Do You Need A Mindset Makeover?

In my undergraduate years, I eagerly applied to a summer research program. Besides plain old teaching labs in biology and chemistry, I had never had an opportunity to conduct real laboratory research. It was really intimidating. There were chemicals I’ve never heard of. And, protocols and procedures I’ve never completed. And everything was measured in micrograms and microliters no bigger than a pencil point. Although I was shaking in my boots, I took full advantage of the opportunity. After a few basic tasks, the lab manager voiced his observations. He said, “Erin, you know, you’re not afraid of failure.” I looked puzzled because I didn’t know how to take that. He went on to explain that most new undergraduate students he had worked with were nervous and hesitant to fully dive into the work. I, on the other hand, was excited to jump in headfirst to try any task and was willing to hear feedback to improve.

Little did I know that not being afraid to fail is a defining characteristic of individuals who repeatedly experience success. You see, shortly after this research experience, I began to question the conditions for completing a degree in science, technology, engineering, and math and the characteristics of STEM graduates. This line of questioning grounded my dissertation and ultimately my life’s work. I realized that there is a science to success and that a task is just a task no matter if it is completing a challenging degree or starting a company, or conquering a new fitness regime. Success is success. 

For the past 14 years, I’ve been researching what makes individuals successful at any given task in any given scenario. I’ve taken what I’ve learned to help others maximize their performance and their time so that they can be the best version of themselves. The first step to experiencing success in multiple areas of your life is to get your mind right. 

All words, actions, and behaviors are governed by our thoughts. Therefore, if you have stinking thinking, then everything you say and do will be stank. Science tells us that there are two basic kinds of people. People with fixed mindsets and growth mindsets each type differs on several aspects of success: challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism, and the success of others. Let’s explore? 

Fixed Mindset

Individuals with fixed mindsets see challenges as something to be avoided. They opt to take easier paths that don’t require much effort. When they confront obstacles, they give up easily without exploring options to overcome. As for failure, they take it as a sign to stop and lose all motivation to persist. When they are presented with the feedback they ignore the negative parts. They view putting in a lot of effort as unattractive or unnecessary and they feel threatened by the success of others. Overall, individuals with fixed mindsets are concerned with the appearance of being smart and successful but don’t find interest in the process that leads to true success. They feel as though there’s a definite set of natural talents people are born with that the likelihood of acquiring new talents is small. As a result, they never breach their comfort zone or reach their full potential. 

Growth Mindset

Individuals with a growth mindset see challenges and failures as opportunities to learn rather than a sign to stop. In fact, they welcome challenges and see them as something to be expected. They are not afraid of putting in maximum effort because they understand that it correlates to results. As for criticism, they appreciate it and see it as insight into reach optimal performance. They are not intimidated by others’ success as they see them as models rather than competitors. They try to learn learn and replicate their process instead of coveting their outcomes. Overall, they believe that it is possible to acquire and improve talents throughout life.  

Do You Need a Mindset Makeover?

If you realized that you can identify with the characteristics of a fixed mindset, all is not lost. Fixed doesn’t mean you can’t change the way you see the world as it relates to success, challenges, and failure.   Just like a computer, you can Ctrl, Alt, Dlt and update your belief system. Here’s how: 

  1. Reflect: Think through all the times you’ve set out to do something and quit before you could see an outcome (good or bad). Think about all of the goals you’ve set out to accomplish and never acted on. What was your train of thought that led you to quit?
  2. Identify: Identify your negative internal dialogue. What were the things you’ve told yourself in the past that led you to quit? How did that conversation go when you talked yourself out committing to your goals? Write down the negative things you tell yourself that lead you to justify unproductive behavior. 
  3. Re-construct: Take those negative statements that cycle through your head and rewrite them to reflect the growth mindset perspective. For example, if you often say, “I’m not good at this.” Simply adding yet changes it to: I’m not good at this yet and acknowledge that growth is a process. When negative self-talk rises up, replace it with your new positive versions. 
  4. Reframe: Change your view on failure and challenges. Look at them as molehills instead of mountains or as a yield sign instead of a stop sign. Begin to see setbacks as an opportunity to show your real character and resilience.  Study the journeys of others. Don’t just look at their current success.  Learn about their challenges and setbacks. You’ll realize that anyone with means or an impact has suffered profound losses. However, they all pushed past embarrassment, fatigue, or fear to persist. 

