As you all know I do motivational speaking. I speak about achieving, overcoming obstacles, breaking barriers etc. However, like any other normal human being I get tired of always striving to be better and of trying to figure out endless ways that I can improve myself. The notion that we can constantly make ourselves better is, in theory, a great idea but when does it become too much? We live in a culture that is obsessed with self improvement. We turn on the TV, look at magazines, take classes, read books, listen to others, surf the web and more – constantly getting various messages that if we just fix change, and improve ourselves a bit, we’d be better off. How often do you find yourself thinking some version of, “If I just lost a little weight, made a little more money, improved my health, had more inspiring work, lived in a nicer place, improved my relationships (or something else), then I’d be happy.” Even though I “know better,” this type of thinking shows up inside my own head more often than I’d like.
So much of my motivational work is focused on self improvement and while there’s nothing wrong with me or any of us wanting to improve ourselves – too often we go about it erroneously thinking that if we “achieve” the “improvement” we’re after, we’ll then feel good about ourselves. When we insatiably focus on improving ourselves, thinking that it will ultimately lead us to a place of happiness, we’re almost always disappointed and we set up a stressful situation of constantly striving, but never quite getting there.
What I have learnt from life is that you have to self-accept yourself first and then strive to improve. What if we gave ourselves permission to accept ourselves fully, right now? While this is a simple concept, it’s one of the many things in life that’s easier said than done. One of the biggest pieces of resistance we have regarding self acceptance is that we think that by accepting ourselves, we may somehow be giving up. It’s as if we say to ourselves, “Okay, I’ll accept myself, once all of my problems and issues go away.” When we allow ourselves to accept who we are, where we are, what’s really happening, qualities about ourselves, aspects of who we are, and more – we actually set ourselves up and give ourselves the opportunity to make changes, improvements, and enhancements to ourselves and our lives in an authentic way. When we obsess about and/or demand these improvements or changes “in order to” be happy, feel good about ourselves, or think we’re successful, it almost never works. Most of the time it’s our own self criticism, perfection demands, and impatience that are actually getting in our way of making the changes, creating the success, and experiencing the fulfilment we truly want. What if we changed our approach and just accepted ourselves exactly as we are, right now!
We live in a culture that is obsessed with self improvement. We turn on the TV, look at magazines, take classes, read books, listen to others, surf the web and more – constantly getting various messages that if we just fix, change, and improve ourselves a bit, we’d be better off. How often do you find yourself thinking some version of, “If I just lost a little weight, made a little more money, improved my health, had more inspiring work, lived in a nicer place, improved my relationships (or something else), then I’d be happy.” Even though I “know better,” this type of thinking shows up inside my own head more often than I’d like. Questions that I am often asked are: Can we self-accept ourselves and improve ourselves at the same time? Does self-acceptance mean that there isn’t room for self-improvement?
What is self-acceptance? Does it mean accepting your weaknesses or negative habits and doing nothing about them? Does it mean accepting your behaviour, attitude and life style, and doing nothing to change and improve? It is so easy to give in to laziness and to find excuses for leaving everything as it is. Accepting your behaviour and weaknesses, and doing nothing to improve, is not the right kind of self acceptance. It does not contribute to real progress and improvement. Self-acceptance does not mean that you accept what you are and do nothing to change and improve. It does not mean accepting your fate and life as it is. Becoming aware and acknowledging your behaviour, habits and your personality, and not being afraid to look at yourself as you are, is an important step to self-acceptance.
Knowing yourself affords you the possibility to see what you can do to improve yourself and your life.
What is self improvement to you? We read or hear about self improvement all too often. To always want to improve yourself, is that counter productive? The answer is no. Accepting yourself and celebrating what you are today can make the whole process of self improvement more fun. What I have learnt about self-improvement is people become disillusioned and unhappy when they compare themselves against unrealistic standards.Expectations of societal norms often lead people to want to self-improve to the ‘standards of others’ rather than ‘our own standards.’ When you submit to external factors, you are in effect comparing yourself to others. Allow yourself to self-improve at your standard not others. Compare your self improvement by previous achievements and not criteria’s set by others. Doing this can help you focus on the positives. Constant reminders of your weaknesses can actually make you feel more helpless in overcoming them. Such reminders may hinder your journey to self improvement. Accepting yourself however, can help you focus on expanding and increasing your good qualities. In turn, your weaknesses will decrease.
