How to Be an Unstoppable Professional

23 Jun

What does being a professional really mean?

Professional is not a label you give yourself — it’s a description you hope others will apply to you. David H. Maister, author, True Professionalism

Credit: free-photos Pixabay

Being considered a professional varies, based on job or business requirements. While some fields require advanced degrees or certifications to reach professional status, many don’t.

Having degrees or certifications, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that professionalism extends outside technical proficiency because many other factors go to into being thought of as a professional. Generally, it means that you:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and skillfulness in the practice of your work or business.
  • Have practical experience working within your field or industry.
  • Have achieved a level of expertise.
  • Are recognized by peers as an expert.
  • Commit to continuous improvement.
  • Are accountable, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Communicate appropriately to achieve results and gain the cooperation of others.
  • Have a high degree of emotional intelligence and self-regulation.
  • Are influential.
  • Conduct yourself according to ethical standards.
  • Stand apart from others as more capable and experienced.

How many of these factors can you check off?

Does anything need some attention?

When professional development stops, you become stagnant and are unable to recognize or take advantage of opportunities for advancement or business growth.

Continuous Improvement Is Critical for Long-Term Success

Credit: Geralt @pixabay

By making professional development a high priority, you realize many benefits that contribute to your career and business. It helps you:

  • Stay current with best practices, new technologies, advanced techniques, innovative strategies, and more. You become better equipped to meet challenges and overcome obstacles.
  • Take advantage of opportunities. The skills that landed you in your current position or that served your business last year may be insufficient for moving forward. Business is constantly changing and shifting. What worked in the past may not work tomorrow. The more you enhance your skills and expertise, the more capable you are of recognizing and capitalizing on new opportunities as they arise.
  • Be recognized. Recognition is a huge boost to self-esteem and self-confidence because it means that others acknowledge your expertise and achievements. It burnishes your reputation as a professional and can open doors to advancement. For example, at the start of my writing career, I won a national essay contest co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. That recognition led to my being promoted into a communications officer position in the financial institution where I worked. That promotion, in turn, led to starting my own successful consulting and training business.
  • Gain life enrichment. The more you invest in self-development and skills improvement, the deeper and richer your life becomes. You open yourself to new ideas, challenge old beliefs that no longer serve you, and set higher goals for yourself.

Commit to Continuous Learning

Credit: free-photos Pixabay

Technology has made it easy to sharpen your existing skills and learn new ones. Don’t focus on just your field or industry. Widen your focus to include soft skills like oral and written communication, emotional intelligence, time management, and so on.

You can take a wide variety of online courses, depending on how much time and money you want to invest. Check out sites like gohighbrow.com, udemy.com, coursera.org, and edx.org, among others.

If taking a class isn’t feasible or attractive, listen to podcasts or watch Ted talks. Read books and blogs by experts in different disciplines. Follow great writers, thinkers, and experts on Medium.

Always be learning something!

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Credit: Johnhain Pixabay

According to Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., there are two mindsets: fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that they are limited in how much they can learn and accomplish. When you have a growth mindset, on the other hand, you believe that you can expand your existing skills and develop new ones.

It’s not easy to shift from a fixed mindset into a growth one, but here are some tips to try.

  • Give yourself credit. Think back to times in your life when you successfully learned something new and succeeded. How about learning to drive? Getting a college degree? Cooking a delicious meal? All of these are examples of how you can learn and grow. If you can learn how to merge onto a freeway or parallel park, you can do a lot of other things.
  • Read about new discoveries in brain function. Research is teaching us that the brain is more malleable and adaptable than we previously believed. You can retrain your brain, form new habits, and change your thinking.
  • Develop a more flexible attitude. Instead of immediately stopping yourself from doing something because you “can’t,” stop and change “can’t” to “won’t.” Then be willing to try. Stop thinking of mistakes as failures and start thinking of them as teaching tools.

Be Happy, Positive, and Optimistic

Credit: terimakasih0 Pixabay

Research shows that happiness and pleasant moods indicate physical well-being and lead to more adaptive coping skills. This, in turn, allows you to flourish and achieve greater success.

“It appears that happiness, rooted in personality and in past successes, leads to approach behaviors that often lead to further success. At the same time, happy people are able to react with negative emotions when it is appropriate to do so.”¹

When you are happy, positive, and optimistic, you communicate a high degree of self-confidence and assurance— characteristics associated with professionalism. You also appear approachable and seem easier to relate to. People like being around you, and your relationships are strengthened.

According to Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.,

“…Positive emotions are vehicles for individual growth and social connection: By building people’s personal and social resources, positive emotions transform people for the better, giving them better lives in the future.”²

Developing as a Professional Means Success

What does it take to be considered a “professional”?

Whether you are in a career or are an entrepreneur, ongoing professional development is critical to your long-term success and business growth. It can help you meet challenges, overcome obstacles, tackle new assignments, take advantage of new opportunities, and much more.

  • What are you doing now to develop professionally?
  • What are you going to do tomorrow?
  • How will you stay ahead of the curve and the competition?

Make asking and answering these questions part of your regular habit.

Additional Reading

Neuroplasticity & Mental Wellness: Our Path Forward by Lawrence Choy, MD

Shift Your Mindset by Saying Less of These Four Things by Todd Brison

Resources

  1. “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” Sonja Lyubomirsky, Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside; Laura King, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia; Ed Diener, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign and The Gallup Organization. Psychological Bulletin, 2005, Vol. 131, №6, 803– 855.
  2. “The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology.” Barbara L. Fredrickson, Department of Psychology and Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.
Advertisements

7 Daily Habits to Make You More Productive

19 Jun

Make productivity a habit for long-term results

Credit: geralt Pixabay

1. Plan to Be Productive

Before ending your workday, review your goals for the next day and focus on the most important task you must accomplish. Prepare any information or resources you will need in the morning, so you will be ready to go when you sit down at your desk.

2. Start the Day Running

Start your day by handling the most important task for the day. Doing the most important task first keeps you on track for achieving results. As a daily activity, it ensures that you accomplish your major goals.

3. Keep Things Organized

Keep your work area clear and uncluttered. According to organizedworld.com, the average worker loses 1.5 hours a day looking for things. Don’t be one of them.

4. Eliminate Inbox Congestion

Take every document you touch as far as you can before stopping. Do it, delegate it, pend it for follow up, file it, or trash it. You lose time when you must sort through documents you have already read.

