Success & Motivation

The Power of Women in Business: Female Portrayals in Advertising

There’s been a growing focus on female body image on social media and advertising. Campaigns such as #BodyPositive, #LikeAGirl and #Strengthie are just a few of the current advertising campaigns encouraging women to be proud of themselves and focus on their strengths, rather than their imperfections. The good news is, these “fem-vertisements” appear to be highly effective in promoting positive imagery of women and generating sales, according to Ad Week.

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© Can Stock Photo Inc. / xavigm

 

Here’s some statistics on the negative impacts on women from advertising via SheKnows:

  • Just 60 seconds of viewing ads with underweight models can negatively impact perceptions of attractiveness for women
  • 41% of 18-24 year old women retouch photos of themselves before sharing to social media sites
  • 93% of women believe it is harmful to portray females as sex symbols in advertising
  • 33% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance (an increase from 26% in 2012)

It’s been noted for years that women control the majority of spending decisions in households. In fact, according to American Progress, women control 80% of consumer spending in the U.S. (up to 85% according to Ad Week).  So if we’ve seen that female-positive advertising has shown to be incredibly effective and that women dominate consumer spending, why isn’t more advertising female-positive?

A large part of the problem could be that while women control spending, men dominate the advertising. According to American Progress, 97% of creative directors in advertising are male. Of the 250 top-grossing domestic films of 2013, 16% of the cinematographers, directors, editors, executive producers, producers and writers were female. Additionally, during the 2012-2013 primetime season, just 28%  of off-screen talent on broadcast TV shows were female. The most obvious result of involving women is that representation of women on-screen is better and there’s a higher percentage of women with speaking roles.

So how can we continue on this effective “fem-vertising” journey?

  • Continue to empower women to fight stereotyping and be successful
  • Incorporate positive imagery of women in advertising and social media
  • Women need to build each other up and support each other
  • Empowering women doesn’t mean putting men down – incorporate men in campaigns to support the women in their lives

Here’s some statistics on the positive impacts on women from fem-vertising via SheKnows:

  • 52% of women have purchased a product because they liked how the ad for the product portrayed women
  • Nike saw a 15% increase in quarterly revenue through efforts to cater to women
  • Dove’s Real Beauty campaign helped increase sales from $2.5 billion to $4 billion
  • In just 4 months in 2014, sales for Getty Images’ Lean In collection grew by 54%

According to Ad Week, fem-vertising is positive toward women, but it doesn’t alienate men either. Female-positive advertising encourages men to empower and take care of the women in their lives as well. So in the end, everyone benefits.

If people can relate to the advertising of a product, they will have a more positive impression of the product. Consider who your market is and who’s creating the advertising for your product. Is it accurate and positive toward your market? If not, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

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How to Develop Positive Working Relationships with Difficult Coworkers

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At some point in your career, chances are that you’ll end up working with at least one person who is a complete nightmare. Below I detail nine steps you can take to evaluate the situation and work to turn it into a positive one. You spend a lot of time with coworkers; you may as well make the best of it!

1. Don’t take it personally. Even if your coworker’s wrath seems to be directed at you, chances are there are others feeling it too. If you haven’t done anything to warrant the treatment you’re receiving, consider that maybe the person treating you badly is dealing with some difficult personal problems and may not be intending to treat you badly.

2. Keep it professional. Your coworkers don’t need to be your friends, so keep any personal talk to a minimum and instead, focus on work and upcoming projects with them. Regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, you still have customers to take care of and a job to do, and that’s the top priority.

3. Be a rock star. Your company still has things that need to be done and goals to achieve, so don’t drop the ball just because you’re unhappy. Instead, challenge yourself to perform at your highest level. This will benefit you in multiple ways: no one will be able to legitimately complain about your performance and if you do decide to move on to another job, you’ve built a great reputation and track record to show your performance to another company.

4. Learn their expectations and rules. You may not agree with how a coworker or boss does things, but if you can at least understand their expectations and rules, it makes it much easier for you to stay in their good side and have a more positive work environment. For example, your boss might require you to arrive 5 minutes early every day but show up late every day themselves; it may not be fair, but if you know this expectation, you can follow it. Rebelling will be ineffective, but you can have the satisfaction that they’re making themselves look bad and you even better.

5.Talk to them about it. It won’t be a comfortable conversation, to say the least, but sometimes you need to just hash it out with someone to repair a relationship. Even if things have gotten extremely awkward, it’s okay to say “hey, I don’t know how we got here, but I don’t like it and would like to start fresh if that’s okay with you.” Then make every effort to stick to that fresh start and leave the past behind. If they’ve been struggling personally, they may not even have any idea they’re treating you poorly and this makes them aware and gives them the chance to repair relationships with others they may be unintentionally mistreating.

