A Recap: Five Rules for A Really Great Life in 2020

Last year, we shared our 5 rules for a really great life in 2020.

Then 2020, well, imploded.

But our guidance still stands and, perhaps most importantly, these rules really did apply to all the challenges 2020 brought with it.

Let’s review.

Rule 1. Life has its ups and its downs. Expect them. Use the ups to help you deal with the downs. Never stay down long.

Well we certainly hit the nail on the head. Though we may not have been able to anticipate the severity of the down associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, you are equipped with the tools you need to overcome challenges in a productive and intentional way. Experience every emotion. Be fully present in each event. This is how you can celebrate the great ups and learn from the downs.

Rule 2. Never compare yourself to someone else. They are different on purpose and are better than you at some things and you are better than them at other things. Focus more on just being your best self.

This rings particularly true for working parents. How many times did you think, “how could they possibly be getting that much done with their kids at home?” Each person’s experience is different. You don’t know what’s happening behind their doors. Perhaps they have a live-in relative who was able to watch the kids. Perhaps they sought out babysitters who could be trusted to be safe and follow COVID-19 protocol. Perhaps a spouse lost their job and now they’re the primary (or possibly sole) breadwinner. Comparing your life to someone else’s is unproductive. Instead, just focus on you and what is happening in your life.

Rule 3. Make the time to know what makes you happy and stay focused on it. Get clear about your goals and stay focused on them, regardless of the distractions and interruptions you encounter.

Everyone seemed to let this go first. But the reminder is that we each have to make our lives happy, something that is independent of the events going on around us. Each moment of each day is ours to define how we want to be in it. Know what being happy means for you and commit to going after it. Make this a major goal for 2021.

Rule 4. Take nothing personally. As the expression goes, “What you think of me is none of my business.” Everyone can and will have their perspectives. Never let what others think and say distract you from being your best and truest self, and from focusing on what makes you happy.

See rule 3. Get focused on what you define as happy and successful. No one else can define that for you because it’s based on your experiences and your life situation. Once you know what happiness is to you, you’ll find other’s thoughts can’t affect you as much. In today’s comment-about-everything-and-everyone world, learn to shut off the social media noise and spend that time more focused on going after what makes you happy.

Rule 5. Make everything you touch better. My dad used to say, “It is not up to you to improve the world, just the part of it you touch.” Each day make where you are – your relationships, your work, how you show up to your world – just a little bit better. Overtime, you will make things significantly better.

This all starts with you. Get in the habit of paying greater attention to you, others and your world. Then, with expanded awareness, ask yourself, “what could I do to make this better? Make the focus on always making things better part of who you are and your approach to 2021. Own your impact. Raise your game. Believe in the value of helping others and helping our world improve.

We all need guidance. There is always going to be something we need to figure out or overcome to be sure we’re living a life that matters.

So, though these were our 5 rules for a great life in 2020, we’re sharing them again because these are 5 rules to have a great life. Period.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused

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How to Be Okay When You Are Not Okay

The holiday season brings out great emotions. The ones it is associated with most are joy and excitement. We see it in commercials and on ads, and we see it in our neighborhoods as people decorate their homes with festive lights. We hear it in the way people talk about their plans and activities. And we feel it when we see the first snow of the season, when we walk through a walkway that is perfectly lit with Christmas lights, when we hear about family celebrations and when your company starts decorating and planning events to celebrate the season (and the end of the year) with their employees.

But these are the productive emotions. The holiday season also brings out other emotions, like stress, sadness and loneliness.

Let me tell you a secret: it’s okay to not be okay.

Say that again, nice and loud: its ok to not be okay.

This year, it’s possible the unproductive emotions will impact the holidays. And it will be very easy to let those unproductive emotions move right in. After all, with COVID-19 completely changing our world over the past year, it’s hard not to throw your hands in the air when presented with something else that has (or will) change and screaming, “why not!?”

Holiday traditions, family gatherings, office parties, networking events, trips to visit Santa; it will be different, or may not happen at all.

I know many people are feeling sad or hurt or lonely. I know many people are upset about the changes to the holiday season this year. The traditions we’ve enjoyed in previous years, the feelings of comfort and security when surrounded by friends and family, the fun and excitement that radiates off kids who are visiting Santa – it will all change.

Things will feel different because it will be different.

Guidance we share with our clients is to feel every feeling and be intentional in WHY you feel it. This mindful approach helps you understand your feelings so you can more successfully deal with them. When you stay in hurt or tough feelings, they can take you down. Something we share with our clients is, “visit but don’t move in.”

