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Tag Archives: Empowerment

6 Ways Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone Elevates You To The Next Level

 

As a women’s career coach and leadership developer, I’ve seen that one of the most damaging things you can do in your career is to stay for years where you’re comfortable. I’ve done it, and what often ensues is that you begin to doubt your value in the marketplace. You wonder if you really have the abilities and experience to succeed and thrive outside your current employer.

I’ve learned too (the hard way) that no job is secure. The only thing that is secure in life is you – your spirit, your heart, your talents and gifts, and your ability to contribute at a high level to something that matters to you in life. When you live from that knowledge and experience, you’ll find (and create) gainful, rewarding work no matter where you go, despite the turbulence around you. And to do that, you need to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I recently connected with David Van Rooy, Walmart’s Senior Director of International Human Resources Strategy and Operations, who shared his insightful views about pushing yourself out of comfort as a critical career success move. David is responsible for working across Walmart’s non-US markets to develop and drive the execution of the international HR strategy. In his prior role at Walmart he was responsible for the world’s largest performance management and employee engagement programs, covering nearly 2.2 million employees globally. Before Walmart he held leadership roles at Marriott International and Burger King Corporation. David has a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has published over 20 peer reviewed scientific business articles and book chapters.

His book, Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies To Take You From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be explores the concept of Career Trajectory and how you can leverage your skills and create new possibilities around you to forge a positive path and reach your highest goals.

Here’s what David shared about the importance of pushing beyond your comfort zone:

“I’ve seen in my work at Walmart that maintaining placement as the top retailer requires staying ahead of change and a willingness to ‘swim upstream.’ So much of what everyone does at Walmart – whether it is the size or scale of an endeavor, or launching an entirely new idea – has never been done before. This can be daunting because it includes an element of risk and necessitates people stepping out of their comfort zones. The people who do this successfully are able to make a tremendously positive impact and find even more opportunities to make a difference. This can create a fast track for accelerating their career trajectory. It is possible to be successful maintaining the status quo, but true differentiation is achievable only for those who are willing to dive into new areas.

I learned a great deal about my own comfort zone recently. I was sitting in the dark and couldn’t see a single thing. My fingers were sticky and covered with food that I couldn’t see. I was highly uncomfortable and totally out of my element. And this was by design. It was part of an event called Dining in the Dark, which is intended to improve awareness and understanding of visual impairments.

Not only did it succeed with its mission, it made me think deeply about my own comfort levels in various situations – both at work and outside of work. I found that my natural instinct at the event was to do what made me comfortable, not what the blind people in attendance were comfortable with. But I would miss so much if I didn’t break through my lack of comfort.

The event reminded me of a time when I was forced out of my comfort zone at a critical juncture in my life. I was staring at multiple rejection letters from my preferred graduate schools and was beginning to wonder what I would do with my life if I didn’t receive an offer soon. I finally received one acceptance letter and it included both tuition coverage and a stipend. There was just one problem: it was in Miami, which wasn’t where I wanted to live. Growing up in Northern Michigan I had grown very comfortable with the “quiet life” and was anxious about what I would experience when I arrived in Miami. It started worse than I could have imagined. I had no car and my only transportation – my bike – was stolen the first week there. There were issues with my paperwork and I spent countless hours just trying to get enrolled in classes. I was struggling with a language barrier and cultural differences I had not experienced before. The caliber of students was intimidating and I wasn’t sure how I would match up. It seemed like I couldn’t get anything right, and I was beginning to wonder if I would last through the first semester.

But I worked through it and despite the many difficulties I encountered – including a failed initial defense of my thesis. I grew to love Miami, and embrace the challenges that came with it. For financial reasons I really had no choice but to leave my comfort zone in this situation, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t. I earned my Ph.D. there; met amazing people, including a great mentor who helped me in countless ways; got my first “real” job; met my wife. It’s also where I learned that maintaining comfort may be easier and safer, but it doesn’t often result in what is best for you. If you never feel uncomfortable in your life and career you are undoubtedly limiting your opportunities to do greater things than you might never have imagined.”

David shares how stepping out of your comfort zone brings 6 critical benefits that will liberate and empower you.

You will let perfection go.

Nobody is perfect – don’t expect it and don’t long for it. Let go of that unnecessary pressure. As soon as you accept this you will find that you will lose the hesitation that has held you back in the past. You will learn to take risks where before you would have run. With risk comes the chance of failure, but more importantly, a chance of greatness. Failure is a given when you take risks, but the more you can embrace and learn from it, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

You will inspire others.

What you do is noticed by others, whether you realize it or not. People are watching you, and what you do gives them an inspiring role model for growth and change. This applies not only at work, but at home with setting an example for your children. We all have a teacher or someone in our lives who unknowingly inspired and motivated us to do more than we thought we could. Taking risks and believing in yourself allows you to be that person for others.

