Posts Tagged ‘self improvement’

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 !


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 – influence others in a positive way

In Too lazy to assign a category on May 26, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Living together and working together is easier if you know how to motivate and inspire others. Whether it's your children, partner, friends or colleagues, there are many advantages to approaching others in a positive way. They'll appreciate your company more, will often be more prepared to help you, and will value your opinion more.

The power of a compliment

An important and fun way to inspire someone is to give them a compliment. One of the most important needs people have is the need for recognition and appreciation. A compliment can meet those needs. By giving a compliment you give others a good feeling about what they're doing, as well as the feeling that what they're doing is appreciated. Still, people are very sparse when it comes to giving compliments. They think other people will lean back whenever they get a compliment. If you for example tell your daughter a C+ is good, she might think she doesn't need to study. That's the reason most people are rather harsh. They whine and threaten others in the hope the other person will do what they want them to do. Most of the time this doesn't work though. The other person feels they've failed and is discouraged. A compliment, on the other hand, does work. Praising your daughter (it's good you still got a C+ for that difficult topic) increases the chance she'll work hard at school. The compliment encourages her to work hard. Complimenting someone doesn't guarantee positive behaviour, but chances are better. Compliments also augment people's self-worth. Children especially need to hear something positive once in a while. They need even more affirmation than adults.

To the point and sincere

In order to have the desired effect, compliments should meet certain requirements.

Rule 1: be sincere

Only give compliments you really mean. People will know if you don't mean it. At times it's difficult to come up with something positive and if you really can't come up with something you could tell the other person how you'd like something to be done, and how you'd appreciate it. You could for example say (to stick with the daughter at school example): "It would mean a lot to me if you'd work harder at school".

Rule 2: say why

Most people only say what they appreciate, and forget about the why. If a friend just got a hair cut and you only say: "Your hair looks nice", it might seem you only want to be polite. You're also complimenting the hair dresser, instead of your friend. Say for example: "You chose a nice hair cut, it really fits your style".

Rule 3: start with their first name

By mentioning someone's first name, the compliment gets really personal. You show them the compliment is really meant for them. People also pay more attention to sentences in which their name is mentioned. To a colleague you could for instance say: "Paul, you did really well on that report".

Don't get all wound up

Influencing others in a positive way isn't only done by giving people compliments, but also by not reacting in a negative way to others, even if they're trying to provoke you. Whenever someone makes an unreasonable or critical remark, most people automatically get all defensive. Not because they're looking for a fight, but because they want to protect their sense of self-worth. Unfortunately there's a risk of escalation, because the reactions back and forth might get more damaging and hurtful. Try not to react immediately. Stay calm and friendly. Ask for clarification or say you didn't know there was a problem. If you stay calm, friendly and positive, there's a chance of "emotional contamination". Emotional contamination is the phenomenon that people, unintentionally, mimic other people's facial expressions, body language and emotions. Research shows emotional contamination works best with positive things. People are more likely to mimic a smile than a frown.

Cool down

It's not easy to remain friendly and positive when for example your partner is in an awful mood. It requires self control and empathy. Following tips can help you to remain calm and in a good mood.

Tip 1: take a time-out

If, during a conversation, you get very upset, angry or stressed, a time-out is a sensible thing to take. Go to the bathroom, or go for a walk. Tell your partner you're going to do something else for a bit, because you're too upset or angry or stressed. You can e.g. agree to continue the conversation in an hour, or the next day.

Tip 2: display opposite behaviour

If you're angry or stressed, it might help to show some opposite behaviour. Relax and try to look friendly. Tell the other person you care for them, or slowly drink a glass of water. Because your senses get a different kind of input, your brain thinks you're no longer angry.

Tip 3: reflect

Ask yourself why someone is reacting in an angry or unreasonable way. Try to see their side. Wonder whether they're tense or tired. Perhaps something happened at work or school.

Showing involvement

In order to stimulate people, it also helps if you show involvement in what they're doing. In order to stimulate your daughter to do her homework, you could show an interest in the topics she is studying at school. Remarks like "I will think of you when you're taking your exam" or "You can call me any time whenever you need help" are helpful too. Research shows people will perform better that way.

People might also feel stimulated if you involve them in what's important for you. Ask a colleague their opinion about a project you're leading, or ask your partner to help you sort the holiday pictures for example. Even though you can do those things yourself, perhaps even better, you give people the idea their contribution is appreciated.


Think about someone you'd like to compliment, for example your child, partner, neighbour or colleague. Resolve to compliment them next time you see them. Already write down what you could say.

Think about someone close who has to do something difficult soon, or who has an appointment they're not looking forward to, like an exam, a doctor's appointment or a boring meeting. Resolve to say something supportive. Already think about what you could say and write it down. Next time you'll see this person, follow through. Intent on saying something supportive at least once a day.