5. Learn to Ignore Email

According to a study from the University of British Columbia, people check emails an average of 15 times per day. Time management and organization experts generally advise people to turn off their “You’ve-got -mail” notification. Set times throughout the day to check and respond to emails. Use filters and rules to organize incoming emails that require prompt attention.

6. Stop Being Interrupted

It can take up to 20 minutes to regain focus when you are interrupted. The good news: You can stop the interruptions. Be assertive about your time. When someone tries to interrupt you, explain that you are on a deadline and will get back to them at a specified time. Make sure you follow up when you say you will.

7. Take Regular Breaks

According to studies by University of Illinois psychology professor Dr. Alejandro Lleras, the brain becomes weary and begins to lose focus after concentrated activity. The more you try to push through, the less you accomplish. The solution is taking regular, short breaks about every 45–50 minutes. You will return to the task refreshed and ready to forge ahead.

7 Tips for Presenting Like a Pro

17 Jun

Strong presentation skills are necessary for long-term career and business success

Credit: mohamed_hassan Pixabay

Have you ever mispronounced a word or fumbled a sentence so badly it you felt like a fool?

Are you nervous about speaking up at meetings?

Does the thought of making a presentation turn your blood cold?

Poor presentation skills tarnish your reputation as a professional, damage your credibility, limit your opportunities to get new business or be considered for promotion, harm your self-esteem, and erode your confidence.

The good news: Presenting is a skill that can be learned and cultivated.

1. Set a Goal

Credit:skeeze Pixabay

What is your goal for the presentation? Do you need to entertain, inform, persuade, motivate, or inspire?

Are you presenting to get the contract, gain support for your recommendation, celebrate the bride and groom, give a memorial at a funeral?

Write out your goal and keep it in front of you. The more you describe the outcome you want, the easier it will be to prepare what you need to say and how you want to say it.

2. Know Your Audience

Credit: rawpixel Pixabay

In addition to setting an outcome, you must consider your audience. Who are they? What do they want? What do they expect from you? Do you want to meet their expectations or surprise them or both?

Your presentation to C-level executives will differ from a keynote to physicians and both are different from a lunch-and-learn in a cafeteria full of elementary school teachers.

When you know your audience, you gain empathy for them and can more easily relate to them. You will create a presentation that uses language they understand and appeals to their self-interest. You improve your ability to achieve your goals for the presentation.

You will achieve your goal.

3. Prepare Talking Points

You want to sound relaxed, comfortable, credible, confident, and relatable. Reciting a memorized presentation will not accomplish any of that. It will, however, put the audience into a coma.

Instead of writing out your speech, list the points you want to make and arrange them in a logical order. I do this on index cards, so I can shuffle them; add and delete points; slot in stories, statistics, metaphors, analogies, and quotations where appropriate; and create memory prompts.

Eliminate anything that does not support your goal for the presentation or that is irrelevant for the audience.

Make sure you prepare responses to questions and challenges. Rely on facts and data to address these.

Prepare your handouts or supporting material and your visuals for the presentation. Do not load visuals with talking points. They are not speaker prompts. Just capture key ideas you want to emphasize and use strong images that capture attention and illustrate your point without words.

4. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Credit: johnhain Pixabay

Do not memorize your speech or presentation.

Never.

Rehearse by talking to each point until you feel comfortable with how you want to present the material. Stand and move around with deliberation, just as you will when delivering it. If you are using visuals and/or handouts, make sure you work those into the rehearsal.

Practice the presentation in segments. If anything sounds awkward or if a movement or gesture feels off, change it and re-rehearse that section. Take breaks between each segment.

With each segment, you will rehearse more and more of the presentation until you are doing it from beginning to end. Now time it out to ensure it fits within the allotted time.

5. Use Vocal Control

Credit: claude_star Pixabay

Presenting in a small room usually won’t require a microphone. Take deeper breaths than normal to project your voice. Don’t make your audience strain to hear you.

If you are presenting in a large room, you will need a microphone.

  • Practice using a mic since it will pick up every sound like inhalations, sighs, throat clearing, sniffling, and a bunch of other things you’d rather not share with your audience.
  • It isn’t necessary to project your voice with a microphone. Just do a sound check to ensure the back of the room can hear you.

Use your voice to create interest and encourage the audience to pay attention.

  • Avoid speaking in a monotone. Use vocal variety to create a pleasing listening experience.
  • If you naturally speak fast, slow down.
  • Clearly enunciate your words, so they don’t jumble together.
  • Lower your voice and pause when making important points. It forces the audience to pay closer attention. As Sir Ralph Richardson said, “The most important things in speeches are the pauses.”

I once saw an accomplished actor stand before an audience of more than 1,000 and remain perfectly silent for 60 seconds. He just looked at different parts of the theater, pausing in each area for a few moments.

The entire room fell silent. No whispering. No coughing. No candy wrappers crinkling. Audience expectation was palpable. Finally, he spoke the first word of the opening soliloquy.

6. Use Non-Verbal Communication

Credit: geralt Pixabay

The body speaks volumes and needs to correlate with the words being spoken. When body language and words are incongruent, you lose credibility. Learn to use body language so that it strengthens your message when you speak.

  • Open, expansive gestures communicate confidence and assuredness.
  • Standing tall with shoulders back and feet planted on the ground is a powerful stance that shows who’s in charge.
  • Moving randomly communicates uncertainty and can be distracting. Stand still to make a point, then move, stand, repeat.
  • Pay attention to the edges of any raised platform! More than one presenter has tumbled off in mid-stride.
  • Gestures like fiddling with a tie or hair or chewing a lip show nervousness, insecurity, or discomfort.
  • Avoid skittering your gaze around the room. Settle on different people in different areas. Those around them will feel included in the gaze.

7. Handling Nerves

Being nervous isn’t bad. It just means something important is happening. Michael Jordan

Most people get nervous before presenting. I have taught workshops and breakouts in organizations for years, and I still get a bit of nerves before starting, especially if it’s a new client. However, I know my content so well, I can immediately shift the nerves into energy when I start.

That’s one of the most important antidotes to nerves: The more you know your material, the more of an expert you are, the easier it is to feel more confident than nervous when you present.