Understand the emotions so you can deal with them. Then focus on the good, the great and the amazing that are also available when you choose to see it.

Visit your disappointment, frustration or aggravation with today’s situations, then move past them. Visit but don’t move in. I believe this is a mantra everyone should adopt when they feel strong unproductive emotions like sadness or frustration, and not just around the holidays.

So, be ok knowing you’re not ok this year. Give yourself some grace to feel the big emotions. Give yourself permission to be sad or lonely. Be intentional in your decision to be ok not being ok.

Then take a deep breath, find the good and make an intentional decision about what comes next.

Take Action
When you find yourself experiencing big emotions this year, remind yourself it’s ok to visit but don’t move in. Try setting a timer if you find it hard to get out of a funk. Let yourself feel the emotions, be present in them, but then challenge yourself to see the good.

After all, some days are great, others are not, but each one gives you the unique opportunity to make the next one better. When you take advantage of this, you not only benefit from making things better, but you are happier in whatever life sends your way because you intentionally focus on the positive instead of the negative. When you find yourself in negative emotions, remember, visit, but don’t move in.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

Being human is messy. We say things we shouldn’t, even though we know better. We lose our tempers over the smallest of things. We react to people and events that are none of our business. We are an imperfect breed.

But I think the imperfectness of being human is intentional. If life were perfect, there would be nothing to learn, nothing new to invent, a lack of excitement in any new experience. So, built into our messy, unpredictable and challenging life is the continual opportunity to make things better.

I always struggled with understanding why tough and difficult things happen in life, particularly when you work hard to be good, charitable and supportive. Should it be that when you are good, life just works out? Though that just isn’t true, there is a silver lining: it is in these tough situations that we have the opportunity to find a way to make things better. The tough situations help us make ourselves and our world better.

When I was younger, my father had a rule for my five siblings and me: to learn to be more present and tuned in, to really pay attention to ourselves and to the people, things and events around us. And with greater awareness, we were to look at the situation and ask, “what could I do to make this better?”

My dad shared Chinese philosopher Mencius’ thinking; Mencius believed that the world was fragmented, in perpetual disorder and in the need of constant work. Instead of being disappointed by this, he saw this as an opportunity and obligation for everyone to have a role in continually making things better. This thinking was in line with my Dad’s guidance for my siblings and me – stop and notice yourself and your world, then focus on making something better.

Many of us have been trained to think hard work leads to success and negative things get you punished. But we know this isn’t true for a very simple reason:  there is free will in our world. Because of this, there is always the opportunity – in every situation we encounter – for us to make a positive difference.

It could be within ourselves in how we talk, care, support or engage with ourselves and others. It could be in our environment in how we respect the planet, our efficiency with resources, accommodating others on the highway, sharing what we know with someone who is struggling. There are so many opportunities to make one small difference in our messy, capricious and unpredictable world.

As you start small, you find that your actions inspire others and our world gets better. It won’t ever be perfect, but it can always be better. And that better starts by watching yourself and your world for the places to make a small action that inspires another to do a small action that inspires another to do a small action. Pay kindness forward. Pay concern, care, love and support forward. Though we are imperfect, we are great at seeing others make things better and being positively affected by it. 

Take Action
Stop and really notice yourself and your world. Don’t be upset by the challenges, meanness and disappointments in your life and in our world. These are reminders that our world is always ready for some small actions to make things better. These are for you to do – they are for me to do. And as we do them, we don’t change the entire world, but we change the piece of the world we touch. When we all do this, we do make a difference.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Is Follow Your Passion Bad Advice?

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Own It

I recently caught up on Schitt’s Creek. For those of you who haven’t seen it (and I highly recommend you do!), here’s a quick summary: a very wealthy family loses everything due to [intentional] errors from their business manager. They move to a small town called Schitt’s Creek that they bought as a joke years before. They experience a variety of quirky events and learn how to be a family.

One of the greatest storylines that I honestly feel is underplayed is the relationship between David and Alexis (siblings). Though they argue and tease, their appreciation for each other runs deep. In one scene in particular, David calls out Alexis, claiming that her whole life has been easy, saying that she just “skates through life.”

She responds, “No I don’t. I walk through life in great shoes.”

This whole interaction was amazing. Not only was it incredibly funny and touching, but it also served as a great reminder of the impact a single person can have on you.