6. Talk to HR. If talking to them personally didn’t work, or if the situation has gotten so bad you can’t comfortably speak to the person about the issue, try discussing it with human resources. While they may not be able to fix the problem alone, they can at least act as a mediator during your conversation and help you resolve your issues. Be prepared with examples of any mistreatment, especially if it could be considered workplace bullying in case HR needs to start an investigation. Also be prepared with a couple solutions in case HR asks how you’d like to resolve it.

7. Talk to others. Are other people having problems with this person? This isn’t a time to team others up against this person, but instead see if anyone else is having difficulties with anyone at the company or if they notice any patterns of how you’re being treated. Having allies can help support you and be there while you work through the problem. If no one else is having problems with the person, take that into consideration as well.

8. Take a look in the mirror. Are you the problem? Try to look at your situation from the outside; does the person you’re having issues with have a legitimate right to be upset with you? Did you do something to them that might make them upset with you, such as get a promotion, take one of their customers or put them out some way? When we’re so involved in something, it’s hard to see it for what it is, but think of logical reasons why this person could be upset with you, beyond that they could just be a mean person. Sometimes we’re the problem, not others.

9. Move on. Sometimes there’s just no resolving the problem. Perhaps your problem is with one of the owners or their family members employed at the company or others aren’t able to see the problems you’re having with the person. Or maybe for whatever reason, someone(s) at your company wants you to leave, whether you’ve done something to deserve it or not. Companies are complex and when different people with different backgrounds are forced to spend most of their waking time together, there’s bound to be some problems from time to time. If you’ve tried everything and are still having issues, sometimes the best bet is to just move on.

You may be spending 40+ hours in close quarters with your coworkers, so it’s important to have positive working relationships with them. When coworkers within a company are struggling, it can be obvious to customers and affect sales, putting further strain on your company. if you’re going to stick around, take steps to make things positive for everyone. If you’re planning on leaving, build yourself up to be successful and positive so there’s nothing but positive things to be said about you once you move on. You never know when you might need to go back across that bridge.

6 Steps to Setting Reachable Goals

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It’s important to have goals, but if not planned out carefully, we will set ourselves up to fail by not taking steps to ensure our success. Setting general goals without a plan is like planning to go to a new destination without consulting a map; you may get there eventually, but you’ll surely get lost along the way and end up on some detours.

Instead, if you follow the six steps I outline below, you will find ways to create measurable goals, determine the feasibility of actually reaching each goal, measure your progress, reach your goals and set new goals for the future. You will most likely also really enjoy working toward your goals because you know they will be realistic and achievable.

My Six Steps to Setting Reachable Goals are:

  1. Define
  2. Review
  3. Revise
  4. Revisit
  5. Reflect
  6. Re-set

Defining Your Goals

The purpose of goals is to create something to work toward and achieve. So logically, the first step of setting and reaching your goals is to define them. By defining goals, I mean to write down what it is you want to accomplish, when you want to start, how you intend to reach your goal and when you plan on achieving your goal.

Making goals measurable is one of the most important ways to succeed. It’s a great goal to want to lose weight or increase sales, but if you don’t set a specific goal with a plan and a deadline, you are destined to fail because you haven’t really committed by stating exactly what  you want to accomplish by what date.

Writing these things down accomplishes two things:

  • It creates a commitment and a path toward achievement and holds you accountable
  • It allows a way to quantify or measure your goals and accomplishments

Maybe you’d like to lose some weight. It’s probably not going to just happen on its own, so by writing down your goal, how you plan to achieve it and when you want to achieve it, you can start creating a plan of attack. The same goes for increasing monthly sales or training for a marathon.

Review Your Goals

While it’s great to set goals, it’s also very important to review them to make sure they are reachable. Nothing will set you back faster than unobtainable goals. This step is a way to logically work through your goals to determine whether they are reachable or if they need revising.

Below are two examples of goals you might be setting and a breakdown of how you can review each type of goal.

Example goal 1: lose 20 pounds in the next two months through diet and exercise

  • Generally, a safe pace to lose weight is 1-2 pounds per week
  • Assuming there are approximately 5 weeks per month, two months equals 10 weeks
  • To lose 20 pounds in two months, you would need to lose 2 pounds per week
  • To lose that amount of weight, you will need to burn 7,000 more calories per week than you consume
  • If you eat 2,000 calories a day and naturally burn 1,500, you will need to find a way to burn about 1,500 calories a day to reach your goal

Example goal 2: increase sales by 10% from the previous month by focusing on repeat customers

  • If your sales last month were $5,000, a 10% increase would set your goal at $5,500
  • If an average sale is $100, that means you’d have to have an additional 5 sales
  • If there are about 5 weeks in the month, that’s about 1 additional sale per week
  • Reviewing your customer list, you see that you have 250 customers that have purchased in the past 18 months, but not within the past 6 months
  • If your closing rate with repeat customers is 10% and you contact all 250 previous customers, you can expect approximately $2,500 in additional sales

Revise Your Goals

After reviewing your goals to determine whether they are realistic, now is the time to determine whether you will be able to stick to them as planned. It’s great to have goals, but if they are not reachable or realistic, they are useless. The point of having goals is to have something to work toward and reach.