  • Before entering the room where you will present, find a quiet, empty space and work out some of the nerves. Some professional presenters do exercises that loosen up their faces and mouths. One speaker I know screams and shouts. Another sits in her car and blasts rock music.
  • Turn nerves into enthusiasm. Let them rev up your voice. Just don’t speak too quickly when you start.
  • Remember to take deeper breaths to avoid sounding breathless and nervous.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything sugary or any milk products. They will make your voice sound thick, and it will be harder to project.
  • Arrive early and get comfortable with the surroundings. Make sure equipment works, especially projectors. Run the first few slides of your presentation. Do a sound check if you are going to use a microphone.
  • If you are presenting on a podium or elevated platform, note the edges! Practice moving around as you did in rehearsals.
  • Smile and greet people when they enter. Recognizing people and making them feel welcome puts them in a more receptive mood for your presentation.

Present Like a Pro for Unstoppable Success

We aren’t all natural speakers or presenters. I used to be terrified to speak up anywhere, and I’m a die-hard introvert. The combination was severely limiting to first my career and then my business. I tried coaches, which made me more self-conscious, yet I knew I had to get better at it.

I finally tried Toastmasters. I’m not being paid for this, but Toastmasters was key in helping me improve. It takes three years of weekly commitment to attend meetings and do the work, but it turned my career and business around.

Getting more comfortable and confident when you need to present will boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. It can open the door to career and business opportunities otherwise not available.

Additional Reading

Checklist to Overcome Nervousness by Paula Rizzo

Hacking PowerPoint by @Kenny Li in Hacker Noon

5 Common Reasons for Procrastinating and What To Do about Them

17 Jun

Pay attention to what procrastination is telling you and get into action

Credit: lukasbier Pixabay

You’re looking at a blank computer screen, your hands are poised over the keyboard, and you’re not typing.

This proposal is due by end of business tomorrow, or you’re out of running for the contract.

You’ve put it off for weeks even though you want the work.

Now, you’re under the gun.

You just have to do it.

You bury your head in your hands.

You’d rather have a root canal.

If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it. Olin Miller

Everyone Does It

Credit: Nebenbei Pixabay

When you procrastinate, there’s a wall in front of you that keeps you from moving forward. You’re trapped in inaction.

And you’re not alone. Occasional procrastination is common.

In the last century BCE, the Roman statesman Cicero declared procrastination to be “hateful.” Centuries later, Charles Dickens wrote, “Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” More recently, a 2002 study found that 20% of adults procrastinate.¹ That number is still valid today although some experts say it’s closer to 26%.

You could grit your teeth and use sheer will power to plow through wall and get the job done. That will leave you exhausted, probably irritable, and likely unhappy with the result.

The solution is discovering what procrastination is telling you. The reason behind your inaction holds the solution that brings down the wall.

  • Are you procrastinating about anything now?
  • Why are you avoiding it?
  • What’s the reason?

Here are 5 common reasons for procrastination and how to get into action.

1: You Don’t Know Where to Start

Credit: Hans Pixabay

Early in my career as a communications consultant, I was working on a large policy and procedure manual and was stuck. I didn’t know how to begin.

My mentor gave me a piece of advice for tackling tasks that don’t have to be performed sequentially. I’ve always used it for complicated assignments and projects with lots of moving parts.

The advice: Start anywhere.

You don’t have to knock down the wall with one strike. You only need to start chipping away at it.

There’s no need to start at the beginning and go to the end. I’ve written countless manuals and a few books. I have never started with section one or chapter one. Never.

Every non-sequential task has some element that can be knocked down quickly and easily. That’s where you start. This gives you a fast win, and you gain momentum. When you finish that, find the next soft spot and complete it. Eventually, the task is done.

One final step is to review the entire thing and smooth over rough spots, but that’s just cosmetic.

2. You’re Afraid It Won’t Be Good Enough

If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning. Mahatma Gandhi

A study from Nader Hajloo, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, Ardabil, Iran, concluded that someone’s level of self-esteem affects their tendency toward or away from procrastination.² The more self-esteem you have, the less you procrastinate.

According to self-efficacy theory, what you believe about yourself affects your ability to persist until you achieve an outcome.³ If you believe you can succeed, you are more willing to stay the course. You are resilient.

Together, they are antidotes to procrastination.

If this is the message your procrastination is sending, here are some fast-acting tools that will help you gain more confidence to tackle the task in front of you.

  • Remember situations where you achieved success despite fearing that you couldn’t do it at the start.
  • Be aware of and stop negative self-talk. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. When you start using negative messaging, imagine the voice is coming from a radio. Reach out and turn it off.
  • Visualize success. Your imagination is a powerful tool for helping you move past the wall to the other side. Put yourself into the future and experience the emotions you will feel when the task is done and is successful.
  • Identify and take the smallest step you can easily perform, and then the next smallest step, and the next.

A good, long-term solution is to cultivate more of a growth mindset. According to Stanford University professor and psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset leads to greater achievement and boosts self-esteem and self-efficacy. When you have a growth mindset, you are confident in your ability to learn and expand your capabilities. Obstacles become challenges to be overcome, and you believe that you can deliver the results you need.

3: You Haven’t Done Enough Preparation

Credit: Wokandapix @pixabay

Procrastination can hit if you start a task without first thinking through what it involves, or you haven’t done adequate research.

Think It Through

  • Define what the task entails and the resources needed.
  • Determine how much time it will take. Be careful to not over-estimate or under-estimate the needed time. Remember, tasks will expand to fill the amount of time allotted to them.
  • Sketch out a game plan that makes sense and is doable.
  • Decide the first steps and put them on your calendar

Research

Before starting any task, identify the research you need — data, statistics, reports, interviews, and so on. Line up what you need and tackle it one piece at a time.

Avoid over-researching. This not only wastes time, it can lead to procrastination. Having more information than you need or will ever use can paralyze you with indecision just as thoroughly as having too little.

I’ve been procrastinating about creating posts for my new blog, which is under development. While I was writing this article, I realized that I was procrastinating because I hadn’t prepared. I need to think through the process and create a strategic plan. Now I’m excited to get started.

4: It’s Boring and/or Stupid and/or Odious

Credit: PublicDomainPictures @pixabay

Yes, some tasks are boring. But we’re all big boys and girls and learned long ago that some stuff just has to be done.

Some tasks seem stupid, and they still need to be done. Government regulations, bureaucracy, and a lot of reports seem to fall into this category.

What about odious tasks? Things we dread and maybe hate doing like firing someone, writing performance reports, budgeting, cleaning the fish tank, and finishing the book you are in the middle of writing.

