5 Ways to Defeat Discouragement

We’ve all had a bad day from time to time. Sometimes that day turns into a bad week or month.

Life happens and we often times can feel like we got the bad end of the stick.

Maybe you were overlooked for a promotion, didn’t get the job or received a pay decrease at work.

It could be that a relationship has been strained lately or you got hit with some unexpected expenses.

A difficult child could be getting you down or things in general may not be going your way.

All of these can easily bring about discouragement if you let them. And honestly, nobody would blame you for feeling that way. It’s normal and natural.

The question is, how do you rise above your circumstances and not allow the situation to get the best of you?

The good news is, you can.

Here are 5 Ways to Defeat Discouragement:

1) Remember that your circumstance doesn’t define you. It’s easy to allow a setback to cause you to think negatively. Don’t let it. Your life is not defined by a tough time. You have been created for great things and this situation is just a small part of a bigger plan.

2) Choose to be grateful in the middle of the situation. Thankfulness is the key to focused happiness in life. It’s amazing how perspective can change when you focus on all the things that are going right, instead of things that are going wrong.

In addition, you may be tempted to think you are the only one going through a hard time, but there is always someone that has it worse.

3) Look for something you can learn from the challenge. Learning from our challenges is a huge gift that can make us better and be used to make others better in the process. Leverage it. The bitterness you may be experiencing can be turned to thankfulness for what you learned.

4) Remind yourself that better days are ahead. There is a great scripture in the Bible that says, “The end of a thing is better than it’s beginning.” Don’t focus on the setback, focus on the good that is coming next.

5) Do something that energizes you. A tough day, week or month can zap your energy fast. What is that thing that brings you life when you do it? For some, it may be as simple as a good nap to regain energy and perspective. For others it may be a walk or time with friends. Maybe it’s a movie, reading a good book, getting outdoors or prayer. Whatever the case, recharge your batteries. You need that and you will be better because of it.

Bad days are a part of life, but so are good days. Here’s to more good days ahead and defeating the discouragement in the process.

Be encouraged. You were created for great things.

Go live with purpose today.

10 Simple Ways to Become a Likable Leader

My favorite show on television is Shark Tank.

I DVR every episode.

I love watching the ideas entrepreneurs come up with and seeing the Sharks give feedback to the business owners on how they can succeed.  I find it fascinating and I’ve learned a lot about life and business from the show.

Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank celebrity and business mogul said,  “If people like you, they’re going to want to do business with you. And if they don’t, you’re going to have an almost insurmountable obstacle to overcome.”

This statement is not only true of business, but in personal relationships as well.

People want to do business and personal relationships with people they like.

This topic is relevant to all of us because we all are in the “people business” in some form or fashion.

At our very core, we are hardwired to want to be liked.  We need relationships.  If we don’t have them, life becomes a challenge.

It reminds me of Tom Hank’s character in the movie, Castaway.  Out of sheer desperation and loneliness, he created a fictitious character named Wilson out of a volleyball, just to have a friend.

We all want to create better relationships and connections with people.  Better connections happen when people like us.  And when we have something of value to offer, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

When we get this right, we advance at work faster, create more and better relationships easier and add value to the world around us.

Here are 10 Simple Ways to Become a More Likable Leader:

1)  Smile.  Experts tell us we have only a few seconds to make a good first impression.  A smile is the fastest way to communicate acceptance and welcome.  If people know that you accept them, it creates an immediate bridge to connection.  Nothing communicates a disconnection faster than a frown.  Be aware of what your face is communicating and make sure a smile is one of the first things the other person notices.

2) Be a Good Listener (and put the phone away).  In our fast paced world of technology, it’s so easy to get distracted.  Our attention spans are getting less and less.  Resist the urge to keep checking your phone while your speaking to someone.  Better yet, put your phone out of sight.  This communicates huge respect. Be a good listener and respond with good questions.

3) Maintain Good Eye Contact.  We all have a tendency to want to pay attention to what is going on around us.  Unfortunately, consistently looking over the person’s shoulder at the next “shiny object” (“Squirrel!”) is a quick way to disconnect and cause a person to not like you.  One tip to help maintain eye contact: Notice and pay attention to the person’s eye color. It will help you to make eye contact easier. A good rule of thumb is to use a 10 to 1 ratio for eye contact.  Maintain eye contact for about 10 seconds and break contact for 1 second.  That will keep you interested without looking creepy.

4) Focus on the Interests of the Other Person.  People love to talk about themselves and what they are interested in.  Find out what interests them and you will never run out of things to talk about.  Focusing on their interests makes them feel like the most important person in the room.