Perhaps for losing weight, you don’t know that you can burn quite the amount of weight you were hoping to each day, so instead of 20 pounds in two months, you adjust your goal to lose 15 pounds in two months. This is still a great accomplishment and is better than not trying at all. Even if 10 pounds is more realistic, there’s nothing wrong with outperforming your goals.

For the sales example, after running the numbers, you see that you could potentially increase your next month sales by 50%, you may want to increase your goal to grow your sales by 35% instead, or really push yourself to see if you can reach a 50% increase! Just be careful not to set goals that are too high or unrealistic.

Revisit Your Goals

It’s important to check on your goals regularly to make sure you’re on track to reach them. If you find that you have fallen behind (or ahead), it’s always okay to hit the reset button and revise your goals again. As long as you are making progress and learning, you are being successful. You may not reach your goals as planned the first time, but progress is a positive thing. Find a way to measure your results that will work best for you so you will be more encouraged to follow through.

When trying to lose weight, it might be helpful to weigh yourself daily or weekly – whatever works best for you. If you revised your weight loss goal to 15 pounds and halfway through, you’ve already lost 10 pounds, you know you’re probably on track to reach your goal as planned.

In growing your monthly sales, it might be helpful to review each week’s progress at the end of the week so you can create an action plan for the next week. If you’re halfway through the month and have not made any progress, this is the time to find additional ways to reach your goals. Maybe you need to follow up emails with phone calls, send out samples or offer return customer discounts.

By reviewing your progress throughout the process, you will never be caught off-guard if you are under- or over-performing and you can make changes to your original plan to kick it into high gear and make more progress.

Reflect on Your Goals

So you’ve made it through to your goal deadline and hopefully you’ve reached or exceeded your goals. Even if you failed, you’ve gained knowledge and experience so you can better plan next time, which is exactly what this step is about. Now that you’re experienced in setting personal goals for yourself and you’ve made the effort, this is the time to reflect on how it went and what could have been done differently.

For weight loss, perhaps you were working out at home with lots of distractions or you weren’t carefully keeping track of calories consumed or burned. Maybe what would work better next time is to go to a gym, get a calorie counter app or an activity tracking device so you can get more accurate counts.

If your sales goals didn’t pan out how you had hoped, find reasons why that was the case. What feedback did you receive from customers? Were your emails effective? Was pricing competitive enough, were you calling them too soon or too late after their previous purchase? Review all these items to find solutions for the next go-round.

Re-Set Your Goals

Whether you exceeded reaching your goals or failed miserably, you tried and at this point, you should have a thorough understanding of why. Now is the time to plan for the future and re-set your goals so you can continue to grow.

If you reached your weight loss goal, perhaps you want to focus on decreasing your body fat percentage and increasing your muscle mass. For new sales goals, perhaps you want to try growing a customer base of new or conquest customers for one month or trying to increase sales of a particular item.

Keeping goals reachable and fun will increase your likelihood of achieving them and being in the habit of setting reachable goals will increase your success in life. Taking these steps each time you want to set a new goal will make you aware of your abilities and limits and prepare you to set and reach more goals in the future!

Overcoming Common Sales Objections

Recently, I’ve posted a few articles on motivational challenges to improve yourself. It’s important to continually evaluate yourself to find areas of improvement and update your goals as you achieve them. But beyond your own personal goals, it’s also important to evaluate professional goals to improve your abilities in your career.

This week, I’d like to share an article by Stuart Leung titled “Overcoming Common Sales Objections: Don’t Take No for an Answer.

In the article, Leung provides creative solutions to some of the most common sales objections salespeople face when working on new sales. These solutions are excellent to have in mind when making sales calls so you can be prepared to work with any situation.

These sales objections are:

  • Lack of budget
  • Approval from authority figure
  • Lack of need of your product or service
  • Timeliness
  • Value consideration

The Benefits of Being Proactive

As someone who receives a high volume of sales calls, I can quickly tell who is prepared and who is not. While I want to help businesses succeed, I also need to consider what’s best for my company. If a salesperson cannot explain their product or service thoroughly or answer my questions, I lose confidence in their ability to deliver quality. So it is vital for salespeople to know their products inside and out and have creative ways of countering customer objections, without overstepping their bounds.