The solution is getting rid of these tasks sooner rather than later. Reward yourself for starting and finishing. The more boring, stupid, and odious, the bigger the reward.

5. You’re an Adrenaline Junkie


Do you thrive on the rush of beating a deadline?

People who put off things rely on the adrenaline that arises when faced with a looming deadline and barely enough time to deliver. They thrive on the stress of beating the clock at the last minute. This rush lets them bust through the wall.

It works, but it has consequences. You risk delivering barely adequate results or making avoidable mistakes. It’s also exhausting. If you ever crammed for a test or jammed a term paper through the night before it was due, you experienced the crash that comes later.

Do this too often, and you are flirting with a variety of stress-related problems.

Listen to What Procrastination Is Telling You

Credit: Couleur Pixabay

Procrastination can cause feelings of stress and inadequacy. The task you’re avoiding looms ever larger in your awareness and hovers over everything you’re doing to avoid it.

The more you procrastinate, the more tasks pile up and become a seemingly overwhelming wall. Your productivity and reputation as a professional suffer.

When you find yourself procrastinating, listen to the message it’s sending and use the tools in this article to shift into action.

When Procrastination Requires Professional Help

Credit: skeeze Pixabay

Everyone procrastinates occasionally. Eventually you get the task done and move on. Sometimes, however, procrastination can become chronic and debilitating.

Psychologist Robert Schachter, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, NYC, is the founder of the Procrastination Centers of America. According to him, professional help is necessary when procrastination is caused by mental health issues, such as depression, hopelessness, and helplessness among others or when it leads to significant health and quality of life issues.⁴

If procrastination is affecting you life and work, seek help.

Additional Reading on Medium

Books

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
  • One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.

Resources

  1. Hammer, C.A., & Ferrari, J. R., “Differential incidence of procrastination between blue-and white-collar workers.” Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, 21 (2002), pp. 333–338
  2. Hajloo N., “Relationships between self-efficacy, self-esteem and procrastination in undergraduate psychology students.” Psychiatry Behavioral Science 2014; 8(3): 42–9
  3. Bandura, Albert, Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York (1997)
  4. Schroeder, Michael D., “Is Your Chronic Procrastination Actually a Matter of Mental Health?” health.usnews.com, August 3, 2017

Avoid These Business Relationship Pitfalls

14 Jun

Damage to business relationships can’t always be repaired

Credit: kiragrafie Pixabay

Being aware of how you interact with others and communicating professional behavior at all times make business relationships run smoothly and effectively. You gain a reputation as someone who works collaboratively, respects others, and strives to act with consideration and tolerance at all times. The key to effective business relationships is being mindful of your actions and how they affect the people you work with.

Here are five pitfalls that can damage business relationships and harm your reputation as a professional.

1. Failing to show appreciation of others.

Credit: rawpixel Pixabay

Teamwork is essential for realizing business goals. Even if you are an independent contributor or external consultant, acknowledging the contributions of others boosts their self-esteem and raises your reputation as someone who is considerate and mindful of others. The more you do this, the more people enjoy working with you, and the more influence you have.

Make a point to pay compliments and give praise to people when they achieve a goal, reach a milestone, or go above and beyond. Take every opportunity to give praise and recognition to others. It pays dividends in building strong business relationships.

2. Being judgmental or critical of other’s opinions and viewpoints.

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

Open-mindedness is essential for personal and professional growth. Emotional intelligence teaches us that empathy is a critical component of good relationships.

Empathy is the ability to accept people where they are even if we disagree with them. This demonstration of tolerance and acceptance enhances your reputation, communicates leadership ability, and makes people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions with you.

Even if you are the resident expert or an external consultant who does, in fact, have most of the answers, you always want to tread softly about how you express yourself.

Allow others to express their ideas and solutions without criticism and seriously consider them. You may discover a new approach or learn a new strategy. Share your expertise and opinions when asked or after others have shared theirs. No one wants to work with a know-it-all.

3. Losing control of your emotions.

Credit: WikiImages Pixabay

The demands of your job, the stress of juggling multiple priorities, and the need to meet unreasonable deadlines can easily overwhelm your coping mechanisms. When the stress hits overwhelm, the smallest thing can set you off.

What pushes your buttons and sends you into orbit in a second? It’s different for everyone. For me, it is a sarcastic tone of voice or a patronizing manner. In the past, this has damaged more than one of my business relationships and required me to mend fences.

The solution is identifying your buttons and creating a fail-safe option to use when they get pushed. My fail-safe is taking a deep breath, a step back, another breath, and a final step to the side. The breathing and the movement anchor me into a more resourceful state.

Take time to plan your fail-safe and visualize using it the next time your buttons are pushed. It will take practice, but you can control your responses.

4. Being negative.

Credit: PublicDomainPictures Pixabay

Have you ever worked with someone who hated everything, never gave a compliment, and bah-humbugged all day?

Many of us have. One person’s negativity can drag everyone down.

Negativity is like a virus in business; it quickly spreads to infect everyone. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to prepare yourself for the worst. The key is becoming aware of what you are saying and doing and stopping yourself from veering into the negative.

The more optimistic and positive you are, the more people want to be around you and work with you.

Consistently see the positive side of things and approach life expecting happy outcomes. Focus on successes and use mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow and encourage others to do likewise.

5. Office romance gone bad.

Credit: Sasint Pixabay

Most days, people spend more time working than they spend at home. Working closely with others can lead to close friendships and, sometimes, more. While friendship can be the foundation of good, long-term, business relationships, romance can make things tricky

Whether friends or lovers, when there’s a falling out, colleagues often take sides. Depending on the type of relationship and the nature of the breakup, it may be impossible to repair collateral damage to other relationships — or to your career and business. I know. I’ve been there. In my case, one of us ended up leaving the department.

Before turning a business relationship to a romantic one, think about the potential ramifications if it ends badly.

Build Effective Business Relationships for Career and Business Success

Credit: truthseeker08 Pixabay

Today’s business environment requires you to work with a wide variety of people whose work styles are different from yours. Building effective relationships helps you get results, contributes to career and professional success, and improves your ability to gain the cooperation and commitment of others.

