Successfully and Intentionally Raising Little Humans

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so confidently tell me they never yell at their children. Or the number of times I’ve seen child experts share their guidance that yelling reduces children’s self-esteem and therefore shouldn’t happen. Or that yelling isn’t a productive response.

Let me tell you something: as a mother of three boys ages 4 and under, yelling most definitely is a productive response. But there’s a time and place for it: yelling only happens when it’s an intentional choice I made that makes sense for the situation.

Here’s why.

I have a 4-year old, an almost 3-year old and a 1 year old. Did I mention they’re all boys? They’re extremely physical, all of whom are in seemingly perpetual motion. And when they’re not bouncing off the walls and furniture or pushing each other to “get there first,” they’re cackling at jokes only they seem to get and – it seems – finding ways to push me over the edge.

I recently had a neighbor tell me they can hear me yell, and one name seems to stand out more than others (the middle guy because second kids, man, right?).

And in that moment, I never felt so embarrassed or so confident ever before in my life. It was a completely unexpected and confusing response to hearing my neighbor say they can hear me. I mean, we were always taught to never air our dirty laundry – doesn’t disciplining your kids fall into that category? So, yeah, I was embarrassed, but…why wasn’t I more embarrassed?

It’s because I’m self-aware and I’m tuned in to each of my kids. I know what each of them need to thrive and I know how far they’re willing to push me to test their limits (and how far I know I can let them push those limits). I know how much sleep they each need so they’re not bears the next morning. I know how quickly I need to get breakfast for each of them when they wake up and I know what bedtime will look like if I let them stay up just 10 minutes longer. I know whether or not an extra book at bedtime is a good idea for them (honestly, it varies based on how their day was) and I know when they need a few extra minutes of individual attention during the day. I know when a fun “tubby time” event with everyone involved is a good idea and when they need to be separated. I know when one of them needs to just relax in the tub for a bit. I know when one of them needs to get some extra energy out and just run for a bit. I know each of their interests and I know how hard (or if I should even) push to get them to explore something new without writing it off immediately because it’s different.

I know me. And I know my kids. Because I’m self-aware enough to know where my limits are and my strengths are. And I’m aware enough of my surroundings – and especially my kids – to know when I need to push and when I need to let go.

For that reason, though my neighbors may sometimes hear me loudly guiding my kids (I’m going to start calling it that instead of “yelling”), I’m confident in the fact that I know when and why I raise my voice. It’s never a reaction; it’s a response. In fact, I’d say that 90% of the time, I loudly guide to just get their attention, to create a stop and notice moment for them, to bring them back to reality as I see one of them hanging the other over the back of the couch upside down while another one claims they’ll catch them while doing a backbend over the dog (ok, this is a bit extreme but you get the idea).

Sometimes, I have to raise my voice to get their attention because, after all, though they may be active little boys, they are also their own unique person.

They have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions.

They have their own (developing) sense of individualism.

They have their own preferences and desires and wishes and dreams.

I try to remember this when I get frustrated with how easy it seems to be for them to so easily tune me out in one moment only to bombard me with a stream of endless questions in the next.

I try to remember that we’re all unique individuals living in the same house under a specific set of rules. Our rules. The rules my husband and I created to do our best to raise good, kind humans. The rules we created to keep everyone safe and healthy. The rules we created based on what we believe is the right way to raise them, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world we live in.

They’re figuring out who they are – their likes and dislikes, what’s fun and not fun, what’s right and wrong – and they’re doing it with guidance from me. It can be exhausting. It can be exciting. It can be so much fun. And sometimes, I have to loudly guide to be sure they hear me and, more likely, to be sure no one gets hurt.

So, the next time (because we know there will be a next time) my neighbor tells me she can hear me yelling at my kids again, I’ll remember to say “thank you.” I’ll thank her for giving me a stop and notice moment to reflect on why I’ve been raising my voice. And I hope I’ll be in the same position to know each time was a response and not a reaction because, after all, I’m loudly guiding my boys to figure out who they are as individuals.