Bottom line: if a customer is honestly not interested, don’t keep pushing it. However, if you have a really great pitch, the customer may instead refer you to someone who does need your product/services.

“With an understanding of your customer’s wants and needs and your product’s offerings, you are armed to tackle any objection based on budget, authority, need, time, and value,” Leung wrote. Chances are, the person you’re speaking with isn’t the decision maker so the easier you make it for them, the easier you make it for their team to say yes. If a customer has to re-pitch your product/service to their team, if you can provide answers to questions they may be asked, you increase your chances of success with that company.

“The art of sales is inherently associated with objections, but most can be overcome by building a sense of credibility, trust, and re-framing the way your buyer sees what you’re selling,” Leung wrote. “When it comes down to it, sales is about showing the product/service at the angle that’s best-suited to the conversation.”

Read the full article here: Overcoming Common Sales Objections: Don’t Take No for an Answer.

Check out this free e-book with best practices to improve your sales performance!

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Motivation Challenge: Turn Anxiety Into Excitement

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Anxiety is something we all face and to some, it can be debilitating. Common advice when we are experiencing anxiety is to “just calm down.” But our bodies are designed to react in particular ways during particular experiences based on our primitive ancestors’ survival instinct. So when we feel anxiety, it’s because we are supposed to.

But what we do with that anxiety is something we can work to control. We can let it overtake us and build up excess worry, or we can channel it into something useful to help us get through a challenging experience.

So today, I challenge you to turn your anxiety into excitement.

Let’s go through two scenarios to capture these feelings:

The Exercise

Anxiety experience: Think of something that makes you feel anxious, perhaps speaking in public, dealing with a difficult customer, confronting someone who said something offensive to you or doing something risky, like jumping out of a plane. Put yourself in that situation, really picturing the whole scenario. Imagine the thoughts you’d be having and anticipate how you and anyone in the situation will react. Feel the anxiety this situation is causing, even the physical reaction. Maybe you’re getting a lump in your throat, your blood pressure is rising or maybe you’re even getting a little shaky.

These are normal, natural reactions. But what if you could channel that energy into something useful? Take that anxious energy and bring it into the next scenario:

Excitement experience: Think of a situation in your life where you have experienced intense excitement. Perhaps the way you felt on Christmas Eve as a child, anticipating a visit from Santa. Or maybe you went on a really fun trip that you were excited for or a time when you received really good news. Think about the emotions you felt, how time could not go fast enough and how you had so much energy focused on what was about to come. You almost felt like you’re going to explode from all the excitement and nothing could stop you.

See how easy it was to change your anxiety into excitement? This is something you can do on your own to take control of your life and your feelings to make your emotions work for you. Don’t let fear of the unknown slow you down, imagine all the possibilities and opportunities each experience brings to you!

The Challenge

Today, I challenge you to take a situation in which you feel anxiety and turn those feelings into excitement.

Take these steps to change your attitude and improve how you handle difficult situations:

  • Let yourself be anxious. While you’re going to stop anxiety from lingering too long, it’s important to do what your mind and body wants to do. If you feel anxiety, acknowledge it and prepare to move on from it before it takes over and decreases your confidence.
  • Focus on how good you will feel when you are finished with whatever is causing your anxiety. What helps us persevere through difficult times is to focus on the goal and how good we’ll feel when we reach our goal. Just like running a race, you may feel tired and a bit defeated partway through the race, but when you cross the finish line, the feelings of elation from your success outweigh the feelings of defeat you had during the race. Try to focus on what an honor it is that you were chosen to take on that particular task and how proud you and others will be of you once you complete the task.
  • Find something to be excited about. Maybe you have to make a difficult phone call or give a presentation. Instead of thinking about how anxious you are to perform the task, think about how excited you are. Maybe you found a new way to perform the task so you’re excited to see how well it works or maybe you know something your team doesn’t know so you are excited to share that with them. Find something to be excited about and replace the feelings of anxiety with your excitement.
  • Reward yourself. Whether you succeed or fail at whatever was making you anxious, reward yourself for making an effort and completing the task. Maybe you decided to finally apply for a new job and you got an interview, so reward yourself with a new outfit to wear to the interview. When you wear the outfit, you will remember that it’s a reward for doing something difficult and you can be proud every time you wear it.
  • Plan for the future: Once you complete a difficult task, think about how exciting it would be to do it or something similar again in the future. Think about things you could do to impress others or how you could anticipate questions or reactions they may have. This way, you are already creating an excited mindset in the event the situation arises in the future, making it easier to convert your anxiety to excitement.

Reflection

Chances are, if you make these changes and maintain excited thoughts toward challenges in your life, you will notice they won’t affect you as much and you may even decide to take on even more challenges to step out of your comfort zone.

