How to Achieve Your Goals Without Massive Effort

We’ve all heard the statistic that only 8% of people achieve their New Year resolutions or goals each year. So how do you ensure you are one of those successful leaders who ends the year accomplished and fulfilled?

In this video, I share the one thing that can help you achieve your goals this year–without massive effort.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch, I’d love to know…

What is one small action you can take repeatedly to move you toward one of your goals this year? Do you have any strategies or practices that help you achieve your goals?

Share your comments below.

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The Two Most Important Leadership Skills

As we near the end of the year, are you on track to achieve your goals? Is your team focused and on track, or are they running in 15 different directions? Are you wondering how it got to be November when you haven’t had the chance to get nearly as much done as you planned?

In this month’s video, I share the two most important skills for a leader to be successful. You can be the most talented, strategic, smart, and emotionally intelligent leader, but if you don’t have these two skills, you will never achieve results.

I also share four steps to achieving exceptional goals in the next 12 weeks. Twelve weeks is enough time to achieve significant goals without becoming overwhelmed.

Once you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear your tips for keeping your team on track to achieve goals. Or, let us know what you plan to put in action to get back on track with your goals. Leave a comment below the video.

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4 Strategies for Building Your Leadership Pipeline

LeadershipEarlier this year, I was working with an executive who had all the characteristics of a great leader; high emotional intelligence, an engaged team, an approachable leadership style, and great results. There was one thing missing: he didn’t have a successor. Although his team members met or exceeded expectations in their current roles, not one of them was prepared to move into a senior leadership role. This was a concern for the organization, as the CEO realized he had several executives nearing retirement, yet didn’t have the talent in the pipeline to fill these high-level leadership roles.

This isn’t uncommon; many leaders focus on personal development and don’t always see the immediate need for developing a successor. Perhaps you’ve been through leadership training, you listen to personal development podcasts and read leadership books; you are self aware and work to develop your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. You are always looking to improve; reading trade magazines, and attending webinars, conferences, and industry events. You may even spend time coaching your employees to perform their best in their current roles.

Personal development and applying what you learn has a significant impact on your success as a leader. Yet many executives and managers are so focused on self-improvement, that they sometimes forget an important piece of successful leadership: developing the bench strength a level below them and preparing mid-managers for executive level roles.

No matter how effective you may be at leading and getting results, you will never be a highly successful leader if you do not have a plan for your succession. Not every employee is capable of moving beyond their current role, but as a leader you have to assess each individual on your current team and create a plan to develop or hire the talent you will need in your pipeline for the future.

Below are four strategies for developing your leadership pipeline:

Assess your bench strength. For each individual on your team, create a simple assessment of how he or she performs in the current role. What are her strengths? Weaknesses? Does she have leadership potential? Has she fully developed the competencies of her current role? Are there any gaps? When you review the competencies of a future management or executive role, how does she measure up? What competencies and skills can you start to develop in her to prepare her for the future role? Assess each of your employees so you can understand their individual strengths and weaknesses, how they are currently performing, and who has demonstrated leadership potential.

Identify high potentials. Once you have completed the individual assessments, identify any high potential employees who stand out. If you left your position today, who might be ready to move into your role? If there is no natural successor, who has the potential to develop into the role over the next three to five years? If no current employees have leadership potential, how will you handle that? For example, if an employee on your team leaves, perhaps you focus on hiring a new employee with executive leadership potential whom you can groom for your role. Create a snapshot of the current performance and potential future performance for each of your employees, and identify potential successors.

Create individual development plans. Once you have identified high-potential employees, create an individual development plan for each one. Ideally you will have several employees who have the potential to succeed your position. But even if you have just one, determine what competencies, skills or knowledge the employee will need to be successful in a leadership role. Then find opportunities that will develop this employee or expose him to the needed skills. This could be education, like conferences and leadership schools, or internal opportunities like managing a high level project. Earlier in my career as a director of human resources, my vice president had me present a strategic initiative to the Board of Directors. Although I was nervous to interact with the Board, my VP explained that getting exposure to the Board at the director level was to prepare me for eventually taking over the vice president role. A year later, when my VP moved out of state, I was promoted to vice president with the support of the Board. Find opportunities that will challenge and prepare your high-potentials for leadership roles.

