You probably know that there’s a mysterious number tied to your identity called your credit score. I say it’s mysterious because like most people, you probably aren’t sure exactly how it was determined, what it means, if it’s important, or what you can to do make it better (and why you want to)!
When it comes to managing your personal finances, it’s important to understand why your credit score matters and why it’s important as well as what you can do to improve it (or ensure it stays high if you already have a good one).
Your credit score (or FICO score) is a number that tells the bank how risky it will be to loan you money. The higher your score, the more likely you are to get a loan. Similarly, the higher your score, the lower the interest rate you’ll be eligible for.
FICO is the company that specializes in “predictive analytics” – they look at your credit history and try to predict how you will behave, financially. Here’s the thing – you can learn about what affects your score and what you can do to improve it, but there’s not an exact formula for figuring it out; you’re never going to be 100% sure how FICO came up with the number. The exact science is a bit of a mystery. Fortunately there are factors to consider and behaviors you can model that will help you improve your score.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Your credit score matters most when you are buying a home or a car and need to get a loan. If your credit score is higher, you will get a lower interest rate, so over time the purchase will cost you less. The bank allows you to pay less interest each month because they believe you are financially responsible and you will be able to repay the loan without defaulting (missing a payment). When your credit score is low, the bank hikes up the interest rate, charging you more interest, because they fear you may have trouble making payments. They are trying to protect themselves, but it’s kind of backwards, isn’t it?
Basically, you get rewarded for being more “responsible” (if you have a higher score), by paying less interest. It’s worth paying attention to the things that factor into creating your score and trying to get it as high as you can.
THE 5 FACTORS THAT ARE USED TO CALCULATE YOUR CREDIT SCORE
According to FICO there are 5 factors that are used to calculate your credit score. Let’s explore each one, what they mean, and how you can influence your rating in these areas.
Your payment history refers to your past behavior paying your bills. Payment history makes up about 35% of your credit score (the largest amount!). If you always pay student loans and credit cards on time, FICO will reward you with a higher score in this area. FICO looks negatively at late and missed payments and if you have these on your record, FICO lowers your score. Here’s where the mystery lies – you never know exactly how much one late or missed payment will affect your score. The best way to improve your credit in this area is by making consistent, timely payments.
FICO is looking for you to have ample credit available to you, but the catch is that you shouldn’t be using nearly all of what’s available at any given time. Credit utilization is measured both individually by card and also across multiple cards, and it makes up 30% of your FICO score. There’s no hard rule here for how much credit you should have and use. In the past it was recommended not to carry a balance higher than 30% of the available limit on any one card for an optimal credit score. That’s still a great practice, but it’s not guaranteed to help you get your score as high as possible. There are several factors in credit utilization that play into your score:
How many credit cards do you have?
Are any of your cards maxed out? If not, are you using half of what’s available to you? Less than 30% of what’s available? Less than 10% of what’s available?
How much do you owe on each of your cards?
What’s the total amount that you owe on all of your credit cards?
Since there’s not an exact formula to get your score as high as possible, the best practice for credit utilization is to carry low balances on the cards you have (and to still have credit available to you, should you need it).
LENGTH OF CREDIT HISTORY
The length of your credit history plays into your FICO score at about 15%, and longer credit history is better than only having a short history. This is an important component and one that many people mistakenly overlook when they are trying to clean up their credit. For example, if you have an old credit card that you opened ten or twenty years ago but haven’t used, you should continue to keep this credit card open (with a zero balance) rather than closing it out completely. By keeping a card you have had for many years you increase your length of credit history, which positively affects your FICO score.
New credit accounts for 10% of your FICO score, but opening lots of new cards does not lead to an improved score (in fact, it will likely result in the opposite because it sends the message that you need additional money that you don’t have). The best practice for new credit is to open new cards only when you need them and pay them off right away.
The final component of your credit score is based on the assumption that you have a good credit mix. If you have a good credit mix then you have a variety of types of loans and you are able to repay them all. There are 2 types of loans: revolving and installment loans. Revolving loans (for example, credit cards) aren’t based on a predetermined amount for a loan, these loans allow you to make charges, pay them off, then make charges again. Installment loans are loans that you get in a lump sum and make payments on each month (such as a student loan). If you have both types of loans and pay them off in a timely manner with no late payments, that’s great! It’s not recommended to go out and get loans to increase your credit mix since it’s only 10% of your FICO score.
Credit scores are confusing and since there’s no perfect formula to getting the highest possible score, it’s important to take these 5 factors into account as you build your credit as an adult. Not sure what your score is? I recommend using annualcreditreport.com once a year to pull your report for free. There are a lot of sites out there to choose from – this one is reliable.
