Mark Twain

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

- Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

improve yourself

Combining Self Improvement Techniques for Greater Success

Posted: 11 Apr 2008 07:55 AM CDT

Written on 4/11/2008 by David B. Bohl, the author of Slow Down Fast.

The quest to lead a more gratifying and satisfying life offers opportunities for self-improvement in many different aspects of our lives. Advice and training for personal growth are available at every turn, covering a vast array of skills and techniques.

Sometimes the wealth of information can be overwhelming. In our quest to simplify our lives we are overrun with advice on how to go about it. Just when we clear up the mental clutter produced by our homes and our jobs, our search for fulfillment pushes us over the top.

It can be difficult to know what course of action is right for you, or where to begin on your journey towards self-improvement. By taking stock of your life you should be able to find the right combination of personal development solutions to help you meet your needs.

Take Stock of Your Life: Look at your life as a whole, then look at each component part. Decide which aspects of your life need improvement or organization. You may want to be more organized in your personal time and at home, or you might need help getting organized at work so you are better prepared to handle your work load. Perhaps there are aspects of each area in your life that need improvement. Make a list of all of the things you would like to improve upon, such as managing your time better, learning to focus, decluttering your home, or getting your work done faster so you can enjoy extra time off, and so on.


Revisit Your Values: Make a comparison of how you want to change your attitudes and actions with your personal values. The changes you seek must be in alignment with your wants, goals, and needs in life. If you have not yet defined what your values are, you will need to do so. In order for any meaningful change to take place, your values must be clearly defined and your basic needs must be met. Once you have both of those in place, you can begin looking at methods of self-improvement.


Implement Your Plan: Once you have determined what your values are, and what changes you want to make in your life, you should be able to identify the exercises that are most likely to help you reach your goals.

If your goal is to spend more time with your family, you may decide to implement time management practices such as keeping a calendar and practicing focused work in order to become more efficient. This allows you to finish your work in less time and with greater accuracy. Your newly found free time can then be spent at the park with your children, engaged in play. The act of playing with your children is part of your plan for work family balance, and also provides a needed stress release. The time you spend talking one on one with your children provides the focus you wanted to attain, while building your relationship with them. On another night, you fill your free time on a date with your husband, bringing greater stability and balance into your relationship while practicing the art of focused listening.
When you are seeking to achieve improvement in your life, there may not be any one specific answer that is right for you. Rather, you may find that by combining a number of self-improvement techniques you are able to bring about the desired results in a shorter period of time.

You may want to improve many aspects of your life at one time, necessitating the implementation of a variety of new behaviors, or you may be trying to solve one complicated issue that no individual personal growth technique can fully accommodate.

Your circumstances are unique to you, and therefore your solution must also be unique. Drawing out a roadmap of goals, with milestones to lead you there, will help you choose the best combination of changes to implement in your life, which in turn will give you the greatest chance of success in reaching your goals.

Be cautious, though, about trying to make too many changes at once. Gradually introduce new habits or behaviors into your life, and give each one a chance to cement itself before adding the next one. This will help you make each new behavior a habit, reducing the chances of derailing your progress. It will also help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by the process of change itself.


"What we think or what we know or what we
believe is, in the end, of little consequence.
The only consequence is what we do."
- John Ruskin


"The greater danger for most of us is not that
our aim is too high and we miss it, but
that it is too low and we reach it."
- Michelangelo


"If you want to be happy, set a goal that
commands your thoughts, liberates your
energy, and inspires your hopes."
- Andrew Carnegie


"Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a
matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited
for, it is a thing to be achieved."
- Winston Churchill



"Unless you try to do something beyond
what you have already mastered,
you will never grow."
- Ronald E. Osborn

"To accomplish great things, we must
not only act, but also dream, not
only plan, but also believe."
- Anatole France


The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
- Bertrand Russell

Shift Yourself From Observer to Participant

Posted: 27 Feb 2008 06:31 AM CST

No doubt you have heard the old saying, “Change happens”. This is true, change happens every minute of our lives. In fact, one of the best things about life is that no two days are ever the same. Yet for many of us, we have a difficult time dealing with change because we are observers of change, and not participants of change.

Change is often rewarding, exciting and dynamic – for those that are making it happen. How can you take control and shift your life from being merely an observer who has to deal with change happening around him to a participant who is the catalyst for change in their life and others?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You can make change happen by simply changing your way of thinking. Don’t believe me? Try this for one week, seven short days, and then come back and read this article again. I think you will be surprised at how you made a shift in your life, but also have helped make a shift in the lives of others around you.

