When was the last time you sat down for 20 minutes and really got to know the most important person you have in your life? I’m not talking about a significant other or even a family member; I’m talking about taking the time to sit down with yourself and take the opportunity to get to know who you truly are.
In a world where we spend the majority of our day connected but not really connecting, it can be easy to overlook and not prioritize taking the time to sit in silence, completely uninterrupted, or to open up your notebook and start to journal the thoughts you have in your head. We become so aware of what’s going on around us and with other people, that we can become completely unaware of what’s going on inside ourselves.
Self awareness can be defined as a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. It’s foundational in the development of our emotional intelligence, yet it’s easy to neglect. It’s easy to spend more time trying to get to know others and understand their motives than we do working at understanding our own.
So where do you start? How do you teach yourself to become more self aware?
The beautiful thing about self awareness is that you can begin by just thinking about self awareness.
Maybe you want to begin by sitting in silence for 10 or 20 minutes and simply just pay attention to your body’s sensations or the thoughts that are flowing through your mind. If you’re a writer (and even if you’re not), try journaling for 15 minutes every day for week. Write about the challenges you’re facing, the lessons you’re learning, or the things you’re grateful for right now (like having the courage to take action on your idea).
Spending time with yourself is one of the most empowering and beneficial thing you can do for yourself both personally and professionally. Understanding what drives you is a powerful tool for success. Becoming more aware of your emotions and how they influence your behaviour allows you control them rather than allowing them to control you.
However you choose to practice awareness, the main point is to make sure you practice it! It’s like playing an instrument, sport or learning a new skill; in order to get good at it, you need to do it regularly.
Socrates said it simply and best, “know thyself”.
Originally posted at:
Check out my recent summary for www.actionablebooks.com on the book Leadership 2.0 by Travis Bradberry!
This book is definitely on my list of top books to read on the topic of leadership development!
If you like the summary, make sure to check out my FREE RESOURCES section for my chapter notes on the book (posted later today)
So the first thing I should say is that, for anyone who was following my 7 Day Set Yourself Series, I'm sorry that I didn't finish it.
As I went into the holiday season, I had been feeling both a little bit burnt out and a little bit stressed about all of the things I was telling myself I needed to do and accomplish in 2014. I noticed that the more I thought about what I wanted to accomplish, the more my mood started to change (not in a positive way). I found myself focused on all of these things "I have to do": Write, develop, grow, serve, help, succeed. The more I focused on it, the more I realized that these things weren't serving my personal or professional growth the way they had in the past.
And there are a few really good reasons for this.
First, I'd become a parent and was really struggling from a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) as I watched all my non-parent friends live their lives the way I used to. This was a big struggle at times and a big realization that I can't necessarily have EVERYTHING I want right now. I was struggling with this idea that I could do everything. I could exercise, grow in my career, help others, be a great partner and parent, and prepare for the zombie apocalypse (that's only partly a joke) all at the same time and nothing would have to give. But things did have to give. Unfortunately, for a while, what was suffering the most was my relationship with my partner, Allie.
Over the holidays, we agreed that I would take a break from everything. Little to no work (I did some reading and writing but that was it) and a lot of time just spent with my family. We spent hours on the couch watching TV together, playing together, and just reconnecting.
And it was perfect. It provided me with some lost clarity on what's really important right now. It brought me closer together with my family and, personally, shifted my perspective and focus on where I should really be investing the largest amount of my time right now.
Second, I learned that I need to let go of the things I've been attached to over the past year: set schedules, things going the way I want them to, this idea that I can be everything to everyone.
The past few weeks I've been really focused on non-attachment to some of the things in my life that originally started out as activities that helped me and slowly, because I became so attached, activities that started to hurt me: getting upset if I didn't make it to the gym in the morning, not getting time at night to reflect, read or have alone time.
I realized that I can have some of these things, but I can't have them all. I also realized that it's important to step back from time to time and reassess what's working and what's not. I changed my game. I've started focusing on giving my family more than I give strangers. I've started going to bed early so that I can get up super early for that reflection and alone time I need. I've started planning my life more with my family than with my career.
And it was scary.
