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Tag Archives: Kathy Caprino

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.)

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.)

 

Happy Thanksgiving and Many Thanks To You

 

I love Thanksgiving time.  It’s a fabulous opportunity to bring gratitude and appreciation into focus, and to think not only about the blessings we have in our lives, but also the challenges, bumps and tribulations — and to cherish them all.

I read somewhere recently that we should be very thankful for our challenges, as millions of people would be thrilled to be experiencing the challenges we have.  That struck a deep chord with me, and thinking of that everyday helps me remember that no matter what I am facing in my life today, I can learn, grow and heal through it, even the hurt and disappointment.

I’d love to take this opportunity to send my deepest thanks and appreciation to you for being an important and valued member of my community.

This year has been an incredible one, full of learning and insight (and some sizable stretching too!).  Receiving your open and generous feedback, support and diverse perspectives has been so meaningful and helpful to me.  I’ve learned a great deal from all my colleagues, readers, and followers, as well as from the powerful challenges and opportunities this year has brought.

I look forward to continuing to learn and grow together in 2015 and the years to come.

Wishing you a beautiful Thanksgiving and holiday season with your special friends and loved ones.

With love,

Kathy

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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