Is It Time for a Career Change? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance . Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to make it happen for a more fulfilling life.

Signs that you need a career change

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Why a career change is good for you

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

Common mistakes of people making a career change

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. What is your situation?

  • Desire for an increase of salary: The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time. At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.
  • Overnight decision: Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.
  • Rejected for a promotion: I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.
  • Bored at work: Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization. Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Now that you had a chance to review your work situation and none of these recommendations can help, it is time to take the next step.

How to make the change for a successful career (Step-by-step)

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a career plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh your options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job, in the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be real about the pros and cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

4. Find a mentor

A mentor that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

  • What is required to be successful in the role?
  • What certification or educational development is needed?
  • What are the challenges of the role?
  • Is there potential for career advancement?

A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: A Good Mentor Is Hard to Find: What to Look for in a Mentor

5. Research salary

Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

6. Be realistic

If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

7. Volunteer first

A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

8. Prepare your career tools

I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

  • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
  • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
  • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.

Final thoughts

It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will discover the role that is the best fit with your skillsets.

Master these action steps and changing careers will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
[2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan

The post Is It Time for a Career Change? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps appeared first on Lifehack.

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The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

Let me just start by saying, I’m not what you would consider a morning person. I’m not a terrible dragon by any means. But, with three kids, the dog, a job and an active life, I have to admit that I like my sleep.

My husband was reading a book recently about the power of a morning routine. I asked him to share the summary of what he learned. It all sounded great; but the idea of implementing a lengthy morning routine or getting up an hour early to do a variety of things makes me want to go right back to bed. We only have so much ‘bandwidth’ and willpower in a day, and personally, I don’t want to use it all up by 7am.

When I asked what he had done with this book’s great suggestions, the answer was nothing. He loved the ideas and concepts but hadn’t changed anything in his life.

This is the thing about most advice (on any topic really). It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s that it doesn’t work for everybody. Any habit you are trying to change or create needs to take into account your unique personality, lifestyle and challenges.

Have you ever set out with great intentions to do something – a new diet, exercise regimen or morning routine, only to fall flat on your face a few days or weeks later? Then what? You beat yourself up that you didn’t do it ‘right’, that you failed.

Here’s the thing, you haven’t failed, you have just found something that doesn’t work for you. And now, it’s time to find something that does. What works for a friend, colleague or spouse will not necessarily work for you.

There is a perfect morning routine that will make YOU happy and productive all day – you just have to find yours.

Which is why, rather than give you a specific, one-size-fits-all morning routine, I’m going to give you some options. Think of it like a menu. You get to choose what makes sense for your life, with your personality, motivations, goals, desires and circumstances.

The benefits of a morning routine

As Hal Elrod, author of “The Miracle Morning”, says,

“Focused, productive successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days – which inevitably create a successful life.”

A morning routine is said to boost happiness, increase productivity, reduce stress levels and get you grounded and settled for the day. It’s about getting started on the ‘right foot’.

A morning routine also allows you to start your morning with intention, rather than letting the day run away from you. You control the day; the day doesn’t control you. This positive feeling of being on top of things has results in a positive feeling and effect on your entire day.

As with many things in life, small changes lead to big results. It’s the compounding effect.

Tony Robbins’ morning routine “includes a nutritional supplement, meditation, workout, and sauna-to-cold-plunge combo.” You can check it out here. Arianna Huffington shares hers here.

In fact, most great entrepreneurs and leaders throughout history cite their morning routine as a large contributor to their success. But it’s not just entrepreneurs and leaders that benefit from a morning routine. We all can.

A good friend and colleague of mine just started a new morning routine and here’s what she had to say: “I love waking up before my family and having dedicated ‘me’ time. This means my kids aren’t the ones waking me up… if they’re the ones waking me up, it means I immediately have something to do. Waking up for me, early, gives me time to do what I need so when they wake up, I’m excited to greet them for the day.”

We’ve established a morning routine is important and valuable, are you ready to create yours?

How to create your ultimate morning routine:

As a coach and consultant with a diverse background, it’s important to me to look at this from a wholistic point of view. Let’s look at the morning routine through the lens of Integrative Wellness principles, which take into account the four aspects or ‘systems’ of you: Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual.

You can also think of this as Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit.

You’ll probably notice as we talk through examples that some activities or habits cover multiple systems of your body. Awesome! If you can leverage your time and get two, three or four system benefits for the price of one, even better!

Let’s look at each of these areas more specifically.

Mentally

Put simply, this has to do with your mind, including thoughts, beliefs, values, goals, hopes, dreams, desires and plans.

Some options to create a positive mental space in the morning include:

Set goals.

I have a friend that puts up three Post-it notes every morning. They include the three most important goals she has for the day. This gives her something to focus on – and make sure she achieves throughout her day.

And because it’s only three things, it still leaves room for other things that come up – so there’s built in flexibility too.

Make a list.

Get it off your mind. Sometimes in the night we worry, waking up thinking about what we need to accomplish. This means we wake up already feeling behind. Instead, if there’s something you know you need to do, write it down.

Make a list so you can free you mind for more important thinking.

Create a plan/schedule for the day.

When you know you’ve got a hectic day ahead, a little planning can go a long way. Have a look on your calendar and see what’s there – integrate your goals and your list of to-do’s so you have a plan of action.

Read something that feeds your mind.

My Dad loves reading the Wall Street Journal in the morning. It starts his day on the right foot.

A friend of mine reads for 10 minutes and this habit has brought her immense joy. The way she sees it, if she reads a page a minute, her 10 minutes a day will turn into 3,650 pages read by the end of the year or 12 300-page books! For someone who could never find time to read, she’s now finishing great books and feeling awesome about it.

Emotionally

This is all about your feelings, emotions and relationships. You can think of it as all things related to the heart.

Some things you can do in the morning to help your emotional well-being include:

Express gratitude.

New research continues to surface on the science and benefits of gratitude. Studies have now proven a multitude of benefits from expressing gratitude; ranging from how it improves relationships, physical and emotional health, sleep, mental stamina, energy and overall happiness. I have a simple practice; before I get out of bed in the morning, I think of two things I feel grateful for. In the “5 Minute Journal”, one of the first things you do in the morning is write down three things you are grateful for. You choose the number- but expressing gratitude for a great way to kick-start the day.

Hug your kid, spouse or pet.

Hugging boosts your oxytocin levels (the love hormone), increases serotonin (elevates mood and creates happiness), strengthens the immune system, boosts self-esteem, lowers blood pressure, balances the nervous system and releases tension. Put simply, hugging makes you feel good. Find someone – or something – to hug. It only takes a few seconds and it can put you in a positive mood for the day.

Connect with a friend, family member or anyone who makes you feel joyous, happy and connected.

When I wake up my kiddos, it would be easy to open the door and call for them to get up. Instead, I take a few extra moments to go up to each of them (not easy when they sleep in loft beds), kiss them good morning and take a moment to connect. My husband takes his morning commute time to call friends and family and connect with them. In both approaches, we’re not taking more time out of our day or adding something to our to-do list, we’re including it in something that already is happening in our daily routine.

Identify what makes you feel good.

What brings you happiness, joy or excitement for the day ahead? What makes you feel grounded or connected on a deeper level? Meditation, yoga, breathwork? Get more of that.

Physically

All those things we think about that we can do with our body or physical space. This might include what we eat or drink, how we move and anything that has to do with our physical selves.

Here are some options for increasing your physical well-being in the morning:

Get moving.

Get the blood flowing. We all know the benefits of exercise. This might be a run, hike, trip to the gym, yoga, stretching or finding your own short workout. Remember, what works for one person will not work for everyone.

For example, my husband and I thought it would be a great idea to get a trainer once a week. Every Thursday we woke up at 5:45am, got ready and worked out from 6-7am. This might have seemed like a good idea, but it really didn’t work for me. I really didn’t like getting up that early and forcing my body to work out before it was ready.

I tried it for several months, trying to convince myself it was good for me. But it didn’t feel good. I didn’t enjoy it and it didn’t help me have a more productive day. What does work? My husband gets up and takes the dog for a walk/run and I take my morning hike/do my exercise/yoga once the kids are off to school. Again, this is about what works for you – listen to your body.

Drink lemon water.

Before you reach for that first cup of coffee, reach first for something that hydrates you. I drink warm lemon water. I got this tip from a 94-year-old grandmother in Australia almost 20 years ago. She swore her health and her life benefited from this habit.

Need a few more reasons? Check these out here . I usually throw in a bag of ‘detox’ tea and drink this as I take the kiddos to school.

Eat a good breakfast.

What does that mean for you? A protein smoothie? Great. Avocado Toast? Awesome. Oatmeal? Fantastic. Eat a healthy, ‘real-food’ breakfast to get you going.

Ground yourself.

You can do this in many ways.

A few years back, I was going through a period of high anxiety. A bodyworker recommended I start each day by stepping out of bed and grounding my feet into the earth. I sit at the edge of my bed and feel the earth under my feet for a moment, picturing the roots of a tree. You can then feel this move through your whole spine and body.

While I don’t do this exercise every day, if I wake up feeling slightly anxious or stressed, I take the extra minute to ground and get connected. Another technique I use most days is to place one hand on my heart and one on my stomach and just breathe for a few minutes. This instantly calms and relaxes my entire body.

Clean your physical space.

When our physical space is cluttered, our minds often feel the same way.

What makes you feel settled? I have a client who feels better when she makes her bed. If she doesn’t, her day seems to go downhill.

What works for you? Tidy up your workspace. Get the clothes in the hamper. Whatever makes you feel more settled in your physical space, it is worth the effort.

