As life goes on, we typically encounter a variety of challenges, changing environments, and new roles that require us to adapt. Our ability to manage change is important and necessary for our personal and professional success, and professional development may be something that can help you reach those goals. It helps us to avoid stagnating or getting stuck in a rut both personally and professionally. To keep from getting in a rut or to get out of one, you may be wondering how to begin your journey towards professional development – especially if you are juggling full-time work with the care of your family. This may sound overly simple, but the honest truth is that the journey begins with you!
Professional development is closely tied to self-awareness. Through observation and reflection, we pause to take an honest look at ourselves. In the process, we get to know who we really are: what our core values are, our strengths and talents, where we see room for improvement, and the direction we would like to go. If working with a coach is an option, they will help you create a roadmap and guide you along this important journey of self-discovery. While there is no set way to do this, the roadmap to professional development with a coach may unfold something like this:
- Knowing yourself – Through a process of reflection, meditation, taking assessments, and asking yourself important questions, you can get to know yourself better. You may be surprised by your discoveries of untapped talents, abilities, and strengths. You will also become more familiar with your conditioning, filters, the mental models that you subconsciously follow, as well as the habits that help or impede your growth.
- Knowing your why – Asking yourself why you are here and what your vision is for your life and career can be transformational. These are powerful questions such as: Who are you? What is your purpose? Where are you going? Are you thriving, or merely surviving? Do you feel your work environment recognizes and supports who you really are?
Manifesting Your Intention
Once you know who you are and what your “why” is, the next challenge is to know how to manifest this intention, your vision. Many of us may know and feel where we would like to be in our life and work, but we don’t know how to make this happen. It begins with these steps:
- Setting your intention – Having a very clear intention is essential. Without it, we often flounder, not knowing and the actions and goals needed to manifest our desires. An intention could be, for example, to start your own wellness business and work for yourself while also helping others.
- Creating realistic goals – Now that you have a clear intention you can create a series of goals and a timeline for achieving them.
- What small steps do you need to take to manifest your vision?
- Do you need to obtain more skills?
- Do you need to invest in a training or certification program, so you have the qualifications you need? If so, creating a task list – which might contain small actions such as looking into licensing or certification programs – could be your first step towards activating your intention.
- Achieving your goals – While it is up to us to take action and do the work needed to achieve our goals, having an accountability partner such as a coach, supportive friend or colleague would be very helpful at this juncture. An accountability partner will help you mark your progress, encourage you if you lose steam, and help you regroup if you get off track or lose sight of your intention.
- Celebrating your milestones– Achieving even one small goal along the way is something to be acknowledged and celebrated. Reflective journaling and noting important milestones in a calendar will give you the positive perspective you need to forge your way forward. A supportive group that can celebrate with you is even better! In the words of Vicky Saunders, Founder, SheEO “Who you are surrounded by often determines who you become.”
Becoming Who You Are
There is nothing more fulfilling than becoming who you are designed to be; who you came here to be both personally and professionally! While life and work are bound to throw problems at us, with plenty of twists and turns in our journeys, knowing who we are, anchors us to a deeper and more meaningful reality. By overcoming challenges, we become stronger and even more deeply committed to our unique vision.
We hope these points will inspire you to begin the journey of knowing yourself and knowing your “why” in life. We encourage you to manifest your intentions through greater self-awareness, professional development, and continued growth.
The pursuit of happiness has long been the goal of humankind. But, what is happiness? For us, it could be a feeling of calm and security. For others, it may be a feeling of success on a professional and/or personal front. Happiness is truly subjective! One of the keys to unlocking the path to being happy is to practice mindful happiness.
Mindfulness is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” So how does mindfulness increase our feelings of happiness?
By utilizing the power of awareness of the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to connect with our heart, mind, body, and spirit with crystal clear transparency. When we allow our thoughts to be focused on the “now,” we invite our clarity to serve as a compass, guiding us toward the happiness that may have eluded us in the past.
When practicing mindfulness, we pay close attention to the signals that our bodies are sending us, those pangs of guilt, shame, regret, and learning to bless and release them through allowing those signals to remind us that we are a work in progress. Through the mindfulness practice of breathwork, we empower our bodies to cleanse some of the adverse biological reactions that our bodies and minds have created in reaction to our perception of the lack of happiness.
Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice! Our bodies and minds have a natural tendency to fight stillness. If you have tried meditation and find your mind racing with that list of “to-dos” or constant distraction, it’s not your fault! Our brains are designed to be the operating system that we rely on both consciously and subconsciously. Taking some small steps in quieting your mind will lead to training your brain to power down temporarily. Here are some steps to try when working on quieting the mind:
- Find a space that will allow you solitude and quiet
- Start with an intention of a short time period, perhaps 5 minutes. You can always increase this as you increase your skill level!
- Pay attention to your breath. Using this awareness as a focus increases the release of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and increases the “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine: both of which are “happiness hormones.”
- Notice your body: find a seated position that is comfortable to you and that will allow you to relax.