For the next week I want you to put aside every obstacle that gets in your way. Don’t ignore it, but just resolve to deal with it without being frustrated or thinking that it is insurmountable. For the net seven days I want you to approach every problem, challenge and opportunity with a smile and find a creative solution for it. Some of it will be easy, for example if the boss wants to give you a raise (yes, that’s a change!), and some won’t be as easy – you have a project a co-worker dumped on you with only two days to get it done. All I’m asking is that you try.

You are going to discover something happening here. By shifting your way of thinking, you are not becoming a participant of change. Your positive attitude is going to influence not only you, but everyone around you. Your family will notice, you coworkers with notice – even the guy who sells you your morning coffee is likely to notice! You have had a paradigm shift and all it took was for you to approach ever situation with a positive attitude. Now let’s take it farther than that – let’s be a participant in change in life all around us.

What is a one-year goal in your life? Don’t have one? Well get one! Think of something you would really like to change in your life within the next year – be it something about you (weight loss, smile more, work out at the gym) or something around you (get a new car, find a job in a field you love). Now here is something that most people don’t know and why so many people fail at making change happen in their life – they try to do it without a shift in the way they think and act. I’m here to tell you right now that you aren’t going to lose weight by eating at McDonald’s every day and you are certainly not going to land that dream job by sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Everything in your life requires you to be the catalyst of making it happen. You have to lead the revolution!

So you want to lose weight – who doesn’t? How can you be a participant in making that happen instead of someone who sits around hoping that the magic weight loss fairy comes and visits in the middle of the night? You can start by changing your way of thinking! Are you the type of person who just has to go out with the gang at lunch every day? How about if you put that energy to better use – using that lunch hour to visit the local library, work out at the company gym, or just get outside and explore the city. Believe it or not, this is how you start changing – by modifying your behavior. I guarantee you that if for one month you changed your lunch behavior you would see the weight dropping. Before you now it, CHANGE has happened!

You have the power to generate huge shifts in your life -- whether it is financial, emotional, personal or career wise. Even more, you have the power to help others change as well. When people see you making changes in your thinking or actions and shifting your life in the right direction they naturally want to be a part of that change. You could be the catalyst to creating a change revolution in your own house!

So, now it’s your turn. What are you going to do today, right now, to facilitate a shift in your life? Don’t just nod your head and leave – take some time to write down what you want to do. Change happens – are you going to be part of the revolution?

Written by David B. Bohl of Slow Down Fast.



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How to Set Goals

The next time somebody tells you that setting goals is really a lot of hype, tell him this: if life is a journey, how will you get there if you don’t have an itinerary?

Steps:

Have a plan of attack.

Ask yourself:

What do I know about this?
What information do I have?
What information do I need? Where can I get it?
What skills do I need to master?
What other resources should I use?
Is this the best way to do it, or is there some other way?

Start small, but keep walking. Goals don’t necessarily have to be big ones. When you set your goal too high, you might find it too overwhelming and time consuming and just give up, or make another one, just as big. It’s akin to quitting cold turkey – there are setbacks.

Set goals in small increments, complete with time, dates, amount, some details. If you tell yourself, “I’m going to be an opera singer” and then sit around and wait for it to suddenly happen, you could be waiting all your life. Start with singing lessons for a month, and then a year and expose yourself to opera music. You can then progress to more singing lessons year after year. By breaking down your goals in smaller, workable units, you are more likely to make them come true. Remember, even the great ones had to start somewhere.

Be positive when stating your goals. Instead of saying, “I am not going to miss my exercise routine today,” say “I’m really busy, so I’ll probably just make time for 20 minutes on the treadmill.” Stating your goal positively will help you view it as a good thing to do, and not as a byproduct of what you had to avoid.

Spread out your goals. So maybe we do have certain general goals that apply to all areas of our lives like, “I want to be successful” or “I want to be rich” but those would seem as far away as the Niagara Falls viewed from Hawaii. Instead, try making tiny goals for different aspects of your life, one or two for each, even more if you like. These areas are: family and home, career, social, physical, mental and spiritual. If you say, “I want to be a successful dad,” then try to make goals towards the development of your family life while still keeping an eye out for ways to improve your career and other areas of your life.