The goal in this challenge is to change your mindset to work for you, instead of against you so you can complete tasks with confidence instead of fear. You deserve to be happy and by changing your anxious thoughts to excited thoughts, others will notice how well you can handle challenges. Don’t let your anxiety hold you back; focus on excitement and all the positive things in your life and your confidence will skyrocket.

If you took my challenge,  I’d love to hear how it worked for you and what you did to change your anxiety to excitement! Just let me know in the comments below.

Motivation Challenge: Change Your Attitude Toward Someone You Dislike & Be Happier

Most of us have to be around someone we don’t particularly like and it’s hard to have to work with difficult people. However, most of us don’t realize the power we have to change how we feel about that person. Instead, we maintain our ill feelings, hoping they will eventually realize their faults and change for the better or that they will just go away and leave our lives. That might sound silly, but we generally don’t think the situation through to that extent.

Before I go on, I want to acknowledge that there sometimes are people in our lives who are truly terrible people, perhaps they are abusive to others or doing illegal things. These are people who should be avoided and reported if they are doing bad things to others. What I’m talking about today is people who may have personalities different from ours, those we find annoying or challenging to befriend. Keep people like that in mind when reading this article.

When we expect others to pick up on our feelings and change for the better, we are handing the power of our happiness to them. They are the ones causing us irritation or annoyance and we leave them the power to them when we don’t do anything about it.

The Exercise

Think about someone in your life that you dislike. Now answer the following questions:

  1. Why do you dislike this person?
  2. Does this person dislike you?
  3. What are a few things they do that bother you?
  4. Do you treat them with kindness and respect?
  5. What do you imagine your relationship with this person will be like a year from now?

Considering the answers to your questions, do you have a valid reason for not liking this person? Maybe they have an annoying voice, ask too many questions, are grumpy or are a know-it-all. Maybe their sense of humor is different than yours and their comments just rub you the wrong way. But do you have a legitimate reason for not liking them? Have they gotten you in trouble for something they knew wasn’t your fault? Have they harmed you in any way? If they haven’t actually done anything to harm you, consider whether your feelings are actually valid.

Does the person dislike you? If not, why do you choose to dislike them? If so, why do they dislike you? Always consider their point of view and don’t leave yourself blameless in situations if you’ve done something to upset them. Finally, realize that maybe they don’t actually dislike you; maybe they’re shy or feel the negativity you put off and are just responding to that.

I actually had two friends who were acquaintances of each other and could not figure out why the other didn’t like them. They were paranoid about what they possibly could have done to upset the other. This went on for a couple years until their circles of friends merged and they were forced to face each other. They found out that neither actually had any issue with the other, they had just misinterpreted a look on the other’s face at one time or another and took that to mean they were disliked. Now they are great friends and laugh over the misunderstanding.

What are things the person does that bothers you? Are these valid reasons to not like the person? Maybe you don’t like the way they answer the phone, or maybe they talk too much or are too noisy. But are these valid reasons to be annoyed by the person? Are these things you can let go of and get over? It seems silly when you think about it to let someone change your state of mind just by answering the phone in a way you don’t like. Again, that’s giving them the power to control your happiness.

Do you treat the person with kindness and respect? This is a self-evaluation to determine whether you are faultless in the situation. Even if you are cordial to someone, if you are harboring negative feelings toward them, they can pick up on it and react accordingly. If you have negative feelings toward someone, it makes sense that they would have negative feelings toward you as well.

Finally, what do you imagine your relationship with this person will be like a year from now? Will it be the same or worse? Do you hope they won’t be part of your life for some reason? Do you hope they’ll just leave the company, neighborhood, group of friends or school you’re at, or do you plan to leave? Chances are, you’re going to have to deal with this person for a long time and if you don’t do anything to change the situation, there is no reason why the situation will change.

By answering these questions honestly, you will will get a real perspective on the situation and find ways that you can change to make things better.

The Challenge

Today, I challenge you to start changing your attitude toward this person. Are you resisting? Maybe you think they should change how they act or maybe they should just go away. Don’t give them the power. Take over the situation and own the power over your happiness.

Take these following steps to change your attitude and improve your relationship with this person:

  • Think kind thoughts about the person. As often as possible, find something positive about the person. Maybe they’re wearing a nice outfit, or maybe they’re really good at some part of their job, or they’re considerate of others. Find the good and focus on it. Make a list, if it helps. Just try to seek out the good in the person. They will feel your positive attitude and feel less apprehensive toward you.
  • Be kind to the person. Is there something you can do to make their life a little easier? Can you give something to them earlier to make their job easier or bring them something to save them a trip? Challenge yourself to find things that you can do to make them happy and they may start doing the same in return.
  • Compliment the person. Maybe you’ve never really said anything nice to this person so they have no reason to think you’re a nice person. Change their perception of you by saying nice things to them. Let them know what a great job they did on a project, how nice they look today or how amazing their homemade lunch smells. Just be sure to be genuine and they will have no choice but to think how nice you are.
  • Speak kindly of the person to others. Chances are, you may have said some negative things about this person to others. By doing so, you may feel you are getting them to be on your side to team up against the person, but instead, you’re making yourself look bad. Start giving the person credit for good things they have done or how they have helped you. In changing your attitude and the attitude of others, you will build a positive circle of support to help you change your attitude.

