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How Successful Women Shake Up and Redefine the Workplace

How Successful Women Shake Up and Redefine the Workplace

Have you felt a massive gender power shift taking place?

There is a new wave of successful women who are shaking up and redefining the workplace as we know it.

Instead of complacently letting others decide who they are and how they should work, they are finding their voices and claiming a seat at the table. In short, they are committing to pave their own way, and are doing it unapologetically.

Before I dive deeper into this topic, I want to express that this is in no way, shape or form a male bashing article, nor is it a feminist rant.

Rather, it’s a celebration of women and the progress that they’ve made.

The Barriers to the Advancement of Women in the Workplace

Successful women have definitely cracked the glass ceiling, but it is still not broken. The historical white and male culture remains prevalent in organizations.

There is a ‘think-manager-think male’ theory that identifies males and masculine traits as those perceived by men and by women, to be associated with successful leadership.[1] As a result of these ingrained gender stereotypes, people fail to see the leadership potential of women.

We cannot ignore the harsh reality that gender discrimination is still alive and well. Here are a few sad, but true facts:

  • After reaching an all-time high of 32 in 2017, the number of female Fortune 500 chiefs has slid back down to 24. That’s a one-year decline of 25%.[2]
  • A Harvard online global research study, which included over 200,000 participants, showed that 76% of people (men and women) are gender-biased and tend to think of men as better suited for careers and women as better suited as homemakers.[3]
  • Women in upper level executive, administrative and managerial occupations earn 72.3% of what men in the same position earn.[4]

Let’s call a spade a spade – business culture continues to favor the masculine.

The good news is that successful women have seen these trends as clear opportunities to shake things up. They are empowering organizations to value feminine traits within their corporate cultures, on the part of both men and women.

Hanna Rosin, an author and journalist, gave an epic Ted talk on The Rise of Women. She expressed that,[5]

“What the economy requires now is a whole different set of skills… you need to communicate openly, to be able to listen to people and operate in a workplace that is much more fluid than it used to be. And those are things that women do extremely well as we’re seeing”

More women are taking on top executive roles and there has been a shift towards a feminization of leadership. The rise of the feminine is slowly being seen as an investment strategy that works.

The future of female leadership never looked so good. It’s fair to say that it is an exciting time to be a woman.

How I Came to Embody My Feminine Power

As I’m writing this article, I am aware that it is impossible for me to not take a biased perspective. I mean, I am a woman after all, but it’s more than that.

When I was growing up, I had the honor of being surrounded by strong female “teachers”, one of whom was my mother. This woman defines true inner strength. She raised me on my own, while building a career that she loved.

Despite the challenges she faced throughout life being a single parent, she strove to be the leader of her life, and still does to this day.

She taught me how to be a compassionate, authentic, hardworking woman. More importantly, she empowered me to create success on my terms.

It’s fair to say that she is my hero.

From her teachings and my true nature of wanting to give back to others, I developed a burning passion to inspire and empower women. In gradate school, this desire grew.

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I wanted to dive deeper into the topic of women in leadership. As a result, I wrote my thesis dissertation on female leadership resilience. During this process, I had the unique opportunity of interviewing powerful women in top levels of leadership.

In our conversations together, they spoke about how they overcame hardship and achieved success. In particular, emphasis was placed on the role that resilience played in their climb.

Since then, I have dedicated my work and my life to empowering women to become addicted to success. Every day I continue to hear powerful stories of resilience, strength and grace under fire.

The rise of the feminine is here.

If you are a woman reading this, you are already successful whether you know it or not. However, many of us have only scratched the surface of our awesomeness.

If you feel like there is more for you to do, you’re right. There are unlimited possibilities for all of us. However, if we want to tackle gender inequality on a global level and create real change, we need to stop focusing on what is wrong and start focusing on what is working.

5 Ways That Successful Women Are Redefining the Workplace

So in a corporate culture that continues to create unseen barriers for the advancement of women, how do we incite change?

Here are 5 ways that successful women are redefining the workplace and shaking things up.

1. They Define Success, on Their Terms

What if success wasn’t what you thought it was? A lot of people, myself included, have fallen into the trap of defining and measuring success based on other people’s definitions.

Let’s face it… there will always be someone who tries to tell you what you should do.