Involve the employee. When you have identified your high potential employees, share with them that they are considered high-potential. Not only is this a great engagement tool (employees want to be developed and have the opportunity to reach their potential), but it also allows them to be engaged in the process. Involve your employee by asking her questions to facilitate the development: Is she interested in eventually moving into a leadership role? What skills does she feel she needs to develop in? What would her strengths be in that role, and how can she leverage them? What projects or initiatives would she like to lead in the organization to prepare? Development is a two-way street. It takes time and commitment from you to coach and mentor, as well as from your employee to take initiative and ownership of her development.

Even if you plan to stay in your current role indefinitely, exceptional leaders develop and prepare high-potential employees for future leadership roles. When you understand each employee’s professional goals and work to develop them to their potential, you are creating your leadership legacy.

I’d love to hear how you are preparing your high-potentials. What is one thing you are doing to build your leadership pipeline? Share your comments below!

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How to Upgrade Your Leadership

Time to UpgradeA few weeks ago, I enrolled in a program for entrepreneurs. The first two weeks of this program are about decluttering your life–your physical space; including files, closets, and drawers, and your mental space; including negative beliefs and information overload. The premise is that by decluttering the things you don’t need or that don’t serve you anymore, you make room for better things in your life.

As I’ve been working through this program, it feels great to give away old clothes, clean my office space, and make room for a calmer and cleaner environment. The program facilitator also has us creating an “Upgrade Plan,” identifying incremental changes to upgrade our life. These don’t have to be big changes–one of the things I upgraded are my pens! I had a bunch of old pens that I’ve collected (and were free) over the years, and they just don’t write as well as a nice, smooth Bic Atlantis. In the past I felt guilty buying pens when I have so many free ones, but I decided this was a small upgrade. I spent less than $10 to upgrade something I use every day. It’s a small change, and it feels better and reduces the frustration I feel when I find a pen that doesn’t work or write well. I also got rid of the old workouts clothes I don’t use and that were taking up a lot of shelf space (because I convinced myself I might need them one day), and replaced them with new running shorts and shirts.

This program is really about upgrading your life so you can let go of all the old “stuff” to create space and time, reduce stress, and really be able to live and work at your best.

This got me thinking about leadership. If we don’t declutter our physical and mental space, we can’t serve our organizations to the best of our ability and work at peak performance. We will be bogged down by all the things in our space that don’t serve our bigger goals.

Are there things you need to declutter or upgrade around your leadership?

Here are some examples of areas to consider when decluttering:

  • Your office or workspace
  • Your email inbox (a game-changer for me has been the website; this site can put all of your email subscriptions like newsletters into one daily digest, and allows you to unsubscribe from multiple emails at one time. Now you don’t have to filter through all your subscriptions to find important messages)
  • Your schedule (don’t accept every meeting request, and leave space for actual work)
  • Your filing cabinets (my assistant helped me reorganize and throw away a ton of old files, and I felt relieved to get old documents out of my space)
  • Piles of magazines or articles
  • Piles of papers or files on your desk
  • Your electronic folders and files
  • Your mind (write down all the things in your head you need to do and then organize them by priority. Keeping ideas and tasks in your head takes up mental space and energy, and perpetuates a state of overwhelm)
  • Your negative beliefs (things like, “I’m just not organized” or “I don’t have time to develop my employees”). These beliefs do not serve you, so replace them with empowering beliefs.

When you clear the physical and mental clutter, it leaves room for the more important areas in your leadership. You no longer feel bogged down and overwhelmed by stacks of papers, magazines, emails and clutter. This exercise clears your space and your mind so you can focus and bring forth your best effort and contributions.

One you have decluttered, you can look at the areas in your leadership to upgrade. Upgrading doesn’t have to cost a lot of money (it doesn’t even have to involve money). Sometimes the simple things can make you feel more organized and focused. Perhaps you seem to never have time to formally coach your employees because you can’t find the space in your schedule. Decluttering creates space to upgrade areas of your leadership that are most important and can have a significant positive impact.