I recently went to an event that was hosted by the Toronto Power Group. A group of super achievers who support one another on their goals through regular meet ups. The event was focused on setting yourself up for the most powerful 2014 ever.
Based on what I was going through at the time and the reflection I was doing, I was hesitant at first. I thought "Is this really what I need right now? More goal setting? More thinking about success?"
But I went because it was an opportunity to spend time with a friend who I've known since Grade 10 and probably knows me better than anyone else in my life. It was important because of that.
One of the activities we did was reflect on the past year and go through a visualization activity that help me identify the most important moments for me in 2013. At first, before I went into the process, I really thought that those moments would be mostly about my career. About the work that I did and the success that I'd had over the past year.
But it wasn't.
Every moment I visualized had to do with my family or my friends. It was the trip my family took to Kenya, the time spent at the bar having deep conversation with Good people, and spending a weekend with my best friend learning zombie survival tactics (you know, just in case).
The most important moments in my life in 2013 had everything to do with the most important people.
The next step was to identify your accomplishments in 2013. All of the accomplishments had to do with my career: developing a successful onboarding program, speaking and facilitating to over 2,500 people, being accepted as a contributing writer for Actionable Books.
Those are things that are important and that I'm really proud of. But they don't make me a better person.
What makes me a better person is being the person I want and need to be to the people who are closest to me. I think I forgot that for a while.
It's easy to justify work over relationships at times. It's easy to think that the people who mean the most to you will be there when you finish. But, the reality is, they might not be. I've lost some friends this year. I've disconnected with people who were important to me because I got too busy. I don't want that to be the case for 2014.
So this year I'm focusing on reconnecting with the people that are most important to me. I'm focusing on taking on less and letting go of things that I've been attached to. The Set Yourself Series was an exercise in letting go. I got so focused on thinking that it mattered. That people were relying on me for this. Any maybe that is the case to a small degree but you know what?
Nobody said anything.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.
It’s Sunday! The end of the weekend and the beginning of a new week! For a lot of people, Sunday can be a time of anxiety and disappointment. It’s a time when you reflect on the awesome weekend you had and hesitate going into the week and facing a nasty case of the Mondays.
But what if you had something to look forward to? What if you spent a little bit of focused time on Sunday preparing yourself for the week in a way that made you excited and motivated to start strong?
Let me introduce you to Set Yourself Sundays!
I’ve been using this strategy for as long as I can remember. I’m not actually sure I know where I picked it up but it’s definitely evolved over the years to meet my needs and so that I can be much more focused and productive with my time. It’s something that I do habitually. When I don’t, I feel as though I’m not in control of my week and very unfocused on the goals I have and the tasks I need to achieve.
Basically what I’m telling you is that by taking a focused 30 minutes on Sunday to set up your week, prioritize your priorities and write down your goals will not only change how you start your week, it will also improve how much you achieve in that week and how you feel at the end of it. It’s a way to monitor your goals and to reflect at the end of the week on ways to continually grow and develop yourself.
Here’s how it works:
I recommend that you pick yourself up a physical agenda or calendar for this. There’s some great research out there that shows the connection between actually writing things down (using pen and paper) and achievement. In his book, The ONE Thing, Gary Keller tells us that when you write down your goals you are almost 40% more likely to accomplish them. What’s even more impressive is that if you share those goals with someone else as a way to hold yourself accountable that number jumps up to almost 77%.
It’s a great case for not only writing down your priorities and goals each week, but also for sharing them with someone who can hold you to them.
Step 1: Prioritize your priorities.
Take some time to first go through the process of prioritizing your priorities. This is the first and most important step. By ensuring that you have your priorities set right at the beginning, any goals you want to achieve or tasks that need to be accomplished can be properly prioritized and you’ll have a clear understanding of what’s important to you and where you’ll put your time this week.
If you’re not totally sure what I’m talking about, check out yesterday’s post on it and then do that before going on to the next step.
After you’ve listed your priorities in order of prioritization, the next step is to then start to list 3-5 goals or tasks you want to achieve.
For example, if one of your priorities is health & wellness, your goals might be:
· Be active for at least 20 minutes every day
· Drink 8 glasses of water each day
· Be in bed by 9:30pm and up by 5am four days this week.
