Look to the Left, Look to the Right

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

When we get ready to go out in the world, we shower, get ready and put our blinders on. We generally focus on what’s in front of us. As a result, there’s a lot that happens around us that we never seem to notice. And if you don’t notice it, you can’t consider it, use it or be changed by it. The result? A limited view of our world with a slew of missed opportunities.

To expand your view and increase your opportunities, train yourself to take off the blinders and look left, then look right. 

Look left, look right. What do you see that expands your world?

Notice the people, information and wisdom around you. I have always believed that we don’t need to create all of our own solutions in life. So many of the solutions that would be meaningful for us are already in front of us, if we would just take to time to expand our view.

Look left, look right. Who needs your help, kindness or support?

We can easily look past those who need our kind word, smile, assistance or support. Fixated on our own perspective, we sometimes forget we travel this road of life with many others. Collectively, we have the capacity to improve the lives of those around us… if we notice them.

Think how it feels when someone reaches out to you with help, kindness or support.

Look left, look right. What is one thing you could improve?

I was repeatedly reminded as a kid that everyone is here to stop and notice our world while asking, “What could I do to make things better?” When we notice in many directions, we find opportunities to bring what we do best to our world, to make changes and improvements for our benefit and for the benefit of others. Be on the lookout for ways to make things better.

Look left, look right. What is one thing you could learn?

We live in amazing times with almost unlimited access to information, skills, education and wisdom. Consider expanding what you know in areas that are not just in front of you. Learn about something that interests you or something you previously hadn’t heard of, and be willing to share what you know to activate others’ learning.

Looking left and right reminds us not to be so single-minded. Stop and notice all of the amazing things around you, then consider what opportunities the millions of people in our big, bold world create for you to learn, grow and make things better for all of us.

 

Consider reading Be Impressed With Your World

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It’s Not Personal – It’s Just Life

By Jay Forte, Author, Coach, Educator

I used to believe that good things happen to good people and, therefore, that the converse was also true. What I have grown to believe over time is that you create your happiness (or angst and pain) in each moment, regardless of what the world and life sends.

There are stories upon stories of people who experienced what they felt was a catastrophe or negative event – an illness, losing a job, bankruptcy, divorce. This is compounded by the fact that we have been conditioned to be grateful for the things that work out and disappointed by the things that don’t go according to plan. We label and compare things so life turns into a series of events that are either good or bad, happy or sad, right or wrong.

But the reality is that successes and failures, opportunities and challenges are all just part of life. It’s not personal – it’s just life.

How we decide to deal with whatever life sends us is the critical component to living life like it matters. You determine if it is right to be good, supportive, loving, kind and generous, not because it will make good things happen to you, but because when you have this mindset, you are changed in how you experience life and show up to your world. When you choose to be loving and kind, regardless of what goes on around you, you own your life.

When you experience things that you label as disappointing, what is your approach to reassess or reflect on them for their lesson, opportunity or blessing?

When life sends you something difficult, challenging or aggravating, what is your intention to see it is as just a life event that doesn’t have to set off your triggers, inspire a meltdown or give you permission to take it out on others?

Each event comes to you as neutral. Your beliefs and what you have been taught create its meaning. You have the choice to look at whatever comes to you to find in it the opportunities, lessons and happiness. If you find your view of things continues to make you unhappy or makes you feel that you are at odds with your world and life, what beliefs need to change?

Life isn’t always easy, but it is always remarkable. It has good and tough times. Celebrate the good times. Learn from the tough times.

To quote a flight attendant from a recent flight on Southwest Airlines, “Sit back and relax or lean forward and be tense. Either way it’s your choice. We are still heading to Dallas…”

I love that. Be fully present, fully engaged and loving life – sit back and relax – or be angry, frustrated and bitter because of the things that have or haven’t happened in your life – lean forward and be tense. Either way, life is moving on. How you ride is up to you.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. How will you start to focus on what is great and good in your life, not just on the frustrations and aggravations?
  2. What tough event or situation in your life turned out to be a blessing?
  3. What is one belief you have that holds you back from loving your life? How can you start to change it?

 

Consider reading The Greatness in the Small Things

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What the IMAX Teaches Us About Being Present

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

I took a break from writing recently to see the new 3D movie Thor: Ragnarok at our local IMAX cinema.

