Thursday, January 31, 2008

Aging Overachievers

A good friend of mine in NY sent me an article about aging overachievers entitled, "From Overdrive to Coasting" (Newsday, 1/28/08).

In the article, the author (Kathy Connors) accurately captures our current and future plight as overly-ambitious, do-everything types people. She does a great job describing the archetypal overachiever (maybe she's been reading this blog!) and how people like us may feel as we age:
Overachievers make long to-do lists, do most of what's on the list and then agonize over what doesn't get done. They are the homeroom mom who makes cookies from scratch even though she works full time and does seven loads of laundry a week. They are the hardworking dad who brings a change of clothing to work so he can coach his son's soccer team every day after school while he sets up business appointments for the next day. They are the people at the gym at 6 in the morning. And they often have multiple degrees. After all, one of anything is seldom enough. If you consider red lights a great opportunity to check phone messages, then consider yourself a hopeless case.

What happens to overachievers as we age? Let's face it, the spirit is still willing, but it's the flesh that's weak. While we hate to admit it, we run out of energy sooner than we run out of ideas. And it is certainly not in our nature to just fade away. We may burn up, burn out or just annoy the hell out of family and friends (who would never even want to measure up to our high standards). I've talked with many aging overachievers who tell whispered tales of diminished capacity for pushing themselves beyond all reason. We feel guilty even discussing what we see as our "infirmities." After all, we are profoundly uncomfortable even having things like bad backs, the stirrings of arthritis or that strong desire to just take a nap. That's the entire point of being an overachiever. We refuse to see ourselves as simply human. That would be settling, and we don't ever settle.
When my friend sent me the link, I don't think she knew just how much this would resonate with me. She couldn't have known how bummed I was when I first got glasses (because my eyesight was no longer perfect) or that I almost cried 2 years ago when I got my first cavity. To me, these were irreversible indications that I wasn't the super-human being I wish I could be (thought I was?), and I could do nothing about it. Maybe she could see it in me, despite never hearing the particulars.

On the bright side, aging can be a good thing. Think about what we've learned just in the last few years and imagine that we'll continue to gain wisdom, experience, and perspective as we get older. Every so often, if I'm feeling a bit stagnant, old, or doubtful in my personal evolution, I find myself channeling Stuart Smalley and thinking:
"Every day I'm getting better and better"
It also reminds me of the line from the old Ragu (spaghetti sauce) commercial:
"As I get older, I get better"
These sayings may be a bit hokey, but they're good reminders that even though we're noticing more and more imperfections as we age (gasp), we're continuing to learn, grow, and improve in other ways. Or at least that's what I tell myself :)
  • How do you feel as an "aging overachiever"?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't Let "Depression" Get You Down

I'm currently reading The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss and am really enjoying it. I signed up for his blog and find it an interesting mix of topics. Last week's post was depression (based on Heath Ledger's suicide) and he offered 3 tips for preventing "depression."

Here are his suggestions from his post (which is definitely worth the quick read):

"1. Depression is just one phase of a natural biorhythm and thus both transient and needed.

2. How you label determines how you feel.

3. Gratitude training can be used pre- or mid-depressive symptoms to moderate the extremes and speed the transition."

The key points that I took away from it were:

  • Don't be quick to call it depression or see it as a permanent state. These feelings come and go and are part of life.
  • The best thing to do to elevate your mood is to go out to eat with friends!
  • Use gratitude as a way to recenter your perspective on what's good in your life.
His blog and website are helpful companions to the book and offer great reminders based on his common themes. Start with the book and learn how to live like the "New Rich!"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ambition and Sacrifice

In the gym yesterday, I picked up the January issue of Esquire entitled "10 Years of Wisdom...What I've learned." It featured stories and anecdotes from celebrities on different topics like Regret, Parenting, NYC, Pain, etc. There was a small section on Ambition, and I found a quote by James Watson (co-discoverer of DNA) to be especially interesting -

"If I had been married earlier in life, I wouldn't have seen the double helix. I would have been taking care of the kids on Saturday. On the other hand, I was lonely a lot of the time." - James Watson

What struck me about the quote was that it perfectly captured the trade-off that many overachievers struggle with; should we sacrifice family or relationships for the chance to achieve something great or noteworthy? In Watson's case, his ambition resulted in one of the most significant breakthroughs in biology, but it came with a price (loneliness).