Want to learn more about your mindset? Take a mindset quiz
Changing your mindset to improve your success and productivity requires support and accountability. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation to discuss joining my private productivity coaching program.

After the Vision Board…

I must be transparent. I’ve never been a fan of vision boards or vision board parties. I’ve seen them grow in popularity over the years.  I’ve never attended one except for the one I planned as part of my planning retreat for ladies. I was reluctant to include it because of my personal beliefs but I knew the ladies were expecting it to be a part of an event that supports planning for the new year. 

So why my fondness of vision boards.  I’ve seen a lot of pretty vision boards but no signs of the vision actually coming to pass. Even worse, it seems like people make the same boards every year as nothing changes.  When I am able to have intimate knowledge of those who do fancy vision boards, I see that most are still in a wishing and hoping loop that they are unable to exit and execute. 

I don’t like the fact vision board parties don’t include real strategies and resources to lead to real success.  The idea of vision boards fuels the cycle of dreaming only to become disappointed when nothing happens. 

A VISION BOARD WITHOUT A PLAN IS JUST PICTURES ON A POSTER!

My fixation on how to improve the vision boarding experience led me to create a one-day productivity retreat.  We end the first day with a vision board party, but the next day is filled with tactical planning to make sure we are establishing actionable goals to make strides towards our vision.  We also talked about the unspeakable: what happens when life and human emotions threaten your vision.  This is the part that is missing from many of the fun vision board parties: it’s the work that takes place to ensure the vision comes to pass.  Sometimes it’s not fun. Definitely not a party.  Reflection, self-evaluation, and deep thinking are difficult in the moment but leaves you gratified after. Likewise, coming to blows with fears, confronting procrastination is uncomfortable but necessary to get the life we want. 

So I’m not telling you to not go to vision board parties. Go. I did enjoy the one that I attended (and it’s not just because I planned it). However, just follow it up with the real work to make sure you are able to execute, cross things off your vision board, and continue to positively re-imagine your future. 

Here’s what you can do to support your vision coming to pass: 

  1. Create a vision statement that represents your life. A vision statement provides a foundation for your whole life. It grounds and centers you. It is something that you can internalize and repeat to yourself when times are hard. Here is a worksheet to help you and here are some examples.
  2. Outline your priorities so you can identify what’s important to you.  Refining your priorities helps you to make decisions about where you invest your time, efforts, and money.  Identify no more than 5. 
  3. For each priority, list 1-2 goals.  Make sure they are SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Visit here for more on SMART goals. 
  4. For each goal identify strategies, big steps, or broad actions, that will lead to achieving each goal. Try to establish at least 2 or 3 strategies per goal. 
  5. For each strategy, identify small steps or tasks you need to take to support the strategy. These small steps should be the center of your daily, monthly, or quarterly to-do list. 

Action Plan Example 

Priority: Improve financial stability

Goal 1: Increase savings to 10K by February 2022. 

Strategy 1: Monitor and Reduce discretionary spending. 

Task 1. Download an app that monitors spending. 

Task 2. Set Google alerts for articles on saving and budgeting. 

Task 3. Follow influencers on Instagram that provide saving and budgeting advice. 

Task 4. Revisit the budget and reallocate more to automatic savings deposits. 

Task 5. Use cash for an entertaining and dining out budget.

Strategy 2:  Create a savings account that is not easily accessible. 

Task 1. Research banks with high-interest yields.

Task 2. Set up a bank account

Task 3. Save and make an initial deposit

Sounds difficult? It’s not. I’ve created a worksheet to help you organize and create your action plan to complement your vision board. Get it free here

Game Recognize Game: Why I Retained A Career Coach

As an academic coach and Higher Education professional, most of my career is centered on advising students on how to become successful college graduates.  In workshops and talks, I always include help-seeking as one of the skills students need to develop. I would impress upon them to find a mentor, ask questions, secure a tutor, or utilize office hours.

While it was easy for me to say this to students, it wasn’t easy taking my own advice.  You see, I am officially on the job market for my next career opportunity.  And, just like most students, I felt like I can do it on my own. Now, I’ve taken a few workshops, read a few books here and there; so, I wasn’t job hunting blindly. HOWEVER, after 4 months of a frustration, increasing doubt, decreasing confidence, and unfruitful searches, I decided it was time for a change.  I decided to FINALLY take my own advice and seek individual counsel from someone.  Yes, this coach decided to get a coach.