- Allow your mind to wander. Remember, when your mind is sending you messages, it’s doing its job! Work on recognizing the thought without judgment.
Mindful happiness occurs when we align our mind, body, and spirit with our unique strengths. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey of the authenticity of our truth, a lifelong practice of pursuing a wholeness that is genuine and unique to each of us. Each moment in our life gives us the opportunity to be keenly aware of the path to follow, even if it’s one that you need to create. By following your individual journey through mindfulness, you will own the key to creating a life of fulfillment, which in my view is “happiness.”
During my last coaching call, Coach Carol pointed out to me that I was seeking feedback in nearly every area of my life. I was intrigued by this observation. I think it’s in my personality to crave feedback — I love affirmation, and I’ve always been the type of person to want to do things the best way possible. This craving for input has led me to seek my mom’s input on parenting my daughter, to ask my boss if I should tackle a project from a different angle, and question my husband on his honest take on what I serve for dinner.
But not everyone actively seeks the input of others. It can be intimidating (not to mention humbling) to invite the opinion of someone else. Trust me, the discomfort is worth bearing. I’ve learned several specific advantages of receiving feedback along the way.
You learn to not let mistakes define you
The biggest reason people avoid seeking feedback is their fear of failure. Who wants to be vulnerable to exposing mistakes? As we shared in a recent post on professional growth, people with a growth mindset believe intelligence can be developed, and they view failure as an opportunity to learn and try again. They see possibilities, rather than limitations. Therefore, someone who receives feedback with an open mind is able to move forward instead of staying stuck in their current situation.
You learn new perspectives
Do you want to stay sharp and ensure your work doesn’t become stale? Seek feedback from safe people who will challenge you with unique thought processes. By being open to the ideas of others, you allow yourself to grow as a person and embrace change. You might learn your coworker has a brilliant method for time management, for example. Perhaps your business coach longs to convince you to let go of a problematic client.
Admitting that there is more than one way to approach an issue frees up your mind to see a variety of strategies. A whole new world of possibilities awaits those who are willing to see them!
You set an example for others
A leader who invites feedback from their team will not only grow in their own leadership but also inspire others to adopt a growth mindset. If you desire your team members to be open-minded, you must be willing to display this skill and seek opportunities to strengthen it.
Plus, the more you practice receiving feedback, the better you become at giving it. After all, the tenth step in Brené Brown’s feedback readiness checklist is, “I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.”
Whether or not you apply the feedback you receive is up to you. Either way, you’re sure to gain from the experience.
I’ve always loved the idea of private coaching, and have even entertained the thought that I might make a good coach myself. But before the spring, I had never experienced an actual coaching call. I consider myself a self-aware person. I have a nice life: I have a job, good health, solid faith, loving family and friends… what could I gain from private coaching? What would someone coach me on? It turns out I had a lot to learn!
Why I Started Private Coaching
I started private coaching earlier this year after quitting a job I was extremely invested in. It took a lot of courage to quit, and I was proud of myself. I didn’t want to lose this suddenly realized self-empowerment. I wanted to dig deeper, to fully recognize my ability to control my own choices and behavior. I had attended Wholistic Coaching Coalition events for several years and appreciated that each event left me feeling encouraged and motivated, but I had never tried their private coaching service. I knew the best way I could continue moving forward on my journey towards self-growth was to receive expert help.
I began private coaching with Coach Carol, and through our conversations I have received invaluable input. The following are three things I appreciate most about our time together:
Each of the Wholistic Women coaches offer their own unique expertise, such as positivity, leadership skills, parenting, finance, and more. Carol is trained in CliftonStrengths, an assessment that helps people discover their greatest talents and how to best use them. I shared my assessment results with Carol, and she references my report on our call. For example, she will point out when I’m using my empathy strength on my husband, or when I’m using my developer strength on myself. These insights have not only been empowering, but they’ve also given me a new perspective on my talents.
One promise of private coaching is that recipients will be carefully listened to. I never have to wonder if Carol is actually listening to what I’m saying, because she asks thoughtful questions in response. Depending on the topic, her questions are designed to either help her understand me better, or make me dig deeper. I’ll admit, sometimes this aspect of private coaching can be difficult. It isn’t always easy to be vulnerable with someone. However, I’ve developed a trusting relationship with my coach and I feel fully comfortable being my true self with her. (It’s an incredible feeling!)
There’s more to private coaching than just talking — the process also involves taking action! Carol and I work together to create action steps based on what I’m struggling with or hoping to gain. These action steps motivate me to move forward, and I’m always excited to share my results with Carol. I keep a journal to record her questions, observations, and action steps, and I reference it often.
If you are looking for someone to listen, offer new perspectives, and help you grow, give private coaching a try. I highly recommend it!
If we’ve learned anything from living through a pandemic, it’s that we are resilient. We have what it takes to adapt and grow, even if the process is uncomfortable. For working professionals, this pandemic has brought on countless challenges. We’ve had to learn how to work from home while also managing our families. We’ve missed out on networking events and happy hours with our coworkers. We’ve had to figure out how to attract and retain clients during a time when everyone’s livelihood seems uncertain.
