Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Backwards Advice? Keep Your Clients “IN” Their Comfort Zone!

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

We’ve heard for years that “results come outside the comfort zone”! “Stretch yourself!” “Think outside the box.”

To some degree those statements are true. And yet, from what we know about brain-based research, there’s evidence that urging people to shift outside of their comfort zone may actually be less effective. Here’s why.

The Red Zone

blog post 1Our brains translate the phrase “Beyond the comfort zone” as “risk, threat, danger.” Risk, threat, and danger puts the brain into a fight-flight state. In that fight-flight state:

  • Cortisol and adrenalin are released,
  • Blood pumps to the large muscle groups so that we can fight or flee,
  • Blood flow is reduced in the executive function of the brain.

In short, it puts folks in what I call “the red zone”!

When blood flow is reduced to the prefrontal cortex (our executive brain), we are robbed of our ability to think as creatively, clearly, and strategically . . . the very thing we need to do when we are in an unfamiliar situation (aka, outside our comfort zones)!

The Blue/Green Zone

blog post 2Conversely, if we can help clients shift into the blue/green zone, they will be operating with full-functioning capacity of their brain. When all of this happens, “happy” neurotransmitters are pulsing through the brain and the body—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, etc.—and, in turn:

  • Ideas flow and insights comes
  • Possibilities and hope increases
  • Energy rises, which gives rise to courage and confidence

So, the next time you’re working with a client and you notice they’re feeling out of their comfort zone, shift them into the brain’s “comfort zone”—that blue/green space of creativity and confidence first! In doing so, you are creating new neural pathways that will make the new thing (the change, the challenge) no longer outside the comfort zone, but part of it! That’s powerful!


Life’s Vice Grip, or Life’s Hugs?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Have you or your clients ever felt like Life had you in a “vice grip”? A vice grip is something unpleasant that you (or your clients) would love to get out of, and yet you can’t! For example:

  • shutterstock_212341042The uncertainty of how long a job search will last
  • Bills that need paid and not enough money
  • A relationship that’s causing angst
  • A job that is killing you, but feeling like you can’t quit
  • New skills that need mastered without the hope you can learn it all
  • Important projects that need done and not enough time, focus, or energy to finish

The vice grip can feel like an intersection of uncertainty, pain, fear, lack, and loss of control. You want things to change. You want it to be fixed. Or you wonder if it’s possible to be fixed. Or you wonder if anyone even knows what you’re going through, or cares.

Being a student of emotional intelligence, I’ve been acutely aware of how my current vice grip is causing me to react (I’ll skip the details—suffice to say that I can claim several of the bullets above … and I’m probably amongst good company!).

I vacillate between being nervous and scared, then kicking into action to control whatever controllables I can, then back to being nervous and scared, then wondering if things will work out, then back to being nervous and scared, then taking action, etc. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.

shutterstock_97094300In the midst of all of this, I stumbled on an article about why hugs are important. Hugging allows us to relax, and enables us to be more resilient. The writer suggested an exercise, for example, that when a spouse comes home from work, the other spouse should greet the partner with a full-frontal hug—and hold the hug long enough until each feels the other relax. (Absent a spouse, look for a friend, family member, or even a pet to try this out—it works!).

And then I saw a bigger-picture connection. Maybe life’s vice grips are really Life’s full-frontal hugs—circumstances allowed into our lives that cause us to hold tight to our values, tap into our strengths, believe it will all work out . . . and relax.

And like the full-frontal hug exercise, we must hold on until we relax. And with that relaxation, we find the calm-connect and energy-action to meet the possibilities in front of us. With gratitude. With creativity. With perseverance. With love.


Do You See What I See?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

shutterstock_138535850My daughter passed along a You Tube video to me recently that really caused me to stop and ponder. Dove (the soap people) hired a talented forensic artist to create sketches of ordinary women based on verbal descriptions only. Separated by a curtain in a loft filled with beautiful light, the artist asked one woman at a time to describe herself. “Tell me about your hair. Tell me about your chin… your jaw … your most prominent feature…,” he asked.

