Happy Birthday, isn’t it?

If you take care that every year of your life is enjoyable you will have lived an enjoyable life in the end.

Birthday. Whether you like celebrating yours or not – most likely you will not forget the date when you turn a year older. Independent from all the rituals that you are following – or trying to ignore – the very date of your birth is present in your mind. And even if you are not much into celebrating your aging, every time you need to fill in your birth date in any form, you are reminded of the progress of time.

The days around the birthday are a good timeframe to pause your life and invest a few minutes into reflection.

Reflection of the past with all of your accomplishments, successes, losses and failures.

A sharp look at the here and now.

And an inspiring envisioning of the years ahead with so much potential for your dreams and hopes to come true.

Let’s have a look at these three perspectives and get some practical tips on how to actually invest in yourself during this time.

Reflection on the past

Let’s assume you are doing this on an annual basis, then you reflect only back on the last year. If you are at a major milestone of your life like 20th, 30th, 40th etc. birthday it might be worthwhile to take a longer timespan into account.

Take some paper and a pen, find yourself a cosy place and sit down. Calm down for a few moments and enjoy the very fact that you now invest in one of the most important people in your life – yourself.

You are the starting point

Start by drawing a person in the middle of the paper or by writing your name in the midst. You are the starting point – and from there the mind-map-style starts. Now start to write areas of your current life situation around you – you might want to circle them if you are a more creative person.

Here are some ideas: family, friends, job, sports, health, career, relationships, emotional well-being, social work, hobby

Take at least 4 areas of your life that you want to reflect on. And be bold. Take also those areas where you like to be more fulfilled or more successful.

How are you doing?

If you have defined your areas you want to focus on, write to each area what you liked during the last year. Where have you been successful? What did you achieve? What made this area of your life special in the last year?

If you are unfamiliar with writing stuff about your life on a piece of paper, you might want to start by taking a few notes and the further you get start writing sentences. Add to each event or bullet why it is on your list and how you currently feel about it.

When you are done with positive things, start to write down also the bad experiences. What didn’t work out? Whom did you lose in your life? Where did you fail? Be honest to yourself and admit how you are feeling.

Side note for business people: Emotions are valuable indicators where you are currently at - and if you need change. Admit when you are feeling sad, frustrated, angry, disappointed. Although it is uncommon in the business context to talk about feelings, it is a real asset when you check on your emotional well-being every once in a while. If you are happy on the inside, it is most likely that you will display the happiness on the outside and be even better in your business tasks at hand. Unluckily this is true vice versa. 

One year on a piece of paper

Now look at your mind map. How do you feel?

Since this is a practical guide and not an entertainment text, I just take the freedom to ask you again: How do you feel when you see your past year?

What would you like to take with you into the next year?

What served you until today but now needs to leave? Say goodbye to these habits / situations / emotions. It’s just the right time.

Here and Now

Take a moment to be proud of yourself! You just revisited the last year, showed gratitude for your successes, looked at some unpleasant moments, said goodbye to a few things. For your soul it’s like the clearance of the basement. It isn’t the most entertaining thing to do but it creates room in your mind for new things. Well done!

I can see you smile. That’s good.

Let’s dive into your future.

Envisioning the future

A new year lies before you. How do you want to use it?

Check on the categories of your mindmap again. Which category should stay and which one(s) leave? Is there any other area that you want to add?

When you are done with setting the scene, write to each area what you would like to achieve. Which area should be your focus on? Where do you need growth? What area do you enjoy most?

I like to encourage you to get a little crazy and visionary in this moment – reality will settle in soon enough. Write down all the things you like to be doing. What makes your heart leap?

Remember, you are the game changer of your everyday life. Take your annual pause to reflect the past year and adjust your priorities to make sure that the upcoming year will be enjoyable.

Get into first row!

When you are standing at the shore of your comfort zone, you will feel the waves of fear clushing to your feet. That is the moment when you have to make a decision whether you take the challenge.

When was the last time you left your comfort zone and how did it make you feel?”, my colleague starts our weekly team meeting with this thought-provoking question.

One teammate shares her last attendance at the sports lesson. Being quite new to the course she thought about staying in the last row, giving her the chance to check on the sport mates and copy movements quite easily. But before the class started, the trainer asked her up front since there was some space left and so they wouldn’t have to squeeze themselves in the back. She took heart and moved to the first row. Now being in sight of everyone and role model herself for the following rows of sport mates who cannot see all movement of the trainer, she even invested more power, strength and preciseness in all poses than she would have staying in the last row.

She smiles while she is telling the story and you can tell that she is proud of her accomplishment despite the uncomfortable first feeling of walking into row one. The whole team is cheering with her and together the discussion evolves into being in row one in the job as well.

Everyone agrees that getting out of the comfort zone first feels very insecure, vulnerable and crazy. But with each time you step further outside, you learn that actually leaving the comfort zone is a good thing because you are rewarded with success and an enormous powerful feeling of accomplishment.

While I am writing these lines I am feeling the result of a successful walk out of my comfort zone as well. I love to hold meetings, teach and moderate even complex gatherings – but when I have been asked to speak in front of ~400 people it was outside my current comfort zone for sure. Nevertheless, I took the challenge and it went quite well.

