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9 Core Behaviors Of People Who Change The World For The Better

Look around you and you’ll see three kinds of people – those who dislike their work, and complain bitterly, those who just tolerate their work and see it as a paycheck and aren’t looking for more (or feel they can’t have more), and finally, those who love their work, and relish it. The third category is a small subset of all professionals globally, but this group stands out because these are, most often, the people who change the world for the better.

My work as a career success coach and writer connects me with people who’ve made a true and measurable impact in the world – including well-known experts, authors, researchers, journalists, scientists, innovators, business geniuses, and entrepreneurs. But among this group of world influencers there are also everyday people who have found a special niche in which they’ve contributed at the highest level.

It’s critical to note that people who’ve made a real difference aren’t all privileged, advantaged or “special” by any stretch. Many come from disadvantaged families, crushing circumstances and initially limited capabilities, but have found ways to pick themselves up and rise above these circumstances (and their genes) to transform their own lives and those around them.

Researching these makers, shakers and disruptors, and working with my own clients who shape the world around them in powerful and constructive ways, I’ve observed 9 core behaviors that set them apart – habitual ways of behaving and approaching life and work that distinguish them from those who long to make a difference but can’t or won’t find the way.

The 9 core behaviors of people who positively impact the world:

They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose.

Thousands of people today don’t believe in meaning and purpose as something to discover or pursue in life. But those with positive influence feel otherwise. They have found that there is a purpose to their life, and that purpose usually involves some aspect of turning their “mess into a message,” or using what they’ve learned (often the hard way) as a means of being of service to others. People with a sense of purpose are driven, focused, committed, and lit up from the inside – unable to be deterred or distracted from what they believe is the reason they’re on this planet at this time. This sense of meaning and purpose gives them inexhaustible drive and offers guideposts to follow along the path – it informs them of what they wish to attend to in life, and what they need to walk away from because it doesn’t support their higher purpose.

They commit to continually bettering themselves.

People who impact the world for the better know that they are not perfect. They understand how their knowledge isn’t “complete” – there are always gaps, biases, limitations and prejudices, and new places to go with their expertise.

Yes, there are powerful narcissists aplenty, but their influence isn’t positive or helpful in the long run – it’s damaging and destructive. Innovators who positively shape the world come from a “beginner’s mind” and a loving, compassionate heart – with an openness to see, learn, and experience new things on the way to being a better servant of the world.

They engage with people in open, mutually-beneficial ways.

Those with huge positive influence understand the power of relationships, connection, and engaging with the world openly. They’re not afraid to get “out there” – connecting with others, sharing their knowledge and talents, offering their authentic and often contrarian viewpoints and opinions. They’ve pushed beyond any introversion, shyness or reluctance to be who they are, and have learned how to relate well with others and build mutually-supportive relationships that catapult both parties to a higher level. They know that positive, supportive and authentic relationships are the foundational building blocks to anything and everything they want to achieve.

They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be.

The people I’ve interacted with and interviewed who’ve made a huge positive impact in the world don’t settle for conformity. When they see something that agitates and disturbs them, they strive to know more, get to the root of the challenge, research and understand the contributing factors, and arrive at new solutions. They observe gaps and mistakes in common thinking and behavior, and trust themselves in their belief that it’s time to push the boundaries of what’s accepted.   They want to affect change because they believe change will bring a better way to live.

They embrace critique.

The most powerful positive influencers don’t need or want to be “right” – they want to grow and be more effective. For that to occur, they walk right into critique, and they embrace challenge. They’re not afraid to put their work out there for others to poke holes in.   They are strong and confident in the face of opposition, yet know how to integrate constructive feedback to strengthen their work and ideas. They engage in open dialogue and welcome scrutiny.

They spread what they know.

We’ve all met authors or “experts” who keep their knowledge secret, close to the vest. They’re afraid to let it out for fear someone will steal it or make money on their ideas. This is the opposite of the positive influencer’s mindset. Those who make a true positive difference can’t help but share and teach what they’ve learned. They don’t see their knowledge as just some commodity to sell, as a meal ticket or a money maker – they see it as information that has to be shared with the world for its betterment. They believe their ideas and innovations are of use and value to others, and can’t help but share those openly, and teach others what they’ve learned. They understand the universal principle at work – “the more you give, the more you get.”

They uplift others as they ascend.

You’ve experienced, as I have, scores of “leaders” and high-achievers who’ve gotten where they are by stepping on the heads and backs of those in the way. These are not true leaders or influencers because their power is a sham – it was obtained unethically and is shallow and weak, and can’t be sustained over the long haul.  I have encountered power-mongers who were crushing and cruel to their subordinates and I wondered when they would finally reap what they’ve sown. Over the long term, this day always comes.