Prior to entering the artist’s loft, each woman had been introduced to another woman—a stranger who was given instructions to simply get to know the person. The stranger, unaware of the sketching experiment, was ushered into the studio a bit later. The artist once again began his questioning to draw a second composite of the original woman, this time from the perspective of the stranger: “Tell me about the woman you just visited with … her hair … her chin … her jaw … her most prominent feature.”

The two sketches were later revealed side by side. In each case, the self-description sketch looked harsh and less attractive, while the stranger’s description was softer, gentler, and more alive. Clearly, the strangers saw a uniqueness and beauty that the women couldn’t see or own.



If you’re working with clients who see the worst in themselves (and shoot themselves in the foot in the process because of it), consider this coaching idea:

Give your client a comparison assignment: Ask the client to describe him/herself in just 1 word plus and then list 3 of your best professional skills. Next, have the client ask some close friends to “describe me in just 1 word, and then 3 of my best professional skills.” (As a variation, a tool such as the 360Reach can also generate some positive feedback.) If the client operates from a faith-based dimension, ask how a loving and merciful God would describe him/her.

Once the results come in:

  • —  Explore the comparisons.
  • —  More importantly, explore what it would take to “own” the compliments and accolades that come in … or the motives/rationale for not believing the good things that others say.
  • —  Offer “stretch requests” by asking the client to be grateful for those specific attributes!
  • —  shutterstock_131955923Look for ways that the compliments translate into part of the client’s value to employers and gift to the world!

All of these activities can add to your client’s confidence and resiliency!

P.S. Here’s the Dove video!


Leveraging Gratitude in Career Coaching

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

infographic gratitudeNumerous researchers in the field of positive psychology have learned that gratitude impacts many areas of our lives, as the infographic to the right shows:

•        Happy people’s income is roughly 7% higher

•        Grateful people on average give 20% more time and dollars.

•        Grateful people will have 10% fewer stress-related illnesses, be more physically fit, have blood pressure that is lower by 12%.

•        Grateful people are 20% more likely to get “A” grades

I wish there were statistics on how gratitude impacted job seekers’ success rates! If there were such stats, I’m confident they would show that grateful job seekers network more easily, get jobs faster, and negotiate bigger salaries (this last one is borne out in the first bullet above, with happy people having incomes 7% higher).

Gratitude ushers in the concept of provision. It causes us to view the world through a lens of possibility instead of problem, to believe “I have everything I need … right now.” The negative emotions of fear, anxiousness, and worry are based in anticipation of not having enough …  not having enough control, certainty, time, money, energy, health, protection, resources, wellbeing, wisdom, appreciation, acceptance, trust, ease. Simply put:

half full half empty•        Lack of enough is scarcity.

•        Plenty of enough is abundance.


Practical Application

So how do you leverage gratitude when coaching your clients? If you are working with someone who is bummed out over a job loss, be cautious about coming straight out and saying “what are you grateful for?,” because it can sound insensitive.

Instead, first acknowledge the pain. For example:

“I hear the frustration… not what you were hoping for.”

And then, consider saying something like”

“Without denying those feelings, what do you hope this situation will open up for you … make possible for you?”

This is a way of tapping the gratitude emotion without using the word “grateful” or “gratitude.” So, dear colleagues and friends, what do you hope your current situation will open up for you?! :)


Leadership Coaching-Shifting from Entitled to Empowered

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

shutterstock_66132007(1)Have you ever worked with a coworker, employee, or coaching client whom you just wished could shift from “entitled” or “victim” thinking to “empowered” and “victorious” thinking? How different would our lives be–our careers, companies, families, communities, nations be–if we defaulted to the latter (empowered, victorious)?

