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26 Things I’ve Learned Since Entering The Working World

26 Things I’ve Learned Since Entering The Working World

This list would’ve been extremely helpful for me when I first entered the workforce fresh out of university. There’s just so much I didn’t know, and how could I have? That’s why I created this list. So you will know what I was painfully unaware of.

1. It’s OK to get up and go to the toilet

On my first day of working in an office, I had no idea of the culture or etiquette or anything like that. It was a mystery. This was my first ever “real job”. I was so damn nervous that I’d barely slept the night before. Anyway, I thought I had to ask to go to the toilet. Like I was in school. HOW COULD I HAVE POSSIBLY THOUGHT THAT?! It baffles me now, and breaks my heart a little bit too. In the end I just went for it (that sounds so dramatic) and, of course, no one said anything. In conclusion, yes, you are allowed to go to the toilet. Who’da thought?

2. Think twice before you press “Reply All”

Ah, ‘Reply All’. A handy and deadly function. The amount of times I’ve seen an e-mail that was absolutely not meant for me is ridiculous. Check twice before you press it, because you definitely don’t want to send an email that was meant for your friend to your boss…

3. If you want something, make it happen

About three weeks after I joined the company, I went on a training course called “Personal Effectiveness”. While I was listening to the trainer, I couldn’t help but admire the her. She was confident, knowledgeable, and funny. I realized that I wanted to do what she was doing, run training courses. Now, moving jobs three weeks after I’d joined the company probably wasn’t going to happen, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t plant a seed. I told her I wanted to join her team. She said to keep in touch, so I did. We met up a few times over the coming months, and after about nine months she said she was going to have a vacancy in her team. Because we knew each other, and because she knew I was more than a bit interested, it was a much easier decision than it would’ve been otherwise. As I said, if you want something, you have to make it happen.

4. If you want to talk to an executive, do it

I was due to video one of our executives for an announcement she had to make. We had 30 minutes booked, but it took just 10. I then realized the opportunity I had to sit down with one of our executives and just talk. So I asked and she said yes. We sat down. We talked. And, without it being my intention, she helped me to get a new job. Most people couldn’t believe it when I told this story. Couldn’t believe I had the “balls”. All I could really say to them was “but she’s a person too, right?” If you do this, it will separate you. It will make you “different”. Trust me.

5. If you want to talk to the CEO, do it

Our former CEO was to answer some questions on Yammer, our internal social network. They told us to use a particular hashtag and he’d read them that way. I did that, but there’s also a way, like on Facebook and Twitter, to tag someone so they get a notification. Knowing a huge amount of people would be asking him questions and he wouldn’t see all of them, that’s what I did. I asked four questions, and he answered them all, and even had a bit of banter with me. People said “you actually tagged him?” in hushed tones. Yes, I actually did. As I said before, HE IS A PERSON. LIKE YOU AND ME.

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6. Things change

In three years of work, I’ve had seven managers and four jobs. So, yeah, things change. Roll with it.

7. You can make and have friends at work

I have a few genuine friends that I’ve met at work. Don’t rule it out.

8. There are some incredible people to learn from

I’ve always been more interested in being a leader than a follower. And I think, on occasion, this led to me become somewhat arrogant. Just because you look up to someone and want to learn from them, doesn’t mean you’re a “follower” or that you’ll just do whatever they do. But you can learn something from everyone, whether it be a good or bad lesson. There’s been plenty of people at work who I’ve learned both from.

9. There is a massive amount of incompetency

At least, there’s a lot more than you’d think. And in this lies a huge opportunity for you to stand out. I hope no one from work reads this. But, it is true.

10. Getting promoted is about both performance and who you know

It’s not all about who you know. But, if you had no idea who someone was, would you vouch for them? Would you put yourself on the line for them? Would you hire them?

11. Culture change isn’t for everyone

It seems to be an omnipresent force, but you can’t force people to change. And we shouldn’t.

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12. People complain (and do nothing about it)

Count how many times this happens in just one day and it’ll probably reach double figures. There’s no need to be this person. If you find yourself complaining, do something about it. Eventually, no one cares about the person who doesn’t bother even trying to help themselves.

13. You might not love every single part of your job

This is the case with many people undoubtedly. But the question you have to ask yourself is, “is it worth it?”

14. Enjoying what you do is the most important thing about a job

Your boss is very important. Whoever is in your team is important. Your commute is important. Your salary is important. However, none of these things will matter if you don’t like what you’re doing, because day in and day out, that’s what you actually do.

15. Say “hi” to the cleaners

Again, they’re people. Just like you and me. Most people ignore them, and I’ve certainly been guilty of that. Are we really too busy to say hello? Or is there a deeper, more sinister reason we ignore them? I hope not.