5) Keep It Positive.  No one likes a Debbie Downer.  I’m not saying you need to become Pollyanna, but stay away from the complaining.  Consistent complaining is a sure fire way to repel another person.  Look for the positive and keep a good attitude.  Positivity in a negative world will help you to stand out and become contagious. People love connecting with positive people.

6) Use the Person’s Name.  A person’s name is the one of the most sweetest sounds to their ears.  Use it sparingly in a conversation, but use it.  If you are meeting someone for the first time, using their name will also help you to remember their name after you meet them.

7) Lean In.  Leaning in slightly while having a conversation is a great tool to use for better connection.  It helps the person to know your interested and engaged with what is being said.

8) Watch Your Body Language.  In certain situations it’s been said that body language makes up  55% of our communication, tone  of voice represents 38% and actual words spoken represent only 7%.  While those percentages vary based on context, our body language is extremely important in how we connect and communicate with others.  Our body language can communicate disinterest (folded arms, slouching, looking away) or interest (positive facial expressions, nodding head, etc.)  Use it well and you will become more likable.

9)  Have Variety in Your Voice.  As mentioned above, tone of voice can make up a large part of our communication.  If you’ve ever listened to someone who speaks in a quiet, mumbling, monotone voice, you know it’s very difficult to stay interested.  Use some variety and appropriate volume in your voice and you will have an easier time commanding attention.  Your voice is like an instrument.  It can be played very well or not so well.  No one likes to hear the same note played over and over.  Slight variety peaks interest.

10)  Stay Connected.  To set yourself up from the crowd and create lasting value, stay connected with your relationships you develop.  I heard of one business executive that writes 5 hand written notes every morning.  Who wouldn’t like someone that shows that kind of value to them?  Social media, text messages and phone calls also are an easy way to create a quick connection that shows the other person you care and think they are important.

These aren’t the only ways to become a more likable leader, but put these in practice and I guarantee you will create more value for others and for yourself.

Go be likable this week.

Like what you've read?

If so, please join all the others who have entered their email address. It's the only way to get the free weekly newsletter with helpful tips available at DougRasku.com

Enter your name and email, then click the "sign me up" button below!

What I Would Tell My Younger Self

I recently turned 44 years old. Age has a way of bringing wisdom with it. Here are 5 things I would tell my younger self if I could go back in time:

1) Relationships are the most important thing in life. Your relationship with God and friends/family trump money every time.

2) Money is a tool that can be used to bless your family and help others. Earn a lot of it, own it, but don’t let it own you.

3) An attitude of gratitude is the best way to start every day.

4) A great marriage begins with looking for ways to serve and show love to your spouse, not always looking for ways to serve yourself.

5) Giving of yourself (your time, words, resources and talents) is one of the greatest joys in life.

You were created to do great things. Go be awesome this week.

The Secret Sauce For Happiness

sunrise

We all want more of it.  It seems to be one of those things you just can’t get enough of.

Happiness.

For some of us, our life soundtrack would be, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2.

As leaders, we tend to always be pursuing the next big thing.  It’s the way we’re wired.

The problem is, we tend to be so focused on the future that we don’t take enough time to enjoy the present.

We often may be preoccupied with what is not going well instead of celebrating what IS going well.

So what’s the answer?

Gratitude.

Be present in the moment without losing your dream for the future.

Gratitude changes perspective.

It’s difficult to be unhappy when you are reflecting on something you are grateful for.

What has God blessed you with?  Sometimes we take for granted the small things that are the most significant.

A blue sky.  Your favorite food.  Time with family.  Another day to be alive.

One practice I’ve started is to begin my day with gratefulness.

As soon as I wake up, I put on a t-shirt, shorts, sneakers and walk out the door.

I typically will go for a brisk, one mile walk around my neighborhood.  This not only gets my body moving for the day, but it also gives me an opportunity to begin my day with prayer.   I call it my “prayer walk”.

I always begin my walk with thanking God for things I’m grateful for.   It’s a wonderful way to start my day off on the right foot.

People that regularly reflect on what they are grateful for are shown to be happier people.

Conduct an experiment.  Try beginning each day by reflecting on three things you are grateful for.  See if you don’t start experiencing more happiness in your life.

Happy leaders create better organizations.  And better organizations can change the world.

So keep going for your dreams of the future.  But don’t forget to take time to be grateful for what you have in front of you.  It not only benefits you, but also those around you.

What is one thing you are grateful for today? 

Like what you've read?

If so, please join all the others who have entered their email address. It's the only way to get the free weekly newsletter with helpful tips available at DougRasku.com

Enter your name and email, then click the "sign me up" button below!

