All work and no play makes you dull, peroid.

I have been thinking about the profound truth of the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.  I believe this is true on multiple levels.  Overwork makes you literally dull – as in mentally slow – and much less productive.  It also makes you socially dull – as in boring (more about this in a minute).  Being both mentally sharp and interesting are important to career success and advancement.   So, I would argue that it is actually more productive to one’s career to NOT overwork.  Succeeding at work involves some element of being popular around the office.  In order to be well-liked we must engage in social contact and personal conversation with our co-workers.  If we remain totally focused on work (I am defiantly guilty of this), then we are missing out on this important aspect of our career success and satisfaction.  If we work too hard, forsaking all other activities, we cease to have anything interesting to talk about around the water cooler or in the lunch-room.  The answer to “what did you do this weekend?” can be quite a downer when the answer is always, “I worked”.  Overwork can make us socially stunted, withdrawn and, well boring…..boring to our co-workers, boring to our friends and family, boring to ourselves.

If you are guilty of overworking to the point where you don’t have much of a life to share with others or some good stories about your weekend to tell, then get out there and have some fun!

Salary Negotiation: The cost of avoidance and tips for success.

Note:  This is an article I published in 2011, which I have posted here in hopes that it is useful to those in or about to enter salary negotiations.  It was originally written for a women’s professional magazine but the principles apply to both men and women.  While men are more likely to negotiate than women, many men do not or could do so more effectively.

I am posting this now because I am currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In, on women, work and leadership, and she discusses this issue, among many others.

On average, women make 73 cents for every dollar that a man with similar education and experience makes in the same position. This “wage gap” is well documented and somewhat mysterious in light of the social and political gains women have made over the last few decades, including the 1963 Equal Pay Act and 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. There has been much speculation on the root cause of the wage gap, with all of the suggested reasons coming up short until the 2007 publication of the ground-breaking book “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation” by economics professor Linda Babcock and journalist Sara Laschever.  The book presents the argument that the wage gap is almost entirely explained by the fact that very few women compared with men (1 to 8) negotiatiate their starting salaries.  Let’s look at why this is the case:  Suppose an equally qualified 22-year-old man and woman apply for the same job and she takes the $25,000 offered without negotiating but the man successful negotiates his starting salary up to $30,000.  Now assume that each makes an identical 3% annual raise, despite his gender’s propensity to negotiate, By the time they are 60 years old, he will be making $93,000 and she will be making $76,000 . Her lost potential lifetime earnings of not negotiating for $5,000 more up front costs approximately $500,000 over her career!

You have to ask. By electing to negotiate, you already raise yourself above most of your competition. A Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 9 out of 10 recruiters were willing to negotiate salary and benefits with job applicants. Yet, only 1 out of 3 applicants surveyed said they felt comfortable asking. While the current economic milieu may dissuade job seekers from negotiating, consider the lifetime cost in the example above before you sign the initial offer.

Set your sights high.  Most scientists do not ask for enough. Employers typically make an offer, waiting for the candidate to argue for a higher salary, only to be surprised with a meek acceptance. One of the most significant ways in which employers judge your ability is through your confidence. If an employer is presented with 3 candidates with roughly similar CV’s, and 1 says that she’s worth more, who are they going to trust the high risk all important project with? A higher aspiration communicates confidence, and with it comes a higher salary.  Another way to increase your confidence is to make sure you have more than one offer on the table.

Don’t give away too much.  In many job applications, an employer will ask for your salary history and/or desired salary. When they ask you for that figure, respond that you do not know what you would require until you have a clear picture of the job requirements and potential for advancement over the next five years.  On application materials, it is perfectly acceptable to write “competitive”, “open”, or “negotiable” and leave those salary history numbers blank. Writing down those numbers pigeonholes you, and reduces your negotiation power.  Companies typically look at current earnings and offer that salary plus 8 to 10 percent. If you’re currently earning $75K but a job posting lists a salary range at $80-120K, you could end up getting placed at the low end of the range.

