Live your life with purpose

Living a life of purpose makes it worth celebrating. It creates wealth that can never be taken away. Living with purpose gives you a reason to get out of bed every morning and leaves you feeling content as you lay your head down on your pillow each night.

Though, you may find it difficult to focus in on what you are meant to contribute in your lifetime. Finding purpose is something important, and you can discover yours by listening for your calling or creating yourself.

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

Listen to Your Environment

What were you born to do? Finding purpose from what comes naturally and in areas which you excel at puts you a step ahead. You may feel the need to deny these skills and abilities because they make you stand out from your peers. Don’t!

You were born to be special. Your natural talents are actually just a starting point. They give you opportunities to move beyond the norm and achieve unbelievable success if you are bold enough to embrace that.

Many times in sports the best players not only have the most ability but also the strongest work ethic. They are the ones who show up early and stay late. These players work with private coaches during the off season to get 1% better, knowing that those gains move them from great to all-stars and Hall of Fame level careers. If you are willing to put in the work, you can become spectacular too.

What comes easy for you?

There are things you do easily, and often dismissed as not a big deal, that are difficult for others to accomplish. Consider how you can use those abilities to make a difference in your life and the lives of others. Find steps to expand and develop these talents.

What do you like to do?

Consider some things you like to do and how you can make an impact through those. Maybe you are like me, a generalist as opposed to a specialist. I dabble in many areas from music to neuroscience with just a sliver of knowledge in a variety of areas. This joy for education helps me to understand situations and people in novel ways that few others see. I can then transfer information taken from one source and apply it to another. Helping bridge gaps for others.

Is there a purpose hiding in your past?

While traumatic experiences create memories that you would rather forget, you have survived a harrowing experience. As you ponder, why me? Consider what you can do to find a sense of purpose that takes you out of that unpleasantness and into an opportunity to aid others who may find themselves in similar situations to your own.

Your horrific experience is not the end of your life, just a chapter of it. Now discover what comes next and unlock the amazing powers that have been growing inside of you, waiting for the opportunity to be utilized.

Such was the case with Louis Braille, who lost his sight at the age of three. Frustrated by the lack of written knowledge available to those that could not see, he invented the Braille writing system by the age of 15.

Despite the system not being utilized in his lifetime, he continued to perfect it for uses in music, science and mathematics, textbooks, popular writing and correspondence. His system is still used around the world today as the de facto international written communication standard for the blind.

You may be like Louis Braille, finding the strength and purpose in your life through survival. Look those life altering experiences in the face. Then find the courage to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

If you are finding it difficult to surmount those experiences, take a deep breath and do what you can to put the past behind you. What’s done is done, it’s history. Focus on today, and how you can build yourself a brighter tomorrow.

Sometimes it's just a matter of serendipity

If you have been fortunate enough to find talent and purpose through a serendipitous experience, such as a friend’s suggestion to try a new activity, or perhaps you stumbled on a fresh idea that has meaning for you in a video, article, or class, take the time to deeply explore these opportunities and the life changing effect success in one of these areas could have for you.

This is how I got started in writing. A friend suggested I try writing for an audience, and it has given me a way to share ideas and experiences with more people than I could have ever imagined. It’s possible that you are being guided towards a life changing contribution too.

Above all, listen. Regardless of how it got there, a desire to contribute is sprouting inside of you, and it is up to you to discover and nurture that.

When all else fails, create your own purpose

If you have difficulty finding purpose in your life through listening to your environment and past experiences, you can manufacture it.

Consider how you want to contribute and go for it. Take action every day or week, no matter how small. As you make progress, you will gain momentum. That force will help you through the slow times when you feel like your contributions are insignificant and a waste of time. They are neither. Sometimes the steps and success are visible and rewarding, and other times life is just a grind.

As you work to make contributions, take some time to get the bird’s-eye view. Stop and reflect on your journey. That will help you understand the next few steps forward. Don’t be afraid to readjust your methods and goals. With the clearer vision you have after you have gotten down the road a bit, you can chart more effective future steps.

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.

Summary

Reacquaint yourself with those experiences where you felt you had made a difference, even in the smallest of ways. Then focus on how you can continue to have an impact by taking action one step at a time. In these ways, your life will have a definite purpose.

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You Need Someone to Talk to

happy friends on camper van roof

There are so many important  things going on in our lives that we really need someone to talk to and share ideas in order to understand their purpose.  Whether those things are good or bad, it helps to talk about them with someone who will give you their undivided attention, even if it’s only for a few minutes. These dreams and difficulties we hold inside for fear that no one else could possibly understand us need to be shown the light of day. When you talk about your joys and concerns you make them tangible, and getting them out in the open you will give you a fresh perspective on them, allowing you to inspect and evaluate these issues in clear and vivid detail.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am I will be there. You’ve got a friend.