I often hear managers and coaches ask the question, “How do I get someone to shift from ‘entitled’ to ‘empowered’?” Here are a few ideas:

shutterstock_131766014LEAD: Lead first. Live it yourself. Start by being a role model. See possibility and provision in every challenge, every routine, every everything . . . everywhere and all the time.


shutterstock_164791667LOVE: Love them. I know. It sounds a little politically incorrect to use the word “love” in the workplace, so let me explain. Care about the people you are coaching or managing—be interested and intrigued by who they are, what they can become, how they can contribute. Be selfless—do not be concerned about potential negative consequences to yourself if the person you’re coaching/managing gets what he wants (e.g., a manager who doesn’t want his “golden goose” producer to get promoted because it will leave the manager in a lurch).


shutterstock_158356859LEVERAGE: Leverage them. Leverage their strengths. No one can or will move forward when focusing on what’s wrong with them, what’s missing, what isn’t up to par. But when they look at their strengths—when you help them focus on their strengths—you’ll see a visible change happen…a hope and confidence that wouldn’t be there otherwise.


shutterstock_131706869LOOK: Look into the future with them. Explore what they want, whether today, tomorrow, ten years from now. Note: It’s best to do the looking forward after you’ve done the prior tip of “leveraging,” because people will be in a more optimist place to dream about what they want to create when they’re operating from their strengths.


shutterstock_109555592LEARN: Explore with the person what she needs to learn to move forward, to do things differently, to gain new ground. All too often, if we haven’t achieved a meaningful goal, it’s simply a matter of learning new skills, new thinking, new feelings that will support the goal. Look for opportunities to apply the learning, whether in a stretch role, with additional responsibilities, in a special assignment, or in an existing role.

Enjoy empowering yourself and supporting others in the process!


What’s your Wiring–Growth and Gain or Drought and Drain

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

garbage-in-outGIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. The same can be said about the wiring in our brain. Wiring that we have created over the decades, whether intentionally or unintentionally, may be good and helpful, or it may be bad and draining/disruptive.

The good news is that if you’ve got a negative habit or thought pattern that you’d like to get rid of, it’s just a matter of creating new wiring. That allows us to change the GIGO acronym to Good In, Good Out. Sound good?

So how do you create new wiring? Here are four ways to flip the “on” switch in your brain. There are 2 F’s and 2 R’s, or F2R2 for short:


shutterstock_1327892121.       Focus: What we focus on grows. Research showed that participants who were blindfolded for 30 minutes began growing new neural pathways in the auditory processing areas of their brains.  So choose where your focus will be this week: is it on growth and gain or is it on drought and drain?


shutterstock_1047168292.       Future: Looking into the future kicks our brains into the prefrontal cortex where we can envision the future, see possibilities, explore options, and create a picture of what we’re moving toward. Whether you want to look  years down the road or 6 minutes into the future, think about what you want to create.


shutterstock_1265292593.       Reward: When you are expecting a reward, your brain will be more attentive. What’s the reward you want as a result of your future focus? Is it more income, more clients, more job opportunities, more peace? Name the reward. Explore it. Flesh it out in your mind. What’s your reward?


shutterstock_929713214.       Relevance: To create new wiring, the topic must be relevant to your needs. Learning how to speak Chinese (if that’s a goal) will not be easily attained if there isn’t some relevance attached to it. It (learning Chinese) will quickly be drowned out by the barrage of other competing priorities. So make sure your goal is relevant for this time-and-space in your life. Rate it on a scale of 1-10. If it’s not a high score, what needs tweaked in order to make it higher?


If you’re working with job seeker clients, this one question can encompass all four of the above F2R2 elements: What do you want to focus today that will you move you toward your rewarding and relevant goals?

The question can also work for us individually as coaches. So what’s your focus?


