The Brain We Can’t Control

We’ve all found ourselves in problematic situations of our own making, even when striving for self-improvement. We know what we expect from ourselves, but still realize we made decisions totally counterproductive to those expectations.

It shouldn’t surprise you that this is especially common with teenagers. People can be quick to judge the behavior of teenagers, but it’s a confusing and frustrating point in life when it can be hard to align your intentions with your actions. There’s actually science behind this. Below is an explanation from the pages of SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge. (SUCCESSFoundation.org offers free downloads of the e-book, facilitator’s guide and audio to qualifying public schools, churches and nonprofit youth-development programs.)

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Your brain has both conscious and unconscious functions, and it’s important to understand the difference.

Related: What Successful People Know About the Mind That You Don’t

Your conscious brain is the part that does the “thinking.” It focuses intensely on one thing at a time, like a flashlight beam scanning a dark room. The conscious brain is incredibly powerful at what it does, but its scope is very limited. For example, you can’t remember more than a few numbers in your head at one time. Prove this to yourself: Open the phone book, read three phone numbers at random, close the book, and see if you can remember even one of them.

But your subconscious? It can remember lots of information at the same time! If your conscious brain is like a flashpoint, shining on one object at a time, your subconscious brain is like a floodlight that lights up everything at once—but only on a subconscious level (which means you’re not aware of it).

Your conscious brain is easily distracted. The average person loses focus six to 10 times per minute. How often does your subconscious lose focus? Try never.

That’s the key that most people don’t realize. We think of our conscious functions—our will, our conscious decisions, our conscious thoughts—as what is really “us,” and our subconscious as something that’s going on under the surface and not so important. The truth is, the subconscious runs virtually everything.

And that’s why some people end up in negative situations or living the life they don’t want. They say to themselves, “How did I get here?!” They got there on automatic pilot—their actions programmed them into the life they ended up with. They weren’t conscious of their choices.

So, how do you program your life? How do you help your subconscious make the right choices and decisions? In the same way you learned to walk or tie your shoes or skateboard: by taking small, positive steps over and over, until your actions are handed off to your subconscious. Then you can take those steps without thinking.

Because at that point, they’ve become a habit.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Better Decisions

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To download the SUCCESS for Teens e-book, learn about the program, share your story about it or make a contribution, visit SUCCESSFoundation.org. Leaders, participants and donors can request a profile in SUCCESS by emailing info@SuccessFoundation.org. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

3 Effective Exercises to Build Stronger Teams

If you start with the premise that we’ll build stronger teams when we first build stronger relationships with the people on them, you can apply several techniques I learned from the social organizers at Change.org to build stronger connections between people in more traditional work environments.

Related: The Road Map to Great Teamwork

It is common in social organizing for people to start by learning about each other and building deep and authentic relationships that help the group navigate challenges together. This is starting to happen in more and more organizations, from schools to companies. Sometimes this is done in ways that may seem “touchy-feely” or over the top to people who are part of more traditional organizations, but after integrating many of them at Change.org, I can say that we won over even the most skeptical of engineers and businesspeople.

Here are a few examples of the types of exercises I’ve found effective:

1. Lifelines

Break people into small groups, and ask everyone to describe three to five key moments or events in their lives that have influenced who they are today. It’s an amazing way to break down the barriers between people and gain a deeper understanding of one another. These conversations are kept strictly confidential between the group members and, as a result, build enormous trust. I’ve heard stories about dealing with racism and the deaths of loved ones, recollections about inspiring mentors, unusual job opportunities, and more. It’s a great way to deepen the relationships among your team.

2. Storytelling

Building upon the lifeline exercise, encourage people to tell a meaningful story about their life in front of a larger group. One of the most memorable sessions we ever had at a company retreat was to hold a storytelling night in front of a campfire. Ten people from the company had volunteered to tell a powerful story from their life in front of the whole company, which they had rehearsed beforehand. The stories we heard that night had us laughing and sobbing and appreciating the courage of the people who were willing to share so much of themselves. And their willingness to be exposed made everyone more willing to be open with each other.

