Keep a Career Headed in the Right Direction

Make Sure to Learn Something New Every Day

It just might be that because of the economy a lot of employees are looking at their career path through a whole different set of eyes. Instead of thinking about how to get ahead, they’re just concerned with how to hang on.

However, even when times are tough it is important to keep an eye on the future when it comes to a career. After all, the labor market won’t always be like this. And proactivity is generally considered a good quality to find in employees. That’s why it is important for employees to consider what they can do to keep themselves on the right career path, even if their pace has slowed down a bit.

The Benefit of Do-it-Yourself Education

Naturally, what someone learns and how will depend on individual choice. However, one of the best methods of learning is through self education. Taking the initiative and time to brush up on the latest business, market and industry trends shows self-discipline and motivation.

Typically that means doing research and reading. What someone reads will depend on their personal interests and career aspirations. Topics like general business news, industry publications, and trade magazines help to keep employees on top of what is happening in the world of business and how it might affect their industry or employer.

Secondly, reading self-improvement, career-related and business books can also go far in shaping a career and the individual. Learning new techniques or understanding how others have found ways to work through issues is beneficial in providing employees with new tools that can help them be successful.

Finally, learn by teaching others. Sometimes when employees take the time to share their information and knowledge they can gain insight into themselves. Others may show them another angle or point out faulty thinking.

Taking the Time to Learn from Others

Since most people have a limit on their ability to teach themselves it makes sense to take advantage of what others have to offer. Generally this comes through listening and observation.

First, start by believing that everyone has something to offer. Take every opportunity to listen with an open mind. Even if an employee later on decides that the information is invalid, it is important to give it full consideration.

Next, participate. The only way to learn new things is to become involved. That may mean attending a meeting in another department to see how they do it. Or joining a cross-functional team working on a company-wide project where employees can benefit from understanding the impact of other departments on the business operations. Employees can participate by joining professional associations either related to their specfic industry (i.e. insurance) or to their particular career (i.e. accountant). Or consider finding a mentor who can offer coaching and guidance.

Finally, it is important to observe. What are other people doing that works or doesn’t work? Who are the most admired employees in the company and why? One of the best ways to advance a career is to follow those who are already successful.

What it comes down to is that the best way to keep a career going in the right direction is to never give up. That means learning something new everyday.

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Self Awareness for Life Balance

Manage Time & Learn to Say No Positively

There are five life skills that are important tools in keeping work/life balance. This article focuses on three of those skills: Self Awareness, Setting Boundaries, and Time Management. Positive Thinking for Life Balance described the remaining two skills of Positive Thinking and Using your Unique Strengths.

Self Awareness

Self awareness is the skill of being able to watch yourself as if from a distance while simultaneously carrying on your normal daily activities and interactions. Did you ever think back about an interaction you had with someone and feel regret at the words or tone you used? Perhaps you entered that interaction with some overhead, such as an earlier situation still in mind affecting your interaction.

Self awareness will help you prevent this situation by enabling you to correct your behavior in real time.

Many of our routine behaviors and reactions to outside events and circumstances result – almost automatically – from fundamental beliefs we hold about the topic or situation. These beliefs are brought forward from childhood, carrying the imprint of parents, teachers, religious leaders, and other influences.

Building greater skill in self awareness will help you identify the source of your subconscious responses, allowing you to examine and choose a reaction based on your adult knowledge and experience.

Set and Enforce Boundaries

A lack of skill and ability to set and enforce boundaries is often a source of life imbalance. Helpful people are especially susceptible to boundary violations because they have difficulty saying no.

Self Awareness to Identify Boundaries

There are two important steps to master. The first is to identify important boundaries using self awareness.To identify your own personal important boundaries be aware of how you feel, especially when asked to do something, go somewhere, or join something.

When you feel very uncomfortable about a situation it is often because a boundary is being violated or is in danger of being violated. Reflect on past situations where you’ve been very uncomfortable, perhaps even resentful. These are potential boundary situations.

Enforcing Boundaries

Once a boundary is known, the second step is enforcement. Enforcing a boundary uses the art of saying no. The difficulty most people have with saying no is a reluctance to disappoint or offend. However, agreeing to do something under these circumstances often leads to resentment and inner anger.