Additional Reading

Before Falling Head Over Heels, Pay Attention to the Pros and Cons of Dating an Office Coworker by @Kaitlin King @Career Contessa

How to Say No to Requests (Without Damaging Your Relationships) by @Patrick Ewers @Better Humans

Building Effective Business Relationships

12 Jun

The only way to get results is with the support of others

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

Whether you are a career professional or an entrepreneur, you must work with people to achieve your goals. The need to get along with and rely on others is necessary for long-tern growth and success; however, this can be challenging at times.

Coworkers, colleagues, and clients can drive you crazy.

Clients don’t respond promptly to your emails or phone calls, vendors or colleagues miss deadlines and make mistakes that affect you, and some people are just plain negative and annoying.

Many factors work together to help you build, maintain, and deepen business relationships for long-term career growth and entrepreneurial success. The factors are the foundation of effective relationships.

1. Civility

Credit: Geralt @pixabay

Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, co-founded the Johns Hopkins Civility Project in 1997, to assess the significance of civility, manners, and politeness in contemporary society.¹ In his book, Choosing Civility, Dr. Forni presents 25 rules for considerate conduct.

Based on Dr. Forni’s work, three traits are commonly associated with civility: restraint, respect, and responsibility.

Restraint. Restraint is the ability to evaluate the effect you might have on others before speaking or acting. If you believe the effect would be negative or be misunderstood, you do not take it. Restraint is the ability to speak and act with care and deliberation.

Respect. Respect comes from honoring others, showing courtesy toward them, and not judging them. Always showing respect for others, especially when you feel provoked or stressed, demonstrates professionalism.

Responsibility. Responsibility means being accountable for your actions, following-through when you say you will, and acting in ways that inspire others to rely on you. It is the mark of a leader.

2. Communication

Credit: rawpixel Pixabay

Good communication skills are necessary for professional and business growth. You must be able to:

  • Express yourself clearly and appropriately.
  • Present your ideas and gain support for them.
  • Negotiate compromises and encourage collaboration.
  • Speak and write with authority and confidence.

All effective communication begins and ends with good listening skills.

Listening

Listening is not easy. It requires focus and the ability to quiet your mind.

A common obstacle to listening is the tendency to formulate your response while the other person is speaking. When this happens, you drop out of the conversation; your focus shifts to yourself and what you want to say. Meanwhile the other person is continuing to speak. When you give your prepared reply, you are replying to something they said previously. Your response may make no sense or lead to confusion and frustration.

Here are some tips to improve your listening skills.

  • Stop what you are doing and pay attention to the other person.
  • Set aside your biases and avoid leaping to conclusions or making judgments while the other person is speaking.
  • Listen for facts versus speculation since people can speak as if something is a fact when it is merely an opinion. Ask for clarification about where information comes from and probe for specifics.
  • Pay attention to body language. What does it communicate? Is the person relaxed or tense? Is their posture open or defensive? Are they nervous or calm? Is their body language congruent with what they are saying? The body speaks louder than words.
  • Be aware of your own body language. Maintain an open, receptive posture, smile, make effective eye contact, and nod to show that you are paying attention.
  • Demonstrate understanding by repeating key words and phrases used by the other person. This helps establish rapport with them.
  • Pace the speed with which they speak. If the person is a fast speaker, increase your rate of speaking; otherwise, they may become impatient with you. On the other hand, if the person is a slow speaker, you may have to slow down. Never finish someone’s sentence for them!
  • Ask questions to add or clarify information, verify your understanding, and gain agreement.
  • Recap any agreed-upon action and ensure you are on the same page.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions and don’t let your emotions get in the way of listening. If something is said that upsets you, just breathe through it.

One of the highest compliments you can pay someone is truly listening to them.

Empathy

Credit: johnhain Pixabay

Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes and understand where they are coming from. Demonstrating empathy is a key element of emotional intelligence, and it is a skill that can be learned.

Acknowledging, accepting, and respecting someone else’s feelings without judgment is a mark of maturity and professionalism. The stronger your empathy for others, the easier it is to understand how people like to be treated.

Accepting people as they are without judgement and criticism often isn’t easy. It requires you to set aside your biases and allow them to be what they are.

Two important things are to have a genuine interest in people and to be kind to them. Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything. Isaac Bashevis Singer

Building Effective Business Relationships Is Good Business

Credit: rawpixel Pixabay

Many other elements go into effective business relationships, but I believe that these three — civility, communication, and empathy — are the foundation. Without them, the others are weaker and less successful in the long run.

Focus on the foundation and discover how fast your existing relationships improve and what this can do for your career and your business.

Additional Reading

  1. Build Emotional Intelligence in These Three Steps by Darius Foroux
  2. Dr. Forni’s Civility Website
  3. Polishing Your Empathic Listening Skills by craig daniels

5 Tips for Improving Business Email

11 Jun

Make sure your emails get the results you need

Credit: Tumiso

Have you ever read an email and felt as if you had been slapped upside the head?

Have you ever scrolled, and scrolled, and scrolled, and finally given up reading an email?

Are there certain people whose emails you deliberately move to the bottom of your inbox?

Most of us can answer yes to at least one of these.

Here are 5 tips to protect you from email faux pas.

1. Never write when you are upset or angry.

Credit: Rickey 123 @pixabay

Your emotional state when you write email — or anything else — will be reflected in how you write. When angry or upset, your sentences will tend to be shorter and brisker than otherwise.

You can’t always wait until you’re in a good mood to respond or compose emails, but you can postpone sending them.

Save them as drafts and when you’re calmer, edit them to ensure that they don’t offend or lead the recipient to believe that you angry with them.

If you hit send to soon after writing, you probably will need to apologize and explain that you weren’t angry or annoyed with the recipient. That’s best done by phone or in-person, if possible, since they will likely be disinclined to read another email from you!

2. Get to the point.

Credit: PublicDomainPictures Pixabay

When reading electronic documents, most people will scroll once, some will scroll twice, then most of us give up.

Before writing an email, decide the most important point you want the reader to know and remember because most people will not read to the end. When you start with the important information, they can stop anywhere in the email and not miss what they need to know.

3. Use meaningful subject lines.

Credit: Marisa_Sias Pixabay

When a bookstore displays books on a shelf, most are placed spine out. The spine is designed to get people to take the book off the shelf. The possibility of their buying it goes up when they start interacting with it.

When you open your inbox, what do you see?

Subject lines.

They are the spine of your emails. They need to be written in a way that gets the email open. Successful subject lines tell the reader what the email is about and why they should open and read it. Using a keyword can help accomplish this.