Read this article if you aren’t sure how to declutter.

Spiritually

This can be anything related to you and a feeling of inspiration, which means, ‘in spirit’. While it doesn’t have to convey religion, it may for you. It’s more about what you need to feel connected to something deeper, bigger, higher – and what makes you feel most connected to yourself.

Here are a few examples:

Meditation.

While some of you may be reading this thinking, YES, I love my morning meditation practice, others might be feeling a sense of stress or trepidation reading yet another article about meditation.

If you’re feeling hesitant but want to try it out, there are a ton of great apps (The Mindfulness app, Headspace and Calm) and other resources out there for you. I found this guided morning mediation years ago and still use it when I need something short and sweet.

I also love the free 21-day guided meditations from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey Many clients and friends have found this an ‘easy entry’.

And, if you’re one of those people who feel they can’t meditate (I feel you, I WAS one of you!), guided meditations are your new best friend. Check out a few and see what works for you.

Be in nature.

Find a place you can sit or walk and just be. Notice the colors of the trees and the sky, the smells in the air. What do you hear if you listen closely? Take a moment to feel the earth beneath your feet or the breeze against your face.

Take a walk in nature and you’ve got physical and spiritual needs covered all in one go!

Interestingly, I was raised Jewish and went to temple growing up. Until at some point along the way, my Mom decided that the best way for her to connect with something greater than herself was to be outside. From that moment on, we spent all of our ‘high holidays’ outside in nature together.

Religious study.

My brother is an incredible example of this. Every morning, he gets up early and does his bible study. He sits at the kitchen table (or wherever he is at the time), reads a passage and writes notes. He then finishes by writing a note to his wife. Since he’s not a verbal person, it allows him to ensure that his wife knows he is thinking about her.

Incredible and romantic? Yes. This also covers his spiritual and emotional needs in one go. More importantly, it grounds him. It allows him to reflect on the day ahead. It connects him to something greater than himself and makes him feel calm going into the day, knowing that he has invested in his spiritual and personal relationships before anything else.

Connect to yourself.

Know what it means to be true to you and take a moment to get grounded in yourself. Here are 11 Ways to be true to you to get you started.

Additional tips for the ultimate morning routine

As you build your morning routine, there’re things you need to remember.

What to keep in mind

1. A healthy morning routine starts the night before.

Getting quality sleep is essential to starting your mornings off right. Make sure you get the recommended 7-9 hours (or whatever works for you). If you’re going to get up earlier for your morning routine, you need to go to bed earlier.

Here are some basic ways to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Get off your electronics at least an hour before bed (and set them to DND or leave them outside of your bedroom).
  • Make sure you have a comfortable pillow and mattress.
  • Set a consistent sleep routine, reduce outside noise and sleep in a well-darkened room or wear an eye mask.

You may want to take reference of Lifehack’s CEO Leon, who has a consistent night routine to keep him sleep well and wake up energetic.

2. Keep it simple.

Find one or two things (three max) that you feel will work for YOU to get you on a roll. Start with a quick win and work your way up from there.

I don’t recommend choosing eight things and then giving up – or beating yourself up because you couldn’t make it work. If you put too much on your plate, you won’t do anything. Eventually, you’ll want to have at least one activity from each of the four categories, but you can start small and work your way up.

3. Take a test drive.

Once you’ve settled on a few concepts that you think will work for you, try them for a few days before you decide if it does/doesn’t work. Like with any habit, you need at least 21 days to create something that sticks.

4. Set a reminder.

Put something in place that reminds you of your morning routine. Here are 24 habit tracking apps you could try.

Or if you’re more old-school like me, find a symbol to remind you – put a Post-it on your bathroom mirror, a note on the fridge or a physical symbol to remind you what you’re doing.

5. Integrate.

Find ways to integrate your morning routine into what you’re already doing, rather than adding more on your ‘to-do’ list. You can also double up, finding activities that covering a couple multiple ‘systems’ of your body.

What not to do

You now have some great options about what to do. But having a great morning routine that energizes you is also as much about what not to do in the morning!

Think about what doesn’t work for you. Are there things that happen or you do that get you started off on the wrong foot? That pull you off-track or out of stride?

Do you hate waking up to the sounds of the ‘alarm’ and need a better way to rise? Perhaps you are decimated by negativity and need to make sure you protect yourself from negative news or people early in the day?

For me, it’s my phone. I have my best mornings when I don’t check my phone or email. I find that when I check my email, it distracts me from my morning and starts me off in the wrong direction. My mind has gone down a rathole of everything I’ve just read, how I’m going to respond, what I need to do…. and I’m not longer present in my morning. I’ve made it a non-negotiable part of my morning routine to not check my emails before my kids go to school.

Time to build your ultimate morning routine!

You’ve had a look at the menu, now it’s time to decide what you’re going to have. It’s time to create your ultimate morning routine.

Remember, like with anything in life, there’s no one-size-fits all approach. If you’re:

  • Someone who thrives from positive energy, make sure whatever you do first gives you that burst of positivity.
  • Someone who needs to have a plan, then try the three Post-it strategy or create your plan for the day.
  • Someone who needs to physically exert yourself, go for that morning run or hike.
  • Someone who needs to think, find time for your reading, strategizing and journaling.
  • Someone whose mind races, try meditation.

Take a moment to think about what resonates with you the most. Do you need five minutes or an hour? What feels like it will ground you or energize you?

Maybe there are a couple ideas that stood out, or one in particular you just know you need to do. What can you commit to right now in your life, with your current circumstances and everything you know about you?

Then do it. Get started tomorrow morning.

You’ll be more happy, productive, energized and thankful you did.

Featured photo credit: Twenty20 via twenty20.com

The post The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day appeared first on Lifehack.

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The Ultimate Guide to Make Saving Money Fast and Easy

We all know we should be saving money. The problem is that it usually isn’t that we don’t make enough money, it’s that we don’t have a system to manage our money.

With the right system in place, saving money is simple and you’ll be surprised just how fast your savings can grow.

In this ultimate guide to make saving money fast and easy, we’re going to look at simple ways to get started, what common mistakes to avoid AND some advanced steps that anyone can master to take their spending and saving habits to the next level!

The sad truth about saving money

Most people have a savings account. A few of them even have something in it. Unfortunately if you’re like the majority of Americans, you have less than $1,000 saved. According to a recent survey by GoBanking, upwards of 57% of Americans had less than $1,000 in their savings account.[1]

The good news is that percentage was down from 69% the year before. But it still illustrates that we have some work to do with saving money.

Thankfully, if you haven’t started saving money yet, our ultimate guide to saving money will get you on the right track.

If you’re already saving, then the guide will help you to take your finances to the next level.

Common mistakes people make when trying to save money

The most common mistakes people make when trying to save money are:

  • Not getting started
  • Not saving enough each month
  • Not taking advantage of employer matches on retirement savings
  • Living above their means (and thus limiting the potential for saving money)

Often when getting started, many people freeze in the face of terms like 401k, IRA, Roth, mutual funds, etc. That fear and lack of knowledge can cause what many refer to as analysis paralysis.

I would rather you get started and make some mistakes than not get started at all or wait 10 years to do it.

With the age of the internet, finding information and educating yourself has never been easier. Between YouTube and podcasts, you can learn how to do almost anything quickly and easily.

So take a deep breath, do some research but ultimately get started sooner rather than later.

Simple ways to start saving money (For beginners)

For retirement savings, most experts agree that about 15% of your gross annual income is about right.

If you waited until 45 to start, you may want to up that. Starting at 23? That’s awesome! You can get away with less if you need to.

Not sure where to start at all? Start with your employer and see if they offer a 401(K) retirement plan. Many do and often they will match a certain number of dollars that you put in. So make sure you put in at least what they will match.

If they don’t offer a retirement plan, then you’ll want to open a Roth IRA. You can do that quickly and easily online at places like Fidelity or E-Trade.

A Roth IRA is simply an investment account where you put money in (most often investing in mutual funds which are simply groups of company stocks). You put money in each month and the investment grows over time.

Ready to dive in deeper? Learn more about what’s different between a 401(k) and an IRA.

The key differences between a Roth and a regular IRA

In a word, taxes are the difference.

With a Roth, you add money to it that you have already paid taxes on (ie: it comes after you deposit your paycheck which typically has tax deducted already).

After you add the money, it grows tax-free and you withdraw some or all of it after you reach age 59 1/2. As long as you wait until retirement age to withdraw it, the money you take out is tax-free. This is a great option since it could grow considerably!

With a regular IRA, you add money before you pay taxes (often through a payroll deduction).

Then when you withdraw the money, you pay tax at that time. The primary benefit here is you can reduce your taxable income now and you might be in a lower tax bracket by the time you take your withdrawal.

There’s a lot more to say on retirement savings, so dive in deeper, check out How To Catch Up On Your Retirement Savings.

The limitations of the IRA

There are a few limitations to IRAs you should be aware of.

For starters, you can’t open a Roth if you make over $135,000/year for a single person or $199,000 for a married couple filing jointly. You can, however, open a regular IRA if your income exceeds those limits.

Either way you can only contribute a maximum of $5,500/year to either type. If you’re over 50, however, you can contribute up to $6,500/year. Married couples can each have an account with those limits for each one.

In many cases, to get to 15% of your income going into retirement, you may need multiple accounts (401k, Roth and regular IRA).

Of course, always check with the IRS as those figures can change from year to year.

How to select the right mutual funds

In a company 401(k), the company managing the fund (often someone like Vanguard) will give you a list of mutual funds to choose from. You determine which ones to put a certain percentage of your contribution in each month.

