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Tag Archives: breakthrough

The Top 5 Life Lessons You Should Be Learning (But You’re Not)

 

Years ago, I launched a project that generated some interesting attention. It was called My 52 Mistakes, and it outlined what I believed were the worst 52 mistakes I’d made in my life. Even when I read these today, they all still ring true – these were the most serious missteps I took that led me on painful detours away from happiness, fulfillment and success. And they resonated with lots of other folks too.

While I use the word “mistakes,” I actually don’t believe in mistakes. I believe that if we can learn from our missteps, then we can make tremendous gains, and they are often blessings in disguise. If we commit to drawing on the powerful wisdom we’ve achieved from these momentary errors in judgment, behavior and thinking, then we’ll thrive.

How do we make the most of these missteps or detours so they help us thrive and don’t have to be repeated?

We all have life lessons to learn, but many of us miss these lessons (I sure did, years ago). Sadly, we often learn the wrong things, and internalize damaging, negative messages instead of positive, uplifting ones – messages that make us feel inferior, incapable, and unworthy. We don’t see what we should see. Instead, we end up feeling like losers or hapless victims of fate and circumstance. And when we feel like this, it’s very hard to move off the painful detour and get going in the right direction again.

The best way to turn this around is to learn the positive, empowering lessons that your life is trying to teach you – not lessons about how you blew it and how you’re a failure. The lessons that are essential to learn are about how you’re extremely talented, capable and worthy, and you deserve what you long for, but you’ve just been pointing in the wrong direction.

Here are the top 5 lessons I believe people need to be learning from what’s happening in their lives, but aren’t:

1. You are much more than what your current boss (or job) is telling you.

I’ve been so surprised lately at how intensely we humans focus only on what’s at the tip of our nose, what’s happening this very moment (especially if it’s bad), and forget all the good that we’ve achieved and created. So if you’re in a toxic job with a toxic boss, don’t let that be all you see. You’re better than what your boss thinks of you this very moment. You’re more than the paltry raise you just got, or the promotion you were just passed over for. Take some time to get off the hamster wheel, and take a thorough inventory of everything you’re fantastic at and everything you’ve created and achieved in your life. If you don’t focus on the good and the great, you’ll forget what you’re capable of. (Take my free Career Path Self- Assessment to remember who you really are and what you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of.)

2. Just because you failed terribly at one dream, doesn’t mean you’ll repeat that failure with the next.

I realized in working with thousands of people on their careers, that somehow we think that if we failed miserably at one important project or dream, we’ll inevitably fail at all our dreams and visions. Again this is the wrong lesson. Failure, as we all know, is a part of life and we learn much more from failure than from success. But if we all know this, why do we act as if we’re terrible losers, and won’t ever amount to anything, or achieve any dream we have? Remember that your failures are exactly what pave the way for your fantastic successes. Learn to love your failures.

3. Confidence comes from doing. No one is born with it.

Confidence is essential in life if you want to keep moving forward and reaching higher. But people ask me, “Kathy, how do I get confidence when I don’t having any?” They’re learning a mistaken lesson that you need confidence in order to achieve what you want. That’s a faulty way of looking at it.

You get confidence by moving through your fears, by taking action, even while your knees are clanging together with a deafening din. You gain confidence by getting in the arena – by risking, trying, stretching. That’s the only way confidence comes.

I remember, during my internship training as a therapist, after I’d conducted my very first session as a therapist with a severely depressed patient (in front of a whole panel of educators and colleagues critiquing me) saying to myself – “If I can get through that without throwing up or passing out, I can do anything.” My confidence level went up one hundredfold that day.

Confidence comes from doing, so get out there and starting doing what you’re most scared of doing.

4. How you feel and think about your work and your endeavors will powerfully shape what happens.

The more I test out new practices and strategies aimed at helping people build tremendous success, and the more heartfelt success I achieve in my own business, the more I realize this: how we think and feel about what we’re doing will dramatically shape the outcomes we get.