3. Appreciations

One of the most effective techniques I have seen to build trust within a group is appreciations. At the end of a project or an off-site meeting, we ask the group to share things they appreciate about each other. We go around the circle, giving each person a few minutes to be appreciated. The rest of the group can chime in with reasons why they appreciate that person, ideally using specific examples. The whole group isn’t required to speak, but I’ve found there are usually more people who want to talk than time available. Don’t get me wrong: It’s awkward to be publicly appreciated by people. It’s not something that most of us have experienced or are comfortable with. But it is also extremely moving. We so rarely take the time to tell others in our lives why we appreciate and admire them that when we do, it’s unexpectedly powerful.

These types of activities build deeper and more meaningful relationships among co-workers, which then helps you work more effectively together. I’ve noticed that it helps with conflict resolution in particular; the stronger the foundational relationship between two people, the more easily these conflicts are resolved or avoided altogether. And knowing more about their colleagues helps people assume the best. In fact, lots of people on my teams will tell you that when they come to me with an issue they are having with a colleague, my advice is “first, go have a beer” (or a cup of tea, you get the idea). If you can get to know someone first, then everything after that just comes more easily.

I’ve met some people who are skeptical that these techniques could work in their organization. Often, they tell me that they think these are great ideas and that they see how they could work inside a social change company, but that they couldn’t work elsewhere. I strongly disagree. If we could get engineers and accountants to appreciate these activities, they can work anywhere. Tools that build deeper understanding between people add value to teams of any kind, from universities to traditional businesses to sports teams. After all, underneath our protective Spanx, we are all just human.

Related: How to Connect With Different Personality Types

 

Excerpted from Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter? by Jennifer Dulski, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jennifer Dulski, 2018.

6 Steps to Create a Culture Shift That Sticks

Why should organizational culture be important to you? If you don’t have an immediate answer, it probably means this topic doesn’t receive much attention from your executive team. You may even think of culture as one of those “soft” aspects of business that doesn’t drive results.

The truth is, your company already has a culture, whether it was created intentionally or not. For culture to be a priority, you need to have a personal investment in it and understand that it does indeed have an effect. A positive culture can boost results, while a negative one can depress them.

Related: How to Turn Excuses Into Results

Why culture?

Culture has become a buzzword in the last several years because of an increased emphasis on branding and image. Fun-loving or socially minded cultures get a lot of attention; we’ve all seen popular companies with things like creative office spaces, gourmet coffee bars, environmental focus and one-for-one giving.

Many companies use these perks and social agendas to attract young employees to arduous jobs. Doing data analytics all day may not be the sexiest job, but getting a free soy latte helps take the edge off. Culture has emerged as a way to entice and retain both employees and customers.

The biggest mistake leaders make when attempting to shift their company culture is trying to force something that is incongruent with reality. Culture must have a strong and meaningful foundation and have the backing of leadership. Putting a ping-pong table in the office isn’t going to singlehandedly change the culture if the culture is already well established to the contrary.

I once worked with a CEO who was an extremely critical micromanager. You can imagine the kind of culture this created. If she had suddenly decided that her company was going to be a cool and laidback place to work, it would have been very difficult to execute. The atmosphere was so severe that instead of embracing a new culture, employees would have simply been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Creating a company culture that has staying power starts with having clarity around values. If you know what your company stands for, you can translate those values into a culture. The key is to reinforce these values internally so that everybody on the team understands the what and the why—as well as how to execute work that supports those ideals.

Here are six steps to build and maintain a culture that sticks:

1. Understand your core values.

Identify the three to five principles that are the most important to your company. Then pinpoint how these core values can become mission-driven and the ways they might influence how you work. When you implement values at the practical level, you can start to say, “This is how we do it. This is the XYZ way.”

2. Do a culture audit.

To get to where you want to go, understand where you are starting from. First do an evaluation internally to see how your core values are being implemented and demonstrated (or not) throughout every department. Then examine from an external perspective to see how customers and potential employees perceive your organization.

3. Look for the gaps.

And identify what it will take to close them. It may be that the core values expressed by the executive management are so far off from where the company is that you need to go back to square one. Or you may just need to make small adjustments. For example, if the accounting department is letting calls go to voicemail and not modeling your “customer service” value, you can easily institute a change where someone directly answers those calls.

