You Gotta Believe

Why do people make the choices they do throughout their careers?   What makes one person persevere and take risks to achieve their goals while others can’t seem to get unstuck and find themselves locked into an unfulfilling job for years? In this article we are suggesting that the critical factor is belief. Belief is ultimately what determines how successful you are.  

Essentially, beliefs are your unconscious patterns of thinking. Core beliefs are the foundation of your personality. They describe you as worthy of respect or worthless, competent or incompetent, fairly treated or victimized, independent or helpless.

Individual belief systems are an incredibly powerful influence on the choices people make. We observed people who said they wanted to make positive change, but struggled to take concrete actions to accomplish their goals. Many intelligent and motivated people become paralyzed by intangible inner obstacles.

The Source of Your Beliefs

Where do our beliefs come from? There is no simple answer because several factors need to be considered.

  1. Personality – Obviously, not everyone holds the same beliefs. Our fundamental personality has a tremendous impact on the beliefs that we assume through our formative years and how we view the world in general.
  2. Family and Role Models – There is no question that our environment plays a significant role in who we become. Our families and role models send us very powerful messages about who we are and how the world operates. These messages become the foundation of many of our beliefs into adulthood.
  3. Cultural and Ethnic Values – Many of us are raised within certain cultural environments that provide us with feedback about what’s right/what’s wrong and what’s true/what’s false. It may sound like stereotyping, but cultural and ethnic values still have a strong impact on what we believe.
  4. Spiritual Orientation –Beliefs around faith, destiny and god have a tremendous influence on the choices we each make about work throughout our lives. This might include traditional religious values that we learned as children.

Belief Imprisonment   

When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
– Dakota Tribal Saying

Your beliefs shape your life and your behavior. This, of course, is a good thing if your beliefs are accurate and affirming. However, limiting beliefs get in the way of positive change. They restrict what you can achieve. Beliefs are often referred to as “childhood tapes” that play over and over in our heads and often dictate our behavior. Do any of these tapes sound familiar?

  • I’m really not smart enough to run a company, am I?
  • I want this promotion, but I don’t think I have what it takes to do the job
  • I’m too old to go back to school and start a new career – it’s too late
  • It would be irresponsible to pursue my passions now because I have a family
  • Better stick with this job – it’s all I know
  • I should never quit my job without having another one

In our consulting practice, we have coined the phrase “belief imprisonment” to describe being stuck in your limiting beliefs. Since many beliefs operate outside of your awareness, their influence on your daily choices may be invisible yet profound.

Identifying your core beliefs and bringing them into your conscious mind is crucial for making positive change.

If you don’t expect to get well when you are diagnosed with a health problem, you won’t do all the things that can help you get better – especially those things that may be difficult. In the same way, if you don’t expect that you can successfully make a career change or get that promotion, you won’t do all the things than can ensure you succeed.

Consider Lisa. She is bright, personable and very capable. Lisa holds a position as a Senior Manager in a large multi-national organization. She is thought of as an extremely competent and valuable employee. Yet Lisa is miserable because of unreasonable expectations around volume of work that are standard in her company. Her boss’s lack of follow- through and consistency also continually frustrate her.

Lisa first came to us because she decided it was time to move on. She had been putting up with the frustration of her current environment for two years and was very unhappy. More importantly, the stress of her job was making her physically ill.

But it isn’t so easy to change things when you are conducting your life based on inaccurate beliefs that have accumulated over a lifetime. Lisa is still struggling with strong internal contradictions and is continuously questioning her ability to ‘succeed’ in another company or another role. Since she hasn’t mastered every aspect of her current job, she believes she is incompetent. This prevents her from applying for new positions. A great burden of guilt prevents her from taking time to go on interviews or network.

“I know intellectually that I deserve to find a position that suits me better, but this inner voice keeps telling me that I should be in my office ten hours a day – and I should stay here longer to learn more – I can’t seem to break free”. In her mind, if she goes on an interview, she is not being responsible or loyal.  

Lisa is stuck because of her limiting beliefs and fears about not measuring up and not being viewed as a responsible person.

We identified three limiting beliefs. Lisa has agreed to take simple concrete actions so that she can move forward and is trying to push through her fears by looking at her limiting beliefs square in the eye. She’ll get there, but it’s natural for her resistance to be high.

Breaking Through Limiting Beliefs

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.
– Katherine Patterson

We look for evidence that supports what we believe and ignore contrary evidence. This reinforces our inaccurate beliefs about ourselves and makes it difficult to change.

Alvah Parker, a coach that works predominantly with attorneys, identifies 10 common beliefs on career change that can derail your desire for change. If the belief is making you unhappy or feeling stuck, now is the time to change it. It will help to free you to make a change in your life.