It’s important that you make these goals things that you can easily measure and check off each day. What that means is that if you were active for at least 20 minutes on Monday, it gets a check mark. If you weren’t, it doesn’t.
Don’t do what I did when I first started out doing this either. When I first started this I would write up to ten (sometimes unrealistic) goals. This was way too much and just ended up disappointing me more than empowering me.
Something I’ve started to do within the last year is limit myself to the three most important things I should be doing for each priority. In his book, Keller actually recommends you narrow it down to the ONE most important thing by asking the following question:
“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”
So that should be first. As you write down your priorities and reflect on what you want or have to accomplish that week asking this question will help you stay focused on what’s most important. Try it.
Step 3: Appointments, Events and Commitments to others
On the calendar side of your agenda (see picture below), write down any appointments, events, or commitments to others you have each day. This should include things like going to the gym, spending time with friends, work obligations, etc.
By doing this, you can visually map out your week and cross-reference that with your priorities and goals. If you’ve got a lot of work-related events that week, chances are you’re not going to be able to hit the gym 4 days (unless you’re getting up early…which I recommend) or spend as much time with friends and family as you’d like. If that’s the case, you may want to consider counter-balancing things like not being able to go to the gym as much with something like really focusing on eating healthy and staying hydrated. Another example would be phoning friends while you’re out walking the dog or texting/emailing them early in the morning with a note of gratitude.
By doing a double check here, you’ll be able to see whether or not the goals you’ve set out for yourself are realistic and achievable.
Step 4: Monitor as you go.
As you go through your week, start and end each day by looking at your agenda and checking off the things you achieved that day. For example, if you got 20 minutes of exercise or activity in, then give it a check mark. If not, don’t.
At the end of the week (you can do this Sunday before you start to set yourself up again), reflect on what you achieved, what you didn’t and possible reasons or explanations for this. Did you set too many goals? Were they unrealistic given the amount of time you actually had. If so, use what you’ve learned to set more realistic goals for the next week (for example, reading for 1 hour each day might go down to reading for 30 minutes each day or reading for 1 hour three days out of seven).
Step 5: Reflect on the week and set it up again.
The last step, as mentioned above, is to reflect on your week and what you’ve accomplished, what challenges you faced, what you learned from these challenges and how you’ll use them in the new week to move forward and grow. This can be done in a journal or by sharing this with a performance partner (something we’ll talk about later this week).
This is an awareness and success tool. By taking focused time to set up your week, you’re ultimately setting yourself up for success. By taking the time to reflect on and adapt your goals, when necessary, you’re continuously learning about yourself and growing toward your fullest potential.
Keep Living Big,
“…you can experience incredible levels of satisfaction both personally and professionally if you take the time to work out what matters most to you.” - Matthew Kelly
I’ve been waiting two whole days to get into this topic! This is by far one of the most influential and life-improving strategies I’ve incorporated into my life over the past two years.
Prioritizing your priorities!? What does that even mean!?
This gem of an idea comes from the book, Off Balance by Matthew Kelly.
It’s the kind of book that as you read it you think to yourself “he’s talking directly to me!” It’s also a book that I’ve reference, shared and promoted time and time again to anyone who is struggling with finding that thing that we call “Work-Life Balance”.
One of the big ideas that Kelly puts forward is that “balance” doesn’t actually exist. Noone and nothing is ever completely balanced. We’re continuously making tiny adjustments to keep ourselves stable. Instead, we need to consider that everything comes in what he refers to as “seasons”. That these seasons may last a year, a month, a day, an hour or however long they do, but that all seasons pass. We have seasons of being incredibly busy, seasons for rest and rejuvenation, and seasons where what’s important to us during that time takes priority over everything else.
The other brilliant idea that I took from this book (and this is the piece that I’ve implemented in my life and helped to bring into the lives of others) is that we’re not necessarily taught how to make decisions properly. Because we’re not taught or provided a strategy on how to make effective decisions, we tend to either say yes to everything or we say no and end up feeling guilty about it. Kelly brings forward a process that you can go through in order to make better, more confident decisions and to prioritize what’s most important to you.