Take Action
To raise your tiny humans the best way you can, ensure you are self-aware. You know where your final straw is. You know what buttons are never ok to push. You know what rules make sense for your family because you’re not only aware of yourself and your limits, but you’re tuned in to your kid(s) and what each of them need to thrive.

A great way to start is to ask questions. Though I may loudly guide from time to time, I always follow it up with a question. “Can you explain to me why you thought that was a good idea?” or “Why did you do that?” are two of the more common ones in my house, but questions could be anything. Just keep them open. A yes/no question doesn’t allow for a discussion; get them talking and you’ll engage with them in a way you didn’t think possible the moment before.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

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This article first appeared on Thrive Global on October, 21, 2020.

How to Solve Any Challenge You Face (Really!)

It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were all struggling with how to make the right decision about what to do come the Fall. Do we send the kids back to school? Do we attempt a hybrid approach? Do we keep education 100% remote?

And the questions didn’t stop with our kids, either. Questions about whether or not it was safe to return to work, whether our jobs would still be there, if it was possible to shift to entirely remote work (or if a hybrid approach was an option), if we’d end up facing unemployment again, if we could afford to make a change, if now was the right time to make a job/career change.

So many questions. So much uncertainty.

So, if you’re laying awake at night trying to decide what will be the best and safest option for you and you’re your family, this post is for you.

Let me introduce you to our Solve Anything Process. We built the Solve Anything Process, a step-by-step guide, to help our clients expand their awareness of what they want and where they are so they can intentionally and wisely close the gap between the two. We find it works so well that we wanted to share it to help everyone better deal with the challenges and issues of the moment.

The Process Described
First, you start by identifying the focus of your Solve Anything Process. Call it a challenge, an issue, a situation – whatever you want to identify as the focus, write it down. Visualize it. Make it real. This is meant to be broad because the focus is the overall thing you are discussing. For example, the focus could be addressing decisions about school.

Second, you identify your goal. The goal is what you want to achieve. It needs to be very specific so you can easily determine whether or not it was achieved. For this example, let’s say the goal you want to solve in the decision about school is your child’s(ren’s) safety. So, the goal could be: to create a plan to ensure the safety of your son or daughter to/from and at school.

The differentiation is important. The focus is the issue, challenge or situation you’re facing. The goal helps you get clear on what you want to happen.

The reason to do this is to create a clear understanding of what currently exists – the things that are working (so you can do more of them) and the things that are not working (that are preventing you from achieving your goal – so you can address them and achieve your goal).

Here’s what this could look like:

What’s WorkingWhat’s Not Working
– Good at social distancing when given the ability to remain socially distant
– Doesn’t share school supplies
– Doesn’t share lunch or snacks
– Good communication about what happens during the day so you’re in the know
– Social distancing efforts aren’t always an option in school setting
– Doesn’t always keep a mask on
– Unsure what other parents are doing to protect their kids when they’re not at school
– Before/After school routine is unknown

Stop for a moment. You have just created a clear inventory of your situation. You can see where you are (what’s working and not working) and you can see what you want (be safe to/from and at school).

Notice: a clear, calm mind will be able to look at this in a productive way, allowing for the creation of options to solve how to move forward. If your thoughts are anxious and fear-based, however, you use your energy to stay afraid and not develop a sound solution.

The Solve Anything Process is designed to help you respond instead of react to what it is you want to solve.

Next, you’ll tackle the items on the “What’s Not Working” list. These are things that are stopping you from reaching your goal of safety to/from and at school. Don’t try to take care of all of them at once; pick one item from the list and brainstorm ways to make this better. For this example, consider brainstorming how to be better about wearing a mask. No idea should be dismissed; consider everything and get others involved, including your kid(s). Some ideas could include:

  • Identify a specific mask to wear to and from school and one to wear at school
  • Create/buy a custom mask that your kid(s) is/are excited to wear and show off to their friends
  • Create/buy a mask that is comfortable and easy to use

Don’t stop at 3. Keep going until all ideas are exhausted. Then pick one and make it happen.

