and steps in our careers.

This voice purports to be helpful. So much so that we buy into it as the “voice of reason.”

We either don’t see, or we ignore, that underneath that veneer of reason festers a bent toward a same-ness and a reluctance to rock the boat. What seems like security and stability can be nothing more than stagnation. All of which we INVITE into our process, habitually. Over and over. Situation after situation.

We call upon this inner self deliberately and typically in times when we most need to orient ourselves toward openness and an expansive outlook. Those times when we are facing a challenging situation or decision that introduces risk, anxiety, stress, worry, or even panic are when we call this inner self to the table. We have been conditioned to rely on it’s input. We don’t recognize is that as soon as this particular inner self chimes in with it’s “reason,” possibility contracts. Too often so does our most satisfying and successful potential outcome.

The voice of this inner self often expresses stark judgement, justification for limitation, and a near-sighted view of any potential opportunity. It represents a perspective to which we listen intently because it’s pushing masterfully on our fears, which it knows are motivators for us.

Though we tend to recognize that this inner self is not only unhelpful but also, at times, flat out corrosive to our potential, we struggle to contain it.

And to what result? Disappointment at how we address challenging team members? Regret over a forgone opportunity? Hopeless acceptance of burnout and exhaustion due to a series of seemingly well thought out choices?

If that’s not OK with you it’s time to tell this inner self, once and for all, “you are NOT the boss of me!”  

It’s time to step up and show this inner self some firm and honest leadership. Engage in the effort to identify the other facets of your perspective and bring to light the view points that exists in your “other inner selves,” those that want more.

Have an internal debate about risk, growth, opportunity, and fear. Include that inner part of you that craves achievement, recognition, fulfillment, and a balanced lifestyle. Let that part of you that speaks with the “voice of success” have a seat at the table. Over time that “voice of success” and that “voice of reason” just might agree about your greatest potential for career and personal satisfaction. 

It starts with you leading with the expectation that they will.

How will “TERM” Investments Support YOUR Success (The Final Surge Tip!)

Change is hard. Period.

The journey from the reality that we know, which is concrete, to some new reality that we haven’t yet experienced can just plain SUCK.

Uncertainty, fear, frustration, worry make ANY change difficult. But in the effort to create career and business success according to what we most value and desire, these challenges can seem more intense than in other realms of change.

It tends to feel like there’s more on the line when we endeavor to make professional shifts as compared to, say, changing your workout routine. Anxiety seems to be amplified when we start to weigh the risks and benefits of being more deliberate and purposeful about our career direction. We can start to worry that every word, thought, or action that’s different from what we’re used to could spell the bitter end of our advancement. Fear about loss of income can blind us completely into thinking that the burnout we experience is just par for the course.

All of that messiness notwithstanding many of us will still stand up and claim that we have to do something about our career success. We will embark on steps like those that we covered in Success Surge Tips #1, #2, and #3. And even as we are proactive and creating momentum, uncertainty, fear, frustration and worry can fester under the surface of our effort and desire to change.

Luckily, we have the ability to look at and address in a productive way the source of those nagging challenges that can threaten our achievement of the success we are capable of.

Tip #4 is all about standing up to and addressing that under-the-surface fear, frustration, and worry through investment. Specifically, what I call “TERM” investments.

The focus here is on the ways that we stall ourselves by not making the level of investment in four key areas that are the tipping point in actually achieving vs. just dreaming about the success we want.

Adding Tip #4 to close out this spring’s Success Surge, allows you to exert direct influence and to follow through on the initiative you took to create success on your terms.

As with any investment, there is an element of risk in “TERM” investments AND there is a probability of return. What’s your upside potential? And what will you do to realize it?

Happy spring! Happy success!

What’s the Key Element of Success? (Still Surging with Tip #3!)

Discipline. Desire. Details.

All of these are necessary elements in creating anything in life be that our optimal health and fitness, harmony in our relationships, wealth, or career success and fulfillment.

As critical as these elements they are inert without a catalyst.

Here’s a fundamental truth about creating success on your terms:

  • No matter how stellar your track record is for conscientious stick-to-it-ness…
  • Regardless how intensely you want a different day-to-day reality in your work and life…
  • As meticulous as your effort may be to gather detailed information about what you want…
  • REAL change will not happen without movement. That’s the key, yet often missed, element in creating success!

Movement adds energy to your discipline. A step forward initiates force upon your desire. Motion applies weight  to the details you’ve gathered.

