End of year wrap up and reflection

Realizing this is our last blog of 2017 got me reflecting on what I’ve learned this year.

The list was too long to do justice to it, but one thing that stood out to me was how we learned through our work coaching successful executives that self-talk can really have an impact — not only on you but on your leadership with others.

What we learned inspired our blog when your toughest conversations are with yourself.

My thinking on this has been galvanized even more after reading an article in Psychology Today that explores the impact of adults comparing ourselves to others in the age of social media.

We’ve heard news reports of how teens can be negatively affected by social media, but they aren’t the only ones who are gauging life success by the number of likes, followers, and interactions on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, even as professionals. (And we know that teens aren’t typically watching LinkedIn for news of promotions or who has which connections!)

There is some hope, however, in that researchers report we care less about social comparisons the older we get. In my experience, without conscious effort, it doesn’t start noticeably diminishing until we’re closer to retirement.  My hope is that we can make that conscious effort start earlier.

As we enter the holiday season, how many of us will be watching year-in-review posts listing the accomplishments of friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter? It’s really hard not to feel a little green with envy about beautiful vacation photos or accolades for achievements and successes.

It can feel gratifying when our peers celebrate our successes, but it can also sting if people we hope will support us don’t comment or engage.

Now, let’s be clear, sometimes competition is healthy. Seeing someone else achieve great things might be motivating to try a little harder – maybe even amp up our drive to cross that finish line, too.

Or, we might feel inspired to try something new or take some risks if we realize others have achieved great things.

The problem is that the negative feelings can sometimes fan the flames of unhelpful self-talk, even among the most successful people. That 24/7 ability to compare ourselves to others thanks to social media can also chip away at self-esteem, particularly if we’ve got a bit of holiday time to be more self-reflective instead of living in a constant state of urgency like the rest of the year.  

All this inspired us to consider implementing several strategies to avoid the trap of constant comparison, taking what we’ve learned in 2017 to give us a strong start for 2018:

Cultivate relationships and connect authentically

It’s so easy to scan through posts aimlessly, sort of like wandering through an online version of a great hall filled with people. I know I’m not the only one to quickly check Facebook only to suddenly find an hour has gone by!

Psychologists recommend using social media with purpose, using it as a tool to connect with people to have meaningful dialogue. So instead of liking 15 posts that show up in my feed, I’ll seek out a few people I want to build relationships with and send a private message to check in or post a supportive comment.

Watch your time and set limits for how long you’ll spend so you don’t get sucked into the void.

Follow what (or who) inspires you

Use social media to find people who will mentor you or provide inspiration. Remember that idea of healthy competition? The experts call it upward comparison, but essentially having someone who outpaces you a little or someone you really admire, to engage with might help you push for better results, too.

This doesn’t mean you have to friend your boss, but you might want to connect with someone a little further or higher in their career than you. Following how they achieve results or seeing what articles inspire them may give you an edge in what you do.

Spend your time online reading articles that will give you strategies to improve yourself or push you to consider new ways to consider your career (like writing your own retirement speech today).

Set a goal

This is the time of year that everyone starts talking about New Year’s Resolutions. People will start thinking about what they’d like to do better, or what they hope to do personally and professionally in the year ahead.

Two of the best things you can do to make a change is to set smaller goals that lead to that change and commit to a deadline for each small goal.  Goal setting and goal management is something we’re going to delve into with our topics in January.

Some of the things we’ve focused on during 2017 may help get you started on brainstorming some New Year’s Resolutions you can stick to! We considered the wisdom of creating a personal vision statement and being mindful (instead of MINDFULL). Check in with us in January to stay motivated to be your best self for 2018.

Find your gratitude

Having a positive mindset can help us to sidestep the trap of comparing ourselves to others.

Did your parents or grandparents ever tell you that you may not have all you want, but you have what you need? It’s so easy for us to get bogged down in comparing ourselves to people who we feel are more successful (upward social comparison), but considering how good we have things compared to others (downward social comparison) reframes everything.