But I can’t share my deepest thoughts with just anybody

It may seem frightening to let those deep secrets out of the closet. But there is no better way to face the issues that plague you and find viable solutions than to talk about them. Explain what you want your friend to do. For example, if you want them to listen, you might say, “I’m so frustrated that I need to tell you what happened this morning.” Or if you need  some advice, you might start the conversation with, “I am having a problem communicating with my daughter and need your advice.”  Start the conversation with your expectations for the conversation. 

Find someone you can share your deepest thoughts with. This  may require you to hear what is burning inside them too. Welcome the opportunity to build a bond and improve your communication skills. In discussing their issues, you may gain deeper insight into your own as well. Understand that if they are a good listening partner but don’t want to share their secrets, you should also find someone else to help and pay their support forward. This allows their kindness to create a ripple.

Trouble shared is trouble halved.

Be ready for direct feedback

The best feedback is actionable. It tells you something you can do right now to move forward. Often actionable feedback is direct and harsh. You may wince because it is something you don’t want to hear or have been avoiding, but take your medicine all at one time. You asked for the advice and you trust the person you are talking with. Keep in mind that it is through compassion and good intentions that they are providing you advice.. Don’t take them, or their time, for granted. 

You should also ask questions to understand the motivation and perspective they used to devise the solution. You may not agree, but at least listen graciously and consider what they said. Before dismissing the ideas, consider  how you would apply  the advice. If you are not sold on their suggestions, create an alternative option that moves you forward. It is vital that you consider some solution to work with from these types of conversations, otherwise it’s just a pity party. Those don’t serve anyone’s interest.

5 Places you can turn to with your problems and concerns

Friends

Friends can be a great resource for talking through personal growth and persisting dilemmas. Real friends care about you and your progress. You have a shared history that may provide a basis for deep understanding of your situation. Friends may be inclined to present ideas in a manner similar to the way you do because of the commonalities. For these reasons, they are a good resource for talking through your issues. 

However, friends may not always listen deeply or they may be dealing with their own overwhelming problems. They may still perceive of you as the kid from their childhood, or their drinking buddy whom they shared their woes with on Friday nights a few years ago. They may not see the version of you that exists today. That can be frustrating when trying to clear your current hurdle or get a fresh perspective on next steps to achieving success.

Trouble is part of your life - if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.

Mental Health Professionals

Psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors are all trained in the understanding of the human mind and how we handle crises, These people can help you cope with issues now based on conquering roadblocks in your past. They may show you new techniques for overcoming recurring problems and guide you to overcoming challenges one step at a time.

Mental Health Professionals

Psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors are all trained in the understanding of the human mind and how we handle crises, These people can help you cope with issues now based on conquering roadblocks in your past. They may show you new techniques for overcoming recurring problems and guide you to overcoming challenges one step at a time.

Coaches and Mentors

Professional-minded coaches and mentors differ from counselors and mental health experts. Coaches and mentors are concerned with your future progress, not your past. As a professional coach and mentor, for example, my concern is where you are going, not where you have been. To me, you’re the total sum of all your previous experiences, and you will carry that baggage with you wherever you go. This outlook is very different from what you will get when speaking with mental health professionals who often apply familiar labels for your situation in order to identify your predicament or friends who may see things through their personal point of view.

Coaches and mentors are more mindful of your development. They will work with you on where you are going and don’t pay attention as much to where you’ve been as mental health professionals do. Since their relationship with you is professional rather than personal, they are motivated to see you succeed. Unlike talking to friends, coaches sole objective is your progress with no hidden agendas. 

Mentors have often been through similar situations as your own. They acquired  wisdom through hindsight. This knowledge can help you avoid pitfalls and speed up your development, because you can learn from their mistakes. Working with a mentor can help you lay the foundation for success or be an ongoing relationship that sees you through valleys and over the peaks too.

A coach, on the other hand, will help you improve a specific ability. You may seek a coach for public speaking and presentations, to manage conflict, or improve your relationships. Their advice will be more specific and directed at solving the crisis of the moment. That is not to say they will not help you through other situations down the road. Some coaches will, while others are more specialized in particular issues.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.

Groups

Counseling and self-help groups are focused on bringing people together who are experiencing similar issues. They are also good places to discuss your concerns with like-minded people. Because they have walked a similar path, they will be more empathetic to you and the resources at your disposal to manage this phase of life.

These groups are often anonymous, so you can share your deepest thoughts without concern for who may find out about what you said later. Some groups like AA are beneficial for keeping on a path and handling struggles that last a lifetime. While others, like masterminds, will help you to climb to the next peak. If working with a group sounds appealing to you, try it out and see if it is a good fit. If it’s not, try another one. Good groups are about chemistry and they will all be a little different, even if the programs are the same.

Virtual  Mentors

Virtual mentors are people who you learn from via books, websites, podcasts, etc. Some people like reading biographies and find insight from the lives of others. Listening to talks and reading books from motivational speakers like Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar or Dr. Wayne Dyer may also help you tap their experiences to find answers on your journey. 