Stay tuned for the next post about credit: What NOT to do when you are trying to improve your credit score.
In the past few weeks a colleague and beloved team member said goodbye to her mother. A dear friend buried her father. Another long-time friend shared that she was wrestling with severe depression, and another was diagnosed with leukemia. A revered client is contemplating divorce after twenty plus years of, as he says, “an unmitigated and enduring loyalty to misery,” and one of my bestest of buddies is seeking help for her daughter’s eating disorder.
This is life.
My brother and sister-in-law along with several of our closest couple friends recently did the “going-off-to college” shopping sprees. They will all be empty nesters in four weeks. One of my friend’s daughters found a job in San Francisco and is finally off the family payroll. She’s living in a closet for $1600 a month with four other young women, but hey, she’s doing it on her own. Another client and now cherished friend is getting married this December and he’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him. And despite it driving him crazy when I say he deserves this kind of giddy, I sincerely believe he does.
This is life.
We read so much about others’ great accomplishments and triumphant feats, that I often see the quieter side of success being dismissed. Living a life that invites over three hundred people to attend your memorial service to celebrate your positive influence on their journeys. Beating an illness. Choosing a healthier path. Raising kids. There’s no trophy or bonus buy-out or Wall Street Journal headline touting your merger with another, getting your child settled in a first apartment or teaching yourself how to stay steady in choppy waters. But it is the very definition of living a good life. Finding joy in the tough days, making a difference in the days of others and choosing to step forward when others are standing still or your own feet feel stuck.
Whatever you’re trying to accomplish with your blog (be it establishing your expertise or making money), getting your content shared more frequently will help you achieve it. It’s certainly frustrating to work hard on creating interesting, entertaining and/or educational articles and putting them live, only to see them go unnoticed by everyone but your most ardent followers.
Part of building up your blog’s popularity is simply about making better content, but that’s not even close to being the whole story. You also need to make basic concessions to how people think and navigate the messy online world. Very often, a simple tweak is enough to make the difference between a flop and a big success — and with the following 5 tips, you can make your next blog post much more shareable:
Provide more sharing options
This will probably sound extremely obvious, because of course it is, but people overlook obvious things all the time (it’s just part of the human condition!). If you want people to share your blog posts, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so in whichever fashion they happen to prefer — for instance, linking to them on Twitter, or emailing them directly to others.
Make sure that your post has all the appropriate direct sharing links, so a reader can share to the platform of their choice with a single click. It’s also useful to make different parts individually shareable: for instance, you could allow the reader to share a specific subsection, or even a highlighted quote. The more options you provide, the more likely they are to be used.
Add some attractive imagery
Images stand out, drawing in attention and lending valuable context about the topics being addressed and the tone being met. If you’re used to simply hammering out large paragraphs and setting your posts live without featured images, that’s something you need to address immediately, because a post with a crisp image is much likelier to be shared and opened.
If you have the equipment and the skills to take (or make) your own high-quality images, do so (that’s great for brand identity), but you don’t have to: in a pinch, royalty-free pictures will do: if you don’t want them to be totally generic, you can tweak them slightly, perhaps adding color and text overlays so they feel more like your images.
Spice up the title
I’m certainly not saying that you should fully embrace the clickbait model of making your titles enigmatic or incendiary to lure people in under false pretences, but there’s a lot to be said for giving your titles some extra polish to make them easier sells. Try to keep the length down, and focus on simple ideas (building around the main keyword).
Aim for a tone that will suit the preferences of your target audience. For instance, a piece about machine learning in online retail could be called “The Ecommerce Benefits of Machine Learning” or “How to Boost Online Sales With Machine Learning”, depending on the expertise of the anticipated readers. Or even “7 Ways to Use Machine Learning to Sell More”, because listicles always go down well. Try CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Play off trends
Trends are fantastic for driving shares, whether they relate to pop culture, set events, or seasonal shifts — by working trends into your blog post, you can make it a lot more likely to attract attention at a time when so many people are searching for them. Ephemeral content is particularly suited to this: blog posts that are designed to work at a particular time, concerning things like fun ways to spend the summer.
If you’re struggling to find anything suitable, don’t be afraid to get a little contrived. Instead of writing “How to become more courageous”, you could write “How to develop the courage of [courageous character in pop culture]”, so anyone searching for that character might find your post — but, most importantly, a reader who knows someone interested in that character would be more likely to share it with them.