The best way I can describe seeing a movie at the IMAX is that is a truly different type of movie experience. With a significantly larger screen and a fully integrated sound system that creates sound from every part of the theatre, you are completely pulled into the movie. And that’s only further enhanced when you’re watching a movie in 3D.

Those who know me may be surprised to hear I saw a movie – at the IMAX, no less. Truth is, I just can’t sit still that long. But I didn’t move for the full 2+ hours of that movie. I didn’t think about work, life’s challenges or opportunities, or what was due tomorrow. I didn’t feel the need to eat, chat or check my phone.

The IMAX knows how to make you very present, to focus only on the event in front of you and nothing else.

There are three big lessons we can learn from the IMAX experience to help us be more tuned in and present in our encounters with the people and events in our lives.

1. IMAX provides focus. At the IMAX, the screen quite literally fills your view. You’re forced to focus on the screen as a result of amazingly clear visuals that make you notice things about people and places a smaller screen with less clarity just can’t provide. As a result, you gather exponentially more information in each moment that keeps you more connected to the screen and the content.

What would it take for you to focus this way on someone or something to learn the most about them/it?

2. IMAX eliminates distractions. The screen is large and bright, and the rest of the theatre is dark. The sound and music are loud so the noises of the people around you are diminished or deleted. This compounded effect forces you to watch what they want you to watch, to tune in to the action of the moment.

What would it take to not be interrupted by distractions when you interact with someone or do something?

3. IMAX uses many senses. The sounds and sights are all-consuming. You don’t disconnect because the senses work together to keep you connected; this is done both exceedingly well and on purpose.

What would it take to concentrate all of your senses on someone or something to give your full attention?

The IMAX experience teaches us to focus, eliminate distractions and use more of our senses to be fully engaged, to get the full experience. Think of the impact this kind of awareness could have in your life, relationships and situations.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. To be more present, how can you control distractions when you are interacting with another?
  2. To be more present, how can you give a person or an event your attention?
  3. To be more present, how can you manage your emotions and feelings to stay attentive and connected?

Need help getting present? Consider talking with a coach to develop your personal mindfulness practices.

 

Consider reading Moving in Autopilot.

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What Does A Good Holiday Look Like For You?

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

The holidays can truly be amazing – or they can stress you out. There is an unspoken pressure to put up decorations, spend money on gifts and attend or host parties.

Frequently, we let marketers, media and the habits of others tell us how and what to celebrate. We get bullied into shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and coming up with a gift list for people we rarely think of all year. We feel the need to outdo our neighbors with decorations and to fill our calendars with limitless parties and gatherings.

So this year, I challenge you to define what a great holiday looks like for you.

There are many holiday traditions that warm your heart, celebrate important things and bring out the best in you and others. Think of the traditional holiday shows, gathering with friends and family, the decorations and the special foods.

But there are also the stressful holiday traditions, those that complicate life, guilt you into spending what you don’t have, to eat unhealthy things and leave you feeling run down and worn out by the time the holidays move on.

Just for a moment, throw out all holiday traditions you have. Pretend you have a clear slate to start over, to decide what you want to do and how to do it. Your goal: create what you define as a great holiday for you.

To do this, summarize all of your holiday habits and traditions. Which are productive and meaningful? Which ones are stressful and done just because you have always done them? What could you replace the stressful ones with to better remind you of the reason for the holiday?

Have an open conversation with the important people in your life about what you want for your holidays. Be open to hearing what they want. Then, work together to redefine your traditions, those that bring you up, inspire you and activate your love of others and life.

When you’re done, you’ll have a redefined version of a happy holiday, one that you and everyone around you will enjoy so much more.

 

Consider reading The Greatness in the Small Things

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Not the Same Old Thanksgiving Post

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

I love to read all the reminders to be grateful that come out this time of year. The holidays are really a remarkable time to help us refocus on the value of celebrating the people and events in our lives.

Because the being grateful theme is so pervasive at this time of year, I thought I would do something different: I challenge each of you to improve what you are grateful for.

Let me explain. As you pause at this time of year to notice the things to be grateful for, shift from noticing to taking action by asking yourself this one important question: “What could I do to make this better?” It is one thing to be grateful, it is another thing to make the things you are grateful for better.