In other words, if you’re trying to build a successful business but your work exhausts and depresses you, then you’re not going to succeed. If you’re building a consulting practice, but are deathly afraid of business development and hate it, then you won’t succeed. Finally, if you’re in a helping profession but resent helping others, you’re not going to succeed or be happy in your work.

Take a very close look at your thoughts because they drive the outcomes you’re getting. You’ll be amazed at the degree to which what’s in front of you in life is directly related to what you’re thinking.

Then, actively revise your thoughts and/or change what you’re doing in some significant way so you can feel happier, and more positive and excited about what you’re engaged in.

5. The one best way to tell if you need a change in life is if you’re unhappy and unfulfilled.

Finally, I know so many people who are miserable in their lives and work, but don’t see that as a sign that anything needs to change. They’re skeptical, angry, resentful, confused – but they don’t realize that those emotions mean they have to make a change. They stay stuck forever in inertia.

They make a million excuses for staying where they are (I need the money, I won’t succeed in my dream, a mission-driven career isn’t for me, I’m too old, I’m too young, I didn’t finish school, I was raised poor, etc.).

There’s one key question that you need to ask in order to determine if you need a change in your life. That question is: “Am I happy with the person I’m becoming and am I fulfilled by my life as a whole?”

If not, it’s time to do something. Here’s more about how to learn the specific lessons your life is trying to teach you:

What’s the ONE biggest lesson your life has taught you, so far?


(For a happier, more rewarding career, take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge today.)

How Sharing Your Life Challenges With Others Can Change the World

 

I live in a small New England town that is home to only about 18,000 residents. As in many small towns, hundreds of children attend the public school system, play sports, and participate in art and music activities together. And many of the parents see each other daily in the pick-up lines at school, at Starbucks, and in the hockey stands and soccer sidelines. Despite the frequency with which we all intersect, many of us can feel isolated and alone – facing our own hidden battles in private — especially when we are dealing with life-threatening challenges that bring us to our knees.

My friend, Claire Craven, is experiencing just one of these challenges with her family. In the Fall of 2012, when Claire’s beloved husband, Eric, 47, began to experience symptoms of grip weakness and tightness in his throat, they never suspected it was anything other than just the process of getting older. Nine months later, at what they thought was a routine preventative visit to a neurologist, everything in the lives of Eric, Claire, and their three teen children changed in the span of 15 short minutes. It was obvious the doctor was concerned and something was seriously wrong. Two weeks later following a myriad of tests, Eric was diagnosed with ALS.

ALS stands for Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS was first discovered in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, respiratory failure. Every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with ALS. Although approximately 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time, most are stricken between the ages of 40 and 70 and live 2-5 years after the first signs of the disease, with only 10% living longer than 10 years.

The Cravens learned that while Eric’s mental faculties would remain sharp, his body would decline, and his life expectancy would likely be only 5 years.

Claire shared with me that at first, they were, of course, shattered, and desperately wanted to keep the news private. They had so much to contemplate, to figure out and plan, and they had the well-being of their children to think of. Although “normal” no longer seemed to exist, they wanted it for their children. “Given the rest of their world was reeling, the last thing they needed was to have their peers treat them differently.” Life continued on as much as possible as it had before, although they now treasured and relished the time they had together. But behind the scenes, Claire and Eric needed to prepare for a new future that would be anything but what they had dreamed of for so many years in building their life together. For the whole family, it was heartbreaking, lonely and overwhelming.

In September 2013, Claire widened the circle of those who knew the news just a tiny bit, telling the children’s teachers and their son’s hockey coach, to ensure that those who were seeing the children every day would be able to give some added support if needed. The family had a routine, and they kept the situation between them, for Eric. But it was like “living a secret life – a double life, and at times so difficult,” Claire shared. “I found out about Eric just 2 weeks before being inducted as the PTA President, and there was no one to replace me. So I then had to tell a few more people – the wonderful women on the executive board of the PTA — and they were amazing. They stepped up and helped in every way imaginable. That’s what I grew to love about this town – all these amazing women all around me who helped me, and us, survive.”