In an IRA, you have the ability to select any mutual fund to invest in.

There is a lot to know about saving money inside of mutual funds. To start with, simply look for funds with a 10 or more year track record where they have earned an average of 10% interest (or higher) over that period.

The stock market fluctuates a lot. If you see a company has averaged over 10% for a decade or more, while nothing is guaranteed, that’s a great predictor of how the fund will continue to perform.

As you gain experience, you can also start to consider things like expenses (different funds charge different fees) and whether you get charged the fees when you buy or when you sell. You can buy and sell funds within your IRA at any time.

Investment diversification and why it matters

Diversification is key.

One of the most common mistakes is just investing in 1 stock or mutual fund. If that one investment goes south, you don’t want all of your retirement savings to go with it. So don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Have your IRA or 401k invested in at least 4 different mutual funds. That way if one stops performing well, you still have the other 3.

Also, while you don’t want to knee-jerk react every time Wall Street takes a plunge, you do want to monitor your funds at least quarterly and make timely and thought out changes as needed.

Want to learn more? Check out these 6 Tips for Long-term Investment Success.

The importance of an emergency fund

Let’s face it. Life happens!

We’ve all been there. Your air conditioner breaks, your car gets hit by and uninsured driver or perhaps a medical expense out of pocket bill is over $1,000.

Without an emergency fund, almost everyone would panic and just reach for a credit card. But if we’re trying to improve saving money and plan for our financial future, adding extra debt is not how we want to go about doing that.

Thus an emergency fund (or lack thereof) can literally make or break your household budget. This is a simple savings account in your bank. It’s not an investment and you need to have easy access when you need it. It should be separated from your regular savings account and only used for true emergencies.

Ideally, you should have not 1 or 2, but 5 bank accounts.[2] Having a separate account for each purpose will help keep you on track with saving money in each individual category.

How much should you put in an emergency fund?

If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one today. Make your initial goal to be $1,000. As you get out of debt and get your financial ducks in a row, build that up to 3-6 months of your monthly expenses.

Note I said expenses and not income. I would also suggest that in a real financial emergency (job loss for example), radically cut expenses down to the essentials.

Why the 3-6 month range? In a word, it depends on job security. In a stable 2 income household where both bread-winners have been employed for 2 or more years, 3 months is fine. If you have 1 income or unstable or inconsistent income, go towards 6 months.

For most 2 person households with 2 or more kids, we’re talking a minimum of $8-10,000. Depending on your income and expenses though, it could be twice that.

Can’t quite figure out how to even save $1,000? Check out these Eight Simple Ways to Save for an Emergency.

Crucial steps to take for holiday spending

Almost everyone spends some kind of money around the November and December holiday season. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, chances are you buy gifts for your boss or do a gift exchange at work or host holiday parties.

Most folks fail to plan throughout the year for this spending. Then they hit November 1st, panic and reach for the credit cards. Thus it’s crucial, if we’re talking about saving money, that we have a plan for holiday spending.

The key to holiday spending success

The key to holiday spending success is to start saving money for the holidays in January. But even if you didn’t start in January, get started now.

Decide (in conjunction with your spouse or partner if you have one) how much you plan to spend. Make sure to include holiday travel and food expenses.

Then assume you’ll want to start spending that beginning in November. Divide that total by the number of months you have to save (11 if you’re starting in January). Transfer that amount of money into a separate savings account each month.

Many banks and credit unions have what’s called a “Christmas Club”. This is a savings account for holiday spending and they typically transfer it back into your checking account November 1st.

As an example, say your family of 4 plans to spend $1,000, divide $1,000 by 11 and we see that you need to transfer $90.90 into your holiday savings account each month starting in January.

How to plan for a better financial future

So we now have some of the basics of saving money in place. That means it’s time to look at our spending and expenses and make sure we’re living within our means.

After all, if expenses are out of line, saving money (at least enough of it), can be very hard, if not impossible.

How much should your mortgage or rent be?

Many experts agree that you should not be paying more than about 25% of your monthly take home pay on your mortgage or rent payment. When we’re talking mortgage, make sure to include taxes and insurance which are sometimes (but not always) included in your total monthly payment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary in 2017 was around $44,000.[3] Let’s assume that for a 2 person household, both people make about that. Thus for a combined annual salary of $88,000, we’re talking about $5,500 per month take home pay in a 25% tax bracket.

This couple should then not spend more than $1,375/month on rent or mortgage.

What if your rent or mortgage exceeds 25% of your income?

If you find yourself exceeding 25% for your rent or mortgage, it’s time for some tough questions. Ask yourself:

  • Is your income likely to increase in the next year?
  • If so, how does that impact the percentage of your housing expense?
  • If you own your home, do you love it?
  • If yes, can you add a side hustle or find other ways to boost your income?

If you are just a little over 25% and you love where you live, I would probably just stay there. Assuming you have a fixed rate mortgage, your income will likely increase faster than property tax and insurance.

If you don’t love your home or your payment greatly exceeds 25%, then it’s time to consider moving down in home. If you don’t, saving money and getting ahead financially can be very difficult.

The proven power of doing a monthly budget

Show me someone financially successful and unless it was all inherited, chances are this person does a monthly budget each and every month.

Many people are unintentional with their money and their spending. They buy what they want in the moment, often on a credit or debit card and then just pay the minimum monthly payments at the end of the month and keep going.

We’ve all been there, but there’s a better way.

While you can use paper or a spreadsheet, you might also want to check out the Best 15 Money Management Apps available so make budgeting and saving money even easier.

How to start your budget

To get started budgeting, sit down with your spouse or partner before the month begins. List your known income for the month at the top and then subtract all the known expenses you have for the month.

Ideally when you get to the bottom, it will be close to zero. That doesn’t mean you are broke. It means you were intentional with your money and had a solid plan for where every dollar went.

It’s totally okay if one of you (for those in a 2 person household) is more the budget nerd. What IS crucial is that you both agree on how your money gets spent.

For both financial success and relationship success, this is what most experts recommend:

  • Married couples (or long-term committed couples) should combine bank accounts
  • Combine all expenses and income (it’s no longer yours or mine but ours)
  • Make all financial decisions together
  • Have an agreement about how much 1 person can spend without consulting the other

When we are in sync with our spouse and have a solid plan and system, you’ll not only find great success in saving money but greater success in your relationship too.

Still not sure how to get started? Learn more about the budgeting here.

How to crush the debts

The average household in the US owes almost $16,000 on credit cards according to a recent study by NerdWallet.[4]
Add to that, an average of almost $30,000 in car loans and almost $50,000 in student loans and you can see why many people are in a debt crisis. Notice I didn’t even include mortgage debt in those figures.

If you find your household is among those with upwards of $100,000 in combined debts, not counting the mortgage, you owe it to yourself and your financial future to make a change.

Getting out of debt doesn’t require winning the lottery nor does it require an inheritance from that rich uncle. It just takes you and your spouse or partner being intentional with your decisions and your money.

Most of us weren’t taught good financial practices in school or growing up. But now is the time to learn those practices and put them in place until they stick.

10 years ago, my wife and I were $60,000 in debt. We drove cars that weren’t paid for and our house payment was well over 40% of our take home pay. We had to learn the importance of saving money and getting out of debt the hard way.

If you follow these proven steps in our ultimate guide to make saving money fast and easy, you’ll be far better off than I was.

How we find ourselves in debt

Most of us with debt didn’t get there overnight. Thus we won’t get out of debt overnight either.

The good news is that with a small emergency fund, a reasonable house payment, budgeting and planning for things like holiday expenses we should be well on our way to financial success.

Many of us got into debt by making decisions emotionally. We bought that new car or giant TV because we saw the neighbors with one or felt we deserved it after some drama or turmoil in our life. When we buy things like that incurring debt, the expense doesn’t seem real to us.

That’s especially true when we buy things using deals like “3 years no interest or payments”. This is because cash didn’t actually leave our wallet or bank account (yet).

If we can get to a place where we no longer use debt, the expenses and spending, choices become a lot more real. When that happens, we evaluate and scrutinize purchases much more closely. By doing so, we naturally spend less and saving money gets easier.

The best way to get out of debt (Quickly and easily)

Since getting into debt was emotional, we have to use emotions to our benefit to get out of debt.

By that I mean ignore things like interest rates and balance transfers. Those things are great in theory but we need to feel an emotional win to keep our motivation up.

The easiest way to do that is to do what financial guru Dave Ramsey calls a “debt snowball“.

With that system, we put all our debts (excluding mortgage) in order from smallest to largest. Pay minimum payments on all but the smallest and pay every extra dollar you can towards that smallest one. When the smallest gets paid off, attack the next one on the list in the same way.

By working our way up from smallest to largest and (hopefully) paying off those small ones quickly, we get traction early on. That helps keep us motivated to get to the finish line.

Things like the “stack method” of paying off debt sounds great but only really works if you are super disciplined and committed. If your resolve is rock solid, go for it!

Advanced steps to make money saving a life-long habit

Once you’re out of debt, budgeting, saving 15% for retirement and have solid plans for saving money for things like emergencies, holidays and your next car, it’s take your finances to the next level.

Congratulations! You are winning with money.

Now you’ll want to look at things like:

  1. Paying off your mortgage early
  2. Increasing charitable donations
  3. Adding even more to retirement funds

Why paying off your mortgage early is a great idea

Most of us have 30 year mortgages. The trouble is, not only do most of us move before we live in a house 30 years, we have a tendency to take out home equity loans and lines of credit.

Thus, even if we use those loans for things that bring value (like remodeling your house), it’s still just another debt.

Imagine what life would be like without a house payment!