Include actionable tips
When someone’s reading your blog post, there are various reasons why they might choose to share it, but there are two that are the most likely: they might think it would entertain someone they know, or they might think it would be useful to someone they know. And if you want a piece to be optimally useful, you need to include actionable tips.
If you have a piece that contains a lot of insight into a topic but doesn’t give the reader anything they can actually do to benefit from it, then it will be much easier for them to forget — and they won’t see it as worth considering for people with busy schedules. If you work various simple tips into your post, and highlight them properly (why not make them individually shareable as well?), then you’ll achieve many more shares.
Top-notch blogging is hard work that often goes unrewarded, so don’t let your great content just fade away without being seen. Try these tactics for enhancing the shareability of your work, and you’ll start expanding your following. Good luck!
We often hear terms like pre-employment assessment, skill testing and even interviewing used interchangeably. While they may have similar high level goals, such as identifying a suitable candidate, they are fundamentally different methods of achieving those goals. It’s important to know the difference because each evaluation method will produce completely different outputs. Moreover, in some cases it might make sense to combine one or more of these methods.
Dr. Hamilton distinguished between each candidate evaluation method with ease and clarity. It’s worth listening to the entire episode but, otherwise, I have summarized some of the key points in this article and added my own thoughts as well.
Skill testing is all about understanding whether someone can do something or knows something. It can be a simple task, a range of complex tasks or demonstrable knowledge. It’s possible to test for almost any skill because you can simply watch people perform tasks.
Dr. Hamilton gives the simplest of examples: “if someone is going to have to weld metal, you want see them weld metal”.
This is why résumés and interviews are inherently poor methods of validating skills. They are focused on what candidates claim they can do, not what they can actually do. Instead, it’s far more compelling to see how people perform. Literally. Moreover, it’s far simpler.
Skill testing is context-dependent, and therefore subjective in nature. But it’s also capable of being objectively assessed, which means it can be pass/fail. Confusing, right?
Let’s take a writing test as an example. The style of writing you test depends entirely on the job. It could be anything from creative writing to technical writing. So the test is bespoke. At the same time, it is usually possible to objectively determine whether a candidate performed well. To use Dr. Hamilton’s welding example, either someone knows how to weld metal or they don’t.
The opposite is usually true of pre-employment assessment.
Pre-employment assessment: what is it?
Pre-employment assessment is focused on predicting how people will behave in certain scenarios, not what they can do. They explore key personality traits based on an understanding that someone’s personality can predict their behavior. Most personality assessments are based on the Five-Factor Model, which asserts that there are five personality supertraits:
Openness to experience
Therefore, if we gain an understanding of someone’s personality, and particularly these five supertraits, we will have a good chance of knowing how they will react in different situations. Unlike skill testing, this doesn’t mean someone can do the job. But it may shed light on how they will do the job.
Pre-employment assessment: does personality change?
Now here’s the tricky part. While skills can be taught, many people think that personality is fixed. However, that isn’t entirely true. Studies have shown that personality can, and does, change over time. While most people don’t change in a fundamental way, it is possible to change behaviors and habits, according to Carol Dweck. And it’s those very behaviors that are relevant to how someone will perform in a job, not their personality per se. That’s why two people with different personalities can perform well in the same role.
Whether we believe personality is fixed or not, it is not something that can be measured in binary terms such as pass/fail, like an Excel test. It’s who we are and, if we subscribe to the theory that personality changes over time, it’s who are are at the time of assessment. This means that the outcome of a personality assessment can’t be viewed as “good” or “bad” in isolation, it can only indicate potential suitability for a specific job. Conversely, someone can be good at Excel.
This is where it gets interesting. Let’s start with the dictionary:
A test means “a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, especially before it is taken into widespread use”.
To assess means to “evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of”.
An interview means “A meeting of people face to face, especially for consultation”.
Tests and assessments sound fairly similar. They are ways of measuring ability or quality. On the other hand, an interview is a discussion. Technology also makes it possible to conduct one-way interviews using video, which are essentially discussions without real-time interaction. And yet, the most commonly used method for making hiring decisions is interviewing. For some reason the notion that skills and behaviors can be evaluated without skill tests or assessments – but through a discussion – has become the norm.
Maybe it’s because of a lack of resourcing. Maybe we trust our intuition more than third party methods. Or maybe it’s a lack of awareness. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense because interviews don’t predict performance. They typically focus on understanding what someone did in the past or discussing what they claim to be able to do, without proof.
Can interviews nevertheless play a valuable role in the hiring process? Interviews should be used to get to know a preferred candidate after their skills and behaviors have been validated. Only candidates who have already demonstrated they can do they job should be interviewed. That would allow for a much more valuable interviewing experience, and a far better use of everyone’s time. Unfortunately, that is not normally the case.