Then, in Fall of 2014, a new opportunity emerged that altered how Claire and Eric viewed their commitment to privacy. The Cravens’ oldest son, 18, is a senior in high school and has played hockey since he was six years old. The Cravens’ daughters, 16-year-old identical twins, are juniors in high school and also play hockey. The boys’ varsity hockey coach, Brett Amero, began contemplating ways he could help the family and approached them with an idea. He wanted to explore how they might be able to leverage the new global awareness of ALS that had been achieved through the viral explosion of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” (that generated $115 million in donations to the ALS Association since July 14, 2014). They arrived at an idea together that would draw on the participation of both the boys’ and girls’ school hockey teams, and also partner with the town’s top rival to highlight the importance of battling hard on the ice, but coming together as part of the bigger hockey family to help one of their own by raising funds for research – the only hope for a cure.

The plan emerged that the two rival hockey teams’ epic game would serve as the backdrop for a fundraiser for the ALS Therapy Development Institute, the world’s first and largest nonprofit biotech focused 100% on ALS research. They hoped to raise over $40,000 from the game. I asked Claire what it felt like to contemplate sharing this news with so many, after keeping it private for months. “When the coach brought this idea to us, at first I thought, ‘No way – everyone would know.’ But when I turned to ask the family, unanimously, they all said, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’” Claire realized, “We’d had the time we needed as a family to deal with this; we felt so blessed he was doing so well, but also knew at some point we would need to go public. It just seemed as if something told us all at the same time that it was the right thing to do and we would be ok if we shared our story.”

The hockey event happened, and it was a tremendous success. On January 10th, with hundreds of people (both residents of Wilton and of the rival town Ridgefield, CT) in the stands and throughout the arena, the two towns came together and with matching funds from corporate donors, generated over $52,000 for ALS research. And from the middle of the ice rink, Claire, Eric and the family publicly shared the news.

Eric hadn’t shared with many at work about his disease, but people heard about it from the hockey event publicized in the papers, and the next Monday, there was an outpouring of support from his colleagues. Claire shared, “So many amazing things have happened since the announcement was made; it’s changed everything. The biggest joy has been the change in Eric. I always knew Eric would feel relieved to let the secret out, and when people found out he would be surprised and deeply touched at how many would reach out to him.

“We’ve seen that if you don’t give people the chance to bless you, to help you, to give back and support you, you miss out and they miss out. And when you’re hurting, if you can help someone else, it puts your own pain into perspective, and that change in focus from us to others is what brings healing. The biggest surprise has been that so many people thought we lived the Cinderella life here, and didn’t know what we were going through.

“It’s so important to remember that we all have hidden battles and we’re all dealing with challenges and heart-wrenching situations. But joy comes in how you respond. You can let it destroy you, or you can grow and become better, stronger and a help to others. If I hadn’t had the many challenges I had in my early life, I wouldn’t have it in me to even get out of bed, much less to be able to give back now, or receive this outpouring of love and support.”

* * * **

To me, Claire’s story reinforces a fundamental truth that is so important to remember but so easy to forget: Everyone you meet is fighting a hidden battle that you know nothing about. Be kind, and live from your heart, and share your love and support. And when you open up and share your traumas and challenges with your community, you – and they — can come together to help change the world.

(Upcoming hockey events in CT in support of ALS research are February 15th sponsored by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and February 18th at the SONO Ice House, Norwalk, CT from 7-11pm.   For more information about ALS and/or to donate, visit als.net/craven.)