Virtual mentors have made available hundreds if not thousands of hours of content you can use to develop yourself and find solutions to the dilemmas you face. While not communicating directly with these thought leaders, you are gaining a wider base of understating to apply in moving towards where you want to go. Digital mentors help you know that you are not alone and that others have walked a similar path to your own. 

If you choose to utilize this do it yourself approach, you may want to write about your dilemmas and what you’re learning through their insights to give voice and consideration to how they would respond in your situation. Many good solutions start with the words, “What would Ben Franklin do?”

Summary

You need not carry life’s burden alone. There are people you can talk to that will provide you a fresh perspective on those predicaments you are facing. Consider what kind of help you need, an ear, advice or a model. Then seek out a friend, mental health professional, group or even a virtual  mentor. The clarity you find will have you wondering why you didn’t do this before.

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Manage your habits to accomplish more

Thanks to Alex Guillaume for sharing their work on Unsplash.

Focus on the details that make up your day

Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

By scheduling the next day before I left the office for the night, I departed work with a clear mind, and I stopped having to bring physical or mental tasks home.

In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.

Summary

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The Greatest Love of All

Photo by Chermiti Mohamed on Unsplash

You can’t give what you don’t have

Mainstream media has created images of life that are difficult, if not impossible, for us to compete with. This leaves most of us feeling inadequate. Adding to on those feelings of inadequacy are experiences like losing a job, ending a relationship or struggling to gain a new talent. All these experiences can lead to feelings of disillusionment. To combat that negative self talk, you need to believe there is something special in you and about you. Have faith in yourself and learn to love the person inside. 

Over a lifetime you will spend many more years with yourself than any friend, partner or family member. You know all the secrets, all the sacrifices and all the dashed dreams. You know the hard work that went into your accomplishments and the lesson learned from your failures. Find a way to love and be happy with the person you see in the mirror. To love yourself is to accept who you are, despite your flaws and inadequacies. Loving yourself means that you enjoy spending time with yourself, and that you are your own biggest fan regardless of the circumstances. Love yourself and your world will blossom. Here are three ways to enhance your self love.

Don’t take others opinions of you at face value

Relying on others for your feeling of self-worth is dangerous. Outsiders do not always have your best interest at heart. In actuality, they have their own agendas. Those are independent of and sometimes in direct conflict with yours. Seeking praise from someone else will only get you short-lived satisfaction. However, appreciating yourself and your accomplishments will feed your self-confidence continually.

Self-love focuses on benevolence, creating harmony with your environment, and high levels of self-esteem.

Accept the person you are

You are much better off accepting the person you are, with all your faults and frailties. Finding peace with yourself allows you to be an authentic contributor to your own life and establishes a sense of accountability to yourself. If there is something you don’t like, change it. If you are unsatisfied with the quality of your efforts, find ways to perform better. Having a deep sense of love and appreciation for yourself allows you to know what you’re capable of and increase your commitment to levels only you know you are capable of achieving. This leads to an enhanced sense of pride. When you have the confidence that comes with being content with yourself, you will see others as the valuable beings they are as well

Work on your self esteem

If there is one thing that leads to a deeper sense of self love, it is a high level of self esteem. When you feel good in your own skin, you can readily accept the world around you. Self-esteem doesn’t mean you need to feel that you are superior to others. It’s more about being comfortable with who you are so you can authentically engage in your environment. Start with eye-to-eye affirmations in the mirror. Tell yourself, “I love you” and “I’m glad to be me.” These will help you feel deep inside that you cannot trade your situation for someone else’s. You are who you are. You are where you need to be right now. Get busy fighting your good fight.

It is said that you cannot give what you don’t have. Therefore to give honest, deep and sincere love to others, you need to start by giving and receiving it from yourself. You do that through respect, trust and bringing a sense of joy to being who you are. This allows you to be in harmony with your environment. When you love yourself you are more supportive,  cooperative, and interested in others. You want them to flourish for their own benefit, with no hidden agendas.

I think the most important thing in life is self-love, because if you don't have self-love, and respect for everything about your own body, your own soul, your own capsule, then how can you have an authentic relationship with anyone else?

As you develop feelings of love and respect for yourself, hold yourself accountable to giving your best effort, win or lose. Love is not always soft. Sometimes you need to challenge yourself to become a better version of who you are.You develop trust through being true to yourself, your beliefs and your principles. Enjoy being with yourself by having a deeper understanding of your likes and dislikes, your preferences and your distinct tastes. As you experience these things, whether alone or with others, you will enjoy that you are able to have authentically fulfilling experiences that sustain the beautiful person you are.