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14 steps to a better you – become assertive

In Too lazy to assign a category on January 23, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Become Assertive

In order to be yourself and lead the life that suits you, you have to be assertive. Being assertive means you communicate your rights, boundaries and values and at the same time respect other people’s rights, boundaries and values. Being assertive doesn’t equal being aggressive. Aggressive people don’t respect others, they merely (try to) dominate. Assertive behaviour is about equality in relationships with others. You’re assertive when you say ‘No’ to a request you don’t like, when you stand up for your opinion, when you tell what’s bothering you or when you tell how you feel. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you let others or your obligations determine your life.

Not determining your own life will cause a lot of stress. Some people even suffer from all kinds of physical stress symptoms such as insomnia, hyperventilation or even burn-out. Being assertive isn’t just advantageous for your own wellbeing. Others will also gain. If you say ‘No’ or make understood what it is you want, the other will know where he stands.

Besides, others can only be considerate if they know your boundaries. A lot of misunderstandings are caused by people not saying what they really want. Afterwards others often say: Then why didn’t you say so?

Assertive or aggressive?

Babies are very assertive. They cry when they’re hungry or thirsty and they protest if they don’t agree with something. Somewhere during childhood the idea one has to be humble and polite creeps in. Saying ‘No’, getting angry, speaking up when you don’t agree with something, telling others what it is you want, goes against the idea of friendliness and modesty.

A lot of people are afraid that, if they say what they think or what they want, they’ll get judged negatively or are considered unfriendly or inconsiderate. They think they’ll hurt the other person or they think they’re impolite or rude when they speak up for themselves. What people seem to forget is that they don’t have the power to hurt someone. It all depends on what this other person does with these remarks. Suppose you call someone an idiot in a fit of rage. This person might be insulted or might think you have a point, without feeling hurt by that remark.

Instead of being too humble, some people get too aggressive. Aggressive people aren’t assertive either. They aren’t considerate. Aggressive people think they’ll get attacked and seem to think the best defence is a good offence. Aggressive people often were hurt during their childhood. A lot of people just don’t know how to be assertive either. Their parents never set the example, and they’re not aware things can be done differently.

Often women are considered less assertive than men, yet this isn’t true. Women might be assertive in another way. Women often are less direct but they get at least as much done as men. They just communicate their criticism, demands and boundaries in a more indirect way.

Stand up for yourself

If you find it difficult to stand up for yourself, you shouldn’t worry. Assertiveness can be learnt. Assertiveness is based on a healthy amount of self esteem. Only when you trust you’re worth it, you will be able to demand attention for yourself and your needs.

For this reason it’s important to appreciate yourself. Nevertheless it can be difficult to say ‘No’. You might feel guilty, you might want to help out, even though you’re incapable of helping out, or you might feel you’re failing. The following tips will help you to say ‘No’ when someone asks you something you don’t want.

Tip 1

Realise you’re saying ‘No’ to the request, not to the person making the request.

Tip 2

When someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, give yourself some time. Say for example you’re going to get a drink. This will give you time to think about what you’d like to say, for example: I would like to think about this, I’ll let you know tomorrow. The next day you could e.g. say: About yesterday, I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided not to do it. It doesn’t fit me.

Tip 3

If you want to say ‘No’, don’t feel obligated to give an extensive explanation. That way it seems you are apologising, while you’ve got every right to say ‘No’. Just say: I won’t do that, as I don’t have the time. Or perhaps: I won’t do that, as I really dislike it.

Tip 4

If you’ve given in, realise you’ve got the right to change your mind. ‘It doesn’t feel right’ often is good enough an argument.

Tip 5

If people don’t accept your answer, and do they start nagging, or are they trying to flatter you into agreeing, say something like: I already clearly said no, and I would like you to respect that. This way you’ve very clearly communicated your boundaries.

Tip 6

Eighty per cent of a message is non verbal. Use assertive body language. You can practise this in front of a mirror. Stand on both legs, straighten your back and look at yourself in the mirror, whilst saying for example: I want to be left alone now. How does this look? Aggressive, assertive or shy? Practise until you’ve found the right body language. Ask your partner or a friend how you come across.


In each social situation you’ve got the following rights:

  1. The right to judge your own behaviour.
  2. The right not to give an explanation for your behaviour.
  3. The right to change your opinion.
  4. The right to make mistakes.
  5. The right to say: I don’t know.
  6. The right to be illogical whilst taking decisions.
  7. The right to say: I don’t understand.
  8. The right to say: I don’t care.
  9. The right to decide for yourself whether you’ll look for a solution to other people’s problems.

No means no

Think about two situations from the past, where someone asked you something and you said ‘yes’ while you didn’t want to. Why did you say ‘yes’ after all? Think about what you could have said instead. Also think about a sentence you could use next time you don’t want something.

Some assertive sentences

I want you to help me.
This is your problem.
I’d rather you don’t interfere.
Try it yourself.
I’m out.
No, I can’t. I am entitled to this.
I expect more from you.
I think it’s none of your business.
You are right.
I would appreciate it if you’d consider my wishes.

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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


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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