But I think what was most interesting is what the quote didn't say - did he make the choice to focus on his work consciously ahead of time, or was he just always working and therefore "never had time for a wife" (as Billy Joel would put it). It's also unclear whether he would make the same choice again. Did he regret the path he took? Would he have been happier in life if he had been taking care of the kids on Saturday?

In the quote, he offered wisdom but no suggestions for the younger generation of driven individuals. Many of us are left wondering "Was it worth the sacrifice?" or "Is it rewarding enough to knowingly choose ambition, while we still have a choice?"

Maybe, as a well-trained scientist, Watson felt he shouldn't draw conclusions about "the path not taken," rather only offer his experience and wisdom. Since many of us are at the fork in the road right now, what do you think? Is it worth making the sacrifices in favor of ambition or success? What sacrifices are ok? What trade-offs are you having to think about right now?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Deciding NOW for the Future?

Overachievers prefer knowing what the future will be like. In many cases, we have to make decisions today that will affect us down the road, without complete information. But something that I've always wondered is how can you make a decision now, based on your limited knowledge or experience, on something that may profoundly change your life? For example,
  • How do you know what you'll feel like in 5 years about your current significant other?
  • How do you know if you'll want kids 3, 5, or 10 years from now?
  • How do you know if you really want to be a doctor, lawyer, business owner, etc. ?
  • How do I know what it'll be like living in NYC, Silicon Valley, or the burbs of Chicago?
I had a bout with indecision a year and a half ago and it almost got the best of me. What career would be most fulfilling when I looked back on my life? Would the current relationship make me happy 10 years from now? How would moving to the suburbs of DC affect my life and would I be happy there?

Eventually, I figured that I had to make some decisions or I'd just end up going nowhere. For some of you dealing with similar decisions, here are my suggestions from having gone through it:
  1. Do some research online first (no more than 1 hr per week)
  2. Ask people who've experienced it first hand (ask people similar to you)
  3. Kick it around in your head for a bit (but not too long). Do some pros and cons, figure out the best and worst case scenarios, devise a plan B, and figure out what you'd be giving up by not doing X.
  4. Talk to friends and family about it. A personal coach would be great because they don't have a vested interest and can be more objective.
  5. Take some personal time to reflect - go for a hike alone, do a solo road trip, meditate/pray, etc. and go in with the intention of coming up with your next step.
  6. If you're still not sure, decide on a day to make a decision (whether it's "right" or "wrong").
With these types of future-thinking decisions, you'll never have complete knowledge; you can't expect to know the "right" answer ahead of time (as if there even is a "right" answer). Some people would say "let your heart decide", but I couldn't find myself in that camp. Like you, I'd prefer the crystal ball or at least a lot of rational thinking about my options.

The worst situation is being in limbo, endlessly treading water and never making a decision. That means that not only are you still undecided, but you're also frustrated with the fact that you can't seem to figure it out (which makes you even more anxious).

The good news is that, in most cases, another decision can always be made later if you find you're not happy (caution: this approach doesn't work for the question about having kids). If you make a decision now, you can always make another decision in a few weeks, months, or years.

Making a decision for the future is never easy, especially for those of us who like having everything in its place. It requires courage (which I used to think was only reserved for Odysseus and Beowulf) and a certain degree of faith that things will work out well. Check out my earlier post "Paralysis by Over-Analysis" about how too much analysis can undermine decision-making.
  • What are the decisions you're kicking around now that are tough to forecast in the future? Please comment and share what you're facing at the moment...
If you find you're spending too much time thinking about an issue and want to bounce it off a 3rd person or get an outsider's perspective, check out my coaching services at or send me an email at

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wisdom in 7 Words

How much advice can you distill down to seven words?

The NY Times decided to host a contest for the best 7 words of wisdom phrased as 2-3-2 words. The contest was inspired by Michael Pollard's "In Defense of Food," and his catchy phrase: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.'