Recap
The Solve Anything Process helps you calmly and intentionally take a look at a challenge, issue or situation and find a solution that makes sense for you. You gather information, you figure out where you are and where you want to be, you identify what’s working and not working and you pick one thing to make better and go do it.

Scroll down to see an example of how to complete the Solve Anything Process Worksheet.

Take Action
Give the Solve Anything Process a try. For it to be most successful, make your goal extremely specific. This approach can help you figure out how to answer a question or overcome a challenge that has been bothering you or frustrating you because it forces you to think and respond instead of react. Taking that intentional step back helps remove some of the emotions so you can think more clearly to use your energy to solve instead of being aggravated, frustrated, irritated or anxious.

This is how to solve anything.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Identifying Your End Goal Can Make It Happen

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Rethinking Your Relationships

The pandemic has created a reset of epic proportion. Rarely do we get these grand interruptions in the habits of our days. Rarely do we get the opportunity to stop and notice what’s working and not working so we can continually improve.

We’ve been gifted that moment.

One of the greatest benefits I’m seeing come from COVID-19 is that we have the time to re-evaluate and refocus on what is really important in our lives. In many cases, the one thing that tops the list is our relationships.

When we stop and notice our relationships – and take an inventory of what works and doesn’t work in each of them – we become clear of what we should do more of and what needs improving. The observations can be enlightening, particularly the observations on what’s not working. Things like realizing work became more of a priority than time with your kids, or that you’ve accepted that your teen is distant and non-communicative because it’s been easier that way, or that you and your spouse have become roommates instead of living the passion that initially brought you together.

The power of the COVID-19 interruption is that we can more clearly see what life looks like today so we can choose how to move forward in a way that is wiser and better.

Consider these 3 ways to rethink your relationships at this exact moment to make each of them better.

  1. Get present. Use some of the time the pandemic has forced on you to assess what relationship you want to have with the important people in your life, and what is currently working and not working in each. Don’t judge where things are; just notice and assess it (is it where you want it to be?). Now you have information and clarity about what you want and where you are. You can’t improve or celebrate what you can’t see.
  2. Brainstorm improvements. Choose any of the things you see are not working and brainstorm ways you could improve it. If you feel you spend too much time on technology, for example, consider brainstorming ways you can turn it off or step away for a bit. Include the other person of the relationship you are rethinking in your brainstorming so you can work together to suggest improvements that work for both of you.
  3. Choose and implement. From your ideas, choose one and decide how you will work together to make it happen. You may have decided that increasing the amount of conversation is something you both want to work on, so your plan may be to have one meal a day with each other where you set the time for 10 minutes to talk about the important things on your mind with each other. Or, it could be that your commitment is to stop multitasking and listen generously when the other person is speaking. Each relationship will need different things to rebuild it or sustain it because the people in each relationship are different. Be open to what will make the greatest difference and do your part to make it happen. Small changes over time generate large results.

There is a reason why we are social creatures; we need each other to make it through our days. And the more successful we are at building and sustaining relationships, the more successful we will be in handling all of the ups and downs in life.

Take Action
Identify 3 of the important relationships in your life. Define what a successful relationship would look like in each of the 3 you identified. Then assess where you are with each, specifically what works and what doesn’t work about that relationship. Choose something that is not working in each relationship and make a plan to improve it.

Make reviewing and improving relationships a weekly event. The results will amaze you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Your Impact is Greater Than You Think

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Reassess What’s Really Important

For all the pain and difficulty of COVID-19, it has at least one benefit: it interrupted us mindlessly moving through our days and gave us the time and space to reassess what’s really important. There is nothing like a pandemic or catastrophe to remind us that life is finite, each moment matters, and we should fill our moments with things that are important to us.