On the other hand, people who positively impact the world not only obtain amazing results in their work, but their process of obtaining these results – how they operate in life — is also inspiring and uplifting. They are happy to help and support others, and have an overflow of positive energy that enriches the lives of everyone they work with and connect with. These positive influencers want others to grow. They walk away from “success-building” opportunities that will be hurtful and damaging to others. They know that those unethical, demeaning or destructive approaches go against the very meaning and purpose they’re committed to.

They view the journey as the goal.

Positive influencers don’t take short cuts or go for the quick buck or easy answer. They don’t view some arbitrary goal or outcome as a destination, because they believe there is no end – it’s all in the journey. It’s about what they’re learning, experiencing, and building that helps others, and for that, there is no defined end point. They embrace failure more readily than others as “information” that guides them. They are more fluid and flexible, and more open to the “how’s” because their ultimate goal is not about upholding their title, salary, reputation, stature or power, but about new ways to help and share what they know.

They use their power and influence well.

Sadly, it’s a common occurrence in business today to witness power and influence being wielded as a weapon. It hurts and destroys. Positive influencers use their power well and wisely. They understand the widespread influence they have, the power they have to build up and elevate, or tear down. Those who impact the world for the better are careful and judicious with their words, actions and behaviors. They care deeply about their leadership and communication process and style, and the influence they have. They take it seriously, as a special honor and responsibility not to be flaunted or misused. They understand their special role, and accept it with grace, compassion, and care.

Are you longing to make a positive impact in the world?  What can you do today to shift your behaviors to make more of a difference?

(To build a more rewarding and impactful career, check out The Amazing Career Project.)

Starting Out – Should You Pursue What You Love Even If It’s Much Harder To Get?

I received a question on my Forbes blog Career Bliss today that struck a real chord with me, and I wanted to share it with you.  The question was in response to my post 5 Ways To Tell If You Need Career A Change.

Kiran asks:

Hi Kathy. Thank you so much for the article. What about people who are starting their career? I had decided to make my career in mechanical design and R&D. The opportunities however are far fewer in this field. Where as opportunities are more in, say, the field of supply chain, production, maintenance, marketing. I twice got selected for technical marketing but decided not to join. What should an individual do when starting off? What to do when lot of opportunities knock on door but not from the field one is looking for. Should a fresher accept these opportunities and think about career change afterward OR should he wait no matter how much time is required?

Here was my response:

Hi Kiran – Thanks for your great question. I can’t advise you directly without knowing more about your situation (for that we’d need a coaching session), but I’d offer this. To me, your question is a bit like when a child comes to his mother and asks, “Mom, I really adore soccer and that’s what I want to play next year, but there are only a few spots on the team. Should I do what I can to get on the soccer team, or just go out for basketball which is easy to get on?”

What I’m getting at here is this – I’ve found that people are a thousand times happier, more fulfilled and successful when they’re doing work they love, generating outcomes they care deeply about, using their natural talents and gifts, and not sacrificing their spirits and souls for “security.”

Here are some questions to ponder:
1) Are there steps you can take now that plant the seeds for growing more desirable and in demand in the highly competitive field you love?
2) If you take another path, and years later wake up to the fact that the industry has changed and there ARE positions in the field you originally wanted, will you have regrets about going down this other path?
3) Can you gain employment now that pays the bills but ALSO prepares you well for the work you really want to do?
4) Finally, are you sure that mechanical design and R&D ARE what you want? How do you know, exactly? Did you “try on” this direction thoroughly to know that this is professional identity you want?

In the end, career change can be much harder than starting off doing what you want and planting the seeds for that all along the way. As I career changer myself, I know this to be true. I’d recommend figuring out what you want NOW (this survey will help you do that) and going for it with all you’ve got.

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I’m working on my second book right now, and in it, I’m discussing the critical steps we need to take if we want to build happy, rewarding and successful careers that buoy us through the hard times in life.

An important thing to realize is that you will probably dedicate more hours to working than to anything else in your entire life.  Knowing that, do you want to settle, right out of the gate? Do you want to sacrifice your spirit, your natural talents and gifts and feeling enlivened every day, for what you think will bring you “security?”

The sad reality that I’ve seen in my own life and with thousands of other midlife career professionals is that they have gone the route of sacrificing joy, fulfillment and excitement in their work, only to wake up years later to find that the unsatisfying work they settled work was stripped away from them due to the recession.  I’ve seen that they only thing that is secure in your life is YOU – your spirit, heart, your talents, and gifts, and passions, your unique perspective. Pushing past your comfort zone and going for what you care about deeply is what keeps you stretching, growing and thriving. (Here’s more about how moving out of your comfort zone is critical to your success and happiness.)

My advice is to go with what you care most about, even if it’s much harder.  Pursuing work that makes you feel alive, valuable and of use is a life-changing experience that generates many rewards.  That said, you must take the right steps to remain employable and marketable, and to be highly valued in the workforce. It’s not enough to pursue your passion without doing what’s required to be great at your work, and to contribute in meaningful ways in your field.