You will have no regrets at the end.

To me the idea of running 26.2 miles for a marathon seemed preposterous and impossible. I never had any serious intention of running one, but agreed to give it a shot when my sister asked if I would do one with her. I may never run another marathon, but because I gave it my all I will never have lingering doubts about my performance. Had I held anything back I would have been left with regret and uncertainty about what I might have been able to do had I just pushed myself. Regrets come when we wonder, “What if?” yet don’t act. Don’t wonder – take the plunge.

You will define yourself authentically.

Comfort is often defined by doing what everyone else does – conforming to norms and to the pressure around you. By pushing yourself into new areas you will have a chance to authentically define who you are, and break free of the limitations of what others think you should be. You are then far freer to shape your career and your life as you truly want it.

You will gain control.

When you step out on your own path, you get to live and work on your own terms. Eventually you may be forced to break free of the limitations around you anyway, so take control now and become the one who sets the rules and initiates change. Having a sense of personal control is not only essential for well-being, but research has shown that it lowers stress and increases job satisfaction as well.

Your life experience will be fuller.

Those of us who’ve been forced to change understand that what is comforting is often not what is best for you. Leaving your comfort zone can create a tremendous feeling of euphoria and self-respect as you learn what you are truly capable of doing and creating, which is far greater and more expansive than you ever dreamed. Pushing past your limits helps you find the fulfillment, excitement, and meaning you have been searching for in all the wrong places.

If you never leave your comfort zone you are likely sabotaging your chances for lasting success and happiness. Don’t be afraid to try something new in any aspect of your life. You will find you are more resilient, capable and courageous than you once believed, and as you rise to these challenges, more exciting ones are waiting in the wings.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you really wanted to try something but you shied away? Next time you find yourself hesitating, go for it. The reward (and the lessons learned) will be, without question, worth the risk.

To learn more about David Van Rooy and his new book Trajectory, visit www.liveyourtrajectory.com and connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

(To build a happier, more successful career, take my 6-Day Amazing Career Challenge and join my community at KathyCaprino.com.)

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.)

What Will People Remember Most About You?

RememberMost

I’m very excited – today I begin working with an amazing group of women committed to building rewarding careers they love, on their terms.  We’re coming together in my Amazing Career Project Group Coaching Intensive. They come from all walks, situations, and experiences around the globe, but they share one critical thing – they’re ready for more, different and better in their lives.

One essential question we’ll be looking at is this: What will people remember most about you? and What do you WANT to be remembered for?

In the past, my answers to those two questions were very far apart.  My professional life didn’t stand for anything that I wanted it to, and I wasn’t making the impact in the world I deeply longed to.  The problem was, I just didn’t know how to bridge that gap. No clue even where to begin.

I know now (after leaving corporate life, becoming a therapist, coach, writer, and studying energy healing work) that it’s a fabulous journey with many twists, turns and detours – to dig deep, discover your right work, and shine in it.  But it’s very doable, for everyone, with the right steps and mindsets (and a little help).

Today, why not make a start on that journey and ask yourself, “What will people remember most about me?”

Please share your answers to that critical question below.

Go ahead, BRAG! It’s scary, I know, because women in particular are trained NOT to do this, and sometimes there’s even backlash when they do.  But we have to do it in the face of our fears.

Tell me…what are you amazing at, how do you make the world a better place just by being here. If that’s too challenging to do, share what other people have said about you that makes you blush and smile from ear-to-ear.

I can’t wait to hear.

Love to you.

Don’t Let Yourself Forget Who You Were At 16

At16

Part of the work I do in helping women feel happier and more successful in their work, is excavation – digging deep and peeling the layers to uncover the richness and the amazing natural gifts inside. And one critical dimension of that process is remembering who you were when you were just starting out in life.

When I look back at what I loved to do when I was 16, and the natural talents that began to flow forth, I see that everything I enjoy in my work now is exactly what I felt joyous and exuberant about then. I loved to write (I became an English major and studied journalism, and was a reporter for my school paper), I was a singer and a performer, I loved psychology and figuring out what made people tick, and I enjoyed helping my friends (boys and girls) sort out solutions to problems they were grappling with. I remember my beloved dad too commenting about my nature. Once day, when I was trying to sort out why someone was behaving really badly to me, he said “Honey, you really love to get to the bottom of things – figure out what drives people to do what they do. You love to know why.” He was so right.

I didn’t realize then – or for 20+ years more in my unhappy corporate life – that we’re all happiest and most alive when –

“…we’re demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true about ourselves, when we we are giving form to our Life’s Intentions in a way that contributes to others.” – Maria Nemeth, The Energy of Money

I love this quote, and I feel that no truer words have ever been spoken.

