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Posts Tagged ‘personal growth’

14 steps to a better you: promote yourself

In Too lazy to assign a category on July 20, 2008 at 9:39 am

Many people find it hard to say what they're good at. They prefer to be modest. Presenting your qualities in a confident way often is seen as being arrogant. Nevertheless it's important when you want to get things done, or when you want to create opportunities for yourself. When you have e.g. a job interview, it's important you know how to promote your qualities. Otherwise the job might very well go to someone else.

In your private life as well, it's important. When negotiating tasks, in the household, the volunteer board or anywhere else, it's important. If you're too modest, the most fun and challenging tasks will probably get assigned to someone else, and you might get stuck with the boring tasks. This is also annoying for others. It's highly likely your talents will also be appreciated by others. If the task assigned to you is too easy, you might get bored and unmotivated, and it's possible someone else gets assigned a task that's too difficult for them.

Arrogant or confident?

We live in a negative culture. It's easy to tell others what they're doing wrong. And we treat ourselves pretty much the same way: we mostly pay attention to the things we're not good at, or the things that need improvement. Giving ourselves a compliment is not done, especially not out loud. We think this is arrogant. However, this isn't justified. There's a clear divide between being arrogant and being confident.

Arrogant people don't take criticism too well. They've got trouble accepting other viewpoints, and always think they are right, and their qualities are the best. On the other hand, if you're confident, you feel secure and at the same time you're open to other viewpoints. You don't feel threatened by criticism. You pay attention to it, and use it to your advantage.

Arrogance often serves to hide a lack of confidence. Bragging often is a way to hide a feeling of insecurity.

A fear of failure influences presenting strengths. Because if you say you're good at something, you might have to proof it. It's important not to overestimate yourself and it's also important not to promise too much, in order to avoid disappointment. It's important to have a realistic idea of your strengths and weaknesses. When you're really confident, you don't feel shame in admitting you're not up to something. People that try to hide their insecurities, often promise too much.

Use your Inner Coach

I've already mentioned our inner critic, that inner voice that just loves to tear you down, and make you feel miserable. Often you're not even aware of that inner critic. The voice has become all too obvious. It seems ingrained in your entire being. It undermines your confidence.

It seems your inner voice is a bad thing. That's not entirely true though. You are your inner voice. The challenge lies in using this inner voice to your advantage. You can change your inner critic into a coach, encouraging you and cheering you up.

3 against 1

Using your inner voice as a coach, doesn't mean you'll never have negative thoughts again. It's perfectly okay to have negative thoughts about yourself once in a while. Doing stupid things, messing things up, it's all part of life. It's important though not to let these negative thoughts put you down unnecessarily, and to have positive thoughts as well.

Research shows that if you want to feel good about yourself, and bring out the best in you, against every negative thought there have to be at least three positive thoughts. If you often think negatively about yourself, it's difficult to change this behaviour. Don't condemn yourself if you're having negative thoughts. Try to see these thoughts as clouds, just passing by.

20 000 moments

In the beginning thinking positively about yourself might seem artificial. If you do this on a regular basis though, it will become an automatism. You'll become your own coach. The advantages are enormous. According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman people experience 20 000 individual moments a day. These moments only last a few seconds. During such a moment you read something, look back on something, or say something to yourself. Imagine using just 1 % of these individual moments to say something nice about yourself, and you'll have 200 encouragements a day !

Exercise

Make a list of 5 qualities you'd like to use more in your professional or private life. Start each sentence with "I am good at …" or "One of my qualities is …".

Write down 3 encouraging sentences you can use if things don't go as planned. Examples are: "Everyone makes mistakes", "It's not a shame to fail" or "I'll do better next time".

Read these lists out loud at least twice a day.

Now think about how you can communicate the qualities you wrote down to others. Practise in front of a mirror. Watch your body language, and speak in a clear eloquent voice. You can use sentences like "I'm very good at …", "One of my qualities is that …", "The reason I should get this job / task is …", "An important reason why I should get this task is …", or variations on this theme.