Reflection

Chances are, if you make these changes and maintain positive thoughts toward those who challenge you in life, you will notice they no longer bother you and you may even develop great friendships with these people. There is also a chance that no matter how hard you try, the person just won’t warm up to you. That’s okay.

The goal in this challenge is to change your own mindset so the actions of others no longer controls your happiness. You deserve to be happy and by maintaining positive thoughts toward others, you will radiate positivity and happiness, which will attract people to you. Don’t let a coworker ruin an otherwise good job for you with their negative attitude; focus on your happiness and all the positive things in your life and your happiness will multiply.

If you took my challenge,  I’d love to hear how it worked for you and what you did to change your attitude toward someone! Just let me know in the comments below.

How I Became an Accidental Mentor (and Improved My Own Life While Helping Others)

For some people, making new friends is easy and something they can do naturally and frequently.  At times, I envied people who had large circles of friends and endless opportunities to be social.  For me, friends have always been few, but close.  I was raised to always take time to be alone so I could learn to be content without the need to always be around other people.  This proved extremely helpful during the years I lived alone and I continue to seek solace in quiet times, uninterrupted by others.

Making friends was never a strong suit for me.  I’m great at making acquaintances, possibly because growing up, I switched schools fairly often and while I’ve mostly grown out of it, I was quite shy as a child and fearful of being teased so I tried to blend in and just keep a few friends.  Even as an adult, I moved around often, including across the state.  It was difficult to keep in touch with people, especially with the internet and cell phones still being new and nowhere near as mainstream as they are currently, so I got used to having temporary friends, and was okay with it.

Currently, I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for about six years and have developed some strong friendships.  But one of my more recent friendships evolved into a type of relationship I’ve never had with anyone—a mentorship.  I’ve given advice as long as I can remember, hopefully good advice, but this turned into much more than that.  I became part counselor, part life coach and close friend.

This friend is dealing with a lot of difficulties right now and her world has pretty much turned upside down over the last year.  Chaos runs rampant from all directions and her need to please people is exhausting her.  While it’s been overwhelming at times, I feel so fortunate to have been put in a place where she and I could meet and develop this friendship.  While I give her motivation and advice regularly, she is teaching me a lot about myself as well, like how I can calm people down and take wisdom I’ve learned and apply it to life.

It’s not always easy, but being an accidental mentor has improved my life greatly and I’ve never been happier.

Here are some of the best things I’ve learned and practice that have made me happy:

Be positive.  Life is rarely all kittens and butterflies, but that doesn’t mean we should live in a constant state of misery.  When you are negative, you will be more vigilant of negativity in your life and it can snowball until you have a meltdown.  Instead, channel your positivity and you will notice more and more positive things happen in your life.

For example, if you look at what your Facebook friends are posting, you may notice some always have something to complain about and nothing seems to go right for them.  Maybe they slept in, got stuck in traffic, had a bad day at work and are “just so done with today…ugh.  #annoyed”  Just writing that caused me to feel a touch of negativity.  Because they tend to focus on what’s going wrong in life, they’re missing out on all the good in life.  Maybe they needed the extra sleep they got when they overslept.  Maybe they would have gotten in an accident if they hadn’t been stuck in traffic.  Or maybe the reason their day went so bad was because a coworker was dealing with the loss of a loved one and treating everyone poorly as a reaction.

If you seek out negativity, you will certainly find it.  However, if you make an effort to find something positive in every experience, you will notice that good things just keep happening in your life.  You will grow to appreciate the bad times because they teach you lessons on how to succeed and truly value the great times in life.

Look for the good.  Something that helps support a positive attitude is to look for the good in every situation.  Two years ago, my husband was in a bad accident and totaled my vehicle.  It was extremely upsetting and threw our lives for a loop.  But we maintained a positive attitude and tried to always find the good.

  • My vehicle was pretty old and would probably have needed replacement or heavy repair in the near future
  • The insurance company gave me at least double what I could have gotten had I sold my vehicle myself
  • It was good he was in my vehicle because mine had the safety features that helped him survive the accident, where his vehicle was much older and lacked these safety features
  • In replacing my vehicle, I was introduced  to a company that I ended up applying to work for and have been happily employed at for over a year
  • We learned all about medical billing and insurance to give us better knowledge of both in the future (whoopee, right?  But seriously, this is good stuff to know.)