4. Evaluate leadership.

If you have a culture that is toxic, the executive team must do some serious self-examination, whether it’s a 360 evaluation or bringing in an outside facilitator. Many times, leaders can be blind to their own shortcomings, especially if they have built a successful company and if most employees are tolerant. A culture that sticks starts from the top, not only when it comes to buy-in but also implementation.

5. Start small first.

Begin implementing little changes that fall in line with the stated values and fill the identified gaps. Trying to do everything all at once will only lead to failure and frustration. Make the shift in digestible chunks, rolling it out over several months.

6. Keep it in check.

For any cultural shift to stick, you must be consistent. Make monthly, weekly or even daily efforts to support the new culture—and to check in with how progress is going. Give your team tools to reinforce values on their own. One of my clients, for example, came up with an acronym that is descriptive of its core values. It is used internally and helps the team recall their cultural foundations in any situation.

Shifting a culture is truly a dynamic process because what it represents to you and your employees may change over time. You can undertake this type of initiative when you want to strengthen your brand or enhance your ability to attract top talent. Whatever the reason, create a plan for implementation and execute methodically to be successful.

Related: 5 Must-Have Traits of Successful Leaders

10 Powerful Quotes on Leadership

What makes a great leader? What does that kind of leadership look like?

Let these words show you what it means to become a leader, and then allow them to empower you to lead well.

1. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch


2. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan


3. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell


4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou


5. “There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment.” – Orison Swett Marden


6. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker


7. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter


8. “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


9. “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” – Warren Bennis


10. “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” – Jim Rohn

The Power Look You Need to Get Ahead

Women are succeeding in their careers now more than ever. We’re making our voices heard and our hard work noticed, and we’re rising to the top because we believe in ourselves.

You have to believe in yourself, and what you wear to the office matters. Your appearance represents how you see yourself, and if you want to be powerful, you must first look and feel powerful.

Whether you are aiming for a promotion, leading an important meeting or presenting a groundbreaking idea, you need to project confidence—and that starts with your outfit. Here are a few ways to dress for the occasion while remaining coordinated, comfortable and professional.

Wear your favorite outfit.

You should always dress to impress at your job. When you like the way you look, you will feel great about yourself and your confidence will radiate, becoming noticeable to your boss and co-workers. Wear an outfit that feels familiar and boosts your mood instantly. That could mean stepping into a tailored power suit, donning your favorite dress or grabbing your go-to handbag.

You can use your company’s dress code and the office environment as guidelines, but aim to outshine your usual everyday attire. Choose an outfit that makes you feel strong, confident and powerful. The idea is to portray and project so much confidence that it is contagious to your fellow employees. They will be subconsciously more inclined to listen, act and support you with intention.

Pay attention to fit.

Your clothes should fit well and give you room to move around comfortably. When you have a lot on your plate—both in your mind and on your desk—you want to avoid uncomfortable clothing adding to your stress levels. The calmer you are when leading a meeting or confronting your boss for a raise, the better you will be at expressing your wants and needs for your career.

Accessorize accordingly.

Opt for simple, classic pieces like a gold watch, kitten heels or a black leather handbag. Speaking of handbags, pick one that’s large enough to fit your laptop or files but not so large that it’s cumbersome to carry to and from business meetings. Stick to a structured shape, which appears more put-together, and choose a style with plenty of internal pockets to stay organized.

The great thing about fashion is its ability to affect someone’s perception—including your own! If you look good, you will feel good, and that will be reflected in the way you carry and present yourself in a sticky situation. If you can handle these opportunities with poise and positivity, chances are that your peers will grant you the respect and authority you deserve. Stand up tall and wear your powerful look with pride. Plus, there’s no better way for a woman to excel in her career than to look fabulous while doing so.

Related: The Psychology of Color: How What You Wear Can Affect Your Work Performance

 

Blogger Allie Lochiatto writes for her site, Allie Wears, and for thredUP.com, an online and offline consignment and thrift store with handbag and workwear options.

How to Get That Promotion You Want

After a year working as a human resources manager, I thought I was ready for a director-level promotion. Or, more accurately, I was worried that continuing to perform tactical HR responsibilities that could be easily outsourced wasn’t a sound long-term career plan. So my goal was to do more strategy work in the field of HR.

The only problem? I had literally no idea what that meant. So I enrolled in a 12-month program alongside other HR professionals with the goal of figuring out how we could bring more strategic thinking to our jobs.