It is possible to say no in a positive and helpful way, avoiding offending or disappointing others while feeling good about oneself.

William Ury, in The Power of a Positive No, suggests a three-part process for saying no.

  1. First, examine your reason for saying no, linking it to a value that would be affected by the request.
  2. Second, construct a no response that is respectful but still firm and informs the requesting person of the value you feel you must honor. For example, “I’m so sorry, but that conflicts with my son’s soccer game, and attending his activities is very important to me.”
  3. Third, suggest an alternative, such as “However, I could attend the next week if you’d provide a summary of what I missed this week.”

Time Management

Every person has 24 hours a day to accomplish their goals and aspirations. Time Management might better be described as Time Utilization. How you decide to utilize your 24 hours will determine your success in accomplishing your goals and your satisfaction with your work/life balance.

Skill at time utilization begins with awareness. To assure you understand where you’re spending your time, keep a time utilization journal for a week or two. Note your daily activities, accounting for all 24 hours, using categories representing the major activities of your life, such as work, sleep, parenting, food shopping and preparation, play, personal, TV/Entertainment, etc.

At the end of the week add up the hours in each category. Are you utilizing your time in ways that promote your goals and aspirations and keep life balanced?

Five Skills for Life Balance

Mastering the three skills described here, Self Awareness, Setting Boundaries, and Time Management, when combined with Positive Thinking and Using Your Strengths will support your journey toward a balanced life.

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What is Strength, More Than Special Abilities?

Personal Strength Development Enhances Personal Growth

One of the most practical results of positive psychology’s research studies into human well-being has been the findings about personal strengths.

Termed “signature strengths” by positive psychologists, the use of personal strengths is linked to many aspects of well-being, such as happiness, creativity, and productivity.

What Is Strength?

A personal strength, or signature strength, is a special ability or skill with which one excels. Alex Linley, noted positive psychologist and author of Average to A+, describes a personal strength as “a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development, and performance.”

A personal strength is unique in that it has apparently been pre-wired into the neural network. It can be recognized as something a person has been very good at since early childhood. People can fail to recognize a personal strength as such because it is an integral part of who they are. Since it comes easily to them and has been with them since childhood, personal strengths are often taken for granted, discounted as nothing special, unique, or valuable.

Positive psychologists regard personal strengths as a powerful human asset. According to Linley, “using strengths more is associated with significantly higher levels of happiness, well-being, and fulfillment, as well as a greater degree of authenticity and personal integration.”

Personal Strength Test

It is relatively easy to identify one’s personal strengths by filling out the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. Though not actually a strength test, this free questionnaire examines responses to questions in twenty-four areas of potential personal strength. The report, which is generated immediately, highlights the top five or six as signature strengths.

Though this questionnaire has been taken by over one million people across many cultures, and with high validity, one should always verify the signature strengths for themselves by reviewing them with close friends and family.

Strength Training for Personal Growth

Although personal strengths can’t be learned, they can be improved. As with muscle strength training, personal strength training involves frequent use of these special skills and abilities. Whereas strength training for muscles often involves some discomfort—no pain, no gain—expanding one’s use of personal strengths brings greater happiness and satisfaction.

One of positive psychology’s recommended happiness-increasing exercises is to regularly find ways to use personal strengths in brand new ways.

Personal Growth Using Strengths

A personal strength is a special skill, ability, or way of thinking that is somehow hard-wired into a person. Recognizing and fully utilizing one’s personal strengths can lead to greater happiness, fulfillment, and enhanced performance. The free VIA Questionnaire from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology web site is an easy way to identify one’s personal strengths.

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Find Life Purpose in a Personal Development Plan

Self Growth Program Includes the Purposeful, Driven Life

Common among all people is the drive to find life purpose. Every personal development plan should include activities designed to uncover and clarify life purpose.

The purpose driven life is worth seeking, as research studies show that those with meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, more productive, healthier, and live longer than those whose lives lack purpose (A Primer in Positive Psychology, Oxford Press, 2006).

For more information about personal growth programs and an example personal development plan, read Personal Development Program – Building Awareness.

Finding Life Purpose

There are many approaches to finding life purpose. All approaches, however, involve serious and honest self reflection and assessment. Life purpose is truly an inside job, a do-it-yourself project of utmost importance to life happiness.