While we still have to pay property tax and homeowner’s insurance, most of us can easily cut our monthly expenses by hundreds, if not $1,000 or more once we pay off our mortgage.

Think of what you do with an extra $1,000 each and every month. Spend more, give more or invest more (or ideally a combination of all 3).

How to pay off your mortgage early

The average American owes just over $200,000 on their mortgage according to a recent survey by Experian.[5]

Let’s say you still owe that amount and have 20 years left on your 30 year mortgage at 4% interest. Not counting taxes and insurance, you’ll end up paying almost $300,000 if you just make the minimum payment for 20 years.

Imagine what you could do with that extra $100,000!

Let’s say instead of making your normal payment of $1212, you up it each month to $1,500. In that scenario, you’ll knock 5 years off your loan and save almost $26,000 in interest! All that with just an extra $288/month payment. Imagine the savings if you went even higher!

Can’t scrape an extra $288 together? No problem! Any extra amount helps. As you get debt under control or your salary increases, you will be able to increase over time.

Do your own calculations using the Extra Payment Mortgage Calculator.

Well on your way to saving money!

Hopefully this ultimate guide to making saving money fast and easy gave you everything you need to know about how to get started or how to ramp up your savings.

We looked at some simple actionable tips and we broke down the areas where most people get stuck.

Most importantly, you now have a clear path of both where you are now and how to get to where you want to be.

Featured photo credit: Pexels.com via pexels.com

Reference

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How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful and Highly Fulfilling Life

Change begins with hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy. Combine this with setting short term goals and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What is a short-term goal?

Short term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip to start: Write down the specific result you’ll be achieving and the date when it will happen. Then work backwards from this date describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you have the first step you’ll take.

A short-term goal is the smallest step needed for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

‘Passionate desire’ is the key. As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin and/or endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, cognitive neuroscientist says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

How short term goals make your life more fulfilling

Regardless of the area in your life that you set short term goals, the good news is this will have a ripple effect across all your life domains:

  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your personal health and your desire for self improvement lifts.

How short term goals advance your career

Specifically, you will need short term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short term goals.

Start by planning your career visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it in television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal setting process with visual planning. He says,

I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?” Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make you think like a start-up entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your own successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday, but improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the work horses of your short term goals. Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘triggers’ for your daily habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about. (The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp)

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action like Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

Get you to talk about the future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy which continue fueling not only your desire, but an expectancy of achieving it.

Manage mental resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life. When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards a desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos. For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

6 Easy steps to success with short term goals

Setting short terms goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but how to achieve that? Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[1]

Step 1: Defining your best hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area of your life you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas so you relate to the outcome. In this process, you go on to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you, but also the transformation of your behavior and mindset that will happen as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Noticing what’s different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Continue asking: ‘What else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often times, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it; yet if we dig and resurface a truth, then a weight can be lifted, allowing you a freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who else will notice the difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues and a partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put a third person perspective on the differences they notice about the changes they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know you are somehow different as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a miracle happened tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe your day as if the miracle had happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you’d wake and then describe the differences you’d notice in every tiny action you do. Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

4 Proven tools to track your short term goal success

When you set a short term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[2]

1. Create a running tally

One of the best devices to keep your short term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things you’re noticing that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

3. Share your progress with a trusted friend or coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing. And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

4. Visualize your progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change. Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Summing it up

Change is possible. Short term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience)

Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.

This applies to persuasive speeches as well. These are speeches made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive speeches include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.

Here is a definitive step by step guide on how to frame and execute an excellent persuasive speech:

1. Selecting a topic

People are naturally interested in stories that have a hook. For a speech, this is none other than a topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged and hence, the first step to achieving this is to select a good topic that will capture the attention of their audience.

Here are ways you can identify a good topic for your persuasive speech:

a) Brainstorm

A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas. It also should feel less stressful than other methods. Once you’ve come up with a list of potential topics, it all boils down to identifying what you think is good, depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and what their interests are.

Once done, start the process of elimination and remove the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic to speak about. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to be creative, your presentation will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.

b) Tailor the content of your presentation to your audience’s needs

Understanding who you are speaking to can help you sound much more persuasive. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and the content much more relevant and relatable to your audience.

For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity of understanding. If you will be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons especially since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.

Furthermore, if you come in to the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a surefire way to lose their interest. And if they do not see a need to listen to their show, how are you going to sell your idea in the first place? Make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will increase your credibility as a result and show you’ve done your homework.

Questions to get yourself started:

  • Who will be attending your presentation?
  • What are their goals?
  • What motivates them?
  • What values do they most care about?
  • What are some examples that are relevant to them?
  • How can I customize the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
  • What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used daily in their conversations?

c) Make It Personal

In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch for your topic.

One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate for. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic. You live and breathe this topic. This passion for the topic will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research and stories. This will help your topic resonate with other people as much as it resonates with you.

For Most TED talk speakers, their talk is their life’s work. One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying the human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming and persuasive:

2. Organize content

There’s no point in having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organized in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which means that you did not convey your key message successfully.

One way to organize your content is to create an outline first – it restructures your speech so that it’s clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one main point to the other. Similar to how one might structure a video,[1] a speech is not that much different.

Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.

3. Know your content inside and out

One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak. Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result.

If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to persuade them into buying whatever you’re speaking about? Make sure to practice and understand your speech thoroughly without reading your slides.

With that being said, however, many tend to memorize their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster. What if you you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience.

Instead, focus on memorizing the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech. According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction and allow your personality to shine through, thereby convincing your audience as well.

4. Storytelling techniques (Hero’s journey)

You want to capture the attention of your audience with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.

This technique is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.

So when you start your speech, try telling a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech.

Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to escalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.

There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof stories is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach.[2] This is because it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action.

Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.

The tale of these heroes all boil down to three points– the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero’s journey approach and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

5. Make use of ‘you’ and ‘because’

There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilize them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience.

a) “You”

When you’re speaking or even writing or pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’. This word not only gets your audience’s attention, it also makes them feel special – like they are a part of something.

Using “you” makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience. Instantly, you’ll notice the word holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and makes them feel personally involved.

b) “Because”

A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people the inclined to allow someone else to do something.

Here is a proven scenario:

Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies?

Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous. This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason.

6. Reinforce your message

a) Power of repetition

A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that,

“Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your message. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.

However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.

b) Visuals

Visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to reinforce and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.[3]

To stimulate emotions amongst your audience, make use of evocative images. It doesn’t steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All this while evoking a certain feelings in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.

c) Colours

Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colours signify different emotions and associations. Look at this video to help you understand how humans react to different color stimuli:

d) Interactive Content

A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.

According to experts, the most recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. If you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.

Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who knows how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:

7. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach

In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out the purpose for what you’re doing. Before speaking to your audience, find your purpose and/or belief in giving the talk in the first place.

Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product:

In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why. He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:

  • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
  • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
  • What: What is the result?

One example of a company who makes use of this approach is Apple Inc.

  • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
    Their purpose is to challenge the status quo. They believe in thinking differently.
  • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
    By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
  • What: What is the result?
    They happen to make great computers.

As Simon Sinek says,

“People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”

Find what you believe in and you’ll realize it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.

8. Provide solutions to the problem

As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.

Furthermore, if your audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.

“That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember and retell.” — Nancy Duarte

Hence, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face/anticipate.

Summing it up

And there you have it. Make use of all three elements to help your audience buy into your message.

  1. Select a good topic
  2. Research on your audience and content thoroughly
  3. Reinforce your message and make your content engaging
  4. Know the purpose of your speech
  5. Provide solutions

With my step-by-step guide, you will be able to write up a persuasive speech and influence your audience successfully.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

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Goals vs Objectives: How to Use Them to Become Successful in Life?

You’re at home with your family and you’re planning a vacation for the upcoming summer time. The family sits down and you start discussing options and after an hour, you decide you will rent a modern trailer and drive from your current location (New York) to Miami for vacation. Miami is your goal and all the necessary steps to getting there are your objectives.

Throughout the article, I will refer to the above-mentioned metaphor to explain goals, objectives and the relationship and differences between those two. So buckle up and prepare for this ride because we will cover:

What are goals and objectives?

The easiest way I can explain what goals are is to tell that they are your final destination. It’s the place where you want to be– mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually.

A goal represents a future we desire to happen and it serves as a focal point to where we want to go in life (Miami in the case above).

Objectives, on the other hand, are the ways of you getting to your goal. For any single goal, you could have many objectives. An objective in the case above would be renting a trailer (way of getting to Miami) but as I said, you can and should have many objectives for a single goal.

You could add additional objectives to the goal of reaching Miami by stating that you will drive every day for 6 hours (one objective). Also, objectives can serve as indicators that tell you that you are on the right way of achieving your goal.

If you take the road from New York to Miami, along the way you should pass through cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond and Jacksonville. All of these serve as indicators that you are on the right way and that you should be continuing your way.

But is there a systematic difference which will help to differ goals and objectives? Yes, there is and the following chapter is all about that.

Goals vs Objectives

Goals answer the question of what.
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to take my family on a vacation to Miami”

Objectives, on the other hand, answer the questions of how.
“How are you getting to Miami”
“We are renting a trailer and driving all the way”

Goals can be vague, qualitative statements that are hard to measure. Sometimes they can be binary where you measure them by either done/not done. An example is a goal Napoleon had: “I want to conquer Russia.”  It can be easily measured by done/not done. In his case, it was not done.

But then, there are those goals which are completely unquantifiable. For example, “I want to be the best clarinet player in the world,” or “I want to be successful,” or “I want to find the love of my life.” These goals are unquantifiable because they are based mostly on feelings and feelings are impossible to measure.