Perceiving Provision

By Susan Whitcomb | 1 Comment »

Do You Have What You Need?

shutterstock_86875375When we get stuck in life or work, it’s usually because we don’t have what we need. The “lack” can come in the form of not enough energy, wisdom, resources, time, connections, money, belief, and so on. The “stuckness” causes us to focus on what’s missing. And when we focus on what’s missing, we miss what’s already there. It’s like watching for a train coming from the north when it’s really approaching from the south.

So how do you perceive provision when you feel and think that it isn’t there?

First, explore the word “perceive” with me. To perceive … to recognize, to voice, to understand, to observe, to point out, to be aware of, to be awake to, to be amazed by, to be in wonder of.

Next, consider these steps:

  • Point 1Perceive Life’s Provision. Start with the places where you are already satisfied. Even when there are places that don’t yet feel satisfied. Do so, just as a wise and magnanimous mentor might look on the person he is mentoring. The mentor sees perhaps an early version of himself in his career, not yet fully matured in character and wisdom. Nonetheless, the mentor doesn’t focus on what’s missing, but focuses on what’s there already, what is good, what to build on, what to add to, and what can be.
  • give thanksAcknowledge the Provision. Speak about the places where you are satisfied. Choose people you trust. Share with coworkers, coaches, mentors, friends, family members. Whisper your thank you’s silently throughout the day. Mention them out loud in the lunch-room/break-room with a coworker. Comment on them over the dinner table at home.
  • shutterstock_108957806Notice the Shifts. As you focus on the places you’ve been “satisfied” and share those experiences with yourself and others, notice the differences in your thinking, your attitude, your heart. When the heart is satisfied, all else is at rest (even when it looks like there isn’t ‘enough’). And speaking of rest . . .
  • Rest. Sometimes we push and press and labor and strive … and there are times when that is appropriate. But there also need to be times of shutterstock_127651703rest, of contemplation and “wool gathering,” of doing something completely different to give your brain a chance to bring you new insights, oftentimes around the very place where you felt stuck. And voila, you’re unstuck.

Wishing you a meaningful measure of provision this day.

Enjoy this bit of wisdom? You’ll learn both practical tips and poignant truths like this in the Certified Career Management Coach program.

Next classes begin Jan 28 and Jan 29, and there’s a $500 EARLY-BIRD SAVINGS through Jan 22nd AND a free ticket to our new live program, Social Media for Skeptics and Non-Social Media Enthusiasts!, when you register. Info here: or start the registration process here:


Put On Your H.A.T. to Succeed in 2014

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

This month’s posts have centered on creating G.O.A.L.S. and how to W.I.N. by staying calm, focused, and perseverant. Here’s one more acrostic to support your success this year.


HopeH – Hope: It’s easy to set goals, get excited about them, and then a few days or weeks later, lose hope that they are possible to achieve. Hope is essential for survival. As I’ve quoted before (thanks John Ortberg), “We can survive the loss of anything, except hope.” At its core, hope means that we want something. We want tomorrow to come and for it to bring good things . . . something better, something more, something different. What do you hope for?


ActionA – Act: Take the next right step. Then take the next right step. And then again. As Joe Girard quipped: “The elevator to success is out of order. You must take the stairs, one at a time.” Act strategically. Do it right. Do everything humanly possible. One of my coaches, James Malinchak, was asked how he continues to fill his Big Money Speaker seminars with 700+ people several times a year. He’ll tell you: “I don’t know one way to get 700 people in a room. But I know 70 ways to get 10 people there.” What’s the next right step for you?


trustT – Trust: The first two steps make sense, don’t they? Hope involves visioning. Act involves responsible action. But trust? Doesn’t that sound a little irresponsible? Yes—IF you haven’t done steps one (hope) and two (action). But if you have done your hopin’ (visioning) and your actin’ (responsibly, thoroughly, repeatedly), it’s time to rest. Trust that things will turn out. I cannot control the final outcomes, nor can you. I can control what I hope for and what I take action on. I hope you will, too.


hatH.A.T.’s off to you and your success this 2014!