Prioritizing Your Priorities
Step 1: The first thing we have to do is to start by really understand what we mean when we say “priority”.
We live in a world where everything seems to be a priority and everything tends to be important to everyone. If we keep living that way, we likely end up burning out or feeling as though we’re not living in alignment with our values.
Here’s what I mean by that. When I first left University and was in my first job, I thought I had landed my dream job. I thought that I was going to head in the direction of having and exciting career in event management and sport administration. I also, on top of that, was trying to do a tremendous amount of activities outside of my regular work: learning to play guitar, going to the gym 5 days a week, hanging out with friends as much as I could, reading a book every two weeks, and making sure that I was taking time to cook healthy meals. The trouble with all of this is that I didn’t know what was most important to me. I just labeled everything as important and really quickly fell into a pretty dark place of disappointment and exhaustion. I was reading a lot of self-help kind of books at the time and started to let myself believe that I could do everything all at the same time. I slowly and sadly started to learn that I couldn’t. As I became more overwhelmed with everything I wanted to do, I started to notice that I began feeling really bad about not achieving everything I had told myself that I wanted to achieve. I was struggling just to manage the challenges of my first job and living in the city. Eventually I burnt out. I became really upset with myself and really hard on myself. I started telling myself that I was a failure.
What I eventually learned is that too much self-help can turn into self-hurt.
Looking back on this, I realize that my biggest challenge was that I didn’t know what my priorities were. I didn’t take the time to sit down and really go through a process of understanding what was truly important to me and why.
Enter prioritizing your priorities.
How to prioritize your priorities:
Step 1: In order to make more confident decisions that are aligned with your values and what’s important to you, you need to actually know what is. The first thing you’re going to do is make a list of all of the things that you would consider to be important to you right now, at this point in time in your life. Don’t filter anything, don’t try to cut things down, just write everything down.
Step 2: Now that you have a long list, take a look at it and see if there’s anything that can be put together into a “bucket”. For example, friends and having a social life might be bucketed into the priority of “Relationships” or Working out and eating healthy could be bucketed into a larger priority of “Health & Wellness”.
Step 3: Now that you’ve trimmed things down a bit by bucketing them. Go ever further and narrow down your priorities to a maximum of 5. If it helps, think about what on the list you’ve created is a priority for you over the next three months. Three months from now revisit your list and see if anything has changed. If it has, great! Make those changes. If not, keep focused on the priorities you’ve already established.
Step 4: Once you established what your 4-5 priorities are for the time period you’ve decided on, you now go through the process of prioritizing these priorities. Where a lot of people tend to go wrong is right here. Most people will establish their priorities but not make decisions based on what is most important between those priorities. As a result, those people end up saying yes to everything or end up putting other people’s priorities before their own.
Warning: This is going to change your game!
Take a new sheet of paper (or a new page on your computer) and write down the 4-5 priorities you’ve just established. Don’t try to put them in order just yet. The task is to simply just write them down.
· Friends & Family
· Personal Development
· Health & Wellness
Now that you’ve done that, take the first two (Friends & Family and Personal Development) and ask:
Which is more important to me this week?
If Personal Development (things like reading, journaling, reflection, etc) is more important to you that week it gets a check mark. If spending time with friends & family is more important to you that week, it gets the checkmark. The main point is that only one of these two things gets a checkmark.
Next, you go through that same process but with Friends & Family and Health & Wellness. Which ever is more important to you that week gets the checkmark.
Again with Friends & Family and Work.
Again with Friends & Family and Spirituality.
The end result is that Friends & Family will have between 0 and 5 checkmarks.
Step 5: Do it again. This time take Friends & Family out of the process and start with Personal Development.
Again, you’re asking the question “this week, what is more important?” and giving whichever you believe is more important that beautiful little checkmark.
*Note* You can use this on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
Go through this process until you have nothing left to compare.
At the end, you’ll have a 0-5 checkmarks around each of your priorities. The priority with the most checkmarks is your most important priority. The one with the second highest would then become your second highest priority and so on.
