Get Over Fear and Take the First Step

The ability to get over fear and learn to take any first step toward your goal can become a daunting task. When you learn to see that life is a journey and each new task or endeavor we take on are steps of that journey, then you understand that you can never get it all done. This is a good thing. Many times our fears are born from the sheer size of our goals or tasks. They seem so impossibly huge that they scare us right into taking no action whatsoever. How do you get past this state of mind?

There is an old Eastern proverb that says something like this,  “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.Snip20130830_1

The first rule of thumb is to act upon your inspiration or motivation. As so well defined in “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by John Maxwell: DO IT NOW is the secret to getting things done and it’s the secret to getting over fear and taking any first step. Learning to take the next logical action helps to break your goal into smaller parts, and when they feel really easy you won’t be scared into doing them. This is the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I need to tackle a large project. Taking action, any action, any one step in the direction of my goal or project is the first step to getting over the fear of the sheer magnitude of the goal. Once you take that first step you are a body in motion. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Taking the first step will be the most important step you can take. In most cases, when you look back at that first step, you will think it wasn’t that hard after all.

What holds us back

The number one fear of taking any first step is actually taking some action. What you need to do to overcome your fear of taking any first step of action in the process of achieving anything, is to see that any goal or project is a process made up a series of many, many steps. Perhaps even a thousand miles of single steps. (Thus my above quote.) Seeing what you want or need to accomplish as a series of steps, tasks or processes that get you from point A to point Z is a way to shift your perception and illusion that the task you’ve given yourself is too big, too scary and too difficult to master.

When no action taken in the direction of accomplishing a task or project, this means that we feel overwhelmed by the entire process. We think it’s only a one or two step process but in reality, it can be broken down into so many more simple and singular actions.

In order to get over that fear, you’ll need to get a new perspective on the task, action or goal you are trying to achieve. What’s holding you back is your fear that it’s going to take too much of your energy and time. So you keep putting it off. If you can see what you need to do as little, tiny, miniscule steps, instead of a massive action-taking plan, you’ll move yourself out of that anxiety state and onto the road of action.

Another way to get better perspective and get over fear of taking action is to see it through your heart. For example, if cold-calling prospects sends rivets of sweat down your back, learn to get a better perspective by seeing the prospects as individuals, human beings. Instead of lumping them “all” into one basket and seeing them as dollar signs. See each person you call as just that, a person. A person like yourself who might really need your product or service. Be honest and connect with the aspects of the product or service that ring true for you. Perhaps you have just the solution that this perspective buyer needs. Changing this perspective can be the mental action needed to get over fear and make the call.

Do It Now

At some point you will be motivated to act. When motivation and inspiration set in you get over fear more quickly and taking the first step is easier. As you take more actions, more steps on your path towards accomplishment, you’ll find yourself gaining confidence and you’ll take bigger steps later on. What will really help you get over your fear of taking any action is when you do “something” everyday, over a period of time, you’ll be able to look back and see that you’ve actually made progress!

Remember that life is a process, life is a journey. It’s about taking a step here and there. You need not accomplish it all today. You need not get it all done by nightfall. Move away from this modern day illusion that you have to hurry through life. Get over fear by seeing that you can do something to move things forward today, even if it’s really small. The hardest thing is going from inaction to action. It might start with a shift in your thoughts. It might start with taking a small action or it might start with feeling good about yourself and what you can do. Whatever it is, that ‘it’ really is something, a wee bit of energy that will eventually grow and help you conquer your hesitations to get over fear and take any first action.

Leaning Into Gratitude

Lately there has been a lot of talk about “leaning in”. Today I am thinking about gratitude and how we at The Learning Oasis are leaning in to practice gratitude on a daily basis. We are so blessed to work in a positive and supportive environment and are grateful for many things.  I know practicing gratitude feels good, but are there any other benefits to the regular practice of gratitude?

As it turns out there’s a whole host of reasons why we should make gratitude a daily practice — research has shown that being thankful confers a whole host of health benefits, from improved immune systems, to feelings of connectedness, even higher team morale.

Lean Into Gratitude

Lean Into Gratitude

“Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished,” said Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, . “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.”

Is there a formal way to practice  gratitude to gain the most benefit? The word on the street is to keep a gratitude journal. Here are some tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal.

  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,
  • Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  • Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  • Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  • Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  • Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t.

I think I’ll take a stab at getting into a gratitude routine. Even if gratefulness has benefits in the short-term, it still raises more long-term questions. What are the major obstacles to living a grateful life? Can gratefulness really increase happiness over a lifetime? Finally, how exactly can gratefulness be increased? I guess those answers will come in time. Forever curious, I guess!

