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Last Updated on February 6, 2020

7 Reminders When You’re Making Life Choices

7 Reminders When You’re Making Life Choices

Life is about choices. My life is spent helping people make difficult decisions:

Should I quit and go it alone?

Should I take the promotion, can I really do that?

Should I leave him/her?

Should I travel?

Should I change?

Should I give up?

Should I fight on?

Am I an idiot for wanting this?

Are they right that I should quit?

The list is endless. However, the reminders you need to actually do something different to make your life more harmonious, fun and exciting often are very similar.

Let’s take 7 real client’s stories and explore what we did. These amazing ideas could revolutionize your life too as we look at how to make better life choices and spot the big mistakes that people make so often that detrimentally damage their lives – sometimes for years!

*All the names have been changed and even if the situation doesn’t apply to you, the reminders to enable you to make big decisions definitely will.

Annie

Annie is a high flying very successful businesswoman, she has been used to achieving everything she has ever wanted to and, if she goes for something, she gets it. She is epic and I loved working with Annie. Annie came to me because Annie seemed to have everything.

An awesome career, more money that it was likely she could spend in her lifetime, an amazing life partner, beautiful children, dream home, dream car, dream body, dream holidays (lots of them!) and every designer hanging in her designer wardrobes. She had everything so she must have been mega happy right?

Wrong.

Annie didn’t know why but she felt someone had extinguished the fire in her life. She felt soulless, she felt like she was just going through the motions but couldn’t really remember the last time she had felt so alive and like anything was possible.

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Originally when we spoke, Annie felt she was having some kind of life crisis and could be bordering on depression. But as I coached her, the reality was very different.

She hated her job. She didn’t just hate it, she loathed it and the look on her face when she realized this was utter shock. “But it’s given me so much,” she said, “how can I hate it?”

Annie’s story gives us reminders that can help you too.

If Annie hadn’t taken the time to step back from her life, I think we could have ended up with someone who was mentally unwell. They were so good at getting on with achieving they’d not stepped back to check that they were even on the right path!

Action For You

Once in a while, wherever you are in life, take the time to either sit with pen and paper or be alone on a walk or somewhere quiet and ask yourself some questions.

Da Vinci reportedly would ask 100’s of questions of himself. Not necessarily answer his own questions but pose them for consideration. I often do this with clients because it enables you to get past the initial surface thoughts to access the deep-rooted ideas that are really causing the issues/obstacles and beliefs that are holding you back.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What do I love about my job?
  • What do I love about my life?
  • Do I love living here?
  • Do I feel like I make enough time for me and what do I like to do with my time?
  • If I was to write down the emotions I experience each week, would I describe them as mostly positive, mostly negative or a balance of both? What impacts on that?
  • How do I respond to criticism?
  • Am I good at telling people what I think?
  • What do I feel holds me back?
  • What would I love to achieve but fear doing and why do I feel I fear it?

The more questions you can ask the better. Remember this is not about knowing the answers or answering according to what you know or trust you can do, so be honest with yourself.

Annie also teaches us not to fear changing paths.

Let’s meet Tanya….

Tanya

Tanya had her own business and while it was going pretty well, she wanted more. She also wanted to buy her first house but that was feeling too far away. When her partner left her, she felt like life was falling apart, how could this have happened to her?

When I initially met Tanya, she sounded like a victim. We all go through really tough experiences but, not everyone is resilient enough to learn from it and move on to bigger and better things. Some people let it define them forever more and initially, that’s just how Tanya sounded.

Tanya felt like life was unfair, no life is fair and to hold on to that belief is limiting in so many ways. It stops you from believing you have any control.

While you can’t control everything that happens, you can control many elements. Don’t relinquish all control believing life will happen in one way only – like it was pre-mapped out for you. You get to define who you are and what you want.

Tanya struggled at first to get past this belief. That life had treated her in a bad way because she was only capable of getting what she was getting. Breaking down that deep-rooted belief was not easier, but we did it. How?

Action For You

Challenge yourself to ask if your beliefs serve you well or hinder your success and happiness.

Are your beliefs keeping you comfortably in a comfort zone so that you don’t have to face what it is your fear?

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Or do your beliefs challenge you to go for things even if you fear them a little?

Challenging Tanya on her beliefs helped her to see, acknowledge and accept what her beliefs were doing to her. Once she could see, acknowledge and accept her beliefs and their impact, then she was in a position to take responsibility for them and change. You can’t change permanently until you go through this process.

This led Tanya to another very important reminder for us all. Changing paths is allowed. If you liked being a teacher or a graphic designer and now want to be a Police Officer or a journalist, that’s fine. It is scary to make changes and choose a different path but to help you actually do this, remember this question:

“If I agree to staying like this, then what am I agreeing to?”