Look at David’s statement: “you skate through life.” In his mind, his sister had it easy. She never had to work hard, never had to figure things out for herself to make a situation better. He felt the responsibility was always on him. He represents the external view – what others see and think of us.

Alexis’ response is a very strong and productive internal view. She is so confident and sure of who she is that she knows how life really is for her and owns it. She takes what comes her way and does what she needs to with it to continue living her life according to her terms. She knows how to make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons. And perhaps the most important part of this exchange? She was not swayed by his comments. She answered him confidently and moved on.

Just imagine if we could be this way with ourselves. Unphased by what others think of us. Unphased by who the world tells us we need to be, how we need to think, how we should live. Imagine if you could confidently own your life. I like the phrase “personal philosophy” that Psychologist Michael Gervais wrote about in Harvard Business Review. He explained, “Most of us go through life with a general sense of who we are, and, in a lot of circumstances, that’s enough. We get by. But if you want to be your best while being less fearful of people’s opinions, you need to develop a stronger and much deeper sense of who you are.”

Take Action
Our mission in 2020 is to gain clarity about who we are and what we want our life to be like. Take some time this week to really challenge yourself to define who you are. What are your greatest likes? Dislikes? What is one thing you are most confident doing? Why?

Start to build a clearer picture of who you are. Get to know the real you. And own it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Year to Get Clear

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The Year to Get Clear

If you don’t enter a destination, your GPS is of little service. If you don’t create a goal, you don’t know where or how to focus your energy and activity. If you don’t have a purpose, you get pushed to-and-fro at the whim of the world around you.

With 2020 now here and its reminder of good vision, this is your year to get clear.

Where do you start to get clear? By deciding what you want to have happen this year – what outcome, success or achievement – would make this a good year?  

No one else can define this for you, but it is a necessary first step to help you get clear about you. From there, you can more confidently work on getting clear about what you want, what fits you and what makes life good for you. When you figure that out, you can determine where you are and what you need to do or make happen so you can move to where you want to be.

To help you get started, consider an approach that  I routinely share with my coaching clients. It goes like this: Imagine it is December 31, 2020. The entire year has gone by. You take a moment and realize what a great year this has been.

Now ask yourself: what happened to make it a great year? What were you clear about that helped you to make wise and sound decisions? What were you clear about to help you make progress on meaningful personal and professional goals? How did you grow, improve and make progress to be the best you or to be the person you want to be?

Think Personally

Complete a mental 360-degree walk around your life using the prompts below. Reflect on your response to each of the prompts. Consider recording your thoughts to help you see a more complete picture.

What do you want to happen this year in your life…

  • With your health?
  • With your family?
  • With your friends and / or colleagues?
  • With your finances?
  • With your school, college or other educational focus?
  • With your leisure time?
  • With your career direction?
  • With your sense of life purpose?

Think Professionally

Complete a mental 360-degree walk around your professional life using the prompts below. Reflect on your response to each of the prompts. Consider recording your thoughts to help you see a more complete picture.

What do you want to happen this year in your work…

  • With your career path?
  • With your salary or compensation?
  • With your relationship with the organization and management?
  • With your impact?
  • With your skill development?
  • With your interactions with colleagues?
  • With your retirement?

Take Action
It is your choice. Don’t let others take control of this for you. Make the time to get clear to boldly and confidently define your directions. With this, you dramatically improve the ability to achieve what you want so when you get to December 31, 2020, you can reflect on the year and confidently state that you had a most amazing year.

Need help getting started? Learn more about 2020 Vision and contact us to schedule your first discovery coaching call.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 2020 Vision – The Year to Get Clear About The Things that Matter

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2020 Vision – The Year to Get Clear About The Things that Matter

Let me guess: Your days can be chaotic and make you feel like you are running in place. At the end of the day, you are exhausted but don’t really feel like you have made much progress. This could be because you lack a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

Well, this stops now.

2020 Vision is a commitment to be more mindful and intentional in how you show up to your days – both in work and life. As Stephen Covey shares in habit #2 of his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.” Get clear about what you want, where you want to go and what success looks like. From there, you can assess your current performance and develop a plan to achieve that vision of success.