In my programs, I share that I come from a large Italian family, and larger families often come with a lot of rules. Rules about homework, chores, how to treat each other, pets, neighbors, sharing… the list seems endless. Though I wasn’t always keen on all the rules, my Dad had one rule that was exceptional. He told us that as we come down the stairs each morning, we must tune in and pay attention to the things around us, then ask ourselves this question, “What could I do to make this better?”

So ask yourself this question in every aspect of your life. For example:

  • You say you are grateful for your relationships. What could you do on a daily basis to make them better, more authentic or more supportive?
  • You say you are grateful for a country with freedoms and liberties. What could you do on daily basis to make our country better?
  • You say you are grateful for the food you have. What could you do to share more of what you have to make another’s life better?
  • You say you are grateful for your health. What could you do to help others have better health and well-being?
  • You say you are grateful for your job and the life it provides. What could you do to make your workplace better, more inclusive and more supportive?

Making things better doesn’t mean they are bad and therefore need to change. It is just a new realization that with some intention, we can shift our gratitude to action.

So, as you sit around the table, look at the people at the table and be grateful for them. Then ask yourself, how can I make my relationships better? How can I be more generous with my resources? How can I be more supportive and helpful in my community, nation and world?

Think how many new things to be grateful for will emerge with this approach.

 

Consider reading Try This Instead

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What is A Good Day For You?

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Most of our todays look a lot like our yesterdays. Every morning, we launch right into habit mode and are surprised that the days seem to blend one into another. Nothing remarkable. Nothing amazing.

I believe that’s because we haven’t decided how our day will go. That’s right. You have a say in how your day unfolds. Sure, you can’t control every event throughout the day, but with a little intention, you can direct your responses and energy to make the things you want to see or experience actually happen.

It all starts with defining what a good day is for you. Most of us never reflect on this. In fact, too many of us let the world tell us what a good day means. Remember, you decide; what defines a good day for YOU and how can you make more intentional decisions to have a good day?

Here are two examples to think about.

Let’s say you define a good day as one where your family gets along. Already having this mindset helps you tune in to your family differently. You can share this request with others, manage your own emotions and influence how your family interacts. Without the intention, things are the way they always are.

Let’s say a good day for you is when you get personalized feedback from your manager, so you’re inspired to reach out to your manager to share that feedback is important to you. Or, because you’re more tuned in to this, you provide personalized feedback with your teammates, which activates the same response in your manager. Without the intention, things are the way they always are.

A good day for me includes having time to write. Sure, there are things I have to do, but I know I can define a day as remarkable when I make time to write to share thoughts about living our strengths and creating a life we love. Making time to write makes a big difference for me; I feel so much more alive, more grateful and more connected when I write.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What is a good day for you?
  2. What would remind you that each day is yours to define as either remarkable or unremarkable?
  3. What stops you from clearly identifying what you want to see, experience or achieve in your day?

It isn’t the number of days that matter, it’s the quality of the days. To create quality days, take the time to reflect on what makes a good day for you. Then, with greater clarity and intention, be determined to make it happen.

 

Need help getting focused? Consider talking with a coach to help you learn how to say what you want in life and how to go get it.

 

Consider reading Energy Level: Somewhere around a Zero

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Moving in Autopilot

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant & Strategic Communications Specialist

I remember the first time someone told me to “be aware.”

I was 16, sitting in my driver’s education class. My instructor played a short video, showing a driver’s view as they drove a car down several side streets and took a few turns before parking. My instructor shut off the short 15 or 20 second video and asked the class to identify the first road sign the driver passed.

I had no idea. I remember feeling stunned into awareness. I was watching the road but certainly wasn’t paying attention to the things within view of the drive, like the road signs.

This alarmed me to the things going on around me that I may be missing by moving through life in autopilot. If you are in autopilot, you will miss what’s happening around you – all the information and opportunities your world has to offer.

The next major awareness wake-up call happened for me the year after I graduated from college. Working full time and going to graduate school online at night, I had a routine. Get up, go to work, come home, go for a run, eat, go to class, go to bed. Repeat.