 

5 Strategies For Staying Mentally Strong In the Midst of Emotional Challenge

 

In late 2013, I was intrigued to watch a friend’s article on Forbes.com begin to balloon and reach millions. Cheryl Snapp Conner’s post featuring psychologist Amy Morin’s insights on Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid, hit an international nerve and is now one of the most read post on Forbes.com.

Interested to learn more from Amy about the back story of this piece, and how she identified these 13 critical ways mentally strong people stay resilient and retain their strength, I asked Amy to share her events that led up to this tremendous hit. Now an internationally recognized expert on mental strength, Amy is a psychotherapist, speaker, college psychology instructor and the author of the great new book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

Amy shared this:
In the Fall of 2013, I found myself in a surreal situation. Celebrities were tweeting my work, national figures were talking about me on the radio, and I was being interviewed by major media outlets across the world.

A mere 600 words, written just weeks earlier, had launched me into the midst of a viral super storm. Within hours of being published to the web, my work was read and shared millions of times. Just a few days later the list was reprinted on Forbes, where it reached nearly 10 million more readers.

It seemed like everyone in the media had the same question – “How did you come up with your list of the 13 things mentally strong people don’t do?” I always responded by explaining the concepts were based on my training, education, and experiences as a therapist. While that was true, it certainly wasn’t the whole story. But, I wasn’t ready to reveal the painful situation that was still unfolding around me on national television. Now I am.

In 2003, my mother passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Then, on the three year anniversary of her death, my 26-year-old husband passed away from a heart attack. While publicly helping others deal with their emotional pain as a therapist, I’d spent years privately working through my grief. It was hard work but I made slow but steady progress.

A few years later, I was fortunate enough to find love again and I got remarried. Just as I felt grateful for my fresh start however, my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I found myself thinking, “I don’t want to go through this all over again.” But just as quickly as I began to feel sorry for myself, I was reminded that self-pity would only make things worse.

I sat down and created my list of the unhealthy habits I needed to avoid if I wanted to stay strong while facing my inevitable circumstances. When I was done, I had a list of 13 thoughts, behaviors, and feelings that would hold me back from facing my circumstances with strength and courage. Although the list was meant to be a letter to myself, I published it online in hopes someone else may find it helpful. I never imagined millions of people would read it.

Throughout my painful experiences, there were five critical strategies that helped me personally stay mentally strong during my time of emotional trauma and pain:

1. Exchanging self-pity for gratitude
When life became difficult, I was tempted to exaggerate my own despair. Losing my loved ones was certainly terrible, but I still had much to feel grateful about.After all, I had a job, a roof over my head, and food to eat.

Whenever I’d begin feeling sorry for myself, I’d create a list of all the things I had to be grateful for. It wouldn’t take long to recognize all the loving, supportive people I still had in my life. And it served as a wonderful reminder, that although some of my loved ones were no longer here, I was fortunate to have had them in my life.

2. Focusing on what I could control
The repeated losses in my life served as a reminder that there are many things I didn’t have any control over. Wasting energy focusing on all those things however, wouldn’t be helpful. Instead, I needed to focus all my energy on the things I could control.

And no matter what, the one thing I could always control was my attitude. I could choose to allow my difficult circumstances to turn me into an angry, bitter person or I could choose to remain a hopeful, positive person with a desire to become better. Focusing on all that I could control – whether it was helping a family member with a practical task or making a decision about my finances – helped me recognize that I wasn’t simply a victim of my circumstances. Instead, I was able to create a wonderful life for myself by making the most of every day.

3. Living in the present
The loss of my loved ones tempted me to dwell on the past. After all, the past was where my loved ones were still alive. And I feared that if I didn’t constantly think about the past, or if I moved forward, I’d somehow be doing them a disservice.

It takes courage to make the conscious decision to live fully present in each moment, rather than ruminate on how life used to be. But once I was able to shift my focus to honoring my loved one’s memory – rather than trying to prevent life from moving forward – I was able to begin fully enjoying life again.