It’s so powerful I use it on myself too!

Often, clients realize with this question that they are agreeing to not getting what they want – and no one wants that, so it’s a great motivator.

You don’t need to know how you are going to achieve it, but you do need to know you want to do it.

Tom

Tom was everyone’s friend. Tom could make a friend just buying a pint of milk, he’s Mr. Likeable. But Tom came to me because he hated who he was. He told me “Everyone thinks I’m great but I feel like a complete imposter.” He was really low and it was impacting his work and home life.

Tom shares a very important reminder to making decisions in life. Tom had been so intent on helping everyone else to feel comfortable and happy around him that he’d forgotten how to be comfortable with who he was. He was so concerned with making everyone happy that he felt he didn’t even know how to be confrontational.

I asked him if he wanted to be confrontational and wasn’t that quite a “full on” term to use? And this enabled Tom to see that having an opinion is not illegal. Even more shocking to him (and Tom is not alone here!) is that you can have an opinion different to other people.

Action For You

If you think you are confident to be yourself and share what you really think, post an unpopular opinion on social media (not an offensive, derogatory comment, just something you don’t like.) I did this recently (I’m happy to connect so that when you give this a go, you can tag me) and asked people to share their unpopular opinions.

Nothing heavy.

I just posted that I don’t like a certain cookery programme that airs here in the UK – The Great British Bake Off. I just don’t get why you’d watch a bunch of people mixing up ingredients to make a cake and then watch 3 hyper critical judges tell you your cake has a soggy bottom. While my post had lots of likes, laughs and loves, not even a quarter of people that liked the post commented. What does this tell you and what has this to do with Tom?

Within a week of that post wherever I went someone would say “I saw that post, my unpopular view is…..” I asked all of these people “Why didn’t you post your view on my post?” To which I heard replies like:

  • “I didn’t want to offend anyone.
  • “I can’t post like you do.”
  • “It’s not appropriate to do that.”
  • “It could damage my reputation.”
  • “You know what people are like.”

Headline news folks, saying you don’t like Christmas jumpers or Elvis is not against the law. While some may not agree with you, ultimately, nice humans accept that with billions of people on the planet, we aren’t going to agree on everything.

Action For You

Ask yourself if you can’t share your dislike for your mate’s favourite TV show, how are you going to have the confidence to tell people about the big decisions you are facing in life?

Tom learned that he had stopped having an opinion on anything, anywhere. Becoming aware of this enabled Tom to work on his confidence and that changed his life.

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This simple step enabled Tom to not only be honest and share his views, it built his confidence and led to a promotion. Wherever Tom went, he told me people couldn’t get over how happy and confident Tom seemed. What could this reminder do for you?

Maja

Maja didn’t choose to come and have coaching with me, her boss asked her to. At first, Maja was against coaching and kept postponing our sessions. Understandably really, because her boss had told her (and me) that he felt she was amazing and could be on the board of directors despite her young age within 5 years. But her lack of confidence was wrecking her career and he wanted to help her overcome it.

Maja was also a people pleaser like Tom but at least Tom talked to people. Maja couldn’t make eye contact and looked like a frightened mouse wherever she went.

What does confidence have to do with decisions in life? Confidence creates belief in yourself and that creates faith and that creates trust and that creates positive results (even if you get negative results first because you’ve got the confidence, self-belief and trust that you can go on to get better results.)

Building Maja’s confidence did work, and she quickly went from receptionist to company secretary and the last I heard from Maja, her boss was encouraging her to sit in on board meetings in preparation for the future!

So what did we do?

The short answer is we bridged the gap between what she believed to be true and what was actually true. When you lack confidence, you don’t believe the nice things people say about you. Guess what that does to your confidence?

Action For You

Creating a long list of all the things you’ve achieved and that people say about you enables you to learn to trust that information, rather than the negative voices in your head.

If those voices in your head do not inspire, motivate, nurture, love and care for you, then ditch them!

It is not always instant getting rid of those negative voices but, it can be achieved.

Tina

Tina had married young and produced 3 children within 4 years. The children were all working their way through school and Tina had more time on her hands than she really wanted.

In the back of her mind, she had always wanted to run her own business. Something that fitted in around children, that made her feel useful and gave her money. When she told her husband, he’d reacted in the same way to most of her friends. They all felt it was a lot of hassle. She had no skills in running a business, so how would she cope, wouldn’t it be stressful? Would the kids feel neglected?

The list of concerns her loved ones had was long and it undermined her so much she had procrastinated for over 2 years on her idea, until she met me.

