Tag Archives | tips for success

Change Your Smile… Change Your Life

Recently, I came across a 2011 Ted Talk by Ron Gutman called The Hidden Impact of Smiling, he shares some fascinating research on this most basic human expression. Consider these findings:

  • A 30-year University of California study found that, by measuring the length of students’ smiles in a 1950’s high school yearbook, they could predict the duration of their marriages as well as how well they would score in standardized tests of happiness and self fulfillment.
  • A 2010 Wayne State University study of pre-1950’s Major League Baseball cards found that players who smiled in their photo lived an average of eight years longer than those who didn’t smile.
  • According to British researchers, smiling produces the same neurological stimulation as receiving up to $16 lbs sterling in cash. (approximately $25,000).
  • The simple act of smiling has been found to measurably reduce the amount of stress-producing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while increasing brain-enhancing endorphins.

Last spring, in an article titled Smiling for Dollars in Dealer Magazine, automotive marketing expert Jim Boldebook described a study conducted by a psychology professor at a university in upstate New York involving three Albany, NY auto dealerships. The study focused exclusively on exploring what the professor termed the “smile factor” of sales consultants in influencing transactions. The results revealed that the sales consultants who smiled the most had a 20% higher conversion rate and 10% higher average gross profit per transaction than those who smiled the least.

While it’s self evident that smiling is associated with happiness and a greater sense of well being, this research goes much further; namely, that smiling more means living longer, having stronger relationships — even earning more income.

So how’s your “smile IQ?”

via MOMcircle

For example, of the sixteen-plus hours you spend awake every day, how much of that time do you spend smiling? When you approach a stranger walking down the street, do you wait for them to smile first before smiling back, or do you initiate the exchange of smiles? Does it matter?

If you believe even half of Gutman’s findings, it not only matters, it has life-changing potential.

Based on these surprising facts, what would it mean to the quality of your life if you smiled more frequently? Here’s a challenge: Change your smile… Change your life. Take ten minutes every day during the next week to intentionally focus on smiling, wherever you are — even if you’re alone (researchers have found that smiling enhances your mood). Then let me know how it goes!

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The Life Changing Impact of Taking Responsibility

In recent decades, one of the more disturbing trends in our culture has been the gradual decline in personal accountability. From corporate scandals and frivolous personal injury lawsuits to the endless blame games that fuel the gridlock in Washington, the penchant for “passing the buck” has become an endemic to American society.

Although fixing this national malaise may seem overwhelming, here’s an idea that could stem the tide.

Years ago, when I was the sales manager at our Buick Pontiac GMC dealership, I recall searching for a motivational ice breaker to kick off an off-site sales training event. Searching the internet, which was in its infancy at the time, I came across a “Tip of the Day” blog post by national sale trainer Grant Cordonne. While I’ve never been a fan of Cordonne’s bombastic, in-your-face style, his message, entitled “Take Responsibility for Everything in Your Life” got my attention.

He emphatically stated, “The moment you assign responsibility to another human being is the same moment that you resolve never to be in control of your life.”  In his typical strident style, Cordonne challenged salespeople to take 100% responsibility for every unwelcome event in their lives, regardless of the circumstances, peppering his listeners with examples:

“The nick in the car you noticed this morning. You get overcharged for something. The argument with your spouse. Your kids didn’t get to school on time because of the bus. That was your fault. If you get a cold or cough, ask, ‘how was I responsible for that?’ Sure, you were on a plane with a hundred other sick people, but didn’t you buy the ticket?

His message got me thinking: Is it really possible to take personally responsibility for every single unwanted circumstance in your life? It’s easy to sit in a sales meeting and nod your head approvingly, but real life is a different story.

How To Take Responsibility© by Larry Winget

While I don’t believe it’s healthy to feel personally accountable for major, life-altering events, such as the sickness or death of a loved one (I don’t think Cordonne was referring to these situations), I agree with him that accepting responsibility for the everyday “hits” we take that derail our focus, steal our peace, and entangle our emotions makes perfect sense.

Here are four reasons why taking 100% responsibility works:

1. Taking Full Responsibility Shifts Your Focus. There’s a natural impulse in our individualistic culture to assign responsibility to others, especially when it’s others’ actions that create the problem. But as long as the responsibility is external — outside of you — you are a victim. As soon as you accept accountability — even if it’s not your fault — you empower yourself, opening up your mind to more options. So instead of asking, “Why me?” you ask, “What does this make possible?”

2. Taking Responsibility Produces Resiliency and Gratitude. When something negative happens to you, even something minor, you have a choice to either dwell on what you’ve lost, or identify all that you have. This cultivates gratitude, and I’ve found that it is just as important in the little setbacks in our lives as it is the major setbacks.

3. Taking Responsibility Creates a Strong Culture. Instead of spending energy defending their reputation, assigning blame, and posturing, people who practice 100% responsibility tend to influence others from being problem-focused to solution-focused. And when leaders adopt and model this behavior, it catches on quickly, and can transform a family, team, company, even a society.

4. Taking Responsibility Strengthens Character. People who develop the habit of personal accountability at a young age launch a lifelong winning streak. By refusing to implicate others, they reinforce to themselves the rewards of behaving virtuously, becoming leaders in their own right who influence others and shape lives.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

I remember when my father encountered a business setback in 1987, when, as one of the top selling Buick dealers in Michigan, Buick abruptly announced a major change in their retail strategy, discontinuing one of the high volume models my father relied on and completely repositioning another. Realizing that these moves would cut the dealership’s new car sales in half, my dad was dejected — but only for a moment. He absolutely refused to dwell on the negative and instead focused on his options. True to his entrepreneurial nature, by the next week, he had hatched an aggressive plan to dominate the expanding used car market in our area, which he accomplished within six months. It was a lesson in resiliency that I”ll never forget.