“Take the challenge” involves an inner fight that each one of us has to fight for him/herself. Usually the comfort zone is surrounded by fear. Fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fear of failing. So it is pretty easy to tell when you are standing at the shore of your comfort zone – you will feel the waves of fear clushing to your feet. That is the moment when you have to make a decision whether you take the challenge.

When you walk towards your fear, you are leaving the comfort zone.

The reward for taking the challenge and overcoming fear is personal growth. Additionally to the immense feeling of accomplishment you will soon see the growth in your character, personality and life. And this growth will have a positive impact e.g. on your relationships and job.

The team meeting ended with the insight that you can even become comfortable with leaving the comfort zone. When you overcome fear on a regular basis and learn that you have the ability to handle all situations you become strong and bold.

Are you ready to leave your comfort zone?

Ask! Thought-provoking!

“What is the favourite question when starting a feedback session?”, curiously I throw this question into the discussion. We are having a chat with several mentors working with their mentees for quite some years now. “What rhetorical phrase works well for you?”, I continue. I don’t get an answer straight ahead but rather an “uff, good question. I think I have never thought about it.”

I smile. As a coach there is no bigger nor better compliment than “that’s a good question”. Being thought-provoking is the key element in coaching – and throwing a question into a discussion that cannot be answered right away feels awesome.

But aside from having fun in asking good questions, the thought process that is triggered by a good question is so valuable! People start thinking new thoughts, walking on new path and getting a new perspective. A thought-provoking question can inspire your friends / team / colleagues / boss.

When was the last time you asked a thought-provoking question?

Even as the youngest team member you can influence a whole discussion by asking a good question. For sure you have to put some thoughts into the creation of a valuable question – just a plain “why” helped you when you were a 2-year-old toddler.

Therefore, let me ask you this: Which question made you think intensely? What did you ask that made your boss/team go “uff, good question“?

I am looking forward to read your thought-provoking lines.

Forgiveness in the corporate world

“If I forgive, I am the weaker person”, my colleague argues. “When there is negative energy within me, I need to act on it”, another points out. Somehow the discussion how to react on insults in our daily lives increases in its intensity. I cannot recall how we hit the the topic but somewhere along the line I recommend simple forgiveness when being wronged.

Forgiveness.

My colleagues are puzzled. Their faces shift from disbelief to pure disgust and back to curiosity. How could someone even think of such a solution for a conflict at work!?

I admit, based on my personality type I am very seldomly the first one to act in a peaceful forgiving way. But when the rush is over, the day comes to an end – what is going to happen with the inner wrath? Do you just go to bed and keep it?

This picture might help: You take a shower daily – otherwise you start stinking. Same is true for your soul and mind. If you keep the wrath within, no wonder you speak and act stinky (towards your family, friends and colleagues.)

Ouch!

So what can be done? In the following sections potential actions are described. Each one will help – but you choose whether you use them. Try them when you are alone. Nobody needs to know. But the effects will be visible.

The list is not complete - and I would love to read in the comments how you work with situations where you have been wronged during the day. 

Change your perspective

Think about the situation again. And assume the other person had a positive mindset, doing everything in his/her best attitude. How would you interpret the action in that new light?

Write it down

Journaling is key in working out emotions. [get inspired on this here: https://consultinginhighheels.com/2018/10/30/pen-and-paper/]

Write down everything that is on your mind – the situation, how you felt, why the other person is a jerk. Everything. You will see, it will clean your mind. (You are welcome to throw the paper away. Or burn it. If you feel like it.)

Speak

This method might sound strange at first – but it is helpful. Envision that person and actually SPEAK that you forgive. It wires something in your brain – and since you hear yourself speak, the narrative in your brain changes. You stop the story of “that jerk” (and I guess your family will be quite happy not to hear about that negativity again.)

Am I a leader?

Leadership starts with self-leadership.

Being known for values, having a vision for one’s life, being self-confident and caring about others are a good foundation to build on.

A leader is someone whom people follow.

Many years ago I heard this statement in a leadership coaching. And it hit me. I was troubled. If this was true, it wasn’t so much about me and my qualifications but rather about other people to see something in me worthy to be copied and followed.

It put me to thinking. Whom do I follow? And why?

Leader display values

People I follow have clear values and they express their values in every moment – especially when it is getting tough.

Lets take honesty. Everyone can be honest when it doesn’t cost anything – but what about being honest when it actually costs you time/money/privileges and no one would notice if you lied!?

What about friendliness and value people. Monday, 10 o’clock in the morning, sunny skies and clients meeting – easy to smile and be friendly. But what happens on Wednesday night, damn tired and stressed out!? How do you act towards your team after an exhausting day!?

Leaders have a vision for their own life/career

Leaders can communicate effectively what their vision is. They know why they are doing their job, share their rationale for their decisions and inspire others with their life.

Leaders are fun to be with

Usually, it so much fun to be with them. From what I have been seeing in people around me, leaders tend to like themselves. They are comfortable who they are. They are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, flaws and genius ideas. And this self confidence creates an atmosphere that is just compelling.