If you’re having trouble finding good things each day, get a notebook and every evening, write down 5 good things that happened that day.  They can be as simple as having a good hair day or receiving a compliment on your outfit to more major things, like getting a raise or promotion.  This will help you get in the habit of appreciating all the good things that happen on a regular basis.

Turn anxiety into excitement. Anxiety and stress are natural feelings we all experience.  When we panic, we’re told to stay calm.  However, that is an unnatural reaction to a natural feeling.  Instead of fighting the feeling, find a way to turn it into excitement and you will feel a wave of energy and motivation that will help you move on.

For example, if you are anxious about giving a presentation at a meeting, instead think about how exciting it is and use that excitement to grow your confidence and think about how happy you will be when you’ve succeeded.  Or maybe you’re nervous about an upcoming trip to a place you’ve never been.  Think instead of how exciting it is that you get to go, all the fun things you’ll get to do and how lucky you are to be going on the trip.  This will quickly change the negativity surrounding the anxiety with positive excitement.

Tackle things – including time – in small pieces.  Most people have heard the saying used in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings of “one day at a time.”  If you really stop to think about what that means you will see how applicable it is to everything in life, not just dealing with drinking.  It’s the idea to not get overwhelmed by the big picture, because let’s face it, the big picture of life is extremely overwhelming.  Even a week can be overwhelming.  When you feel like there’s too much to handle, stop right there, and tackle a small portion at a time.

When you’re overwhelmed by a massive task, it makes it that much harder to even get started.  However, if you focus just on completing just the first step, you will find yourself moving right along completing the project.  For example, if you know you have a really busy day ahead of you, with lots of meetings, deadlines and expectations from others, it can be very difficult to imagine how you will get anything done.  But if you compartmentalize your day into little chunks (i.e. “what can I accomplish in the next 30 minutes?”) the challenge will be much less overwhelming, you’ll be able to focus more efficiently, and tackle each task with a clear mind.  At the end of the day, you will then get to delight in the feeling of accomplishment you have from getting so much done.

Be honest.  I was raised, as many were, under the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  My mother taught me how to be polite, cordial and appear genuinely thankful when receiving gifts that were truly horrendous.  It was important to make sure others feel good and to always try to avoid saying anything that would upset others.

This is wonderful in theory, but not very realistic.  And as I stuck to always trying to say the right thing and be polite, I noticed that I was suppressing my true, honest, real feelings and it didn’t feel so good.  It would get to the point where I would just bottle everything up and explode when I hit my boiling point.  It actually ended up causing me health problems, having to be treated for ulcers when I was just 23 years old.

One of the most amazing things this friend—my mentee—has enabled me to do is to be absolutely honest.  It’s unfortunate how much work it has taken to get to this point, and I still struggle, but it feels so amazing to be able to tell her exactly what I’m thinking and what I suggest.  When she has contacted me crying, devastated and feeling hopeless, I can calm her down and tell her to stop panicking, try to find the positive and that she has no choice but to keep moving on and get over this rough patch rather than just sympathize with her and exacerbate her despair.

At first I felt awful not being more sympathetic, but I realized what she needed was strength, motivation and hope that she would soon feel better.  By being honest, i not only make her feel better, but I feel better myself because I’m able to say what I really feel.

Now understand there’s tactful ways and rude ways to be honest.  The goal isn’t to tell everyone exactly what you think of them, it’s to vocalize words that will be helpful and appreciated.  Find a way to speak the truth in the same manner you would appreciate receiving it.  Don’t hold in your feelings when things are unjust, but be aware of how you are reacting.  It may feel strange at first, but even try telling the truth to the mirror in a way you’d like to be told.

Be a good example.  It may sound a little narcissistic, but try to live every day as if people are watching you.  Because they are.  It is your employer’s job to make sure you are acting in a way that best represents their company and that you are performing at an acceptable level.  But many other people watch you—children, customers, family and friends.  Understand that your actions, beliefs and moods affect everyone around you.  You are a pretty powerful person with influence on those you encounter each day.

Just think, if you go to your favorite coffee shop and the barista seems to snub you a little and you react to her.  Who knows why she acted that way—maybe she just got bad news, maybe she has a headache or is extremely busy and overwhelmed.  Try not to take it personally because chances are her behavior has nothing to do with you.