What does success mean to you? For myself, it means committing to unlearn all of the stories that I’ve absorbed over the years about what it means to be a woman.

In many ways, success is a state of mind. Yes, it takes courage to say, “This isn’t my path. I’m going in a different direction.”

However, if you don’t take the time to figure out what it means to live a successful life for you, you will spend your life trying to live up to other people’s expectations of who you should be.

Being told that I should define success on my terms was some of the best career advice that I’ve ever received. I remember the moment when I realized that I had been living someone else’s dream.

It was overwhelming and liberating at the same time. In that moment, I decided that I would no longer try to force myself into roles that didn’t feel aligned with who I was.

In her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder, Arianna Huffington says that, in order to demonstrate our achievements and worth, we attach to societal status symbols, like being uber-busy, having a fancy car, a large social media following, or a prestigious job title.

Unfortunately, when you achieve these things, oftentimes you are left feeling unfulfilled. Money and power may feel good, but they aren’t necessarily precursors to happiness. The result is a never-ending cycle of striving for more, in the name of achieving success.

However, you may never feel like you arrive anywhere. When you really think about, success feels so much more natural when your work is connected to your purpose.

The superhuman stereotype sets up a lot of women for failure in the workplace. When they can’t or choose to not “have it all” they assume that they aren’t successful.

Sheryl Sandberg said it best:

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“Trying to do it all and expecting that it can all be done exactly right is a recipe for disaster. Perfection is the enemy.”

Successful women refuse to fall prey to this perfectionistic mindset of living and working.

If they make the mistake once, they don’t do it again. Instead of worrying so much about what everybody else expects of them, they focus on what they want and then dive in.

It comes down to deciding what makes you happy in your career and then unapologetically asking for what you need. Like Nike says, “Just do it.”

2. They Speak Up

Let’s face it… uncomfortable conversations aren’t necessarily enjoyable. Some things are hard to say, especially if you are a woman in business.

One of the reasons why women don’t speak up is that, when they do, they expect to get shunned. This is due, in part, because society has largely ignored what women have to say.

Unfortunately, this has created a culture of silence, where a large percentage of women have stopped taking interest in speaking up at work for fear that they won’t be seen, heard or taken seriously.

A new study by Dr. Elizabeth McClean at the University of Arizona shows that while men benefit from speaking their minds at work, women seldom receive the same type of peer recognition for doing the same.[6]

Over the last few decades, there has been a movement fuelled by courageous women who have unapologetically claimed their seats at the table. Let me be clear. Successful women don’t magically wake up one day and find their voice.

Even the most powerful of women find themselves afraid to speak up, for fear that they will be perceived as too aggressive or that their ideas won’t be recognized as credible.

How do these success-minded women overcome this?

They practice finding their voice and flexing their confidence, through trial and error. I believe that the only way to move through fear is to become friends with it. Successful women put themselves out there and fake it until they feel it.

The confidence in which they communicate serves them well in the workplace when it comes to developing credibility, influencing people and negotiating whatever it is that they want.

Powerhouse women refuse to stay silent, no matter how hard others try to silence them. In their eyes, beyond “loud” is a compliment.

If you don’t ask for what you want, how do you expect to ever receive it? Not everything that comes out of your mouth has to be perfect. All that matters is that you say something.

3. They Persevere, Despite the Odds

The business world can be a highly unpredictable and volatile terrain for anyone to navigate, especially for a woman. A lot of people want success, but not everyone is willing to accept the challenges that come with it.

Anything worth pursuing in life requires persistence. There comes a time in all of our lives when we get knocked down. That’s a part of this wild ride that we call life.

In reality, success is as much about your determination and persistence, despite the odds stacked against you, as it is about your talent. For people who adopt this mindset, success is only a matter of time.

Getting ahead in the workplace isn’t the result of luck. Rather, it’s a willingness to embrace setbacks and use them to your advantage.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but if you’re not failing, you’re probably staying stuck in one place. You’ve got to be willing to falter and learn from your mistakes.

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Every successful woman who has come out on top has persevered during the most difficult of times and triumphed over adversity. When they fall, they dust themselves off, get back up and push forward.

Successful women look at challenges and give them a wink because their inner drive transcends any setback.

