You can’t read the label from inside the jar

This week I got some wonderful feedback;

‘After one phone call with Lucy I had complete clarity on what my next career steps should be’

 And it wasn’t a mega long coaching phone call – it was under an hour!

Thing is it doesn’t matter if you’re a trained coach or not. Basically it’s a million times easier to help someone else unpick what’s keeping them stuck, or unhappy or frustrated and help them figure out what to do about it than it is to do it for yourself on your own.

We’re too close to our own problems and often emotionally attached to them which means it’s practically impossible to be objective. We can be fearful of facing up to an uncomfortable truth on our own; maybe the business idea isn’t very good, maybe you’re in the wrong role, or maybe that person isn’t considering your point of view. The fear is real and that’s why sometimes it can be easier, and feel safer to stay stuck and unhappy.

And many people do stay stuck and unhappy.

Often the root cause of a problem and therefore the solution, is something so obvious we can overlook it. We are riddled with assumptions and bias that can stop us seeing something that is blatantly obvious to other people who are less close or involved in the situation.

It’s difficult for us to ask ourselves challenging questions. Sometimes we simply don’t want to admit that we’re wrong, and we’re fearful of what changing direction might involve.

I head this expression recently, and for me it sums up why asking help from others is so helpful and important ‘You can’t read the label from inside the jar.’ 

You can’t effectively identify or solve your own problems because you’re just too close to them.

When you talk situations through with others, they bring a different perspective. They ask questions that open up new thinking patterns and opportunities. They challenge bias and assumptions. They provide space and legitimacy to focus on you, which in itself can help the questions and answers to flow.

Talking to someone else also holds us accountable and makes us more likely to take action.

I believe that everyone would benefit from having someone to help them read their label. That might be a coach, a mentor, a network or an accountability group. Different things suit different people (and different budgets).

However you read your label remember the same principle; it’s very difficult to work on your own problems on your own. Having someone who will listen, reflect, ask you questions, be candid and kind in challenging your bias and allow you time and space to respond is perhaps the most important gift you can give to yourself.

What’s right for you?

Here’s some options;

Get a coach – Coaching is usually paid for and is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on specific goals in the short term (rather than on the distant past or future). The role the coach as a facilitator of learning.

Get a mentor – Mentoring is more likely to be not paid for; the mentor often sees the relationship as giving something back as well as being part of their own learning and development. Mentoring tends to have a longer term focus and deal more with wider support regarding career and attitude like, where are you going and what do you want to be doing five years from now?

Join a mastermind group – A mastermind group is designed to help you set powerful goals and navigate through challenges using collective intelligence. Such groups usually consist of between four to eight people with a mix of skills and experience. They may meet regularly (weekly, fortnightly or monthly – whatever makes most sense to the needs of the group). They have a core remit of helping each other achieve their own success. They can be something you set up yourself, however in my experience the more powerful ones are paid for and professionally facilitated.

Join a network – A place where you can benefit from the collective help provided by the membership. This might be your sector professional body, a Facebook group or something more structured like the Lucidity Network.

None of the above options are mutually exclusive. In fact I encourage you to consider them all. Many of my coaching clients also have a mentor, and are in a mastermind group and are part of the Lucidity Network. The warning is that when you embark on any of these, you have to want to change, be open to challenge and be prepared to take action.

If you’re prepared to take action I can help you with all of the options above. If you’d like to chat about coaching, joining a mastermind group, getting a mentor or joining the Lucidity Network, book a 30 minute call here.

How to make good habits stick

Co-written with Eva Gruber, Habit Coach

Habits are something that you do often and regularly, frequently without thinking about them, and sometimes without even knowing. Humans are, by our nature, creatures of habit.

Studies show that about 40% of people’s daily activities are habitual. That’s between 6-10 hours a day! The habits we form, like checking our phones on waking, eating fruit and vegetables at every meal or walking a certain number of daily steps, become a considerable part of our routine. Our habits ultimately become who we are. Good habits allow us to build environments in which to be happy, healthy and fulfilled. Bad habits can have a negative impact on our health, happiness and wellbeing.