Luckily, I didn’t have to search high and low for one.  I met Ron Nash during a Higher Ed symposium in early 2017.  He gave an impressive talk to administrators on  LinkedIn and the benefits it can offer Higher Ed institutions.  Securing him as a career coach didn’t cross my mind then.  I actually stashed his name more so as a resource for my students.  Fast forward to nearly a year later, I was struggling to re-energize my LinkedIn to improve my job search efforts.  I remembered Ron, checked out his website and decided to connect with him on his turf, LinkedIn.  I requested assistance with my LinkedIn profile, but in truth I needed help with a whole lot more.  After our initial consultation, I decided to book multiple coaching sessions. While we worked on the obvious things such as my LinkedIn page, description of my experience, networking and interview techniques, there were several intangible outcomes from our sessions.

Increased Accountability and External Motivation

I will honestly admit that I was not the best job seeker.  I was actively searching and applying for jobs, but there was no passion or motivation underlying my actions.  My lack of enthusiasm for pursuing a new career opportunity probably mirrors other millennials.  I was tired of the pseudo-searches, the discouraging “seasoned professional” descriptions, and lack of courtesy updates in the search process.  I was just tired and frustrated.  I knew I needed a job, and I knew I need to do more to get one, but I didn’t have the energy nor the motivation required to tap into the hidden job market. Ron understood my frustrations and helped me to put it in context.  He helped me get passed my emotions so that I can regain focus on my career ambitions.  His assignments helped me to rededicate myself to the search process. When I had regressed and become stagnate after a few months, he helped me to figure out the root cause and encouraged me to do the work and get back into the game.  A career coach helped me to become more disciplined and more optimistic about my professional future.

Increased Confidence

After my last job experience and set-backs in my job search, my confidence was shattered.  At times, I questioned if I had any talents or skills at all.  I no longer believed I was unique or that I truly had something to offer to any employer.  I was ashamed of my age.  I beat myself up over my career and educational choices.  I was a complete mess when I started with my coach. However, by the time I completed my sessions, I was more confident overall.  I can’t pin point specific conversations or activities,  but I think just having someone provide positive objectivity and constructive feedback helped.  Without blowing smoke, Ron validated my skills, my experiences, and my talents.  As an introvert and overthinker, he helped me get over my fear of networking.  While I am still a work in progress, I am not nearly as hesitant to connect with someone new in effort to expand my professional network.

Forced Reflection and Self-Discovery

Career coaching bought on a urgent need to reflect on my personal and career ambitions.  Through several conversations and activities, I had had to be honest with myself about what I really wanted in my life.  Before coaching, I was really focused on what I should do based on traditional paths, but I realized that following traditions or pre-made paths was the source of my frustrations.  Coaching also helped me think about what I bring to the table in a whole new way.  I was able to demonstrate my worth by teasing out valuable skills, competencies that was either non-existent in my resume or buried beneath mundane descriptions.  Discovering and identifying my strengths, gave me the boost of confidence I needed to improve my performance in interviews.

When you are an unemployed job-seeker, you are normally on a budget and trying to spend money on only what is necessary. Coaching services may seem like  a luxury or something for those who may have a job or trying to move up the corporate ladder.  However, expenditures for coaching services is a necessity, especially when you are unemployed.  From my experience, a career coach has had a profound impact on my personal morale and professional outlook.  I now have less anxiety about the job market, as I now have the tools and strategies to secure the right employment opportunity for me. The financial sacrifice was well worth it.  Securing a career coach was a great professional investment.

So I Decided to Write a Book…

So, I finally decided to put the pen to the pad, literally, and write a book.  I had been toying with the idea for a while but was never serious about it.  I didn’t think I had anything to share worth reading.  Honestly, I was a little timid to write creatively without inserting research articles.  Once I worked up the nerve and finally wrote the first draft, I quickly realized how liberating it is to write what you are an expert on–your own life– without the need for citations.   I wanted to share what I was passionate about: college success; but, I didn’t want it to be just practical tips and strategies.  I wanted to discuss what really gets in the way of a degree, which is simply life.  For me to do that, I’d have to share my own truth.  Me? This introvert? Yep, me.