Tina was easily influenced by those around her. And stopped listening to herself. Do I think she could have moved forward had it not been for our coaching sessions? No, not really. She put off creating a plan of action because everyone else had a say on her future and she feared putting her ideas into action. And everyone around her could have wrapped her up in their words for years.

Action For You

In my experience, people need to spend less time looking back at what has happened and spend more time planning where they want to go.

We created a long list of everything that could need to be done to set up Tina’s business, then we broke that down into a time line to enable them to see the priorities.

So many people try to get to the end of a to do list not appreciating there will always be something new on the to do list.

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It’s not about clearing the to do list, it’s about owning it. And to do that, you need to have a clearly defined plan. Consider everything you could do to make that difficult decision or powerful life choice and then, narrow that down to the absolute priorities.

Do not deviate and lastly, only ever have 3 to 5 actions on your to do list. Clear them and you can add the next 3 to 5.

Tina didn’t just set up her own business, it went from kitchen table to her own offices with staff within 2 years! Spend less time looking back and wondering, and more time focusing on what you really want and creating the plan to get you there.

And lastly just to mix it up a bit, meet Kim who I didn’t coach.

Kim

Kim phoned me because life was all over the place. She felt like she was trapped at a cross roads that had turned into a giant hamster wheel that was on fire – a pretty detailed analogy right?

But that’s what they felt. As we chatted about what she wanted to achieve, Kim told me about some of the things that were going on her life – abuse, deaths, divorce, redundancy – it was a long list and would make any decisions tough.

Action For You

I asked Kim this question and I’d love you to ask this question of yourself too;

“Is now the right time to do something new/different?”

This enabled Kim to see that there was not the brain space to work on her future. She was doing well to survive! Learn to know when to take action and when to stop.

I read about 2 Israeli judges who were assessed on their ability to make tough decisions. If the judges received their allotted breaks, then the average number of people that were put forward for parole was on average of what was expected and deemed acceptable. However, if they missed their breaks and had to work through their ability to think, great decisions reduced to zero! 0% of people getting parole because a judge didn’t get a break!

So when you feel overwhelmed, stressed and like life is completely uncontrollable and horrific. Is it really the right time to make decisions?

Take Kim’s example again. I didn’t coach her at that time because I felt she was borderline in need of a counsellor but I did offer to be her friend and confidante. Someone she could just message and say “this happened today” or “today was a good day/bad day.”

Who in your world can you rely on to just be there for you? No opinion, no judgement, not advice. Just to be there.

Find those people now because we all need times when we just purge and don’t learn. Feeling like that is not a bad thing as long as it is cathartic and moves you forward.

Within 6 months, me and Kim did get to work together, but it was when she had the space to talk, take ownership, create a plan of action and have the dedication, motivation and energy to achieve it.

So, always be nice to yourself.

Key Takeaways

No matter what you face in life, these reminders will be able to help you too just like these 7 clients. You’ll make better life choices and find the best possible solution for you. Here’s a recap:

  • Take the time to ask lots of questions.
  • Don’t fear changing paths.
  • Challenge yourself to ask if your beliefs serve you well or hinder your success and happiness.
  • Are your beliefs keeping you comfortably in a comfort zone?
  • Do your beliefs challenge you to go for things even if you fear them?
  • Can you confidently and comfortably share an unpopular opinion?
  • Are you a people pleaser at your own detriment?
  • Create a list of the evidence of all that you’ve achieved and the positives that people say about you.
  • Create a long list of everything you could do, then create a plan of action, create a timeline to ensure you don’t try and take on too much at once. Only have 3 to 5 things on your to do list.
  • Check in with yourself if now is the right time to be thinking and doing something new or different.
  • Remember that sometimes, the best action is inaction.

More Tips for Making Decisions in Life

Featured photo credit: Wil Stewart via unsplash.com

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Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

It has been said that rarely am I short of words, and yet I’ve rewritten this article on positive and negative reinforcement five times. Why?

It’s not as if I have a lack of thoughts on this subject. It’s not as if I don’t spend my days enabling people to communicate powerfully and get what they want in life. So why the rewrites?

I’ve found myself thinking about the diversity of people I’ve coached and how different we all can be. Usually when I write for Lifehack, I’m able to see instant commonality in the subject that means I could share some ideas that would resonate wherever you are in life, whoever you are, regardless of what you were looking to achieve or what adversity you may be facing.

However, with this, it’s a “How long’s a piece of string?” answer, i.e. I could probably write a whole book’s worth of words and still have ideas to share.

Let’s look at some key points:

  • You will have times in your life where you need to get someone to do something.
  • You will have times when someone needs you to do something.