Don’t underestimate yourself. It’s tempting to sometimes just slack off, or let yourself off too easy. If you want to write the definitive American novel, then don’t try to churn out just a page or two a day when you know you are more than capable of writing five pages, even ten. The fear of failure is sometimes to blame for setting our goals too low. How often have we said, “I don’t really want to volunteer for that project ‘cause I might screw it. And then my colleagues will make fun of me.”

Remember that some fears are unfounded. How do you know you’ll actually ruin it? And how do you know for sure your coworkers will laugh at your effort? If you try to reason with your fears, more often than not, you’ll realize that there really is no reason for you to be reluctant and that in fact, you can do it.

Write it down.
Putting your A list of long term goals, arranged as stepping-stones.goal down on paper is more than just memorizing it.
You are actually confirming your willingness to make it come true. A written list of goals is an effective reminder of what you need to do and once you’re done, a good review of your accomplishment. A simple list on a piece of notebook paper is fine, or using a computer program to really jazz it up works just as well. You may want to hang it up somewhere, as a constant reminder to work toward your goals: inside your closet, the back of your medicine cabinet door, or on your bulletin board near your desk.

Affirm it. Affirmation is really more than writing down, “I am going to buy my $750,000 home by Christmas” twenty times. It’s actually being conscious not only of your thought processes, but also of your acts during the day.

If you’re trying to save money and then you pass by a shop window where a great pair of shoes seems to have your name on it, think, “If I buy those shoes, would I be making my goal of saving easier? Will I be able to meet my deadline if I splurge just this once? A few months from now if I don’t meet my deadline because I didn’t save enough, would I feel good about it?”

Stop procrastinating. So you’ve heard this before. Big deal. Well, it is. Time wastage is one of the greatest crimes in history. If Henry Ford put off studying and tinkering with machines for another time, someone else would have improved on automobiles and he wouldn’t have gone down in history as a pioneer. If you’re used to procrastination, being bullheaded about a goal can seem scary at first. Try to set a schedule and then reward yourself each time you meet it.

Tips:

Small decisions can have a great impact on you working towards your goal. Remember that your goals are your road maps to success in life. Without them, you can lose your way. Although you can always retrace your steps, you might not have the time, opportunity, energy or resources you once had when you could have made your goals happen one by one.




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How to Accomplish a Goal


We all have dreams. Whether they are big or small, they have a huge importance on our lives. But we need a plan to get there.

Steps:

Set a realistic goal. Take a big dream, like "I want to be famous", and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps, like "I want to star in a science fiction movie", "I want to go to three auditions a week", "I want to move to another city" and "I want to save $5000 so I can move."

Plan ahead. Once you've broken down your goal into pieces, write down the steps on a piece of paper to make sure you have everything thought out. One of the worst things that can happen is your almost to the point of your goal, but you're not sure what to do next. Also, give yourself deadlines for each step. Otherwise, you'll end up procrastinating and never achieving your dream.

Brainstorm ideas. Are there different ways to reach your goal? Write everything down that you can think of in three minutes, no matter how silly or impossible it may seem. For example, you could go to acting school, or maybe you could land a spot in a reality show that would get you started.

Define and describe your goal. Write down when you want to achieve it. Write down the reasons why you want it. Write down what it would feel like after you have achieved it. Figure out exactly what it will take to get it. Be realistic about the time things will take. Many people don't allow themselves enough time, and give up too soon.

Be positive. Your goal should be written and have positive intent about what you want to bring into your life. This is very important, since the focus of your goal should not be centered around describing a problem you want to eliminate.

Contingency planing Never forget about the problems that might come up on the way and prepare for them. Positive thinking is important but preparedness is better than being shocked or devastated when obstacles appear.

Learn from mistakes. Making mistakes should be a subject at school to teach all our children how to learn from them, instead of trying to avoid them. In the pursuit of a goal you are likely to make some mistakes. Don't see them as bad or get angry. They are important to correct you and to lead you to success.

Draw on all your past achievements that are relevant to your goal. No matter how small you perceive your achievements, list them anyway. It could be something small such as joining a healthy eating mailing list, to coming home from work late, yet preparing a tasty nutritious meal for your family in under 30 minutes. Once you review your list, you will be amazed at how all those small achievements soon add up, and how much you are really capable of.