How do you break through?

  1. Understand your basic personality – This will give you insight into the type of beliefs you have a tendency to hold onto.
  2. Identify your limiting beliefs –Write them down and bring them into your consciousness.
  3. Question your beliefs – Especially those that are limiting or inducing fear. Be aggressive about this. Only you can create your own future.
  4. Behave differently – Your behavior drives and reinforces your beliefs. Start behaving differently (even if it is uncomfortable) and eventually you will believe differently.
  5. Change one behavior at a time – Don’t think you can change everything at once. Establish realistic goals. Get focused.
  6. Push through your fears – There are always fears associated with limiting beliefs. The fear that someone you love will not approve if you change, the fear that you won’t live up expectations, the fear of failure (you know the list).
  7. Seek professional help – It is tough to change beliefs without objective feedback. Deeper issues need to be addressed with a trained psychologist.

Learning how to alter your limiting beliefs is a skill. It’s hard work, but the potential rewards are huge. Doing this can bring you a new sense of freedom. Don’t be a victim of your own limiting beliefs – seek out help to reshape your beliefs about who you are and what you can do. You have the capability to achieve everything you want to. You just gotta believe.

Terry Del Percio is a Career and Workplace Consultant. She manages a private practice called The Work Strategies Company located in Beverly, Massachusetts. Visit her website at http://www.workstrategies.com or you can contact Terry by phone at 978.282.8900.                         Twitter @WorkIntegrity

References:

McKay, Ph.D., Matthew and Fanning, Patrick. Prisoners of Belief. California: New Harbinger Publications, 1991.

O’Hanlon, Bill. Do One Thing Different. New York. William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1999.

Your Mobile Phone: A Tool for Mindfulness

I am sure you have heard the term ‘mindfulness’. It is tossed about frequently these days. I’m glad of that, since it seems the idea is making its way into the mainstream. That’s a good thing, in my humble eyes.

Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience.

For example, a mindful approach to one’s inner experience is simply viewing “thoughts as thoughts” as opposed to evaluating thoughts as positive or negative. http://bit.ly/9rxspw

Mindfulness plays a central role in the teaching of Buddhist meditation. Buddhism is a philosophy that began in India in the 6th century and is becoming increasingly accepted in western culture.

Although Dr. David Rock wrote in Psychology Today that he has a problem with mindfulness being linked to any religion, because he worries that people will ignore it simply for that reason, his piece is full of useful information and I encourage you to take a peek.

Dr. Rock believes that as we get older, we resist learning new things. I’m not sure I agree, but his blog is definitely worth reading, especially if you are interested in the health benefits of mindfulness.

The best statement in Dr. Rock’s post is that ‘even the most cynical, anti-self-awareness agitator can’t help but see that they will be better off practicing this skill (mindfulness)’.

Okay – since I believe that we become more open-minded as we get older, let me briefly introduce the idea of Buddhism. Are you with me?

The Buddha, many centuries ago, identified Four Noble Truths as the foundation of this spiritual practice.

See if you can relate to any of these Four Noble Truths.

1. Life is full of suffering

2. Craving and desire is the cause of suffering.

3. Craving and desire can come to an end, therefore ending our suffering

4. The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration

This is a lot to digest at one sitting. So let’s just focus on one small aspect.

To practice Right Livelihood means to use the practice of mindfulness to address the problems of daily life, including work.

Take telephone meditation, for example.  This can be a very important practice for you, if you’ll try it.

When the phone rings (yes, even your mobile phone), try hearing it as a bell of mindfulness. Are you giggling yet? Experiencing some discomfort at the thought of a new perspective?

Stop what you are doing and breathe in and out deeply and consciously three times before you pick up the phone.

Alert: I bet this will be very difficult for you to do. Please tell me if you can do it the next time the phone rings.

If you choose to practice this, I wonder if your phone calls will take on a different tone. What do you think?

I’m curious to hear how you do.

Everything Old Becomes New Again

Either the world is speeding up beyond belief or our brains were kidnapped by aliens and we now exist in a time warp machine  moving at the speed of light.

Once in a while, however,  things on earth circle back around and ‘everything old becomes new again’. It brings a little smile to  my face when the circle theory still shows up, albeit in subtle ways. Let’s take the job search process, for example.

We have all been forced to adjust to online applications, (along with the big black hole) and the difficulty of networking with  colleagues that are often working too many hours and are under a great deal of stress. It’s not easy.

Remember those books entitled Megatrends by authors John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene? The authors predicted (with uncanny foresight) the key trends for upcoming decades.  Note: The first was published in 1982, then 2000, and most recently Ms. Aburdene wrote another in 2010.