I vividly remember working on an assignment for one of my courses when I realized the content being taught went against what I was being taught on the job. Awareness. Enlightenment. My wake-up call. I had a moment of clarity that pointed to the fact that the program was not for me. I chose to leave the program and focus on my career instead.

If I had been moving in autopilot, focused on just getting the work done vs. being tuned in to the information I was reading, I may have missed this critical moment to decide if the degree was worth the investment (both time and money).

Moral of the story: catch yourself when you’re moving in autopilot, but don’t confuse it with routine. Routine can be healthy and help you stay focused. Though you are in routine, you are still aware and still making choices on purpose. But when you’re in autopilot, you tune out much of what’s happening around you. You do things out of habit and risk the chance of missing some of the greatest opportunities life can present to you.

Be mindful of what’s happening around you. Tune in to be aware of the opportunities that come out of every situation. Life has a funny way of surprising you. Get out of habit and autopilot. Get into being mindful, aware and ready for life’s opportunities.

 

Read Tune Out to Tune In

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What Mask Are You Wearing Today?

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

We all wear a mask. We hide our true selves from others, something that is highly encouraged during Halloween when people dress up to be someone they’re not.

During every other day, the mask we wear is frequently inspired by our committee – the little voice inside your head that tells you someone won’t like you for any number of reasons. And, as is only natural for human beings, we look to protect ourselves from rejection, so we wear a mask to hide and downplay the things that are true about each of us, that we think won’t be accepted or appreciated by others.

One thing I’ve learned in my years on the planet is those who have happy, successful and amazing lives are first and foremost entirely true to who they are. This is because being true creates its own happiness. It frees you to use your full strengths and talents without reservation and, conveniently, this inspires success because these strengths and talents are both your competitive advantage and greatest abilities.

Those who are true to who they are can lead with what they are best at. They do what moves them and what interests them. They feel capable, inspired and energized. Just a taste of this can encourage almost anyone to toss the mask into the trash.

See, the more you wear your mask, the less of yourself you allow to come out. You stay hidden and blocked. You miss out on the life you could have and the one that fits you better.

For many years, I lived my life according to the way those around me thought I should. They told me what to believe, where to work, what to drive, who to love, how to live… Sometimes it came through as directive. Sometimes it was just assumed that you would fall into line the way your siblings and friends did. Go to college – we all do it. Work for a company – we all do it. Get married and have kids – we all do. Go to church – we all do it. That is, until you determine for yourself what is for you. It might be some of these, all of these or none of these. You choose.

Is it safer to wear a mask and pretend to fit in? Sure. But you weren’t born to blend. You were born to stand out, to be who we truly are, live your greatest abilities and make your unique difference. Only you can know what this is; others don’t and can’t until you let them in on it. So if you follow their guidance, especially if you know it to be contrary to who you are and what you feel, you sacrifice your ability to be the greatest version of yourself. You shortchange yourself and you shortchange the world from the thing or things you could do to make a better life for you and a greater world for all of us.

E.E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

So ditch the mask. Let the better, more amazing, truer and wiser you emerge.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What mask do you wear and why?
  2. What is the one place or time in your life where you know you can take the mask off?
  3. What will help you develop the courage to live who you really are and not be so worried about what others think and feel about you?
  4. What would it take for you to see past the mask to see your real greatness?

You are you and you are born just right. Stand proud. Discover, develop and live your true self. Find and use your true voice. Support others to do this same work.

 

Consider reading Embrace Your Face.

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Energy Level: Somewhere around a Zero

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant and Strategic Communications Specialist

You wake up on a rainy morning. You didn’t sleep well. Your neck is sore. You’re still tired. It’s cold, raw and, you guessed it, Monday.

Be honest, what was the first reaction you had to reading that scenario? What’s your energy level?

Most people would eloquently respond with “ugh” or “meh.” Some may even quote Office Space, grumbling to themselves, “Someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” and roll over and hit ‘snooze.’

This is Level 1 energy – a feeling of indifference, being disconnected and, to the extreme, playing the victim.

At The Forte Factor, we focus on strengths, optimism, opportunity and potential. These are driven by understanding that performance energy is either productive or unproductive (not good/bad, right/wrong) and that productive performance energy will more successfully use strengths, drive optimism, inspire opportunity and help achieve potential. So, how are you letting your energy level dictate your day?