Below are some areas (with examples)to consider upgrading:

  • Physical environment : a shelf to organize your books, a better phone, or just a clean space
  • Supplies: notebooks, planner, organization system, or new pens!
  • Personal development: great leadership books, a professional development workshop or conference
  • Employee development: creating time in your week to give feedback, and to coach and develop
  • Employee engagement: send a thank you note or email to an employee, and create a consistent plan for keeping your staff engaged
  • Morning and evening ritual: rather than jumping into your day (like I used to do), creating a ritual to set yourself up for peak performance and to decompress after a long day. For example, starting the day with gratitude, planning your day the night before, using the morning hours to focus on important projects, carving out a half hour for reading, or anything else that sets you up to work at your best.

I’d love to hear from you: what is one thing you want to declutter this week? And what is one thing you want to upgrade?

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Three Tips for Becoming a Master Delegator

delegateI worked for a credit union years ago, and when I was first promoted to HR director, I remember my boss telling me that my promotion came with a lot of changes. I would no longer be assessed just on my technical expertise. My success would be evaluated on my leadership abilities and how my team performed. This was a challenge for me, as I enjoyed being a problem solver and technical expert. When an employee had a benefit question, I could answer it off the top of my head. When there was a payroll issue, I felt accomplished when I could figure out the discrepancy. Yet this all changed when I was promoted. I was now expected to coach and train my staff to take care of these issues while I focused on more strategic, long-term projects.

Many leaders struggle to make the leap from manager to leader because they fail to realize that the value they bring to the organization changes when they are promoted. When most managers are promoted, they continue the activities they did in their previous role and take on some additional duties like performance evaluations and answering staff questions. But to be a successful leader, a big shift has to occur. You need to make sure you are not confusing your expertise with your value. As an HR generalist, the value I brought to the credit union was my human resources expertise. But as an HR director, my expertise was less important. Different competencies like influencing, coaching and delegating were required to be successful. This was a big mental shift for me, and one that didn’t happen easily.

One of the first things I needed to do was to identify the key result areas for my new role, and delegate the activities that were not in my key result areas. This exercise helped me to focus on the areas that were most important to be successful as a leader.

Defining key result areas is one of the first exercises I have participants in my leadership programs complete so they can be absolutely clear about where they need to focus their energy and time. For a copy of the exercise I use in my leadership program, click here: Key Result Areas Exercise

Once you have identified your key result areas, the next step is to determine what to delegate. This sounds easy, but in practice it can be quite challenging. The truth is, most leaders have not mastered delegation. Most of us struggle to let go of things we know we can do well in order to free up our time to focus on areas that will deliver more value. Additionally, many leaders get addicted to the feeling of checking things off their list. I am a master at list making, and checking things off gives me a rush of accomplishment. But sometimes they are small wins and not the things I should be working on. I keep myself in check by identifying my top two priorities for the day and completing those before I move on to smaller tasks.

If you ever struggle with letting things go, here are three tips to become a master delegator:

1.¬† Track your activities. For two weeks, make a list of every activity or task you come across that can be done by someone else. As a business owner, I used to struggle (and sometimes still do) with handing things off to my assistant. I would convince myself that this task was something only I could do. But when I had more work than time, I had to make a change. I created a list of things my assistant could do and started delegating tasks each time we met. Some activities were easy to delegate (create tabs for leadership binders) and some were more complex (manage my website). I didn’t delegate everything at once, but creating a list helped us to work toward unloading more things off my plate. Another strategy is to think about how much you make an hour, and determine if a task or activity is worth paying your hourly rate, or the rate of one of your employees. Delegate tasks that can be done by someone else effectively, but cheaper.

2. Take time to coach and delegate effectively. There is a difference between dumping and delegating. Dumping is assigning a task to someone with no guidance or direction. Delegating (particularly for more complex tasks) takes time and patience. Most people avoid delegating because they know it will take more time up front to show someone else than to complete the task themselves. But that investment of time will reap rewards down the road. The proper way to delegate is to explain the result you need, share information or expertise you have, and then provide support as your employee completes the task herself. Give the employee the authority to carry the task to completion, and don’t micromanage the process. Let your employee know you are available if he has questions.