As part of a radio panel discussion called Women in Leadership: Resilience through Change, career columnist Jill McGillen observed that women in leadership are not necessarily concerned about “survival of the fittest” but more about “survival of the flexible.[7]

True persistence is about being flexibility. Successful women don’t just survive, they thrive. Instead of banging their heads against the wall and repeating the same mistake over and over again, they experiment with different ways of approaching an issue.

By adopting this flexible mindset, successful women eventually find solutions to their problems in a quick and timely manner.

4. They Step Outside Their Comfort Zone

Comfort is the result of familiarity. Doing what you know feels safe and easy, but nothing every grows in a comfort zone. If you want to be successful in life, you have to be willing to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

The problem is that, by nature, our brains are wired for survival. The moment at which we experience a threat, our response is to run for safety.

Think about the last time that you took a big risk (that might have even scared you), but that you still acted upon, in spite of your fear.

You may not realize it, but stepping outside your comfort zone actually feels liberating once you do it. It’s getting to the point where you actually allow yourself to dive into the unknown.

Success isn’t a smooth ride. Anyone who tells you that is fooling you and themselves at the same time. If you have extraordinary aspirations for your life, you’ve got to be willing to go above and beyond and expand your zone of comfort.

More importantly, you have to be okay with not necessarily knowing the outcome. Successful women feel the fear and do it anyways. Successful women thrive on discomfort, so much so that they lean into it with excitement.

I guarantee you… ask any woman who has risen to the top of her industry how she feels about risks and she will tell you that it’s a part of her everyday life at work.

More importantly, successful women didn’t get to where they are all on their own. They actively surrounded themselves with people who challenged and supported them in their rising, whether that was colleagues, friends, mentors or partners.

By taking chances, successful women keep themselves on a track of never-ending growth, continually creating more opportunities for themselves. As a result, a ripple effect is created.

When women do what makes them feel uncomfortable, they inspire other women to do the same. As Brene Brown once said,

“It’s he or she who’s willing to be the most uncomfortable can rise strong.”

This is the only way home to yourself. When you lean into what make you feel small, you actually set the stage for a brave revolution, one that will transform the way that you live, lead and show up in the world.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

5. They Say “No” More

People love to celebrate the word, “yes.” Until recently, it has been considered to be the gold standard for living a successful life.

However, there is an assumption that the word “no” gets a bad reputation. People don’t realize that it is a superpower. When you say, “no” it’s a way of saying, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” In the workplace, women struggle with this.

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Have you ever felt pressured to say yes to something, when every bone in your body didn’t want to do it?

A lot of women worry about saying the word “no” because they don’t want to let people down or think less of them. In the corporate world, these people-pleasing ways tend to get women into trouble.

There is an expectation that women will say yes to everything, even when they are stretched and burned out. Studies show that women are held to a “higher ethical standard” than their male counterparts.[8]

Talk about pressure…

Once up on a time, I was a colossal people-pleaser. Like many young girls, I was taught to be supportive and helpful. I assumed that this is how people respect you in the workplace.

I adopted this mindset and convinced myself that this is how I was going to climb the ranks. Saying yes to anything and everything got me ahead for a while. However, eventually it turned against me and I crashed hard.

I remember the first time I said “no” to something or someone. It seems like a simple thing to do, but it took an insane amount of courage for me to even get those words out of my mouth.

That being said, it was the most liberating feeing because it meant that I was making myself and my needs a priority.

This is what successful women do best. The art of saying no is their favorite word. It allows them to stay in alignment with their core values and avoid projects that veer them off track.

By staying true to who they are, not only do they gain more respect in the workplace, but it also ensures that they don’t get overwhelmed and overworked.

Final Thoughts

Successful women are shaking things up and redefining what is possible. Their progress deserves an applause, followed by a happy dance, but there is still so much work to be done.

As a collective, we have an opportunity to reshape and redefine the workplace forever, so that leadership no longer has to be defined based on gender.

Now is the time to break gender expectations and redefine the modern workplace as an environment where people support one another’s strengths instead of tear each other down.

By doing so, we give each other the space to lean into our power and create success, on our terms. Call me a dreamer, but I believe that it’s possible.

In the words of Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The only way to create change in this world is to shake the very foundation of gender norms. Together, we grow and rise, and that is what creates a better future for all of us.

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

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Ashley Elizabeth

Resilience Mastery Coach and Motivational Speaker

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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

    Reference

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