Can we combine skill testing, pre-employment assessment and interviewing?
A strong hiring process will combine reliable insights about a candidate’s ability to do the job and their expected behavior with high-quality human interaction. In theory, this could involve a skill test, some form of pre-employment assessment and an interview. It very much depends on the type of role, and the candidate experience the company wants to deliver.
Hiring is not a “one size fits all” endeavour. Every situation is different. But understanding what each evaluation method can achieve and, more importantly, what it will not achieve, will go a long way to helping companies build hiring robust processes.
In the last couple of decades, the practice of yoga has become synonymous with weight loss and fitness thanks to its growing popularity. This ancient Indian practice is known for its many uses when it comes to physical, mental, and even spiritual growth and improvement. In fact, if you are looking for workout options that work on your body’s physical and mental well-being, there is no better option than yoga. However, one question that many people have is, ‘Does yoga work for weight loss?’
In a single word – yes. Yoga certainly has a host of benefits to offer those who are looking to lose weight and keep it off. Let’s take a look at how Yoga can aid you in shedding those extra pounds.
Reduces Stress Levels
Stress is one of the biggest hindrances in a weight loss journey. The main reason for this is that stress triggers cortisol production in the body, encouraging you to eat more sugary and salty food. Over time, increasing stress levels lead to poor eating habits that prevent you from losing weight. Additionally, such stress is responsible for the stubborn belly fat that won’t come off easily.
Yoga is a lifesaver when it comes to lowering stress levels or being more mindful throughout the day. With regular practice, you’ll be able to lower your stress levels and boost your weight loss.
Improves Muscle Mass
If you think muscle mass can only be gained by spending hours in the gym, think again. Yoga helps your body become more flexible with time, and it also makes you stronger. Advanced yoga poses make for a great workout as they engage important muscle groups and unlock their full potential.
In fact, many modern exercise programs and even workout videos employ elements of yoga to help you with a lean muscle workout, read more about muscle building yoga programs.
Everyone wants flat bellies and toned abs. However, it feels practically impossible to get these without specialist training and guidance. With yoga, you’ll find that your goals of getting toned abs become much simpler. Surprisingly, it’s not all about the crunches! Yoga poses that engage the core muscles are extremely helpful when it comes to tone abdominal muscles and to keep a check on your midsection.
If you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods during the day, such poses will certainly help you strengthen your abdominal muscles.
Improves Sleep Patterns
It is a well-known fact that restful and adequate sleep is integral to weight loss. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it may be hindering all your efforts in the gym and kitchen. With yoga, your body and mind are in a restful state, aiding you in emptying your mind and falling asleep easily. Additionally, people who practice yoga regularly as less susceptible to problems like insomnia.
Regularly practicing poses like Balasana and Adho Mukho Svanashana can aid you in falling asleep faster and more restfully. This goes a long way in aiding your weight loss efforts by providing your body with the right rest and recuperation.
Helps Burn Calories
Yoga may not be the first thing on your mind when it comes to aerobic exercises. However, the more active forms of yoga such as hot yoga are excellent and aerobic in nature, making them the right choice for a calorie-burning workout. A yoga workout may sound daunting at first, but it is easy to undertake at any fitness level.
Restorative yoga, on the other hand, may not be ideal for breaking into a sweat. However, it still has a great deal to contribute to your weight loss efforts.
Helps You Become More Mindful
Mindfulness is very important when it comes to mental, spiritual and even physical development. This2016 studyfound that individuals who were able to develop a habit of mindfulness with yoga were more successful at resisting unhealthy foods. They were also less likely to indulge in comfort foods. The main reason for this is that mindful people can recognize what is good or bad for the goal they’ve set and act accordingly.
With regular yoga practice, you’ll be able to identify harmful eating and behavioral patterns for what they are and consequently, work on diminishing the effect they have on you.
Yoga can help you in more ways than one on your weight loss journey or towards your health goals. However, with that being said, it is necessary that you practice regularly and with the right guidance. It is best if you can go for a class and get instructed by a certified professional. However, if you aren’t able to do so, the next best thing would be to invest in a good-quality home workout video that is specially created to help achieve your fitness or health goals.
Some will say that being a mom is a fulltime job, others will say that it’s their purpose, while some will argue that it’s a little bit of both. All moms have their own take on their parental role, their responsibilities, and their desire to lead a fulfilling life both as a mom and an accomplished professional individual. Sometimes, it may feel as if you’re not up to the task of either, especially when your youngling goes through those milestones such as teething or first ear infections, and your boss wants the proposal done yesterday.