Putting yourself first is an act of self-love

We have been told since we were kids that putting yourself first is selfish. That this approach to life will put-off those around us. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are going to give your best you need to understand how to achieve your best. What environment do you need? What tools?  What emotional state do you need to be in? Focusing on your needs will help you serve others as well. I know what I need to do when preparing to lead a seminar.  I don’t let anything get between me and my preparation, doing less would make me feel as if I were cheating my  clients. 

If you are going to accept no less than your best, you have to create the environment to do so. It’s not selfish at all, it’s being responsible to yourself and those your actions serve.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.

Self-love vs. Narcissism

Those who consider putting yourself first a selfish act may be confusing self-love with narcissism. Self-love focuses on benevolence, creating harmony with your environment, and high levels of self-esteem. Narcissism is characterized by a need for being the center of attention, fulfillment through recognition, and a tendency to be antagonistic. This article by Sarah Elizabeth Malinak, M. Div. explains more about the differences between Self-love and Narcissism.

Self-love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It's about accepting all of yourself.

Narcissists thirst for recognition and perfection, are competitive to a fault, are always right (even when they are wrong) and quick to assign blame. Yet they are slow to acknowledge their faults. When you have self-love, you do not need these false supports. You rely on creating good will, and gratitude. You have an authentic appreciation of your life and situation despite the flaws and difficulties.

Developing self-love is challenging. It requires you to accept yourself completely with all your scars and imperfections. Doing this, you can continue to develop into the best version of yourself. 

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The next time you’re triggered try this…

Image by Claudia Mitu from Pixabay

How to make exponential gains with emotional intelligence

After several weeks of work on my new client’s website, I was proud and excited for the unveiling. Not only had we meet every demand they had asked for, but we had also included a few extra features that would help them to analyze traffic and attract new leads. What’s more, we finished a week early! I went in happy and full of ambition. However, as the meeting dragged on and on they asked for more and more revisions. “like the catalog,” they said, “but this email reminder about what is in the shopping cart seems to salesey… We don’t want our potential customers feeling like we are spamming them for fear that doing that will drive them away”

Walking out, I mustered a smile and said we would handle all their changes in a fortnight. But inside I was seething, “Why weren’t they clearer from the beginning? Always more changes and delays!”

I was triggered.

It took me the whole trip back to the office just to cool down and then even longer to get the ambition to start tackling their requests. I just wanted this project done and paid for!

I am sure that you have had a similar experience. Where you have felt triggered due to the actions of others and need a reset before being able to regroup and take beneficial actions. There is a better way to handle these situations and learning how will enable you to create exponential forward momentum. I call this the catapult effect.

Emotions can help you and they can hurt you, but you have no say in the matter until you understand them.

— Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0

In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves explain that our emotions first are felt and then reacted (or responded) to. This got me thinking about a catapult effect we could employ by first experiencing an emotion then taking a moment to decide what to do with that energy. This could not only help us to avoid destructive behaviors, but also move us straight to actions that will launch us forward.

How can you use the catapult therory?

If I were to have taken a moment to think about what my client was really saying and asking for, instead of feeling crushed that they weren’t as pleased as I was, it would have been more constructive. I could have felt anger about them asking for yet more changes but then clarified all the issues so that we won’t need to go down this same road again. That would have led to a discussion of exactly what their expectations were and how to implement them, instead of me boiling on the inside while smiling and agreeing on the outside.
I would have driven back to my office with anticipation for making improvement not dread about working with them ever again. This is the result of not backsliding by giving in to the emotion, focusing instead on solving the problem from the beginning. All my momentum would have been pushing me forward instead of pulling me back. This would have resulted in a 4X momentum swing.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Achieve your own 4X Catapult Effect

Identify the emotion(s)

What is the emotion, or emotions, you are feeling at the moment? Identifying your range of emotions will help you to recognize them faster and more objectively when they come around again. Using Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (above) is a good way to identify your emotions and their intensity. In her article, The Emotion Wheel: What It Is and How to Use It, Hokuma Karimova, MA explains how to use the wheel to identify and manage your range of emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

What were you feeling before the incident? When did everything go haywire? Does that always happen with this emotion and/or situation?

Understanding the answers to these questions helps you to see patterns and mitigate harmful emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

When you understand your range of emotions, you will be able to choose some that create positivity and are easy to apply in any situation. Use this as your coping mechanism, telling your mind that you feel a certain way will fool it into action. Allowing you to filters and evaluate the situation through a different lens. As Hall of Fame, Martial Arts Grand Master Jim Buhisan says, “fake it until you make it.”

Create a solution

You have caught lightning in a bottle and now you need to unleash it. Think wide and deep about any and all solutions. Then choose the best action.

Move forward

No need to mope or seethe. Once you can see the target again, you can use your momentum to catapult you towards it.

When you can regularly identify your emotions and their triggers. Then consciously apply a more constructive solution for the situation that follows. You will have developed the ability to utilize the catapult effect.

Curious about your emotional intelligence? You can take a free assessment here.