Goals are mostly vague and impossible to measure, yet we need them as they provide direction. So we need something which is measurable and quantifiable and that is why objectives exist.

Objectives are completely measurable, specific things we do to achieve our goal.

In the family vacation example mentioned, where the goal is to get to Miami, objectives provide checkpoints that can be measured. These provide the much necessary objectives measurements that tell us if we are on the right path or we need to change something.

Goal: Drive to Miami from New York in 3 days

Objectives:

  • Reach Richmond by 7 p.m. the first day,
  • Reach Jacksonville by 7 p.m. the second day
  • Drive in Miami at 7 p.m. the third day

If we don’t hit the objectives above, we need to change something. Otherwise, we won’t achieve our goal.

If we get late to Richmond on the second day, that means that we either need to adjust our speed (drive faster), adjust our driving time (drive more hours in the day) or make fewer stops (less resting time). There are multiple different ways we can adjust our approach to get to our goal.

But then, there is the question of importance. What is more important, goals or objectives?

Is one more important than the other?

Goals and objectives are two sides of the same coin. There is no value in having just one or the other side- only when we combine them do they serve the purpose.

Goals are there to provide direction- future- of where we want to go. Without a goal, there is no bigger picture and no motivation of pursuit.

Without objectives, a goal is just something that lives in our heads. Objectives provide the waypoint for us to achieve our goals.

Simply having objectives without a goal is mindless action. I could tell you to practice math for 7 hours a day but for what reason? If you don’t want to be the best mathematician in the world, there is no point in you doing that.

The same thing would be with the family vacation example.

If you know that you need to pass through Richmond and Jacksonville but have no idea what your goal is, how will you know when you get there (whatever “there” is).

“A man without a goal is like a ship that set sail to nowhere – always getting nowhere and never getting ‘there’ “

A goal without objectives is simply daydreaming – it’s a fantasy. In the family vacation example, it would mean for us to know that we want to go to Miami but we have no idea of getting there. The signposts that say Chicago, Houston, or Boston mean nothing to us when we have no idea how to get to Miami nor what is a good road to there.

“A goal without a plan is merely a dream…”

Okay, but what will I do with all of this information? The last chapter of this guide will tell you what.

How to utilize goals and objectives to succeed in life (step-by-step guide)

So far I have shown you examples of goals and objectives, the difference between the two and importance of having both. Let’s see now how we can use these to achieve our dreams.

There is a simple framework I use for all my dreams, goals and objectives and it’s called the Hawkeye-Wormeye framework.[1]

The Hawkeye-Wormeye Perspective

Step 1: The Hawkeye

Imagine that you’re a hawk and that you fly high above the forest which represents your life. When you’re a hawk, you see endlessly beyond and know where the mountains, rivers and hills are. You see where you need to go and you get clear on the bigger picture.

“I want to get to the hills beyond the murky swamps.”

The hawkeye is the first thing you do because it provides the goal, the bigger picture or whatever you call it.

When you get clear on where you need to go from a hawkeye perspective, now it’s time to get down in the dirt by becoming a worm.

Step 2: The Wormeye

Okay, so we know where we are headed right now – it’s the “hills beyond the murky swamps.” But to get there, we need to become a worm now. Why a worm?

Because a worm can see just 2-3 steps in front of him. This ensures that even though you know your final destination, you are just focusing on the 2-3 steps that are right in front of you.

As Will Smith said in an interview

“You are building a wall. But you are not, in fact, building a wall. You are laying brick by brick as perfect as possible and one day, if you lay your bricks perfectly, they will become a wall.”

The same thing is with the wormeye. You know where your destination is but you decide to focus only on what is in front of you. This way you ensure that you “lay the perfect bricks which will one day become a wall.”

The transition from Wormeye to Hawkeye to Wormeye

Every 3 or 6 months, you should spend a couple of days only in the Hawkeye perspective. You do this because you need to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and to see if you need to change/iterate anything in your worms path. You take as Bill Gates calls it – a “Think Week”.[2]

The rest of the time (over 95% of it), you spend it in the wormeye perspective. You are on the ground, doing work, getting new skills or getting better at old ones. You step out from the wormeye to hawkeye only to see if you are still on the right way.

But what do you actually do in wormeye perspective?

Chunking goals into objectives

You have the bigger picture, the goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that goal is to become the best non-fiction writer in the world. So how do you become that?

First of all, you take apart what writing actually is. And there, you realize that writing isn’t just writing – that writing consists of four different parts:

  1. Generating ideas
  2. Researching
  3. Writing
  4. Editing

Okay, we now know what we actually need to work on to become the best writer. The four above are the skills we need to master to become the best writer in the world.

By putting big, vague goals/dreams into smaller compartments which can be easily practiced (daily habits), we are, in fact, chunking our work to something that can be done.

The hawkeye perspective of becoming the best writer is focused down on the wormeye perspective of working on four different parts of writing.

But what do we do with chunks in the end? This is where we get to the actions and behaviors (objectives) you do daily and the last part of our big puzzle – daily habits.

Daily habits

So we chunked the “become the best writer in the world” to “practice generating ideas, researching, writing, and editing.” So what do we actually do with that?

We form daily habits.

This isn’t something big we need to do – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We take small actions every single day and those actions accumulate over time to get us to our goal. We take it one step at a time, slow and steady, and as Eric Edmeades would say it “I do less today to do more in a year.[3]

In the writing example, a simple and easy daily habit would be “Write 500 words a day.” This way, you have a daily habit which takes care of the “writing” part of you becoming the best writer in the world.

For generating ideas, you start leading a journal (3 things that happened to you today), for researching you start reading books (20 pages a day) and for editing you create a list of forbidden words you simply delete from your writing (“like”,”very”, “thing” etc.).[4]

You don’t need to start doing all of these- actually I advise you not to. I advise you to start with one of these and then, when it becomes a habit, add up another one. That is what I did.

I started with reading habit (20 pages a day). After 150 days, I added a writing habit (writer 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit and at the end, the editing habit.

If I started with all of them immediately, none would stick. As the saying goes “Do less in a day to do more in a year.”

Learn more about how to build good habits and make them stick in this guide: How to Build Good Habits (Step-by-Step Guide)

Conclusion

We started with an explanation of goals and objectives, went over the difference of those two, understood that one can’t go without the other one. Then, we saw how to use goals and objectives in our daily lives.

For that, we used the hawkeye and wormeye perspective where we saw that we need the bigger picture of the hawkeye but the focus of the wormeye- the steps that are right in front of us.

In the end, we chunked down the big goals we had into the smallest possible actions and made daily habits out of these.

Now, we know what we need to do every single day to achieve our goals and dreams. Everything standing between us and the goal we want to achieve is a small daily habit – so just start doing it.

Featured photo credit: Skitter Photo via skitterphoto.com

Reference

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How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

Risk is something we all have to face in our lives but appreciating its value and impact on our lives is not always easy.

I asked my social media friends on a survey whether they felt risk was a good thing and 100’s said yes and yet I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100% of people taken every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfils them.

Take the client that needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self employment. They knew in their heads that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”

We don’t all take the risks we should in life. What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk adverse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?

What is calculated risk?

Let me ask you:

“Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast moving traffic?” The answer is likely to be “no” right?

What about if I asked “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night?” Still a “No?”

What about if I said “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?”

Look how the risk changes. It is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of control and expected outcomes. That is what a calculated risk is.

Would you quit your job right now and set up in business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No of course not. However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly?

The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions or reality, their emotions, feelings and even beliefs to be able to take on risk. And that is why you may see 100% of people saying “Take the risk”. However if questioned further, I could probably find at least one occasion where every single person should have taken the risk and they didn’t.

I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay travelling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.

Is all risk calculated?

In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life to the side of a mountain. There’s no hand places left going up. They can’t go down and there’s no way out, the baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you think “there is no way out of this!” and then miraculously they let go tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous incredibly clever side kick.

Risk is a bit like that.

The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called mission impossible for nothing.

But how can we know it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?

Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.

But if we didn’t take on risk we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up on to your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose. Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be still sat in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.

The reason some people achieve great things is because they are prepared to test their risk limitations.

How to grow your risk tolerance to achieve more?

Here I’ve aimed to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled for, how to fix what you find and what you need to do so that you can calculate risk and achieve more with the following methods:

The RRIS method

R – Research everything you aim to achieve.

But also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise.

It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.

R – Rationalize your reality.

I often hear clients say things that once said back to them they can quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.

Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?

Comfort zones are like big thick duvets. Glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer, when the same duvet can wrap itself around you becoming a sweaty trap for your legs to get caught in.

If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be like two versions of my clients:

  1. They like to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it any more. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
  2. They would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1, therefore they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).

If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, choose a different route to work.

Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.

I – Ideas can reduce or inflame our capability for calculated risk.

Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you really appreciate this, you are able to see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to achieve.

Ideas like this will be exciting, life changing, and will work and make my career. What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea?

If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence? Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards going for it.

Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?” By doing this, you are creating solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, “I will end up looking stupid”.

S – Success over scares

It is a calculated risk and therefore something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?

Scared! vs Success!

Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?

  • Staying safe
  • Stuck
  • Self esteem
  • Stopping myself

Can you start to see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it. The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between scared and successful. A little fear is really good for you.

I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. 9 years ago that wasn’t nervousness that was absolute terror. And I once read “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”

What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduce you to fear? Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.

The know-it kit

Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss of 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and a know it kit can help.

Know the times you’ve been successful.

Lot’s of clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that it’s no good to think something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.