I also recommend finding ways to serve others in your community with your time and talent, not just monetarily. Writing a cheque doesn’t give you quite the same sense of community awareness and involvement as organizing a charity fundraiser that helps people in need, volunteering with a non-profit, or simply dropping off a meal to a family in crisis.

Acts of service generate goodwill in all directions and a change in perspective is a great way to check yourself before you fall into negative comparisons.

Be your best self

According to researchers, the older people are the more likely they are to judge themselves against their past rather than against other people.

We need to learn from the wisdom of our elders and others who strive to beat their own personal bests.

Internal evaluation would be considering how you’ve improved based on your own track record rather than some external measurement. So if you’ve mastered giving a speech without stage fright and nausea for the first time, rejoice!

If you’ve pulled off some great sprints at work and achieved results that previously eluded you, celebrate! And then consider how you’ll take what you’ve learned to leverage even more success going forward.

Acknowledge your admiration of others

The next time you see that someone has done something notable, take a minute to leave a thoughtful comment or send a private email of congratulation.

When you take the time to praise others for their successes and acknowledge what you admire about them or their work, it’s amazing what you learn about them and their effort.

Expressing how you’re happy for someone is a great way to keep feelings of envy at bay. Not only does it generate goodwill, it’s a great way to build a rapport with someone (you might end up with a mentor!).

And you know what they say: You’re the average of the five people closest to you, so it can’t hurt to start bonding with folks you admire!

The Coach’s Questions

How aware are you when you’re comparing yourself unfavorably to others? Which of our suggestions do you commit to trying? How are you going to remind yourself?

Create a personal vision statement for your career

I think we’ve all had moments where we feel so overwhelmed by tasks and demands that we wonder what we’re doing. Or so stretched by the day-to-day firefighting that we feel hopelessly trapped on an endless treadmill.

As we’ve discussed before, busyness has become an epidemic of our time.

So how do we figure out the answers to the big questions in life about why we’re here, what we’re doing, and where we want to be? It’s so easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of every day and lose sight of what we want out of life.

Just like big corporations, we as individuals need to take some time to really think about our purpose and reason for being.

Crafting a personal vision statement is one approach that can help you rediscover your passions and ignite your desires, aligning your day to day with your life goals and with what really matters to you.

Let’s go through how we can quite easily bring this kind of success from the corporate world to your own life, both personally and professionally.  

What is a personal vision statement?

Writing a personal vision statement is making a commitment to live your life in a certain way, drawing from the myriad complexities that make you who you are – like your relationships, belief systems and values, health, well-being, and personality.

It keeps you aligned and helps prevent waking up some Monday morning and thinking, “how did I end up here?”

A personal vision statement is going to be a combination of what you care about and what motivates you, serving as a guide for you as you proceed through your career.

Now, when we’re looking at goal setting, I don’t want you to get a personal vision statement confused with a mission statement. They’re complementary, but different.

A vision statement is focused on where you want to be in the future, whereas a mission statement centres around what you’re doing now that has value and what you aim to achieve.

In other words, a vision statement is more of a guiding principle or philosophy for life while a mission statement defines how you’ll accomplish goals grounded in the present.

When we create a personal vision statement we’re looking big picture and long-term.

Why you need one

I like to think of a personal vision statement like having a compass to navigate through our personal and professional journey.

First, a well-crafted personal vision statement is going to give you direction for every turn and bump in the road. You can use it to evaluate whether decisions align with your values and aspirations, or if options play to your strengths or weaknesses.

It can help you discern whether you’re drifting off course or getting pushed away from where you want to end up. Imagine using it when a new job opportunity comes up – it can help you think big picture and consider the finer details of the offer, not just the title or the salary.

Second, when you can orient yourself no matter what surprises or obstacles you encounter, you can proceed with a feeling of purpose – be that to achieve personal milestones or the greater good. This, in turn, helps us find meaning in what we do and a sense of fulfillment.