What I have learnt from life is that you have to self-accept yourself first and then strive to improve. To self-accept yourself means to stop comparing yourself and your achievements to others, and acknowledging your skills or the lack of them. This will bring inner peace, lightness and happiness. .Also what I have learnt is to stop holding self-acceptance and self-improvement as opposites and forcing ourselves to choose one or the other. Instead, see them both as part of an underlying change process. Self-acceptance does not stop us from changing. In fact, acceptance promotes positive change which in turn improves us.
Can you believe that spring is here? Spring, a time of new beginnings and vigorous cleaning. It’s the perfect time to take a look at your job-search tactics and give them a thorough cleaning and/or find some ways to put some spring in your efforts. Here are a few ways you can ‘spring clean’ your job search:
Sweep out the old
As everyone knows, the first step of spring cleaning is trashing the old, broken, and no longer needed. For your job search, that’s the following:
- irrelevant job listings on your CV
- inappropriate pictures or comments on social media accounts
- ill fitting, worn, or of-another-decade interview attire
- emotional baggage from your last job
Organise your efforts
Get serious about organisational tools for your job search. Buy a new calendar, if you haven’t already, or a date book. Immediately write in time for checking jobs boards and sending out CV’s. Fill in dates for job fairs and networking events. Set a goal of once a week coffee or lunch date with a contact. Organise your time well so that you can keep on track with your job search. Have alert reminders on your phone or email outlook to remind you to check on your CV’s that you sent out.
Polish your CV and cover letter
Remove any jargon from your CV and cover letter. Think of the job you want. Google it. Read “want ads” for the position. Your goal is to get a target employer to read your CV and hear “This person’s perfect for the job!” screaming from the page. To achieve this goal it is important to remember that every position and company is different. Thus, every letter of introduction should be different. A cover letter is a fresh chance to make a pitch perfect impression. I know it takes time making each cover letter different but this is what is required if your going to be fully committed to your job search.
Update Online Profiles
Update your skills and experiences to reflect your current state. Start with LinkedIn, re-reading your job descriptions, if the position you’re on the hunt for has changed, so should your profile. For example, there is no point saying on your LinkedIn profile that you are looking for a job in marketing if your preference has changed to a different industry.
Clean up your contact list. Gather all your contacts and create a centralised list. Rank your contacts in order of importance, area of specialty, etc. Make a note of the last time you reached out. If it’s time for a quick update, send them a quick email. If there are contacts that you will never use, delete them from your list.
Consider writing your own blog on your area of expertise. It can be a great way to showcase your personal brand.
Make new contacts. Attend networking events and reach out to new people who could be potential mentors or career champions.
Set new goals. Determine how many jobs you want to apply for every week, how many new contacts you want to make, how many informational interviews you want to set up etc.
Spring is a great time for a fresh start. Whatever you decide to do make sure you look at everything from a fresh perspective. Don’t continue to do things the same way, just because that is how you always did them. A new approach or a renewed spirit could lead to a new job.
People always say “never judge a book by its cover” but there are definitely certain things that we need to be aware of in order to help make a positive first impression. It’s always better to start off strong. Whether your initial meeting is face to face, over the phone or via the internet, you do not have time to waste. It pays for you to understand how people make their first judgment and what you can do to be in control of the results. Here are a few tips
- Meeting online – In today’s world, the first impression may be made online. Chances are that people will Google “your name” even before you meet face to face. Therefore, it’s important to control what people see about you and to publish the information you want to share. Your online persona shapes the perception new contacts have of you.