Here are four things I’ve come to realize while coaching clients during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • People matter more than things. Sure, we need the essentials, but most things don’t bring us joy the way spending time with the people we care about does. The thought of losing those who matter most to us has put into perspective the caliber of the relationships we have with those people. During the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to refocus, rethink and redefine our relationships. How are you refocusing on your relationships? How are you reconnecting in a safe way with people who matter to you? Do the people in your life know how much they mean to you?
  • We create – and own – our happiness. COVID-19 has reminded us that we can’t look to the outside world to be happy because in a moment, much of it can and was taken away from us. We still need to be happy in our lives, so that makes it abundantly clear that we must build the happiness from within. Sure, things will happen, but if this moment is truly the only moment that matters, then what are you doing to make it the happiest it can be – with whatever is available to you?
  • Health is something we should never take for granted. So many of us have habits that don’t encourage a wise and healthy lifestyle. And, the moment things got tough because of COVID-19, many reverted to unhealthy habits to deal with the frustration, challenge and disappointment of the moment. Since COVID-19 is a heath-focused emergency, let it raise your focus on health to a higher priority. Assess your choices and if they are improving your current and longer-term health – physical, emotional and spiritual. Make time to sort through your challenging emotions to develop a practice of mindfulness or gratitude. Make time to be intentional about what and how often you eat to stay healthy enough to handle the mental challenges. Develop a stronger connection to your purpose to help you get up excited each morning, regardless of the challenges.
  • Life doesn’t always go as planned, but it is still the best show in town. Most of us come to life with specific expectations and when they don’t happen, we are disappointed or aggravated. As we have come to realize with COVID-19, our days require us to focus on balance; some things work, some things don’t work. When we focus only on the things that don’t work, we miss the things that are currently working. We get out of balance. The more this happens, the more difficult is to actually see the good things. So, start each day with a blank page and line drawn down the middle. The left column is titled, What’s Working; the right column is titled, What’s Not Working. However many entries you have on the What’s Not Working side of the page, create as many for the What’s Working side. This will require you to focus more on the positive. As you start, you will see the plusses work to counterbalance the minuses.

Some people continually stop and observe what is going on to intentionally stay focused on what’s important. For others, it takes a COVID-19 moment. This is just your world giving you information – from which you have the opportunity to make wiser choices in the next moment.

Take Action
In this moment of pause and reset, reflect on what is truly important to you. Define it. Be very familiar with is so you can now better assess how you use your time and resources to ensure they help you achieve or live what is important to you. Get in the habit of checking in daily and making small continual modifications. Staying tuned in will help you use the lesson of the pandemic to ensure your days are filled with moments of things that matters most to you. 

By Jay Forte

Continue reading Your Personal Board of Directors

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Purpose, Priority and Productivity

COVID-19 has changed our schedules. Now working at home without a commute, many of us may find ourselves with some extra time that we use to either do additional work or aimlessly sift through the endless Netflix or Prime menus.

Where is someplace between the two that is more productive and better for you?

There are so many ideas worth sharing, learning and using that just 10 minutes a day with a book can change your life – and improve the lives of others. In fact, books have introduced me to how to be present to my world, own who I am, think big, encourage others and manage my emotions, just to name a few.

One of the books I read that I have been recommending to my clients is Gary Keller’s, The One Thing (The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results). The focus of this book is to get clear about your purpose because it helps you identify your priorities. Your priorities, once they are intentionally created, drive your productivity.

It made me realize that one of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 is that it gave us a rare opportunity to reset our lives. It gave us the chance to stop and notice what was working and what wasn’t working in both personal and professional lives. It gave us the chance to ask ourselves What could I do to make this better?

And in his book, Keller shares his guidance on how you can make [anything] better: with purpose, priority and productivity.