Well, here are my Retro-Trend predictions about the job search and workplace. This is just the beginning of an evolving list. If you have other ideas, please send them to me and I’ll write about them.

Prediction 1: Snail Mail Regains its Popularity

It wasn’t so long ago when mailing a resume and cover letter in an envelope with a stamp was the  norm. How many hard copy resumes do you think anyone receives now? Probably none.  Some might  even see it as an indication that the applicant is not computer savvy.

How would a recruiter or hiring manager react now if they received a high quality resume in the  mail? I’m betting that many would find it refreshing. (How often do you ignore anything with a  hand-written name and address?)

What is this professional textured paper and feels good to the touch? How unique. How creative.  How different.

On TheJobBored blog, the author of a post about this very subject believes that “sending a physical resume (nice paper stock, neatly printed, nice envelope) shows a certain touch of class…”

I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to read something on paper instead of another email with glazed eyes. And I certainly would remember the candidate’s name. I might even talk about her/him by the water cooler.

Prediction 2: Hand-Written Notes Become Cool Again

Okay, so most people know that they should send a follow up thank you note after interviewing. Yep – each candidate goes home and writes the obligatory thank you email and sends it right out.

The problem is that it doesn’t mean too much (but you still have to do it).  How much time does it take? Maybe 2 minutes, if that…especially for the cynics who think it’s a waste of time anyway.

The content goes something like this: “Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. You have a great company and I know I can do the job.” Done. And people feel good because they sent this note out on the SAME DAY as the interview.

How would a potential employer react if you actually took pen to paper and wrote a note that reflects a common sentiment or a business idea that you shared during the interview?  Hmmm, I wonder.

Prediction 3:  Pounding the Pavement Returns

Now this is a stretch – but I like to live on the edge. Most of you won’t even remember when one method of job searching was to literally walk into a company off the street – dressed appropriately, of course – to inquire about work opportunities. Well, some of us actually did that.

I had a client very recently who gave it a try. Believe it or not, the recruiting manager happened to be there and invited her in to talk for 20 minutes. Voila – the interview process had begun. Let me also say that this young woman was confident and prepared. She knew what she was going to say and was pleasant, engaging, positive and non-pushy.

I know it might seem very lame, but hey – is anything else working? What can you lose? The University of Phoenix seems to think this bold move could be a useful tool in the job search, particularly for young professionals.

So, who knows? Maybe it’s true what they say about everything old becomes new again.

———————-

Just as an aside, I also predict that hand written notes and poems will come back as romantic gestures. Ever think about what the impact would be if you wrote a “real” letter to your loved one and left it under his/her pillow – or wrote a friend how you feel about them? Give it a try and let me know how it felt to rekindle something exciting.

Getting back to ideas about work and job search – What do you think?

Ten Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success

This adapted entry was written by Renee & Don Martin,
 Authors of The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Who Built Great Businesses Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies For Success – a new book that you might want to check out.

America has always been a beacon of entrepreneurialism because it is so deeply rooted in our history. Our country was founded and then settled by innovators willing to sacrifice old certainties for new opportunities. The people who came to America a few hundred years ago looking for a better life were risk takers in every sense.

Do not mistake being a risk taker with being reckless. Risk takers must also become risk analyzers — evaluating the pros and cons, then trusting their instincts and recognizing and seizing an opportunity to create their own businesses.

Already an entrepreneur? Thinking about starting something? Check out this summary of qualities & strategies and get going.

1. Trust Your Gut

Successful, independent-minded entrepreneurs know when to trust their gut. An expanding body of research from a number of fields — including economics, neurology, and cognitive psychology — confirms that intuition is a real form of knowledge. It’s a skill you can develop and strengthen — one that’s particularly valuable in the most chaotic, fluid business environments, when you must make critical, high- pressure decisions at a moment’s notice. At such times, intuition usually beats rational analysis.

Trusting your instincts also emboldens you to carry out new, untested ideas and ventures, even when nobody else believes in them. It’s about seeing the need for a product or new service and just knowing you can make it happen.

2. Buck the Conventional Wisdom

Ignore those who say, “It won’t work” or “It’s never been done that way.” Our profiled entrepreneurs succeeded in large part because they veered away from established formulas and ways of thinking. Don’t just blindly accept the so-called best practices of your industry. Look at them with a hypercritical eye. Dissect them, slice and dice them, contemplate different what-if scenarios.

Challenging convention can open the door to competitive advantage.

3. Never Let Adversity or Failure Defeat You

Don’t accept the limits that others or circumstances place upon you. The ranks of successful entrepreneurs are filled with men and women who refused to stop believing in themselves, despite the derision of others or heartbreaking failures in their past.