New habits can take time to work out but not necessarily 21 days

Developing good habits can improve your health, productivity and happiness. You’ll feel the benefits of your good habits throughout all areas of your life. New habits can take time to work out. The secret is to make them as easy and rewarding as possible so we want to repeat them. When an action is repeated consistently, it becomes automatic, and when it’s become automatic, it’s a habit.

It’s a myth that a habit takes 21 days to establish – think about your own experiences or ask ask anyone that’s maintained a habit for 21 days and then stopped. Think about the time when you tried to heat healthily, gave up alcohol or did regular exercise. Habits are not about willpower. They are about making actions automatic so you don’t even make conscious decisions about them. If you’ve tried and failed to change or start a habit keep reading…

Emotions create your behaviour and, therefore, your habits. There’s a direct connection between what you feel when you do something and the likelihood that you will repeat the behaviour (and make it a habit) in the future. Good feelings spur the production of dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s ‘reward system’. If something feels good, you want to do it again, and a habit is formed. So, if you want to establish a habit, you have to connect feeling good to your actions and behaviour. We form habits by repeating behaviours. Research by BJ Fogg has shown that the most important part of forming a habit is having a strong positive emotion connected to the new behaviour. So the diet or exercise regime that you dislike even though you know it’s good for you will never become a habit.

To start a new habit, set an aspirational goal. It helps to have a good reason to start a new habit. It has to be something that you genuinely want to achieve (not what you think you should want or what other people tell you that you should want). It can be anything: a new job, getting fitter or healthier, losing weight or building better relationships. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something that’s important to you. Write it down.

Start small and make it simple. The secret to establishing habits is to start small. Decide on a tiny action to set you on the path. For example, if you want to get fitter, don’t set yourself a complete lifestyle change that starts again every Monday. Start with the behaviours that will result in the outcome you want. Start with one tiny habit. For example, one thing that will help you is to move more. Every time you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, walk up and down in the kitchen. Aim for 20 steps every time you boil the kettle. Then start to introduce more: 30, 40, 50 steps etc. It’s these, easy tiny habits that you can build on that will set you up for success.

Many New Year’s resolutions fail because they are not tiny. The expectation of a lifestyle change on 1 January is too difficult and too big a step. According to BJ Fogg, doing something you don’t enjoy, and subsequently failing to make it habitual, is actually more detrimental to a mission for change than doing nothing at all.

Tap into your established triggers. A tactic to establish a successful new habit is to seamlessly slip it into your existing routine. In the example above, boiling the kettle is your trigger. It’s something you already do. Then decide on your tiny action that takes you nearer to your goal. If your goal is to get fitter then rather than scrolling through social media while your waiting for the kettle to boil, start taking steps. If your aspirational goal is to read more, read a page of your book while you’re waiting. Be deliberate by writing it down.

After I ………………..….(existing behaviour), I will ………..……………(new tiny behaviour).

Celebrate. When you’ve done your tiny action, pat yourself on the back. Tell yourself, ‘well done’. Say to yourself out loud that you’re awesome. Do this straight away as you complete the tiny action. Instant reward builds confidence and makes you more likely to turn this small action into a habit.

‘If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.’ BJ Fogg

What tiny habits can you start to form today so that in a few weeks on 1 January 2021 you’re already on the path to the goal you want to achieve? In December over at the Lucidity Network we’re focusing on establishing habits for success. If you’re serious about making better habits and want to get off to a great start in 2021 join us.

Eva Gruber is a certified Tiny Habits® Coach trained and mentored by world-famous Habit Researcher and Stanford Professor BJ Fogg PhD. Moreover, she is a Space Curator and expert in physical and digital tidying, decluttering and creating spaces at your home or workplace, trained and mentored by world-famous tidying expert and best-selling author Marie Kondo.