3. Create a follow-up system. Depending on the task, you may need to create a method of follow-up with your employee. Does he need to send you a report each month? By what date? Does he need to let you know when he’s completed the task? Be clear when you are delegating about deadlines and the follow-up method. I once delegated an important task to my assistant and didn’t give her a deadline. I assumed she knew it was a priority. I assumed wrong and it was my own fault. As a leader, it is your responsibility to be clear about your expectations. Use the Why-What-When method. Why you need it, What you need, and by When.

Do you ever struggle with delegation? What are your tips for letting go of tasks that aren’t a good use of your time?

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6 Strategies for Becoming a Persuasive Speaker

Businesswoman Addressing Meeting Around Boardroom TableMany years ago, as I prepared for one of my first presentations as a leader, I remember filling each PowerPoint slide with information, ready to “wow” my audience. I don’t remember the outcome of that presentation, but I’m pretty sure my audience was glazed over as I went through and read each slide in detail. Although I have learned to be more concise and persuasive over the years, one of my biggest challenges as a speaker is to keep it simple and not overload my audience with too much information. I want to share so much value, that I often have to reel myself in when preparing a speech.

If part of your job as a leader is giving presentations, here are six strategies for becoming a more persuasive speaker:

1. Determine the type of presentation you are giving. Are you giving a motivational speech to your employees? Sharing the vision for the next year with the entire staff? Or are you providing a project update to the Board of Directors? Each of these presentations requires a different approach. If you are painting a vision or giving a motivational speech, you may want to rethink the PowerPoint (unless you use only one word per slide or use pictures to illustrate your points). If you are giving a more formal presentation, you can probably get away with using PowerPoint, but don’t overload your slides with too much data. Your audience might decide to take a nap.

2. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want your audience to walk away with? What is the goal of your presentation? Start with that in mind and work backwards. Most people start with a topic and then pull up PowerPoint and begin filling in the slides. By doing this, you usually get bogged down in the details and lose the overall “frame” for the presentation. Think about the result or outcome you want from the presentation, and then write out the main points you want to cover to get there.

3. Prepare your outline. Giving an effective speech or presentation typically takes a lot of preparation. For your presentation to be truly persuasive, you should develop an outline of the main points you want to cover in your presentation. You want to make sure your speech or presentation has a clear structure. A structure is most important for you, the speaker, to make sure you are not going off on tangents or missing your points. You want your presentation to have a clear format and flow. After developing your main outline, flush out each of the points by using stories, statistics or examples.

4. Prepare your visuals. If you are using PowerPoint, try to keep the words on each slide to a minimum. Too much information on your slides distracts your audience from you as you are delivering the message and puts the focus on your slides. The minute you put up a slide, your audience will direct their attention to your PowerPoint, read your slides, and not hear anything you are saying. Try using cartoons, illustrations or even just one word to illustrate your point. Then elaborate your message through words so the audience can actually absorb your message.

In most cases, your slides should not be the main focus; they should supplement your message. For example, having a graph on your slide to illustrate your point is usually fine, but having paragraphs of text is a distraction. And don’t read your slides. This is a sign of lack of preparation. Having one word on your slide can help you keep your place as your work through your main points. If you need to have some data on your slides, then try breaking each point up into one slide each instead of crowding them all on one slide.

If you want your audience to walk away with some written information, consider preparing a report or one page sheet of your main points to hand out after your presentation is completed.

5. Practice, practice, practice. People are often surprised when I tell them I spend an average of 20 hours preparing for a one hour speech (between creating the topic, outline, visuals, and practicing). I’m not suggesting you need to prepare that many hours for a presentation to the executive team, yet most people spend no time practicing their presentation and “wing it”. Taking time to practice will only make you a more confident, persuasive, and polished speaker. It also gives you a chance to work out any kinks and ensure the presentation flows properly.

When I prepare for a one hour speech, I do a full run through of the talk every day for a week before the presentation. I don’t memorize the speech–that will make it less authentic and often has the opposite effect–you get so caught up in remembering your lines that you lose your place. Instead, I make sure I am comfortable with the main points and the examples and stories I am using. Practicing the entire presentation allows me to get very comfortable with the material so I can engage with the audience and not be “in my head”.

6. Engage your audience. Most people don’t love sitting in a room while someone talks to them for an hour. It’s a surefire way for your audience to pull out their Smart phones. Whenever possible, engage the audience in your presentation. Ask a question, ask for examples, and check in with them occasionally by asking for their thoughts or feedback. If your presentation is a project update, ask one or two of your team members to elaborate on one of the points to keep the presentation interesting.