So while this is not a Lemonade/4:44 type of a book,  I did push myself to talk about my perspective as a minority, first-generation, low-income graduate student from the rural south.  I share what propelled me to complete my terminal degree at 26 and become an higher education administrator by 30. I focus a lot about ways to change mindsets so that students can maximize their college experience.  It features big abstract strategies that helps students understand the value of common practical college success tips.  I wanted it to speak directly to students who may not have family and mentors to help guide them through this journey.

I don’t have an official release date, and I’m still toying with the title.  But what I can tell you is my five hopes for this book.  I hope that this book:

  1. connects with a diverse audience but specifically young, minority, rural students.
  2. becomes a common read for 1st-Year Experience Programs
  3. is read by parents and guardians so that they can gently guide their college bound students.
  4. is purchased as a gift for high school graduates
  5. pushes me to start creating a textbook and curriculum for first-year seminars.

College Exit Strategies: Five Academic Resolutions for the New Year

Spring is here! It’s another chance to improve your GPA, adopt new habits and to make up for the excessive fun the fall semester brought.

As a learning consultant, I see many students wanting a fresh academic start this semester.  Some want to improve their GPA to get into their major college, some want to get off academic probation, while others want to reduce their stress.  No matter their goal, I suggest five resolutions they should adopt for a great semester:

  1. Find your motivation.  What’s going to push you to power through the semester? Be specific. Once you find it, write down. Keep it as a reminder when things get tough.
  2. Become an accountant of your time. Write down all tests, assignments, projects and social events on a monthly calendar. Put all classes and work hours on a weekly planner. Identify gaps in between classes and designate them as study time. Monitor your time wasters like sleeping in, watching TV or playing video games. Prioritize your time commitments by their contributions to your semester goals.
  3. Take advantage of your/your parents’ investments. There is a good reason why textbooks cost as much as they do (at least for the purpose of this blog).  They are extremely valuable as they are a primary source of information. It contains more things than your professor can teach in a single lecture or a single semester. So make sure you both buy AND use your textbook this semester in every class for every exam.  Do this even against your professor’s advice of textbooks being unnecessary for the course.
  4. Be a professional student.  Pretend someone was paying you 70k per year to complete your degree.  If being a student was a salaried position, what would you do? How would you act? The same way you would (should) treat your dream job, is the same way you should handle college.  Set your “work” hours to be up and ready by 8AM.  No sleeping in until your first class of the day.  Fill in your 40-50 hours per week with everything related to academics: class, work-study, office hours, studying, study groups, and tutoring.  If you really commit to doing these thing between the hours of 8:00AM-4:30PM, then the rest of the day is yours.  Use your evenings to reward yourself.
  5. Get rid of the Drake mentality. "No new friends"? “No help…that’s all me”? That may work in the music industry (I doubt it), but that mentality definitely won’t work when you’re trying to improve your academic situation. Make sure you use your resources before you desperately need them.  Go get tutoring even if you don’t think the material is difficult.  Visit your professors and teaching assistants to discuss your initial course concerns. Begin a study group to begin studying weeks before the first test. Yes, you may have to take an exam by yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you have to prepare for it alone.

Raising College Grads: Home is where SMART starts! Part 2

In Raising College Grads…Part 1, (Read Here) I discussed how many college success skills are developed or strengthen outside of the classroom during their k-12 years.  Skills like reading comprehension (not just reading),  writing, and critical thinking take time and consistency to develop. “Smartness” and college success just doesn’t happen.  It takes a lot of behind the scenes work.  I heard all the time growing up that I was smart, like it was this unattainable thing that everyone couldn’t reach.  Well, that’s not my philosophy.  Being “smart” is not something nature or genetics hands to anyone on a platter. It has to be nurtured consistently.

Below are some simple strategies parents can use to increase their child’s potential for academic success in K-12 and beyond.

  1. Subscribe to positive magazines to help encourage reading such as Jet, Ebony, Time, and National Geographic. Reading can give students broad knowledge that will help them, in general, learn easier. Reading expands the vocabulary and builds imagination needed to think critically. Students also become well-rounded when exposed to current events and cultural issues.
  2. Make TV viewing educational. Ask your children to write and read aloud a summary of what they have just watch. Check for details like characters’ names, descriptions, and events.  A critical level in higher order thinking is the ability to summarize details and pick out main ideas. This also a top college study strategy. (This may take some incentive).
  3. Choose a word of the week that the family must spell, define and use in a daily conversation. Expanding your child’s vocabulary will make reading comprehension, writing and standardized testing easier.