  • Here’s two scenarios:
    • When she snubs you, you think “well what’s up with her attitude?” and give her a dirty look.  Maybe she takes a little longer than usual because maybe they’re out of soy milk and she has to go to the back room to get more and it was recently mopped back there so she has to be really careful to not slip.  And maybe they just ran out of your favorite muffin so you have to settle for a bagel.  After a slightly longer than normal wait and not getting what you want, you’re frustrated so you don’t bother tipping at all.  She’s frustrated and you’re frustrated and you both pass that attitude along to the people you encounter who then pass it along as well.  Negativity snowballs and spreads.
    • When she snubs you, you smile at her and mention that it looks like the shop is really busy today.  Maybe she reacts kindly or maybe she has attitude.  Either way, you maintain a positive attitude and have happy thoughts toward her.  You give her a slightly larger tip than usual or slip her a gift card and wish her a great day.  The next time you go in, she’s friendly and upgrades your drink from a tall to a grande at no charge.  You’re surprised by her generosity, so you decide to surprise something with your generosity by paying for their drink.  And you continue to have a positive relationship with the barista and you both spread kindness to all you encounter the rest of the day.

Now which scenario sounds better?  Spreading negativity to all you meet or brightening the day of everyone you encounter?  It may feel like strength and power to carry a grudge and be angry, but it’s a weakness that turns you into a bitter, unhappy person, and it can even lead to health problems caused by raised blood pressure from the anger adrenaline and tension.

By making an effort to always be a good example to all those around you, you will find it easier to remain positive and surprised by the opportunities that come your way because of your good attitude!

Don’t take things so personally.  It’s easy to think the way a person treats you is directly caused by their feelings toward you.  The truth is, when someone’s having a bad day or are upset, their mind focuses on the issue at hand and they are often not even aware of how they appear to or treat others.  It’s actually pretty self-centered to think you hold that much power in another person’s life that they would change all of their behavior just because of you.  I realize this seems to contradict my previous point about mistreating the barista, but even in that situation, it’s temporary—the barista is not actually angry with you, she’s upset about something unrelated.  your mistreatment (or kindness) is temporary until you leave, but chances are, unless you are truly horrible to someone, you’re not going to be the reason their day is ruined.

The key to remember is if someone mistreats you, it’s very likely unrelated to you and the best thing you can do is be that spot of sunshine in their day, even if they decide not to enjoy it.  Let them be miserable and certainly don’t let it ruin your day.

Think kindly of others. We all have to deal with people we don’t particularly like from time to time or even on a regular basis.  But fostering negative thoughts toward others poisons our mind and starts to make us bitter and negative.  While some people are just genuinely awful, it’s important to examine why we don’t like someone and determine whether it’s valid.

Now even if it is a valid reason, holding ill feelings toward others is counterproductive to happiness.  Since it can be difficult to change others (and maddening!) make an effort to change your own mindset.  It’s easy to focus on their faults, but that leads to continually looking for their faults and continually finding more and more to irritate yourself with.

Instead, change your mindset by focusing on positive things about people, especially people you aren’t fond of.  Maybe they look nice today or they did something generous or they’re really good at something.  Start focusing on those characteristics instead of their flaws and you will notice how they become easier to be around and how many more positive things you start noticing in them.

To take it a step further, start complimenting them on these positive things.  Obviously we can’t read each others’ minds, but we can sense when others don’t like us.  So when you think bad things about someone, they generally can feel your negativity.  So as you start to become more positive and start projecting that on to them, they will often return the positivity.  And if they don’t, then just keep your positive thoughts to yourself, let them do as they please and continue to be positive.

Start every day with something motivating or positive.  The best way to keep a positive mindset is to start first thing every morning.  Nearly every morning, I play some kind of motivational YouTube video to listen to while I get ready.  I listen to TedTalks or just search for “motivational success” and see what comes up.  If the video seems relevant to a friend, I’ll send a link along so they can be motivated as well.  This has been one of the most influential things I have done this year to really get me off to a positive start each day.

I also started waking up an hour earlier.  This way, I have plenty of time to get things done in the morning and don’t feel rushed or stressed if I encounter heavy traffic on my way to work.  I get to work a bit early so I have time to get settled in before having to start my day.

Changing what I listen to on the way to work has made a difference as well.  I had gotten into the habit of listening to local radio stations with morning shows that didn’t have the greatest quality and actually, quite a bit of drama.  I realized these were causing me a bit of stress, which sounds silly, but it was unnecessary drama and not a peaceful way to start my day.  Ideally, I shouldn’t have any noise when I’m driving so I can take the time to reflect on my day and just listen to my thoughts.  So instead, I started listening to an instrumental CD of peaceful, beautiful music.  It puts a sense of calm on me so I arrive at my destination relaxed and positive, not stressed out.

Reflection

These are just some of the behaviors I’ve been practicing that I have found to really improve my life and have really helped my friend get through many tough times as well.  And I find that the more I practice these behaviors, the more positive and happy I feel as well.  I always look for the positive things each day and try to get excited about what the future holds.

Perhaps some day I will become a true mentor to someone, but for the time being, I’ve learned that it’s something I’m capable of and it can truly improve my life!