In just 2 days, over 700 people responded with their own wisdom; check out the full list here. These are some of my favorites (some of them are a bit trite, but they're good reminders):
  • love life.make things happy
  • Start now. Do not hesitate. Tomorrow uncertain.
  • Sleep works. Be more alert. Skip coffee.
  • Going up? Use the stairs. Every day.
  • Befriend yourself. Perfection’s not necessary. Stop criticizing.
  • Challenge yourself. Get other opinions. Keep learning.
  • Go out. Turn Television off. Live life.
  • Be brave. Experience new things. Better yourself.
  • Celebrate life. Each moment counts. Go forward.
  • Know thyself. Follow your bliss. Enjoy life.
  • Sleep late. Stretch your body. Live well.
What words of wisdom would you want to pass on to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Careers: Women on Wall Street

My guest blogger JLB had a link to this NY Times article, "Wall Street's Women Face a Fork in the Road," from August 2006 that was an interesting read (although a bit long for my taste). It talks about women and Wall Street- some want to get back into the financial world after taking a break, some who are in it want to explore other opportunities mid-career, MBAs have reservations in working 80 hr weeks, and work-life balance has become an overall area focus in recent times.

Here are some highlights from the article:

WOMEN’S aversion to intersecting with Wall Street appears to be mounting: Generation Y, also dubbed the “Millennials,” say they value balance more than financial security, suggesting fewer will gravitate to the cutthroat environs of the Street. Bank executives say fewer female M.B.A.’s are choosing careers on the Street, and the banks also say they have had limited success stanching the flow of women who leave midcareer.
...current female undergraduate and graduate students at top universities express hope that Wall Street will be both a manageable place to work and a melting pot. But those two characteristics do not describe the reality behind the largely 24/7, white male environs of the world’s financial capital. “It’s not looking that great for the investment banks if you think that the new generation is interested in social responsibility, high ethical standards and work-life balance...
Investment banks and brokerage firms typically lose women when they are in their 30’s, executives say. Expected to ramp up to reach coveted managing director jobs, many women feel that midlevel jobs offer them little while demanding a lot. Pulled to have children and pushed by a less-than-rewarding workplace and often uninspired midlevel management, they leave.

Generation Y cares less about money if it comes at too high a price, throwing a wrench into Wall Street’s past assurance that it could demand cultlike devotion from employees in return for fatter paychecks than any other profession.


“It’s hard to work for four years, go to business school, spend three years slaving away in an investment bank or consulting firm and then try to leave to start a family,” said Thomas Caleel, director of admissions and financial aid at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “They haven’t achieved the seniority they need at that point.”

Women are not the only ones seeking balance, either. Students and executives say that men — the bedrock of the Street’s work force —are also increasingly shunning 80-hour workweeks, even if they love and are devoted to banking careers.

I can't speak about being a woman on Wall Street, but I do know that many men and women in my generation are increasingly interested in having a fulfilling career that allows them to live more well-rounded lives.

Once we get to our late 20s-early 30s, living "a good life" becomes much more important. We begin to think about our future and what we want it to look like; we look at our lives and see the things that we have sacrificed so far, with the realization that the clock is ticking and 2 years can quickly turn to 10 if we're not intentional with our life choices.

Happiness, balance, relationships, health, etc. are more compelling than 80 hr workweeks or jobs that aren't a perfect match. As young, educated professionals, we believe that it's important to work, make money, and have a career, but it shouldn't come at the expense of living life.

There will always be people willing to accept intense careers and singularly-focused lives, but I think those overall numbers are dropping. The companies and industries that will succeed are those who can recognize this trend and respond accordingly.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Habits: 21 Days

I've seen this a number of times and wanted to share it, especially for those of us working on being consistent with our New Year's Resolution:

It takes at least 21 days to form a habit.

If you skip a day, then they say it's better to start over and give yourself another 21 days (so do it for real the first time!). It doesn't have to be consecutive calendar days, but the days should be scheduled and relatively close together for best results.

As it becomes a habit, it should become easier to do. Of course, even after 21 days, you'll still need daily discipline to maintain your habit. But rest assured that every good choice is worth it as small decisions everyday add up to big results.

If you need a helping hand establishing habits or goal-setting, contact me: Stay strong and good luck!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lead With Your Strengths

I just finished an interesting (and quick) read – “Now, Discover Your Strengths”, by Marcus Buckingham. The premise of the book is that you will be most successful in your career and life if you are able to use your natural strengths regularly.