The seeker of purpose in life will want to begin with what is known, asking and reflecting on the question, “What is my life purpose?” This reflection can include a meditation session or the conscious exercise of writing responses to the question. This online Meaning in Life Questionnaire may also be a helpful self-assessment.

What is Life Purpose?

In approaching the question of purpose in life, the personal growth planner may want to take a step back to consider the qualities or characteristics of life purpose. Though many people focus on social or employment activities when thinking of purpose, greater clarity will arise from understanding that life purpose is composed of a set of personal qualities that characterize a person at her best.

These qualities, or states of being, are present and in the forefront of a person fulfilling life purpose. Life purpose is primarily about whom a person is being while involved in life activities; activities that foster and support the person in utilizing the qualities that characterize purpose.

Life Purpose is Being Not Doing

States of being are the qualities one is displaying or feeling while engaged in activities. States of being are closely aligned with values and characteristics.

Examples are generosity, compassion, adventurous, curiosity, helpfulness, competitive, which are just a few of the hundreds of possible descriptors.

The Fail-safe Indicator of Life Purpose

Though life purpose is different for every person, there is one fail-safe indicator that everyone can depend upon to signal they are aligned with purpose. That indicator is positive emotion, the positive feelings one has when living a purposeful life.

Positive emotions always accompany life purpose. So self awareness of emotions is an important requirement for the personal development advocate seeking to find life purpose.

How to Practice Awareness

Self awareness is an important asset and skill for the personal development planner. Self awareness is the ability to observe oneself while carrying on normal daily activities. The self observation should include recognition of the emotions being felt, the qualities of personality being displayed, and the activities undertaken.

For example, when talking with a friend who is whining and complaining about her job, one might observe some tension and annoyance, some unspoken criticisms and advice, along with a spoken mild acknowledgment and half-hearted support one often gives when trying to move the conversation on to other topics.

Activities and Exercises for Finding Life Purpose

Though the core of life purpose is composed of qualities or characteristics of being, people experience meaning and purpose in life through activities. The following exercises are designed to provide insight into the activities currently well-aligned with purpose which will help identify the characteristics or qualities that comprise purpose.

  • Qualities Admired in Others – Think of two people you greatly admire. What qualities of these people do you admire? These same qualities are aspects of your life purpose.
  • Activities Bringing Joy – What activities bring you joy? Reflect on the qualities of personality you’re displaying while in these activities. These are components of your life purpose.
  • Lottery Winner – Imagine you won a huge lottery one year ago and have bought everything you ever wanted. Now, with more money than you’ll ever be able to spend, consider what you’ll do with the rest of your life. What qualities are you displaying when that occurs?
  • Writing Exercise – Finish this sentence: “My life purpose is…” Repeat this over and over until reaching a moment of great clarity, perhaps accompanied by strong emotions.

Putting Life Purpose in a Personal Development Plan

With greater clarity around life purpose, the personal growth planner will work to incorporate aspects of life purpose into daily activities. This may involve changing activities, modifying them, or adopting a different perspective toward existing life activities.

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Mindfulness Training for Personal Awareness

Personal Growth with Jon Kabat-Zinn Emotional and Self Awareness

An important skill for the personal growth enthusiast is the ability to self regulate thinking and behaviors using personal and emotional awareness and mindfulness. Personal growth can be a satisfying and fulfilling goal when pursued as part of a conscious plan of self improvement.

For the reader following the example personal development plan of Personal Development Program –Building Awareness, this article relates to week #6, self awareness.

Mindfulness Self Awareness

Self awareness is one aspect of mindfulness, which stems from the Buddhism practice of conscious self awareness and acceptance. In Western culture, mindfulness is often ascribed to Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose bestselling book, Wherever You Go There You Are, popularized the processes of becoming personally and emotionally self aware.

Think of self awareness as a feedback system, a way of seeing your behaviors and even your thoughts from the perspective of another, but with immediate feedback. If you’ve ever experienced regret at something you did or said, or even a thought process you held, later wishing you had thought, said, or did something differently, you’ll recognize the immediate benefit of self awareness and mindfulness.

Rather than attempting to reverse the effects of something that has already occurred, self awareness allows for self regulation – correcting the thoughts, words, or deeds before they are completed.

