Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Achieve Success and Happiness In Life

Many people go through life living far below their potential. It is amazing to me to see so many people fall short of who they might be. In contrast, we all know people that have achieved great success and joy in life. But what do successful people know and do that others do not? In this blog post, I will share the four fundamental skills for success and happiness. These are very general in nature, and they must be individually applied be an individual to be of full effect.

My Experience With These Principles
Over the last 15 years, I have devoted thousands of hours of study to the topics of learning, goal-setting, and personal success. I have attended dozens of workshops, seminars, and trainings, speeches and presentations. I have read scores of books, listened to hundreds of hours of audio books and programs, have earned four college degrees in various disciplines, and have spent many hours researching how people learn and change.

During these studies, I have also worked and volunteered in multiple organizations, states, and countries. I have worked to apply the principles of success and happiness in my life, and I have concluded that there are a few very fundamental skills for achieving success, happiness, and fulfillment in life. In this post, I will describe what I believe these skills are and will give some strategies for developing these skills.

You Can Change
Before I share these skills and abilities, I want to discuss the most fundamental truth of success and happiness: you can change. You are endowed by your creator with the capacity to change, adapt, improve and grow. Every human being has the capacity to change habits, to gain knowledge, to live with purpose, and to grow toward the good and the pure.

Some subscribe to false ideas of predestination or determinism, believing that their choices have already been made for them. Others adhere to behaviorism, believing that our environment directs our behavior, and we only live in passive response to external stimuli. I fully reject these notions and state emphatically that every human being has the power to change their life and circumstances through exertion of thought and action. YOU CAN CHANGE. You can find direction in your life. You can grow. You can develop habits and take actions of your own free will and choice. You are not fully controlled by unseen powers or the environment you live in - you have GREAT power to live outside these influences and move toward excellence.

The Four Fundamental Skills for Success and Happiness 
Here are what I currently believe to be the most fundamental skills for success and happiness. I'll outline them here and then describe them in detail below.
  1. Live with Purpose and Passion
  2. Believe in Yourself
  3. Develop Habits for Success
  4. Keep Learning and Think Smart

Read Only if You Are Serious About Creating Change
I must be candid - it will take effort to achieve success and happiness in life. You must apply yourself and work toward your goals. And it can take a long time to make the changes you want to see in yourself.  However, if you begin down the path to your desired achievements, then you will eventually reach it. I can promise through my own personal experience that if you seriously study and apply these principles, you will find rich rewards, and the reward is always worth the required effort.

One of the most important ways you can start to build these fundamental skills is through learning. I strongly urge you to undertake a serious study of the principles of success and happiness. If you are willing to spend time reading the books and listening to the audio programs below, I can promise that you will begin to see success in these areas. I will discuss each of these fundamental skills for success and happiness in detail below, including resources for learning more.

1. Live With Purpose and Passion.
The most foundational skill for success and happiness is the ability to to find a sense of purpose in life. What are you passionate about? What do you love to think about and do? How are you uniquely positioned to make a positive impact on the world and on the people around you? Answering these questions can help you identify and move toward your purpose. For some people this can be difficult, but you must "begin with the end in mind" (Stephen Covey).

You must set goals that will help you achieve your purpose, specific objectives that will move you toward success. If you can discover your purpose and develop goals that will help you achieve that purpose, you will be among the empowered few who have a mission in life, a vision of how they can change the world. I believe that having purpose and goals will move you forward in life faster than any other thing.

Your task is to discover your purpose and set goals that will help you achieve it. I recommend that you study seriously these principles. It will take time to develop a deep knowledge and skill in these principles, but the following books, audio programs, and links can help you do this.