Another way to engage your audience is by appearing approachable. Make eye contact, smile, and walk around a bit so you don’t seem too rigid.

The more presentations you give, the more comfortable and confident you will be speaking in front of an audience. Now I’d love to hear your tips for being a persuasive speaker. What is your top tip for a successful presentation?

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5 Things to Start Doing This Year

SuccessDo you want to elevate your leadership impact this year? Leaders are busy, and sometimes it’s a challenge to just get through the day.

But we often put off doing the things that will help us make a bigger impact and get better results for ourselves and the organization. Where we focus our time has a significant impact on our success in leadership.

Here are the top five things I think leaders should start doing this year to work at peak performance and get better results.

  • Reading- The best leaders are focused on continuous learning and development. Many leaders are so busy they rarely can find time for keeping up on industry trends or enhancing their leadership. Make this the year you focus more time on reading, listening to educational audios, and focusing on development. Some of my favorite resources are:
    • Success Magazine (you get a bonus CD with each monthly magazine):
    • Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman
    • The Compound Effect audio series or book by Darren Hardy
    • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
    • Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
    • Leading for Growth by Ray Davis
  • Planning- every minute of planning saves you 10 minutes in execution. Set aside an hour each Monday to plan for the next two weeks. Block out two days each month for planning and executing strategic projects. Last year, I started blocking out four days in a row each quarter to completely focus on only strategic projects. I did everything possible to keep those days open so I could focus on getting some serious strategic work done. When you plan ahead, you will find the time to elevate your focus to strategic areas that give you the best results. Check out the book Strategic Acceleration by Tony Jeary.
  • Recognizing– develop the habit of thanking your employees for a job well done. Meet with each employee to ask how they like to be recognized. Send a hand written note or a small gift when an employee goes above and beyond. It doesn’t take much time to recognize and appreciate your employees. Small interactions and gestures can generate better working relationships and a positive environment. A great resource for creating a recognition culture is The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White.
  • Coaching-make this the year you will make coaching and developing your staff a priority. Provide feedback early and often. Set up regular coaching sessions with your employees. Ask more questions. Talk less and listen more. Coach your employees to take more responsibility and ownership in their jobs. Check out my article, Ten Tips for Successfully Coaching Employees for ideas on how to implement coaching.
  • Reducing disruptions– Despite what most leaders think, having an “open door policy” is not productive. Let your staff know that you are going to close your door more often to concentrate on high value projects. Turn off your phone and your email when you need to focus and get things done. Take control of your time and politely let someone know when it’s not a good time to talk. It’s the small distractions throughout the day that compound and consume time that can be used for focused, productive work. Check out the book The One Thing by Gary Keller for some great tips on how to achieve better results in less time.

What is one thing you would like to start doing this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Small Changes Lead to Big Results

New Year ResolutionsIt’s the start of a fresh, new year. The opportunity to break out of old patterns and instill new habits. For years I wrote “New Year Resolutions” and got ready to change my life when the clock struck midnight. Whether it was eating healthier, exercising more, or being a better leader, my approach was that when the calendar turned to January, I hit the reset button and dove into my new and improved self. And it rarely worked.

When I set myself up for such drastic change all at one time, I felt pressured, overwhelmed, and ultimately discouraged. The stress of living up to this “ideal self” led me down a path of giving up easily and settling for the status quo. I wasn’t all that bad, I would rationalize. But I would have a lingering feeling of disappointment that I couldn’t achieve all the “goals” I had set.

I believe the reason most of us (over 92%!) aren’t successful implementing real change each year is because we are approaching the process all wrong. The point is that change is a process. We don’t just turn the page and become a new person who magically has willpower we didn’t have the year before. The best change happens incrementally. I’m not saying don’t set yearly goals. Goals are an important piece of the roadmap to changing and improving our lives. But how we reach those goals is where most people struggle.

I have found the best approach in making big changes to be utilizing the compound effect. Small incremental changes will lead to bigger transformations. Create your list of goals for the year, then under each one, create a few actions or habits to implement one at a time.