Stay tuned for more strategies that you can use to increase your child’s potential for success!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Raising College Grads: Home is where SMART starts! Part 1

“That school does nothing for my child!”  "That teacher doesn’t teach my baby anything.“  "This school district is terrible.” “We have the worst education system in the nation”.  

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard those phrases I would be at least a thousand-aire :).  Yes, a formal education is necessary.  However, students CAN NOT learn everything in 8 hours per day for 9 months per year, for 12 years. Impossible! Yes, I’m all for education reform (not the one that in the news…but a real change). But while all the change is taking place (whenever it happens) your child still has to become educated.  Jobs and colleges will not accept excuses for why a student does not have the qualifications to compete. While parents feel helpless and restricted in providing quality education for their children because of finances or locale, the real TRUTH is: Everything your child needs to compete academically with the best is at home! 

The ultimate goal of K-12 education is not to pass a standardized test but to become a productive adult that can solve real life problems and make wise decisions.  Most real life problems occur outside of the classroom. Therefore, the most important lessons students can learn are at home and in extracurricular activities.  No, i’m not a parent, but I am a child who succeeded despite coming from a minority, low-income and first-generation household and a “medium”-quality school district.  The things that I was exposed to at home over-compensated for any lack that I may have experience in my K-12 education.

In “Raising College Grads: Home Is Where SMART starts! Part 2” I will give several tips and strategies that parents can considered in making sure their child is academically prepared for college.

Creating African American Male College Grads: 4 Tips for Parents

African American males are at higher risk for leaving college without a degree. While many Higher Education administrations have a great of work to do to ensure the success of all student populations, there are many things parents can do to ensure their African American sons are successful on any campus.

  1. In exploring college choices, be sure to find out the options in specialized programs for minority students. Many universities have mentoring programs, student organizations and academic programs that build a community of minority students.  
  2. Attend minority or multicultural orientations or mixers. These information sessions are the first attempt to connect with minority students.  There you can meet staff that directly work in programs that provide support. 
  3. Encourage your son to get involved on campus.  Not getting involved in activities outside of class is a number one reason why most students are not successful.  Students who are involved have access to influential people, resources and insight compared to students who are not involved. There are various opportunities to work on campus, play intramural sports, or join a student organization. 
  4. Encourage your son to find a mentor through an upperclassman, staff or faculty member. A mentor is someone that can connect your son to resources and can motivate him to attain his goals. Identify and connect with African American staff and faculty members. You will be surprised at how many are open to mentoring students. 

4 Lessons Learned from the Best Man Holiday

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This blog has been in the process for a couple of months (8+).  I knew what I wanted to share but didn’t quite have the motivation or passion to do it. But that all changed on 11/14/13 during my early viewing of The Best Man Holiday! Yes, most people will see it on the 11/15/13, but in my eagerness to purchase tickets I realized I can go see it a day early before everybody else would start gushing about it first. (Yes, I’m petty).

15 years ago I was 13 and this movie was the instant cult classic, especially for those young African Americans who were 20-35 years old back then. This was not just a movie. It represented entertainment that educated African Americans could relate to. I didn’t understand the gravity of it until I myself was a college graduate and saw some of the same stories lines play out in my friend’s lives. The Best Man is one of those comforting classics that I play at least once a month. So, when  I heard the rumblings that there was going to be a sequel I became excited. By the buzz that has been generated around this movie the past couple of months, I’m not the only one. 

Let’s cut to the chase…the movie was AWESOME! I’m not going to spoil it, but the writing was FANTASTIC (shout out to Malcom Lee) and the roller coaster ride was not only fun but it was filled with awesome lessons that my generation can definitely take to heart. I analyze things that most wouldn’t (which is the basis of my blog 🙂 ). So here is what I took away from this film.

Let go of pride. Being prideful causes you to miss out on the favor and blessings God has for you.

Holding on to anger will eat you alive. Truly forgive and forget for your sake…not the other person. 

Faith can make a difference in sanity and insanity.  Its the only thing that can sustain you when you can’t SEE past your situation. 

Know who your true friends are and hold them close. True friends will bask in your sunshine AND weather all kinds of storms. 

I would love to hear your view, so….go support a great film and let me know what you think!