Visualize. Close your eyes and imagine yourself accomplishing your goals. Where are you? How did you get there? How do you feel? Do this often.
Don’t get swayed easily with the noise and happenings going on outside. Put your attention on what you are trying to achieve. Remember the goal and you will have control over the discomforts and difficulties.

Listen to your internal dialogue. What you are saying inside affects you physically, emotionally and mentally. Is your defense system inside trying to make you stick to your past, limiting beliefs and perceptions? Take over and challenge your inner critics. Monitor any excuses you might be making in relation to your goal. For example, saying 'I don't finish work until late and won't have time to cook!' You must recognise that if you are truly passionate about your goal, it is up to you to make time.

Make a list of your personal strengths in relation to your goal. For instance, if you have a healthy eating goal you might want to consider strengths such as your level of commitment to eating healthily, or the fact that you enjoy cooking and experimenting with new recipes or even that you are an excellent cook. The list of personal strengths you can draw up is endless.

Seek help. Find the information, skills and knowledge that you need from other people, books, and audio or video programs. Speed up your learning process by emulating what other successful people have done. You save time and get results faster.

Create benchmarks or milestones. A benchmark is something you can use to measure your progress and know you're on track. For example, you can write "The first stage of reaching my goal will be done when I'm in the Entertainment section of the newspaper!" or "I'll know I've reached my goal of being famous when I'm a guest on Oprah."

Make a timeline. Draw a horizontal timeline with a dot at each end. The left end represents now, and the right end represents a point in the future. Specify what you want to happen and when, from now until then.

Be passionate. Striving towards a goal without passion is like a fire which slowly runs out of fuel to burn. Get excited, this will mean that you will love what you are doing. Methodically check your behaviors against impassioned dreams developed as a child. Always share the child within amongst your potential peers. This empowers the Law of Attraction that shapes the dreams of the child into the creative force of the adult.

Revisit, evaluate, and if you need to, adjust your goals. Keep a written record of your goals in a place where you'll remember to read them every day. They'll change and adjust over time as your life does, so keep them up-to-date.

Consider new opportunities and options that come your way. Sometimes things have a way of unintentionally leading you exactly where you want to go.

Start working towards your goals today. Ask yourself, "What can I do today to get one step, however small, closer to achieving my goals?"

Persevere. Now that you've got the momentum going, don't let it stop! Some steps may seem less exciting than others, but make sure to stick to your plan until the end!

Tips:

Don't forget the words of Lao-Tzu: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Be true to yourself. Your goal won't be nearly as sweet if you achieve it by doing things you're not proud of.

Make sure your goal is SMART:


Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Time-related



Warnings: Things don't always work out as you had planned. Stick to your goals, but be flexible.

Don't share your goals with people who might tear you down. But, conversely; find someone close to you or a coach who will play the devil's advocate role - as learning to challenge yourself in new ways can help you to improve and get closer to your goals.

Do not be tempted to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. If something doesn't fit or it doesn't feel right, try a different approach.

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How to Achieve Short Term Goals

No matter what the task, it is essential to be able to adhere to one's short term goals.

[edit] Steps

Make sure your goals are realistic and timely. Realistic means a number of things; make sure they actually are short-term, and are not ambitious. It's okay to have ambitious goals, but for an ambitious goal, you need simpler short-term goals. Timely means that they have a set time. This is where most goal setters fail and procrastinators succeed. Procrastinators will often say "I will get it done," but by simply adding on a time and keeping a promise "I will get it done by 8:00 on Tuesday or I'm not watching Matlock." The goal automatically becomes more realistic.

Keep your goals specific, especially when they're short-term. "Get good grades in school" is not specific, neither is "Get good grades in 2nd semester Chemistry." Remember, these are short-term goals, be specific: "On Tuesday, from 8-10 pm, study and complete the homework for Chemistry." In this example, each short-term goal of studying and completing homework builds up to a larger goal of receiving good grades. If you provide loopholes for yourself to travel through, you'll find yourself making excuses to yourself and excepting them. Lay down the law, buckle down and get them done.

Bring something simple with you to track your goals. Some use technology, a palm pilot, a PDA, but this often creates dependencies. It's tempting to utilize the expensive technology you may possess, but often times it's easier to carry an index card in your wallet/purse with the goals written down.
The wallet/purse is used as a suggestion because it is something which people carry around with them everywhere.

Make sure you mark off the goals when they are accomplished. This may not seem very important at first, but developing this habit insures yourself that you are actually looking at the list. Often times, these list writers will only look at the list if they're adding to it.