After I finished the class, I set out to prove how “strategic” I was, but it was an epic failure. I tried helping the sales team out by offering our clients lower-cost benefit options, which sounds like a good plan, right? Except I didn’t think the execution through, and the change in our benefit plans led to some upset employees, including (unfortunately) our company’s president.

Soon, I saw another opportunity to prove my strategic savvy. Our team’s turnover had ticked up, so I suggested that we assess our culture and create an employee value proposition. This time, I got it right. Our business has been named one of its city’s best places to work for 10 years running.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t get the HR director role, and I didn’t get that year-one promotion I was looking for. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized what was really holding me back: I never asked for what I wanted. And because I didn’t ask for what I wanted, when I was finally promoted to vice president—a higher role than the one I originally had in mind—I had to go through a tough adjustment period.

Attaining a new role is all about asking questions. Before you pop the big question, you need to ask yourself and your boss a series of smaller ones. I didn’t know how to ask those questions when I was looking for a promotion. Now, I help my employees ask them whenever they’re ready for new responsibilities. Here are a few to get you started:

Related: 5 Ways to Pursue the Job You Want

Why do I want this job?

Although I should’ve had better communication with my boss, my biggest mistake was not asking myself why I truly wanted the role. At the time, all I saw was the shiny title and the safety of a director-level role. Not exactly the right motivation.

Challenge yourself to list three reasons the responsibilities of the new role are better than your responsibilities now. If you can’t answer this, you have homework to do. How are you going to convince your boss that you’re ready for a promotion if you don’t know why you want it yourself?

Because I never asked myself why I wanted that job, I didn’t know what I should do in it that would allow me to excel, and it was a tough adjustment when I finally got promoted to vice president. It took a while for me to figure out. Now, when employees ask me how they can get a promotion, I tell them to start with this question.

Why am I not ready for this role?

Identify three skills or competencies that you’d have to develop in order to be successful in the job you want. For each, find a way to escape your comfort zone. Beyond growing your skills, you’ll show that you can handle the discomfort of a new role with grace and confidence.

For example, when I was hoping for the HR director role, I wasn’t a confident public speaker. I knew I would need to build this skill before I could speak successfully in front of employees, clients and the community. At the time, I was a member of a local professional association, and I was approached by the board of directors to consider becoming president. I accepted the offer, knowing I’d be speaking in front of hundreds of members on a monthly basis. It was nerve-racking, but it was also the training plan I needed.

Working in HR, I’ve met plenty of people who expect their company to train them. Even if you’re not ready for a promotion, creating your own growth opportunities helps you stand out and show your boss that you’re ready to talk about it.

What are the skills that would cause me to be overlooked for a promotion?

Now you just need to identify your training plan. Ask your boss for help if you need it, or talk to other leaders about how they built new skills and added value to the company.

After doing this, I ended up borrowing one idea—about partnering HR with marketing—to create an employee engagement campaign that included a company culture video that’s still used as part of our sales strategy. I found out where I needed to learn something new, and I went out and learned it.

When you ask this question, be prepared to hear anything and, above all, prove that you’re willing to do the work. Point out the homework you’ve already done to shore up the shortcomings you identified earlier. At this point, your boss should be engaged in the conversation, sharing suggestions of his own and willing to set up a growth plan.

What does success in this role look like within the first year?

When that promotion opportunity does come up—hopefully once you’ve made some progress on your growth plan—it’s time to ask your boss this question. Listen for not only the role’s responsibilities, but also the level of commitment necessary to be successful.

Take some time to think about whether you can accommodate the position’s requirements and whether the position fits your idea of life balance. If you’re having this discussion, your boss probably sees that you’re serious about developing the skills. Next, you need to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice. For example, you might learn that the role would require you to work weekends. If you’re a parent, would you be willing to give up that time with your son or daughter?

My first year as vice president would have been much easier if I’d asked this question up front. Now that I have a little more authority, I’ve implemented this idea in our performance management programs so that each newly hired or newly promoted employee has a way to ask and find out exactly what’s expected of them.

Remember, your boss wants you in the right role as much as you do. Don’t despair if you don’t get the promotion. The perfect fit can take time, and your boss knows that. As long as they know what you want and how hard you’re willing to work for it, they’ll help you find it.