- Set objectives – Setting goals is important before any kind of big event where you would be meeting a lot of people — i.e. conferences, networking events or friend’s parties. As you get ready think about what kind of people you want to meet and what kind of interactions you want to have. Most events will have an attendees list so you should have a look at that list before attending the event. When I look at the attendees list I pick the three most important and relevant people to me. When I get to the event I make it my business to get chatting to each of the three people. Once I get chatting to them and swap business details then I can relax. Anyone after my preferred three people is then a bonus.
- Think about your style. Clothes, make-up, jewellery, watches and shoes are all types of style that people take into account when making initial judgments. I highly recommend getting some of your favorite outfits together and asking friends you trust what they think of them. Make sure that what you are wearing and how you do your hair or make-up says what you want it to say to the people you are meeting for the first time.
- Be conscious of your body language. Body language is a crucial part of first impressions. Simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. Another way to examine your body language is to look at yourself on a video walking around a room. Subconscious cues to keep in mind include noticing the position of your shoulders and the way you shake hands.
- Avoid bad days. If you are in a depressed or anxious mood others will pick up on it from your facial expressions, comments and body language. If you’re having a bad day then stay at home. If not, find a way to snap yourself out of your bad mood. I find working out or watching funny YoutTube videos before events often gets me in a more social, feel good mood.
- Be interested and interesting. If you are truly interested in meeting people and are open to learning about who they are they will get this in a first impression. Try to ask questions that might reveal similarities. For example, if you ask where someone attended college or where they grew up, maybe you know people in common. You can talk about travel, restaurants, exercise, where you live, in short, anything that might help you make a direct, and memorable connection.
Good luck and be impressive.
What I have learnt from life is that no matter what your circumstances in life, you have the ability to give. When you help others they in turn will help you. I learnt the art of ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’ from an early age. The greatest gift that I have ‘received’ in life is the gift of ‘the time’ that my parents have made for me. However, they haven’t been the only ones who have ‘given’ to me. When you think about it, you know countless people who have made a difference in your life some negative, some positive. Why not make a decision to have a positive impact on the lives of others, even if they are strangers?
There’s no denying that life is demanding. There never seems to be enough time to do all the things that need to be done: keep up with work or studies, spend time with family, earn enough money to pay the rent and buy necessities. With so many challenges to cope with, you may ask yourself, “Why should I expend any effort in giving?” or “I’m dealing with a lot, how can I find the time?” or “No one gives to me, so why should I give to others?”
Benefits of giving
What are the benefits of giving? Here are some of the things you can gain by making giving a greater part of your life:
- new relationships
- doing a job
- a sense of empowerment and accomplishment
- bringing happiness to others
- making a difference
- leaving a legacy
When you give expecting a reward, you won’t receive one. When you give with joy, selflessness, and love, you benefit greatly. The attitude you bring to your giving will reflect the benefits you gain.
Giving reduces self-centeredness. It can make you feel more connected to others, and this connection will reduce fear and isolation. The benefits to staying connected with others: security, health, happiness, and even income. Have you ever heard of a job opportunity through a personal connection? Have you ever had neighbours help you out during a difficult situation? Has a friend ever cared for your child when you were exhausted? The list is endless.
Most people use only a tiny portion of their potential, and many never find their true gift or calling in life. They never find a worthwhile cause to support, a cause that really means something to them and makes a difference in their lives. But when you give to others or give of yourself to meaningful causes, things change. You expect more of yourself. You discover new feelings of self-worth. Indeed, you begin to tap into your true gifts and talents. When you do that, you can achieve your full potential as you help yourself and others.
How can you find that happiness? It all comes back to giving. If you want to have happiness, you need to give happiness. If you want love, you need to give love. For it is only in giving that you receive. Giving enriches your life with meaning, fulfilment, and happiness. It allows you to unleash your potential and create breakthroughs.
All people want to achieve meaning, fulfilment, and happiness. However, thousands of years of human history confirm that these things come not from being self-centered but rather from making a difference and giving happiness to others. If you find yourself feeling unhappy, try making someone else happy and see what happens. If you are feeling empty and unfulfilled, try doing some meaningful and worthwhile work and see how you feel. You must do this work with passion and enthusiasm. If you are not passionate, it is hard to produce good work. You are less likely to feel fulfilled and happy or to believe your work is meaningful. In the end, you will lose energy for the work, leaving you with poor result. Start making a difference today in your community and see the rewards not only in your life but those around you.