Fortunately, moms everywhere have come up with a slew of strategies to reach a fine balance between both. One can indeed fuel the other, and with the right planning and a little bit of creativity, you can make the most of both of these roles and enjoy them to their full extent – yes, even when the flu strikes!
Don’t play the guilt game
Way too often, moms blame their desire to have a career for missing out on certain moments that seem irreplaceable in your child’s life. The truth is, even if you were to spend every minute of your day at home, you’d likely miss some of them while you’re taking care of all the chores around the house, too, or while your spouse is spending time with your baby. Guilt gets us nowhere. Instead, try focusing on how you’re contributing to your child’s future as well as present with your professional goals. First off, you’re ensuring financial stability for the family, you’re able to save up for a college fund, send them to an amazing kindergarten, and you’re setting a real example for your kids to be independent, hard-working, and loving.
Quality childcare for your kids
When you’re handling those projects at work, and you know your child could use some more quality time with stimulating games and interaction with other kids, then you can start setting up their schedule in addition to your own. One of the best solutions is to let them join a playgroup with their peers and spend quality time playing, learning through games, and bonding with other kids. This is especially important for toddlers, at their most sensitive developmental age when it comes to cognitive advancement, developing motor skills, and the like. So, while you’re at work, your little ones can spend that time learning and playing with their friends.
Organize special family time
Quality time for your youngsters comes in many shapes and forms. Now that you have their childcare all set, you should also make time in your busy schedule to connect with your kids. Most moms can set aside their weekends for those special bonding sessions, for camping trips with the entire family, or picnics in the nearby park. If the weather won’t allow you to spend more time outside (and preferably away from those screens and digital gimmicks), you can head to your favorite restaurant for a family lunch.
Then again, sometimes staying at home can also give you time and space to bond with your family. You can cook together, make those extra special fudge brownies, and play fetch with your pooch. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant to inspire true bonding and build a stronger relationship with your kids.
Add some flexibility to your work
On the other side of the spectrum, your superiors need to show plenty of understanding and care for your priorities. As a mom, you’ll need to have the freedom for those unexpected trips to the doctor (once again, those ear infections can be quite a pain in the neck), and to stay at home and care for your kids if they get sick, or even if you’ve been just too busy spending extra hours at work.
In such situations, discuss flexible work hours with your boss. Perhaps you can work from home on certain days and attend meetings via Skype. You also need to set clear boundaries that work stays at work – no more late correspondences from home, when you should be reading a bedtime story. By all means, be in your full-career gal mode when you’re at work, but at home, don’t miss out on those special family moments.
Ask for help and support
Delegate! In every aspect of your life where you feel you need a hand, don’t be afraid to seek help and support from your family as well as your colleagues. Maybe someone can take over your shift when there’s a special occasion at school, or a parent-teacher conference. Then again, maybe the grandparents can step in from time to time and bond with their grandkids while you invest a little bit more time to wrap up an important client presentation. Maybe you can set up a carpooling system with other parents to have more time on your hands for self-care.
Essentially, balancing a packed schedule on both fronts can be more of a burden than a challenge when you avoid asking for support. Make sure you have a trusty backup system, and you’ll be able to nurture both of your roles in harmony.
Juggling momhood with your career will always come with unique challenges just for your situation. Use these tips to brace yourself and prepare yourself for them, and you’ll enjoy both of your roles even more!
I am constantly being asked, “Should I hire a coach?” … and my response is often to talk people out of it.
I know — I am a coach. Why would I do that? I absolutely believe in the power and process of coaching. However, I also recognize when people aren’t clear about what coaching is, or aren’t ready to make the investment of effort.
I appreciate all those that are interested in working with me directly. The truth is, I only take on a few coaching clients at a time. At the level I want to serve my clients, I don’t have the capacity for more.
So, for those who have reached out or are considering coaching, I’ve instead tried to help them think about:
Whether they actually need a coach.
How to select the right one.
I recently helped someone through this process, and she told me that it would make a great blog post, so here it is.
Before you hire a coach, ask yourself these questions and actually write down the answers.
What does success look like?
What would make this coaching engagement worthwhile?
What am I trying to accomplish?
First things first: If you don’t know what difference you want to see, then you don’t have the ability to enable a coach to help you make that change.
If you know exactly why you are hiring a coach — for example, to help manage the transition into a new role, to improve your presentation skills, or to shift the perceptions of the people around you — then you are at a good starting place.