Most companies and individuals (especially overachievers like us!) focus on addressing “weaknesses” in an effort to bolster performance. Time, money, and energy are spent to improve ourselves through training and personal development, but with very little return in performance.

The basis for the book was research done by The Gallup Organization where they surveyed 198,000 employees and asked them this question:

“At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

Not surprisingly, few said yes - 20% globally and 40% in the US. As part of their research, they discovered that top performing companies are those that are best able to assess their employees strengths and then match them to the appropriate job or role.

As individuals, we spend much more time focusing on our weaknesses that we usually have a good handle on what those are. But our strengths are more of a mystery, and far more interesting. As part of “Now, Discover Your Strengths”, the reader is able to use the online StrengthsFinder diagnostic (the book gives you an access code), to see which of the 34 themes (strengths) he/she possesses. The exercise is similar to the Myer’s Briggs, but the book takes it one step further by explaining how people of each trait like to be managed (since good managers know that each person is different!). The important thing here is to use your strengths in what you do everyday. You’ll be happier, more fulfilled, and be more successful with less effort.

My top 5 themes/strengths are: Futuristic, Ideation, Relator, Significance, Strategic

Based on the premise of the book, I’ll be successful if I can match these strengths to a career. Interestingly, my previous career as a Strategic Planner and my current path as an Entrepreneur are both well-suited to my strengths.

  • Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  • What are your strengths?

It’s worth buying the book just to access the StrengthsFinder test. There are other related books that also have the code for the online test, the most recent one being Strengths Finder 2.0, which is basically an update of the book I read. It's definitely an interesting way to learn more about yourself, particularly when thinking about your career.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mid-Life Crisis

An article today in the NY Times called "Crisis? Maybe He's a Narcissistic Jerk" talks about how people (usually men) use the term "mid-life crisis" to justify otherwise inexcusable behavior.

While it's true that it's a convenient excuse to "blame it on the mid-life crisis," I do think that many people find themselves in this period of questioning, introspection, and frustration. When it happens entirely depends on the person. One of these periods hit me a year ago when I was at a crossroads with my career and relationship, and am thankful for it. Even though it wasn't a mid-life crisis, it definitely helped me analyze what I really wanted out of life.

I think it's a natural part of growing and evolving as a person, and am surprised that it takes people until mid-life to stop and think about these things. Maybe the frustration comes it seems too late to change course, so blips like affairs or sports cars become a temporary distraction and source of excitement. Maybe if these people spent a little more time earlier on in their life, they'd be more content with how things have turned out.

Do you think it's better to have a big meltdown in mid-life because you wake up one day and realize that you're not happy, or take some time now to figure out what you really want and how to get there?

I believe it's better to have a minor quarter-life crisis when you still have time to change the major things in your life, instead of getting burdened with the choices you made (or didn't make) in your late 20s and early 30s.

Avoid a future mid-life crisis -

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lessons From an Acorn

Overachievers are always striving for more and trying to plan for the future. I agree with the old saying "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and am a strong proponent of creating a vision, setting goals, and following through on a plan of action.

BUT, when there is underlying tension or a deeper struggle within, it's very difficult to make progress on daily or weekly goals. There's something more pressing that needs to be attended to before that person can move forward.

This happened recently with a client of mine who was going through a particularly emotional time. She was dealing with a few deep-seated internal questions, but was also trying to figure out her next step in terms of career or school. At some point between our weekly discussions, we both independently came to the realization that priority #1 had to be greater emotional and mental clarity at this point in time. Progress on career issues wouldn't be possible until she had greater peace of mind. We shifted our discussions and exercises toward greater reflection and introspection, taking a step back from the career question so we could set the stage for future progress.

Like a true overachiever, at one point she felt guilty that she wasn't making progress on the "operational" aspects of exploring a new career. Well-meaning friends were asking her how her career change was going, and she felt unsettled and a bit sheepish that she was moving slowly. I assured her that externally it might not seem like much, but the progress she was making internally would have huge results in her life, both in the short- and long-term. Just like the acorn that germinates underground, it's doing a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare itself for the incredible growth above ground.

This period of personal and emotional progress is MUCH more important; by taking the time to learn about oneself and calm the internal storm, it can create a platform for true learning and change. Major and minor epiphanies of personal growth are always worth the time, especially since some of the lessons will help support us 5, 10, 20 years in the future.

She liked the acorn metaphor and agreed to focus on first creating a solid platform within instead of trying to rush the process. Yesterday she sent me this link that she felt accurately summarized her situation:
"Care of the soul can be demanding, requiring a decision that the needs of the soul are as important as the more future-oriented things that claim our attention." ~Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852)
I'm sure that anyone who has had to deal with a break-up, or death of a family member, or any other emotional ride has recognized the importance of what Thomas Moore calls "care of the soul."
  • Have you ever felt like an acorn - a lot of internal change, without much visible external progress?
  • Do you feel it's worth the time and investment to first "care for the soul" before moving on to the daily/weekly operational aspects of life?

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Goblet is Already Broken

A friend lent me the book "Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior," by Phil Jackson (famous coach of the Chicago Bulls) and the book was a good read, especially now that I'm helping to coach a women's rugby team in the area. Even though I don't particularly care for basketball, I found Phil's philosophy and approach interesting because it drew inspiration from Native American traditions and Buddhist ideals and integrated them into the dynamics of a professional sports team.

In discussing the Bulls as they entered their decline after many years of dominance (and after Michael Jordan left), he offered an interesting perspective on the common idea that everything changes. To illustrate this thinking, he references a story from the book "Thoughts Without a Thinker," by psychiatrist Mark Esptein, which describes an encounter between American travelers and a famous a Laotian monk, Achaan Chaa.

"You see this goblet?" Chaa asked, holding up a glass. "For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.' When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.
Phil Jackson goes on to say that despite the heyday of the Bulls, he knew eventually it would come to an end. Impermanence is a fact of life and things will always continue to change; if we can accept the idea ahead of time, we won't be as disappointed when it happens. It also helps us appreciate and savor a good thing when we have it.

We all know things change - our best friend moves to another city, a family member passes away, a championship team dissolves, changing jobs, graduation, etc. Sometimes it might feel sad reflecting on what we're leaving behind or missing, but maybe if we can recognize that "the goblet is already broken," we can be even more thankful here and now for the fact that it's not broken yet.

This philosophy also helps us to have more realistic expectations about the natural evolution of people and places over time - Did we really expect the championship team would stay together forever? Or the band we created in high school to continue through college? Or our circle of friends would always live near each other? Thankfully, we're able to create memories to carry with us in life as happy reminders of the good experiences we've had.

Since reading that story about the goblet, I've been trying to use it in my life. In a few cases, it's made me feel a bit sad thinking that something good might end, but it also helped me be that much more conscientious about how much I appreciate it.
  • What do you think of "the goblet is already broken"? Is it helpful or too fatalistic?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

JLB: Financial Goals

Guest blogger JLB writes:
Happy New Year everyone!! As I do every year, I spent last night reviewing my 2007 goals and created new goals for the coming year. So many people have on their list (though, many people don’t) – “create and stick to a budget” or “save money” or “spend less.”

All of these terms, while they sound great, are all extremely vague. Some people love putting these phrases/goals down as concepts, but at the same time have no idea how to effectively accomplish such. As with anything you want to accomplish, it is imperative to identify what your financial goals are.

Before the not-so-scary task of creating a budget you need to identify what it is that you want to accomplish with your money. Do you want to go on vacation? Buy a house? Go back to school? Get out of debt? Save $10,000? What?

The next step to identify is your timeframe - when do you want to do this by? The end of March? 2008? 2010? And then comes the bigger question, how are you going to save for it?

Many people (particularly overachievers) have heard of the term SMART goals. If you haven’t, SMART depicts what each goal (whether financial or not) should entail:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R- Reasonable

T- Timeframe

For me personally, I break down my financial goals into three categories – you can alter these time periods as you see fit, as this is just a general guide.

  • Short Term: 1-6 months
    • e.g. – West Elm desk, new Coach bag, visit friend in Alaska, save $2,000 for business school visits and application fees.
  • Intermediate: 1-3 yrs
    • e.g. –Trip to the World Cup in NZ, save $10,000 to live on while at business school, increase net worth by 25% by xx date.
  • Long term – 5 yrs +
    • e.g. – payoff student loan debt, own a house, travel to South America for a month, contribute $5,000 to nephew’s college fund

Once you have identified what exactly your financial goals are, you are then equipped to create a budget and financial plan that will help you achieve your goals. See below of one of my personal financial goals which I established at the beginning of 2006:

Goal: Go to NZ in 2011 for the Rugby World Cup (which would be a vacation for at least 2 weeks).

Specific – the goal is specific in terms of what exactly I want to do.

Measurable – given current prices of airfare, tickets, food, accommodations et al, I have estimated that I would like to save $6,000 to be comfortable while there.

Attainable – since I created my goal last year, I think that I will be able to attain my goal of $6,000 in 5 years.

Reasonable – because I have time on my side, the amount I have to save regularly ($50/paycheck) is not unreasonable to me. ($6,000/5 = $1200/yr; $1200/24 paychecks = $50/paycheck). I've set it up so $50 is automatically transferred into an earmarked savings account at ING on the 15th and 30th of every month. (ING is a great tool for incremental savings - be sure to read the "Pay Yourself First!" section)

Timeframe – I have 5 years to complete my goal. $50 every two weeks, no problem.

So…what are your goals? Stay tuned for tips to help create a budget to achieve them!!


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Walking at Sunrise

For the last week, I've been inspired to wake up early and see the sunrise. It's a good thing that the sun rises at 7:20am at this time of the year, because otherwise it would have been a herculean task to go from my previous 9am wake up to anything earlier than 7:20am.

I guess the motivation came on December 31st when I was randomly thinking about living in the time before electricity. Of course there are many reasons why life is better now, but I found myself envious of the fact that most people in that time period woke up early and typically saw both sunset and the sunrise.

I suddenly felt that I was missing out on a lot. Only on days of an early flight or early airport drop-off, have I seen the sun rise. That's almost 30 years of missed beauty - each day there's a spectacular show (free, btw) and I've almost never been awake to see it.

On Jan 1st, I decided to wake up early for a walk around the track near my house and see what the sunrise was all about. I wouldn't call it a New Year's resolution but it's something that I wanted to try out and decided I would do it until I didn't want to do it anymore.

The first sunrise exceeded my expectations and now each morning I'm excited to do it. It's tough waking up, especially since it's dark outside when the alarm goes off and the weather lady tells you how cold it is (although it's been warm recently). The temperature isn't too bad if you dress like you're going skiing and wear lots of layers (a woman was actually wearing ski goggles at the track last week and had to laugh to myself...but if it gets here out there it doesn't matter, right?). On tough days I've had to invoke the "Winners wake up early" mantra to get myself out there, but am instantly happy when I step out the door. I find my walking time to be unique because it's an interesting mix of totally random thoughts, new ideas, appreciation for nature/life, and focused intention on what I'm going to do that day.

I don't wear a watch and just keep walking until I don't want to walk anymore, which is usually around 45 minutes. I thought briefly that I should use the opportunity to jog, but I quickly realized that I would end up not enjoying it. If I jogged, I would be so focused on running and pushing myself that I wouldn't have that time for reflection, appreciation, and thinking.

The key is to get there about 10-15 minutes before the sun rises so you can get the full show of colors and cloud patterns just before the sun peeks over the horizon. Aside from a few birds chirping, it's pretty quiet out there.When I get back to my house, I eat a bowl of cereal and drink a cup of tea; as I sit down to work I'm much more focused and clear-headed.

I think I'll continue to do my sunrise walk for a while because it definitely makes me feel more focused and happier. I feel lucky that I came upon this great secret that must have been forgotten from the days without electricity. It's been a bit tough to force myself to get to bed earlier, but since the sunrise will gradually get earlier by a few minutes each day, I should be able to gradually make that change over time. Imagine how productive I'll be if I wake up at 5:30am!

  • What do you do to help yourself focus?
  • What activities elevate your energy or appreciation throughout the day?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Workshops: A Success!

As most of you know, I've been hosting workshops at quite the overachiever pace! I'm happy to say they've been going very well, with positive feedback from all attendees.

Here's a list of the workshops I've hosted in the recent past with a few quotes from the attendees (for all the quotes, see my Testimonials page). I'm lucky to have such great attendees!

"YOU in the New Year", DC (1/5/08)
  • It's great to get some ideas and goals verbalized with others. Motivation and excitement are contagious!
  • It was a great opportunity to find out a little bit more about myself and to start setting and meeting some of my goals.
  • Everybody can benefit from a session like this. Lee knows her stuff and made it fun!
"Contemplating Your Career", DC (12/15/07)
  • This got me thinking about what I like to do, am good at, and where I want to focus my energy in both the short and long term.
  • I've thought about my job/career path a lot, but I still learned important things about myself, and enjoyed hearing people talk about their difficulties and desires.
  • I learned a lot about myself through learning about others. It really got me thinking about what I need to do next.
"Inquire Within", DC (12/8/07)
  • Immensely insightful. Empowers you to reflect honestly.
  • Guided reflection and inspired feedback helped me accomplish introspection and formalize goals
  • Everybody should take the time to examine their life and really discover who they are.
"Life Approaching 30", Miami (12/2/07)
  • I found the session timely and relevant for the life changes on the horizon.
  • It's so useful to put the stuff that swirls around in your head down on paper - it seems like the first step to taking productive steps.
  • It helps to understand that many other people are having the same (or similar) pressures, thoughts, goals, and worries as I have.
"Inquire Within", Brooklyn (11/25/07)
  • The answers lie within and are discovered through the process of inspiration and investigation.
  • When you talk about your life, and put it all in writing, you begin to put it into perspective and realize the things you can do to make a change.
  • The workshop helped me consider possibilities I hadn't thought of and I'm excited to explore them. I'm at a crossroads in my career and I think it helped me figure out potential solutions.

The last exercise I do in most of the workshops is to have each attendee mail themselves a postcard with something they want to remember on it. Usually it's an encouraging phrase, a goal, or a commitment to oneself. Someone shared theirs with me and I particularly liked it:
"Commit to things that will give you a sense of accomplishment and impact."
I thought to myself, "These workshops give me a sense of accomplishment and impact." I've been building my business, meeting exciting people, and helping them become more successful in their lives. In that moment, I realized that all the effort I had put into those workshops was worth it. They were a success not only because people found them valuable, but because it also brought me a sense of fulfillment and happiness, which is the greater measure of success in my book.
  • What things do you commit to that give you a sense of accomplishment and impact? Please add your comment...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Goal-Setting and Resolutions Everywhere!

Naturally, everyone at this time of year is talking about New Year's Resolutions. I've seen a spate of goal-setting, resolution-based advice and articles in the past few days and instead of re-hashing it all, I thought I'd share the links so you can take your pick:
  • From the NY Times Health section, the article "Will Your Resolutions Last Until February? The article offers some tips for the common resolutions (losing weight, exercising more, getting organized, spending more time with family and saving money).
    The top resolutions for 2008 are the old standbys — get out of debt and save more, lose weight and exercise. Getting organized and spending more time with family also top the list. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed attribute breaking their resolutions to having too many other things to do, while 33 percent say they simply aren’t committed to the resolutions they set. But experts say the real problem is that people make the wrong resolutions. The typical resolution often reflects a general desire, rather than a specific goal.

  • The Washington Post article, "The Making and Breaking of Resolutions is Only Human," explores the fact that we're bound to break our resolutions but make them anyway. They cite our lack of resolve to the eternal battle between our subcortex (urging us to indulge in instant gratification) that frequently overwrites the more sophisticated frontal lobe (which controls reason and higher functions). Yet we continue to make resolutions because human beings are inherently optimistic because hope keeps us alive. In this article, I also found it interesting that the idea of New Year's as a point of reflection and resolutions isn't new:
    On the Babylonian calendar, the new year coincided with planting season; farmers resolved to return all borrowed plows and such. Later, Romans embodied the fresh-start concept of the day with Janus (from which we get January), the two-faced God who simultaneously looked forward and backward. One hoped the view ahead looked better than the one behind, and resolved to improve his own life.
  • Forbes has an article on career resolutions that helps us ask ourselves if we're happy at work (but according to the article, you shouldn't ask yourself that question immediately after the holiday because nobody likes going back to work then).
  • The US government even has a page that lists common resolutions with links to resources and assistance with those goals. Surprisingly, this site was quite interesting and informative!
There's a lot of advice out there, but as I mentioned in an earlier post the advice and goal-setting process is only as good as what you put into it. If you still haven't done your resolutions or are struggling with goal-setting for the year, don't despair!

I'm offering a FREE 30 min phone session to help with goals in the New Year (email me at and hosting a FREE workshop in the DC area to go through this process together as a group.

All the best to everyone in 2008!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Sometime this past weekend, I was in a not-so-great mood. It was raining outside, I had a quibble with someone over something silly, and I had to go food shopping and clean the house. A bit grumpy, I jumped into the car mumbling complaints to myself and determined to stay pouty.

I don't remember what radio station it was, but this amazing version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" came on. The ukulele, the melody, and lyrics started melting my grumpy disposition. I sat in the parking lot to listen to the rest of it before heading into the store, and I left the car with a smile as I trekked through the rain. I was the happiest shopper in there.

I found out the singer is a large Hawaiian man named IZ. Here's his song with a video to brighten your Jan 2nd:

  • What other songs make you feel better, especially when you're grumpy or in a funk? I got an iTunes gift card for Christmas, so please comment and let me know!

My Comment on NY Times Article

Blogging is an interesting experience because it forces you to put yourself out there. Your ideas, perspectives, and opinions are in the public eye for anyone and everyone to consume.

I've had an overwhelmingly great response from the readers of this blog, so I decided to get even more public and post a comment in the NY Times on the article "Year-End Review, With Yourself." I have to admit, I was a bit nervous as I hit send but I'm glad it's up there (comment #39). See my comment at the bottom of the post about the 2 most challenging aspects of change for my overachiever clients!

The article written by guest blogger and coach, Michael Melcher, suggests an exercise as part of the 2008 planning process. The idea is to review all of your accomplishments in the previous year, how you spent your time and reflect on your success and challenges. Head back into your 2007 planner or Outlook calendar and take stock of everything. In doing so, you can close the year and begin with a clean slate for your 2008 resolutions.

I agree with the concept of looking back, feeling closure, and then jumping into the present (and future). The only problem with reflection/introspection exercises are that they're only as good as the effort you put into them. Even someone like me, who enjoys thinking about this kind of stuff, glossed over the exercise mentioned in the article.

Speaking from personal experience, it's nearly impossible to actually sit down and really write it all out. That's why workshops and coaching are useful - they help you get it done. It's just like having a personal trainer at a gym; the exercises usually aren't all that groundbreaking, but the fact that someone is holding you accountable means that you know you'll get it done.

If you're interested in a little nudge, I'm offering a FREE 30 min phone session to help with goals in the New Year (hurry, ends Jan 12!, email me at

Also, if you happen to be in the DC area, I'm also hosting a FREE workshop on Jan 5th entitled "YOU in the New Year" to go through some exercises as a group to get us ready to overachieve in 2008 ;)

Here's my comment in response to the article:

As a coach who specifically works with “overachievers,” I’ve found the most difficult thing for my clients is to break out of what they’ve come to accept as “life” both in their minds and in their actions.

Most overachievers are great at making lists, analyzing the past year, and even creating goals for the coming year. The two most challenging elements of change for my clients are 1) Envisioning something bold/different and 2) Overcoming inertia.

So many of us are burning the candle at both ends, trying to cram everything in during the day, and putting in time at our jobs that it’s difficult to remember what really makes us happy and to picture ourselves actually doing it.

Overcoming inertia is a challenge for everyone - change requires courage, discipline, and vigilance. It’s easy to keep doing what we’re comfortable with, but it takes effort and commitment to make different choices. Our actions are the ultimate litmus test for the changes we’re trying to implement in our lives, and that action comes from overcoming inertia everyday, whether it’s getting off the couch, being nice to the checkout clerk, or kicking a habit.

I think that taking stock of the previous year is a great way to start setting goals for the coming year, but to keep in mind that it might require a bit more to break out of “life as we know it” (both in mindset and in action). All the best in 2008!

Lee Knight

— Posted by Overachiever Coach