The keyword is the first one or two words of the subject line that communicates why you are sending it.

For example:

  • Review by [date]: [Name of document]
  • Approval needed by [date]: [What is to be approved}
  • Deadline [date]: [What’s due on that date]
  • Decision by [date]: [The decision you want them to make]
  • Update: [What is being updated]
  • Reminder: [What you are reminding them]

You also can use keywords for project management by creating an abbreviation for the project name and having the project team start all emails with the abbreviation. By setting up a rule or filter, you can have all project-related emails sent to a dedicated inbox.

4. Watch your tone.

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

Tone is what you hear when you read as you sound out words in your head. It affects the emotional response the reader has when they open and read the email.

You can control tone by:

  • Use the right pronouns. First person singular pronouns (I, me, mine) communicate personal responsibility. They represent you, the writer. First person plural pronouns (we, our, us) show accountability and authority. They represent your department, business, or company. Second person pronouns (you, your) are used for communicating good news and avoided as much as possible for bad news. Third person pronouns (he, she, it) create a neutral tone.
  • Soften the tone with longer sentences and passive voice and firm it with shorter sentences and active voice.
  • Never bark orders. Make polite requests and show courtesy. Please, thank you, would you, could you…all contribute to a more pleasing tone and are more likely to get results.

5. Use formatting to improve readability.

Credit: ToNic-Pics Pixabay

No one wants to read a solid block of words. While you may have limited options for formatting, you can break up copy with paragraph breaks. Generally, keep your paragraphs between three and seven sentences long, so they look easier to read.

Use bold subheads as transitions to help readers navigate the email, communicate the value of the next section, and keep the reader reading. Sometimes, you even can put the most important information in a subhead!

If an email is going to a customer or vendor, make it look like a letter with a salutation: Dear [the person’s title] and their last name. When an email looks like a snail-mail letter on stationery, the more seriously the reader approaches the content.

Write Emails that Get Results

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to create emails that work. Keep these tips in mind to increase the odds of your emails moving to the top of your reader’s inbox.

You gain a reputation for being someone who doesn’t waste people’s time and who gets to the main point quickly.

When you write emails that people want to read, you get the results you need.

Check out my other business writing articles for more help:

5 Common Writing Mistakes that Kill Your Credibility

Clear Email Clutter and Tame Your Inbox

Use the Three C’s of Good Writing to Avoid Writing Pitfalls

Additional Reading on Medium

3–30–3: Three Rules of Engaging Writing by Robert Roy Britt

10 Quick Tips for Effective Business Writing by Laura Norman Salesforce

Why Most Business Writing Stinks and What You Can Do to Fix It by ProWritingAid

Guidelines for Self-Editing

7 Jun

Editing our own writing is a challenge for everyone

Credit: annekarakash @pixabay

I hate to write, but I love having written.

The writing process is painful and messy. Even with a solid plan and outline, I still hate it.

When the first draft is done, I go into my happy place. Editing is fun. Challenging, yes, but editing is where the craft and art of writing occur. It’s here that we manipulate the words and ideas to create a coherent whole that makes sense and captures readers’ attention.

Editing requires us to look for and correct a multitude of things, so it’s easy to overlook something.

Over the years as a writer and communications consultant, I have evolved a process for editing that keeps me on track and makes the process easier and more thorough.

Initial Editing Read-Through

Credit: 8212733 Pixabay

I start by reading the document straight through from beginning to end, just as my readers will. It is important to see the piece through their eyes in order to evaluate how well it will work for them.

I don’t edit anything yet; I just make margin notes when I find something that needs to be fixed.

If you try to edit during the first read-through, you can waste time. Often the solution to a problem appears later in the draft. You just need to add an arrow to where it belongs.

Organize for Results

Credit: SparrowHome Pixabay

Review the overall structure of the document to see if it makes sense. There are several ways to organize a document, depending on the type of document and your objectives for writing it. Some common ones are:

  • Cause and Effect: Used in report writing or to justify a recommendation or conclusion
  • Chronological or Sequential: Works for documentation and instruction
  • General to Specific: Moves the reader from the 10,000-foot view to something more personal that resonates with the individual; it puts a “face” on problems and issues
  • Order of Importance: Inverted pyramid style
  • Problem-Solution-Action: Used for proposals and recommendations
  • Familiar to Unfamiliar: Helps make complex or technical information easier to understand and relate to

After the initial read-through and organization review, I comb through the draft paragraph by paragraph evaluating each. I use the following checklist as a guide for finding and correcting specific problems.

Editing Checklist

Credit: MorganK Pixabay
  • Does it flow logically? Each paragraph must lead the reader to greater understanding and comprehension. One paragraph builds on the previous one and moves the reader to the following one.
  • Does every paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
  • Does every sentence in the paragraph support or relate to the topic sentence?
  • Do sentence length and complexity vary? Varying sentence length makes the writing more interesting to read.
  • Does any paragraph ramble?
  • Are there smooth transitions between paragraphs?
  • Is there a strong introductory paragraph?
  • Is there a concluding paragraph or call to action?
  • Is everything in the document relevant? Relevance means that it has meaning either for the reader or for your objective in writing it.
  • Is noun-pronoun usage correct?
  • Is parallel construction correct, especially for bullets?
  • Do any sentences run-on?
  • Are there any sentence fragments?
  • Are there any misplaced modifiers?
  • Are language and jargon appropriate for the audience?
  • Are acronyms correctly used?
  • Is formatting consistent throughout?
  • Are subheads used to break up blocks of copy?
  • Does the document look easy to read?

When you finish editing, it’s time to proofread. If you discover that a sentence or even an entire section needs more work, change your proofreading hat for your editing hat. Just make sure you re-proofread that section, especially if you have moved sentences or paragraphs.

As I said at the beginning, I enjoy editing. Am I perfect? Nope! But these guidelines and the checklist help me improve each time I do it. I hope you find them helpful, too.

I’d love to hear about your tools for editing your own work. Please share them in Responses or send me an email pat@phaddock.com.

Additional Reading

The Complete Guide to Editing Your First Draft Like a Pro by Bryan Collins

Use the Three Cs of Good Article Writing by Patricia Haddock


Helping each other write better. Join us.

5 Tools to Increase Productivity

7 Jun

Start achieving the results you need

Credit: geralt Pixabay

You know the feeling. You’re exhausted at the end of the day, yet you can’t think of one thing you accomplished.