Related: 6 Tips to Make Yourself Promotable

3 Ways to Improve Your Self-Image

The great Mark Twain was quoted once as saying that humor is the good natured side of truth. That’s why we can’t help but laugh sometimes in the toughest situations.

Gallows humor has a place. It can be a teacher. I am especially fond of the one about the man who went to see a fortune teller to see what she had to say about his future. She looked into a crystal ball and said, “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 45 years old.”

“Then what will happen?” the man asked hopefully. Maybe a windfall was on the way.

She gazed into the crystal ball a little longer and then, looking up, told him what would happen next. “You’ll get used to it.”

Now, that’s not a true story—at least I hope not! But couldn’t you just see it working out that way for the poor young man? If he feels so unsure of himself that he would seek out a fortune teller for reassurance, I would have to envision him turning her prophecy into a self-fulfilling one.

Related: 4 Keys to Building Your Confidence

The learning item from that story is that too many of us tell ourselves similarly unfortunate prophecies, then go on to live them out. We’ve all met the woman who won’t quit smoking because she tells herself it’ll be too hard, or the man who stays in a dead-end job because he doesn’t believe he can make more money going it alone. Mistaken leaders may fail to ask more of their people out of fear that they won’t be liked, only to have their teams eventually become disenchanted with the lack of leadership.

People are never able to outperform their self-image. If you put a small value on yourself or your abilities, rest assured that the world will not raise the price.

I must admit that self-image has never been a problem for me. I grew up in a very positive environment, and I’ve always believed I could succeed. But I’ve worked with a lot of people who didn’t, and I’ve been able to help some of them turn the corner and believe in themselves the way I believe in them. And I hope to be able to help you, too, if that’s your situation.

It’s so vital that, when you look in the mirror, you value the person staring back at you—that you see someone worthy of success, respect, happiness and love. Your view of yourself is the first key building block in attaining any of those.

 

It’s so vital that, when you look in the mirror, you value the person staring back at you.

 

If you’ve had a difficult time and you don’t feel good about yourself or your abilities, I want to tell you that you do have value. Your life can change and you can make a difference, no matter what background you come from. No matter what traumas you’ve suffered or mistakes you’ve made, you can learn and grow. You can become the person you have the potential to be. You just need to have a healthy belief in yourself to get started.

Related: 15 Quotes to Overcome Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

I want to give you three strategies to help you appreciate all that you have inside. Put these into practice, and every time you take a step, think a positive thought, make a good choice or practice a small discipline, you’ll be moving your reality closer in line to your self-image.

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1. Make a list.

Jot down all your best personal qualities. Don’t be too modest! If needed, spend days or weeks to make the list, but don’t stop until you’ve said every positive thing you can about yourself. Now think harder and find more. This should be comprehensive. This exercise will inform part two of this step: If it took you a long time to create your list, then you need to take time out of every day to review the list and let all these positive qualities sink in, reminding yourself of your value. Remember, if you don’t value yourself, you will have a hard time adding value to others. Once you are deeply familiar with all these positive qualities you have, choose the one that best represents you. Make it the North Star of your character as you begin to build on it.

2. Speak kindly to yourself.

Few things impact a person’s self-esteem more than the way they talk to themselves on a daily basis. Are you aware of how you talk to yourself? Keep track of your self-talk in your smartphone. Make a tally each time you think positive or negative about yourself. When you realize just how hard you’re being on yourself, refer back to that list of personal qualities you’ve created.

3. Reflect well on others.

If you really want to feel valuable, you’ve got to share your gifts with others—be these your interpersonal qualities or your talents. How much time every day and every week do you spend focused on adding value to the people around you? Do you serve through a volunteer organization? Do you mentor people? Do you give assistance to others less fortunate than yourself? If you aren’t doing so already, find a way to serve others by utilizing your strengths, especially that North Star you identified. If you’re already serving, then do more. It’s the surest way to improve your self-image, which is the surest way to improve others’ images of you.

Never ever allow yourself to become used to feelings of mediocrity. When you look into the mirror, you should see someone who matters to you, first and foremost—someone you believe in.