Let’s look at how positive and negative reinforcement would work. In both of these situations, you can face some big obstacles:

  • Someone may resist your desire for them to change.
  • Someone may challenge your authority or leadership.
  • Someone may be at risk of getting hurt.

The important thing to remember is that, in life, we all have to be influenced and influence those around us, and some ways will help us get the result we want, and others won’t. However, that may differ on where you are, who you are talking to, and what you want to see happen!

So, how do we know when positive reinforcement is effective[1], and can there ever be a time when negative reinforcement is good?

Worryingly, if you get positive and negative reinforcement wrong, you can risk your career, your business, your relationships, your reputation, and your brand.

Positive and negative reinforcement each have their merits, so it’s imperative to know when to employ them. Interestingly, despite a ton of evidence to the contrary, we still rely on the wrongs ones in society, business, and even in parenting.

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The 4 examples below showcase the use of positive and negative reinforcement, and whether they personally apply to you right now or not, they will resonate and be very useful to you personally in every area of your life.

For each we will look at:

  1. What’s the problem?
  2. What have you tried?
  3. Now what?
  4. The results!

The Boss

Okay, you may not be a boss, but everyone will have times in their life where they need to get people organized and working together to get the best result. Often, leaders say things like this to me:

  • “I’ve told them until I’m blue in the face not to do that!”
  • “They constantly refuse to use the new system.”
  • “They just don’t listen.”
  • “They don’t respect me.”

What Did the Boss Try?

Often, I hear “We’ve tried everything!” No matter who is reading this, trust me, you’ve not tried everything. (That’s the first thing to accept.) When you accept that, you then need to look at what you have tried to move forward.

The boss has tried:

  • Giving the person training.
  • Spending time with them and showing them how to do it.
  • Telling them it wasn’t good enough.
  • Telling them we aren’t doing that any more.

Now What?

The above situations create tension between the two as you constantly battle to maintain your position on the situation. If you are looking to get someone to do something, and they constantly resist, you need to stop and ask yourself some questions:

  1. What have we tried? This helps you to understand what they are good at, so you can utilize that in the conversation.
  2. From their viewpoint, what could prevent them from doing what I’ve asked? What could they fear, and how will we allay those fears?
  3. What do they want? Seeing their viewpoint enables you to use their terminology and language so they feel listened to.
  4. What do they believe? Do their beliefs prevent them from seeing the benefits? Beliefs can be changed but not by force—coaching is very powerful for this.
  5. How do these answers differ from my beliefs and views? Bridging the gap helps you to see both views and communicate more powerfully.

In my experience, rarely does a boss or leader need to say the word “No.” If someone is not doing what you want them to, the quickest way to see results is to ask questions and listen. Often, when you really listen, you discover a big gap between what you think you are saying and what the other person is hearing.

The reasons why someone is not doing what you want can include:

  • They don’t know how to do what you’ve asked them to do.
  • They are scared to get it wrong.
  • They fear what people will think of them.
  • They don’t have the confidence to come and tell you they need help.
  • They are scared that someone will tell them off.
  • They don’t understand where the boundaries are.

People tell me, “But I said that to them!” If you are too close to the situation, then how likely are they to take notice from you? Here’s what you can do:

  • Get out of your usual environment – Neutral environments make difficult conversations easier. They can take you both off your guard, which can be good.
  • Start by making that person feel safe to say anything. Start with ground rules like “This is a confidential conversation” and “I won’t make any judgement on what you say, I just want to understand.”
  • Be prepared to say “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t realize.” When you do this, positive and negative reinforcement can be used.

Learning how to coach people instead of tell people is key. Enabling the other person to see the benefits of what you want for them (and not you) is quicker than trying to dictate action.

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  • Lay out expected outcomes.
  • Create boundaries.
  • Explain what support and help you will provide.

The Results

This style of reinforcement is about utilizing both positive and negative reinforcement. It enables someone to feel safe to explain why they’ve not been taking action and helps them to overcome the limitations they feel while safe in the knowledge that they will get the support to change with the positive results explained in a way that matters to them.

The Young Child

If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong end of a relentless tantrum of a small child, you will know it can feel impossible to get through to them. While many elements of The Boss scenario could work, there are times where you may need some negative reinforcement.

What’s the Problem?

My children are now 15 and 18. I can honestly say that, while we have had some challenging behaviors, our parenting means I have two children I’m very proud of–great communicators, great work ethic, kind, funny, considerate. The point is that, for my children, this stuff works. And, to be honest, when I’m with other people’s children, they often say “How did you get them to do that!”