· Friends & Family = 2 checkmarks
· Personal Development = 1 checkmark
· Health & Wellness = 3 checkmarks
· Work = 0 checkmarks
· Spirituality = 4 checkmarks
This then becomes:
My Priorities this week:
2. Health & Wellness
3. Friends & Family
4. Personal Development
Now that you've established what your priorities are for the week (or month, or year), everything you decide to do, to take on, or get involved in should align with these. Because you know what your priorities are and why they are important to you, it becomes a lot easier to turn away less important requests of your time and energy. It keeps you focused on what's most important and what will bring the most satisfaction into your life.
Important! You notice that work is at the bottom of the list, right? That doesn’t mean that work isn’t important (it definitely is). What that means is that by making sure that I’m keeping myself healthy, I’ll be better at work. I’ll have more energy and I’ll bring more focus and productivity to the work I do. By making sure that I’m keeping in touch with my spirituality, I’ll also be more connected at work. I’ll pay more attention to what’s going on around and inside me. By making time for friends & family, I can ensure that I’m not feeling burnt out. And by investing in my personal development, I can take what I learn and share it with others in the work that I do.
This is a fantastic process for breaking down those big hairy audacious goals into smaller, more focused weekly actions.
The great thing about this strategy is that you can also use if your managing projects and your workload at work. I use this each week as a way to keep me focused on my major priorities and the tasks & goals I have connected to them. It works great and I can much more easily say no to something that isn’t aligned with my priorities or at least delay the ask until I have more time (after I’ve focused on what’s most important).
Let’s just end this part of the conversation by saying this. Balance doesn’t exist. Work-life balance was really find and great for my grandparent’s generation but it doesn’t sit well with me and mine. I don’t want to divide my work and the rest of my life. I want them both to have meaning and purpose and I want them to be integrated, not separated.
I really recommend giving this a try.
Sunday we’ll take this and I’ll show you how I use this in my planning for the week. We’ll look at what I call Set Yourself Sunday.
Want to go through this in a bit more detail? Check out this interview I did with my friend Sahil Dhingra on his show Reconnectfully Yours on the topic of reaching your goals and realizing your fullest potential.
You want to set a goal that is big enough that in the process of achieving it you become someone worth becoming.” – Jim Rohn
What is up!? Welcome to 2014!
I know you're probably super excited to have a kick ass year and have probably started to set some gorilla-sized goals for yourselves.
Or maybe you're just super anxious because everyone else around you seems to be setting huge goals and you're still trying to figure out what happened on New Year's Eve...
Either way, I'm here to help!
As a way to support you, I want to take the next 7 days and share with you some of the BEST strategies, tools and resources I’ve come across over the past few years around how to prioritize your priorities, manage your time, set goals, where to put your focus and all great stuff like that.
Much of this I’ve learned from other incredible people, books and mentors and have applied to my life to be my best. All of this I use in my day-to-day life and in the work I do training and coaching others.
My goal is to help you set yourself up for YOUR best possible year yet.
But before I keep going, I’ll just say this: You don’t have to take any of this advice as absolute truth. In fact, I encourage you not to. If there’s something here that resonates with you, inspires you, challenges you, that’s awesome! I’m thankful that you found that. If not, no worries, I won’t cry (in public).
I don’t consider myself to know everything about personal development (if I did, I think that would be a bit ironic) but I am super passionate about learning and I focus on positively developing myself a little bit each and every day.
My personal Why (See Simon Sinek’s TED talk, Start with Why to learn more about this) is that I believe is doing as much Good in the work as possible, becoming a bit better ever single day and helping others be their best when it matters the most). My journey in leadership, personal and community development has allowed me to take my strengths & values (we’ll talk about this at some point in the next few days) and apply them to my every day life. As the Associate Director of Training & Development at Free The Children & Me to We, and the former Executive Director of Youth Programs at the Institute for Health & Human Potential, I’ve been so fortunate to take what I learn, apply it and also share it with young people on a regular basis.
My hope for the next 7 days is this:
I want to take the next 7 days with you and share some of the most powerful and helpful tips, strategies and resources I’ve come across, use personally, and train others on in order to help them improve not just achieve your goals, but their overall quality of life and greatest potential.
If you’re a University or college student, looking at your next semester, starting to think about what you’re going to do once you graduate (or how you’re going to graduate), I think there’s some really valuable stuff coming up around setting priorities and how to focus.