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Limiting your Limiting Beliefs in Japan

Light is what we are; we all come from the divine source that created the universe. As we descend upon this world, we carry an essence filled with purity and playfulness. Perfection is what we are, and we bring joy into the world. As we grow older, darkness surrounds us and limits our beliefs and goals with the excuse of protection. The little girl who dreams about being an astronaut is bombarded with judgments and criticism. To achieve your dreams, you have to limit your limiting beliefs in Japan.

The little boy who wants to be an actor gets told by their parents that acting is not a real job and that he should study something that would bring him more financial possibilities such as being an engineer or a programmer. Darkness is real, darkness grounds us, but if you stare into the abyss for too long, you will become it. You will embody that darkness and drag people down with you. Say a unique idea at a party, and they’ll try to shush you.

Come up with a new marketing plan for your company, and your boss will put you down. Did someone tell you that you were not good enough? Who crushed your dreams? Were you the young artists who were told that art was dumb?

Reconnecting

Our journey on this planet consists of us reconnecting with the divine source that gave us life in the first place. To embody a place full of abundance, consciousness, Creativity, and optimism, which is what we had when we were kids: a head full of dreams. Gratitude is something beautiful that I get when I meet successful and creative people.

They are the children who did not give up on their vision—the kids who pushed the haters away and found a way to materialize their passion. Successful athletes, entrepreneurs, and artists are the ones who transmute all the darkness that they get from society into light and vision.

We are born from light, corrupted by filters of limiting beliefs as we grow, and then if you are conscious enough, you will go back into that source of divine light. Was the filter that you see the world created by you, or did it came to life through other people’s limiting beliefs and fears?

In order to become successful in, you have to limit your limiting beliefs in Japan.

Scarcity

When we are born into this world, we are blank canvases, crystal clear water. We are born without fears, limitations, or judgments. Children just live in the present moment and dream with no restrictions. When we start growing up, we absorb all of our parents’ fears, and we grow up with a scarcity mindset. We start comparing ourselves to other people, and to conform to the status quo, we cut our metaphorical creative wings and become part of the Herd, a group of people with broken dreams who won’t let other people get their dreams since they could not achieve their own.

To adapt and protect us, our mind starts creating filters of scarcity, which will stop us from becoming our ideal selves. As we become company workers, our scarcity mindset is at full throttle, and we shoot down any person who acts differently from the rest. “Creativity? That is too much work.” “Taking risks? That is too dangerous.” 

Since scarcity becomes part of our lives, we start to have a distorted sense of reality. There are a limited amount of jobs and a limited amount of opportunities. Only the lucky ones can rise to the top, and the rest of us need to survive like the Hunger Games. Other common limiting beliefs are: “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not an expert yet, I cannot charge the price I want to charge to my client,” and many more. I would say that most of the people living on this planet have this mindset. The reality is that once you change how you look at things, the things you look at change.

Someone who knows how to limit their limiting beliefs in Japan, would see a world of abundance with infinite possibilities and opportunities.

Abundance and Faith

In Exodus, Moses was told by God to go to Egypt and free his people. Perplexed by God’s command, he asked him how an ordinary shepherd could accomplish such a task. God replied: “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” If you a divine force behind you, a conviction, the universe, why would you not have a mindset of abundance?

Having a mindset of wealth is much more than seeing things differently, is it having the belief that no matter how tough things get or how dark the world becomes, you will come out on top. People who have this way of thinking, start searching within, and find their true calling. By finding themselves and what they are truly good at, they can develop a unique brand around their talents and become what we call “a Unicorn.”

If you are a teacher in an 英会話 or a recruiter in a big firm, you are easily replaceable. However, how can you replace someone like Kanye West? Joe Rogan or Elon Musk? You cannot because they build a brand around their God-given gifts. If you are an English teacher and develop a niche brand around your services, start a YouTube Channel or podcast and develop a story behind what you do, you will be irreplaceable and unstoppable. That’s why influencers are so popular because they bring their own flavor into the mix. Instead of complaining about not being able to find a job, go do your own thing.

Start creating content around the things that you like and share it with the world through social media. Go out there and get what’s yours! Do not let other people’s limiting beliefs distort your reality, you are the master of your destiny and the captain of your soul.

EXTRA: NIGHTCRAWLERS

the ultimate business guide in Japan
The Ultimate Business Guide in Japan

If you are looking for an excellent place to learn from Japan’s most exceptional entrepreneurs, look no further than NIGHTCRAWLERS. We offer FREE weekly webinars where you can learn about marketing, personal development, Japanese, and many more things! 

Check our Motivational Quotes on Instagram

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The end is just the beginning of your next big thing

Yesterday I made a potato salad. It wasn’t the first time I’d made it, but it was one of the better ones I had created. Why? Because I did something different. I added olives and smashed the potatoes a bit more than usual, giving the salad a creamier texture and more aromatic flavor. I had never done either of those things before. According to my notes, my last attempt was fairly average and uninspiring. I wrote that it needed a bit of a kick. So this time, I decided to try adding the olives. There were no leftovers, so it must be getting better. Still, I wouldn’t say it’s good enough to be a standard recipe quite yet.