But once you do that, you’ll have married up two of the most important ingredients of a life well-lived – joyfully giving of yourself and your amazing talents every day in the world, and nurturing and supporting yourself and your loved ones in ways that make you proud and happy.

Are you facing an important decision between pursuing work you love and doing what you think is the “secure” thing? What will you do?

(To build a happier, more rewarding career, visit kathycaprino.com and The Amazing Career Project.)

Why You Don’t Invest In Yourself, and 4 Critical Ways to Start – Work You Love Episode 13

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Greetings, and welcome to Work You Love – Episode 13!

My Forbes post this week on The Top 5 Reasons Women Resist Investing In Themselves and How It Hurts Them generated so many powerful comments, emails, questions and reactions (including a radio interview with Charles Adler in Canada!) that I wanted to share my thoughts via video with you on what holds women back from saying YES! to investing in their own growth, and what we can do about it starting today.

Here’s my take:

I’d love your candid feedback. Do you resist spending both time and money on your own development? Why? And what outcomes are you denying yourself because of it?

Please share your candid thoughts and comments below, and most importantly, PLEASE – make an investment in yourself today.

Why Investing In Yourself Is Critical and Why So Many Women Don’t

As a women’s career coach and consultant, I deliver scores of training series, teleclasses and career coaching programs each year helping women build more success and reward in their careers. In the seven years I’ve offered these types of programs, I’ve been truly shocked at the number of women (hundreds upon hundreds) who indicate they want to join a program (whether it’s $10, $100, or $1,000), but never pull the trigger.  I can tell you categorically that this is different behavior from what I see in the men who come to me for help. And this reluctance relates to all forms of development –  classes, certification, joining industry associations, attending networking functions, asking for funding, getting help with business plans, and much more.

Typically, men hear me speak, or read my website and blog, talk to me, and then say “Yes” very quickly to working together. No hemming and hawing, no “Let me have a few days to think about this,” and certainly not “I have to check in with my spouse about the investment.” Ever.  Even when the woman is the primary breadwinner, she often doesn’t feel she has the power or authority to say yes to investing in herself without checking with her husband first. I believe that a part of this behavior is a lack of confidence women experience in investing in their own growth.

There’s been a great deal of research and writing about this confidence gap in women, and the root causes, and I have my own theories and beliefs about what contributes to it today (including cultural training, rigid gender roles, role modeling, etc.). But as a career coach who spent years as a therapist and a corporate director focused on advancing women, I’m less interested in the causes and much more interested in the solutions.  I’ve come to see that this is not a myth – women often do, in fact, let their doubts and insecurities about themselves stop them, whereas men tend to push forward despite their doubts. For example, in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, she references an internal report at Hewlett-Packard that revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed; men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements. I share this not to be unsupportive to women, but to help us all gain awareness of what’s holding us back to achieve what we long for.  After all, greater awareness equals greater choice.

Do a check-in and see if you’re suffering from this condition I call “intractable resistance to growth.” Here are what I’ve found to be top five reasons why women won’t invest in their own growth when they should, and why it hurts them. Do these sounds familiar?

They need to check with someone else.

When it comes to personal and professional development (or anything in life for that matter), you need to make yourself the highest authority of your life, not your spouse, your sister, your boss, your partner.  You need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what you need, want and what you deserve, and go out and get it.  It’s not up to your spouse or anyone else to tell you if you should make this investment – it’s up to you. (I know you’ll say that you and your husband need to agree on your budgeting, etc. To that, I say you need to know what’s necessary, and find a way to get it.)

They’re not sure this is the “right” time.

Here’s a harsh reality: we’re all over –the-top busy and over-committed, and it’s never going to feel like the “right time” to invest in yourself.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the best time.  You’ll always be able to make excuse after excuse as to why you don’t have time to do something critical that will help you. But people who create great success, happiness and reward in their lives carve out the necessary time and money.  They don’t get lost in all the reasons why later would be better.

They’re not clear about the return on investment.

Women worry, “Will I get enough out of this?” and “Will this be a mistake?” Ensuring that your investment offers a healthy return is a choice – it’s based on your actions and decisions, not some random act or chance occurrence. It requires thorough research and due diligence to know if an investment will pay off, but more than that, it requires confidence and commitment that you’ll make sure the money you spend on yourself will be well worth it in the long run.

CLICK HERE to read the complete article on the top 5 reasons women resist investing in themselves.

Do you resist investing in your own growth?  Do you chronically put yourself last?  What can you do to push forward and step up to say “YES!” to supporting your own development, and contributing to the world in bigger ways.  I’d love your thoughts.