3 of the Best and Worst Ways to Spend a Tax Refund

Today’s post is written by a good friend of mine, Nate VandenBerg. Nate is an experienced CPA who helps people make wise decisions with their money. Enjoy this helpful article.


Photo credit: cohdra from morguefile.com

Over 100 million people this year are expected to receive a refund from Uncle Sam when filing their taxes. At $2,800 for the average refund, millions of taxpayers will have to make the decision on what to do with the refund check.

The traditional options of paying off credit card debt, saving for retirement, or saving for college are great options.

Here are 6 “alternative” options for spending your refund check that have the potential to change the trajectory of your finances and relationships.

Best Ways to Spend a Refund

Prepay your mortgage

Save 8 years of mortgage payments by applying your tax refund to your mortgage! This is real, it actually works! Don’t assume the mortgage schedule your bank provides you is the only timeline to pay off your mortgage. You can save $65,000 of interest over the life of a $250,000 30 year mortgage at 4.5% by using your refund every year to pay down the principal of your mortgage. This results in a payoff a 30 year mortgage in 22 years!

Start a Business

Always wanted to start that blog? Launch your dream product? Write that book? Using all or a portion of your refund to fund your start up business could be a life changing event. What if you fail? Then you just paid $2,800 for one of the most valuable learning experiences you will ever have in your life. Apple was started with $1,750. Starbucks with $4,050 split among 3 people. Take the leap.

Take Your Family on Vacation

Probably not the advice you were expecting to see under the Best list. Don’t waste your money and spend frivolously. Plan it out, get the best deal you can and set the money aside to be used for the vacation. If you have children, the only job that you specifically have been assigned to do is to be the mother or father of your children. That’s a special assignment, be wise with the time our God has given us and create memories with your children they will cherish forever.

Worst Ways to Spend a Refund

Put Money Down on an Item you Can’t Afford

“Pay us $2,800 and we’ll let you pay us $300-$400 every month for the next 5 years! In exchange, we’ll provide you with an asset that loses 60% of its value in those 5 years!” Sounds like a fantastic proposition right? Wrong.

I’m sure you’ve heard an advertisement like that, it’s just phrased differently. For some reason it doesn’t have the same ring as “Buy a car from us by April 15 and we’ll double your tax refund!” My point here is, if you can’t afford to purchase a new car without your tax refund, it probably isn’t a great idea to purchase it with your tax refund. Don’t turn a tax refund into a debt payment that you’ll have to pay for the next 5 years.

Nothing

Most likely, human nature will take over if you deposit your refund check into your bank account without a plan of action for the funds. You know that Starbucks habit you have? Love to go out to eat? These are not bad things, but congratulations you just fueled the habit! Without a plan of action for the cash it may slowly erode over time and 3 months down the road you’ll look back and not have anything to show for it.

Buy One of These

You can buy anything off of ebay! In March 2008 somebody purchased a cornflake shaped like the state of Illinois for $1,350! Please, I beg you to not make a purchase like this with your tax refund. But, if you do, at least persuade the seller to throw in the Florida cornflake for another $1,450 to round out your purchase to $2,800!

If you are one of the over 100 million people that will receive a tax refund this year, consider using it to pay down your mortgage, go on vacation, or start a business. Or, if your heart desires, buy that cornflake.

What is the most memorable way you have used your tax refund in the past?

Like what you've read?

If so, please join all the others who have entered their email address. It's the only way to get the free weekly newsletter with helpful tips available at DougRasku.com

Enter your name and email, then click the "sign me up" button below!

3 Things Olympic Athletes Teach Us About Success

With the Winter Olympics underway in Russia, millions of eyes are watching these elite athletes compete for the gold.

Ripping the Turn
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an elite Olympic athlete? One thing is for sure.  It’s not easy.  For every athlete that qualifies, there are lots more that don’t.

The question to ask ourselves is, “What can we learn from these winners about success?”

Here are 3 Things Olympic Athletes Teach Us About Success:

1) Talent is not enough.

There are lots of talented athletes.  It’s consistency and hard work that separate the good ones from the great ones.

It’s common for Olympic athletes to train 4-8 years in a sport before appearing on the world stage.  They put in countless hours working on their craft, oftentimes early in the morning when the rest of the world is sleeping.  Some do this on top of a regular job.

They realize it may be 1/10 of a second that keeps them out of the Olympics.  Every moment counts.

To experience the success no one else experiences, you have to be willing to do the things no one else does.

2) Success doesn’t come without sacrifice.