Tips:
Keep in mind that nothing in this text will make you a better goal-setter; it's all up to you.

Most importantly is developing your ability to keep your own promises. If you're going to set goals for yourself, don't talk yourself out of them no matter how insignificant it may seem. Even if you don't think that overlooking a goal or promise to yourself could be detrimental, the habit which this behavior forms will be.

If the tips contained in this article aren't of help, you may be suffering from a type of procrastination which should be treated like a mental illness. Assess why and how you procrastinate with tools of psychology and/or, ideally, a psychologist.
Having a third party assess you is very useful. Be open to criticism. Often times third parties are more aware of the flaws that are keeping you from getting your goals accomplished than you are.


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How to Reach Your Hardest Goals

In your daily life, you always want to achieve things you think you could never ever do or achieve. But don't think like that and just give up... that is just going to make you feel like a big loser! Remember that nothing is impossible, if you try your best you'll be happy with your efforts.

Steps:

Always practice whatever you want, and don't tell yourself you cannot do it; denying your loves will make you feel sad.

If it's something that might take a long time (depending on your goal and how big it is) then know that you have more than enough time... you have a long life ahead of you! You can't give up on every single thing!

Try to get some people to help you. If you're interested in sports, music, or something similar, find a club/group you can join; it has been proven that people who have group support are more likely to reach their goal than people who go solo.

If it's something you don't want people to know about (personal things), then write down your plans, and think of some steps to assist you on your journey.

Work hard.



Tips:
Never say you can't until you try. Nothing is impossible!
If you give up at everything then what on earth are you doing here... this is life you know.


Warnings: Make sure your goals are reasonable.

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How to Switch Careers

Making a big career change isn't easy, especially if you've got kids to support, a mortgage to pay, and a car to worry about. But if you've got the motivation, you can do it. Here's how to do it.

Steps:

Tackle the golden question: If you had all the money in the world, what would you be doing with yourself? Don't hold back. This is brainstorming time. Make a list of all the things you'd rather be doing with your time. Your first few answers will probably be something like: Take a tropical vacation, spend more time with the kids, etc. But push your thinking beyond that.

Evaluate your skills and talents. Ask yourself: What am I good at? What do I most enjoy doing? Write down every skill you're capable of. Don't be shy.

Think of jobs that allow you to do what you really want to do, at least in some form, and apply your skills and talents every day. Be creative and open-minded.

Consider your financial situation. How much does it cost, on a monthly and annual basis, to support your current standard of living? Are you willing to lower your standard so that you can take a job that pays less?

Make a list of everything you want in your new job, and one of everything you don't.

Browse job descriptions in your desired field. Visit a site like Salary.com to find out how much you can expect to earn in your new career. (However, do realize that Salary.com is NOT the source businesses use to set salaries- they use services that survey other businesses. Salary.com just shows a possible average of salaries and is a decent general place to start for career info.) Also refer to the Occupational Outlook Handbookto see how competitive the job market may be.

Check local schools for courses and programs that may give you an edge. Start taking night classes while you're still at your current job. Establish rapport with your teacher - he or she will prove to be a valuable reference when you're applying for a new job.

Volunteer for organizations related to your desired career. For example, if you want to work in architecture, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for disadvantaged families. You get experience, and they get a helping hand!

Network. Talk to people in your desired field. Explain your situation. Ask them for advice. Give them your contact information. If what they say is true - "It's not what you know, it's who you know" - then cover all your bases in this department.

Save enough money to support you for 3-6 months, or however long you think it'll take to find a job in your new career that'll support you adequately.

Write a new resume. Make sure you include your objectives (based on step 1), education (step 6) and relevant experience (step 7). See also How to Write a Resume.

Start your job search and good luck!



Tips: Most people's deepest vocational passions fall within three categories: teaching, healing, and creating. If your focus in your career is on doing one of these three things, you're far more likely to draw satisfaction from your job.

Having a spouse with a steady job makes switching careers a lot easier, but is by no means necessary. You should, however, seek the moral support of friends and family.

Consider donating your time for free if your new chosen profession enables this, to help you gain some experience and meet people in the field.

Consider shifting roles within your workplace to give you a more rewarding experience.



Warnings: Consider your present career and the amount of time you need to retire. It may be better to stick with the job you have, retire a bit early, then take up something more rewarding. Bailing out early when you have a good retirement plan may compromise some of your other goals.

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