For more information about the Lucidity Network and how to get access to training on habits, group coaching as well as a network of brilliant people to help you achieve the success you want in your working life go to www.lucidity.org.uk/the-lucidity-network/ or drop us a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

Stop feeling stuck in your career, break free and get ahead at work

How to be happy at work

What does it feel like to be stuck in your career? Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit your job and live your dream? Or when you’ve changed career path to do what really makes you happy?

Then you’ve snapped back to reality.  You’re not the boss, not living your dream and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Vera is one of those who feel stuck in her career.

She’s been working in the same role for 17 years. She started young and progressed quickly. Although she’s successful and the envy of her peers, she is bored, restless and feels that there’s something missing. She can’t quite pinpoint why or what, but she knows that that she’s not fulfilling her purpose, that she feels stuck and is not sure what to do to move herself forward.

Stop feeling stuck in your career

Sounds familiar? Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free and get ahead at work. If you stay until the end I’ll also let you in on Vera’s story.

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck, breaking free and getting ahead at work.

1. Make time for you

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated or unhappy at how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need take to stop feeling stuck in your career and start getting ahead. Book some time into your diary where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself (I have a client who calls it her ‘meeting with Marvin’, the paranoid android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with a brain the size of a planet). It signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your diary and filling it with a meeting.

2. Grow your network before you need it

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant the author of ‘Give and Take’, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities.[1]

When I was thinking about setting up my current company Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice and to unpick what their problems were. I looked for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks, focus on how you can add value to others. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround yourself by people who inspire you

According to Tim Ferriss, ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’. His associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve.[2]

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise – they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change or to set up your own business seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead and they’ll also help you to up your game.

4. Work on your personal brand

Jeff Bezos defines personal brand as ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’. People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. It’s about being your best ‘real you’. It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, to stop feeling stuck in your career, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share about this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make sure your values are aligned with your companies

All the professional development, goal setting and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people to live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your companies’ ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business, others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you; or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career, than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of the human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know than risking the devil we don’t.

This is true even if the devil we know is your boring unfulfilling job: because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck in your career, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking. But public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job. Then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a ‘get out of your comfort zone club’ where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

They’ve learned a lot and achieved all sorts of things from public speaking, to eating crickets, to heart surgery.

8. Learn to embrace failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour.[3]

Truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves ‘Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?’ We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of our peers, our managers or the people we manage, or even being fired for failure.

However, if we’re going to progress our careers, break free and get ahead at work, we must be open to learning from failure. Check out our tips on how to make failure your friend. 

Reframe failure by viewing everything as a test, because you can’t have a failed test – you just learn whether something worked or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said, ‘I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ 

9. Build your resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty; the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time. You can also check out how gritty you are here.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide:

What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for help

It can be hard to ask for help, it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a troupe of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your troupe. You can do that with a tool called a ‘Me Map’, here’s how:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, for example, help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final thoughts

Remember Vera? After 17 years in her career as an Editor for Vogue, she switched professions and went to work for luxury fashion designer, Ralph Lauren for two years. At 40, she resigned and became an independent bridal wear designer.

That’s right, I’m talking about Vera Wang, one of the most influential bridal wear designers in the world.

If she had ignored her instincts that were telling her to switch careers and break free, if she had stayed in her comfort zone or let the fear of failure stop her in her tracks, she would not have fulfilled her purpose or bought her extraordinary design gift to the world.

You too can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and leading the career that you truly want.

Join the Lucidity Network

The Lucidity Network helps people who feel stuck in their work life to get unstuck and have the career that will make them happy.

The Lucidity Network is a generous community that help each other be happy in their work life. Don’t miss out on making your work life what you want it to be.  For more information and to join the Lucidity Network click here. 

A version of this blog was first published by our friends over at Lifehack.