Get the facts on your side. As much as you heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.

Know the skills you have.

As above, when we take on a risk, we need to know we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.

Know that mistakes are good.

No exceptional rise to success didn’t have set backs, no great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right) knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and good for the end results can ensure you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.

International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,

“I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”

Know the people you can trust.

When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.

Who is in your Know it Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Having the right people there that will challenge, empower and ensure you’ve ready in every capacity to make it happen.

Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last minute reminder that they’ve got this.

Know the way you have to feel.

And lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.

Sometimes cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset, other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.

How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet in the same day, I’d likely have been locked up. Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to have taken the risk (and the glory!) and to leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?

Face your fear and take risks

Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence…

She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positive” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people. How could she ever have thought it would be a clever idea to speak to a room full of her peers?

Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed, and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake wishing to never see any of these people ever again. Heck even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?

That was me but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.

In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.” Clearly my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed but what else?

It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.

By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind

As humans, we typically operate on cognitive autopilot. We rarely stop and reflect on how we interpret information and create mental models which replicate our perception of reality.

But when our mental models fail to match reality, we simply ignore reality and operate throughout the day on implicit assumptions. These are not conscious choices. Our mental models allow us a simple way to cope with reality, yet we fail to confront reality when it is different than our mental model. Essentially, we have unknowingly created a ready-made default mechanism. [1]

So, what can we do?

We must first take time to reflect on our critical thinking skills. By simply understanding how you interpret and perceive information differently than everyone else is a great first step. To truly upgrade your critical thinking skills, you must examine how thoughts arise in your mind and how they got there.

Critical thinking is about asking yourself how you make choices. We can choose to believe something we hear or see; however, why do we choose to believe something we hear or see?

As a Red Team Member in the U.S. Army, I will explain how I upgrade my critical thinking skills using Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop as a framework for critical thinking. I will then demonstrate practical ways to upgrade your critical thinking skills for a sharper mind using tools and techniques from the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) Center for Applied Critical Thinking (also known as the Red Team school) and The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook (also known as The Red Team Handbook).[2]

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking can be explained in a number of ways. Let’s quickly examine a few definitions:

  • “Critical thinking is a process, the goal of which is to make reasonable decisions about what to believe and what to do.” – Robert Enis
  • “Critical thinking means developing an ever better worldview and using it well in all aspects of your life. The essence of critical thinking is questioning and arguing logically.” – Gary Jason
  • “Critical thinking is searching for hidden assumptions, noticing various facets, unraveling different strands, and evaluating what is most significant. It implies conscious, deliberate inquiry, and especially it implies adopting a skeptical state of mind.” – Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau

To me, critical thinking is as follows:

“Critical thinking is observing the world with an open and skeptical mindset with the goal of exploring all alternatives objectively (as much as possible). It is our ability to orient our mental models to view reality through an emotionless lens seeking the truth by questioning our own assumptions and deconstructing arguments logically. It is our ability to identify gaps and uncover what is missing to improve our quality of decisions. Finally, it is our ability to unravel different strands of significant information through a continuous stream of feedback so that we continuously destroy and create new mental models allowing us to act closer to reality.” – Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Critical thinking framework: OODA Loop

I use John Boyd’s OODA Loop as a framework for critical thinking. It is similar to Swarm Intelligence, where we use simple rules to allow the collective intelligence to emerge. The simple rules are Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

The OODA Loop is a high-speed decision making and feedback process in four stages: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.[3] The OODA Loop is a continuous feedback loop where the objective is to go through the loop faster than your opponent.

I use simple rules provided within the OODA Loop to assist me in speeding up my critical and creative thinking abilities. However, do not confuse the word “simple” with “simplistic” as the OODA Loop uses simple rules within a complex system (which is exactly what the OODA Loop is).

The key to the loop is feedback. The OODA Loop is similar to Double-Loop Learning, where the goal is to modify decision-making in light of new experience.

Double-Loop Learning is the first loop uses goals or decision making rules, the second loop enables their modification… hence, double-loop.[4]

Chris Argyris writes about Double-Loop Learning in Teaching Smart People How To Learn,

“A thermostat that automatically turns on the heat whenever the temperature in a room drops below 68 degree is a good example of single-loop learning. A thermostat that could ask why am I set to 68 degree? and then explore whether or not some other temperature might more economically achieve the goal of heating the room would be engaged in double-loop learning.

The overarching guide for my use of the OODA Loop is as follows:

Scout Mindset

I will talk about this more in the How-To Guide: Tools to Apply the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop section below.

Objectivity

It’s about seeking truth. Here we should seek to follow a concept introduced by Immanuel Kant as a way of evaluating motivations for actions – called the Categorical Imperative. Kant defines a categorical imperative as an absolute or an unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself. For example, “Act only according to the maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” For more information, visit the Categorical Imperative.

Avoid emotion

Imagine you can physically remove yourself from your body and objectively view how you make decisions. It’s like pulling your mind from your body.

Reasoning backwards

This is essentially solving problems by working backwards. A simple example of this method is working backwards to solve a math problem.

For example, solve the following problem: “I think of a number and add three to it, multiply the result by 2, subtract 4 and divide by 7. The number I end up with is 2. What was the number I first thought of?” To solve, read the problem backwards. You start with: 2 x 7 = 14. Then take 14 + 4 = 18. From there take 18 / 2 = 9. Then take 9 – 3 = 6. Finally, the number you first thought of was 6.

Moreover, Reasoning Backwards can be viewed through the lens of deduction. I prefer deduction over induction and here is why:

An example of Inductive Reasoning is: this raven is black, that raven is black, all ravens are black.

Deductive Reasoning is: All ravens are black, that raven is black, therefore it is black.

We make deductions from laws to see what should happen and then experiment to see if our prediction was right. Think about it this way… to test whether a burner is hot, we must touch the burner first using Inductive Reasoning; however, if we were to use Deductive Reasoning, we would first predict the burner to be hot and would realize there is not need to touch it.

One last benefit of Reasoning Backwards is that it forces our linear and logical mind to catch things we wouldn’t normally catch. For example, read the following sentence:

After reading this sentence, you will realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize a second ‘the’.

Now read the sentence again, this time read it backwards. Did you notice that you missed the second ‘the’?

Think-Write-Share

The UFMCS uses this as the single most important idea to enable critical thinking. For example, prior to taking on an issue, we should first think independently and reflectively, then write down our thoughts (which assists us in shaping and refining them), then share them in a disciplined manner. This takes us from divergence to convergence.

Dialectical method

Boyd described a thought experiment in a presentation called Strategic Game of ? and ?. Through the process of Destructive Deduction (analyze and pull apart mental concepts into discrete parts) and Creative Induction (using these elements to form new mental concepts) we can create a new mental model that more closely aligns with reality.

Part 1 of his question:

“Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers…that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat, maybe even towing water-skiers. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day. Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the toy tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads.”

Part 2:

“Now imagine that you pull the skis off but you are still on the ski slope. Imagine also that you remove the outboard motor from the motorboat, and you are no longer in Florida. And from the bicycle you remove the handle-bar and discard the rest of the bike. Finally, you take off the rubber treads from the toy tractor or tanks. This leaves only the following separate pieces: skis, outboard motor, handlebars and rubber treads.”

What do you imagine could be created using the remaining parts? A Snowmobile

Let’s now turn our attention to the four simple rules within the OODA Loop.

The critical thinker’s OODA Loop: Simple rules to guide you

Observe

Think of how we use sensors and gather information. In an ant colony, this is where ants shoot pheromones to signal others when they have found food.

Here we are detecting events within our environment and identifying change (or lack thereof). This could also be identified as Locate or Perceive (think swarming tactics or artificial intelligence).

Steps:

  • Find out what is really there.
  • Observe first and gather data.
  • Identify the uncommon and common things. As Sherlock Holmes famously said, “What is out of common is a guide.” A great video on this point is The most unlikely threat from the hit movie Men in Black – watch the following video:
  • Begin with a blank and open mind.
  • Remember that there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Key questions to ask:

  • What happened?
  • What are we being asked?
  • What do we know?

Key tools to use:

  • 6 Words. This is simply writing a short and precise phrase summarizing your thinking into a set number of words.
  • Think-Write-Share (see above)
  • Outside-in thinking
  • Key assumptions check. We all start with assumptions and it is extremely important to be aware of our own. Understanding this will allow us to explain the logic of an argument and expose faulty logic. It will also help us simulate thinking about a problem and uncover hidden links between factors. Let’s examine some key questions to ask here: 1) How much confidence do you have with this assumption?; 2) What explains your confidence with this assumption?; 3) What must exist for this assumption to be valid?; and 4) If this assumption proves wrong, will this change your line of thinking about the issue?
  • Complex Grammatical Structures

Orient

Think of a construction site where destruction (analysis) and creation (synthesis) take place.

John Boyd identified orientation as our way to survive and grow within a complex and ever changing world. This could also be identified as Converge or Understand.

Steps:

  • Identify your biases and know how they impact decision making.
  • Be aware of your worldview and how it shapes the world you see.
  • Be aware of multiple perspectives and not just your own.
  • Place new observations in context with older observations.
  • Reason carefully. Find out what others cannot.
  • Determine what is vital (think of the Pareto Principle).
  • Seek out what’s NOT right in front of you (determine what’s missing).
  • Remember what Sherlock Holmes said, “Never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule.”
  • Think in terms of metaphors and analogies.

Key questions to ask:

  • Where are the pattern of bullet holes NOT located?
  • Why?
  • What are we missing?
  • Where are the gaps?
  • What are the relationships?
  • What are the different perspectives?