If one of your goals is to become a better leader, you might start with some smaller actions like:

  • Thank at least one employee each day for a specific contribution.
  • Schedule monthly two-hour coaching sessions in my calendar with each of my employees by January 30th.
  • Provide specific constructive and positive feedback to each employee in each of their coaching sessions. (Most leaders fail to give ANY feedback throughout the year, so if you do this one thing each month, you will surely improve your leadership skills).
  • Recognize my top performing employee at least once a month. (Many leaders focus their efforts on struggling employees and forget to acknowledge top performers).

Changing behavior is a personal process. If you know that implementing all four of those actions at once will overwhelm you and derail your efforts, then start with number one and make that a habit before incorporating more habits or actions. If you do this consistently all year, you have a much better chance of becoming a better leader than if you decided to change all your habits on day one. This approach makes the change more manageable and sustainable.

Another important part of reaching your goals is forgiveness. You need to be open to forgiving yourself when you fail to follow through. If you are trying to eat healthier but ate a pint of ice cream last night, you need to brush it off, forgive yourself, and start new again. Beating yourself up will not change the fact that you ate the ice cream. Move on and try better tomorrow.

One of my goals this year is to be a more patient parent. Before my husband and I had kids, we talked about how calm our house would be and how we would approach parenting. Then we had kids and reality set in. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be! We have a four-year-old, two-year-old and a newborn, and with lack of sleep, patience can be limited. Instead of setting a goal for being a perfect parent, I have small actions and habits I am working on to hopefully improve over time. For example, if I get frustrated with my daughter, instead of getting angry at myself for losing my cool (which just adds more negativity and frustration to the situation), I have started the habit of apologizing to my daughter, giving her a hug, and starting again. This small change has helped me to stay present in the moment and be more patient with my daughter. She is more willing to listen instead of throwing a tantrum.

Now I’d like to hear from you. What is one goal you have set for this year and one or two habits you are working on toward that goal? Share your comments below.

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How I overcome self-criticism

Plan BI found myself getting anxious a couple of weeks ago as I realized that the end of the year is approaching. Before the start of each year, I set goals for my personal and professional life. The anxiety began to build as I realized there were a few goals I haven’t made any progress toward. For example, one of my business goals this year was to start a video blog. I started to feel bad about my lack of following through on this project that I deemed so important in the beginning of the year. If I weren’t expecting a baby in five weeks, I may have been able to launch this project by the end of the year. However, I am forgiving myself for not accomplishing it and moving the goal to next year.

I heard someone once say, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” This is a mantra I have worked hard at keeping top of mind. It doesn’t mean I don’t set goals or that I don’t stretch and challenge myself. It means that I put in my best effort, and then forgive myself if I sometimes fall short of accomplishing all that I set out to do. We all hit roadblocks or challenges along our path that we have to navigate. Yet life is unfolding exactly how it should. Every person on this planet has experienced setbacks and disappointments. Holding ourselves to a high standard is good, and also accepting that we are human and will sometimes fall short is better than continuing to focus on what we should have or could have done.

Is there something you are beating yourself up for not doing? Perhaps you had a goal of getting into shape, or to manage your time better, or to take a class to further your career. Whatever it is, be okay with where you are. You are exactly where you are meant to be. You can start now.

Here are three ways to motivate yourself to keep going:

Take an inventory of what you have accomplished this year. Focus on what you have done. When I make a list of all the goals I have reached, it makes me realize that I actually accomplished a lot that I should be proud of. Celebrating the successes puts you in a positive mindset to motivate you to move forward.

Forgive yourself for the “failures”. Focusing on what you haven’t done and beating yourself up is wasted energy. You can’t change yesterday or the yesterdays before that. You can only make changes starting right now. Focus on what you can do right now and in the future.

Focus on daily improvement. I have learned over the years of working with people as well as reflecting on my own behavior, that most people achieve more when they focus on improving each day rather than trying to create massive change all at once. Choose one area you would like to improve upon in your life and then choose one habit or action to work on today. These small changes will compound into bigger results over time.

Have you ever struggled with criticizing yourself? I’d love to hear your tips for overcoming self-criticism. Share your tips in the comments section below.

If you would like more inspiration, I recommend reading one of my favorite books, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. This book will motivate and inspire you to achieve beyond what you think is possible.

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