Motion alters the existing conditions within which you are working and living. It activates the discipline, desire, and detailed focus you bring.

However small the movement and the change it creates, different conditions are the fertile ground for growth. It’s only when you begin to introduce change through forward action that greater, more meaningful and satisfying change becomes possible.

Staying still, diligently gathering more and more information, analyzing a set of options over and over, telling yourself that when the time is right you’ll do something is a hopeful yet passive, focused yet limiting, and driven yet stagnant way of expecting new results.

What would happen if your perspective was expanded?

What new opportunities could be just around the corner?

What if even difficult relationships and draining interactions started to align with your effort?

What if success and fulfillment were nearer and more accessible than you think?

Tip #3 in the Spring Success Surge could reveal the answers…

Surge on!

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David Bowie Had it Right…The Surge Continues!

To really SURGE ahead in success things have to change.

As I shared last week, an important step in discovering the best and most appropriate actions to take in creating the success that you want is to look closely at your habits. Your habits, especially those that have become so ingrained that they are now invisible, are the hiding places of sneaky sabotages that will hold you firmly from the success you are capable of creating.

Yet, as critical as it is to look intently into those habits and to identify specific new steps, processes, ways of thinking, approaches, and even ways of talking that are better aligned with the success you want, that step will yield no momentum without ACTION.

Follow through is where the rubber meets the road and can truly carry you forward. Without action we stay stuck…but with action things change. YIKES!!

What’s comfortable and regular gets disrupted…

Where we knew what to expect we become clueless…

Where we typically act with certainty we feel trepidation…

Where we typically operate automatically and with little thought, we have to act deliberately and with full attention…

This kind of change is why Tip #2 is so important! (Just ask David Bowie!)

Surge on!

The Spring Success Surge is ON!

As of today there are officially 25 days until spring. YES!! I for one could not be more excited!

Spring is refreshing and energizing! And because it brings with it the promise of new growth and the emergence of new possibility, spring seems to come at just the right time. It inspires us to reengage and refocus our effort to create the success and satisfaction we intended to create as of the start of the new year.

When spring is in the air, so is success!

Rather than hold back my excitement about spring and all the potential it represents for your achievement, I’m just going with it. I’ve channeled that energy into a series of video tips highlighting some of my most proven tactics that you can include in YOUR success strategy right now.

I want you to SURGE ahead in your success now! This way, by the time spring has really sprung you’ll already be basking in the warm glow of achievement.

It’s on!

On the Other Side of Your Comfort Zone

It’s advice as common as the reminders we get to drink water every day for good health. We hear it over and over, from mentors, bosses, friends, coaches like me, etc. Everyone tells that if you really want success beyond what you experience today you must “get out of your comfort zone.”

I’m always struck by how superficially this advice is bandied about with no substantive follow up about how to actually go about navigating beyond the comfort zone. Do our well-meaning advice givers not know what it is really like to go beyond our comfort zones? Or do they know and just decide not to share how hard it can be…as a way to challenge us with immediate discomfort?

Too often, talk about getting out of your comfort zone and stepping into a new reality is made to seem as easy as getting out of a car and walking into the grocery store! And that may be why so many of us stay stuck, knowing there’s got to be more to our success and fulfillment, but not getting farther than thinking about changing.

So here’s the truth. Getting out of your comfort zone is be a complex and challenging process, and it can be really flipping hard. That’s why we must expand the comfort zone conversation and give ourselves a chance at success! We’ve got to be straight with each other, with our colleagues, teams, and our friends and families about the post-comfort zone reality.

Let’s enter this new broader conversation with a clear understanding about what the comfort zone is. First off and often overlooked is that the comfort zone deserves some credit as being a place where we find contentment and satisfaction. It not a bad place! The comfort zone is well worn, safe, and sound. Habit, routine, and even the proverbial path of least resistance are among its hallmarks. The comfort zone is the fertile ground in which aspiration, ambition, longing, and desire for growth take root. It’s the place from which, given that our basic needs are met, we can envision further growth, greater possibility, and more achievement. And yes, the comfort zone can also be a place of boredom signaling that the sense of comfort we feel could be out of date.