4. Retaining my personal power
When I was going through tough times, everyone had an opinion about what was best for me. Although their intentions were well-meaning, doing things simply because others advised me to wouldn’t be helpful.

I had to deal with my grief in my own way and I needed to create my own plan for how I was going to move forward in life. Taking ownership meant I couldn’t blame anyone else. Instead, I had to accept personal responsibility for my thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

5. Embracing change
My world changed drastically over the course of a few years. And, although it was tempting to dig in my heels and try to prevent my world from changing, it wasn’t going to be helpful. I had to embrace change – whether or not it was welcomed.

I had to create a new sense of normalcy without my loved ones present. Often, that meant giving up certain goals or activities that were no longer meaningful and searching for new opportunities that would give me purpose. Embracing those changes allowed me to move forward and create a fulfilling life for myself.

* * * * * *
Amy’s advice is both powerful and empowering. As holocaust survivor and renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl shared in his life-changing book Man’s Search for Meaning, “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Check out Amy’s new book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, and learn more about her work at http://amymorinlcsw.com.

(To build a more successful and rewarding career, visit kathycaprino.com and take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge.)

Your Year in Review: 21 Questions To Ask Yourself Before The New Year Hits

 

As the year comes to a close, I’ve been receiving numbers of great emails from my writer friends and colleagues who have taken the time to provide a fascinating summary of their 10 most successful and popular posts. I’m enjoying reading these posts, but in honor of this coming year, I’d like to try something a bit different that I hope will be helpful.

I’d like to suggest that we all do this one thing by New Year’s eve: instead of making empty resolutions that often bear no meaningful fruit, why not spend an hour quietly, with ourselves, and conduct our own honest, probing and insightful “year in review.” Let’s look back with eyes wide open, so we can see what’s happened clearly, and use those insights to fuel a happier, more fulfilling and fruitful life.

What would be helpful to explore in your “Year in Review” exercise?

Here’s the list of important questions I’m going to explore and answer about last year (and the upcoming one) as I embark on my critical review. I’m going to look as honestly and courageously as I can at what went very well in my life and work last year, what didn’t go well, what I’m proud of, what I deeply regret, and what I wish to bring forward in my life in a bigger way.

Perhaps you’d like to answer these questions as well:

What’s been the best?

1. What are you most proud in terms of what you achieved, accomplished or brought into being this year – in life and work?
2. What did these achievements or actions in turn make possible – for you, your family, your organization, your financial situation, and your health and well-being, for others?
3. What makes you smile just to think about it today?

What’s been the hardest?

4. What event or experience represented the “worst” of the year, and why exactly?
5. What action(s) did you take that you want to eradicate from your behavior forever?
6. What makes you feel ashamed and “less than,” or even toxic to others?
7. What brings tears of unhappiness and regret to your eyes when you think about it?

What do you want to accentuate and amplify in your life next year?

8. What outcomes or achievements do you want to build on next year?
9. What parts of yourself do you wish to expand and strengthen?
10. What role models and supportive people will you find to help you, and how?

Who has been most helpful?

11. Who are the top three helpers whom you’d like to knowledge?
12. Who has gone above and beyond in their efforts to assist you in a goal or important outcome?

Who needs to be chucked from your life?

13. Who has been terribly unsupportive or nasty to you, and needs to be let go of if you’re going to move forward the way you long to?

What are your top priorities?

14. What priorities did you honor well in 2014?
15. What priorities did you turn your back on?
16. What new priorities have emerged for you this year that you are committed to honoring?

What are your exciting stretch goals?

17. What goals did you set for yourself in 2014 that you met?
18. What important goals did you fail to achieve, and why?
19. What new stretch goals can you set that will be juicy, compelling and fulfilling to reach?

Knowing all this, what is your highest vision of your future self?

20. Who do you wish to connect with, and build stronger, more loving relationships with?
21. Finally, who do you want to become in 2015?