As you start a new year, consider getting clear about the following areas:

  • You: What are your talents, strengths and interests? Identify your abilities to be able to wisely and intentionally lead with what is best in you. With clarity about who you are, you create the ability bring your best, greatest and most productive self to everything you do. How will you get clear about you this year?
  • Relationships: Who are the important people in your life? What amplifies your connection with them? Identify the relationships you have at work. What does a successful relationship look like? Identify the relationships you have outside of work. For each, define what a successful relationship looks like. Getting clear about what you want in each relationship can help you regularly assess where the relationship is to know how to improve it and move it forward. How will you get clear about your relationships this year?
  • Directions: What do you want to accomplish or achieve in 2020? Identify what career path you want to be on. Do you want to change jobs, get promoted, go back to school, become a manager, start your own business? Identify what life path you want to be on. Do you want to change jobs, go to college, get married, get divorced, have a family, move to a new area? The choices are endless and they are yours to make. But remember: even though there are always a lot of options, only some of them fit you. Knowing yourself and what you want of your relationships will influence your direction. How will you get clear about your personal and professional direction this year? 
  • Blocks: What will get in your way to get clear this year? What habits, assumptions, interpretations and limiting beliefs are stopping you from allowing yourself to clearly define what you want for you, your relationships and your directions? Shining light on your blocks (which could be anything from finances to health to education to job availability or even the lack of self-belief and confidence) helps create the ability to address them to stop them from blocking your happiness and success. How will you get clear about the things that are blocking you this year?

Your life is up to you. You are not a passenger, you are the driver. To arrive where you want to go requires clarity. Your GPS is not much help if you aren’t clear about your destination.

Think 2020 Vision. Get clear about you, your relationships, your direction and the things that currently block you. When you’re clear about all of this, you can set your destination and enjoy the ride.

Get clear to get great results.

Take Action
Consider the benefits of working with a coach to help you get clear about you, your life and / or your work. Sometimes, it’s hearing things said out loud to a neutral third party that can offer clarity to you in a completely different way.

Imagine. Create your vision. Build your plan.

Let’s get started.

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Five Rules for A Really Great Life in 2020

We all need guidance. There is so much to figure out so we can live in a way that matters. And though this is individual work to do, I have created five universal rules that will help anyone have a really great life, a list I’ve assembled based on my more than 20 years of managing and coaching others (and doing this work myself).

Here they are.

  1. Life has its ups and its downs. Expect them. Use the ups to help you deal with the downs. Never stay down long.
  2. Never compare yourself to someone else. They are different on purpose and are better than you at some things and you are better than them at other things. Focus more on being your best self.
  3. Make the time to know what makes you happy and stay focused on it. Get clear about your goals and stay focused on them, regardless of the distractions and interruptions you encounter.
  4. Take nothing personally. As the expression goes, “What you think of me is none of my business.” Everyone can and will have their perspectives. Never let what others think and say distract you from being your best and truest self, and from focusing on what makes you happy.
  5. Make everything you touch better. My dad used to say, “It is not up to you to improve the world, just the part of it you touch.” Each day, make where you are – your relationships, your work, how you show up to your world – just a little bit better. Overtime, you will make things significantly better.

Consider using these to guide your thoughts, feelings and actions to set your direction in 2020. These guidelines can help you move through life happy, focused and living your definition of a great life.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Team Start Strong and Focused in the New Year

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Expect the Unexpected to Make Life Better

Change. Most people hate it. We get comfortable in our habits, even if they are unproductive. We like the predictable, the regular, the safe. Change represents the unknown, the unsafe, things that make us worry.

Yet regardless of how we feel about change, one thing is constant: we should always expect the unexpected. I remember hearing this from a pastor years ago. Life is unexpected. We want it to be stable and predictable, but it is rarely that. You plan for a great outdoor event and it rains. You plan to be married for life and you divorce after seven years. You plan to go to your favorite college and you don’t accepted. You plan to live well and you get sick. Life is as it is. Things happen and much of it we don’t control.

I recently read something that helped me to put this into perspective. In the book, The Path, What Chinese Philosophers can Teach Us about the Good Life, authors Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh share that the Chinese philosopher, Mencius, wrote that the world is capricious, unstable and constantly changing.

We want good things to happen to good people and to have things work according to our plans, but to expect this just leads to disappointment. However, consider this: the value in having a capricious and unstable world is that by its very nature, we have the constant ability to making things better.

Though the world may be disappointing at times, these disappointing moments create the opportunity to learn, grow and make an improvement – something to address the disappointment. Imagine if everything always worked out; we would never need to find within ourselves the courage, strength and ability to make the world better. It is in these moments that we see we always have both the ability and expectation to make things better. This even applies to things that do go our way. We can – and should – still ask, what could make this better?