Books on Goal Setting and Purpose:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
How to Get What You Want (audio) - Zig Ziglar
Goals - How to Get Everything You Want - Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible - Brian Tracy
Happy for No Reason (book) Marci Shimoff

My Own Blog Posts on Goal Setting and Purpose:
A Challenge to the Slacker: Live Your Potential
How to Become an Expert at Anything
To Reach Career Goals, Be Deliberate
To Reach Your Goals, Avoid Distractions
How to Set and Reach Career Goals
Setting Professional Goals

2. Believe in Yourself.
The famous quote states, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." What you believe about yourself and about life directs how you behave in life. If you believe that you are unlucky, then you will behave like an unlucky person, constantly expecting bad things to happen to you. If you believe that you are not worthy of finding a companion, then your internal and external actions will likely fulfill that belief. What you believe about life and yourself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, directly influencing and predicting the results you get in life.

Your task is to develop a deep reservoir of empowering, positive, true thoughts about yourself and life. You must flood your mind with positive, empowering beliefs, ideas and thoughts. These beliefs will act as the fuel of success, propelling you toward the fulfillment of your dreams. The resources below will get you started on doing this.

Books for Improving Your Beliefs:
Awaken the Giant Within (audio) - Anthony Robbins
Unleash the Power Within (audio) - Anthony Robbins
Happy for No Reason (book) - Marci Shimoff
A Healthy Dose of Motivation (audio) - Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
The Psychology of Achievement - Brian Tracy

My Own Blog Posts on Improving Your Beliefs:
Using the Power of Positive Affirmations

Using Your Thoughts to Create Personal Power
The Analogy of the Fleas: Self Beliefs, Learning and Success
Creating Results in Life

3. Develop Habits for Success.
Successful people develop habits that help them fulfill their goals and purpose. It is true that most of what we do each day is a result of our habitual behavior, so you must develop habits that will aid you in achieving your goals. You must also eliminate those habits which are unhealthy and which do not help you achieve your worthy goals and desires. 

To put it clearly, successful people have discovered (a) what positive habits are, (b) how they can change or eliminate old habits and (c) how they can adopt the new positive habits. If you would like to begin to identify and cultivate positive, empowering habits, begin with the resources below. These resources will give you an excellent foundation for changing your behavior for the better.

Books on Habit Development:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
The Now Habit at Work - Neil Fiore

My Own Blog Posts on Habits of Success:
7 Fundamental Skills for Success
The Power of Habit (a book review and reflection)
Book Review - Instant Influence
The Importance of Humility

4. Keep Learning and Think Smart.
The world is increasingly complex, and the rate of knowledge creation is constantly expanding and changing. I attended a workshop the other day in which the speaker (a medical doctor) stated that 50% of the medical knowledge learned in medical school is obsolete before the individual graduates. The same is true in other fields, and to be successful in life, you must continuously learn and improve your knowledge so that you can maintain and improve your relevance and your ability to contribute meaningfully.

Not only must you continue learning, but you must develop and expand your capacity to use that information effectively. We live in a constant flood of information, so we must develop the ability to draw conclusions and make decisions that are effective and will bring the outcomes we desire. The resources below will give you a great start on effective thinking and decision-making.

Books on Thinking and Learning:
Outliers: The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell

My Blog Posts on Thinking and Learning
How to Become a Successful Lifelong Learner
The Tendency to Jump to Conclusions
Become an Active Learning: Here's How!
Skills for Success in the Knowledge Society
6 Principles for Using Data to Make Decisions
Effective Strategies for Making Decisions
Leadership and Effective Decision Making

A Note on Spirituality and Success
I would like to emphasize that I believe in God and believe that He wishes the very best for each of us.  I believe that He has given us the power to choose good in our lives, and my personal belief is that exercising the habits described above can also be used to bring us closer to God. I have found that a more spiritually-focused life will build a deep foundation of happiness. There are books that can bring a deeper layer of happiness in life, and I have personally gained a great deal of spiritual strength from reading the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. I also gain a great deal of insight and strength in speaking with my friends of other faiths.

