After my car decided to do a little jig at a red light and blink some rather dire warning lights, I found myself having to call for roadside assistance. On the way to my mechanic, the tow trucker inquired as to what I did for a living.

“Research and psychometrics is the official title,” I explained. “We’re essentially a team of psychologists who study and assess human behavior.”
“You must have seen it all then,” he laughed.

“Well, if you’re asking whether I’ve met ‘crazy’ people, the truth is, years of research have taught us that the official definition of ‘normal’ is really quite broad,” I responded.

“There is no such thing as a perfect human being,” he nodded. “But there is the potential for perfection in this world. Like the engineer who develops a piece for an airplane. It has to be perfect, or you’re in trouble. Yup. We may not be perfect, but we can create perfect things,” he mused. “So what’s the best piece of advice you could offer to people in general?” he asked.

I thought about his question for a while, and considered all the wisdom we’ve offered over the years as part of our tests. Regular readers of my blog know that I hate fluffy advice that can’t be put to practical use, like “Believe in yourself” or “Just keep trying.” So when I got to work after leaving my car at the garage, I started poring through all of the tips we’ve offered over the years. Here are some of the best:

Setting and achieving goals:

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Think “SMART”. A goal should be:

Specific: Rather than simply stating “I want to lose weight,” have a number in mind, like “lose 40 lbs”.

Measurable: Being able to track your progress at set intervals (every month, for example) is important – you’ll see and appreciate the efforts of your labors. A monthly weight loss check can be number of inches lost, or amount of steps you can now climb.

Attainable: This is the key to success. Goals that are too easy to achieve won’t motivate you; goals that are too hard will discourage you and are more likely to be left unfinished. Set a goal that is challenging yet reasonable. So in terms of a weight loss, for example, avoid those “30 lbs in 30 days” gimmicks.

Realistic: Why do you have this particular goal? Why do you want to achieve it? You’ll be much more motivated to achieve something that means something to you. For example: “I want to lose weight so that I feel better about myself…so that I can keep up with my children/grandchildren…so that I can run in a marathon” etc.

Time-based: Set a flexible, realistic deadline. This will keep your eyes on the prize. Setting a goal to be achieved at some vague time in the future is not going to stick. That being said, be willing to tweak your deadline if unexpected situations arise (e.g. you’re on track with your weight loss goal, but injure yourself and need to take a break.). A realistic weight loss deadline could be 40 lbs in one year.

Surround yourself with supportive and ambitious people. While you shouldn’t depend entirely on others to motivate and push you to greatness, knowing that someone is behind you if needed can be a great source of inspiration. So if your current environment isn’t supportive, seek out support. Join an online group that shares your passion. Read biographies of great achievers who struggled, but still made a name for themselves. For example, director George Lucas described himself as a terrible student. Business mogul and talk show host Oprah Winfrey came from humble beginnings, but always told herself she would be someone great. Antonia Novello battled illness and an overly strict parent to become the Surgeon General of the United States. These people also serve as a reminder that persistence is the key to success. If you keep hanging on just a little longer when you face obstacles, you can accomplish amazing things.

Dealing with introverts and extroverts:

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Tips on understanding introverts:

  • Don’t put them on the spot or force them to make snap decisions (especially in front of other people – in class, meetings at work, etc.). Introverts prefer having time to gather their thoughts and thoroughly think things through. If you want a well-informed response or quality work you’ll get it – just give them some time.
  • Being around people for too long can be exhausting for introverts (especially when it comes to boisterous get-togethers). Therefore, many introverts will purposely seek solitude. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy people’s company, however; they simply prefer it in moderation. Respect their need for privacy and alone time.
  • Don’t equate introversion with shyness – or with antisocial behavior for that matter. Many introverts are quite skilled at making friends; they just don’t feel the need to be around them all the time, or to have a large social circle. What’s important to introverts is the quality of their friendships, not the quantity.

Tips on understanding extroverts:

  • Extroverts are often known to think “out loud”. Granted, it may seem as though they’re jumping from one random thought to the next (or they may keep repeating themselves), but this is the manner in which they generate ideas, solutions, and better understand the world overall. Despite what some may think, extroverts don’t purposely hijack conversations or speak at length on an issue because they enjoy the sound of their own voice. They simply have a great deal they wish to express.
  • “Party” and “fun” are not the only two words in an extrovert’s vocabulary. There are many who don’t mind spending a quiet night at home as long as they’ve got some company.
  • Extroverts don’t purposely invade your space, pop in for a visit or call you up because they want to annoy you – they simply enjoy your company. Also, when they’re feeling down or upset, they are more likely to seek out others.

Getting that promotion at work

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Watch out for work no-nos. Pay heed to the message you send with your behavior, work habits, and attitude. Are you acting like someone who wants to be promoted? Here are some examples of what not to say:

  • “I wasn’t hired to do that.”
  • “That’s not my responsibility.”
  • “You didn’t ask me, so I didn’t tell you.
  • “I told you so.”

Document your success. Keep a file with a timeline of your accomplishments: New skills you have acquired, training you’ve undergone and initiative you’ve taken. When a client gives you positive feedback, for example, ask if they could put it in writing. This file will come in handy when it comes time to request that promotion.

When you just can’t stay focused on a task

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Make appointments with yourself to deal with distracting thoughts. If you find your mind preoccupied with worries or repetitive thoughts on a certain subject, try setting aside a block of time each day allotted only to these thoughts. Research shows that people who set aside a specific time to worry find themselves worrying 35 percent less within only four weeks. That’s a lot of time saved for better things!

Learn your body’s schedule. For a week or two, pay special attention to the time of day when you are best able to focus. Is the early morning, when you’re refreshed after a night’s sleep, a productive time for you? Or do you get a lot done in the afternoon, after you’ve had time to settle into your routine? While you may not always be able to choose when you can work on something, you can try to schedule the most challenging projects for the time of the day when you are the most alert and use your less productive times for tasks requiring less concentration.
Stayed tuned for the next installment!

Insightfully yours,

Queen D