OK, so with that understanding let’s assume you’re ready to shake things up and go after a new level of success and fulfillment. You’re ready to heed the advice to “get out of your comfort zone,” but you hesitate. You don’t know what’ll happen next and fear sets in. It’s that point of hesitation we want to move beyond by bringing into the open what might happen next. The following are all possible if not probable as you get out of your comfort zone:

  • The determination and confidence with which you decided to step out of your comfort zone may immediately seem to evaporate into vast, unnerving uncertainty
  • As you continue forward pushing up against the limits that you knew where part of your comfort zone, different ones may reveal themselves—suddenly your comfort zone looks bigger than you expected (Yikes!)
  • The factors of your comfort that you thought you had to handle may seem to multiply and take more shapes and forms than you predicted—and with each discovery additional insecurity about your decision may arise
  • Uncertainty may start to seem more and more severe; you may then start thinking on overdrive, urgently trying to come up with an antidote for the uncertainty
  • Tiredness may set in, and like it always does, that exhaustion will amplify the gravity your situation
  • You may feel completely exposed; what you know (or don’t know) and what you do (or don’t do) will feel like it is under meticulous scrutiny by everyone you’re in contact with (even your dog)
  • You may experience intense fear of failure, hyper sensitivity to judgement, all of which may threaten your resolve to continue
  • You may begin to question your sanity and start treating yourself badly
  • Memories of that good old comfort zone may seduce you, calling you back to safety

Any or all of the above can happen in the process of getting out of our comfort zone. These are normal, if not expected, parts of the “what next” scenario. How we face these challenges can either make or break our foray out of our comfort zone, yet we aren’t usually given the heads up about any of it. But that stops now! From now on we talk openly about these challenges and we succeed at getting out our comfort zones. YES!

Hope is NOT a Success Plan!

Years ago I worked for a CEO who was known to remind his teams that “hope is not a business plan.”

He was emphatic that business planning in the company be based in the expectation for positive results, but built out with an understanding of the commitments and resources needed to create those upside outcomes. It was not acceptable for teams to present hopeful representations of what they want to deliver.

I’m reminded of this constantly when I’m in conversations with people about their aspirations and desires for success and fulfillment. I hear their hopeful talk about the expectations they have for their work and what their lives will be like when that happens. When I ask what their plan is to get there and what they’re doing to make it reality, the conversation stops.

Silence. Uncomfortable sighs. Shrugging shoulders. Fidgeting. Full stop, for a few prickly moments. And then it comes. “I guess I just hope it works out.” GAHHH!!

People! It is time to face the fact that hope is NOT a success plan.

Far too many of us, for way too long, have consented to hoping for the success we want. We submit to a back seat on our own bus to success and assume that working hard and being a good person will lead to the greatest possible results.

We go on autopilot, and bury ourselves in work. We hope for a break in the mayhem thinking that’s when we’ll do something. We hope for projects that will challenge us. We hope to be tapped for opportunities to lead plum initiatives. We hope that in the process we don’t get laid off because then we’ll be really stuck without a plan.

While hope must be revered for its openness, expectation, ambition, and positivity, hope alone DOES NOT create success.

Yes, hope creates the possibility of achievement and represents the potential for growth, but it is critical that we recognize that there is there is no direct output from hope. There’s no inherent action in hope. It is a state of forward anticipation that on its own goes nowhere. Yet we so readily give over our future to it.

Before I get accused of being a “negative Nancy” or a “dream crusher”, let me be crystal clear. This is not about abandoning hope. This is about waking up to the fact that we must do more than hope!

Tie your desired outcomes to tactical details about what you will do, when, and with what resources. Add action to hope. Check your progress. Be attentive to what you’re doing as you follow your plan. Decisively adjust course as you go.

It’s time to re-engage and take back the wheel on your road to success!

Stop Saying These 3 Words Together! (Your Success Depends On It!)

We high performers—the goal oriented, get-it-done, “don’t believe me just watch” crowd—are great at going after what we want and whatever we make our aim. That’s what makes us so successful, right?

But there’s a problem. In the midst of all of our disciplined achievement, we have a hang up that actually stands in the way of us reaching our FULL potential. That problem? The three-word statement “I don’t know.”

Why is this a problem? For a start, “I don’t know” firmly roots us in indecisiveness. It affixes our vantage point and keeps us from making forward progress. Another problem is that this statement gets us all in our heads making up rationale in support or rejection of the options we think we have. We clamor for information that will help us to “know.”

But hold on, you say, this is what we’ve been taught to do! As professionals effective decision making depends on robust analysis of alternatives based on available data. Going through that process allows for decisions to be made with an awareness of the benefits and risks associated with each option and a choice to be made accordingly. This is a proven process and one that I am not advocating to be abandoned. What I’m asking you to suspend is the application of this process ad nauseam, when you have enough “information”—including what your gut is telling you. Especially when facing decisions related to your success.