Olympic athletes are focused people.  I’ve heard it said F.O.C.U.S. is:  Following One Course Until Success.

Focus requires saying no to many things so you can say yes to a few things.   Those few things focused on consistently over time help you achieve your goals and dreams.

Olympic athletes maintain strict eating schedules by saying no to foods that hinder their performance and yes to a diet that enhances it.  They say no to things that distract them from their training schedule and yes to things that contribute to their success.

3) Pushing yourself is balanced with pacing yourself.

Olympic athletes know they need to push themselves beyond their comfort zone, but at the same time need to take time to rest and rejuvenate.

It’s not uncommon for these elite athletes to sleep 8-10 hours per night followed by a 30-90 minute siesta during the day.  The rest helps repair the muscles that the strenuous exercise has placed on them.  It helps them refocus their mind and continue to keep their eye on the goal.

Just like a high performance race car needs to stop to re-fuel, we need to take regular breaks and rest at least one day per week.  It’s necessary if we are to operate at full capacity and achieve our goals and dreams.

These aren’t the only things we can learn from Olympic athletes, but if we apply them to our lives we’ll go further faster.  

What’s one goal or dream you have?  Go for the gold.  I believe you can do it.  

One Key to Empowering Your Team

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” ~ Seth Godin

Let’s face it.  Nobody likes a ball hog.

We’ve all encountered people like this.  Growing up playing sports it was the kid who had to take every shot and get the credit when she/he scored.

Entering the workplace, it’s the leader that feels the need to make every decision and get the glory for the success of the organization.

That may build ego, but it doesn’t build a team.

Here’s a key to leadership success: pass the ball. 

It empowers your team and gets the ball down the court.

Ultimately, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

After all, nobody likes a ball hog.

How can you empower people in your organization by giving them a platform to spread ideas that work?

One Thing Successful People Do

There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Success in the sense that something great and lasting was built. Maybe it’s a great business or marriage. Chances are it took time. Lots of time.

Group of happy business people clapping their hands

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

We often times hear about success stories only after all the hard work is put in and view it as an instant success.

The good news is all of us have been gifted with the potential for success.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is often one thing.

PERSEVERANCE:  Not giving up when things get tough. 

When I think of perseverance, I think of five famous people that you’ve heard of and maybe didn’t know their story.

They didn’t give up when things got tough.  In fact, if they did give up, we would have never heard about them.  PERSEVERANCE was the difference in them being average and them doing great things.

1) Walt Disney

Did you know that Walt once was fired from a job because they thought he wasn’t creative enough? What if he gave up?  There would be no Mickey Mouse.  There would be no Walt Disney World. He didn’t give up when things got tough.

2) Thomas Edison 

Edison tried 1,000 times to make the light bulb.  What if he gave up on the 999th time?  He didn’t give up!

3) Hellen Keller

Helen Keller was blind and deaf and learned to speak and read.  She went on to graduate college and become a speaker and author.

4) Albert Einstein 

When we think of smart people, everyone thinks of Albert Einstein.  One of the greatest thinkers of all time. He didn’t always remember to comb his hair, but he was really smart in Science.  He didn’t talk until he was 4 and didn’t read until he was 7 and some people called him mentally slow and challenged.  He didn’t let that stop him from going on to make some of the greatest discoveries that science has ever seen.

5) Michael Jordan 

Some would say Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.  (If you are a Miami Heat fan, you may say that title would go to LeBron James.) Michael Jordan was amazing on the court, many times unstoppable.  But did you know he once got cut from his high school basketball team?  What if he quit?

PERSEVERANCE.  That’s what made the difference in all of these people’s lives between being average and great.  They refused to give up when things got tough.

Here’s the cool thing.  God knew that you and I would have great days and tough days and He made a promise to us that would help us persevere through the tough days.  It was a guy named Paul the Apostle that wrote one of the greatest things in the whole Bible.  He wrote it while he was in prison and it is my favorite scripture, my life verse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

I’ve come back to that scripture over and over again in my life, especially when something is hard.  “God, this is tough, but I’m not going to quit because you promised you will give me the strength to succeed.”

What would your life look like if you persevered, followed your dreams and never gave up?

You would become everything God created you to be and you could make a difference in the world!

God has an amazing plan for each and every one of us.  He wants to use your life to make a difference in the world by serving others.

In fact, there is another scripture in the Bible that says, “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans for hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has made you to be great.  So go be great.  Persevere when things are tough, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  Don’t give up.  Go make a difference in the world!

What is one area you need to persevere in to see your goals achieved?