Related5 Positive Ways to Build Your Belief in Yourself

 

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

How to Believe in Yourself When It Feels Like No One Else Does

When naysayers question your dreams, it can feel like a “me against the world” battle. As human beings, we are hardwired with a desire to fit in—to be supported by our peers—which is why a lack of it can feel like a life-or-death situation in our brains.

If you’ve experienced feeling like others don’t believe in you, you’re in good company. Many exceptional visionaries have endured criticism and rejection, and if other great dreamers and leaders have succeeded in spite of their doubters, then you can, too.

Related: How to Deal with Critics and Rejection

Start with these three strategies:

1. Question the story “no one believes.”

No one believes in me or my dreams. Is this really true? Can you know for certain that no one on this planet believes in you?

Sometimes the simplest way to overcome a problem is to question it—you may just realize it was never a real problem in the first place. Instead, it was a self-created belief. Broad generalizations like “no one” and “everyone” are common, but they’re rarely true.

To question the old story that “no one believes in me,” look for counter evidence: Did you ever have a teacher or mentor who took the time to help you? Maybe a friend or co-worker who supported you? Are there people you haven’t met who might rally behind you, given the opportunity to know you? Who believes in you that you’ve forgotten about?

You don’t need everyone, or even a majority of people, to believe in you. Just a few people committed to a cause is enough to create massive impact.

2. Decide and prove it to yourself.

Look in the mirror and say, I believe in you. How does it feel? If it doesn’t resonate with you or feels awkward, then the real issue might not be what others believe about you; the real issue might be what you believe about yourself.

Just telling someone to “believe in yourself” doesn’t automatically work. So how do you get someone to believe? While it can take deeper and more intensive work to let go of long-standing limiting beliefs, sometimes the solution is simple: Make a decision and back it up with evidence.

If you say to yourself, I’ve decided to believe in myself, it can have more powerful meaning than simply saying, I believe in myself, which could feel untrue. State both aloud and choose whichever one has a stronger effect for you.

The second part is where the magic happens. Become an investigator and uncover why you believe in yourself: What are your talents? What have you accomplished? When have you acted in spite of fear? Tally all the wins you’ve experienced in the past, no matter how small, and keep celebrating your victories. You’ll begin to support and reinforce your self-belief.

3. Develop the skills of influence.

Even if it were true that no one believes in you, there’s no reason that has to remain the case. People’s doubts aren’t always a reflection of you; sometimes it just means they aren’t convinced… yet. You haven’t shown them why they should believe in you.

So, how are you communicating your value to others? Are you?

One of the most powerful things you can do is take action. When the world recognizes that you believe in yourself, you prove to others, and to yourself, that you’re worthy of being supported.

While actions speak louder than words, words are still vital for convincing others. Some of the most important life skills you can learn are those of influence and persuasion, and one simple and effective way to gain the confidence of others is to share your big “why”: Why do you have the dreams you have? What is driving you? Why are you so committed to your passion?

When people feel your heart and commitment—not just through your words, but through your essence and actions, too—you can transfer the belief you have in yourself to others. It can potentially turn your most vocal doubters into your greatest supporters, and this creates a reinforcing cycle where their belief now feeds your belief.

And it all began by making a decision to believe in yourself when it felt like no one else did.

Related: 7 Big Fat Lies That Critics Will Tell You

You Are Bigger Than Any Challenge

If there is one thing I would love for you to walk away with after reading this article, it is the understanding that you have the power to experience any challenge in your life as a positive and an opportunity for growth. Notice I didn’t say some challenges. I said any challenge. And the way you ultimately experience these challenges is through the thought process.

I love the phrase, “What you think is what you get.” And when I finally learned how important that phrase was, my life began to transform dramatically for the better.

If you expect to prevail during tough times, you must understand that it is your current perception of the situation that either gives you hope or makes you want to give up to a lost cause. If you’re always thinking about how you can’t get a fair shake, you will always feel miserable. It’s like the saying, “Misery loves company.”

Being miserable doesn’t exactly attract good things, does it? If you want to change your life for the better, start by consciously changing what you think and what you say.

In every situation (especially during tough times), life is always asking you this one question: “Who do you think you are?” Who you think you are in any given moment is who and what you will become. Not only will this profound question determine how you treat yourself, but also how others treat you.