The next thing to consider is: How will you know that you’ve accomplished success? Again, it comes down to really knowing what you want. Nobody can help you get where you want to be if you don’t even know where that is.
If those two questions don’t present a problem for you, then you need to find the right coach for you. Think about your working style. A good coach will challenge you to think. When you look into a potential coach, you can ask:
Do they have the skills that you are looking for?
Are they interested in working with you?
Do you get along well with them?
Then, of course, there are the logistical questions that you will need to use to filter out your coaches, like cost. If money is tight, maybe try a coaching program that you can leverage, instead of one-on-one work. If that doesn’t work and you’re still struggling, reach out to me! I have a team of coaches that are here to help. (If it would actually help, that is.)
Need a coach, but not sure how you’ll be able to afford one? Next week I will share some alternatives to paying for coaching.
Writing a book is always a humbling process. You have a plan for how it’s going to go and then, surprise surprise, it takes all kinds of turns you don’t see coming. The final version of The Connector’s Advantage has some sections that were not a part of the original outline.
Being a Connector, I talked to a lot of people about the book which evolved into including over two dozen expert’s advice throughout the pages. One of my favorite concepts came from a conversation with author and podcaster Robbie Samuels. The third section of the book is all about expanding your connections and how to be an Inclusive Networker.
Here’s a little excerpt from the book:
“We are in a time in history where showing respect for diversity and cultural awareness is a priority. As a result, there’s an increased sensitivity to what we say and an emphasis on political correctness. I believe most organizations and individuals are navigating with intentions of inclusiveness, though they’re often unsure how to execute on that objective.”
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and this concept of an Inclusive Networker has been fresh in my mind. All sorts of groups of people experience bias and struggle with inclusion, in corporate America today, including people of color, older workers, veterans, women, those with disabilities, and the list goes on.
A Connector has diversity, in every form, in their network. It is that breadth that makes someone a Super-Connector.
I tackle this topic in The Connector’s Advantage and, with the input of a few experts, suggest three tips to create a space where people can show up and share more of their full selves. This is how we create an environment of inclusion.
1. Recognize and embrace the unicorn within
How do you stand out? It’s likely that, at some point, this has made you feel uneasy. Instead, embrace it. Your differences give you power. Be an Inclusive Networker, starting with embracing yourself.
2. Don’t call out the differences, call out the similarities
Sometimes similarities are harder to see than differences, but they are always there. Watch your statements and make sure that they make people feel included instead of excluded.
3. Have a Host mindset
There is a difference between inviting someone and welcoming them. Which do you do? It’s not enough to just ask someone to join. Make them feel like they belong. Make them feel valued.
Social interactions are a subtle thing. Did you know that your body language or your level of eye contact can play a huge role in being an Inclusive Networker? It’s true! I talk about this and a lot more in The Connector’s Advantage, which is now available for preorder!
Couples fight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes these fights provide comic relief. At other times they threaten the very survival of the relationship.
Psychologist and relationship consultant James Creighton wrote his new book Loving through Your Differences: Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities to help reduce conflict between couples, especially those that are based on different perceptions or experiences of reality. The book’s primary aim is to empower couples with the knowledge and practical skills they need to choose to live happily and productively together, finding excitement and fulfillment, rather than disappointment and frustration, in their differences. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt.
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In our early years, we develop our perceptions of reality through our families. Every family shares some basic assumptions about the world. In fact, it is the willingness to accept these assumptions that help the individual belong to or have “membership” in the family. Often these shared assumptions are not verbalized, or the family may not have openly examined them. Because they are typically not conscious, they are sometimes referred to by people in the field of psychology as the “family trance” or as “family myths.” These myths may encompass rules about closeness or separateness and about what is just or fair, or right or wrong. They may prescribe rules for marital power-sharing and for communicating love or worth.
These myths often define our sense of the ideal partner or spouse, the ideal marriage, the ideal family, the ideal child. Each of us carries these expectations from the family in which we grew up. We learn our future family roles while we are children — unless we make the family myth conscious and choose whether or not to adopt it.
Some family myths don’t work well. For example, many families in which one or both parents abuse alcohol or are mentally ill create myths that permit the family to deny this reality. This can often lead to the children abusing alcohol or being attracted to a partner who does so or is mentally ill.
Each partner brings their family myths into a relationship. Even if we believe we have achieved some degree of separation from our families, these beliefs may continue to shape our relationships because we carry them forward without reexamination.