Enjoy this tip? This is just one of hundreds of tips, tricks, and techniques we teach in the Certified Career Management Coach program.

Next classes begin Jan 28 and Jan 29, and there’s a $500 EARLY-BIRD SAVINGS through Jan 21st AND a free ticket to our new live program, Social Media for Skeptics and Non-Social Media Enthusiasts!, when you register before next Tuesday. Info here: or start the registration process here:


How to W.I.N. in 2014

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

2014 Goals

If you’re like a great number of people, you penned some goals for 2014. If you missed my “A Fresh Take on G.O.A.L.S.,” be sure to review it here.

And, if you’re like me, those goals, as appealing as they sound, can collide and conflict with the very busy and full life that you already lead.



So how do you make progress when things can feel overwhelming?

Do the next right thing.


I heard a speaker, Dr. Bill Dorfman, author of Billion-Dollar Smile and celebrity dentist featured on “Extreme Makeover,” once say that we need to focus on the “WIN.” His acrostic for WIN stood for “What’s Important Now?”

What's Next?So what do you do when you feel like you have multiple “importants” sitting in front of you? Let’s face it. It’s rare when we don’t have multiple “A” priorities vying for our attention. That’s when it’s important to remember one of my favorite mantras:

You have everything you need … right now.

Holding an “everything-you-need” mindset shifts our perspective from fight-flight to possibility-empowerment.

Assuming you’ve already got your “to accomplish list” (aka “to do list”) in written format (if not, pick up a copy of David Allen’s bestseller, Getting Things Done), then consider this simple process (trust me, we need things to be simple when we’re in overwhelm mode!):

  • First, breathe. It’s so simple, of course, but we forget that our brains need oxygen in order to function. With your hand lightly on your heart, take 3 or 4 deep breaths, 3-4 seconds in, 3-4 seconds out (or whatever pace is comfortable). Feel better already?
  • Second, revisit your priorities, whether they be for the day, the week, the month, the year, your lifetime.
  • Third, quiet your mind and ask yourself, “What’s important next?” I will often simply whisper a prayer, “Show me what to do next.” Invariably, an answer comes to mind.
  • Fourth, do it. If the task at-hand is big, consider breaking the task into smaller steps.
  • Fifth: Rinse and repeat.

In coaching and mentoring hundreds of career coaches over the past decade-plus, I rarely see a dearth of dreams. More often, I see an inability to execute. Make this new year a year for executing, following through, WINNING.         Win Win

Do the next right thing . . . even if it’s a seemingly small step. You’ll be surprised how they can add up.


A Fresh Approach to G.O.A.L.S.

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

goals-1-2-3As many of you are doing in December, I’m working on my goals for 2014. In doing so, I wanted a fresh approach to the process.

Here’s what I came up with . . . maybe there will be an idea or two in here that inspires you!

G – Gain | Grow | Get More Of

  • In what ways do you want to gain, grow, get more of? Consider traditional categories of Career, Business, Finances, Health, as well as nontraditional categories such as Character, Relationships, Reputation, Perspective.

O – Overcome | Oust | Less Of

  • What do you want less of this year? What situations, bad habits, negative thinking, toxic relationships do you want to overcome or oust from your life?

A – Allow Life to Lead | Abide

  • How will you invite Life to unfold this coming year without striving, worrying, or working too hard? For those with a God orientation, how will you invite Him to love you, lead you, guide you, provide for you this year? How will you abide in Him?

L – Limelight

  • What is/are the major initiative(s), project(s), theme(s) you want to keep in the limelight/spotlight for 2014?

S – Service

  • Whom do you want to bless with your talents, gifts, and services this coming year? How will you do so?

And, please receive my heartfelt wishes for a year of significance and success!


P.S. If you’re a careers professional doing some last-minute year-end tax planning and thinking about write-offs, there’s still time to take advantage of our holiday special pricing that ends 12/31/13. Check out the savings of up to $400 here – and yes, payment plans are available!


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