If you are interested in finding out more about the practice of gratitude and how The Learning Oasis audience perceives it, join the discussion on Facebook.

Everybody Has a Gift

For many years now I have been practicing strengths-based living. The concept of strengths was first introduced to me by my friend and colleague Dr. Wendy Flint. She pointed me in the direction of Gallup’s StrengthsQuest. At the heart of the book is the Internet-based StrengthsFinder® Profile, the product of a 25-year, multimillion-dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths. The program introduces 34 dominant “themes” with thousands of possible combinations, and reveals how they can best be translated into personal and career success.

I took the assessment and my results were intriguing. Some results where “Oh yeah” and others where “Aha..”. What was so exciting to me was that an interest I had always considered as a weakness showed up as my top strength. I had to know more…Of course I did – my top strength is Learner!

The next thing I know I am logging onto Amazon and purchasing the book Now Discover Your Strengths. I read it in less than a day. What I learned was that strengths and talents (gifts) are different. A talent or gift is a naturally occurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. It is only one of the three “raw materials” that make up a strength. The other two are 1) Skill: the steps of an activity and 2) Knowledge: factual knowledge about something. While skills and knowledge can be acquired, a talent or gift exists naturally within you.

34strengths

34 Strengths

Talent ( A natural way of thinking feeling or behaving) X Investment (Time spent practicing, developing your skills and building your knowledge-base) = Strength ( Ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance).

Now that I understood the anatomy of a strength I was jonesing for more information. This led me to the next book  – Go Put Your  Strengths to Work. The most valuable part of this six-week, six-part process was to pick a week and capture your emotional reactions to the activities of your week, then clarify and confirm what you captured. When I reflected back on my “I Loved It” reMemo pages I could see all of the things I loved about my job and how they played into my strengths. My challenge was creating my own strong-week plan to include all or some of the things that invigorated me while planning to minimize from my week the things that drained me.

For you non-learners out there this may just sound like ton of work. But I have to tell you that the time I invested in understanding how to maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses has propelled me to new heights in both my career and personal life. Over the years I have shared these concepts with hundreds of friends, co-workers and students causing what I believe to be signifiant impact for them as well.

The StrengthsQuest is not the only assessment out there. Marcus Buckingham, one of the authors of the original book, has since parted ways with Gallup and has his own similar version called Standout. Both of these are available for a nominal fee. Join our conversation on Facebook to learn about a FREE Assessment Tool.

Everybody has a talent or gift. Let tomorrow be a stronger day than today.…You’ve always known what your strengths are.You’ve always known what lies within you. So, trust them, be proud of them and take your stand.

Just Do It!

I don’t know about you, but in my head I keep an ever-evolving checklist of the things I want to do with my life – a series of places I want to see, experiences I want to have, skills I want to acquire before I am too old to enjoy them. It contains bank-account busters like a year-long world cruise ( I keep a drool-worthy board on Pinterest), but also affordable fun such as hiking all of the major mountains in California.

nike-free-just-do-it-x-images-760819

The biggest thing I’ve learned about my checklist is that given the vagaries of health and life, I shouldnt dawdle. So when I was in India on business recently and got an opportunity to see the Taj Mahal, I went even though I was traveling alone and somewhat concerned about my safety. My reward: a truly amazing day trip that immersed me into a completely new culture that gave me an entirely new outlook on life.

My latest adventure began when I left my traditional corporate job to start and run a non-profit to provide resources, training and coaching for women. I’ve always been one to help others but this is my really big idea to give back. I hope the end result will be a wonderful legacy of education and support that will make me proud.

Life is too short and far too precious to waste time going through the safe motions that distract us from what will really bring us joy.  The leap you take can be big, or it can be a small or it can be somewhere in the middle. It can be the fear of quitting your 9–5 job to finally pursue your love affair with the culinary arts.  Or running the marathon that you’re too afraid to try. Or starting the business you’ve always dreamed of. Or it can very well be finally overcoming your fear of stage fright at Monday Karaoke night for your love of singing. In our current world where stimulated ideas, new opportunities and innovative minds are so openly welcomed, oftentimes the biggest thing standing in the way is ourselves.

Take the leap of faith in yourself, or someone else for that matter.  Go back to school or even an online school, finally start your blog or accomplish the resolutions that have been making cameos on your New Year’s list for the past five years running. At the end of it all we all have two life lists: All the things we actually did.  And all the things we wish happened. Focus on building the first list, starting right here and now.