If you’re just starting out in your career, my hope is that this can really help you thrive in your new environment. I spend my days training and working with a lot of people who are coming into their first job out of University/College or transitioing from one career to another.
If you’re a teenager, this stuff is for you too! In fact, I think that you have the most to benefit if you can start to build these strategies into your life now, before things start to get even more intense.
The next 7 days will be about getting to know yourself more. Some of what we talk about will be helpful for you personally, other pieces might be helpful for you if you’re starting out in a new career or are trying to decide what you really want to do with your life.
I hope that you take the tips, strategies and resources I’m sharing with you and find something that works for you. I hope that you’re able to not only get to know yourself a bit better, but to use that self-awareness and knowledge to grow. I hope that you find value in what I share. If you don’t, let me know. I love feedback!
You may not want to read everything I have to share this week, and again that’s totally cool. To give you an idea of what we’re going to cover this week, here’s a high-level break down of each of the topics we’re going to cover and when:
Day 1: Thursday, Jan 2nd – Welcome to the #SetYourself Series.
Day 2: Friday, Jan 3rd – Self Awareness – Finding Your Why.
I’ll take you through a process of starting to find your Why and how to create a Why statement that can guide you and you journey through 2014 focused on achieving all of your goals.
Day 3: Saturday, Jan 4th – Prioritizing your priorities. It’s hard to make decisions if we don’t know what our priorities are. I’ll take you through a really great process inspired by Matthew Kelly in his book, Off-Balance. You’ll walk away with a great tool that helps you prioritize your priorities in both your personal life and work, and, ultimately, become more confident in how you make decisions. One of my favs!
Day 4: Sunday, Jan 5th – Set Yourself Sunday – Setting yourself up for a productive and successful week. I'll take you through the process I go through every Sunday in order to set myself up for a powerful week. If there is one strategy I use that makes the most difference in my life, this is it!
Day 5: Monday, Jan 6th – Strengths & Values. Hold on it’s about to get reflective in here! We’ll talk about how we can you use them to achieve your goals, find your perfect career and generally be more awesome. Super helpful for anyone currently trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
Day 6: Tuesday, Jan 7th – Creating a personal advisory board. Simple steps to building your own personal brand & creating genuine connections
Day 7: Wednesday, Jan 8th – Sustain the Change – Some of the most important things you can do in order to make sure this kind of change is sustainable long-term.
Bonus: Live the Questions: some of the most important questions I’ve ever asked myself and how they’ve helped me grow, achieve and find happiness.
So what do you think? Did I miss anything that would be helpful for you? If so, throw me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn with your suggestions, questions or comments.
Live the Questions,
This past week I had the great fortune to be a guest on my friend Sahil's show, Reconnectfully Yours. It was an amazing experience to be able to not only sit down with a good friend and talk about the positive habits we create for ourselves and how they can impact both our professional and our personal lives, but to also be able to share my passion in a forum that will reach people I may never ever meet.
Got me thinking about the importance of using our strengths and passions as much as we can each day. How fortunate are those people (like Sahil) who can take what they care about and what they love to do - the things that fuel them - and create a lifestyle for themselves that is aligned with their values and their potential.
If you're interested, check out Sahil and my chat by going to:
If you're interested in learning more about yourself and what your strengths are, check out www.viacharacter.org - take this free survey and find out what your top 5 character strengths are. I challenge you to find a way to bring them into your life at little bit each day.
Live the Questions,
Every once in a while, Life gets to a point where it just becomes totally overwhelming. It gets to a point where you just don't have the answers that everyone expects you to have; you just can't figure it out.
So what do you do?
Well, many of us will go inside ourselves. That's a good thing to do. It's important to sit with yourself, in the silence, and really listen to what your hear or soul is telling you. And sometimes that works. I've been readying lately that self-awareness needs to be foundational to our education (check out Education and the Significance of Life by Krishnamurti) and that "to understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education.
But sometimes it's not enough. Sometimes we need the advice and opinions of others. Sometimes we need to hear it from someone else to make it real.
But where do you find those people? Where do you find the people around you who can, with the best of intention, give you the advice that you need when you need it? What happens when we get too much advice? What happens when one person's opinion conflicts with another's?