How to Spot a Toxic Individual and Find the Courage To Walk Away Quickly

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One enormous benefit of working with thousands of people each year is that you learn to detect in 10 minutes or less an enormous amount about people – their energy, how they operate in the world, their sense of entitlement, generosity and consideration (or lack thereof), boundaries, degree of self-love, values, worldview and much more.

In my line of work, where hundreds of strangers reach out on the phone or online to connect, I have had to develop the capability to discern who I want to move forward with, and who I need to walk away from quickly, in order to protect myself, my time and my energy. If I fall down on that, I suffer, as do my family, colleagues and clients (and my health and well-being).

I’ve learned to see the red flag warning signs of behaviors I know I need to walk away from, and my list of warning signs might be of help to you too. I need to add that even though I walk away from these toxic individuals without guilt or shame, I endeavor to access love in my heart and deep compassion for them. I’m not cruel, harsh or dismissive (at least I try not to be), but I’m as respectful as I can be. I realize that we’re all doing the best we can every day.

But I do know where I end and they begin, and I know when it’s time to end our connection, and fast.

Below are the top 3 signs that help me know when I’m dealing with a toxic individual, and when to walk away:

1) It’s all about them
I’m astounded by people who call me at all hours of the day and night, without a thought to ask for an invitation to talk about their struggles. They launch right in, not checking in if it’s a good time to talk, and it’s all about them.

These types of people are chronically unhappy, stuck in feeling victimized, lacking in awareness of the impact of their own actions and words and that they are co-creating their problems. They’re often angry, frustrated and highly critical of others, and feel that their problems deserve immediate attention, without regard for the world around them. In other words, they believe that their urgency is your emergency.

Anyone who thinks that life is all about them and that their problems are more important or pressing than anyone else’s needs a wake-up call. But the truth is – you don’t have to be the one to deliver that call. Walk away.

2) They have no regard for your boundaries

In my work as a therapist, I’ve connected with many folks with serious psychological disorders, including severe personality disorders. One such disorder is labeled “borderline personality disorder,” and while I’m not a fan of labels, the hallmarks of this disorder are apparent: there is total lack of personal boundaries, and complete disregard for others’ boundaries. It’s virtually impossible to build a positive, mutually-supportive relationship with people who disregard or violate your boundaries, who won’t take no for an answer, and who don’t t even recognize when they’re walking all over you.

Take a look today at the people in your life – do they respect your boundaries? Do they act appropriately and honor when you assert yourself and say “Yes” or “No?” Or do they continually demand of you what you’re not comfortable to give and what you have said you would not give?

Your boundaries are the invisible barriers that separate you from the world around you. They define who you are, and keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Having well-developed boundaries ensures that you are shielded from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful and invasive. Those with healthy boundaries know their limits and are able to express themselves with quiet strength and authority.

Those with unhealthy boundaries push and pull on you in uncomfortable or aggressive ways, and don’t know when to stop. They can’t regulate their behaviors or language to honor and respect the boundaries of others.

Who is trampling on your boundaries today? (BTW, If you have a narcissistic boss who is treating you terribly, check out my Forbes post on How to Tell If Your Boss Is a Narcissist – And 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Fired By One.)

3) There’s no grace, kindness or appreciation

I’m always pleasantly surprised when I speak to a stranger or potential new client or colleague, and they connect with grace, generosity, kindness and appreciation. It’s a beautiful thing – to be greeted by a gentle voice, a kind, open heart, and sincere appreciation for what you do and who you are.

The flip side of this is when people engage with you in ways that are brusque, inconsiderate, demanding, or disrespectful. Givers – who approach life with a generous, giving mindset – are a true blessing in our lives. Insincere, self-absorbed takers, on the other hand, who are always looking for “what’s in it for me” and critically demand of you more than is fair, appropriate or realistic, need to be led out the door of your life.

How do you walk away from a toxic potential client or partner you’ve just met? Here are a few key tips:

1) Be kind and courteous, but make it clear that an engagement or partnership with this individual or his/her business isn’t a good fit for you at this time

2) Be honest – explain what an ideal partnership looks like and why this isn’t it

3) Be BOLD – Thank them for their time, but explain that you have a set of non-negotiables and standards of integrity that you live by. With love in your heart, share that these non-negotiables are just that – immutable rules that help you thrive. Explain your feeling that your non-negotiables would most likely not be honored in this arrangement, and for that reason, you’d like to leave things as they are and part ways.

Who’s toxic in your life right now? What bold, candid conversation do you need to have today to protect yourself from narcissistic, demanding takers and self-absorbed individuals who can’t or won’t respect or appreciate you?

(To learn more about building a happy, successful career, join my free career breakthrough teleclass on April 9th — Make the Right Career Move Now! And to learn how to develop healthier boundaries, read my book Breakdown Breakthrough and check out my one-on-one coaching services.)

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