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14 steps to a better you: develop your talents

In Too lazy to assign a category on July 4, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Everyone has talents and passions. You can have a talent for writing, painting, cooking, listening, driving, acting and the like. Unfortunately in our society talents and passions that make money are valued most. This is a shame, because many talents that don't make you money, can be valuable, not just for yourself, but also for the people around you. When you write poetry, read someone a book, or make music, you can make someone feel better.

Never too old …

A lot of people stop developing themselves at an early age. They think the brain is at its top around the age of 25. Yes, memorising a list takes more effort at 40 than at 20. However, it's wrong to think it isn't possible to learn new things. The brain changes constantly. Reacting to the things you do, think and feel, the brain adapts all the time, and new brain cells are developed, new connections between brain cells are being made. By acting in a certain way, you can influence this process.

Practise every day memorising numbers, and you'll see it gets easier. There will be more brain activity in the hippocampus, a part of the forebrain, that belongs to the limbic system and plays major roles in short term memory and spatial navigation. The brain cells will be stimulated and new connections will be made. Memorising numbers will get easier. Compare this to rebuilding a sandy road to a highway. The latter will allow you to drive much faster, and it's more comfortable.

The same is true for playing the violin, learning a new language, or dealing with emotions: you're never too old to learn.

Develop your talents

In order to develop yourself, you will have to know what it is you'd like to learn. Some talents are obvious, yet not always. Someone with a talent for drawing, might not recognise their talent if they were told art isn't important. How can you know you've got a talent for playing the piano, if you've never ever played?

Perhaps your school grades have put you on the wrong track. Many people confuse good grades with talents. Perhaps the bad grades you got, gave you the idea you can't learn something new. It's a pity bad grades risk discouraging you.

Often there's an underlying problem. People differ in the way they learn things. It is commonly believed that most people favour some particular method of interacting with, taking in, and processing stimuli or information. The way we learn things in general and the particular approach we adopt when dealing with problems is said to depend on a somewhat mysterious link between personality and cognition; this link is referred to as cognitive style. When cognitive styles are related to an educational context, they are generally referred to as learning styles, cognitive, affective, and physiological traits that are relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment. Over 80 learning style models have been proposed, each consisting of at least two different styles. Right now, let's stick to a two style model.

Field independence and field dependence

Field independence

This person finds it relatively easy to detach an experienced (perceived) item from its given background.

The item is extractable because it is perceived as having a rudimentary meaning on its own; thus it can be moved out of its presented surroundings and into a comprehensive category system—for understanding (and "filing" in memory).

Tendency to show traits of introversion (the person’s mental processing can be strongly activated by low-intensity stimulus; hence dislikes excessive input).

Tendency to be "reflective" and cautious in thinking task.

Any creativity or unconventionality would derive from individual’s development of criteria on a rational basis.

Performs best on analytical language tasks (e.g. understanding and using correct syntactical structures; semantically ordered comprehension of words; phonetic articulation).

Favours material tending toward the abstract and impersonal; factual or analytical; useful; ideas.

Has affinity for methods which are: focused; systematic; sequential; cumulative.

Likely to set own learning goals and direct own learning; (but may well choose or prefer to use—for own purpose—an authoritative text or passive lecture situation.

"Left hemisphere strengths"

Greater tendency to experience self as a separate entity; with, also a great deal of internal differentiation and complexity.

Personal identity and social role to a large extent self-defined.

More tendency to be occupied with own thoughts and responses; relatively unaware of the subtle emotional content in interpersonal interactions.

Relatively less need to be with people.

Self-esteem not ultimately dependent upon the opinion of others.

Field dependence

This person experiences item as fused with its context; what is interesting is the impression of the whole.

Item is experienced and comprehended as part of an overall associational unity with concrete and personal interconnections; (item’s storage in, and retrieval from, memory is via these often affectively-charged associations).

Tendency to show traits of extraversion (person’s mental processing is activated by relatively higher-intensity stimulus; therefore likes rich, varied input.

Tendency to be "impulsive" in thinking tasks; "plays hunches".

Any creativity or unconventionality would derive from individual’s imaginativeness or "lateral thinking".

Performs best on tasks calling for intuitive "feel" for language (e.g. expression; richness of lexical connotation; discourse; rhythm and intonation).

Prefers material which has a human, social content; or which has fantasy or humour; personal; musical, artistic.