What Will You Do?
So, what will you do? Are you willing to take the challenge and begin to develop these skills and habits in your life? Are you willing to take the journey to higher levels of happiness and success? I know through my own experience that gaining and applying these skills has helped me to grow in my life, and I hope to continue to increase my knowledge and skill in these areas. Are you willing to change?

A 30 Day Challenge
Here is my challenge to those who are willing to work toward success and happiness. I challenge you to do the following for the next 30 days:
  • Read two of the books from the resources described above.
  • Listen to two of the audio programs described above. (I check them out from the library).
  • Apply at least two of the strategies I discuss in the linked blog posts.
If you are willing to do these things, you will almost certainly find yourself in a state of increased happiness. You will also find yourself beginning to see the path forward to the accomplishment of your own goals and desires. So, will you do it?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Certified Performance Technologist Workshop

I am currently attending the 2-day Certified Performance Technologist Workshop in Indianapolis, Indiana. This workshop offered through the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) and is designed to help learning and performance improvement professionals prepare to apply for the certification. It's being taught by performance improvement legend Dr. Judy Hales.

Participants at the ISPI CPT Workshop on April 12, 2014
The certification is experience-based, and to apply and individual must have at least 3 years of performance improvement experience. To apply, an individual must show how they have successfully utilized each of the 10 ISPI standards within three to seven projects. (More information on ISPI's CPT web page).

Me with Dr. Judy Hale, who facilitated the CPT Workshop.

I have identified some projects that I plan to use for my application, and I plan to complete my application this summer. I have been given the opportunity by Franklin University to take a sabbatical this summer, and part of my sabbatical work will be the completion of this application. (I'll write more about the sabbatical in a later post.)

The Value
I think the value of the workshop is that it helps the participant to really focus attention on ISPI's 10 Standards. These standards function as the criteria for receiving the CPT, and in the workshop we read about, heard examples of, discussed, and reflected on each of the principles. I also took time to reflect on what projects I would use in my application and how I might present those projects. It was definitely worth the effort, and I feel like I am ready to start the application process.

The Solders' and Sailors' Monument in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, a very impressive monument. I walked past the monument on the way to the conference hotel each morning.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Using the Power of Positive Affirmations

Having a positive attitude is absolutely critical to success. A positive attitude gives us the fire and energy necessary to move forward in the face of opposition. However, it seems that we live in a mostly negative world, and we are bombarded with negative, defeating messages. If we are not careful, we may unconsciously accept these messages as truth, thereby decreasing our sense of personal power. It is absolutely critical that we develop habits that help us build positive, empowering beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in.

Use Positive Affirmations
One way to combat negativity and build positive beliefs and energy in your life is through Positive Affirmations. Positive Affirmations are positive, present-tense phrases that affirm strengths and infuse the mind with empowering beliefs. I have worked on developing and using these messages over the years, and over the past several months I have used them almost daily. I have found affirmations can bring an instant sense of empowerment, and if used regularly they can positively influence our overall view of life.

How to Create and Use Affirmations
Based on my experience, the following strategies are helpful in creating and using positive affirmations to improve attitudes and beliefs
When writing affirmations:
  • Use the present tense using terms such as "I am" or "I have."
  • State the affirmation as if the desired state is already attained. 
  • Make the affirmation concise. It should be one sentence long.
When reciting affirmations:
  • Recite the affirmation when you wake up in the morning
  • Stand or sit in a confident poise
  • Smile with sincerity
  • Breathe deeply
  • State the affirmation with confidence
  • Recite affirmations daily

Example Affirmations

I have used the following affirmations in my own life (among others) and have found them to bring me a great deal of positive energy.
  • I succeed and excel at everything I apply myself to.
  • I always have a positive attitude and bring light and happiness into others' lives each and every day.
  • I am a child of God, and as one of His children, I am endowed with the seeds of greatness.
  • I am willing to pay the price to receive blessings in my life.
I have found that reciting these and (several other) affirmations regularly has given me immediate positive energy. And over time, it has infused empowering beliefs into my mind, giving me a greater sense of confidence. I highly recommend writing and using affirmations!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Importance of Humility

If you were to ask the most people today what characteristics make most successful people succeed, you might hear a description of someone with vision, drive, calculated risk-taking, and a solid work ethic. And while these and other characteristics are important, I believe that there is one characteristic that is often overlooked and undervalued: humility.