Key tools to use:

  • Argument Deconstruction (see below).
  • 4 Ways of Seeing. This is a powerful tool for looking at multiple perspectives.
  • Dialectical Method (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)
  • Analysis + Synthesis. By breaking a concept or problem apart (analysis) we develop knowledge; yet, it’s when we piece the parts back together (synthesis) and create something new that we develop understanding or wisdom.
  • Onion Model. Hofstede’s Onion Model is a great tool to find values at the core. It is a great way to prompt better questions, look at something or someone or some group from multiple perspectives, and expose ignorance.
  • neXt – Innovative Framework. Professor Ramesh Raskar, head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Research Group, created an easy-to-use framework for inventing the future – right now. Watch the following video:

Decide

Think of a hypothesis like you would when putting a puzzle together, where you are making predictions then testing those predictions.

Here we are to decide among alternatives generated in the orientation phase. This could be identified as Attack or Predict.

Steps:

  • Identify and select your next action based on orientation and local knowledge.
  • Find the dog who isn’t barking (see below in the How-to guide: Tools to apply the critical thinker’s OODA Loop section).
  • Determine what would have to exist for something to be true.
  • Think like Sherlock Holmes – eliminate the impossible so that what remains (however improbable) is the truth.
  • Think like a detective – piece out what is key evidence verses artifact (not important).
  • Try to prove the opposite (Devil’s Advocacy Red Team tool).

Key questions to ask:

  • What evidence is not being seen for the hypothesis to be true?
  • Where are the pattern of bullet holes not located?
  • What is vital evidence and what is simply an artifact (which will get you stuck in the wrong rabbit hole)?
  • Where is the dog who isn’t barking?

Key tools to use:

  • Algorithmic Thinking (IF – AND – THEN).
  • Cynefin Framework
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Devils Advocacy. Here you are trying to prove the opposite and disprove the hypothesis. Essentially, you are trying to prove the limitations.
  • Alternative Futures Analysis
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) (see below)
  • The Value of Possible. Here is a logical system incorporating elements of language. In this method, we have three truth values: False, True, and Possible. Logical connective rules: True is p, Possible is q, and False has no value. This allows for something to be fuzzy (not clearly black or white… true or false) but could still be true.

Act

Think of testing and retesting a hypothesis.

According to Boyd, actions should be rapid, surprising, ambiguous, and ever changing. This could be identified as Disperse or Learn.

Steps:

  • Carry out your decision (or selected action) while the opponent is still observing the last action.[5]
  • Present your information in simple ways. For example, use SEE-I and What? – So What? – Now What? to describe your situation/problem/scenario.
  • As Sherlock Holmes said, “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.”
  • Develop quick “fly-like” reactions.
  • Use simple rules to guide your actions or the actions of a group.
  • Find the desired path. For example, watch how routes on a college campus naturally form. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we allowed these to naturally form then simply pave those locations. For more on this idea, watch the following video Find and Pave the Desired Path:

Key questions to ask:

  • What did I learn?
  • What type of feedback did I receive?
  • What type of feedback am I still receiving (we are continuously receiving feedback)?
  • What can I do with this new information as my OODA Loop begins again?

Key tools to use:

How-to guide: Tools to apply the critical thinker’s OODA Loop

Argument deconstruction

The UFMCS provides a powerful framework for deconstructing an argument.

The method:

  • What is the argument? Here the argument = problem (or premise) + reasons + conclusion
  • Check to make sure the right problem is identified and examine the point of view of the other person.
  • Search for and ask for clarification of ambiguous words.
  • Look for value conflicts and check key assumptions. More specifically, look for prescriptive assumptions (statement made on the way things should be) and descriptive assumptions (statement made on the way things are).
  • Look for logical fallacies.
  • Is the person using a heuristic or rule of thumb?
  • Check the evidence provided. Does the person use personal experience, potentially deceptive statistics (use numbers without percentages – percentages without numbers), appeal to authorities, faulty analogies, intuition, etc.
  • Is there another plausible hypotheses which might explain the situation?
  • Are there any other conclusions you can draw from the argument?
  • What implications does accepting the argument pose?

The 4 Agreements

Another great way the U.S. Army Red Team community upgrades their critical thinking ability is through the following four agreements:

  1. Don’t make assumptions.
  2. Don’t take anything personal.
  3. Be impeccable with your words.
  4. Always do your best.

Finally, I recommend using the following mnemonic. I created this tool to assist me as I move through the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop. Additionally, I recommend writing this down on a note-card and keeping a copy with you at all times.

SDWFAP

Scouting

Think like a Scout – the drive to see what’s really there.

In the following video Why you think you’re right-even if you’re wrong, Julia Galef examines the motivation between two mindsets (Scout mindset vs Soldier mindset) and how they shape the way we interpret information:

Galef explains that Scouts are curious and are more likely to feel pleasure when they learn new information. She says it’s like an itch to solve a puzzle. We should strive to develop a Scout Mindset. Let’s examine qualities Scout’s possess:

  • The Scout’s job is not to attack or defend, but to understand – to go out, map the terrain and identify potential obstacles.
  • Scout’s are intrigued when they encounter something that contradicts their expectations.
  • More likely to think it’s virtuous to test your own beliefs.
  • They do not say someone is weak for simply changing their mind.
  • They are grounded; meaning their self-worth isn’t tied to how right or wrong they are about an argument.
  • They are proud (and not ashamed) when they notice they might be wrong about something.
  • They are intrigued (and not defensive) when they encounter information that contradicts their beliefs.
  • They yearn not to defend their beliefs, but to see the world as clearly as they possibly can.
  • Above all, the Scout seeks to know what’s really there.

Dog

Find the Dog who isn’t barking.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze, we are presented with a mystery of the disappearance of a famous racehorse the night prior to a race and the murder of the horse’s trainer. Mike Skotnicki describes the story about The Dog that Didn’t Bark:

“The dog that didn’t bark. What we can learn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about using the absence of expected facts.” – Mike Skotnicki

Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery in part by recognizing that no one he spoke to in his investigation remarked that they had heard barking from the watchdog during the night.

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective), “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Sherlock Holmes, “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Sherlock Holmes, “That was the curious incident.”

The fact that the dog did not bark when we would have expected it to while the horse was stolen led Holmes to the conclusion that the criminal was not a stranger to the dog, but someone the dog recognized; thus, would not cause the dog to bark.

Was

What would have to exist for something to be true?

Here we can use a UFMCS Red Team tool called What If? Analysis. This tool assumes an event has already happened with potential impact (positive or negative) and explains how it might play out. This is a powerful technique for challenging a closed mindset by shifting the focus from whether an event could occur to how it might happen.

The method:

  • Clearly state the conventional line assuming the event has happened, then step back and consider what alternative outcomes are too important to dismiss, even if unlikely.
  • Select triggering events that allowed the event to happen.
  • Develop a chain of argumentation.
  • Reason backwards from the event in concrete ways (specify what must occur at each stage).
  • Choose one or more plausible pathways.
  • Develop and monitor a list of indicators or observables for each scenario that would assist in detecting the beginning of the event.

Another technique you can use here is The Reductio ad Absurdum. This is a simple yet powerful tool.

The method:

  • Assume a statement to be true and see what conclusions you can discern from it. If you find you get a contradiction, you know the initial statement is false as contradictions are always false.
  • It allows you to determine if a statement is false by showing the contradiction.

For more on this technique, I recommend reading Logic: A Graphic Guide.

Frightened

What’s not right in Front of us?

Here we can use a combination of tools and techniques.

For example, if you have a team or group of people, you could use what’s called a Premortem and/or Postmortem Analysis. This is an application of mental stimulation and is a great tool for Group Think Mitigation. We could use the 5-Why technique after we have asked what happened. We could also use Algorithmic Thinking where we perform an If-And-Then series of questions.

Let’s combine the three and see how this can be used:

  • Assume an event has happened or after an event has happened – use 5-Why to identify causes as to why this event happened.
  • Generate a list of reasons for the event with the following simple rules: 1) The more ideas the better; 2) Build on other peoples ideas using them as prompts for your own; 3) Wacky ideas are fine (and sometimes preferred).
  • Ask a series of If-And-Then questions:
  • IF an Active Shooter is spotted AND appropriate signals are in place THEN we should be able to act/respond quicker.
  • This can also be used with Propositional Calculus. For example, “If you are a bird, then you have wings,” could be rephrased as, “You cannot be a bird and not have wings.” It is a proposition using one connective such as: IF-Then. It can then be transformed into an expression using the other connectives “and” and “not” without changing the validity of the statement.

At

Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for a hypothesis to be true.

Conduct an Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH). The objective is to identify alternative explanations (hypotheses) and evaluate the evidence that will disconfirm rather than confirm the hypotheses. This is how I reason backwards.

The method:

  • Brainstorm and list all possible hypotheses (no matter how improbable they may seem). List the hypotheses first then the evidence (think deductive reasoning). You can list the evidence first, then the hypotheses if you prefer (think inductive reasoning).
  • List all significant evidence and arguments relevant to each hypotheses.
  • Reason backwards by creating a divergent systems diagram with each hypotheses from right to left (to mimic backwards reasoning)
  • Start to converge by preparing a matrix listing the hypotheses across the top with each piece of evidence down the side.
  • Determine if each piece of evidence is consistent, inconsistent, or non applicable.
  • Refine the matrix by reconsidering each hypotheses. Here you can even add new information if applicable.
  • Focus on disproving each hypotheses rather than proving one. Tally your evidence that are inconsistent and consistent to see which hypotheses are the weakest and strongest (you can also identify this using your systems diagram… +/- for strong and weak connections).
  • Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for a given hypotheses to be true. Ask if denial and/or deception is a possibility.
  • Identify and monitor indicators that would be consistent and inconsistent with each hypotheses.