Leaders see the life/career of their followers

It’s not the most important part but if a leader wants to win my heart, he/she must see my stake in the whole endeavor as well. If this part isn’t given, the person might be a strong inspiration for me – but not a leader I am following.

Coming back to the question of the beginning: How can I determine whether I am leader? First of all you probably have followers that somehow let you know that you display certain trademarks that identify you as a leader.

If you are yet too young to have people following you or you are not sure whether there are people seeing leadership potential within you, start working on the named characteristics.

Start by answering these questions for yourself: Which values do you live? Which value could be added? How would you know that you have lived the value? Do you have a vision for your job? Why are you doing what you are doing? Do you like yourself? And last but not least: in whom do you see leadership potential that you can help to unfold?

Road to recharge

“I need a break! I am exhausted!”, the mind signals. You know these moments when you are overwhelmed by life. With these 4 powerful steps you will get to your peaceful place.

Too many to-dos, tasks, responsibilities. The week has been crazy again and a break is desperately needed. But how to find peace? 

Truth is – although you need some peace and silence, the thoughts keep rushing through your head, leaving no space to truly recharge.

With these 4 powerful steps you will get to your peaceful place. 

1. Take the decision to calm down 

First and foremost this decision needs to be taken. Are you ready to calm down!? If so, find a silent cosy place, sit down and breathe. Take a pen and paper with you.

2. Put aside your inner hustle

Put all thoughts that are now spinning to paper. All those to dos you fear to forget. Take a note and assure your brain that they will not be forgotten. They are safely stored on the piece of paper and you can relax.

3. Become mindful

Breathe. Inhale deep through your nose, fill your lungs and your whole tummy and exhale through your mouth. Inhale again. Notice how the air is filling your corpus. Feel how your tummy expands. And let the stress leave with the continuous flow of air.

Continue breathing.

4. Recharge

While you sink into mindful breathing start thinking what you are thankful for. Who is in your life you highly value? What talents do you have?
What have you accomplished you can be proud of?

When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.


Kristin Armstrong

Stay in the attitude of gratitude for a while. Feel how stress lowers and new love and vision is rising for those who are most valuable to you.

When you feel ready you slowly get back into your daily life. This exercise can be done daily in 10-15 minutes. Or you start a whole day or vacation with these steps in order to leave any stress behind.

Finding passion

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

I love my job“, the young lady smiles to me. We just got to know each other and while sharing our current work environments, she smiles, speaks enthusiastically and beams. You can tell: she. loves. her. job. “This hasn’t always been the that way”, Alice continues. “After my first graduation, I tried to fit into my workplace, lost the job, was unemployed and tried to find something suitable for my educational background. But actually I didn’t want to work in that area anymore.”

I guess, a lot of people can relate to Alice. For some reason you choose your studies and start working in your job. You try to fit in but somehow the days pass by in a meaningless stream of unfulfilling tasks. Every morning it’s getting harder to get up and get going. You just feel that you are not doing what you want to be doing.

One day I was wondering when I had the best times of my life“, Alice adds to her story. “It was in school and in my year abroad. And then I knew what I had to do: find a way to get back into school ministry and work with kids. Fast forward: it is what I am currently doing. I become a special type of teacher for which I need my professional background. And now I have the third time the best time of my life.”

I love the focus, determination and courage in Alice story. Coming from a time of unemployment, getting finally a job again, one could think to just be thankful and live with the unfulfilling but rent-paying job. But instead setting the focus on a potential solution, be determined to change one’s future and to be bold enough to walk the talk – thats an inspiring and truly life changing attitude.

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Emanuel James “Jim” Rohn, Author & Motivational Speaker

Focus

What are you focussing on in your job? My bet: you rather speak about the bad things than on the positive aspects. This misbehaving colleague. That nasty client. People tend to focus on the problem than on the potential solution. And with this focus the problem even becomes bigger. And I get it: it so easy to speak about the negative things – because they are there. They are real and they influence your emotions.

But what if you wouldn’t spend so much time on describing the problem to everyone around you and rather think about a solution!? Turn your focus away from the negativity. Start describing the changed situation to yourself. How do you feel? With whom do you work? What tasks do you do?

Those questions are not easy and they might take months or even years to be answered – but nevertheless, take the effort. Search for your sweet spot. Look for the role and position you were meant to fill in.

Determination

How intensely do you desire change? How much longer do you want to stay in your complaint-corner? Do you really want to change your focus?

To be determined

– having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it

Dictonary

Determination is needed for any change. You need to be convinced that you want to be in a different position/mindset/state in the years to come in order to leave your status quo. You need to find the next steps that will lead you to your new place. At this point you don’t need to know everything about your destination but rather having the firm decision that you do not want to stay where you are right now. Are you determined?

Courage

Are you ready to leave your status quo? This is the moment when your heart starts beating. “What-ifs” start flashing through your mind. Without knowing the outcome you need to take your first step. And that takes courage.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.

Mark Twain

Your change might require to move to another city, quit a job, get out of certain relationships and live through financial insecurity. Are you brave enough?

I can still recall Alice smiling face. Smiling with focus, determination and courage. Inspiring.