To me, there’s nothing more discouraging than believing you’ll do something important in the coming year, then failing miserably and having no clue why. Make 2015 the year you get clearer on what’s happening in your life, and the reasons behind it (obviously, it’s not all random – we’re co-creating what’s happening). Take some concrete steps to bring about the changes you long for most in your life and work, and make these changes stick. Let this year be a year you look back on and say, “Finally! I’m becoming the person I’ve dreamed of being.”

Here’s to an amazing 2015 to you.

(For a bit of inspiration to make the changes you long for, watch my video Time to Shine, and take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge.)

 

Grappling With the Idea of Going Back To School? Here’s What To Consider

At least once a week, I hear from a professional woman who is in a job or career she dislikes intensely (or is failing at), and wonders if going back to school for a new career is the right step. Today, many mid- to high-level professionals feel ill-suited to their work, and others have launched small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat. When they reach out for help, they share some version of this question:

“Kathy, I’m in a career (or I recently launched a small business) I just can’t stand anymore. My husband says I’m not cut out for this, and should go back to school. What do you think?”

Having coached thousands of women through every career decision you can imagine, I’ve observed 6 common reasons behind people’s contemplation of going back to school. These reasons may be legitimate for some, but for many (perhaps most), the path to another degree is not the right choice. How do you know if it’s right for you?

The top 6 reasons mid-career professionals give for contemplating going back to school are:

– The job I’m in feels like a complete dead end. I think I have to start over.

– I’m just not cutting it in this field. More education will give me more credibility, clout and authority.

– I really don’t know what else to do. I hate my work.

– I’m not earning enough in my current profession/business. I’ll make more money and be more secure if I have more education.

– My colleague went back to school and it made a great difference for him. I want to do what he’s doing.

– I’m failing in my new business, and I think getting a new degree is the only way out.

To know if going back to school is the right move for you, you need to become very clear on what you want in your life and work. You also have to understand yourself intimately (what you’re passionate about, and what motivates you to succeed, for instance) and evaluate your life and situation with eyes wide open. This is not the time to be in denial or to pretend you’re someone else. This is the time to figure yourself out with honesty, awareness and insight. (Take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge to learn more about what you really want.)

Once you become clearer on what’s important to you and your most burning life goals, ask yourself these five questions:

1. What do you believe another degree will give you?

Often, we project all sorts of misguided notions about what a shiny, new degree will give us, but we don’t really know anything about it. Do exhaustive research about the educational path you’re considering. Interview department heads and faculty at the institutions you’re considering. Shadow professionals who’ve earned this degree and are applying it in ways that interest you. Learn more about the careers this degree can lead to, and how people land exciting work after their degree. Examine the curriculum and course of study – do you find it compelling, something you feel really jazzed to learn? What are the common trajectories of people who’ve earned this degree, and do these career paths seem to be a good fit for what you really want? Finally, ask, “Is it realistic for me to take this path at this time in my life?”

2. What will it cost you – emotionally, financially, and professionally and personally?

Higher education today is expensive, to say the least, but there are other significant costs as well.  You’ll need to commit a great deal of time, money, energy, resources, and focus to succeeding on this educational path.  Do you have access to the necessary resources, and can you tap into them in a way that won’t turn your life upside down?   Can your current employer help pay for your degree? When I earned my Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy over a three-year period, it exacted a much higher price than I ever imagined.  I’m so grateful I did it, but don’t do what I did and pursue a degree without understanding concretely what it will demand of you. And evaluate what the return on investment must be, specifically and measurably, in order for you to feel it is worthwhile.

 

>>CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE<<

In the end, if you’re considering going back to school, understand what it will give, and demand, of you. Do the necessary legwork to explore it thoroughly, and don’t jump until you can say with 100% surety that this is the right move at the right time. Be clear about where the road will take you, and if this path will give you, in reality, what you’re truly longing for.

(To move toward building a happier, more rewarding career, take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge).

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