That in itself becomes the challenge: to find the right people to provide you with advice but at the same time, know yourself well enough to know what advice and opinion will fit with who you are.
Here are a few things I've learned over the years of finding mentors and on taking advice:
1. There will come a point when you need to stop taking advice and just take action - This was something that I learned during my first year out of University and into my first job. I found myself in a place that I didn't want to be and was looking to everyone else around me to provide me with the answers. I got a lot of really good advice from the good people around me. But I took it all. Some of it conflicted and I found myself more confused than focused. I got to a point where I realized that I needed to stop asking advice and start taking action.
2. Find both male and female mentors - they offer unique perspective on all kinds of challenges you might be facing: careers, happiness, relationships, and personal development (just to name a few)
3. Don't just go to your friends and family for advice - Sure, there always going to be there for you. But, most of the time, they're going to tell you exactly what you want to hear and not always going to tell you what you need to hear. The best mentors I've been fortunate enough to have have cared about me but were also more than willing to hurt my feelings to get me to fully understand the truth of something. I'm grateful for that. Find mentors in your life who will hold you accountable to the things you say, challenge you, and tell you the hard truths.
4. Connect with your mentors in person or over video as much as possible (not just on the phone)- I'm sure there's science behind this. Having that face-to-face interaction creates a stronger connection and greater accountability. Not everything can be said with words.
5. Kick yourself in the butt when you stop asking other people for advice or help -It happens. There will come a time when you stop going to your mentors or asking for advice because you think you've finally got it all together. Maybe that's true. Right on. But chances are it will come unravelled again. Keep those relationships warm so that you're not just reaching out to your mentors when you need something but that you're also connecting with them when you having something to give.
Live the Questions,
When you think about what the perfect career looks like for you, what comes to mind? What does the perfect career look like?
What can you start to do now, in order to set yourself on the career path that is perfect…for you?
For many of us, those questions are constantly on our minds. We’re conditioned to think about those kinds of questions from the very first career day. The very first time a firefighter or a police officer came in to talk about what they did.
The question we would always hear is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
As you get older, go through high school and then possibly to post-secondary school, the ultimate question always seems to be something along the lines of:
What are you going to do when you grow up?
But the answer to that question isn’t as straight-forward as the people asking you that question might think.
The question itself has nothing to do with who you are right now. It’s focused on the big choices, not the small ones. But it’s in the small ones that we’ll eventually find the answer to that big question: What are you going to be?
What does it mean to have the perfect career?
To some people, it might mean having a great paying job, lots of perks and 5 weeks vacation. To others, it might mean having flexible hours and time to spend with your family.
The most important question is: What does it mean to you?
We’re heard from incredible people today who are on incredible career paths. It’s clear that their days are filled with passion, potential and purpose.
And what if that’s the answer that we’re really looking for? What if the question isn’t “how do I find the perfect career” but “how do I fill my days with passion, live up to my potential, and do something that provides me with purpose every day?”
Those are the questions you need to start living.
I was 24 years old when I landed what I thought was the perfect job for me; The start of the perfect career.
I was 25 when I lost it.
I sat in my car, parked in a grocery store parking lot, crying.
Just one hour before that moment, I’d just lost my first job - The job that I was so proud to have gotten. Because, uncharacteristic and non-stereotypical the insert statistic other Gen Y’s out there right now, I landed a job right out of University that wasn’t as a barista, server, or bartender.
“Matt, this isn’t going to be a good conversation”. That’s how the conversation started when I returned back from Christmas holidays on January 2nd, 2007. I sat down in my office with the Executive Director and President of the board:
“Over the holidays, the HR committee met and we’ve decided that we’re going to phase out your position. So you have two options: you can resign and we’ll give you a month’s severance and positive letter of reference. Or you can be laid off and we’ll give you two weeks’ pay.
You have 10 minutes to decide.”
11 months earlier when I got the call that I’d just landed my first job out of University, I remember saying to myself (clearly) “This is it! This is exactly the job I wanted, in the field that I want to be working in.
This. Is. Perfect.
But I soon realized that it wasn’t.