Purpose. When you stop all the noise of the world spinning around you, what is it you are trying to do? What matters to you? What is the one thing you want to do or achieve today, this week, or even this year? Getting clear about this will help you rule in – or out – other things as they start to show up. I like to think of it in two buckets: the things that support my direction and goal, and the things that don’t. This way, I have the ability to wisely and intentionally respond to my world instead of reacting to it. I know my road and my path. Though you need to be adaptable and flexible to respond to a changing world, ask yourself what is important enough for you to focus on. What is the one thing you want to achieve, do or be? Take a moment and define it.

Priorities. With clarity of purpose, you can more successfully create your priorities. I like to think of these as daily, weekly and monthly. What do I want to achieve this month that will help me achieve my purpose or my one thing? When you intentionally identify your priorities for the month, you can break them down by week and by day. Following this approach allows me to direct my best attention to the things that will help me achieve what I want for me, my family, my work and my life. So, with the additional time that many of us have because of quarantine, no commuting and limited leisure activities, clearly define what your A, B and C priorities are. A priorities get the most attention and, ideally, they are connected to your purpose. The Bs and Cs come along with life in general.  My daily to-do list helps me stay focused on doing the things that matter to achieve the things that matter. What are your priorities for today? This week? This month?

Productivity. Focusing on priorities increases your ability to be productive. You don’t waste time on things that don’t support your goals. You do things that fit your talents, strengths and passions. The result is that you feel more energized and more engaged, able and interested to do more, be more, achieve more. Confidence increases because you are clearer about what you want and that what you want really matters.

Take Action
As we march toward yet another change as we adjust to the back-to-school season and many organizations with remote or hybrid remote workplaces, stay focused on purpose, priorities and productivity. Don’t let the minutes, hours, days and weeks get away from you, locked on to season after season of Netflix or Prime shows. Sure, build in some leisure time, but stay productive by getting clear of your purpose and defining your priorities. Then revel in the difference you make for yourself and others.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading To React or Respond, That is the Question

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Where I’m Meant to Be

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a task thinking ahead to the next task you need to get through? Or maybe you find yourself thinking of something you’d rather be doing instead?

It’s human nature, I believe, to always be thinking of what’s next. We even have a program designed to help people navigate what comes next after a big life moment or shift from how things used to be.

But what if, before we started thinking ahead to what’s next, we take a moment to show up to and appreciate where we are. What if we could be fully present in each task to learn from and enjoy everything we can get out of it?

I’m the first to admit I’m always thinking ahead to the next task on the list, watching the clock to make sure we stay on schedule (the hangry is very real if I’m even a few minutes behind for snacks or meals). But when I interrupt this incessant need to be someplace other than right here, right now, I not only enjoy it more, but I also feel more at peace. I feel more productive. Ultimately, I feel happier.

Let me give you an example. Most days, my boys and I end up in our playroom for a few hours in the morning. As you can imagine, there are days when it feels like I’m constantly the referee, blowing the whistle and breaking up fights every few minutes. But, I’ve noticed that when I remind myself to be present to all the personalities, preferences and moods for everyone in the room, the entire mood changes. And a large part of it is I am now more aware of who each of my boys are and how to be with them so I am less triggered and wiser in what I say and do. As a result, everyone seems to be happier.

How do I center myself and remind myself to be fully present? I use this mantra: This is where I’m meant to be. Right here. Right now. Doing exactly what I’m doing.

How could a continual reminder to center yourself and bring your attention to the task, person, moment, feeling or situation at hand improve your productivity, your experience and, ultimately, your life?

Take Action
When you find your mind is in a place where your body is not, you are not present. But don’t judge it. Just notice it, and see that there is an opportunity to make improvements.

When this happens to you, take a deep breath, close your eyes and remind yourself this is where I’m meant to be in this moment. Come back to unite your mind and body. Be where you are. And if you need to be in another place, bring your mind AND body there. Your intentional effort to be present will cause a mindset shift and you’ll start to feel calm and focused instead of rushed or distracted.