As an entrepreneur you’ll undoubtedly experience stressful moments that will test your faith, especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to establish your brand and separate from the pack. Just remember, the antidotes are persistence and resiliency.

4. Go on a Treasure Hunt and Find an Undeserved Niche

In the business world, there’s nothing more exciting than finding an underserved niche representing a lucrative market that everyone else has failed to spot and target. That’s like finding gold bullion at a crowded beach — it was there for everyone else to see, but you were the one who took notice of the golden glint in the sand. Look for ways to fill a niche — a road even small start-ups can take.

5. Spot a new Trend and Pounce

Often, a shift in cultural or economic trends will create new entrepreneurial opportunities. Sometimes that shift arises from advances in technology. Many of our profiled entrepreneurs recognized emerging consumer needs and desires that signaled new market opportunities.

6. Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t

Whenever possible, set your sights on areas that your competitors have neglected or ignored.

7. Just Start

If you have an idea for a business, truly believe it will succeed, and are willing to push yourself harder than you ever have before, then take the risk and just get started. If your gut is telling you this business idea is a winner, take action now.

The “perfect” time for a business launch will never present itself. More often than not, waiting just gives would-be competitors the opportunity to beat you to the punch.

8. Save Your Bucks and Get Noticed Without Expensive Advertising

If your start-up business is on a tight budget, there are plenty of ways to get customers’ attention without spending money on advertising. Get your creative juices percolating and try something different. And when an opportunity arises to expose your brand to the masses, don’t think twice — jump right in. Use your own creativity to make your company stand out in a crowd.

9. Exploit Your Competitor’s Weakness and Make It Your Strength

The sharpest entrepreneurs have a knack for viewing the world from the perspective of their customers. That quality can help identify your competitors’ vulnerabilities and shortcomings. If your number one competitor has a reputation for slow deliveries, for example, make certain your deliveries arrive in less time. Engage and listen to customers to identify such weaknesses.


10. Never Stop Reinventing Your Company

You know the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? The problem with that piece of advice is that it invites complacency — and complacency in business is like a slow leak in a tire. You may not notice the damage it’s causing until the thing is completely flat and you can’t move forward. Top-performing entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to take chances and keep expanding their product line. They’re not afraid to give their business a major overhaul now and then to keep pace with changes in the marketplace.

We hope that you will find these traits beneficial for your own entrepreneurial journey.

Believe that growth and opportunity for this nation’s economy are inevitable. Look at the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur. Believe in the power of your ideas and just start the pursuit of your own entrepreneurial dream.

It’s up to you to reclaim the American Dream.

The above is an adapted excerpt from the book The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Who Built Great Businesses Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies For Success by Renee & Don Martin.

Copyright © 2010 Renee & Don Martin, authors of The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Who Built Great Businesses Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies For Success




Twitter for Boomer Skeptics

Eight weeks ago it was very cold in Boston and I didn’t know what the heck Twitter was.

If a client asked me whether Twitter was important for his/her career my answer was ‘no, just use LinkedIn’. What value would there be in using a tool where kids tweet about having scones for breakfast?

I’ve done a 180 degree turn since then.  There was so much buzz about Twitter that I realized I needed to get with the program. Besides, I was extremely curious. Every day I heard references to the tremendous growth of social media among boomers and I wanted to be involved – I had to be involved.

Fast forward to today. I tell everyone to get on it right now, get familiar with it and use it to help build your online reputation.

Did I just say that? Three months ago I actually thought  Twitter was absurd. Now I can’t get enough of it. It’s all about information, relationships and engagement. Let me repeat. It’s all about information, relationships and engagement. Starting to get the picture?

If you aren’t participating in new media, you are at a (huge) disadvantage in your career. If you don’t know the lingo – you run the risk of being viewed as a dinosaur. (and it might be true)

You might find Twitter a bit overwhelming at first – I did. Let the process take you for a ride, relax and have fun.

Here are five simple steps to get started.

1. Jump in and begin. Trust me on this. Don’t analyze it beforehand. Just get on it.

2. Read Joel Comm’s book entitled “Twitter Power”. Before I read it, I would log in and stare at the screen like a deer in headlights. “Twitter Power” gets to the point and gives it context. It gave me a jump start.

3. Talk about it with other people. Sharing info and asking questions speeds up the learning process.

4. Remember the big picture. Twitter is one tool in creating an online reputation. A website and a blog go hand in hand with social media, but that will come later, just think about how you want to be perceived.

5. Be generous in sharing information and be kind with your words. It’s still easier to attract bees with honey rather than vinegar.

I’m still learning and having a great time. Write to me and tell me what you think.

Follow me at http://twitter.com/WorkIntegrity