So consider this blog your call to action. I hope you will enjoy my ramblings, both in writing and on the ground – and start checking off entries on your own life list. I’d love to hear more about the leap you want to take or have taken on our Facebook page.

Have a great rest of the day!

Live Wholeheartedly: Daring Greatly

I’m always the last to know. How did I miss hearing about Brene’ Brown and her new book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”? So I pop onto YouTube to learn what the fuss is about. I watch her TED presentation (I’ve included it below if you are interested). This gal really resonates with me. Some say the book is flawed, too filled with personal realizations, family anecdotes, and personal practices where she fails to elaborate. I didn’t mind it in the least. I’m not inclined to reject a book because of style or format – I’m searching for the message. This book is full of messages for women like me.

Brave-Brene-BrownLive wholeheartedly? YES! Imperfection is beautiful? YES! Let go of who you think you should be? YES!

This book encourages us to take action in our own lives by first understanding ourselves and our motivations. It’s a look inward to affect outward action, and its important work. I’d like to imagine that shame and vulnerability for women are not issues…but they are.

The message makes sense. I like her style and authentic demeanor. I’m not going to blather on about her book. I’m going to let her speak for herself. If any of this strikes a chord, I suggest grabbing her book. It’s really been a great read for me.

I’ve pulled some quotes from Daring Greatly that caught my attention:

On shame: Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. This is exactly why I advocate for openness in adoption. No secrets and no shame. Let’s keep things above board and in the open where mold and rot don’t grow.

On courage: When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

On ownership: If I own the story I get to write the ending. Great advice for a recovering victim. It makes me the playwright of my life rather than merely an actor.

On joy: Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.

On worthiness: I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles. You have to know that I’m trying to be wholehearted, but I still cuss too much, flip people off under the steering wheel, and have both Lawrence Welk and Metallica on my iPod.

Reading this book really helped me put a lot of my own life into perspective, and not just my present and future, but also my past in terms of who I am as a person and why I’ve gone the path I’ve chosen. I wholly recommend it.

Want Success? Focus on the People

Over time I have seen far too many leaders who are focused on the wrong things in business. No matter how hard you work you cannot succeed without the support and engagement of the people you lead. How motivated are your employees? Are they fully engaged and passionate about their work?

In challengImageing economic times it is natural for most people to lose some level of enthusiasm. When we cut costs and people around us lose jobs and even their homes, our desire to take on the biggest challenges at work can falter. But in these times, the last thing we need is lost productivity and less passion. In fact, what we really need is to raise the bar and get more productivity and creativity from our people.

Can you motivate your employees to do more?

There are many differing theories on the psychology of motivation but the one area where there is agreement is that people do things for their own reasons, not yours. Motivation isn’t something you can give someone -employees have to motivate themselves.

But you can make a difference.

Here are the top 10 things you can do to create a climate that will inspire your employees to be motivated to do their best work and achieve the results you desire.

1. Know and care about the concerns of your employees. Do they feel appreciated and listened to? Take the time to talk to them and discuss their priorities and desires. Frequent informal conversations will help you know more about them as individuals and enable you to better understand what really motivates each of your employees. Remember people do things for their reasons not yours. If you can help employees get what they need to motivate themselves through their work, they will bring a higher level of passion and energy to what they do.

2. Develop and communicate a compelling organizational vision. People become motivated if they are excited about the purpose and goals of the organization and how they can contribute towards achieving them. If you communicate a clear vision with passion and enthusiasm and you will rally the troops. Each employee needs to understand how their own work contributes towards the company achieving its goals. To be motivated, they need to be confident that their work makes a difference.

3. Address ineffective teamwork. Working as part of an effective team can lead to impressive improvements in morale and motivation. Unfortunately the converse is also true. Even the most self-motivated individual cannot maintain enthusiasm if they are part of a dysfunctional team that is “not playing nice in the sand pit.”

4. Be a role model for your organization. The attitude and behavior of the leader sets the tone for the whole organization. Your employees are constantly watching you and will take your lead if you are enthusiastic. Engage the troops with your enthusiasm, be realistic about what is happening around you and remind them about where the organization is going. Talk about what is possible. At times this may mean that you need to pump yourself up, or use the services of a colleague, or coach to keep you motivated and focused.

5. Communicate with everyone respectfully. Yes, fear and intimidation can produce real motivation to take action, but this approach does not produce sustainable effort and results. Treating people with respect is at the heart of building business relationships. Respecting the right to differ is a concept motherhood and apple pie. We all agree with it but do we truly foster it? Give your people the freedom to be themselves and choose how to achieve the agreed upon results.