In your adult life, have you ever demonstrated behavior or spoke in ways that you later realized were NOT you at all? That were jarring, hurtful, disrespectful, catty, destructive? If you’re in touch with your emotions, you’ll feel a jarring pain when you’re being your lowest self – you feel it in your soul. Or have you ever struggled with a problem (like chronically being unable to repay your debts or not telling the truth on something critical) and you know that what you’re demonstrating in life is not true, good, or worthy of your self-respect? I have, and it’s a horrible feeling. We are terribly unhappy when what we’re creating in life is out of alignment with everything we know to be true about ourselves.

Secondly, I’ve seen through 10 years of career coaching that the most alive and joyful people on the planet are those who feel that their natural gifts are useful to others – to a great company, an important cause, to people in need, or to their community and world. I believe that’s why were on the planet today – to find a way to use who we are in benefit to those around us.

But life is challenging and exhausting today, and most of us are so beleaguered with what’s on our plates that we’ve forgotten who were when we were young, and what we’re capable of. We’ve lost sight of how amazing we are, and the gifts we are supposed to be sharing.

How can we reclaim those talents and capabilities and find new ways to utilize them?

Here’s a challenge for you. Every day for the next 21 days, when you get up in the morning and are washing your face or taking a shower, take 3 minutes to think about what you loved about yourself at 16 (or pick an age where you were shining). Think about:

– What people noticed about you, and raved about
– What made you feel joyful, free, and alive
– What made you feel strong and confident
What you did that made others say, “Wow! I could never to that so beautifully or well!”
– What your friends and family adored about you
– And finally, what you thought was pretty darn amazing about yourself

Just bring these things to mind each day, and get back in touch with yourself – who you were, and who you are, deep down.

Do this for 21 consecutive days and you will experience a shift. You’ll remember more clearly what you’re capable of, and you’ll start believing that it’s time to shift your life and work so that you’re using more of your natural gifts and talents, and finding more joy and satisfaction in your life and relationships.

It’s time to dig deep, find your right work, and illuminate the world with it. It’s YOUR time to shine.

For some inspiration to build a happier, more satisfying career, visit the Amazing Career Project, and watch my new video Time to Shine.

5 Critical Ways To Unplug On Your Vacation

Photo by Elliot Lipner

As summer is that wonderful time for so many to take off for vacation and detach from their job stresses and strains, it’s time now to think about exactly how you’ll plan your exit.

Throughout my career, I’ve had every manner of work situation and crisis emerge while I was on vacation, and sometimes I handled it well, but other times not so well.  If you want to truly unplug, relax and get away with your family and friends, here are 5 critical ways to unplug and make it work:

1)  Make a firm commitment to yourself and your family about how much work you’ll do, and guard that commitment fiercely.

For example, decide up front how many times you’ll check your devices , and stick to it. If you check your phone and email every fifteen minutes, you won’t be able to unplug and detox from the stresses of your job and professional life. Your mind can’t disengage sufficiently to focus on your vacation, your family and friends, and your new surroundings.   If you have to check in, do it in a limited way, perhaps three times in a week, and make it after work hours if you can.

2) Communicate to your colleagues and supervisors about your vacation well beforehand, to inform everyone who needs to know.

Well in advance of your vacation, make it clear when you’ll be gone and that you will have limited access to email on vacation. Clarify that if they need something from you, they’ll need to ask for it and get it before you leave. Don’t set up the expectation that they can bother you day and night and that you’ll be responsive to those requests.

3) Build a clear boundary – set your vacation reply on your email.

This will inform everyone who contacts you that will have limited access to email and will respond as soon as you can after your return.

4)  Assign someone you trust as your key point person.

If you can, assign someone reliable and who knows you well as the key point person for you when you’re gone. This individual — be it your assistant or a colleague or manager in your department – can field questions and issues effectively, and will reach out to you only in true emergencies or situations that truly require your attention.

5)  Decide up front what issues you WILL deal with at work if they arise, and what you won’t.

Prioritize in your mind what constitutes a true emergency, or work issue that you wouldn’t want to miss out on, and what you DO want to leave behind. For example, once when I was on vacation in Cape Cod I received a request for an interview from the Wall Street Journal to comment about a hot news item about pregnant women’s rights in the workplace. You bet I took that call, and was happy to!

* * * * * *

I know that many will read this and say, “No way, Kathy. This can’t work for me.  I’m too needed at work! They won’t leave me alone.”

To that, I say it’s up to you to build a strong and clear boundary around your private, personal time. If you fail to make it crystal clear what your requirements are for unplugging, then people can’t help but intrude on your private time, because you’ve communicated – either consciously or unconsciously – that it’s acceptable for them to do it.

Be bold, unplug, and enjoy your vacation!

What strategies have you used to successfully unplug, relax and restore on vacation? Please share!

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

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