Remember to be present in the moment. It will change the way you see everything you do and can set you on a more productive course as you move on to whatever comes next.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Managing Your Self-Talk

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I’m Grateful For [Fill in the Blank]

I was recently doing an in-home workout and the instructor said something that struck me: “Are you out of breath? Be grateful for that. Be grateful that you have the ability and the opportunity to be out of breath by moving.”

That literally stopped me in my tracks. I think many people who workout to any degree can appreciate the feeling of being out of breath and being embarrassed when it happens so quickly or so easily during a workout. But to have the ability to shift your mentality about what it means? Eye opening.

It got me thinking about the mindset shift we talk about at The Forte Factor. When we say mindset shift, we’re talking about your ability to change the way you see something and, therefore, the way you think about it and respond to it. It’s based in being aware of yourself and your surroundings, and using that information to decide (with intention) what to do next (and how to do it).

As you can imagine, most people believe that to be able to master the mindset shift requires significant work.

Here’s why that’s not true.

Sure, to master a mindset shift requires practice, but “mastering” the mindset shift really just requires the ability to interrupt what you always do (stop) to notice what’s happening in a specific moment. Then, with the additional information you noticed by being present to your moment, you can make your best decision and go act.

Seeing your loss of breath during a workout is an opportunity – a stop and notice moment. Though you could use it to be embarrassed or judge the shape you are in, you could also use it to see your progress, applaud your energy and reconfirm your focus on fitness. Same event. Different mindset.

Getting caught in the rain because you forgot an umbrella is a moment to be thankful that you have the ability to feel the rain, and then run from it. Until this moment, what was your mindset about getting caught in the rain?

Standing in an extremely slow-moving line for coffee is a moment to be thankful that you have the funds available to purchase what you’re waiting for as well as to connect with the people who are experiencing the same line as you. Until this moment, what was your mindset about waiting in line for coffee?

Being able to make the mindset shift is all about intention, so start small. Catch yourself in the little moments. Stop and notice what you think, feel and do. Each of these little moments provide you with the opportunity to expand what you experience and choose how you experience the world around you. Each provide moments to be grateful for, and moments to build on.

Take Action
Make the effort to intentionally stop at various points throughout your day to notice you (what you are thinking and feeling) and your world (what is going on). Then work to see the good, the important, the valuable and the exceptional in that moment. Challenge yourself to be more aware of when you feel yourself getting frustrated, embarrassed or annoyed. Instead of allowing those unproductive emotions to take the lead, flip the situation on its head. Practice your mindset shift. Start by saying, “I’m grateful for…” and fill in the blank.

You’ll see an immediate shift in your demeanor, behavior and mentality for the rest of the day.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Life’s Little Moments

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It Won’t Break When It Falls

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, James Patterson

I bet this passage will resonate with you differently depending on where you are in life. For some of my clients, the conversation revolves around that seemingly always-out-of-reach work/life balance. For others, the conversation revolves around which of those five balls is rubber and which is glass.

But it always culminates in the same type of questions:

  • How can I keep my job / my career but still maintain good, strong relationships with my family?
  • How can I possibly spend any time of the day working out to be healthy when I already feel like I have to pick work or my kids?
  • How can I maintain any semblance of friendship with others outside of the house when there’s already such limited time for me and my spouse / partner to just be together?

There’s an underlying theme here, one that hit me square in the eyes as I was reading The One Thing by Gary Keller: balance is really a question of priority.

Think about everything you have going on in your life. Your kids, your partner/spouse, your friends, your job. Now think about where they rank as a priority for you. Don’t let yourself be confused about necessity or desire. Challenge yourself to really see the priorities.

  • Is it a priority for you to be present with your kids all day, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to advance in your career, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to work out during the day, or a desire?

Define priority. Define desire. Understand the difference between the two.

These are your definitions; no one can tell you what is right or wrong for you. You get to decide.

So here’s the biggest challenge: don’t judge it when you see it. You know what a priority looks like, so start your day by prioritizing the big stuff. What needs to get done today for work? At home? With family?