Has affinity for methods in which various features are managed simultaneously; realistically; in significant context.

Less likely to direct own learning; may function well in quasi-autonomy (e.g. "guided discovery"); (but may well express preference for a formal, teacher dominated learning arrangement, as a compensation for own perceived deficiency in ability to structure.

"Right hemisphere strengths".

Tendency to experience and relate not as a completely differentiated "self but rather as—to a degree— fused with group and with environment.

Greater tendency to defer to social group for identity and role-definition.

More other-oriented (e.g. looking at and scrutinizing other "faces; usually very aware of other" feelings in an interaction; sensitive to "cues".

Greater desire to be with people.

Learning performance much improved if group or authority figure give praise.

Back to talents

Many women have a field dependent learning style. This style isn't better nor worse than an independent learning style. The problem is that in many schools, an emphasis on the independent learning style is dominant. More abstract topics, like mathematics or chemistry, become even more difficult when they are taught  to people with a dependent learning style as if everyone has an independent learning style.

If those topics were taught in a different way, people with a dependent learning style would perform better.

Don't go by school grades too much. Don't let grades discourage you and put you off. Let yourself be led by your heart, by things you enjoy. On the other hand, don't make things too difficult for yourself. Develop your talents, not the things you think you ought to be good at.

Once you've found something you're good at, or something that's challenging to you, you'll experience a happy feeling. It's possible you'll get into a situation called flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields. In retrospect people often describe this feeling as "everything fell into place" or "I experienced bliss".

Discovering your talents

Following tips can help you to discover and develop your talents.

Find an activity you really like. Ask yourself what you liked in the past. What did you like as a child? Perhaps you can keep a diary in which you write down the moments you felt happy. What were you doing at that moment? If you really don't know what you'd like, you might consider getting tested. Tests might show you your strengths and weaknesses, and which profession or activity might suit you best. Also ask family and friends what they think suits you, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Set goals. Developing your talents means you've got to set goals. You want to get better at something. Make your goal realistic and specific. Imagine what you're going to do, and when. Don't say "I am going to learn Spanish" but say "I am going to follow a Spanish language course in September at the Open University".

Challenge yourself. It's most motivating setting a goal that is just above the level you're sure you'll reach. If you go out running, make it your goal to run a couple of hundred metres (but not too many metres) more than yesterday. If you're writing a report, write a report about a topic you've never written about before, but not a totally unfamiliar topic. This way you'll expand your limits, but in a realistic way.

Follow a course. Perhaps it's necessary to follow a course in order to develop your talents. Try finding a course that fits your learning style.

Find partners. Partners who have the same goals, can help you overcome obstacles, motivate you and inspire you. It's nice to develop your talents in the company of others (working together, playing sports together, studying together, … ).

Believe in yourself. It is easier to develop your talents if you feel confident about yourself and your skills. You won't have a fear of failure and it's easier to concentrate.

What do you want to achieve?

Research shows that if people write down their goals (I want to start my own company within the next two years, I want to learn to play the piano better within a year, …), their success rate is higher. When you write down your goal, you connect yourself with this goal, and you'll be more motivated.

Write down which talents you want to develop and which goals you want to achieve. Don't forget to set a time period.

Then look at the obstacles, such as money, time, health problems, lack of energy, negative thoughts about yourself, lack of support or help, … What is the biggest obstacle, and what can you do about it? Talk to people with the same goals, and learn from them.

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14 steps to a better you – needs

In Too lazy to assign a category on December 30, 2007 at 2:11 am

Needs

To be happy, it’s necessary to give yourself what you need. To be able to do that, you first have to know what it is you need. Needs are different from personal values. Personal values refer to areas of life, areas that interest you, areas you’re passionate about. Things you need in order to feel good about yourself, to be yourself, are your needs. Those things can be both small and large. Possibly you need attention, love, flexible work hours, more time with your partner, a ham and cheese sandwich or a hot bath.

Sometimes it’s perfectly clear what you need, and it’s quite simple to give yourself what you need. When you are hungry, you make a sandwich or something else. It’s possible you feel lonely because you don’t have a partner. In that case you’ll have to find yourself a new love. Sometimes it’s not so clear what you need. You feel unfulfilled but you don’t know why. You’ve got everything you ever dreamt about 20 years ago: a beautiful house, a family, enough money … and yet still you feel restless and unsatisfied.