In Life’s Little Moments, I talk about making the choice to respond positively to potentially frustrating events. Let’s review one of those situations by looking at the reaction vs. the response aligned to the energy funnel.

Situation: You spill something on your shirt right before a big meeting.
Reaction: Frustrated. Angry. Embarrassed. Annoyed.
Energy: Level 2. You allow yourself to feel angry and become irritated. You are more critical, short-tempered and aggravated by little things.
Outcome: The meeting is awkward and uncomfortable. You check the time frequently and keep looking at the door. When a question is directed at you, you reply with a sarcastic comment. When someone says something you disagree with, you offer a valid, yet aggressive, response. Your point is made and you’re assigned the big project you wanted, but now you’re on your own. No one wants to work with you.

Same situation, with a positive energetic response instead of a negative reaction:

Response: Frustrated, but you choose to laugh it off because sometimes these things happen – it’s not personal. You now focus your energy on how to solve the problem by looking for a jacket or scarf to hide the mark, not wasting your energy on being upset. You choose to be confident and don’t call any attention to your mishap before the meeting. It’s done and in your past.
Energy: Level 5. You accept a human moment happened and you enter the meeting with confidence, knowing that what you say and do in the meeting will matter more than the stain on your shirt.
Outcome: The meeting goes incredibly well. You break the tension in the room by laughing off the human moment and segue into the challenge at hand, discussing a few possible solutions. You’re assigned the big project you wanted and have an entire team of people to help. You start brainstorming immediately.

Do you see the difference?

Being aware of your energy enables you to more efficiently manage your emotions. You can intentionally choose an energetic response that is productive that, in turn, can yield more successful results. You move out of habit reaction into thoughtful response. You have what it takes to learn from this moment to make your next moment better.

So let’s rethink that dreary Monday morning wake-up. How will you choose to start your week?

 

Consider reading The Energy Funnel Explained.

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Life’s Little Moments

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant and Strategic Communications Specialist

Life is full of little moments to remember, to laugh at, to share, to take a mental picture and hope you never forget. Sure, life can present you with some incredibly frustrating situations, like:

  • You reach for the chocolate jimmies (or “sprinkles,” if you’re not from Massachusetts) and end up putting parsley flakes on your ice cream instead.
  • You spill coffee on your shirt right before a big meeting.
  • The cover on the salt shaker is loose and you end up pouring salt onto your food.
  • You pour milk in your coffee and discover it has gone bad…after you take your first sip.
  • Your 1-year old insists on feeding himself and gets applesauce all over the kitchen.

How many of these moments can you relate to?

These are moments that can get under your skin and, I admit, there are some days when life’s little frustrations and irritations can certainly push me over the edge. I’m human.

But I have found that what I choose to do in the next moment is what makes all the difference. It is my choice. I can let life’s little moments ruin my day, or I can choose to see the moment as a human event. It’s the difference between reacting vs. responding.

When you pour parsley flakes on your ice cream, take a picture and share with family or friends who will get a kick out of it. And if you’re really craving that ice cream, scoop the parsley out and eat the ice cream anyway.

When your 1-year old gets applesauce all over the kitchen, take a mental picture of the grin on his face and grab your phone to share a picture of the “disaster” with family. Remember, this is a learning experience for him and he’s proud of himself for getting *some* of that food in his mouth by himself. He is, in fact, just [a small] human.

Life is full of little irritating and frustrating moments – you choose if they will make or break your day. And now that you see you have the choice, why would you choose to let them break your day?

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. Imagine a “little moment” when your reaction was a negative one. How did it impact your day?
  2. Think about those you came into contact with that day – your colleagues, your kids, your friends. How did your mood/attitude impact their day?
  3. What could you have done differently in the moment that followed to change your behavior?

I frequently think of Pam and Jim’s wedding episode from The Office. In the car, on their way up to their wedding location, Pam tells Jim a relative suggests taking a mental picture during the day to ensure you don’t forget a great little moment.

So, when life’s little moments present you with something incredible, take the mental picture, especially when those little moments require a deeper look to find that incredible component to remember.

 

Consider reading Catch and Release.

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