A good example of ACH can be found at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Patterns

Where are the Pattern (or location) of bullet holes NOT located?

Statistician Abraham Wald was tasked with helping the Allies decide where to add armor to bombers during World War II.[6] The Allies hoped extra protection would help minimize bomber losses due to enemy anti-aircraft fire. They thought the answer was obvious and the bombers returning from missions showed them where to put the extra armor. However, Wald disagreed. He explained the damage actually revealed the locations that needed the least additional armor. In essence, it’s where the bombers could be hit and still survive the flight home.

This is an example of selection or survivorship bias, where we typically only consider information that’s presented to us and ignore information that is absent, yet might just be significantly relevant. For example, the locations on the bombers without bullet holes might just be the location to reinforce.

Finally, we should be extremely carefully of what we remove from a system or process. We have to be aware of the second and third order effects.

I will leave you with one final video: How Wolves Change Rivers:

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies: The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook
[2] USA Army: The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook
[3] Frans P.B. Osinga: Science, Strategy and War
[4] Wikipedia: Double-loop learning
[5] Ahmad Shehabat and Teodor Mitew: Distributed Swarming and Stigmergic Effects on ISIS Networks OODA Loop Model
[6] Seeking Alpha: How Survivorship Bias Distorts Reality

The post How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind appeared first on Lifehack.

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18 Work at Home Jobs for Moms (Well-Paid, Flexible and Fun)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have it all – be with your kids as much as you want but still have a fulfilling job that you enjoy? It sounds a little too good to be true.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, approximately 21% of employees work from home on an average day. I’m sure a significant proportion of these people are mothers who are taking care of their children simultaneously. It can be hard to juggle so many responsibilities, but the key to making it work is finding a job with the perfect fit – one that has built-in flexibility, reasonable compensation and engages all of your greatest strengths.

There are many offers of jobs that promise easy money for little to no work. Those actually are too good to be true. The following work at home jobs for moms are legitimate but do require time and effort. Find the category that best suits your abilities and interests.

  • For moms who are a people person

    1. Social media consultant

    All of those hours spent on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can finally be put to good use. Social media has become a vital component of advertising and PR for companies in many different industries. If you are a savvy social media user, you can use your skills to manage social media accounts for a business and get paid for it.

    Get the job here: Mashable, Appen, $99 Social

    2. Home daycare

    Do you wish you could get paid for staying home and taking care of your kids? Opening your own at home daycare is the next best thing! With the outrageous cost of childcare, there are many working parents seeking a trustworthy and budget-friendly alternative.

    Look up what your state’s laws are regarding an at-home daycare at Daycare.com and figure out if it would be a good route for you to take. Let your mom friends know about your business and post to local sites to find potential customers.

    Get the job here: Care.com, Sitter.com, Childcare Center

    3. Virtual assistant

    If you are looking for an office job that doesn’t require you to go into an office, becoming a virtual assistant could be a great fit. Tasks will vary depending on the company but can include things like scheduling appointments, data entry, organizing records, email management, social media management and editing. Contacting bloggers, online companies and websites directly can be a great way of finding job opportunities, in addition to advertising in and responding to job boards.

    Get the job here: Fancy Hands, Red Butler, Persist, Assistant Match

    For moms who love helping people

    4. Dog walking/sitting

    Do you love being around dogs but can’t commit to having one of your own? There is a big demand for dog walking for people who work long hours away from the home as well as dog sitting for when dog owners go out of town. This would give you and your kids the perfect opportunity to have fun with a four-legged friend without having to adopt one of your own.

    Get the job here: Rover, Fetch!, Petsitters

    5. Rent out baby gear

    If there’s one thing that moms have a lot of, it’s baby gear. When families with young children go on vacation, they don’t have the ability to bring all of their gear along. Items like cribs, strollers, car seats, high chairs and swings are not very portable but can make or break a vacation experience.

    Set up an account, list all of the gear you have available for rent, and decide on the prices and delivery area to get started.

    Get the job here: Babierge , Baby’s Away, goBaby

    6. Errands/Odd Jobs

    If you’re a mom that likes to be out and about and don’t mind picking up a few extra errands, this option can become a considerable source of income for you. Sites like TaskRabbit connect you with local users who are looking for a variety of tasks they need help with. These tasks can vary from furniture assembly to grocery shopping. Pick the tasks that fit your abilities and your schedule.

    Get the job here: TaskRabbit, Zaarly, Gigwalk

    7. Online stylist

    Do you have a flair for fashion? Do your friends always compliment you on your amazing sense of style? If so, becoming an online stylist could be your calling. Many upscale fashion subscription boxes are offering the services of a personal stylist to help them create individualized and professionally curated boxes. Use your skills for profit and help others improve their wardrobe at the same time.

    Get the job here: Stitchfix, Bombfell, Rocksbox

    For moms who are natural-born teachers

    8. Tutor

    Moms are fairly gifted in helping their own children learn new concepts and ideas, and this skill is easily transferrable to being an online tutor. The higher level of education you have in a certain subject, the more money you can make. Ages of students that need tutors range from elementary all the way to college. You can use websites to connect you with students, post an ad, or let people know about the services you are offering by word of mouth.

    Get the job here: Tutor.com, Chegg Tutors, TutorMe

    9. Teaching English as a second language

    Since you are reading this article, that means you have a skill that many people around the world are seeking – knowing the English language. Learning to read, write, and speak English has become an invaluable asset in industries based in the U.S. or that are global. Specialty websites and local resources can connect you with people looking for an English teacher to learn from and converse with.

    Resources: italki, Lingoda, VIPKID

    For moms who are excellent writers

    10. Freelance writer

    For those moms who are talented writers, there are many opportunities to get paid for contributing quality content. Blogs, websites and magazines are always looking for experts in their particular niche who have a way with words. The topics you can write about are endless, and you will be able to utilize your creativity and writing ability to generate substantial earnings whenever you have time to write.

    Get the job here: Wizzley, Contena, Freelance Writing Jobs

    11. Blogger

    As blogs continue to gain popularity as a go-to resource for recipes, fashion, parenting, current events and more, the number of blogs out there are higher than ever. Blogging is the perfect job for moms because of the flexibility, lack of deadlines and freedom of content. Many moms use their mothering knowledge and experiences as a basis for their blog content.

    It is possible to make a steady income from blogging but it takes time, dedication, and promotion to successfully monetize a blog. It can be a great platform for creativity and unfiltered expression through writing.

    Get the job here: WordPress, Blogger, Medium

    12. Translator

    If you are proficient in a second language, becoming a document translator is an option you should definitely consider. Not only would this job pay more because of your unique qualifications, it will also help you to maintain and improve your language skills. There are job opportunities in a wide variety of industries that require document translation into other languages, and this is a job that can be easily done at home.

    Get the job here: Gengo, Unbabel, ProZ

    For the creative moms

    13. Graphic designer

    Every website on the Internet needs a graphic designer in order to look professional and unique. Whether you have graphic design experience or you’re just starting out, there are opportunities available for you to demonstrate and hone your design skills. Create your own website and use it as a platform to showcase your work. You can also look for work on freelance websites to get additional work experience on your resume.

    Get the job here: Coroflot, Behance, Krop

    14. Photographer

    Even though most people have access to a high quality camera through their smart phones, photographers are still very much in demand. Professional photographers are required for special occasions (weddings, portraits, maternity) and are compensated well for their services. Taking stock photos offers another opportunity for a photographer to earn money. Stock photos are in constant need by websites, blogs and online publications.

    Get the job here: Alamy, Shutterstock, Getty Images

    15. Homemade crafts

    I’m sure you’ve heard of or even purchased items from Etsy, the most well-known website for buying and selling homemade items. If you are crafty and can create products that people would be interested in buying, this can be a very lucrative work from home opportunity. The categories of items that are the most popular include: home decor, jewelry, clothing, toys, craft supplies, and kids/babies.

    Get the job here: Etsy , Artfire, Handmade at Amazon, Cargoh

    For moms with a degree

    16. IT support

    If you have a degree and training in technical support, repair, installation, networking, software debugging, and other IT-related disciplines, you are in a great position to work remotely and get compensated well. Many companies rely on remote technician support via the telephone or online, and this is one of the highest paying work from home jobs out there.

    Get the job here: Apple, Computer Assistant, Dell

    17. Consultant

    Companies are constantly seeking consultants with a knowledge base in a variety of different areas including medicine, social work, administration, finance, marketing, IT, human resources and more. You can use your college degree and prior work experience to find a consulting job that you can work at from home. Both short-term and long-term assignments are typically available, which offer a great deal of flexibility.

    Get the job here: Guru, FlexJobs, Upwork

    18. Actuary

    Have you ever heard of an actuary? In the past, it was used to describe a person who analyzes statistics in order to calculate risks and premiums for insurance companies. However, the job title has expanded to include many more industries that can benefit from data mining and economic forecasting. If you have a degree in mathematics, finance or statistics, look into getting your license through Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or Society of Actuaries (SOA).

    Get the job here: Be an Actuary, SOA Job Center

    Find the opportunity that fits you

    As you can see, there are a multitude of options for moms who want to have a career they can be proud of while still spending time at home with their kids.

    Whether you prefer a job you can do at your desk, with your hands or out and about, there is an opportunity that is perfect for you. All you have to do is get out there and find it!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    The post 18 Work at Home Jobs for Moms (Well-Paid, Flexible and Fun) appeared first on Lifehack.

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