16. You’re not going to be friends with everybody

But it is nice to be able to get along with everyone you work with, even if you’re very different.

17. Don’t be friends with your boss on Facebook

Do you really want your boss to see what you do on a Friday or Saturday night? I’ve never made this mistake, but I know friends who have and I know they’ve regretted it for whatever reason. Always.

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18. Your parents will ALWAYS ask you about your day if you live at home

It’s true. This has happened more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s nice and I’d want to talk about my day. Sometimes, I just wanted to chill out and not talk to anyone. It can be the most annoying thing in the world. However…if you take just one minute to tell them about your day, it’ll make life easier and better for everyone, rather than telling them to, essentially, shut up. Or, just do what I eventually did and move out.

19. Bring a packed lunch

It’s healthier and saves you money. No brainer.

20. Be proud when you do something well

You’ll achieve a lot more, at least task-wise, when you start work compared to any other time in your life. Day in and day out you’ll complete small and big tasks, and it’s really important to acknowledge that. When I first started, I didn’t acknowledge this at all, and it’s still something I could be better at. I’d only focus on what I’d done “wrong” or where I could improve. Now, I strike a much better balance between being proud of what I’ve done and still focusing on where I could be better. As a result, I’m more productive and I’m happier.

21. Don’t say “yes” to everything

I made this mistake. What did it lead to? Well, it lead to me doing a poor job and having difficult conversations with my manager. Neither of these were pleasant. The reason I said yes to a lot (everything) was because I wanted to do a great job and I wanted to impress people. So, my intentions were good. The results were not. Saying ‘no’ a lot more often is tough at first, but you soon realize that you can then work on just a few things and do a great job with those few things, rather than do an average job on loads of things. I’m sure if you asked someone to do something for you, and they were honest with you and told you they couldn’t do it, that you’d prefer that over them saying they could, and then not delivering.

22. Go to the gym during the day

During the daytime hours, it’s really quiet. If you go at five, be prepared to wait for everything. Or, buy some weights and lift at home. Like I did.

23. Practice public speaking whenever you can

There’s often a lot of opportunity to do some public speaking, even if it’s just in your team meeting. You’ve got to start somewhere. It’s an impressive skill to have, because most people are too scared to do it. And, at some point, you’ll probably have to present a piece of work you’ve been doing, so it’s better to have had some practice. When I first started work, I was uncomfortable speaking in my team meeting which involved about 10 people. Recently, I spoke to an audience of 350 people for 10 minutes. How? Practice and self-esteem. Am I ‘good enough’ to speak to an audience that size? You’re damn right I am. And I know that now. What is it about public speaking that you’re scared of? Are you, too, worried that you’re not ‘good enough’?

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24. Pick up the phone / go speak to someone

Sending an e-mail is the easy way out. Everyone does it. Some people actually send e-mails for urgent issues, too, and I can’t even believe that. If it’s that urgent, surely you’d actually talk to someone or pick up the phone.

Picking up the phone or going to talk to someone face to face will separate you from the crowd. It’s something I’m working on doing more for that exact reason. Also, you just get stuff done quicker. If you send an “urgent” e-mail at 9 a.m., you might not get a reply until that afternoon. Or, at the end of the day. Or, the next day, even. It’s your e-mail that you’ve sent because you want something done. It’s your to-do list, not their’s, so there’s no obligation for them to drop everything they’re doing to help you immediately.

25. Sit with good posture

I didn’t sit with good posture for the first two-and-a-half years of my working life. Well, 90 % of the time I didn’t. That led to back and shoulder problems, neither of which were serious, but they were inconvenient. I sat out of a lot of basketball games and I always felt like I had to stretch in weird positions. It was, more than anything else, really annoying. I went to an osteopath (who was brilliant) and it turned out it was an easy fix: I had to be more conscious with my posture. When I was at my desk I wasn’t sitting up straight, I was leaning forwards, and my computer positioning was rubbish. Altering my posture and my computer positioning, and being conscious of both of these things, has massively improved my posture and I now have much less back and shoulder problems.

26. Be you

When I started doing this, I was more productive, laughed more, had more fun, and was happy. It’s a no brainer, really, trust me. Plus, your company doesn’t need a group of clones. That’s the easy choice and the safer choice and the boring choice. If they say they do, even in a roundabout way, then leave. And, if you don’t really, truly,  know who you are then isn’t it time you found out?

Featured photo credit: Florian Klauer via ununsplash.imgix.net

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

Want to know the good news?

No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Absolutely!

But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

Easier said than done, right? Try these:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

Be Patient about the Process

No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

2. Connect with Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

3. Find Strength in Unity

The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Recruit Some Cheerleaders

If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

Form an Accountability Group

Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
  • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
  • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
  • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
  • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
  • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Tying it All Together

Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

But here’s the bottom line:

A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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