So when you are confronted with a challenging situation or experiencing difficult times and a decision needs to be made, remember what life is always asking you. “Who do you think you are?” In that moment, you will enter into a state of awareness. It’s not the awareness of a misfortunate or stressful situation. It’s the awareness that perhaps you are not feeling right, that there is emotional duress in your world.

It’s also being aware that in this state of awareness, you have a choice in dealing with it and how to respond. Most people go through the course of their lives unaware that their negative thoughts and emotions are steering the course of their lives.

Whatever challenges you are facing, whatever your desires are—be it respect, appreciation, success, happiness or love—it all comes down to how you evaluate yourself in any situation. The outcome is determined by who you think you are. When a healthy outcome seems to be an impossibility, remember to shift your perspective to a productive way of thinking. Anything else is just being a danger to yourself.

Know that there is something greater in you that can meet any challenge head on. Say it out loud: “I am bigger than any challenge!” Ask yourself: “What are my choices here?” “What will the consequences be if I respond to this situation with anger or fear?” “How can I turn this around to be advantageous for everyone involved?” “What will the short and long-term consequences be with this decision I’m about to make?” “How will it affect my family, friends and business associates?” “What can I learn from this?”

When this simple strategy becomes a habit, you will come to know that no situation, circumstance, or person can take your power away from you, unless you allow it to happen.

The pathway to a successful and happier life is more of an emotional decision than a change in circumstance. In other words, you have to make a decision to change the way that you think and what you are focusing on daily. When you decide to spend more time and energy viewing life through the eyes of love, hope and optimism, and less time trying to figure out why you are so unhappy, you will experience a wonderful transformation taking place within you and around you.

You can actually place yourself at the helm and steer the course of your life just by becoming aware of not only the damage you can create, but also the magic you can create, in any given moment. It all depends on who you think you are.

Related: If You Want to Change Your Life, Change What You Think

Step Into Your Best Future With the Power of Choice

File this one under the category of Really Weird and Gross Science: According to research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B this summer, a mind-controlling parasite found in cat feces may give people the courage they need to become entrepreneurs.

And here I thought it was motivation and inspiration from quarterly magazines.

Per the report, a collaboration by business and biology professors at the University of Colorado, people who have been infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii are more likely to engage in risk-taking. This parasite, which is believed to affect neurotransmitters, causes rodents to be unafraid of cats (and thus become easy prey for those same felines). It is found in 30 million Americans, who generally show very minor symptoms, if any.

Of the nearly 1,500 student subjects who took a saliva test as part of the study, those infected were 1.4 times more likely to be business majors. Among adults tested while attending seminars on entrepreneurship, infected people were 1.8 times more likely to have already started their own business.

 

The Healthy Business Issue is geared toward people who want to start and grow successful ventures, and live well while reaping the huge rewards.

 

The moral of the story, I suppose, is to get a cat. But, since I am more of a dog person, I’d like to offer an alternative… how about we focus on building more resolve for ourselves rather than letting the mind-control parasites run the show?

If you’re reading this magazine, there’s a pretty good chance you want more in life. You’re an entrepreneur already, or considering an opportunity to leave your day job and pursue a passion. Do the math for yourself. Write out the pros and cons for yourself. And if you’re still feeling so bold, go for it!

We’re welcoming a few new columnists in this issue—including some very familiar faces, like Tony Robbins and Simon T. Bailey. But I want to make sure you also check out the debut piece by a former SUCCESS editor, Amy Anderson. We’ve dubbed her The YouEconomist, and she will be writing in every issue for her fellow solopreneurs who have taken the plunge. The big lesson from her first column? Now is the time to make it happen for yourself. There have never been more and better opportunities to go it alone and take control of your time and economic future.

This is a special issue of SUCCESS. It’s aimed at helping you make the best decisions for your whole self—mind, body and soul. The Healthy Business Issue is geared toward people who want to start and grow successful ventures, and live well while reaping the huge rewards.

From our profile of Dr. Mehmet Oz, to the graceful aging guide by fitness superstar Jillian Michaels or Matt Crossman’s essay on fostering boldness in business and beyond, this issue is full of ideas, perspectives and solutions to help you get more out of your life and career.

Don’t let anyone or anything—whether a naysaying friend or a microscopic parasite—determine your future. Choose to step into a bigger, better life for yourself. You deserve it.

 

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.