6. Provide employees with the opportunity to be creative. People will feel more motivated if they work in an environment where they are challenged and still have the opportunity to innovate. Give people freedom to make decisions. Encourage collaborative problem solving. Develop strong skills in delegation. Solicit their opinion and feedback on the issues and challenges you cannot delegate entirely to them.

7. Invest in developing employees. Demonstrate that you care about your employees’ success by providing opportunities for them to grow professionally. Take the time to provide effective feedback on a continual basis. Recommend books and articles that are useful resources. Provide an adequate training budget and encourage its use. Recommend the support of a business coach or mentor. Allow employees to spend some time on projects that they care about…even if they are outside their standard responsibilities.

8. Regularly recognize and reward effort and results. Employees need recognition and praise. Give ample feedback and recognition whenever possible. Look for opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate successes, even the small ones. Be specific in your praise so that they know what behavior has contributed to the overall success of the organization.

9. Ensure compensation and other rewards and benefits are fair. There are a number of extrinsic rewards that have a short-term impact on motivation. Salary increases, company stock options, bonuses, vacation days or upgrades to the work environment will be appreciated by your employees. However all of these basic motivational tools can become “de-motivators” if they are not used fairly. Employees will compare their compensation packages with others, and will become discouraged if they perceive inequities. Employees need to know that they will receive appropriate and fair rewards and recognition for their achievements.

10. Ensure that the right person is doing the right task and fully understands their role. This is perhaps one of the most often overlooked areas of motivation because it requires us to step back from the day to day and take a more holistic and strategic view of the business. Getting the right people in the right role and then ensuring that their responsibilities and expectations are clear is a critical foundation for success.

And finally as a bonus…

Help your employees find work/life balance. Many employees today are struggling to balance the heavy demands of life and work. By providing benefits that make it easier for employees to take care of themselves, you will ensure that they are better able to perform in all aspects of their lives. Examples of this type of benefit include flexible work schedules, membership to a health club, flexible work schedules, on-site childcare, employee assistance programs, wellness programs or family appreciation days.

I know it’s been a while since I have written in my blog. Today I am feeling very passionate about the topic of employee engagement and truly how important it should be to every leader. If your focus is elsewhere you will fail. You cannot succeed without your people supporting your vision and goals. I hope you enjoyed today’s edition. I look forward to getting back into the practice of adding to my blog at least weekly.

Have a great rest of the day!

Dana

 

The Leadership Lessons

Throughout my many years as a leader I have considered, learned and practiced many management and leadership principles. Some worked for me, others did not. In your career you will find the same. There is no magic pill to become a charismatic and respected leader. The best leaders have natural ability. They know their strengths and capitalize on them regularly. Each of the best leaders surrounds themselves with those that have strengths that complement their own.

Below are six principles that guide my ability to influence and guide others. I call them The Leadership Lessons. 

Treat People As Individuals

The best managers treat every employee as an individual. Spend time with your best people. Give constant feedback. If you can’t spend an hour every quarter talking to an employee, then you shouldn’t be a manager. People leave their immediate managers, not the companies they work for.

Focus On Strengths

Unfortunately, most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths, much less the ability to build our lives around them. Instead, guided by our parents, by our teachers, by our managers, and by psychology’s fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected. The best managers never try to fix weaknesses; instead they focus on strengths and talent. Know what can be taught, and what requires a natural talent.

Lead By Example

The best managers know they are on stage every day. They know their people are watching every move they make. Be sure that your intentions are pure and that your actions follow your words before you act.  A promise is a promise; keep yours in order to build trust. Practice finding ways to capture and follow-up on the promises you make (put them on your calendar, have your assistant keep track, etc.).

Set Clear Expectations and Follow-Through

If you make accountability your standard operating procedure you may enjoy a relationship that runs more smoothly and more efficiently, your team will be focused, and be ever more willing and able to deliver the results you expect.  At the end of the day, you will eliminate the surprises that come with bad news and missed results, and you will not find yourself shaking your head in frustration, wondering “How did that happen?”.

Be Passionate About What You Do

The easiest way to get excited about what you do is to promote it to someone else. That forces you to think about what is important about the work itself, and why it matters. Sit down and develop a compelling 1-minute pitch that highlights the benefits of your contribution and why you are so passionate about it. If you can’t get excited about your own work, neither will anyone else!

Plan For Renewal

Feeling good doesn’t just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew. It’s all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalize yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal–a new opportunity to recharge you instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill.

Leadership doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.