So the next time one of those unexpected mishaps threatens to knock you off your game — you’re late for a meeting due to heavy traffic, your teenager flunks algebra, or a sale that your were counting on unpredictably falls through — tell yourself, “I’m 100% accountable,” then pay attention to how you respond. And let me know how The Life Changing Impact of Taking Responsibility influenced your decision — I’d love your feedback.

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Seven Steps to Setting Clear, Compelling Goals in 2015: Part 2

In my last post, I introduced a seven-question system to prepare you for setting clear, compelling goals in 2015. Having covered the first three questions last week, here are the final four.

Setting Clear, Compelling Goals

4) What do you feel that you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?
At some point in our careers, we’ve all experienced times, especially if you work for a large organization, that some of your best work goes virtually unnoticed. If so, then you need to build in your own self acknowledgment. Michael Hyatt puts it this way: “If there was an end-of-the-year awards show, what would you be brought up on the stage for… personally and professionally?” For me, this includes recommitting to consistent, weekly blog posts, stepping up to new speaking engagements that required significantly more time commitment, and getting into the best physical shape of my life.

Once again, these positive outcomes are the things you will want to set your goals around.

5) What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
In Jim Collins landmark book, Good to Great, one of the distinguishing traits of great companies is what he identified as the Stockdale Paradox, after Vietnam veteran Admiral Stockdale. When he was interviewed after spending years in a brutal North Vietnamese POW camp, Stockdale said that the men who survived the harsh conditions of imprisonment were those who faced the brutal facts of their existence, but never lost hope. Addressing not only what worked, but also what didn’t work, allows you to confront your past failings and move on. It’s also important to pay attention to patterns in your answers. If the same ones repeat themselves over several years, you may need outside intervention. For example, this could be a personal trainer, marriage counselor, life coach, or another professional who can help you break your pattern.

6) What was missing from the last year as you look back?
Asking this question in this way, rather than framing this question as “what went wrong last year?,” helps prevent you from focusing on regret instead of seeing opportunities for the coming year. Examples include better planning, margin in your life, addressing your physical fitness, etc. The key: Being alert to emerging patterns in your life and trying to embrace those with the greatest potential.

7) What major life lessons did you learn from this last year?
In answering this question, take everything you’ve learned and processed and summarize into a few core life lessons. For example, here are a few of my life lessons:
– The most important priorities in life – marriage, health, relationship with God, personal development – must be contended for. They will not happen by accident.
– When it comes to accomplishing more in life, less is more.
– Never underestimate the importance of a strong marriage.

Asking these seven questions will lay the groundwork for New Years resolutions and/or setting clear, compelling goals in 2015 that will inspire, motivate, and positively change you all year long. Before you start, here are four important reminders:

1) Set aside some secluded, uninterrupted time to develop your thoughts. Don’t rush it!
2) Commit your thoughts to writing. Remember, “Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips.”
3) There are no right or wrong answers. You don’t need to have three responses for every question – it can be a narrative, bullet points, any way you want – as long as it reflects what you really think.
4) Once you’re done, turn the page, put it in your past, and move forward with setting specific, meaningful goals for the coming year.

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Decision Paralysis: Could Too Many Choices Be Limiting You?

Jelly Choices - iStockPhoto.comColumbia Business Professor Sheena Iynengar conducted some interesting research on consumer choices. She studied how shoppers responded to a presentation of jams and jellies during the peak hours at a busy supermarket.

Given five jars to choose from, only 30% of the people stopped to look, but of those who stopped, 30% bought something.

By contrast, when there were twenty four jars to choose from, more than 60% of the shoppers stopped, but less than 3% purchased anything. In other words, people were six times more likely to purchase a jar of jam if they encountered five choices than if they encountered twenty-four choices.

Conclusion: Although people, especially Americans, are attracted to the idea of having more choices, we’re less likely to actually make a choice if we have too many of them.

To reinforce Iynengar’s research, psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane independently concluded that the current abundance of choice often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness.

Aside from the obvious retailing implications, how might this research be applied in other areas, like our health, finances, and spiritual lives? What is the threshold of choices beyond which we end up in some form of “decision paralysis?”

I think of friends, for example, who live in big cities full of outstanding restaurants who admit they rarely venture beyond a small circle of three or four eateries. Or think of the times you’ve stopped at your local video store and stared at the “new releases” section like a kid in a candy store trying to figure out what to rent.

“The presumption is, self-determination is a good thing and choice is essential to self-determination,” says Barry Schwartz, PhD, a Swarthmore College psychologist and author of “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” (Ecco, 2004). “But there’s a point where all of this choice starts to be not only unproductive, but counterproductive – a source of pain, regret, worry about missed opportunities and unrealistically high expectations.”

Schwartz advises: “Study the options, then settle on something you feel good, if not perfectly, about… don’t compare your acquisitions to others’ and don’t wallow in regret – since, in the long run, people feel worse about inaction than action.”

Fact Based Decision-Making via ReadyToManage.com

In light of these findings, here’s a bigger question to ponder: We live in a culture that attaches tremendous importance to personal autonomy. The more options we have, the better. From the time we were young, we’ve been told by parents, teachers, and coaches that we can be whatever we choose to be. The sky is the limit. If you can believe it and conceive it, you can achieve it. There are simply no limits to your options.

But is this the right message we should be taking away from the research findings? Are we putting undue stress on our children, for example, by exposing them to a world full of so many options? What about ourselves? As a Christian, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ strong advice in the Matthew’s gospel: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Could too many choices be limiting you? As counterculture as it is in our modern, western, radically individualistic society, what would embracing the idea of “less is more” mean to you… and to the quality of your life?

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