Are you one of the lucky people who wakes up every morning eager to get out of bed? Or do you linger under the covers, dreading the day in front of you? Do you envy people who get up at 5:30 am, meditate for 20 minutes, go to the gym, then power through a productive day, accomplishing their goals? Are those people just lucky to be extremely passionate about their work and lives? Or do they have a special formula that enables them to be extremely efficient?
Many people grapple with this question. I am a staunch believer that we are each in control of our destiny and that we must take responsibility for our own happiness. Of course, there are external factors we cannot control that can create obstacles to success, but think of all the entrepreneurs and women in business who – against all odds – overcame challenges and excelled to either build great businesses or become CEOs. I believe we should maximize what we have – not focus on what we don't have, or blame external circumstances.
A sponsor can help open many doors for your business. Remember: no one is an island.
This starts by leading a life of gratitude. Be thankful for where you are, today – for your health, your family, the wave of your two-year-old child, the tulips that come out in the spring, and the scent of the earth after it rains. Gratitude leads to happiness, and happiness leads to increased positive outcomes. I discovered this truth after I read Shawn Achor's The Happiness Advantage. He recommends doing the following five things every day for 21 days:
1. Meditate for two minutes.
2. Exercise for 15 minutes.
3. Write down three things you are thankful for.
4. Spend two minutes writing about a positive experience.
5. Do one kind act for someone else (this could be anything from an encouraging email to simply holding open the door for someone).
I tried this exercise for 21 days and was lifted out of my fog of inertia and compelled to pursue other activities. But is happiness the only thing that separates those who achieve their dreams from those who don't? Happiness creates an enabling environment for more positive things to come. With an optimistic mind, you start to see that your life does not have to move along by default. Instead, you can steer your own direction with a clear set of goals. Too often our dreams diminish as we age and the responsibilities of adult life take over. So how do you keep those dreams alive? In my recently published eBook, Guide for Ladies Who Relaunch, I lay out 7 Ps for a Successful Career Pivot. I will discuss three of those 7 Ps below:
First, decide what you really want in life. This step is by far the most important and is often influenced by fear, lack of belief in oneself, other people's expectations, or financial and lifestyle considerations. It is important to take time to figure out where you get your spark – that thing that will get you out of bed in the mornings, excited to start your day. And while you may not be able to plunge into creating that dream business or job right away, perhaps there are smalls steps toward reaching your goal that you can take every day. Often career pivots take place gradually.
I believe we should maximize what we have – not focus on what we don't have, or blame external circumstances.
People buy into the leader, before they buy into the vision - John Maxwell
Personal branding defines you and includes your skills, your values, your social media presence, your network, and the industry you belong to. If you haven't yet been decisive about your personal brand, once you have found your purpose, join relevant groups on LinkedIn, comment on posts in your field of interest, or start a blog. Having a strong personal brand will help you in your conversations as you try to make a career pivot in the corporate world or launch a new business.
Panel of advisors
We all need a support group with whom we meet regularly to discuss our goals, exchange ideas, and help us to expand our network. This group champions your dreams and encourages you to move forward. Many of us already have such a group, although we may not call it a panel of advisors. This group may include friends, family, and professional connections. For female entrepreneurs, I recommend regularly connecting with other more successful entrepreneurs in your field. Ideally, this panel includes someone who is several steps ahead of you in your dream field and who can mentor you. Many individuals also have sponsors – an individual willing to bat for you in a new role or in a new business and whose reputation will help you. For example, if you are starting a technology company, a sponsor may help you source investors, identify a co-founder, and source new board members. A sponsor can help open many doors for your business. Remember: no one is an island.
Gratitude leads to happiness, and happiness leads to increased positive outcomes.
And of course, mentor and sponsor relationships should be reciprocal, so you should give a lot in return.
Making a career change can be a daunting task, especially when you think about how you are going to get from point A to point Z. But when you break it down into smaller steps, you can get there. First, lead a life of gratitude, and happiness will then follow. And once you are in a positive frame of mind, define your purpose, your personal brand, and build your panel of advisors.
So if you are still thinking of a career change, Nike had the right idea: Just Do It!
This article was originally published June 13, 2017.
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It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.