This will not only help you set stronger and more powerful intentions for your day, but it will also help stay sane, calm and more balanced in a period of great uncertainty and change. It will give you more control over things that may have seemed to be out of or not within your control.

Be honest with yourself. If you drop one of those five balls, what will bounce back and what will break or change in a way that can never be replaced?

Take Action
Learning how to prioritize work activities, family activities and personal activities is not the hard part. The hard part is learning how not to judge what you decide is a priority for you. Commit to your priorities. You’ll find that what you decide is a priority for you may be the glass ball, after all.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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Don’t Create Unnecessary Limits

What would you accomplish if you weren’t afraid? If you didn’t have doubts? If you didn’t limit yourself to time or other resources?

What if you allowed yourself to think big?

I think most people hear “think big” and “don’t limit yourself” and immediately say “it’s just not realistic because [fill in the excuse].”

Excuses like: I don’t have the time. I’m not financially prepared to try that. I have too much going on already.

And I admit I find myself in that mindset quite a bit, especially now when I’m home with EVERYONE, and the time I have for big thinking is after everyone has gone to bed… and I’m barely able to keep my eyes open.

So, rather than dwell on all the things I could do “if only I had the time,” I started thinking about why I feel that way. And I started by thinking of the people who have had a direct impact on the way life is today, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos (to name a few).

These people didn’t do their best thinking when everything was quiet and perfect. Instead, they showed up creative, dreaming and inventing in the everyday moments of life. What they each created wasn’t always seen as a project, but more as a way of being.

So, do you impose unnecessary limits on your thinking, dreaming and inventing? Do you think that having the job or the life of your dreams is for others and not you? Maybe all you need is a reset. Here is my guidance:

  1. Set your goal. Picture what you want. It could be work related, could be family related, could be something else entirely, like losing weight or committing to reading more. Identify it (and be specific). Write it down. Allow yourself to think big. You’ve just allowed yourself to visualize your goal. Now you know where you’re going.
  2. Figure out where you are today. With greater clarity about where you are headed, refocus on your starting point. Be honest about where you are. Assess what’s working or not working in this moment. If it is working, do more of it. If it is not working, figure out why and make an intentional effort to change it (it could be the reason why where you are is not where you want to be). That’s okay. Now you know. This will help you decide on the options to move forward.
  3. Stop judging. Now that you see both edges – where you are and where you want to be – the gap between the two becomes clear. Maybe this makes you feel a little anxious. Maybe you’re running through a bunch of reasons why what you want could never happen for you. Maybe you have doubts about your abilities and think the goal is unrealistic, especially in the timeframe you identified. STOP. Stop right there. The purpose of setting a goal and getting clear about where you are right now is to see what is true in this moment. Don’t waste your energy on judging the situation. Instead, use your energy to come up with ideas to get closer to your goal.
  4. Stop comparing. This is your goal, specific to your wants and needs and your life. No one else has exactly the same goal. No one else encounters the same obstacles and challenges you will. No one has the same talents and strengths you do to get you to your goal. Don’t distract yourself by thinking about what success looks like for others. Stay focused on what success looks like for you.
  5. Make a plan. This is the hardest part because we are creatures of instant gratification. We can easily get distracted and frustrated as we work toward a goal when we don’t see progress immediately. So create a plan to reach your goal with mini-goals built in. Start small. One or two things. Then notice your progress and reach for more. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you will not achieve your goals in a day. But you can make remarkable progress little by little.
  6. Find an accountability partner. The best way to stick to your plan to achieve your goal is to ensure you’re holding yourself accountable to it. Sometimes, having someone else help you stay accountable can be helpful, especially when you have a human moment and feel too tired, too frustrated or too distracted to stay focused. Choose wisely.