Imagine for a moment losing your job. A terrible, upsetting prospect for most of us, but with a clear vision of where you want to be, you’ll be focused on what you need and what you have to offer to get back on track quicker than most.

And third, a personal vision statement pushes our focus from the immediate and short-term to the future in the long-term. It’s making the switch from figuring out how to deal with that one employee today to figuring out what kind of leader you want to be. Perspective, as they say, is everything.

A personal vision statement keeps us on track. After all, every journey is easier when you know where you’re headed and why.

How to craft your own statement

Choose a quiet time to reflect that is free from distractions and demands (turn off your cell phone!). It’s great if you can set aside an uninterrupted hour to work through this process but if that’s impossible then set aside 15 minutes to work through each step.

Get ready to examine your deepest thoughts and feelings.

Step 1

Grab a blank notebook or some loose sheets or download our worksheet to help you craft the perfect personal vision statement.

Get your free worksheet here.

How you brainstorm is up to you; some of us do well with lists and others get more creative with doodles.

I want you to be brutally honest and really reflect on what matters to you. Note any common themes that emerge as you undertake this process of reflection or what really resonates with you in this moment. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Consider the various aspects of your life: personal, professional, spiritual, social. What comes to your mind? What is most important to you? What makes you happy? What makes you feel fulfilled in life?

Examine your strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well? What do you find challenging? What do others notice about you that is admirable and what have you heard needs improving?

Describe your values, hopes, and dreams. What belief systems are the scaffolding to your personal and professional life? What ideals do you admire? Jot down any wishes or ambitions that come to mind.

Step 2

Now I want you to shift gears a little bit to delve into what motivates you. Consider your life from every angle and think about what gets you excited about life and what moves you into action.

Remember, you’re writing this only for yourself so be really honest. Inspiration could be:

  • Changing something in the world
  • Financial gain
  • Rewards
  • Achievement-based
  • Educational (formal or informal)
  • Helping others
  • Public recognition, accolades, or fame

Step 3

The next step is to think about your future. Take time to ponder these big questions to help you think about yourself in the years to come:

  • What would you try if you didn’t have to risk money or your pride?
  • If you won a lottery and could finance anything you have ever dreamed of doing, what would you do in life?
  • If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would be your biggest regrets?
  • If people were to talk about the legacy you’ve left, what would you like them to say? Could they say this now? If not, what needs to happen?

Step 4

Think about everything you’ve brainstormed about yourself in the last three steps. Review your notes and highlight what strikes you as the most important points.

Now, try writing a personal vision statement that draws from this work.

Write in the first person (this is your personal statement it’s about you!) and focus on the future.

Write with optimism and confidence, using the active voice that you will achieve (not that you hope to!).

Some people give themselves a word limit, but I suggest you write first and then edit it down for brevity. You want to keep it long enough that articulates what inspires you and what you aspire to be, but brief enough that it’s memorable.

Ideally, you want to have a statement comprised of a few sentences that you can memorize as your visionary goal of your future.

We’ve listed some examples below.

Step 5

Read it over. Post it on your wall and see how it feels.

This is your personal vision statement so you can refine or finesse it as you choose. It may be worth reassessing every six months to a year because sometimes we change course a little.

But you may also discover that your statement is very fitting through many seasons.

Personal vision statement examples

What you write is up to you. This is your statement about your future and what matters to you. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

My vision is to share my knowledge and passion for human resources through work and volunteering to create a more inclusive world. I will lead by example and inspire a love of diversity in those I work with and my children.

I will not forget to treat people well as I gain success because I want to be a leader who encourages respect and values input from all levels. I will strive to find joy and use design to create social change.

My vision is to be a lawyer of honour and integrity who shares these values with others while continuing to grow through ongoing education, pro bono work, and mentoring students.

Click here for your free worksheet.