Do your homework. Use your network and the web to determine the worth of your skills, experience and the position.  Remember to factor in variables such as cost-of-living which varies regionally – the same salary in Houston will not go nearly as far in San Francisco.  Good resources are www.salary.com and www.payscale.com. Professional societies often research and publish pay scales in their field, and government job salaries are typically available to the public.

Know your minimum salary requirements as well as what you hope to make. You shouldn’t mention these in your response to the salary history question, but you need to give this some thought for negotiation. Remember that it is unlikely to get the exact amount of money you want. You will probably have to compromise. The trick is to figure out how much you are willing to compromise and what you will do if your boss doesn’t offer you a salary you find acceptable.  For example, are you willing to take less money for more vacation, flex-time or other perks?

Sell your value. Stress what you have to offer the employer. Explain why you deserve a good salary by pointing out your accomplishments. State your sources from your prior research. The interview chair is not the place to become shy or timid.

Show your passion and interest.  There is a real danger in focusing purely on negotiating effectively. The company may not know just how keen you are to join their organization. Let them know that the reason you’re negotiating is that you’re interested in joining them. This will increase your appeal, and may cause them to stop looking for others for the position – thereby increasing your negotiating power.

How to deal with rules and policies: If the employer is refusing to negotiate by stating that something is company policy, challenge it by asking the basis or reason for the policy. Ask what exceptions have been made, and the rationale behind these. Find a situation or context that would make you exempt from the policy. For example, if the policy isn’t applied to contracting staff, then ask them to change the position to a contractual one rather than a full time role. Most every rule has its exceptions.

Skip a grade. “We can’t pay you more than X, as this is the maximum allowed for your grade.” Heard this before? Insidiously effective if left unchallenged. To counter this, create a convincing argument as to why you are exceptional. Start by writing out all the ways in which you stand out from the run-of-the-mill competition.  What is the difference between the grade they want to cast you into, and the next grade or two higher? Make a case for your fitting into a higher grade with more appropriate pay.

Make mutual concessions:  When an employer is insisting that you are going to have tomake a concession, why not ask for one in return? For example, “If I accept this salary now, then would you be prepared to discuss awarding me a performance-related bonus plus a performance review in 6 months instead of 12 months?”

Look at the whole package. Do not limit yourself to money. Be sure to look at the whole package on offer. Consider sign-on and other bonuses, salary reviews, stock options, relocation expenses, medical and disability plans, professional memberships, profit-sharing plans, day care, tuition reimbursement, vacation and sick days, overtime policies, flextime options, etc.  These are all intangible factors which have worth to both you and your employer.

Take your time. When an offer is made, resist the urge to respond immediately. Take time to digest the salary offer. If necessary, say you will respond within 1 or 2 days in response to the offer. If it is less than what you were expecting, bring up your own research to move them upwards. Again, be prepared to illustrate your research with the resources at your fingertips. You are at your most powerful when responding to their offer. So take your time and make a good case.

Get all offers in writing. You do not want to commit yourself or turn down other positions without first knowing exactly what is being offered. Avoid making a decision before it is in writing. This doesn’t mean the offer is carved in stone; view it as a starting point for negotiation. Compare their written offer with your meeting notes.

Accepting the offer - Once an offer is given, you have the right to ask for a clarification on it. Asking “Is there any flexibility in this offer?” may help to open a discussion of increasing the offer. If it does, do not expect a large boost in base pay, but rather, an extra week of paid vacation, a signing bonus or other such perks.

This process is not all about arguing or claiming some prize.  It is about creating a trusting, long-term relationship.  Negotiation is a collaboration that is mutually beneficial to you and your future employer.