Decisions we’ve all been faced with them. How often have you been faced with a decision that’s really difficult to make? How do you decide what to do quickly? Over the past few months I have made some very hard choices in terms of my personal life and professional life. Making these choices hasn’t been easy. But I am not alone many people out there have to make hard choices. Here’s an example of a hard choice. Let’s pretend for a moment that I am rich and I give you a choice you can either take a cheque of €250.000 or you can toss a coin and if it lands on ‘heads’ then you can get double the amount €500.000. But if it didn’t land on ‘heads’ then you would lose. It’s all or nothing. This is a hard choice to make. Some might take the cheque straight away. Some might decide to toss the coin. Whilst others might spend some time pondering. Some of you might ask what would I do? I normally take risks but they are ‘calculated’ risks. I weigh up the odds in everything I do. Gambling is tempting but I would take the cheque. I couldn’t risk losing so much money on the toss of a coin when such money could be used wisely. For me this would be the right choice because I wouldn’t be gambling on something that I ‘couldn’t control.’ However, others might feel they prefer to take the gamble. We all have to go with our own gut instinct.
Anything you will ever do in life is risky. Risk is, by definition, the possibility of incurring loss or misfortune. The risk of being alive is dying. When you go to school you risk failing your exams. When you marry you risk divorcing. When you drive you risk being involved in an accident. The very nature of life requires risk taking. A small child would never learn to walk, talk, or socially interact without taking risks.
Dumb risk taking
There are plenty of people around that are literally walking over the edge and taking dumb risks. These range from casual unprotected sex, to drunken driving and drug and alcohol abuse. It is risky behaviour no doubt, but it is definitely not intelligent or calculated risk-taking. Such risks are just plain dumb. As a dreamer, you need to stay clear of dumb risk-taking and dumb risk-takers.
Good risk taking
What you should do is be willing to make mistakes, hold unpopular positions, never be afraid to take on a challenge, always keep focused on your dreams and do whatever it takes to achieve them. By taking such risks your personal growth, integrity and accomplishments are enhanced. You need to do something that forces you to stretch from your present state to a state of greater personal growth. This applies both in business as well as in our personal lives.
Making mistakes is part of taking risks and it is part of growing. The key is to learn from your mistakes and keep moving ahead. However, the question that still remains is how can you take intelligent or calculated risks? Calculated or intelligent risks are those where the potential downside is limited, but the potential upside is virtually unlimited.
Making a difficult decision requires facts, options, outcomes, and consequences to be carefully considered.
- Identify the risks of a given choice
- Identify the significance of each risk
- Practice – In order to learn to take risks, it’s important to practice. Start small so you can test what works and doesn’t work for you. Sometimes people will take a huge risk the first time out, see it end in disaster and then never take another risk.
- Action – Sometimes the scariest part of a risk is that it actually involves action.
Friday the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. This day has been held on the 8th of March annually since the early 1900s. It celebrates and supports equality, achievement and solidarity between women across the globe, whilst also recognising the struggle that women still face. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day. Many groups around the world choose different themes each year relevant to global and local gender issues.
Various women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and television personalities, are usually invited to speak at various events on the day. Such events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or breakfasts. The messages given at these events often focus on various themes such as innovation, the portrayal of women in the media, or the importance of education and career opportunities.
Many students in schools and other educational settings participate in special lessons, debates or presentations about the importance of women in society, their influence, and issues that affect them. Many workplaces make a special mention about International Women’s Day through internal newsletters or notices, or by handing out promotional material focusing on the day. It’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day to see what issues are facing women.
Austerity policies imposed by the big banks and capitalist governments on a global level have meant increased misery for women. Women rely on social services because the work they do in the family and the household is unpaid. Providing child care and care for the elderly falls almost completely on the shoulders of women. But under capitalism, this work is considered “natural” and is expected to be performed by women without pay. This creates serious inequality, as many women must do unpaid labour and work a paying job as well – if they’re lucky enough to find a job.