What is Humility?
Humility is a fascinating concept, but sometimes it can be interpreted improperly to mean a low view of oneself. However, I prefer to see humility as a realistic view of oneself, one's strengths and weaknesses, and one's potential for success in life. In my experience, this realistic view is in fact extremely empowering. It helps us see how we can maximize our strengths and improve our weaknesses so that we can move forward toward our goals.

Humility and Confidence
But do humble people also have a lack of confidence? Does humility equal weakness? I answer emphatically that you can be both humble and confident at the same time. For example, I have set a goal to run a marathon this summer. However, I humbly recognize that I do not currently have the skills, strength, or endurance to reach that goal. (Remember, humility is a realistic view of oneself, not a low view of oneself). Despite this recognition that I do not currently have everything I need, I am confident that if I am willing to rely on the trainers books and blogs I am reading and humbly comply with the training schedule ahead of me, I will be able to complete the marathon.

So, you can simultaneously have both confidence and humility. In fact, I assert that the habits of humility are actually required for success. These habits, which I describe below, are the means through which success is actually accomplished.

What are the Habits of Humility? 
The most successful people in the world have used the habits of humility to drive them toward success in life.But what are the habits of humility? I will list here what I believe to be these habits:
  • Openness and respect - Successful people are aware that there are many views and ways of life, and they are respectful to others' view. 
  • Don't get distracted - Successful people are focused on worthwhile goals and have a sense of purpose. But they do not allow petty distractions such as pride or anger to keep them from their goals. They humbly see past those problems to the important goals at hand.
  • Gather data for decision-making -  Successful people are willing to admit that they don't have all the answers and that they need to gather knowledge so that they can make good decisions. This requires a sense of humility and willingness to seek more information to make sound decisions.
  • Listening to others - Successful people are willing to gather and rely on expertise from their peers and associates. They constantly learn from others so that they can make the best decisions and take the most appropriate actions.
  • Continuous learning - Successful people are aware of their own limited knowledge and are always learning and increasing their expertise. They recognize that there is infinite knowledge in the world, and that continuous learning is a habit of success.
Humility in Teaching and Instructional Design
I have found that the best teachers I have worked with in my life have been humble. They were willing to listen to me and my ideas. They listened to the students in the class and responded to their needs. And they were always learning and growing. I believe that the best teachers always adhere tot these habits of humility.

What do You Think?
Well, what do you think? Do you agree that these "habits of humility" are required for success? Are you willing to cultivate and live these habits?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

11 Years of Marriage, 49 Years To Go

As implied in its title, this blog is my outlet for writing my reflections related to learning, success, and how to improve both. However, today I will take a moment to write about different but very related matter: my family. More specifically, today is our 11th anniversary, and I will reflect on the beautiful years of marriage that my beautiful wife Katie and I have enjoyed together.

We were married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple at like 7:30 in the morning exactly 11 years ago.

10 months later, we had our beautiful daughter. She has been a source of great joy in our life ever since.

Over the last 11 years, we have had many experience. We have endured health issues and personal struggles. We have worked very hard to help our daughter through her health issues and are constantly amazed at her perseverance and goodness. We have survived years of schooling, job changes, and relocation. And we have had a beautiful, happy marriage.

Here is our family in just after midnight on the first day of 2014.