Cooking is a great way to start using lessons learned diagnosis in your everyday routine. To do this assessment, you analyze your performance by answering questions that capture what went well and how results could be improved. It doesn’t matter if everything came out better or worse than expected. To grow, you need to understand where you have been and choose some steps for moving forward. The advantage of doing this kind of in-depth analysis is that the time invested in doing deep reflection generally leads to better results the next time around. You can do this regardless of how big or small, personal, or professional the project is. Getting a chance to understand the shortcomings and appreciate your successes will decrease the possibility of repeating failures and increase the odds of duplicating successes.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

-Albert Einstein

Doing a lessons learned exercise may seem laborious. If you’ve had a difficult time or outright failed, you may want to move on from that bad experience quickly. However, taking a bird’s eye view will help you to comprehend shortcomings and capitalize on incremental improvement. When you have success, celebrate; but also analyze why you were successful and how you can repeat that going forward. Taking some time to deconstruct your success is just as important as evaluating when you fail. Nothing is ever done100% correctly or incorrectly.

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.

— Thomas A. Edison

Here is a list of questions focused on success, challenges, and growth that you can use to self-evaluate and improve your future results. While you do not need to use all of them, getting in the habit of doing the lessons learned exercise, even for a few minutes, will help you to quantify your development and visualize greater success.

Focus on Success

  • What went well?
  • What were the factors that led to success?
  • How can those be replicated in the future?
  • How could I get better at that next time?
  • When could I attempt that again?
  • Who made contributions to your success?
  • Have I thanked them?

Focus on Challenges

  • What could I do better next time?
  • Why?
  • How?
  • What was a challenge I faced?
  • How did I overcome it?
  • What did I learn from that?
  • Where did I miss the mark?
  • Why?
  • How could that be mitigated in the future?

Focus on Growth

  • Something I learned from this was…
  • Something that surprised me was…
  • From that, I learned…
  • What was something new I attempted to meet a challenge?
  • How did that go?

Whatever way you capture your answers, make sure you are able to access that information quickly and efficiently. Answering the questions above makes your analysis into a resource for solving problems in the future and recalling how you have met challenges in the past. Being proactive in considering your results will help you to avoid project amnesia and lead you to more success in the future.

My potato salad is almost good enough to standardize. Doing lessons learned analysis the next few times I make it, I’m sure that it won’t take too many more attempts before I have a winning recipe to share with future generations.

So whether you are cooking a meal or creating a new solution for a client, lessons learned is a great tool to keep improving on your results.

This article first appeared on Medium.com

4 Tips for Taking Control of Your Life

Tom is a software engineer. He recently got his dream job, working for a gaming company. He had a new girlfriend and life was looking great. Then he got furloughed when work slowed down. His girlfriend found out a dark secret from his past that made her doubt the relationship with Tom, and he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do next. His life is reeling, and it is all because of situations which are completely out of his control.

If you’ve ever felt like Tom and that the world is against you, it is time to end that pity party. Get to work on building yourself into a person who is able to achieve their goals, whatever they are. The world is not against you. In fact the universe is conspiring for you. That’s right. When you can focus on what is within your control and release what is not, you will find that a cornucopia of opportunities are awaiting you. Some you may foresee and others you’ll have no idea existed until they present themselves to you.

Maybe Tom’s work for a game developer was a sample of what is to come through the development of his craft. Maybe his new girlfriend wasn’t meant to be in his life for long. Perhaps she served as a bridge to something better and a lesson for an area of Tom’s life that needs attention. Conceivably life is really on the upswing for Tom, despite the immediate signs suggesting otherwise.

One key in getting to a place in your life where things align for your benefit is to take action that moves your life forward. You can improve your skills, spend time with people who are important to you, and check things off your to-do list that keep you progressing, focusing on what you can make happen instead of what happened to you will have you life propelling forward instead of sliding backwards. Here are four things you can do today to take control of your life.

Stop blaming others

Your life is your responsibility. Despite how it may seem, no one has enough malice towards you (or energy) to spend time plotting your demise. If you think they are, why are you letting people like that in your life to begin with? Be stronger than they are by working on ways to improve yourself daily and choose to take more control of your environment. Most people are too busy with their own lives to actively spend much time trying to disrupt yours.

Take the time to evaluate your situation and consider why opportunities are not coming into view. If you are not getting called for job interviews, your resume probably needs changes. If you are not attracting the right people into your life, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. These are just a couple of examples of the ways you can take more control of your situations and their outcomes.

Release the things that are out of your control

Being laid off, labels others place on you, the economy, or not getting an invitation to go out with people you thought were your friends are all things you have little control over. Dwelling on those will take you down the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression. Instead, work to understand what role you have in these things happening around you. Letting go of those things you can not control and making an effort to improve the things you can, will free your mind to focus on more constructive ideas.