Having more women in key decision-making places in political, economic and social decision-making at all levels in society is the way to move away from the sort of decision-making that has served us so poorly in recent years. Today we want a different approach, one that values each individual and the contribution they can make to build a better world. We can no longer put up with a world where it is acceptable to shoot a girl child for wanting to go to school, or to disregard the crime of rape against a woman who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We thought the campaign for equality was about low pay, discrimination, humiliation or glass ceilings in the work place, or by hunger and poverty. But it’s more, all too often it is a classic case of oppression and repression. Building a better world is about allowing each person to flourish and fulfil their potential – nothing else will do.
International Women’s Day was established 100 years ago to press for the demands of women to vote, be trained, hold public office and to end discrimination. 100 years later clearly a lot has changed for many women in many countries. However, there is still a very long way to go before all women realise the commitment made in the Universal Declaration Human Rights, adopted in 1948, that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
So March is almost upon us. Some of you may have kept your new year’s resolutions of getting fit and some of you may not. Either way here are some of my tips to keep you on track.
Find a sport you enjoy
I’m addicted to running. I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t do any sports in school or college. I never considered myself an athlete in any shape or form of the word. I took up running last year and joined a running club – St Finbarr’s AC in Cork City. It has been one of the best decisions that I ever made. Sport has taught me so much. It teaches you discipline, structure, and gives you confidence and self-belief. Other benefits are that you make new friends. One thing I have learned is that running helps me see my body in a different light. I first noticed this while training. I had a new self confidence that hadn’t been there before. I found myself loving my body a little more because of the amazing things that it was able to do. I had incentive to change the things I could and not worry so much about the things I couldn’t. If we can redirect our focus to what our bodies can DO rather than just viewing them as an ornament and something nice to look at, we can gain a new perspective and appreciation for the endurance that our bodies can undergo.
Like most things in life to get better at a skill, you’ve got to practice. Self Discipline is a skill that can be learned. The more a person practices self discipline, the more disciplined they become, the less practice, the less disciplined. Everyone has different levels of self discipline. Take a moment to think of areas where you are disciplined; then take a moment to look at areas where you’re not discipline. Rate yourself on a 1-10 scale, and if you’re honest, you’ll have a good gauge of where your discipline is currently at. Once you start to build up your self discipline and can get to a certain level, it’s always important to try to branch out and either make yourself more disciplined or become disciplined in a new field. If you’re running/walking five miles a day but are still eating two bags of cookies a day, then it might be time to start to build up your dietary discipline. Self discipline won’t come easy, but that’s the beauty of it. If it did come easy, then it wouldn’t be called discipline. We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.
Find a training buddy
Of course I have those days when it’s cold and raining outside and I just can’t be bothered to go outside and run. But I tell myself I wont get any better if I don’t practice and train. I train with a great woman called Marion. On the days when I don’t want to go out I tell myself I don’t want to let her down and that gets me motivated. I’d advise all people to get a training buddy to keep you focused and motivated. It keeps you on track.
The benefits of being fit and keeping active, is an improved quality of life and being able to do things you enjoy for longer periods of time. For example, playing with the kids, gardening, dancing, or walking. Being fit has many short-term benefits, such as an improved sense of well-being, and long-term benefits, such as reducing the risk of suffering many debilitating diseases.
Recently, I was having coffee with my friend who is a HR expert. I asked her: ‘what do you think is the biggest reason why a person might not succeed in a job interview?’ She told me that the majority of candidates do not know how to answer ‘behavioural interview questions.’ She said they ramble on and do not provide interviewers with the necessary information.
Behavioural based interviewing is all about understanding your past behaviours and using that information to discern probable future behaviours. The key difference between this and traditional interviewing is that you are not asked to describe what you would do in a situation, but what you did do. Such questions help predict a candidate’s future job performance. Behavioural questions ask the candidate to recall a work situation in the past. They are used to assess competencies anywhere from problem solving, tolerance for stress, to risk taking and so forth. Behavioural questions start with phrases like:
- Tell me about a time when…
- Describe a situation where you…
- Give an example, when…
Here are some examples of behavioural questions:
- Tell me about a time when your work was criticised?