With this new perspective, revisit the situations from above that didn’t go as planned.

  • The party that got rained out – By being in the house, your neighbor helped you solve a home repair issue you were struggling with that you would otherwise have never thought to ask about.
  • Your unexpected divorce – You meet a most remarkable person who is so much more aligned to your values and life approach.
  • Not getting into your first choice college – You build lifetime friends from the second-choice college that was so much better aligned to your personality than the first-choice college you did not get into.
  • You get sick – You learned how to meditate, value the moments and care deeply as you healed from your illness.

Life is as it is. Sometimes you like what it sends; sometimes you don’t. Either way, it is life. And the reality is that there is always something that can make it better.

Take Action
Stop and notice a disappointing event or situation you recently experienced. What did you learn from it? What is something good that did or could come from the disappointment? What change do you need and want to make in your attitude and the way you review and assess things to be more focused on greatness, improvement and success?

Some days are great, others are not. Each of these creates the canvas for you to design how to make things better. You not only benefit from making things better, but you are happier in all circumstances because you focus on the positive instead of the negative.

So, how are you going to make it better for you and those around you?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Experiencing Emotions

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Here’s Your Permission Slip

What’s holding you back? What’s keeping you from doing what you want? From pursuing your dream(s)? From living your best life?

I’m here to tell you those obstacles don’t exist for you anymore. I’m wiping them away for you. In fact, here is your permission slip to be who you authentically are. To identify what makes you happy and go get it. To define what success is to you and to make it happen. To step out of the role you’ve been siloed into so you can redefine what you want your life to be.

Here is your permission slip to be yourself.

Our world is full of voices telling us what we should look like, who we can love, what we’re supposed to do with our lives. What’s considered acceptable for who we are, based on the world’s definition of us.

But what if, with this permission slip, you decide to take a stand? What if you decide that what the world dictates is not right for you? What if you decide to find your own happy? How will you change? And with that change, what can you now bring to the world?

Remember this quote from Buckminster Fuller, a 20th century inventor and visionary: “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?”

You are responsible for every decision you make. Your life is yours to live. Here’s your permission slip. Go live it.

Take Action
Take 10 minutes today to ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What makes a good day for me?
  2. What makes me happy?
  3. When do I feel successful?

Look at your answers. Do they align to the life you’re living? If not, take your permission slip, and make it happen.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Unhinged – How Do You Act When Things Don’t Go Your Way

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Do Something You Like to Do

“The important thing, kid, is that you’re doing something you like to do.” (American Dreamer, 1984)

One of my good friends turned a hobby into her job, and she loves it. 

One of my sisters changed jobs to do something that was more in line with her natural strengths and passions, and she’s thriving.

My oldest son grabs a few books and his flashlight (whether he needs it or not) to settle in for some reading every day.

In each of these examples, they all have one thing in common: they’re doing something they like to do.

Much of what I see and hear in my reading of what’s happening within the world of coaching revolves around helping people identify passions, talents and strengths. But this is often as far as it goes. Sure, gaining this clarity and wisdom about who you truly are and what makes you happy can be eye-opening and empowering. But then what? Very few people start putting this knowledge into action to create the life they want to live.

It makes me think of the movie American Dreamer (I’m dating myself… or at least my parents… with this reference). A bored housewife decides to enter a writing contest because she enjoys both reading and writing; it is, from the viewer’s perspective, her escape. After winning the contest, she’s whisked away to Paris for a luncheon in her honor, but she instead winds up with amnesia and embarks on an epic adventure thinking she’s the character in the book. It’s a hilarious movie with incredibly realistic scenes (the kitchen scene at the beginning is always my favorite), but it also goes to show that when you don’t let the world dictate who you are supposed to be, when you let your talents, strengths and passions lead you and define you, you can do incredible things. You can be exactly who you want to be. You get to define your identify and determine your legacy.

“So the important thing, kid, is that you’re doing something that you like to do.” 

Take Action
At the end of your life, will you say, “What a ride!” Or will you be more aware of the regret and a lot of “what ifs”?

Understand what makes you happy and make time for it. The reason why you like these things is they bring you joy. If you don’t add joy to your work and life, no one else will. You’ll notice a big difference in how you show up to your world and how others respond to you.

So ask yourself: if you could do anything right now, what would it be? Why?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Is “Follow Your Passion” Bad Advice?

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