When “I don’t know” spreads into our individual career management efforts—or lack thereof. This is where inaction as a result of indecisiveness REALLY bites.

When facing career path questions, indecisiveness consumes our confidence, blurs our view of and how we use our talents, and it can thoroughly engulf our sense of purpose and potential for happiness.

And THAT is serious business!

When I meet people and tell them about my work helping clients make deliberate choices and to actively create careers on their terms, they often give me various forms of some common “I don’t know” statements. These examples illustrate how sneaky (and sinister!) indecisiveness can be.

  • “I really want to get more fulfillment out of my work, but I just don’t know how to go about it”
  • “I keep thinking I’ll look for a new job but I don’t know what I want.”
  • I don’t know what my real passion and I don’t want to try something else if it’s still not ‘it’”

What’s so fascinating here is the actual decisiveness that exists at the root of all of these statements. Underneath all of these there is a fundamental inclination, desire, or dare I say, a “knowing” about what the next most important move. There is a decision hidden in all of these. A decision that would move the person forward likely into something important.

There is a choice ready to be made, but “I don’t know” stops it. So I’m calling on you to turn the tables and stop “I don’t know-ing” altogether.

What I know to be true is that often the things we claim most fervently that we “don’t know” are the things we actually know more clearly than anything else. Yet indecisiveness reigns. We bury the valuable pearl that is what’s real for us under all the “shoulds,” “what ifs,” “not nows,” and “if onlys” and we think that when we have more data or gain more input that we will know.

Sure it’s frightening and it feels unnerving to think that what we’re feeling compelled to decide might actually be what we KNOW we will do, but SHEESH, is the alternative not more terrifying?

Is it more comfortable to continue going to jobs that don’t challenge us, accepting working at levels below our capability, and dragging through the week on auto-pilot?

What would you do if you let yourself know what you already know…If you no longer used those three words together words?

Stop telling yourself that you don’t know! And start creating success on YOUR terms!

Sacrificing (for) Performance: What You’re Really Giving Up

We high achievers are familiar with that feeling of being so loaded with work, so committed to not just doing what needs to be done but putting up slam dunks, “nailing it,” and out-performing everyone (including ourselves). And we all know that there are times when that MO turns us into a Tazmanian Devil of stress and worry.

As the anxiety grows, many of us have a “go to” survival approach that kicks in. We tacitly don our camouflage, grab our equipment and a maybe a few provisions, and we retreat. Our work approach goes primitive.

We dive into the bunker and we work—furiously, with great concern, determined, and usually quite aggressively. In this state of retreat we cut off our world outside. Family, friends, helpful co-workers, the fresh air, lunch, our exercise routines, anything fun and lighthearted…all of that, whether deliberately or not, shut out.

In this survival mode we become consumed with fear that if we are not vigilant and diligent we could lose our edge or miss our mark. We actually take comfort in this hideaway approach. And it seems to work. Holing up and burying ourselves as we churn out work got us this far, right?

We assume that sacrificing the external stuff is the price we pay to maintain our driven, high performer status. We expertly rationalize away the time and space we need.

And we may be blind to the full scope of our sacrifice.

We don’t realize that when we get into that heightened state of stress and choose to shut out the light we also shut off opportunity, resources, and support. Most of us do this with no awareness of what we’re doing and what it’s doing to us.

We don’t realize that we are turning away from exactly what we need to ensure that we can perform at our best now and into the future.

The very thing we’re doing to try to survive is actually compounding the exhaustion from the work, meetings, and pressure. When we let this undertow of expectation and busy suck us down, we respond by flailing against it, wearing ourselves out further, and diminishing our potential performance and happiness. And what’s crazy is that we do this again and again…over and over. We actually think it works!

Where we think we are sacrificing personal free time and connection in the service of outcomes and results at work, we are in fact undermining our resourcefulness, diminishing our creativity, and killing efficiency. In the end, we are putting at risk our most prized outcome—PERFORMANCE.

So, what do you do to maintain a solid hold on your performance advantage even during those most challenging times?

Changing this pattern starts with awareness. Be aware of when these old habits threaten and recognize that what you think you need to sacrifice to maintain your edge may be exactly what you need to turn toward.

Can you choose to take on the challenge and pressure with a different approach?

What do you have to lose?