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Last Updated on August 27, 2020

7 Steps to Achieve Career Success on Your Own Terms

7 Steps to Achieve Career Success on Your Own Terms

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful, but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved success in my career, yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “What does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating what it really means to achieve career success in life.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction, and when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve career success.

A word of caution: It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve this. This guide can help you get started.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your idea of success. This should not be based on what you think you “should” do, what others want you to do, or the norms you observe around you.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” -Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define the type of success that best suits your life situation. This TED Talk, featuring Alain de Botton, discusses how we can redefine success and go easier on ourselves in the process:

There’s no fixed answer. Successful people are all different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few career success examples:

  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling that contributions have an impact

Now, even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

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  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family and less stress at work.
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company.
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders, and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses include:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s the most important thing for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what it means to achieve career success, and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors, and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle, and you may stop learning and growing.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values[1]. Find any list of values, and write down the top 5 that jump out at you as being personally important.

Use values to achieve career success.

    Once you have your top 5 values, keep them visible. Here are some ways to make them stick:

    • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office.
    • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone.
    • Put the words on your fridge.
    • Add the words on your vision board.

    Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

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    For more information on how to identify your values, check out this article.

    3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

    When writing your short-term and long-term life goals, use the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise that will point you in the direction of career success. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

    How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or even 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

    Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals[2]:

    • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
    • If no hurdles were in the way, what would you like to achieve?
    • If you had the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
    • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
    • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
    • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you love?

    Get very clear and specific about your goals to achieve career success. Think about an archer. This person is laser focused on the target, the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

    By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will help you solve problems and move you closer to your career goals.

    4. Determine Your Top Talents

    What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

    What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing[3].

    What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

    Succeeding in your career requires identifying your talents, especially the talents you want to use on a daily basis to do work that feels meaning. Start paying attention to what you do best.

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    5. Identify “Feeling” Words You Want to Experience

    Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

    I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. This was very unfamiliar to me; however, it expanded my self-awareness.

    Review any list of feeling words[4]. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel when it comes to career success.

    Keep these words visible, too!

    Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

    6. Be Willing to Sit With Discomfort

    In order to achieve career success, you’ll need to make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents, and feelings. This is not for the faint-hearted. It takes real work, courage, and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

    Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

    “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” -Rumi

    7. Cultivate Positive Emotions

    While many assume career success leads to happiness, the alternative may actually be more accurate. One study found that “evidence continues to persuasively suggest that happiness is correlated with and often precedes career success and that experimentally enhancing positive emotions leads to improved outcomes in the workplace”[5].

    What does this mean for your career?

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    Instead of seeking happiness purely from whether or not you achieve career success, find other ways to cultivate positive emotions in your life, as this will ultimately aid you in finding that success. Engage in your favorite hobby, try meditation, or spend time with good friends and family.

    Do what makes you feel good, and you’ll find career success comes more easily.

    If you want to learn more about how to develop positivity, you can check out this article: How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life.

    The Bottom Line

    For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

    Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals.

    Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe, and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional.

    “When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.” -Lolly Daskal

    More on How to Achieve Career Success

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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    Ami Au-Yeung

    Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

    9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Top 10 Interview Questions for Hiring the Best Managers Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

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    1 How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways 2 How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem 3 4 Ways to Focus on Your Goals and Avoid Distractions 4 How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity 5 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

    How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

    Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

    Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

    Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

    1. Meditate

    We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

    Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

    Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

    Fortunately, meditation can help.

    Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

    While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

    Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

    However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

    2. Get Plenty of Sleep

    If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

    If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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    If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

    Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

    If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

      Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

      Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

      • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
      • Don’t eat too late
      • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

      Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

      However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

      3. Challenge Your Brain

      When was the last time you challenged your brain?

      I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

      To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

      Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

      There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

      • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

      If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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      Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

      4. Take More Breaks

      When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

      At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

      However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

      Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

      One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

      This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

      When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

      It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

      Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

      5. Learn a New Skill

      I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

      “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

      From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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      Let me give you an example of this:

      Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

      Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

      The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

      Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

      It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

      Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

      If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

      6. Start Working out

      If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

      Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

      Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

      Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

      Interested in getting started?

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      Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

      • Join a gym
      • Join a sports team
      • Buy a bike
      • Take up hiking
      • Dance to your favorite music

      7. Eat Healthier Foods

      I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

      This applies to your brain, too.

      The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

      Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

      Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

      If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

      • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
      • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
      • Nuts – Improves memory
      • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
      • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

      Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

      Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

      Final Thoughts

      I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

      You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

      But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

      More on How to Improve Memory

      Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

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