How to Maintain Your Energy, Prevent Burnout, and Get More Done

In our fast-moving, ever-changing world, it is easy to get overwhelmed by doing, doing, doing, with no time left for just being.  This lifestyle leads to stress, dissatisfaction, and even worse – burnout, which can bring with it a host of psychological (e.g. depression) and physiological (e.g. adrenal fatigue) maladies.  If we keep doing and doing, without any time for ourselves, this is the course we are headed on.  Yes, I know, given the demands of work, family, and other obligations, it is difficult to take time for yourself, but the cost of not doing so is high.  Even if we don’t succumb to burnout, we pay a high cost in energy and productivity levels.  Besides, life on the road to burnout is not much fun.

So, how do you maintain your energy when time is precious?  The first step is to find an activity you love, that revitalizes you, and do more of it.  This is highly personal: one person may be revived by alone time, yoga or quiet time, whereas another might get juice from going to a raucous party or exercising vigorously.  The trick here is to “know thyself.”  Think about activities you enjoy and determine which ones revitalize you and which ones drain you, then pick the revitalizing ones.

Usually, once you know what you would like to do more of, the excuses come out: “I would love to do that but I just don’t have time” or “X, Y, and Z have to get done before I could even think about that!”  The trick to battling those gremlins and critical voices is to motivate yourself to positive action by imagining all the benefits you will gain from taking this important step (more energy, productivity, lower stress, better relationships with others, etc.).  Make it concrete by writing down those positive benefits and posting it on your computer, refrigerator, screen saver, or car dashboard.  Next, commit to integrate this new action into your life on a regular basis.

Start small, so you can achieve your goals: Call one friend, workout for just 15 minutes, take a bath twice a week, or meditate for just 5 minutes a day.  There are thousands of possibilities. Pick one or two to try and a small enough amount of time that it is not overwhelming to fit into your schedule.  Once this becomes routine you can add more reviving activities and increase the time you spend on each. If you start out too big, you will probably find it difficult to move in this new direction.

The next step is to tell someone else about your plans and ask them to hold you accountable.  This is a critical step.  We are ten times more likely to do something if someone else expects us to.  Accountability makes it more real.  Depending on your chosen activity, you can even invite this person to join you, making it more fun too.

If you are stuck in the office or lab all day, you don’t have to wait until off hours to engage in reviving activities.  Here are some ideas for your work day as well:

  • Set a timer to go off at 30 minute intervals.  As you work, focus on only one activity or task at a time instead of multitasking.  When the timer sounds, take a short 1 minute break to close your eyes, breathe deeply, rest, and refocus.  Take a longer break after 2 hours for 10-15 minutes and get out for a walk around the block, dance to your favorite song, do some pushups, or (my favorite) yoga in your cubicle.
  • Play motivating upbeat music while working to keep your energy levels high.
  • Install software like Stretch Break or StretchWare to force you to take breaks and stretch.
  • Use Leechblock for Firefox or Nanny for Google Chrome to block out times when you can’t access social media and other distracting sites.  These distractions kill productivity and drain your energy.
  • Keep an idea book to dump your distractions in, and come back to them later.
  • Set times to answer email (every 15, 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes, or once a day depending on your work role and culture).  You don’t need to answer them as they come in.  Not only does it break your focus, decrease productivity, and disrupt flow, but it is draining to multi-task in this way.
  • Consider turning off your email; push alerts to your phone and/or desktop.

The list above touched on some ways to zap energy-sapping behaviors at work.  Let’s look at home too.  Can you identify things that sap your energy?  House cleaning, dishes, cooking, childcare?  Examine what you do and don’t need to do, and be brutally honest with yourself about this.  What can you outsource to a housecleaner, a nanny, an assistant, your partner or children?  What can you share with other parents, friends, or family members?  My best friend likes to say, “I decided that I could spend the money on a house cleaner or a marriage counselor and the house cleaner was cheaper!” I took her advice and hired one of my own, even as a struggling postdoc, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made for myself and my relationship.  Even when something seems expensive or out-of-reach, think about the cost of not doing it and the benefits gained if you do.