Where did the day go?

Why are you so tired with nothing to show for it?

You feel dissatisfied and maybe even guilty that the day was a total bust.

Too many days like this, and you pay a price in mounting stress and frustration. Plus you aren’t achieving your most important goals, which adds to your stress and frustration.

You’re spinning your wheels, and the tread is getting pretty thin.

You need help before you explode, implode, or just give up.

The fix is actually pretty easy. It’s just a matter of forming some new habits about how you use your time whether you work for yourself or for an employer.

Play Detective

Credit: 422737 Pixabay

You’ve heard the phrase, “Time is money.” It’s true in many ways.

You use time the same way you use money: You spend it, save it, or invest it.

Where Are You Spending Time?

When you spend money, you buy things, go out to dinner and a movie, take a vacation. The money is gone.

You spend time when you are not getting important work done. Surfing the ‘net, checking email all day, updating social media, and so on are examples of spending time. The time is gone and has produce very few results.

Where Are You Saving Time?

You save money when you pay less for something, for example, by shopping at sales and second-hand stores, making or altering your own clothing, and clipping coupons.

You save time when you work more efficiently and accomplish a task more quickly. A good tool for saving time is bundling or batching routine activities and doing them in one, focused pocket of time. For example, you can set specific times to handle email and stop checking it when it comes in. You accomplish bundled tasks faster than dealing with them on and off throughout the day.

Where Are You Investing Time?

You invest money when you put into something that makes it grow in value over time, such as buying a home, investing in an IRA or employer-savings account, buying stocks and bonds, and so on.

You invest time when you take time today to create processes and systems that save time later. This is your best use of time since it makes you more efficient, effective, and productive.

Here are five tools that, with a little investment of time now, can make you more productive and effective every day.

Tool 1. Focus on Your Priorities

Credit: Patricia Haddock

Have you heard of the Eisenhower Matrix? It might seem familiar if you’ve seen Steven Covey’s material. However, it preceded Covey’s work by several decades.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States and the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. He is credited with saying:

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

President Eisenhower planned his days with the matrix. His record proves that it works.

  • Every week, decide the top five tasks that you must accomplish that week using the Eisenhower Matrix. Planning weekly gives you flexibility to move things around on your calendar when stuff comes up — as it usually does.
  • Limit yourself to five items; more can seem overwhelming before you start. If you finish one of your initial five during the week, you can add another to replace it.
  • Block off some time on your calendar each day to work on at least one of your five tasks.
  • Avoid scheduling your entire day; you’re not in prison. You need free time to handle routine tasks, strengthen workplace relationships (a good investment of time if done prudently), and step back and unwind.

When you know your priorities, you can more easily focus on the actions that deliver the results you need.

Tool 2. Plan to Achieve Your Priorities using the Pomodoro Technique

Credit: Capri23auto Pixabay

In the 1980s, Francesco Cirillo developed what he called the “Pomodoro Technique,” named after a tomato-shaped timer he used in college.

The technique involves an interval-style of time management.

You set a timer for 25 minutes of intense, focused activity on a single task. At the end of the interval, you take a five-minute break, then start another interval. After four intervals, you take a longer break.

Just as exercising with intervals can produce results more quickly, high intensity focus on a single task leads to greater productivity. Your concentration becomes laser-like, allowing you to produce results faster and more efficiently.

  • Set up 25-minute intervals when you are blocking off time on your calendar to work on your top priorities for the week(see Tool 1).
  • Aim for three or four intervals each day, but if you can achieve only one or two, you will be more productive than you otherwise would have been.
  • Refuse to be interrupted during each interval.

Tool 3. Plan for Daily Productivity

Credit: rawpixel Pixabay

What do you gain from one minute of planning?

According to Brian Tracy, one minute of planning saves 10 minutes in execution. Other experts claim that you will save three minutes; some say five minutes. There is one constant factor: Planning = Productivity.

By taking just five minutes to plan what you need to accomplish, you can save between 15 and 50 minutes in execution. This is a powerful investment of your time with huge dividends.

  • Set aside five minutes at the end of the day to plan the next day.
  • Prepare anything you will need to tackle your first task the next morning.
  • Review your daily plan first thing in the morning.
  • Handle your first, scheduled task.

Tool 4. Be Assertive about Interruptions

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

We allow ourselves to be interrupted.

That’s not a bad thing because it’s under our control.

We let it happen.

The key is to stop doing it.

When you are working in a scheduled interval, just say no to interruptions. Most people can wait 25 minutes for an answer as long as they know you will circle back to them when you say you will.

  • Politely tell people you need x minutes to finish what you’re working on and will get back to them at that time.
  • Follow up when you’re on a break between intervals.When people know that you will be accountable and get back to them when you promise, they are less likely to harass you with repeated interruptions.
  • Be assertive about honoring your time.

Tool 5. Can the To-Do Lists

Credit: TeroVesalainen Pixabay

To-do lists never get to done. They become an endless record that mocks you and ratchets up a sense of failure. Just looking at it saps your energy.

Stop creating to-do lists; instead keep a Task List.

When you are in an interval or any time you need to focus on something, refuse to stop what you are doing to take care of someone or something else.

  • Jot down the action you need to take on your Task List.
  • Tackle your Task List when you have breaks during the day.
  • Prioritize the items on the list using the Eisenhower Matrix.
  • Plan to handle anything that falls in Eisenhower 1 or 2.
  • Follow up and be accountable.

Productivity = Action Management

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

Productivity relies on action management.

Each minute you are either spending, saving, or investing your time.

We will never have more than 24 hours in a day, and most of us don’t really want more hours. It would just mean more work!

Let’s face it, most of us already spend too much time on work. Whether we are an entrepreneur or career professional, we all want more time for life after working.

Stop spinning your wheels, start producing the results you want, and put more time in your life for living your life.

“He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.” — Victor Hugo

Additional Reading

7 Ways to Boost Your Energy at Work by Linda Hardenstein, MPA, PCC

A Productive Summer: The Pomodoro Technique for Time Management The Financial Times

How the Eisenhower Matrix Can Fix Your Procrastination Issues by Cody McLain

Why High Performers Don’t Use To-Do Lists by Aytekin Tank

What to Do When Your Confidence Takes a Hit

6 Jun

Don’t let setbacks derail you from being an unstoppable professional

Credit: @chuttersnap Unsplash

Early in my writing career, I got an editorial go-ahead to write an article for a prestigious, children’s, nonfiction magazine. I spent weeks researching, writing, and editing it. I sent it in and waited for the letter that it had been accepted.