This takes more than just flipping a switch; it is a complete change of mindset. As above, there is a fine line between your influence on outcomes and control of decisions. You cannot control who gets promoted at your organization. However, you can increase the odds that it’s you by doing high quality work and being professional. At the end of the day if you are not promoted, realize that you provide your company a high quality service that you are proud of. That is a victory unto itself.

Chose to do one thing that moves you forward

You don’t need a big action or grand result now to be successful. Take a small step towards your goals and the person you want to become. Capture that action on your calendar or in your journal. Over time your progress will materialize on those pages as clearly as the ideas in this story materialized out of my own reading and experiences.

Life moves incrementally, not exponentially. Thus, the small steps you take today are the ones that will pay big dividends in the future. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to move forward one footstep at a time. Taking one step towards your goals everyday will have you 365 steps closer to those aspirations at the end of the year. That is something you have ultimate control over.

Look for an opportunity to make a difference in your own life

If you are not looking, opportunities will never find you. Carefully evaluate your decisions throughout the day and make conscious choices about what you do. That is the basis of taking control of your life. When you consider how simple decisions such as what to put on your grocery list or what to do first thing in the morning shape your life, you will start making choices that are more meaningful. These seemingly unimportant decisions will make a difference in your life over the long haul.

It is widely documented that we make an average of 35,000 decisions every day. Thirty-five thousand! Every time you say, ”I don’t care” or ”It’s up to you,” you are forfeiting a decision. Start being mindful of the decisions that have been placed in front of you. Consciously make choices as an exercise in seizing control of your life. Watch not only the outcomes, but also how your decision-making process changes. As a result, you will make better decisions and increase your confidence in doing so.

A caveat here is to be careful not to dismiss things you think are out of your control but that you do actually have influence over. For example, those friends who don’t invite you out may not like that you become increasingly negative the more you drink. Thus, cutting down on your alcohol consumption and avoiding complaining would make you a more desirable person to spend time with. When you find that many people have the same problem with you, then you are the problem. It takes a brave person to admit that.

Finally, don’t create added obstacles for yourself. Those recurring patterns and seemingly negative cycles you experience are a sign that you need to do something different to get past this life barrier. Look at your approach, your decisions, and your mentors. Then decide if you’re properly equipped to win. If you are not, ask yourself what you need to do to break through. The resources are undoubtedly at your disposal. You just need to consider all your options and ask the right questions. Then do something today to make the change.

At the end of the day, the control you have over your life solely rests in the decisions you choose to make, or to forfeit to someone else. Be mindful of those and choose to be the determining factor in your life. After all, you are the driver of your life.

This article first appeared on Medium.com as Who’s Driving Your Car

An Opportunity in Disguise

It’s only failure if you don’t learn from the experience

I recently completed my six-month evaluation and it has been a year of terrific growth. However, no assessment is complete without looking at how you got there. The road here has not been smooth. In fact, it’s had a lot of ups and downs, that’s true for everyone. But what’s amazing is that where I am now would not have been possible without those trials and tribulations. Opportunities often come disguised as failures.

In the past, I leveraged an interest in marketing into a position as a brand manager, developed a top-rated podcast, managed an international call centre that made $3 million on a single event, and helped clients become confident presenters and meeting facilitators. Yet, there were times I wondered if I’d wasted my life. There were times when I felt absolutely worthless and that I couldn’t go on. Nevertheless, in the last six months, I’ve become a professional writer, started an online coaching business and developed my own website. All the while adding a group of successful people to both my personal and professional networks. And I’m just getting started.

It’s not where you have been that matters, it’s where you are going.

What I’ve learned from these experiences is that life prepares us for what comes next. We may not be able to see what lies ahead. But God knows. Living with trust and faith (regardless of who or what you believe in) I can accept that everything I experience is getting me ready for what comes next. Bruce Lee said, “be like water.” Living that way reveals possibilities.

Viewing my past experiences as valuable lessons for my future allows me to continue growing, and living the entirety of my life without regret. Of course, there are things I wish I could’ve done better, but I can’t do them better. They’ve already been done. But going forward, I can learn how to be more thoughtful in similar situations.No regrets, only lessons to be learned.

This philosophy gives me a different perspective on life’s challenges than many have. When a friend is sad about the passing of someone close to them, I say: “You’re lucky to have had that person in your life.” When looking back on losing a job, I say: ”I’ve contributed all I could to that company. It’s time to make new ripples.” If a colleague is apprehensive about their future, I say: “What can you do today to make your tomorrows better?”

You see, the future is what you create with your present actions. When you choose to binge watch TV all weekend or focus on what is happening in the news, you are choosing to let others control your mind and heart. When you go for a walk in nature and experience your surroundings or spend time discussing how to solve meaningful dilemmas, you are deciding to expand your skills and abilities of perception. Make meaningful decisions.