Young children are amazing. It’s like they’ve just woken up in a new body and have been told to go touch, feel, experience everything–every emotion, every taste, smell, experience, texture, the lot! They are curious and keen to know more. They sap up everything, and a lot of that we don’t want them sapping up!

When they go to put a pencil in an electric socket, or let go of your hand as you cross the road, it’s imperative they get the learning and knowledge they need fast. I once was talking to a parent that said I was wrong to say no to my children. I asked, “At what age would you like me to introduce them to that word?” to which they had no answer.

While I agree that there are usually a lot more words than just no for children, “no” is a word that kept you and I safe when we were small.

What Have You Tried?

While young children are incredibly intelligent, explaining the merits of your preferred course of action is not going to keep them safe. Tying them to your waist isn’t working. Punishing them and telling them there’s no more park time until you walk next to me doesn’t work either. So how do you say no and keep them safe?

Now What?

Sometimes negative reinforcement is essential[2]. For instance, my son (who adored Bob the Builder when he was little) was playing with his plastic tool kit and discovered an electric socket…I didn’t stop to explain the merits of how that could be dangerous. I said calmly, “No, that’s dangerous!”

Here’s the important point: It’s not just about your words. With young children, it’s important that your body language clearly says the same.

The Results

I did feel like the luckiest parent on the planet to have two children sleeping through the night, but that didn’t tell the full story. I can remember spending a few weeks calmly picking my daughter up with no eye contact, no overly big hug, no conversation, just saying, “Sorry darling but now’s bedtime, so back we go.” And yes, being the strong-willed girl that she is, there was sometimes a good hour of that until she got the message that Mum really isn’t going to play, turn into a dinosaur, sing, or read a story.

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The thing with positive and negative reinforcement is that you need to have faith it will work, and you are doing the right thing.

Of course, when I went in to get her from her cot the next morning, I had a big grin on my face that said, “Wow, what a grown up girl you are staying in your bed all night!” I used positive reinforcement to get the day started.

The Teenager

What’s the Problem?

If I’m honest, I don’t have problems with my teenagers. However, I think that is in no small part to my style of communication. Having respect for them is key, and appreciating how much change is happening in their lives really helps–as someone who helps large teams of people deal with change, I know how hard it can be.

However, when I wrote the article How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive, I was inundated with stories of hellish behavior from other parent’s teenagers, tales of staying out all night and not phoning home, abusive behavior towards parents and teens–I really felt for all involved.

What Have You Tried?

The problem with teens is they know exactly how to wind you up like a little clock-work toy. And if you’ve had a tough day, the last thing you want is to have to deal with someone who can’t even communicate with words, let alone put their dishes in the dishwasher.

Losing it is never the option, but it can easily happen. Shouting, bribery, and doing it yourself because it’s just easier really don’t work in the long run.

Now What?

If you consider everything we’ve covered, you can see that you need to communicate using positive and negative reinforcement. In life, there are consequences to all actions, and teens have a ton of stuff to learn to become effective, successful, happy adults.

Before you embark on any course of action, consider how the other person perceives the world. What are they going through?

You may have loved being a teen, but that doesn’t ensure your children will. Likewise, in life, there are things you love that others will loathe–seeing the world through other people’s eyes really helps you to understand the best way to communicate.

The only big difference for teenagers is to use emotion with caution. I personally let my children see all emotions–I’ve not hidden my tears when I’ve lost a loved one as it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. However, if a teenager in a foul mood can spot a weakness, they may just take advantage of it.

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The Results

My kids love to tell everyone I’m a scary mom. I’m not, I just have high standards, and I’m not prepared to drop them.

We shy away from telling people what we expect and then wonder why we are getting as stressed as the other party because no one knows where they stand.

I’m happy for my children to take over the TV room and eat far too much sweet stuff and binge on a box set. Just don’t put cups on the carpet, we have places for drinks. It’s having the confidence to say this is the rule.

People think negative reinforcement is a bad thing. However, how can someone change if they don’t know what they are doing wrong? And that’s the issue: so many of us are fearful of saying “Stop doing that!” If you lack confidence, find your voice because people aren’t mind-readers.

Final Thoughts

Before you start considering whether positive or negative reinforcement is best for others, ask yourself what you respond better to.

Personally, I respond far better to negative reinforcement–I can improve and be more successful and happier if I know what I’m doing wrong. Furthermore, I know that sometimes negative reinforcement works better with some clients who really don’t want to look at the issue–but it’s always done with respect and love.

Coaching people is also a great representation of when positive and negative reinforcement is best. We are looking to find ways to increase the positive action with positive reinforcement and ways to reduce the negative results with negative reinforcement–and usually my clients keep those changes for the rest of their lives.

More on Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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