The good news is, we’re still here. And if you haven’t used the past few months to take charge of your professional growth, now is the time to do it! There’s no time like the present to bone up on business skills, reach out to your network, and find a coach or accountability partner. So let’s get started!
- Bone up on your business skills – One of the perks of living in this day and age is having the ability to access a ton of educational resources! If you have a question, someone has an answer. If you don’t know how to do something, you can easily find tutorials to walk you through the process. Even the most skilled professional can benefit from learning something new. How well do you navigate technology such as Microsoft Suite or G Suite, Mailchimp, Hubspot, etc? When was the last time you practiced public speaking? Do you know how to best attract clients to your website? Have you tried any new methods of brainstorming or developing ideas? Websites such as Skillshare, Lynda, Career Contessa, and LinkedIn are great resources for professional growth.
- Reach out to your network – You likely haven’t been to a networking event in months. Thankfully, you can reach out to people from the safety of your own home! Don’t fret about the many people you haven’t had the opportunity to meet and network with, and instead focus on the people who are already in your network. Shoot an e-mail (or go the extra mile and send a written note) letting your friends and colleagues know that you’re thinking of them and would love to offer your services. Include a line about how much you’d appreciate if they’d pass your name along to others. Check out this article for things to keep in mind when reaching out to your network.
- Find a coach or accountability partner – If you want to really prioritize your professional growth, don’t try to go at it alone! Instead, invest in a business coach. A business coach offers an unbiased opinion, accountability, and clarity. Your coaching will be tailored specifically to your needs. Are you looking for advice on how to balance your new side gig with your full-time job? Are you stuck in your career and unsure how to move forward? Are you experiencing imposter syndrome or burnout? A business coach will provide a listening ear and helpful input.
If your budget can’t include a coach right now, reach out to someone you admire and ask if he or she would like to have an accountability partnership.
When was the last time you learned a new skill, spoke in front of a group, attended a networking event, or connected with a mentor? If it’s been a while, you may want to consider carving out time to do so. You’ll never regret making the decision to prioritize your professional development. Staying current in your field will keep you in the competition, and learning extra skills will set you apart from the pack. Plus, professional development boosts self-confidence, helps you achieve your goals, and allows you to teach others what you’ve learned.
We understand that 2020 has been a strange year for everyone, especially business owners and employees. However, people are finding creative ways to push past stagnation and further their professional development. Check out these 4 ideas for inspiration:
Attend a Conference
If you’ve ever attended a conference for personal or professional reasons, you know how incredibly impactful the experience can be. You learn from experienced professionals, have opportunities to meet new people, and are guaranteed to leave feeling inspired. Here are two to consider attending this year:
INBOUND 2020 on 9/22 and 9/23 is an event designed to educate and empower people in marketing and sales. The event founders are promising that this year’s digital experience will still incorporate the energy and connectivity that their previously in-person event was known for. You can attend for free, or sign up for their $69 “powerhouse” pass for premium access to content and extra perks.
The Massachusetts Conference for Women on 12/10 is a one-day event that, in the past, has sold out to over 10,000 attendees! The retreat is virtual this year, and attendees will hear from two keynote speakers, have the opportunity to choose 3 of 12 breakout sessions on the day of the conference, coordinated networking, and access to a virtual exhibit hall and bookstore. All 12 breakout sessions will be available for playback for one week following the conference. Early bird tickets are $125 per person and will be available June 24th.
Invest in Private Coaching
If you like the idea of receiving inspiration and motivation but aren’t sure you’re ready to commit to a conference, consider hiring a business coach! With private coaching, you’re given the opportunity to confidentially share business problems and concerns, and receive feedback and action steps for ways to move forward. Investing in private coaching is a great way to invest in and prioritize your professional development.
Learn Something New
The next time you find yourself with a spare 10-30 minutes at work, fill it with learning a new skill instead of browsing the Internet. Sit back and gain insight on any number of professional development skills, from negotiating to public speaking to updating your social media accounts. Check out Skillshare, Lynda, Career Contessa, and LinkedIn to see the many courses available to entrepreneurs and working professionals! And don’t forget to check to see if your library card gets you free access to business resources!
Gain Insight From Podcasts
Whether you have a steady job or are a starving entrepreneur, you likely appreciate any free resource you can get your hands on! If a conference, coaching, or online course isn’t in your budget right now, plug in your earphones and turn on a business podcast! Here are a few to consider subscribing to:
- The Authentic Audience – As the name suggests, this podcast is all about helping businesses cultivate an authentic relationship with their customers.
- How I Built This – Be inspired by the true stories of how entrepreneurs developed their companies, such as FitBit, Ben&Jerrys, and EventBrite. The NPR-produced podcast is currently running a series on resilience, which provides insight into how businesses have navigated the coronavrius pandemic.
- Goal Digger – Self-made millionaire Jenna Kutcher packs action steps into her podcast, from business hacks, productivity tips, social media strategies and more.
How will you prioritize your professional development this month? We’d love to hear!