Three months into the job I started to feel really anxious and confused. I started to feel like I wasn’t being myself. There was something inside me telling me that there was more to my life than just work and a paycheck.
For 8 months I waged this internal battle on myself, analyzing the past 5 years of my life, I came to a really start ling realization:
I wasn’t happy.
I wasn’t happy because I didn’t feel as though I was making a difference in the world with the work that I was doing. I wasn’t happy because I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to work a job just for a paycheck.
My entire life leading up to this moment, I’d been lead to believe that the most important thing was to get an education and then get a job. Start your career.
But nobody told me what that really meant. Nobody explained to me that having a career was so much more than getting a paycheck. Because, at that point, everyone who I was talking to was at least a generation ahead of me. With good intention, they told me what their parents had probably told them. With good intention, they gave me the advice that they wish they had been given. With good intention, they forgot to ask me what I wanted.
So it didn’t make any sense. When I looked at it…when I really tried to make sense of it all, I would get dizzy.
Here I was, 25 years old, having just graduated from University with the average amount of student debt, only to land a job in the city so that I could start pay off that debt.
So, at that point, my life looked like this:
Go to University to get a job to pay for the car I needed to get to that job to pay off student debt so that I would be happy.
That didn't make any sense.
So in November of 2006 I asked a question that changed my life. It’s was a straight forward and simple question:
Am I happy?
It took me a bit of time to really think about this. I knew in that moment that I wasn’t happy. But if I looked into the future, did I really see myself enjoying my life? The answer was no. So I asked another question:
What do I need to be happy?
NI already knew that I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I know now that I was stressed out because I wasn’t just looking for a job, I was looking a meaningful career. A purposeful way of life.
So I took this question and I thought long and hard about it. I thought about it when I woke up in the morning, I thought about it before I went to bed at night. I talked to other people about it. I asked other people what they needed in their life to be happy.
After getting all kinds of answers and finding myself even more confused with all the answers I was getting from other people, I decided that the only person I really needed to ask this question to…the only person who could really answer it…was myself.
When I was reflecting on my life up until that point, I didn’t have a lot of worldly experiences. I’d never travelled anywhere further than Alberta. I’d never helped children stricken by poverty oversees. My summers hadn’t been spent travelling; they’d been spent working. In my eyes, I’d never done anything exceptional.
The only real goal I’d had in my life up until that point was to graduate from University. Now that I’d done that, I was lost.
I knew I wanted to be happy. I knew that I wanted a meaningful career. I just didn’t really understand what that meant.
So I looked back on those experiences I did have in my life at that point and I asked myself
“When was I the most happy?”
When I really thought about it. When I really sat down with myself and wrote it out. It came down to these three things:
1. I wanted to work with youth (as a young person) – the times that I was most happy was when I was working as a camp counselor or when I was helping other young people as a peer tutor, peer mentor or youth support worker.
2. I wanted to be a role model – this was something that was more for me than for other people I think. I knew that by being a positive role model for other young people, I also kept myself accountable. It forced me to look at the things I was saying and doing.
3. I wanted purpose and meaning in my life – I had realized pretty fast that unless the job I had was something that I could give myself to – to make it part of my life instead of separate from it – I wasn’t going to be happy.
And so I, in November of 2006, I wrote down this goal:
“I will be out of my current job and doing something that makes me happy by March or 2007.”
A month and a half later of making this commitment to myself, I’m sitting in my car not thinking about how my promise just came true. I’m not thinking about how this is probably the best thing that could have happened to me or how maybe if this hadn’t happened, I’d still be in that job or one like it.
I was thinking about how I was going to pay my bills. I was thinking about what I was going to tell my family. I was thinking about how, maybe, I wasn’t good enough.
It took me almost two months of odd-jobs, and soul searching before I made any kind of decision on how my life was going to unfold.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I know it now. This was the event that put me on my path. This is the experience that showed me my way to the perfect career.
So how do your find your way?
How you find this, may not be how I found it. How I found it, may not be how others will find it. The big questions; the questions you truly need to start living are:
What do I care about?
What do I have the ability of becoming?
How do I want to live my life?
LIve the questions,
Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, writer and lover of all things Zombie-related.