Oftentimes, we are the greatest limits in our own success. Sure, sometimes there are finite resources, like the number of hours in a day or financial assistance, but that should not prohibit you from thinking, imagining, dreaming and inventing big. Instead of seeing the resources as obstacles, consider how they can become part of your plan to reach your goal. You may need to think a little differently to approach the goal (or mini-goals) to overcome the challenge of limited resources, but when you don’t allow the doubts to creep in, when you hold yourself accountable to the end result, you’ll see a significant change in how you think.

Take Action
Identifying a goal and sticking to it is hard. Just think of all those New Year’s Resolutions that rarely make it past February 1. The first step is to work on getting rid of your limited thinking. Dream big and start small to make it happen. Get clear. Get help. Stay on task.

As you practice this and start to expand your thinking, notice how you feel about each new challenge or opportunity that presents itself. Adjusting your mindset to avoid allowing doubts, fears and uncertainty take over your thoughts opens the door to an entirely new way of being.

Watch how it changes your work output, your relationships and your overall mental well-being.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s how you move past it.

So set your goal and have the courage to go get it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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How to Help Your Kids Decide What to do After High School

Asking a 16, 17 or 18-year old about what they want to do for the rest of their lives can be daunting, especially now. Our world is unpredictable and, lately, pretty volatile. It’s hard to plan for something next week, never mind next year.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking our high school students – and even our college students – about what comes next. It all just depends on how you’re asking the questions.

Consider these four tips to learn how to ask productive questions of your high school student(s) to encourage self-discovery and a greater conversation about what comes after high school.

First, ask questions that help them focus on what they are good at and what they like. Questions like “What do you want to do with your life” are unproductive. These are too large and focus more on the end. Most people, regardless of their age or where they are in life, would probably answer “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” because this type of question can feel overwhelming. More productive questions include:

  • What is something you really love to do?
  • When you are the happiest, what are you doing that makes you feel so happy?
  • Tell me about something you’re really good at, something that comes naturally to you.

All of these questions set up the conversation to explore what they could do with their lives, but it starts by putting them in a comfort zone: asking them questions they know the answers to.

Second, build on that self-awareness by digging deeper. Ask for examples of when they feel successful. Ask about what impact or contribution they want to make. Ask about what gets their attention for careers and why. Ask about the things that matter to them and what careers could lend themselves to making the things that matter the priority. Encourage them to dig deeper into who they are, what matters to them and how they could see themselves. Despite being the parents or caregivers, you may find yourself discovering new things about your kids that you may have overlooked in the busy day-to-day of life.

Third, be prepared to explore a variety of options. This is the time of explorations, not solutions (those will come). Many teens have limited views of what is possible because what they think is often based on what their friends or family say. Help them see greater options to expand what they consider. Having a greater number of options can improve the selection of one that is truly meaningful. Options could include trade school, a 2-year institution a 4-year institution, a gap year, or going right to work. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so be flexible and encourage your kid to find the right fit for them, based on where their natural talents and passions lay.

And finally, be supportive. Regardless of what your kid(s) may want to further explore or what talent they want to expand on, it is their life they are building, not yours. Remember that your role as the parent and caregiver is to guide from the side, not be the sage on the stage. Guide and support, don’t direct and tell. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you’ll find you are much more comfortable gently nudging your kids back onto their path as opposed to paving the way for them.

The conversation about what comes after high school (or college) shouldn’t be about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. The conversation should focus on what you know of yourself and how that self fits in to today’s world. This takes guidance, patience and regular conversations to create greater self-awareness and self-discovery, two pieces of getting to know and understand the real you. Once you have this insight into yourself, when you learn how to tune out the world and all its demands, you will feel empowered to make better and more intentional decisions that fit you.

After all, like Buckminster Fuller once said, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know how to do that won’t get done if I don’t do it?”

Take Action
Start today. Pay attention to how you are helping your high school or college students prepare to make good life choices. Ask a lot of questions. Be available to discuss their responses. Be open and remind yourself that they are living their lives, not yours. Help them discover who they are so they can live it wisely and intentionally.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Help College Grads Succeed in Your Organization

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