The letter I received wasn’t what I expected. Nowhere near it.

I got a three-page, sentence-by-sentence critique of the piece. There was nothing good about it. Nothing. The title and byline were the only things that survived unscathed.

I was devastated and sat on the floor, crying. I relived every mistake I had ever made, reheard every criticism aimed at me, and sank into a deep pit of self-pity.

So, how does someone recover from a setback that slams their self-confidence to the ground? What does it take?

It starts with understanding why we focus on the negative and learning how to shift a negative into a positive.

Negativity Saves Lives

Credit: MemoryCatcher @pixabay

If you’re like most of us, you probably spend a good part of your day juggling priorities, fending off interruptions, and trying to get something — anything — done. Most people can’t remember what they did a week ago without checking their calendars. Remembering what was accomplished last month or six months ago is almost impossible.

But we can remember all the bad stuff easily and vividly.

Why?

Blame it on our internal programming.

The amygdala is part of the limbic system, and it plays a key role in processing emotions. It is programmed to store negative experiences in our memory, so we can use them like a primitive, early warning system. It helped our ancestors prepare for, notice, and respond to potential dangers like saber-tooth tigers on the prowl.

The amygdala still works beautifully today by helping us remember negative experiences more easily than positive ones. However, instead of helping us recognize danger, it creates a fast slide into self-doubt.

“There is ample empirical evidence for an asymmetry in the way that adults use positive versus negative information to make sense of their world; specifically, across an array of psychological situations and tasks, adults display a negativity bias, or the propensity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information.”¹ [my boldface]

What can you do to recover from a setback when the amygdala wants to dwell on negativity?

Start with an Achievement Log

Credit: Photo by Rochelle Nicole on Unsplash

An Achievement Log is record of what you have accomplished, and sometimes is referred to as an “accomplishment journal.” It’s an antidote to negative memories that can undermine self-esteem, especially after a setback.

Get a notebook and start by capturing the major accomplishments of your life to date, such as learning to drive, graduating from college or grad school, authoring a book, landing the job of your dreams, starting your own business, getting married, trekking through Asia, and so on.

After you have logged past accomplishments, you want to add to your list every week. This is an opportunity to capture your achievements shortly after they happen, so you won’t forget them. Note everything — big and small, professional, business, and personal.

Here are some examples of what to capture.

  • Completed the research for the new blog post
  • Wrote two performance reports
  • Hired a new virtual assistant
  • Finished painting the spare room
  • Called my mother

No item is too small or insignificant.

This record of your personal and professional accomplishments helps to mitigate that sense of failure that often accompanies a professional setback. It also can serve as prompts when you want to update your resume, provide examples of how you achieve results for clients, are facing a performance review or job interview, and so on.

NOTE: The Achievement Log is not the place for goal setting. It is for recording successes and accomplishments.

Use the A, B, Cs to Recover and Move On

Credit: Pixabay

The ABCDE Technique was formulated by psychologist Albert Ellis, Ph.D., and was adapted by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and author of Learned Optimism. It is a powerful tool to cope with and recover from negative emotions and events. I didn’t have this technique when I was blindsided by that editor, but somehow I went through the process on my out.

You want to do this exercise in writing.

Step A = Adversity: Describe in detail the setback that is affecting you. In my example, an editor kicked me to the ground and tore apart an article that I spent weeks working on.

Step B = Belief: Write out your thoughts about the situation, any emotions you are feeling, and any beliefs you discover. In my example, I started to believe that I wasn’t a good writer and could never earn my living as a writer. I was a total failure and was doomed to slave away in a corporate hive.

Step C = Consequences: What is the result of this belief? I stopped writing for months and recoiled from the idea of writing again. I locked away my typewriter. (Yes, it was that long ago.)

Step D = Dispute: Turn the situation around, become a devil’s advocate, and challenge your beliefs in writing. One day, I decided to clean out my desk. I found the folder clips of every magazine piece I had sold and copies of every accolade I had received. It was a pretty substantial folder — evidence that I wasn’t a failure after all. The gloom began to life.

Step E = Energy: Step back and evaluate how you feel about the situation after completing Steps A-D.

  • Does it still feel like a setback?
  • Have you reduced or eliminated the negative energy and emotions around it?

If not, repeat the process again. If so, take a deep breath and put it in the past.

Make a note in your Achievement Log what you did to turn things around, so you have a blueprint for handling setbacks in the future.

Setbacks Can Be Good for Us

Credit: Geralt Pixabay

“Set back” as a verb means to “slow the progress of.” When you are hit with a setback (the noun), you want to slow the progress of its negativity on your self-esteem and self-confidence.

That fateful rejection letter I received wasn’t the end of my writing career or business.

After reviewing my successes, I reread the fateful letter, which I had crumpled it into a tiny ball of paper, but had not thrown away. I’m not sure why I kept it, but I’m glad I did.

After several painful, but objective reviews of every criticism, I had to agree that most were on point. Not all, but most. I learned a lot from that letter; it was more valuable than most of the writing classes I had taken.

I decided to submit another query to that same editor. Again, I got a go-ahead. I researched, wrote, and edited it, using the rejection letter as a guide for what not to do.

I mailed it off and waited.

This one sold, as did two more.

I never again stopped writing. I have doubted myself at times, but I’ve always kept writing.

When your confidence takes a hit —

  • Remember how much you have accomplished to date and give yourself credit.
  • Explore what’s going on with the ABCDE Technique to distance yourself from the situation and create a more realistic view of it.
  • Refuse to dwell on what happened. When it flashes into your mind, immediately replace it with the memory of something positive.

It’s not easy to recover when our confidence takes a hit, but it gets easier. Remember how good and how successful you are, how far you’ve come, and how you have bounced back in the past.

I’d love to hear how you have overcome setbacks. Please share them in the Response section, so we can benefit from each other’s experiences.

Additional Reading

How to Convert Setbacks into Powerful Building Blocks for Growth by Christopher D. Connors

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

Additional Resources

  1. Not all emotions are created equal: The negativity bias in social-emotional development by Amrisha Vaish (Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany), Tobias Grossmann, and Amanda Woodward
%d bloggers like this: