The first time that I recall being conscious of Juneteenth was two years ago today. Sitting in my office (a corner in our unused dining room), finishing up some work before packing our house to move, I saw something flash on my screen about “Juneteenth.”
What’s this, I thought?
I clicked through and read about a Juneteenth celebration in New Orleans. I was a bit ashamed I’d not heard of it before, wondering if it was a “new thing” and so I Googled–only to discover that in certain circles, you know, those of Black Americans, Juneteenth had been a thing for quite some time.
Huh. I thought. I felt an uncomfortable sensation in my chest, but I had things to do.
And so, in my privileged white skin, I went back to the business of packing and moving, loading my physical life into a container headed for Madagascar. And sorting my humans of Malagasy French American origin for a road-trip around the USA.
Two months later after our road-trip we landed in Madagascar.
Living in Madagascar is like getting out a giant Fuschia highlighter and marking my life daily with YOU ARE PRIVILEGED. I recall the first day I started to see the distinction between the poverty that I saw and my life as privilege vs pitty. Unfortunately, so many white foreigners who visit African nations experience “pitty” without ever recognizing their immense privilege. (The concept of pitty is a discussion for another day, but I’d argue that if you see your privilege, you lose the pitty and start to instead see that there is so much more we could accomplish if we recognized our privilege.)
The day I felt my privilege to the bone was an average day.
I’d just gone to buy fresh bread, and for some reason, I’d grabbed a Credit Card and Cash. I’d brought exact change and so when a young child came up to me to ask for money, I had none. All that was left in my pocket was a piece of hard plastic. I had access to $35,000 in credit, but not a penny for him. Privilege.
In Madagascar, you cannot use a Credit Card for 99.9% of your purchases. Most people (as in 90% of the population) do not have a credit card let alone a bank account. Walking down the street that morning, I realized that I was likely the only person I passed who had access to INSANE credit. Access to credit because I was (a) American and (b) deemed worthy of credit way beyond my actual means to pay it off.
At first, I was impressed by the privilege of credit and then shocked by the fact that my credit meant nothing here in Madagascar. This train of thought caused me to start considering other ways I might be privileged.
Sure, I come from a hardworking family. My relatives are the types that will fight over who gets to do something. And we are privileged because we’ve had access to education and freedom of movement. Even my great grandmother who travelled the Oregon trail on a wagon train, could speak three languages and play the piano. She and her family were free to move and settle when and where they wished. We know our family history back 400 odd years, our family identity is stable, and we’ve benefited not only from education but also land ownership and the freedom to travel. (Got an American passport? Privilege!)
Americans, and in particular White Americans, have so much privilege it’s hard to even describe. This doesn’t mean that we haven’t suffered or lost people or even farms. My grandfather’s family lost their potato farm in the great depression. My grandfather had to quit school and go to work at age 13. This tale is told in my family to demonstrate that if you are smart and work hard, you don’t necessarily need to go to school (but you probably should.)
15 years after the Great Depression in the USA, my husband’s grandfather was beheaded in the Malagasy uprising against the French in 1949. My father-in-law had to hide in a cave for 6-months with his mother and brother, hoping the French wouldn’t kill them too. When he grew up, he was a teacher by trade but didn’t get to go to university until his 30s, because under French rule it had been illegal.
One grandfather didn’t need an education — the other grandfather — was forbidden an education. Big distinction.
The Malagasy, similar to many American blacks, were prevented from accessing education until Independence, which was finally granted three years before the Civil Rights Declaration in the USA. My mother-in-law got around this rule because she is half-French, so she went to France to study, but when she finished, she came back, as she never felt welcome in France.
My mother-in-law was also a teacher by trade. She worked for many years at a French School in Madagascar. At this school, the French French (read White) teachers get paid a European salary. The Malagasy staff get paid Malagasy salaries (this was true 30 years ago and is STILL true today). My MIL, being Malagasy French, got the Malagasy wage, of which her pension is based on today, in 2020. If she’d been “white-er” she’d be getting a bigger pension.
My point here is not to create a battle of “who has” got it worse, but to highlight that white privilege is going strong in the USA and abroad. Black Americans, Black French, citizens of former colonies continue to feel the effects of racism, slavery, colonization TODAY.
If you as a White person do not see it or experience it that doesn’t make it NOT real, it means that YOUR privilege protects you from seeing it. Acknowledging your privilege is not an admission of guilt. It is an acknowledgement of your humanity and your willingness to take responsibility for your own life and your actions.
We all need to grieve the wrongs of the past. This act may hurt, as anyone who watched 10 Years A Slave likely experienced, coming to terms with our reality may result in full-on sobbing, grief, and pain. I recognize today, that the ability to ignore Juneteenth is a mark of my privilege as a White American. And the only one who can change that is me.
And so today, I am taking responsibility for my part, by inviting you, to acknowledge the pain and suffering that slavery, racism, colonialism have caused around the world and the pains and inequities that continue to persist. We can do this and be grateful for all we do have.
And then, I invite you to take responsibility for building a different future, because we can. If you are American, like me, let’s commit to celebrating Juneteenth, not just this year, but every year.
Let us celebrate Juneteenth, because I am not free if you are not free.
One of the biggest mistakes I see job seekers make is to cast their net as wide as possible in the hopes of catching as many fish as possible. The problem is — you only *need* one job. This means that before you even write your resume, your best bet is to dig deep and build your self-awareness, re-visit your experiences, values, and strengths and then use those to launch a targeted and narrow job search.
Even in a recession, people are still hiring — your future hiring manager wants to know what makes you stand out and how you will contribute to making her team better. She wants to hear what you can do with confidence and joy.
Leverage Your Values
How do you show up at work? What Values do you put In Action? What kind of company and or people do you want to work with? These are always good questions to have an answer to, but particularly so when you are looking for a new job. The answers to these questions crucial to connecting with the right employer.
For the last twenty years or so various entities have been tracking employee engagement and most companies find that only about 20% of employees are fully engaged. This statistic is easy to blame on the company, but it also stems from folks who think of their job as simply a pay-check.
If you want more than a “job” if you want to be the one that is hired, then check-in with and proudly clarify your values. You can do this simply by making a list of your top values or you can take the VIA Character Strengths Survey (free).
Talking about what you do well is intimidating and it’s natural to fear rejection or judgment. And, you need to learn to talk about your strengths with confidence. In a runoff of two candidates — the positive, optimistic candidate that says “Yes! I can do that!” is the one that will get hired. The job search is not the time to get humble.
My favorite confidence-building tool is the Gallup StrengthsFinder. The reason I love this survey is two-fold.
First, it helps my clients to embrace what they do well, giving them the language and catchphrases to talk about their natural talents, boosting their confidence. If you’ve fallen into letting folks confuse your humility for mediocrity in the past, you *need* to do the StrengthsFinder and work on identifying and talking about what you do well.
For example, maybe you always know exactly what a client needs, which makes you the go-to person for solving client problems, making them feel better and then selling them the perfect marketing campaign. You find out that you’ve got strengths in Empathy, Individualization, and Woo. Suddenly you understand that this ability of your is not an accident, but something that you truly, naturally do well.
Shout it from the mountaintops — or at the least — say it upfront in your resume!
Second, often my clients get a miraculous “ah-ha!” when working with the Strengths Finder. These “ah-has” generally come from the client learning to see something that they’d thought was a weakness as a strength! This can be life-changing.
For example, many people who have both Learner and Input as strengths have been told they lack focus. In fact, these people gather and collect information and can figure out just about anything. They are driven to learn and understand how things work — it’s quite possible that such a person can be very much focused when needed — even laser-focused on learning a new skill, but they are not meant for longterm maintenance jobs, say, staff accountant, because if they are not learning or experiencing new events, they’ll get bored.
Or a client with the “context” strength will now have the tools and understanding to take what is often seen as a “negative nelly attitude” and turn it into a valuable “risk assessment” attitude.
You can buy the StrenghtsFinder in most major bookstores or on Amazon. You do need to make sure that you buy a new book (or the Kindle version) to get an Access Code to take the test online. The above link is an affiliate link to Amazon. Or you can take the test directly online without buying the book (no affiliation on my part). Personally, I like having the book so that I can go back and read up on my own profile and learn about my peers!
What if I already have my Strengths Profile?
If you’ve taken the test more than 5 to 10 years ago or you’ve had a major life event (graduated, became a parent, pivoted careers, divorced, etcetera) I’d take the test again, even if you’ve taken it in the past. Your top few strengths will likely stay the same, but you might have built out or embraced a few different strengths.
Too many resumes sound like regurgitated job descriptions. Other resumes lack any measure of your specific successes (metrics). A successful resume will do a bit of both.
Before you write your resume take some time to go over your most recent job and then go back ten to fifteen years.
Answer the following questions for each job:
What was I hired to do? This is what most people talk about on their resume, occasionally adding in a few metrics to show their economic impact. What makes a resume unique and interesting is if you can find a way to also talk about your unique answers to the following questions:
What did I get to do that was unexpected?
What did I learn?
What is/was the best part of this job? What did I enjoy most?
What were my biggest accomplishments?
Did anything happen that caused me to change my course or do something differently? (Problem, failure, success?)
Take the information from these questions to write mini-accomplishment stories, weaving together your learnings and your successes with the metrics to show your full capacity and what you are like to work with.
Once you’ve gone over your values, your strengths, your accomplishments, and your needs, you should be clear about the direction you are going. Write it down.
This is YOUR story. Some people might call this an elevator pitch. Others your personal branding story.
What you call it doesn’t really matter, but it should roll off your tongue and feel authentic to you. Your narrative should have a bit of color, it should sound like you, it should be memorable. It should that you do you work with confidence and joy.
Are you a software engineer with an attention to detail? Or are you a software engineer that delights in stuff that works?
In his book Knock’em Dead Resumes New York Times Award-Winning Resume Writer Martin Yates calls this narrative paragraph your Performance Profile. He compares this to a “performance profile” for your favorite car — what are your features, your values, your unique add-ons?
Once you nail your narrative you can use it not only as the first paragraph on your resume but also on your LinkedIn profile and in any networking emails, messages or calls that you make. Own your story and use it to get hired!
Write That Resume
Now that you’ve done the deep work, it’s time to sit down and write your resume. If you feel like this is a huge or overwhelming chore, break-down your resume into sections and do each one in a specified chunk of time. You should already have your Professional Summary written and you’ve written out your accomplishment stories, what you might be missing is a list of core competencies, or skills and technologies/frameworks.
I’ve included an image of a simple resume template for you to follow. If you get stuck — I invite you to reach out to me for a resume review — I do live reviews over zoom video — schedule one here!
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Whether you need to optimize your resume, get help with your job search, re-enter the job market or plan a career pivot this article will help you to understand how to be your own coach, while showing you what a modern career and resume coach can do for you.
Google and many of your friends and professional contacts can potentially advise you on what to put on your resume. You may receive contradictory advice and or find unhelpful folks that will tell you that you are already doing everything right. And some that will assure you that everything you are doing is wrong!
The challenge with a good amount of this advice is that it tends to focus on how to format your resume or it’s based on what one person did once with success.
In the case of traditional career counselors or resume writers, you may get folks who rely too heavily on beliefs that put you the client in a box. Or who write resumes based on a formula that may have worked in 1990, but is not relevant in the current market or workplace.
You know you best.
The most important part of writing a resume actually has nothing to do with writing [or formatting] the document. It has to do with putting YOU onto the paper.
What this means, is that before you write your resume, your best time investment will be spent in clarifying your career goals and putting together a compelling professional narrative that tells who you are as a professional.
These goals and your narrative will set the foundation for an effective job search process from the time you submit your resume through to your interview.
Why? Because inconsistency and humility are the kiss of death on the job search.
What your resume NEEDs
Don’t let others confuse your humility for mediocrity.
You can have the most beautiful, formatted and tightly written resume in the city, but if it reads like a robot, boring, bland, and or totally lacking your unique motivations and personality, what is the point?
To get hired you need a resume (and a LinkedIn profile) that demonstrates what you can do with confidence and joy. This document also needs to highlight your unique combination of strengths, interests, experiences, while showing what motivates and inspires you.
This includes owning your story, flipping negatives to be positives with authenticity, and the ability to show what you’ve learned and how you approach problems. Together this information will go above and beyond your classic robotic resume that merely hints at your capacity for performing in the future.
✗ A robotic-sounding resume that might very well be a copy and paste of your various job descriptions. With a little color at the very end under “activities.” Blah. Nope. No.
✔ A unique document that clearly demonstrates throughout the document your hunger to work, your interests and your unique capacity. Plus a very important insight into your work personality.
A woman in her mid-thirties completes a master’s degree in a big city, due to some extenuating circumstances, following her degree she moves back to her small rural home town. She takes the first job she can get and ends up working primarily in sales. Five years later she wakes up one day and says “enough, I want to use my degree. I need to reconnect to my purpose!”
First, we seek out ideal jobs available in her region (not many, but we find a few).
Next, we look at all her experiences, do her values and strengths assessments and build a resume that leverages her not only her experience and education but also her natural strengths and passions.
Then we build out her resume and work up a networking strategy.
Three months from start to finish, she is in her dream job and using her degree!
A woman in her early thirties has taken the last few years off from work as a new mom. The first decade or so of her career saw rapid and powerful growth, but overseas. Upon the birth of her kids (her husband can work from anywhere) they moved to be close to her parents. Three years in she is bored and hungry to reclaim her career.
When she came to me she’d been working, but it was unsatisfying work that took up too much time and she felt stifled.
First, we reviewed her past and determined what she loved about her past work.
Next, we clarified her dream job and what she and her family wanted (this took a few sessions).
After we did our values, strengths, needs and goals assessments we set out to find ideal jobs and she reached out to her network.
Six months after our initial work + a summer vacation and move she got an offer from a dream job, moved across the country and hit the road running!
A software engineer in his mid-twenties on the autistic spectrum has recently finished his bachelor’s; almost all of his work experience in customer service or behind the scenes manual process improvement, such as in a warehouse. He can show problem-solving and career progression but has zero experience in his chosen field.
First, we get really clear on his goals and how his values and strengths are interwoven with his goals.
Second, we identify target employers and specific job descriptions.
Third, we write the resume and LinkedIn profile, we start to network.
Within 4 months he goes from 8 to 85 LinkedIn connections, has several interviews and gets hired at his first choice.
Why values? This is what keeps you happy at work and assures that you’ve found work and a company culture that is aligned with your worldview.
Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. When you look at what you’ve done, what you enjoy and what you’d like to do, you’ll likely find an overlap with your natural talents. Don’t be humble. Talk about what you do well — this is what an employer NEEDS to know to hire you.
Why needs? Unless you are independently wealthy, the main reason you work is to get a paycheck. You’ve got needs and to be happy you need to own them and keep them at the forefront during your job search. Needs might be your salary and benefits or they might be your work schedule, location, flextime versus remote. Your needs might also be your social relationships and the possibility of growth or upward movement. What do you *need* at work to be happy? Your work life is a relationship that needs to be workable.
Why goals? Obviously you’ve got the goal to “get hired.” However, to get hired you need to be more specific. This is where the quality of the job search comes into play. If you apply to 100 jobs a week there is no way that you’ve got the time or clarity to connect yourself to the goal of each specific employer. If you want to get hired and get a job that meets your values, strengths, and needs, you need a clear goal or target job.
Where to go to find clarity?
To clarify your values and strengths you can think about what motivates you to achieve. You can recall times in your life that you’ve been lost in your work — when you’ve hit those moments of flow — what were you doing? How were you doing it?
You can also take a handful of surveys that can reflect back to you what makes you unique. Sometimes people take these surveys as just fun things to do, without recognizing their importance to our life.
This happens because it’s easy to assume that everyone thinks and works like us. We may incorrectly assume that what you value is important to others. Or we may assume that certain skills that come to us naturally are easy for everyone. In fact, when we make these assumptions we often undercut ourselves and at the same time get ourselves into situations that are not a good fit for us.
The following are the go-to surveys that I leverage to support my clients to clarify their values and strengths:
If you are a manager or in a position of responsibility, in a role where you want to make an impact I recommend also identifying your top 5 to 7 motivating core values. (When working with clients one-on-one we discuss this in more detail.)
Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. The StrengthsFinder is extremely useful to help you own your natural talents while giving you the framework to talk about it and tie these strengths back into what you’ve already done, as well as, what you hope to accomplish.
Use the self-awareness, list of values and your strengths from these surveys to build out your work history. Go back as far as 15 to 20 years, taking the time to focus on jobs that are the most relevant or that have given you the most learning. Use these findings from your previous exercise to write out short accomplishment stories.
Ideas for what you might put in an accomplishment story:
Actual achievements. Describe what it was like, what motivated you, what you loved.
Describe failures as learnings. How did what happened to motivate you to work or learn differently in the future?
Stories of how you did something outside of your defined job description.
Assessments of things you solved or achieved (the metrics everyone talks about) tied to your values, natural strengths and or learnings.
Use these stories to build a master resume that covers all the things that you’ve done with the most emphasis on the last 10 years and anything over your career that specifically relates to the work you currently seek.
When I work with clients I leverage a career questionnaire and work history forms for each specific past role, which I then compare to 3 to 5 live (active) ideal job descriptions.
I use these live job descriptions to identify the key accomplishments from a client’s past to really make sure the most relevant and appropriate skills, experiences and capacities rise to the top.
I don’t really believe in “failures” and my experience has shown me that anything from being fired to a three-year job gap can be leveraged as a strength, as long as, your resume authentically represents you and effectively targets the work you seek.
Once you’ve organized the content that should go into your final resume, your priority should be creating a document that is accessible and readable by both humans and applicant tracking software (ATS). Why?
You won’t get hired for having a stylish resume; you’ll get hired for having engaging and memorable content IN a readable and relevant resume. Formatting is important, but it’s not the most important.
Your name, phone, professional email, LinkedIn URL (personalized) and geographic area (your city will suffice, as does “remote” and open to relocation). If you’ve got a portfolio or professional website that is relevant to your job search list that too.
linkedin.com/in/alisonrakoto | Remote | Boulder, CO
Professional Summary + Job Title That You Seek
Note I did not write OBJECTIVE. The summary speaks to what you can do, what you enjoy doing, what you want to do, what you do well and how you do it. It should be 3 to 5 lines long for someone who is early to mid-career and can be two paragraphs for a more experienced employee.
Your summary is better described as a performance profile that tells potential employers your capacity to perform, how you work, why you work and so on. This paragraph should be the same or similar to the content you’d put in an elevator pitch or a networking message. It sets the tone for your resume and your job search.
Core Skills & Experiences
You may wish to include a table after your Summary section that lists your core technical skills or core experiences. If you are in software or mechanical engineering you might list one table upfront that covers core skills & experiences for your job at hand, and then add additional tables at the end of your resume that address your diverse experiences.
These tables are best created in alphabetical order because it makes it easy to adapt them to specific job descriptions and update them over time.
Core Experiences - Sample 1
Core Experiences - Sample 2
Core Experiences - Sample 3
The first best practice for work experience is to list in chronological order with your most recent job first. Occasionally you will have a functional resume, but after six years of professional resume writing, I’ve used a semi-functional resume ONCE. If you think you need one, I’d talk to a resume writer first.
The second best practice is to make sure that you do not write more than five lines of text without breaking up the formatting. So you could have a three-line paragraph followed by bullet points. Bullet points should be maxed at three lines per bullet, ideally one line.
The third best practice is to call out and highlight promotions with titles and dates. If a job in your work history is not at all relevant you should spend less time on it. Maybe two or three lines of text that say what you learned or took away from the role.
If you’ve got more than 5 years of work experience, put your education at the end.
You don’t need to list hobbies or interests. If you’ve written an effective resume the reader will know your personality without needing these reminders at the end that you are a cool human.
You should list relevant volunteer work. You should list work with associations and certifications. If deciding whether to include it or not — ask if it is relevant to the job at hand — if there is no connection then leave it off. Even certifications.
Keywords & Targeting
Once you’ve completed your resume you can run it through a free application that will check it for keywords. Several resume writing and job search sites offer these — I won’t name names — but don’t use these. My experience and my gut tell me that these sites are inaccurate. They will tell you what they want to get you to either (a) hire their service or (b) use their job search tool.
Cvscan.uk, on the other hand, is independent (it has ads on it) but it does a lovely job of highlighting keywords in your resume and your ideal job description. If you get an 80 or 90% match your resume is on target.
If you get 50% to 80% you need to take a look at your language and figure out how to mirror the language in job descriptions better.
If you get less than 50% then you might need to consider whether it’s the writing of your resume or if you are targeting jobs that don’t fit your skillset.
You should be applying to jobs that you can do about 2/3rds of the job description quite well. More than that you may be overqualified. Less than that it may be a bit of a stretch.
Once you’ve got a solid resume put together, it is great to ask folks working in your field fi they can give constructive criticism. Did you leave something crucial out? Does something not make sense? What do they wish they’d seen in your resume?
Print off your resume and read it backwards. Ask a friend. And double-check for silly typos. Do this EVERY TIME you apply for a job. I think this is a crucial reason people who apply for 20 jobs a day don’t get callbacks — it’s way to easy to make dumb typos when you over apply. Take the time to focus and customize.
Why might you work with a career coach or resume writer?
Reason number one? Reading this article made you want to take a nap. A resume writer can be a creative accountability partner. I don’t want to spend three years on your resume, so I will push you to get it done!
Another primary reason that folks hire a resume writer is that while you may know you best, it can be hard to talk about yourself. An excellent resume writer will use surveys such as the StrengthsFinder, as well as, detailed questionnaires about your work history and experiences to pull out your story and reflect it back at you.
Professional resume writing is in fact an art — it is ghostwriting and storytelling wrapped up into one continually changing package. As a resume writer, it is a thrill to connect with clients and learn their dreams, listen to their challenges and their accomplishments, to call out what they do well and help a client celebrate her unique value.
As a resume writer, it makes me dance with joy when a client says “I’ve got to tell you, reading my resume is like looking in the mirror. Thank you.”
A career or leadership development coach can be beneficial at various stages during your career. If you’ve been job seeking for a time without any luck, you are working in a toxic environment or you are launching a pivot, a career coach can help you talk and work through everything outlined above.
She can help you set goals. She will also help you to identify ideal job postings, network and stay accountable. She can help you to see your past differently, to reframe bad experiences and to build your narrative and goals out so that you can be your best self.
One of the crucial components of career coaching, life coaching, and longterm success or change is that they are all iterative processes, sometimes you will feel like you are moving in a circle, sometimes you will plateau, but overall the small steps you take today will suddenly add up to big leaps in the future!
Best Books for Self-Coaching
These are affiliate links to Amazon and if you make a purchase I will earn a commission.
In general, you hire a coach or a resume writer to get where you want to be faster and with more ease. The purpose of the coaching relationship is for your coach or your resume writer to help you shine, to help you highlight your best you so that you can get the work or job you desire.
Working with a coach or resume writer is not easy — it does require a time commitment from you and the willingness to listen and to answer powerful questions. Be open to seeing your won limiting beliefs and maybe trying some new things. Leverage the opportunity for extra accountability and the rare opportunity to have a non-judgemental champion on your sidelines!
Most importantly, a coach provides you a safe space to work through your thoughts and ideas in a nonjudgmental way. We will listen to your job search concerns and help you to discern what you should put in your resume or LinkedIn profile, how you should address an interview or salary negotiation, and build the confidence to network effectively.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’ve heard this expression used in the last few years, but did you believe it? Do you believe it?
Shakespeare got the idea as evidenced in his line, “To thine own self be true.” And, then in the late 1800s, Oscar Wilde coined the term “Be yourself everyone else is taken.”
These famed poets got it, but clearly it’s an idea we’ve been fighting for centuries.
And so the question remains, how do you and I overcome the limiting belief that thine own self is not enough?
From Perfection to Scarcity
As an infant, despite being the cute button that you were, you probably didn’t showcase any star-quality abilities. For months, your roster of extraordinary talents consisted of crying, pooping, sleeping, and making your momma laugh. Yet, passersby awed over your angelic bundle of pudgy flesh and you were your parents’ pride and joy. You’d not done anything yet, you were celebrated simply for existing. You were perfect just because you were born.
Babies are delightfully perfect examples of a human being, we love them for being fat. For crying. For being angry. For voicing what they want and need. We are born knowing what we need…and being appreciated for that intuition.
So what exactly happens to chip away at our self-worth? Do you remember the day that you officially decided that you weren’t affluent enough, tall enough, plump-lipped enough, light-skinned enough, dark-skinned enough, pointy-nosed enough, funny enough, or intellectual enough or clever enough to be worthy of a joy-FULL human experience?
I don’t remember that day, but I do remember some painful moments along the path. My guess is you do too…
The Subliminal Scale Of Self-Worth
It’s something everyone does, but you’re probably unaware of how often you do it. You’ve been pressing the figurative record button since childhood. Messages or your interpretations of circumstances that have occurred in your life are used to determine your level of worthiness.
Broken hearts, failed exams, supermodels, missed promotions, and the number of likes on your latest post all takes their toll. One day you feel like you’ve made it, and can live on your mountaintop forever. The next day, one comment or one misstep hurls you back down to the base. Your mind is a constant battlefield – one minute you are enough and the next your insecurities get the best of you.
Each failure you’ve encountered, each accomplishment you’ve achieved is used as ammunition to affirm your self-worth or knock it back. It’s a constant back-and-forth from the You Are Enough column to Something Is Wrong with Me columns.
Just stepping out of the shower and facing a mirror every day, you are confronted by that nagging voice of judgment. It’s as though a sly, little troll lurks behind the toilet, eager to analyze your reflection. With his clipboard and checklist, he notes the tone of your arms and belly. He pulls a magnifying glass out of his trousers’ pocket to check for new wrinkles and stray grey hairs.
Once the thorough scan is complete, you are declared fit, or (on most days, ugggh) not fit. Outcomes the red stamp of disapproval – NOT ENOUGH. You vow to make better choices around the sweets in the office lunchroom and to stop by the drug store to pick up an anti-wrinkle serum (or a bottle of hair dye) on the way home
Or maybe you scroll the internet and talk to your boss to see if maybe you should get another certificate, an MBP or a Ph.D., because, despite 20 years of experience, you just don’t know enough. Or do you?
Comparisons: The Root of Self-Doubt and The Enemy of Self-Worth
A substantial list of outside circumstances may have culminated to form your negative self-worth image. However, it’s important to recognize the dominating role your own ego plays in determining how you feel about yourself.
Your ego, a.k.a. “The Queen of Comparisons” is continually on the lookout for opportunities to make you feel inferior or superior to others. Either way, you’ll want to learn how to silence this beast. She serves no positive purpose. Moreover, each time you fall prey to the need to judge yourself or others, you are drawn farther away from your ability to share peace and joy with not only yourself but with those you love.
Conducting Appraisals Has Consequences
In today’s world, society has created so many parameters by which to measure our importance. Women feel a massive amount of pressure to conform to a certain profile in order to worthy and accepted. You are successful and enough only when you can afford a Louis Vuitton before thirty, be married to the perfect partner who does his share of the housework, all while raising exceptionally gifted kids (who sleep through the night) by your forties and working a job, and be fit like Jennifer Aniston in your fifties.
Sizing yourself and others up to the world’s standards does not leave much room for being human. Basing your values on idealisms meant for romance novels and Hollywood movies, stunts our personal, spiritual, and even professional growth. The consequences of assessing your own value or the significance of others based upon society’s appraisal system are toxic.
You may not realize it, but every time you judge yourself it gets worse:
You come off in a negative light, whether your feelings are of superiority or inferiority
You resent others and jealousy surfaces
Conversations revolve around gossip
You crawl out of bed unmotivated which only reinforces feelings of not being good enough
You become the prosecutor and judge of random innocent strangers (and even your real-life Facebook friends) based on exterior qualities or material possessions without knowing the real story behind the person
The ego gains more power and influence each time you let these thoughts and judgments compete for your attention on a daily basis. The signs of an ego in total control may not be obvious. Sometimes they show up as the tendency to shift the responsibility or blame on others, other times to carryout excessive acts to gain notoriety and recognition. The ego can also resort to bitter jealousy when others succeed, a voracious hunger for more or even a resigned form of depression — I should have, could have, if only I’d ______ fill in the blanks.
How to Conquer the Ego’s Urge to Compare
First focus on your own journey. There is always someone smarter and someone less smart that you. Every person has her own unique path, but in the end, all roads lead to the same place.To be blunt we all die.
To be kind, each fellow earthling, no matter how flawless his or her persona appears to be, experiences insecurity, fear, and criticism as you do. Peace comes from letting go of expectations, appreciating others’ talents, nurturing yourself, and living on your terms.
Elaine Welteroth describes in her New York Times Bestseller, More Than Enough, her arduous pursuit in overcoming self-doubt and breaking traditional barriers. Her inspiring story of an ambitious bi-racial woman climbing the corporate ladder demonstrates how important it is to give yourself space and permission to chart your own course. An example of remaining true to oneself, the author discovers her best life by standing firm on what is right.
Accept imperfections. As Brene Brown teaches us in the Gifts of Imperfection, seeking out perfection, in fact, holds us back. In spite of our vices, shortcomings, chin whiskers and all (I pulled mine out just last week), you are enough. You have an important gift to offer the world. Don’t let the things you cannot do distract you from the one thing you were born to do. Direct your attention to your strengths and ask for help, or hire a team to compensate in the areas you may be lacking.
Reacquaint yourself with your core values. Regularly reviewing what you value most is a good strategy to keep you centered and on track. This process helps you to recognize and serves as a reminder that all you need, you already have. Remembering this smothers the insatiable desire for more.
Practice being grateful and gracious – avoid gossip. Finding one thing to praise another for cancels the impulse to gossip. Building others up rather than tearing them down triggers a wonderful sense of wellbeing within the soul. Plus, you are a magnet and will always receive back what you’re sending out into the world.
Leave the past in the past. What good comes from holding onto the shame of failed relationships, embarrassing moments, or deferred dreams? Every event and outcome is a chance to learn – a refinement. The situations and conditions that you endure and believe to be setbacks, actually set you up and prepare you for a whole new level. At each stage, you become stronger, wiser, and more of your authentic character emerges.
What It Means To Be Enough
There is no magical formula for achieving enoughness. You don’t have to lose twenty more pounds or learn to ice a Frozen-themed cake like Suzie’s mom. It’s not about being the founder of a successful business, or the post-nominal initials you grinded for years to earn. The titles, size six jeans, and thriving business are valid goals if they are YOUR goals. However, they do not give you more value as a human being. You are enough simply because you are.
That being said, knowing this truth does not mean you should exempt yourself from ever setting another goal. You do not have to resign from your quest for success, whatever your dream entails. Your journey will continue to shape you and cause you to evolve as a person. But you are now set free from the need to prove to yourself or others that you are worthy.
Goals are important, but what is most important is what you learn about yourself on the journey.
You can make a mistake, be wounded by someone, or become the wealthiest woman on the planet. Yet not one of these circumstances can reduce or expand your self-worth. Take a moment to let these words sink in – nothing you do or that is done to you can increase or decrease your self-worth. You are enough now and nothing will change that fact.
Breathe, Trust, and Most Importantly, Be Kind
As sure as you are alive at this moment, sitting, breathing, and reading this, you are enough. From the moment you were conceived, an intricately crafted seed within your mother’s womb, you were a masterpiece. You are a one-of-a-kind specimen, created with distinctive features, talents, and attributes only you can offer this world. If this is hard to believe, start by understanding that the universe does not make mistakes.
Just as the law of attraction and the law of gravity are irrefutable, your reason for existence is undeniable. You are a crucial part of the universal equation. Hence, if you believe gravity exists, you must also believe that the universe created you with precision and purpose.
Next time you hear the familiar soul-sucking voice of condemnation, take a breath, choose to be kind to yourself, and trust the absolute truth that you are enough.
You will feel freer, lighter, happier, and when the shit hits the fan, you will bounce back faster and brighter, because you are enough.
And if you are ready to change careers, go back to work or start your own business, don’t hesitate, because you are enough. Indeed as this article at Power to Fly highlights, you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, even change your career at any age!
Life happens, which means that to find more joy, to experience greater happiness, we need to be intentional. Whether you are a seasoned goal-setter or are new to the arena of setting targets and objectives for your life, a Happiness Planner is an essential tool for getting the most out of every day. By utilizing the inspirational journal and time management planner for just a few minutes a day, you will begin to notice significant enhancements in all areas of your life.
This article includes Amazon affiliate links. When you buy I make a small commission!
What Is A Happiness Planner and How Is It Different?
A Happiness Planner is more than your average journal or day-planner, it is a guidebook to the soul that encourages you to engage and grow your self-awareness. You likely feel like you are always chasing time, whether it’s an eighty-hour workweek, two kids in soccer, piano lessons, and dance OR all this and more. It’s likely you rarely find the time to stop and reflect.
If you feel stuck, unfilled or wonder what you could be doing to find more joy, you are not alone.
In the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, a Happiness Journal will guide you to plan your day and set yourself up to live with more intention and experience the success you crave. Motivational quotes beautifully inscribed on each page act as cheerleaders, reminding you that you are worthy and already have what it takes to achieve your dreams.
Gratitude exercises help to cultivate an appreciation for the past and focus on the present moment; revealing the positive, even in many challenging situations. With a daily task calendar built-in, the planner will enable you to finally find the balance you seek, making sure you can comfortably keep tabs on each piece of your life’s pie, while also facilitating the creation of life-changing habits.
From struggling to heal past hurts to feeling overwhelmed by a financial mess or a crossroads in your life, a Happiness Planner incites answers from deep within, treasures that will cultivate self-awareness and dispel old fears that up until now, may be responsible for stunting your personal growth or your satisfaction with your life.
This thought-provoking agenda ‘formula’ will unveil insights, which you can use to face and overcome your demons and achieve your heart’s desires. There is something magical about a daily journal that ties your goals, tasks, gratitude, and hope into one little bundle.
Change Your Habits, Change Your Life
Another added perk that is unique to a Happiness Planner versus a regular agenda is the element of reflection at the end of the day. This journaling process encourages you to take stock of all of the things that went well throughout your day, along with those that didn’t have a positive outcome.
As you take a moment to analyze each situation (the good, the bad, and the ugly) you are able to see what role you played in the end result. In this way, recurring themes or repetitive behaviors and patterns become clear. From this point, you can see what habits lead to your overall happiness and those that cause suffering. Over time you start to notice even the small things you accomplish each day that you previously took for granted.
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Take Responsibility, Take Back Your Power
One of the most imperative habits to observe in the reflection process is your reaction to circumstances. Often we think “responsibility” is just another obligation, but in reality, it is the key to resuming personal power.
People experience a diverse range of experiences from small and annoying up to devastating things every day around the world. There is not always a clear answer or explanation that justifies these painful occurrences or actions, even the fact that what to one person may be small, may have a huge impact on a different person.
It’s not uncommon to experience an underlying turmoil, which rages through your being for years, due to fruitless attempts to make sense of it all. We all to easily hold on pain, anger or regret, but when we do so, we become victims who feel stuck or like failures.
If you allow it, these defining events can drain your hope and your passion. To escape this trap we need to see that we indeed have a choice. Although in the midst of despair or frustration over life’s injustices, it may seem preposterous, I ask you to consider the possibility that various events do not happen to you, but for you. Reframing your circumstances can be immensely freeing.
By seeing things from a new or different viewpoint, your entire life to shift. A Happiness Planner (or gratitude journal) actively support us in seeing life events differently.
If this concept is curious to you, you might enjoy the book, Change Your Mind And Your Life Will Follow: 12 Simple Principles, by best-selling author Karen Casey. In this book, she offers some of the best practical tools available for managing your responses to obstacles. Her pragmatic advice will open your mind and affirm that you can thrive, no matter what your environment.
Where Your Mind Goes, Your Energy Flows
Indeed, something magical and transformative happens when you actively build self-awareness of your life journey within the pages of a Happiness Planner. As you consciously direct your concentration towards the silver linings in the clouds and to the celebration of small victories, you’ll realize that there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your best life.
That which once seemed a distant dream or totally unrealistic becomes possible.
As you learn how to own and manage the idea that everything happens for you, you acquire freedom. No longer in bondage or a victim of your circumstances, you will experience more peace, seeing that instead of obstacles, your life is now filled with opportunities that deliver a greater sense of satisfaction to your life experience.
Your Road To Happiness Begins With a Journal
Journaling and reflection exercises help you pinpoint what thoughts, actions, and habits serve you and which ones you need to let go of. What fills you up and gives you a zest for life is unique to you. You may not experience the same exhilarating sensation from a dripping hot and sweaty yoga class that I do. You may find yourself crawling through the steam to the door two minutes in, and that is okay. Each of us is unique and your experience of joy will be different than mine, or than that of your best friend, your mom or even your daughter.
Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages journals and practice have been used for over 20 years and are still a best seller on Amazon, precisely because journaling is so important, not only to artists but for all of us.
Selfcare is not about dedicating hours a week to facials and massages. It’s about taking notice of the little things that make YOU tick. You may feel energized by baking a batch of [healthy or unhealthy] breakfast muffins or listening to a classical playlist at the office. You may feel fully recharged after a chat with your mom, or a wine night out with the girls. If you don’t know what brings you joy, then experiment with the new; join a book club, take a photography class, or travel somewhere you’ve never been.
Adding varied activities into your planner will prove highly beneficial when it comes to outlining your happiness roadmap. If you encounter a twinge of joy, make a note, and before you know it, you will start to understand why and how you are wonderfully unique. This process of reflection can take time, so don’t give up if you don’t have answers overnight, but rest assured that it is through self-awareness that self-compassion and real, solid, self-care develop.
As you continue on the journey with your journal or day planner in hand, one almost perfect day rolls into an awesome week, which merges into your best year yet. Be patient with yourself and celebrate you, celebrate the journey, and celebrate even the tiniest hint of progress.
Core Values, Beliefs, and Goals
Even if you’ve never set a goal in your life or your good intentions typically remain in the idea phase, setting goals is an imperative part of your happiness journey. Whether you realize or not, you’ve already accomplished things to be proud of. Have you quit smoking, or switched from sugary soda to bubbly water? Did you finally muster up the courage to say ‘No’ when you were asked to volunteer for the fifth consecutive year as Treasurer of the Board? Those decisions honor self and develop integrity. You learn to trust that guiding voice within.
Before you contemplate your goals, it is crucial that you decide what is important to you. Take the time to identify your core values and definition of success. Would you like to be heart-healthy for your family, or would you like a six-pack? Does making three million dollars in profits next year stir your excitement, or does the idea of publishing a short story light you up?
Forget society’s ideals and the ‘I shoulds’. Those standards are not always in alignment with what you seek and you will set yourself up for failure. Determine your own vision of happiness and compose your list from this point.
Are Goals Really Necessary?
You’ve got this far in life without goals, so why bother with the list? The wide range of benefits that accompany the process of goal setting will surprise you.
Regularly reviewing taking daily action towards your goals focuses your attention on what you are passionate about. When your thoughts are on the things that ignite your soul, you tend to be a happier person. With each milestone that is achieved, your confidence receives a boost. As you encounter setbacks and hardships, but continue to strive for success, you stay motivated and positive during the trials that will undoubtedly arise. This creates the assurance that you have what it takes to push through.
Goals help you to hone your inner compass and to achieve what matters most to you. In a world that is inundated with distractions, dazzling opportunities in the form of a new position or project can take your eye off the prize. When you have a concrete goal on paper, you can ask yourself, ‘Is this opportunity going to take me closer or farther away from goal?’
Most importantly, having a purpose in life, a burning desire within your heart, gives you the inspiration to live purposefully, ultimately leading to your best life. Research has shown that a brain that is continually stimulated and challenged results in a more enlivened, dynamic lifestyle.
Setting SMART+ Goals
When sitting down to write what your aspirations for each area of your life, the acronym SMART offers a helpful guideline to follow.
S – Specific. If the goal is too general – I want to be healthy – it will not be clear enough to motivate you to continue. Add defined actions and even a picture of your ideal outcome. For example, you might write down, I will work out three times a week for forty-five minutes and drink eight glasses of water a day for ninety days. Your mind has conceived a clear plan and you know exactly what you have to do to work towards your health objectives.
M – Measurable. By including a definite target, you give yourself measurable steps so that you can celebrate milestones and small achievements along the way. If your goal is to open a wellness center, start with your business plan. Then come the location and interior design. Next, you would hire staff and finally your inauguration date. It is a timeline of tangible deliverables.
A – Attainable. Are you truly willing to do what it takes to achieve your goal? If running a marathon is on your list, decide and commit to a training schedule that is required to be able to complete it.
R – Relevant. Take into account an appropriate timeline and consider if the goal is realistic. You may have to analyze and reshape your goal along the way based on the resources and the experience you have. You may have miscalculated a reasonable timeline because of a misstep or a problem you could not foresee. Adjust, but don’t give up!
T – Time-bound. Goals are not meant to be comfortable but push the boundaries of your comfort zone. They test and refine your true character. Be realistic, but put a date on your goal that will require you to rise up. If you recall, diamonds are created under pressure. The longer you wait, the less chance you have at succeeding. There is never a perfect time to start. Take time to map it out, but don’t be afraid to dive in. Your future self will thank you for it!
+ Accountable. What is your accountability plan? A friend? Your partner? A bullet-journal? A life coach? An accountability partner? Personally, I use a mix of all three. In fact, my accountability partner and I just celebrated our 2 year anniversary! We’ve never even met in person, but we message nearly every day via Whatsapp and this relationship has certainly helped me stay accountable to myself. I also leverage a personal coach and my planner.
These are real life pictures of my 2019 and 2020 planners. The pre-made one didn’t suit me perfectly as it restricted my creativity. I love the freedom of the dotted bullet journals. Whatever fits your style, use it!
Choosing The Right Happiness Planner
With dozens of attractive Happiness Planners on Amazon alone, how do you know which one is right for you? Some are simple happiness diaries, while others are all-encompassing workbook-type agendas. In addition to happiness journals, there are 100-day planners, which aim to establish positive habits and lifestyles. Perhaps you would like to begin with the basics and work your way up to an immersive experience.
For 2020 I’ve decided to design my own with a simple dotted bullet journal.
Like any other product, it is important to read the happiness planner reviews to evaluate which features and added bonuses you think will generate the best results for you. If you are totally new to the idea, you might best go for a premade happiness and task planner like a Panda Planner (even the name makes you happy).
Of course, you can create your own happiness journal. Simply getting your words on paper, setting goals and reflecting on your day is a healthy step towards becoming better acquainted with your highest self. However, if you want to take this journey one step further, each page of a Happiness Planner has been carefully curated to propel you beyond your limiting beliefs and your emotional safe zones.
Think of it as using a personal trainer versus going to a gym and working out on your own. Most of us won’t push through an extra five reps when our arms are on fire, without someone nudging us on. Plus, a personal trainer is an expert at mixing up the workouts, which keeps things fresh and interesting. Unlike the mundane gym regimes, we fall into when we endeavor to get fit on our own.
This is also one reason you might also want to hire a coach — we help you to stay accountable, build your self-awareness and get you to where you want to be faster. Curious to know more? Schedule a free “curiosity call” with me today.
One thing is for certain, no matter which planner you choose, you are on the right track to unlocking the secrets to your potential and to your ultimate fulfillment. Change is never easy, but a Happiness Planner makes the process a joyful one. By planning your life one journal entry at a time, you plan for success and happiness.
The life of your dreams may be just one-page turn and a colorful doodle away.