Here’s an example: Judy’s family proudly identifies as working class. This involves much more than the historical fact that they have worked in the steel mills for three generations. The family actively discourages behavior that is inconsistent with this working-class identity. Only certain cars are considered acceptable. No one would be caught dead with a glass of wine when there’s beer available. There’s pressure for family members not to get “above themselves” by getting too much education, buying fancy homes, or “acting like something they’re not.” For Judy’s family, success means being respected and liked by other working-class people.
Judy stretched the limits of the family myth when she went to the state university and earned a bachelor’s degree. While there, she met and fell in love with Dave, whose father is a senior marketing manager for a Fortune 500 corporation. Dave’s father is the second generation of an immigrant family and has made it to his present position by dint of hard work. He doesn’t have a college degree: in fact, he had to drop out of college to support his parents when the company his father worked for went out of business. The family is proud of Dave, who is the first person in their family to get a college degree.
At Dave and Judy’s wedding, there was obvious tension between the families. Many of Dave’s parents’ suggestions for the wedding were interpreted by Judy’s family as signs that Dave’s family didn’t think them good enough. To avoid this tension, Dave and Judy accepted jobs in a city some distance from both families. They like to think they have escaped from their families, but both feel isolated without the strong family support they once enjoyed.
With both Judy and Dave working, they can afford two new cars and even a new house. But each time they make a decision to make such a purchase, painful conflict erupts between them. What Dave sees as a reward for getting ahead, Judy sees as pretension. She even experiences a vague sense of disloyalty to her family. When Judy and Dave try to talk about these issues, their discussions often turn into bitter attacks of each other’s families, with many accusations and counteraccusations about caring more about approval from their families than about the other person.
Family myths create a sense of belonging. Adherence to the myths is a form of bonding. When the myths are challenged — when we think, feel, or act differently than the myth dictates — we may feel that we are traitors or that we are rejecting our families, and we may, in turn, feel isolated from or rejected by our families. Even when no family members are around to enforce the family beliefs, our inner voices effectively police our efforts to break away.
Judy’s family defines itself by its commitment to its working-class origins. Now that Dave and Judy are family, she sees his upwardly mobile behavior as an attack on her family and feels guilty if she participates in it.
For Dave, Judy’s insistence on maintaining working-class ways is incomprehensible. Dave’s immigrant family has struggled for three generations to escape poverty and everything associated with it. Dave feels that his wife should support him in acquiring the visible proof that his family has finally made it. When she does not provide this support, he interprets her reaction as “wallowing in irrational guilt.” Both Dave and Judy feel that the myths that define their families of origin are under attack, but neither is conscious of how much of their identity is tied up in these family myths.
Family myths play a large role in the ways we learn to handle conflict. I was raised in a family in which conflicts just weren’t “done.” Nobody talked about disagreements, and any child who brought them up was shamed. Conflicts remained underground. This family myth taught the children to avoid conflict and to suppress and distrust their own feelings. Avoidance, even suppression, of conflict was combined with a belief that the wife’s role was to be submissive to the husband. An imbalance of power in the relationship was built into the family by culture and reinforced by religion — at least on the surface. In reality, my mother did a great deal of maneuvering and manipulation until my father acknowledged her concerns.
My wife was raised in a family in which the predominant value was to stand up for oneself. This required open and often loud statement of opinions and judgments. Feuds were common: it almost required a scorecard to keep track of who was talking to whom. And conflicts didn’t seem to get resolved; family members just pulled away from each other.
I brought my family’s rules into our marriage, and my wife brought hers. After some bitter and hurtful fights — and marriage counseling — we began to set our own rules for handling conflicts. We set limits on the behaviors we engaged in during fights. For example, realizing that timing can be very important, we agreed on how to decide when we would discuss issues. She always wanted to talk about everything right away. I usually avoided discussing the issue as long as possible. Eventually, I agreed that we would always talk about the issue, but at a mutually acceptable time within twenty-four hours. We agreed not to expand the fight from whatever was the original issue, to just stick with one subject and put other issues aside until another time. We agreed not to use other people’s comments as ammunition, and to discuss only our own thoughts and feelings rather than bringing in what other people might think or say. Those were our issues; yours may be entirely different.
The only escape from disagreement over family rules is to agree on your own rules. Just accept that each partner brings a different set of rules to the relationship. As long as these two sets of rules remain unexpressed, they will conflict.
Identify the behaviors that bother you. Then discuss a way of behaving that is acceptable to you both. Each person should think about these things independently; then you can talk about them together and try out your new rules for a while. From time to time you may need to assess how well the rules are working.
Because rules for handling conflict may be part of family myths about what kind of people we are, changing the rules may also require reexamining those myths and changing at least part of how we’ve defined ourselves in the past.