Not every day is sunny

Days that seem the worst are actually some of the best, in reflection. There were days I felt that I hadn’t accomplished anything. On a recent Monday, no to-do’s were crossed off my list, a new project without clear objectives was added to my responsibilities, and a night out with friends was cancelled.

Looking back at the end of the week I realized when no to-do’s were crossed off I actually moved a couple projects forward and then was able to complete them by the end of the week. The new project dumped in my lap was to develop a personality assessment. In this project, I will use the knowledge and skills I have developed in several of my past jobs and assignments all on one project. Then Wednesday night my boss asked me to do a presentation for one of our top clients on Friday (just three days later). It’s a good thing the plan to meet with my friends was rescheduled. I might not have had time to work on the presentation and gone out. The point is, I did accomplish things that week. But I didn’t see those accomplishments would be possible on Monday until I reframed them in my mind. In retrospect, it actually was a fantastic week!

We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how. — Paulo Coelho

Just put it out there

If there is one takeaway from all of this, it is to seek opportunity. That is how we truly grow and are presented with the experiences that will make us better people. Don’t wait for the stars to align, they never will. Don’t doubt your own skill or abilities. The tools you need to succeed will find you. Don’t get discouraged when you get downsized or fired. It’s time for something new. Have a dream, make a long term goal, expect the unexpected and believe with all your mind and heart that it is possible. Finally, look at each detour as a learning experience. Though they may come disguised as problems or failures, your dreams will find you. Be ready.

This post originally appeared in ILLUMINATION

No Comparison

Why comparing yourself to others is futile and what to do instead

Whenever we evaluate our personal development, we often find ourselves in an underappreciated situation as we compare ourselves to others. There’s no way to be satisfied with those results. There will always be someone better, smarter, and more skilled than we are. If there isn’t, you’re fooling yourself. Our experiences and time commitments are quite different from those around us. As a result, where we see difficulties others may see success. So it is better to measure your success against yourself.

 

Using ourselves and our personal goals as the measuring stick of success allows us to realistically chart our course. We can envision what comes next and the path to move ahead. We can also be more open to seeing others achieve what we seek. We can then be appreciative of their success and offer praise for their well-done work. So how can you become more aware of your progress? It all comes down to three things: measure, communicate and sprint.

 

Set quantifiable goals

Setting quantifiable goals allows you to objectively measure if you are making the mark. These checkpoints can be evaluated with a yes/no answer.  For example: run 3km twice during the week, use a new word you have learned four times in a day, or write 500 words every day for a month. Through the use of these clear goals, you can accurately monitor your progress in two ways.  First, you can readily understand if you have achieved your goal. Secondly, it’s easy to track your progress. If you are using a system like lessons learned – which I discussed in an earlier article – look back to discover opportunities to apply what you had hoped to do. Then, do better next time. You may even try a three step grade: attempted, competent, and confident as a way to honestly evaluate your performance. Write this information down. It will help to motivate you the next time you face a big challenge.

 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

 

Talk to others

If you’re having difficulty understanding how to succeed or your progress is slow, ask others who have cleared similar hurdles how they did it. This will provide you additional options for success that you may not have considered before. While their situations are undoubtedly different from yours, their approach may be a novel one you never considered. 

Additionally, by talking to others about what you are working to achieve, you create a sense of urgency and accountability to make progress.

“You should never try to be better than someone else, you should always be learning from others. But you should never cease trying to be the best you could be because that’s under your control and the other isn’t.” ~ John Wooden

 

Use the Scrum Approach

I love scrum because it requires the practitioner to break up progress into actionable steps and achieve them one by one. It focuses on making progress in sprints. So, rather than gazing into the unknown, you tackle the milestone you can see. Those sprints require demonstrated proof of concept. With scrum you reach success incrementally. 

 

If you are setting your goals too high, you are probably also expecting to reach those achievements too quickly, and also unsure of exactly how to get there. Using the scrum approach you consider what level of improvement would make a noticable difference (maybe 5-10%) and how to achieve that. Once you have cleared that goal, work on the next big thing to move you forward to your desired level of improvement. Consider all the actionables necessary to achieve that initial goal. Move through them step by step. Then proceed on to the next phase. Just like the proverb says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

 

In the end, the only way to make true progress is to take it step by step. There are no shortcuts. Don’t feel discouraged because someone else does with ease something you are struggling with. They also struggled with it at some point. Just be ready to put in the work. Stay focused and celebrate your progress. Life is a marathon not a sprint. You should run to complete the marathon, and not just make it up the next hill.

 

“How do you become better tomorrow? By improving yourself, the world is made better. Be not afraid of growing too slowly. Be afraid of standing still. Forget your mistakes, but remember what they taught you. So how do you become better tomorrow? By becoming better today.” ~ Benjamin Franklin