I want to leave you with some final words on the power of saying “no.”  Saying “no” is the best way to maintain your energy.  Despite the difficulty in doing so and our cultural upbringing to be nice, do it all, “not let others down,” or be “superwoman,” or “superman”, we have to say no sometimes.  When we look at it honestly, if we said yes to everything our lives would be impossible.  We make choices day by day and minute by minute .  We say yes to some things and no to others, constantly.  We often do this without examining the costs and benefits of each choice.  Instead, we do it unconsciously.   I challenge you, my readers, to become aware of these choices and ask yourself the following questions each time: What is the benefit of doing this?  What is the cost?  What is the benefit of not doing it?  What is the cost?  Then focus only on what you are trying to achieve, that aligns with your dreams and values, and revives and fills you.

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

- Warren Buffet

Bliss work

I was at the doctor today and was texting my husband to tell him that I had to go get “blood work” but my phone auto corrected “blood” to “bliss”, which got me thinking about the importance of “bliss work”.  Essentially fulfillment coaching is all about bliss work.  At its core it is about finding and following your bliss, as cliched as that sounds.

Recently, I have realized that I am happier than I have ever been in my life.  This new found happiness snuck up on me.  It didn’t come from a major change or radical shift in my life.  It happened slowly and incrementally. First, I examined 8 areas of my life: Career, Money, Friends/Family, Relationship, Personal Growth, Health, Home/Physical Environment, and Fun/Recreation.  I looked at which were lacking or I was neglecting and picked just one to improve.  I started with Fun/Recreation.

Of course, immediately my inner critic popped up and said, “you don’t have time for fun”.  And there was some truth to this.  With a full time job, a part-time coaching practice and various other projects, I hadn’t made much time for fun.  So much so that my fun muscle was seriously atrophying.  I realized, with horror, that I had forgotten how to have fun.  I worked with a coach on how to bring more fun into my workplace and decided to take regular “dance breaks” (go hide out in a back office for 5 minutes and dance my ass off to a tune I love).  This was not only fun but good exercise and a stress reliever.  I was increasing my fun and my health simultaneously!

Every few weeks I would pick a new area: I slowly started adding little things to my packed schedule that improved my fun, my health, and allowed me to have my time with friends and family.  I took a family ski trip, stared walking 15 minutes a day religiously and stopped flaking out on my already scheduled yoga classes. In the evenings, my husband and my coaching practice got prioritized over surfing the web and online shopping.  Each of these changes was small and incremental and it took 6 months to get there, but I can honestly say I have never been happier.

Bliss work doesn’t have to be hard.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  It can be fun and easy.  Just focus on what you want and make it happen, one baby step towards happiness at a time.

Tending to the garden of your life

I was just out for a walk in my neighborhood and was admiring all the cherry and magnolia trees in bloom.  Their blossoms remind me that it is late February, nearly 2 months into 2013, and are a elegant marker of time passing.  It seems that just yesterday it was the new year with new hopes and new resolutions.  Today’s walk was an opportunity to reflect on how far I have come, or not come in regards to seeds of intention planted on January 1st.  Walking every day was one of my new year’s resolutions, so the timing was apropos.

Our lives are like gardens and we must tend lovingly to them if we hope that they will bear ripe and delicious fruit.  We must plant the best seeds and provide water, good nourishment, love, and rich compost.  We must build fences to keep out the critters that would trample and eat up our hopes and dreams.  It is equally important to weed out negative thoughts and nay-sayers who would crowd out the delicate young shoots of our dreams and visions.

How well do you tend the garden of your life?  Do you plant strong seeds?  I am finding that if I plant a strong enough seed (or intention) I can sometimes get away with forgetting about it until suddenly a beautiful flower pops up when and where I least expect it, adding richly to the landscape of my life.

How big is your fish tank?

I have been meditating lately on a story called “Life In the Tank” from Mark Nepo’s Day Book: The Book of Awakening.  In it he tells of a friend who, when cleaning his fish tank, temporarily housed his fish in the bathtub and discovered that although they had they entire tub to swim in, they were huddled in a small area the size of their tank. Mark asks “what had life in the tank done to their ability to swim?” and wonders “in what ways are we like them? In what ways do we shrink our world so as not to feel the press of our own self-imposed captivity?”.