 

7 Tips to Increase Your Energy Without Caffeine

If you’ve ever wished you had more energy, you are not alone.  Americans more than ever are tired and worn out.  If that sounds familiar, than this post is for you.

Tired...

You can be the best time manager on the planet, but without sufficient energy, you’re up a creek without a paddle.  Plans can fizzle fast.

When we increase our energy, we increase our capacity to do the things that matter most to us. Things like spend quality time with family and friends or quite possibly start that side business or hobby you’ve been thinking about.

Whatever your goal, increasing your energy is always a win-win.

I am not against caffeine and do in fact, drink green tea in the morning.  However, if you are looking to limit your caffeine intake, there are some good alternatives.

Here are 7 Tips to Increase Your Energy Without Caffeine:

1) Get enough sleep.  

Studies show many Americans are sleep deprived.  Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to perform at their peak.  What can you eliminate from your schedule to “make more time” and allow yourself to get more sleep?

2) Drink more water.

Our bodies are comprised of over 50% water.  We need it to function properly.  The challenge is most people aren’t drinking enough of it.  Water cleans and energizes your system.  Cut the soda and opt for water instead.  Your body will thank you for it.  Shoot for at least 8 glasses per day and make sure you drink a glass upon waking in the morning.

3) Exercise regularly and eat healthier.

Diet and exercise can drastically change your energy level.  Food is fuel.  Put the wrong fuel in your system and you will get poor results.

Exercise allows oxygen to flow through your body, which produces more energy.

A good goal is to cut back on sugar and white carbs (white bread, white rice and white potatoes).  Replace with good protein and more green vegetables and good fats like nuts, seeds and avocados.  Personally, I drink a protein smoothie every morning with greens in it.  Sounds strange, but it’s really good.

If you are just starting out with exercise, try to make it a goal to get your heart rate up with some form of movement for 20-30 minutes per day.  A brisk walk with some headphones will do wonders for bringing up your energy level.

4) Take a nap.

Studies have shown that even a brief 20 minute nap can recharge your batteries and bring your alertness back.  If you sleep too long, you can wake up groggy and feel worse.  Personally, a 20 minute nap works great for me.  I typically will do this when I get home from work.  If I feel I need a little more time, I will set my alarm for 40 minutes.  I know some experts that recommend taking your nap after lunch in a quiet spot to refresh and finish the day strong.

5) Focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

If you’ve ever done something you aren’t good at, you know it literally zaps your energy.  On the other side of the spectrum, when you do something that comes easy to you, it gives you energy.  Do your best to work in your strengths and delegate your areas of weaknesses if possible.

6) Do something you are passionate about.  

I recently heard John Maxwell say he doesn’t believe in high energy people and low energy people.  He believes there are passionate people and non-passionate people.  Focus on something you are passionate about and your energy will soar.

7) Take regular breaks.

Budgeting our energy is much like budgeting your finances.  You only have so much at the time and you need to make the most of it.  Shoot for regular breaks at minimum every 50 minutes.  Try working for 50 minutes and taking a break for 10.  Go on a quick walk around the office or outside.  Stretch.  Get a glass of water.  Regular breaks help manage energy and increase productivity.

* Bonus:  Breathe properly.  

Breathing comes naturally, but are you doing it correctly?  Pay attention to how you’re breathing.  If you are in the habit of taking shallow breaths, try taking deeper ones with your diaphragm.  More air equals more oxygen, which adds energy to your system.  At the very least, if you work at a desk, stand up and take a few deep breaths every hour.  It will reduce stress and restore energy.

These are not the only ways to increase energy, but they certainly will give you a boost to your day if you apply them.  

What is one way you have found that helps you increase energy?

Go ahead and get on my email list. You don’t want to miss anything!

Are You Living Your Dream Life?

We all want to get the most out of life.  Sadly, not many of us do.

RSDigby_0418
Bronnie Ware is a nurse who spent years as a nurse caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their life.  She noticed a common pattern that emerged among her patients and decided to put her observations into a book called, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

Here are the top 5: 

1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

They regretted not following more of their passions and dreams.

2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. 

They regretted missing valuable time with their kids, family and friends.

3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

They regretted internalizing their feelings at missed out on resolving conflict.

4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

They regretted letting relationships lapse.

5) I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

They regretted missing out on some of the simple joys of life and experiencing life to the full.

The good news is that you and I have a choice today how we can change our lives for the better.  Change that will help us avoid some of these regrets and live life to the full.

Question of the day:  Which one of these five things do you need to get back on track with?  Go for it!  Your life is a gift from God.  How you live it is your gift to Him and the world.