To begin being more self aware, picture a small friend, perhaps your conscience — think Jiminy Cricket — sitting on your shoulder, silently and invisibly whispering corrections whenever your thoughts, words, or behaviors stray from those that best serve whom you wish to be.

If you have a personal development vision — a goal for growth of skills, abilities, and consciousness — use this model of self awareness to continuously regulate your thoughts, words, and behaviors, keeping them aligned with the vision.

Emotional Awareness

A person’s emotions are fail-safe indicators of alignment with the authentic self and life purpose. Emotional awareness helps you self-regulate thoughts, words, and behaviors to keep them aligned not only with your plans, but also with the true you, your authentic self.

Mindfulness Training

In his best selling book, Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests engaging mindfulness training by reminding yourself to shift from doing to being. He suggests watching the present moment, carefully observing it in detail without attempting to evaluate or change it.

Kabat-Zinn advises, “The easiest way to relax is to stop trying to make things different. Struggle comes from not accepting what is present.”

Additional Benefits of Mindfulness Training

Training yourself to be more mindful, with greater emotional and self awareness, will help you stay on track with your self improvement and personal growth goals.

According to Jenny Stamos Kovacs, writing on WebMD in “Blissing Out: 10 Relaxation Techniques To Reduce Stress On-the-Spot,” a valuable additional benefit is that mindfulness practices are found to be effective techniques in reducing stress and anxiety.

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How to Make Successful Changes in Your Life

Transitions to New Jobs, Homes, Partners Can be Stress-free

Follow these simple guidelines and take charge of your change.

Breathe Deeply into Your Change

When an upcoming change creates anxiety for you, breathing and clear thinking go hand in hand out the door, and the anxiety cycle begins spinning with a vengeance. So don’t tighten up. Take 3 slow, long, deep belly breaths while relaxing into your desired change – you should see or feel your belly moving up and down. This means oxygen is getting to the bottom of your lungs, creating ease. If you begin to feel lightheaded, go back to your normal breathing immediately. Take another deep belly breath when you feel anxiety again. Humans often forget to breath deeply; when you nourish your body with oxygen, the world looks much better.

Meditate and Transition Smoothly

To increase the clarifying power of deep belly breathing, meditate quietly on your breath. Even a few seconds of meditation can have a profound effect. When you find your mind wandering back into thought, which it will, just return focus to your breath going in and out. It doesn’t take long to feel yourself back in your body and able to make functional decisions. Your change will proceed more smoothly the more you meditate. Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said that he meditated for an hour every day and when he was really busy, he meditated for two hours. You can meditate while driving, walking, sitting in boring meetings and washing dishes, and especially when drifting off to sleep. And remember to listen carefully to what emerges from your meditation. This will help you to make your highest choices.

Now Begin with Your Successful End in Mind (Stephen Covey)

Using your imagination, the most powerful change tool you have, will speed you on your way to a remarkable outcome. Imagine that the change you choose has already happened, so there’s nothing left to do – relax. Breathe, and imagine with every sense you possess that you’re in the midst of your successful new situation. Everything has turned out according to your heart’s desire, and you’re enjoying the feeling immensely. The enjoyment is integral to this process. What and who do you see around you? Who and what do you hear? What scents do you smell? What textures do you feel? What do you taste? Do you truly love what you’ve imagined? When you do, write it all down in detail. Not only is this lots of fun and satisfying to your soul — it’s the best way to bring your choices into being. Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” If you want your reality to be lovely, create it with love.

Think Success, Not Catastrophe

When on the verge of change, you may find that subconscious fears from childhood arise and negative self-talk increases. “Who do I think I am?” “I won’t be able to do that.” “I’m not smart enough to pull this off.” Have faith. Return to your meditation and imagination, regain your enthusiasm, and see the fear for what it is – just an old thought that you have allowed to sabotage you for too long. Write the fears down, and then rewrite them into their positive opposites. “I’m not smart” becomes “I’m smart enough to have this, and I have friends to help me.” Use your heart again on this one.

Give Change to Yourself Like it’s a Present

Remember, you have more power than you have given yourself credit for in the past. Use these techniques to support yourself now and in the future, and you’ll change your life in ways you’ve only begun to imagine.

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