Unfulfilled needs

The theory by psychologist Abraham Maslow, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, can help you discover what it is you need. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied.

The bottom of the pyramid consists of physiological basic needs, like shelter, food, and warmth. You don’t feel anything when these needs are met, but if they aren’t, you’ll feel anxious. If you are hungry or thirsty or your body is chemically unbalanced, all of your energies turn toward remedying these deficiencies, and other needs remain inactive. When you are really hungry and terribly cold, you won’t enjoy listening to music, or looking at art. Instead you first want to eat and put on some extra clothes. If some needs are not fulfilled, a human's physiological needs take the highest priority. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviours, and can cause people to feel sickness, pain, and discomfort.

Safety needs are one step higher up the pyramid. After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. They need to love and be loved. All humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect, and to respect others (fourth layer).

They upper three layers are growth needs, enduring motivations or drivers of behaviour. These are cognitive needs, aesthetic needs and the need for self-actualisation. In Maslow's scheme, the final stage of psychological development comes when the individual feels assured that his physiological, security, affiliation and affection, self-respect, and recognition needs have been satisfied. As these become dormant, he becomes filled with a desire to realise all of his potential for being an effective, creative, mature human being.

Maslow's need hierarchy is set forth as a general proposition and does not imply that everyone's needs follow the same rigid pattern. However, his theory is highly informative. It can help you trace unfulfilled needs. If you encounter the same problems in love, over and over again, it’s possible you haven’t met the underlying need of safety. You may have an alarm system in check, but perhaps you don’t feel safe emotionally. Perhaps you feel others can’t be trusted, and you can’t leave your guard down. This feeling of unsafety makes it hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable in a relationship, and can lead to a fear of abandonment. In order to get what you need out of a relationship, you will first have to (re)find a feeling of safety.

The same is true for other layers of needs. If you notice it’s impossible to be successful or get recognition in your field of expertise, perhaps you didn’t fulfil some underlying need. Perhaps you don’t have a sense of belonging, and you feel lonely. Perhaps you don’t seem to be able to connect with colleagues at work, and don’t use your full networking potential.

Recognise your needs

If you aren’t in touch with yourself, it’s possible you don’t recognise your needs. It happens to everyone to some extent. When you e.g. are highly concentrated, you might not notice you need to go to the bathroom, or might ignore the feeling, until it’s (almost) too late.

Some people ignore other needs, especially needs they think aren’t socially acceptable. If you were told that crying is a sign of weakness, you possibly push away your tears, swallow your tears. If you were told sex is dirty, it’s difficult to recognise you need sex.

Pushing aside your needs is unhealthy. It makes you feel frustrated and unfulfilled. Many needs can’t be pushed aside for long either. They’ll find a way out, and can manifest themselves in annoying ways. It’s even possible you’ll get depressed and develop all kinds of psychosomatic symptoms.

An example is the burn-out. People that are experiencing a burn-out have worked hard, but were at the same time ignoring other needs, the need for rest, relaxation, healthy food, … At a certain point body and mind can’t continue to work until those needs are met. Unfortunately the situation by then has gotten real bad; people have crossed their boundaries so far, that it takes a very long time before they can feel healthy and happy again.

Determine and write down your needs

Determining your needs requires you to have an honest and accepting look at yourself, without judging your needs. What is it you really need? What’s stopping you from satisfying your needs?
Is there a voice in your head telling you it’s wrong, or are you afraid of what other people might think? How can you give yourself what you really need? Write down the three most unfulfilled needs. What do you long for that you haven’t got?

Not all needs are equally realistic and not all needs can be totally met. If you e.g. need comfort and luxury, but you don’t make a lot of money, it’s not a very realistic need. There’s no use to dwell upon this, as it will only frustrate you. Do you have everything you’ve always wanted, the house, car, family, career … then perhaps it’s important to learn to appreciate the small things in life.

Instead of constantly wishing for a better life, take up the challenge to enjoy what is, the here and now. How to do that will be explained later on.

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