As children, and later as adults, we are raised and schooled to think a certain way, to believe certain things, and we are told that certain jobs or life paths are not acceptable or are out off reach.  We are warned by our parents, teachers, and society that life outside the tank, in the uncontainable world, is dangerous.  We are taught to play it safe, to not speak up, to refrain from doing the unplanned or unexpected, to not ask too many questions, to not love too deeply (because you might get hurt, you know….).  If you observe children you can see that they are not yet afraid to speak up, ask tough or embarrassing questions, spontaneously jump in mud puddles or to love deeply.  I believe this is our natural state of being and our birthright. Sadly, it is often lost on the road to adulthood.

In working with coaching clients, I see so many ways that we limit ourselves.  There are as many ways are there are people on this planet, but some are very common.  It is amazing how many of us find it excruciating difficult to ask for what we want (myself included).  We make all sorts of assumptions about what others want (we are usually wrong on this score) and how they will react (usually negatively in our fantasy). These assumptions form the walls of our tank and keep us confined and small in our relationships.  Yet we rarely stop to ask if our assumptions are correct or to check in with the other person to see if that is indeed the case.  We do the same thing in our work life, too frightened of life outside the tank to think about careers outside the box, from a place of fulfillment instead of a place of scarcity, fear and limitation.  We are so accustomed to life in the tank, that  we have forgotten that we live in a tank at all.  The glass is so clear that we are unaware of it.

How big is your fish tank?  How can you make it bigger?  Maybe it is time to remodel a little and expand the walls in which you live…….

 

I bet we can figure something out

This is a poem by the 14th century poet, Hafiz, which reminds me of coaching:

I BET WE CAN FIGURE SOMETHING OUT
How many times do you need to hear who you are
before you begin to cash some of that in and stop
acting like a beggar … for any kind of attention
from people who do not really love you?
Sweeping the streets the way that some do, with
eyes that might covet, is no longer fitting to us.
For we are everything’s lord.
There is no pride on my face, just the opposite.
I got to this great position in making myself
ready every moment to serve another.

All the alertness any creature might know, all
primal strength and agility, I would use if we
were near… to care for you in a way a divine
lion would its cub.
I don’t want you to leave me and go back into any
world that can frighten. What can I do? I bet we
can figure something out.

Perspectives and The Power of Choice

As we move through our days, our weeks, our lives we are always choosing. Even by not choosing something we are making a choice. And since our days only contain 24 hours, when we choose something, when we say “yes” to it, we also say “no” to something else. Often our choices are unconscious. We feel as if things are just happening to us, that we have no control. In order to have what we want, we must first become conscious of our choices.  Once we are conscious of our choices, we begin to realize that the perspectives we hold about something, everything (including our own happiness) are also choices.

Something may be happening to us or around us – that is simply what is happening.  How we interpret, view,  and perceive what is happening often affects how we react to it and how we let it affect us.  For example we could be walking in the woods.  We are walking, there are trees, the ground is wet from recent rains.  To one person this can be a beautiful hike in fresh air with everything fresh and sparkling.  To another it can be a muddy, messy waste of time.  Both people would be right here.  They simply hold different perspectives on the same thing.  Which perspective would you chose?  Which perspective do you chose every day, every moment?

Welcome to Fulfillment Life Coaching

Are you ready to find fulfillment in your life?

If you want to love your work, be successful, impactful, and still find time for the rest of your life…

If you know it’s time to create change in your career, life, or relationships but aren’t sure how, or what’s next…

If you are feeling stuck and uninspired by the way your life is going…

Let me help you find your calling, change careers or take your existing career to the next level of mastery and success.  My coaching programs blend your quest for meaning and fulfillment with the practical need to get results and build a successful career and a balanced life.

Want more information?  Email mara@fulfillmentlifecoaching.com to set up a free intro session and see if coaching is right for you.