- Give me an example of when you had to make a decision without all the information and details that you would have preferred.
- Describe a situation where you identified a problem before anyone else?
When answering these types of questions it is important to listen to the question, stop and assess what skill they are trying to access and then give your best answer. It is worth preparing some incidences in your mind or on paper that can be used as examples.
Generally the interviewer will be looking for the interviewee to be able to describe:
- The task or situation
- What action you took
- What was the result of that action
How to prepare for a Behavioural Interview
- To prepare, write out some questions and rehearse the answers either to the mirror or with a friend.
- Go through your CV to refresh your memory about your professional history. You can use experiences outside work too such as community work or sports if it will clearly demonstrate your point and you can’t think of a work example.
- Use the “SAO” method Situation/Action/Outcomes – when preparing for the interview and then during the interview itself. For example, let’s say you were asked: Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult person?
Situation – Outline the situation, why they were difficult and how this impacted on you.
Action: Outline the steps you took to resolve the situation.
Outcomes: Outline the benefits or consequences of the action that you took. You could also discuss what you learnt from the experience.
- Try and do as much homework as possible regarding what the employer is looking for. Study the job description for the position.
- Visit the organisation’s website to gain an understanding of the organisation.
When answering behavioural based questions the interviewers like to hear what you learnt from the situation. Hence, you could use some of the following in explaining what you learnt:
- My experience helped me explore/develop my professional goals.
- Through this experience, I learned how to achieve “XYZ.”
- Although my decision was unpopular at first (or, my idea was unconventional), it helped accomplish our goal of “blank” and our team grew stronger because of it. (Or, our profits increased, etc.)
I’m the type of person who thrives on challenge, so I rarely feel overwhelmed by projects, even when the topic or tools I’ll need to use are unfamiliar.
Many people will get advice to “be authentic” in their job search and personal branding. Some people may find it challenging. Some people might ask what it means to “be authentic?” Being authentic in your job search means to pursue jobs that match your interests and qualification in an honest manner. Authenticity is a conscious choice of how we want to live, the choice to be honest with ourselves, the choice to let our true selves be seen. If you have to struggle in an interview to show your personality it may mean that you are not showing the real you. Showing the real you will help you decide if this employer is a good match for your personality. Being authentic in your job search means knowing yourself including strengths, weaknesses, things you want to learn about, your work values, what you want in a work environment, etc. Pick the top 3-5 things that you want people to think of when they think of you.
Being authentic in a culture that wants you to ‘fit in’ and ‘people please’ is difficult. To be truly authentic we need to let go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embrace who we are. Yet, we live in a world which dictates that you are to be everybody but yourself. ‘Staying true to yourself’ is one of the most courageous battles that you will fight.
When we choose to be true to ourselves, the people around us may struggle to make sense of how and why we are changing. Some will find inspiration in our new commitment, others may perceive that we’re changing too much – maybe even abandoning them. But in the end being true to ourselves is the best gift that we can give the people around us.
When I first started practicing authenticity I began to question myself: What if I think I am enough but others don’t? What if I am proud of my disability but others aren’t? What if I let my imperfect self be seen and known but nobody likes what they see? What if my friends and family like the perfect me better – the one who takes care of everything and everyone? With all my questioning what I learnt was when I let go of trying to be everything to everyone; I had much more time, attention, love, and connection for the important people in my life. Each day I try to make authenticity my number one goal. If people don’t like me for who I am than that’s ok. The choice is now yours whether you want to live your life being ‘true to yourself’ or seeking ‘approval’ ‘affirmation’ and the desire to ‘fit in’ by others. You can either choose to live in a world which tells you to be ‘perfect’ or you can choose to be authentic and ‘become yourself.’ Practicing authenticity can feel like a daunting choice – there’s risk involved in putting your true self out in the world. But hiding yourself and your gifts is not the answer. Scarifying who we are for the sake of what other people think just isn’t worth it.