In the end, myths are just that — myths. They help us organize our lives and assign meaning to our experiences, but sometimes they cease to be useful. When that happens, we turn from the old myths and seek new beliefs that can help us make sense of our lives.
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James L. Creighton, PhD, is the author of Loving through Your Differences and several other books. He has worked with couples and conducted communications training for nearly 50 years around the world. Visit him online at www.jameslcreighton.com.
There are countless diets, cleanses, and 30-day challenges all geared to help people lose weight, heal their digestion, and feel more energy. Yet, these temporary protocols fall short when it comes to true transformation. With all of the nutrition guidance available, why do millions of people weigh more than they want and feel anxious and depressed about it?
Nutrition expert Carly Pollack lived this vicious cycle until trial and error, and over a decade of academic study and self-healing, led her to the incredible insights she’s shared with thousands. In Feed Your Soul: Nutritional Wisdom to Lose Weight Permanently and Live Fulfilled, she presents her unique understanding of body science, brain wiring, and spiritual principles to facilitate real, long-term change. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.
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Before you can regain control of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotional state, you must first take a closer look at your internal guidance system. Two different voices are guiding you, and although they both sound like you, one is a much pushier, more obnoxious version and therefore steals most of your attention. This loud voice comes from your monkey mind, which I simply call the “mind” and many spiritual teachers call the “ego.”
The mind developed as a way to protect us; it was a means of survival. It helped us avoid danger and kept us alive by continually warning us of what could go wrong. As we have evolved as a species, the mind, sadly, has not. Think of it as an outdated computer that drives you crazy more than it helps you get things done. Now, I’m not saying the mind doesn’t step up in life-or-death situations. I’m talking about the other 99.999 percent of the time here.
The mind creates chaos through fear, judgment, comparison, and negativity. Its favorite diatribe is the one that convinces us of scarcity. We aren’t pretty, skinny, or rich enough. There isn’t enough time in the day, there aren’t enough good people in the world, and we don’t have enough willpower to make things happen. Whatever the heck it is, there just isn’t enough of it!
The mind’s second favorite story is that something is happening or has happened to us that “shouldn’t be” happening (or “shouldn’t have” happened). It convinces us that we aren’t supposed to have problems — and when we do, the mind creates massive suffering. The mind is excellent at dress-rehearsing a worst-case scenario. It finds a way to judge and blame as much as possible. If you aren’t judging someone else, then you are judging yourself. This constant uninvited commentary is the background of your every waking moment. From the minute you open your eyes to the moment your head hits the pillow, your mind does not shut up. Yeah, mind, I’m calling you out big-time, and I’m telling you to take a backseat; and PS, nobody likes you.
Luckily, there is a second guiding voice, and this one comes from your heart and soul, otherwise referred to as your intuition, true self, or inner wisdom. I like to call this voice my “higher self” because it triggers me to think about what I would say to myself if I were holding myself in the highest regard. Find a name for this place of wisdom that feels good to you, and begin to call on this voice to take the upper hand. Your higher self comes through in a whisper, a gentle guidance. It is always kind, compassionate, and loving. This voice lives only in the present moment, and it is available to us anytime we can quiet the mind enough to hear it. From this place, we are never arguing with “what is” because we are living in the moment, making new decisions as they arise.
Close your eyes right now (well, after you read these instructions) and place your right hand on your belly and your left hand over your heart. Take three slow, deep breaths. Now ask yourself gently, “What does my higher self have to say about this issue?” If you don’t hear anything right away, simply say, “I’m willing to slow down my mind and make room for my highest wisdom to come through.”
Because your mind has taken center stage for most of your life, it may take some practice to get your higher self to begin speaking up. Next time you are in a place of mental anguish, prompt yourself with the following questions:
What would I tell my best friend in this situation? What would be my sage advice?
Could this mean something different? What if the opposite of what I’m thinking is true?
What would love do? What would love say?
What do I think my future self (twenty years from now) would tell me about this problem or situation?
Listening to your higher self is the first step to taking back control from the mind. Witnessing your thoughts without giving in to them, while stepping back and deciding what you choose to think, is one of the most powerful tools you have for living a joyful life. If you control your mind, you control your plate. If you control your plate, you take back control of your body and your health.
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Carly Pollack is the author of Feed Your Soul and is the founder of Nutritional Wisdom, a thriving private practice based in Austin, Texas. A Certified Clinical Nutritionist with a master’s degree in holistic nutrition, Carly has been awarded Best Nutritionist in Austin five years running and has helped over 10,000 people achieve their health and happiness goals. Visit her online at www.carlypollack.com