Because this is a blog about success, I will now write why I think our marriage has been successful. Disclaimer: Certainly, our marriage has not been perfect. We have had our share of struggles, disagreements, heartaches, and pain. But we are still married, we are happy, and we are moving forward with hope for more great experiences. So, what do has made our marriage successful?
  1. Faith and Hope. We believe in the institution of marriage and believe that God wants us to be married happily for life. We also have hope that if we do our best, we will enjoy great blessings of happiness and success.
  2. Commitment. We are committed to our marriage. We are both committed to stick together forever, no matter the difficulties. 
  3. Patience. We work to be patient with one another. One thing I have noticed is that it is easy to magnify the faults or errors of another, particularly a family member.  But I find this to be an immature lack of discipline. Focusing and magnifying the good in another person is the sure way to help them develop and improve themselves, and Katie and I work hard to do that. 
  4. Kindness. Simple civility and kindness can go a very long way. We are far from perfect in this thing, but we strive to be thoughtful of and kind to one another.
  5. Forgiveness. Nobody is perfect, and we both work to forgive one another's mistakes and errors. Katie has done a particularly good job at forgiving my own faults and stupidity.
  6. Hard work. Anything worthwhile requires work.  We work to be successful ourselves. We work to support and teach our daughter. And we work to make our marriage work.
So, as the title of the blog post suggests, We are planning on at least 49 more years of happy, successful marriage. Thank you Katie for being such an outstanding wife, a great companion, and someone I can trust and rely on. We look to the future with hope and confidence that good things are coming, and that we can endure any difficulties. I close this blog post with a video playlist of totally awesome, EPIC love songs from the 80s (and some from 70s and 90s thrown in there, too). Oh, yes. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Summary of Experience at 2014 Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy

I recently attended the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy. I drove down to Blacksburg, VA from Columbus, Ohio with several coworkers and really enjoyed the experience. It was a lovely conference, and I had fun getting to know my coworkers better. Below are links to the blog posts on my thoughts and experiences at this conference.

Day 3 - Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy

This post is part of a series reporting on my experiences at the the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy. Click here to read more on this conference. #2014CHEP

Session - Effectiveness of Student Teams
The final session that I attended at the conference was a session on how to help student teams work effectively. It was presented and facilitated by Eric Rice and Richard Parsons.They did a good job facilitating the sessions, and one thing I really liked was that they hung posters that seemed to categorize effective teamwork into 5 general themes. I'll show these posters below and discuss how I think they can be implemented effectively into a team environment.

1. Formation of Groups
Teams need to be formed in the class. Groups seem to be most effective at around 4 group members. Be sure that they are composed of a variety of strengths and capacities. Keep in mind that these individuals may have had a history of working together.

2. Workload Distribution
Teams need to ensure that their work is distributed effectively so they can accomplish the tasks required. This distribution should consider the following components:
  • Balance of the Quantity of work assigned
  • Expectations and standards of Quality for the output desired
  • Selection of Tasks related to the work
  • Assignment of Ownership of each component of the work assigned
  • Create mechanisms to control or penalize Social Loafing and Disengagement
3. Scheduling
Student teams must function efficiently, and having an effective schedule can help them to do this. The schedule should enable the students to complete each component within the time required. Schedules should include (a) when/how often to meet as a group, and (b) when to draft, revise, and submit work to the instructor.

4. Resolving Conflict
Sometimes conflict arises in a team environment. Students and instructors must establish methods for resolving this conflict.

5. Grading and Evaluation
When working with student teams, it is important that their work be effectively evaluated. This should include the following components:
  • Peer Evaluation - have students evaluate one another so that you can understand how each individual contributed throughout the teamwork. This evaluation should occur frequently so that everyone has a feel for how they are doing and how they can improve.
  • Individual Contributions - evaluation of each student should include an evaluation of what each individual contributed to the work completed. This will help you see how that individual contributed and see the quality of their work.
  • Overall Grade - evaluation of the overall grade for the team is also key. This helps in the grading of the team as a whole.
  • Rubrics and Standards - all evaluation should be based on rubrics and standards that are established from the beginning. This will help the students and teams see the end from the beginning and have something to work toward.
This was a great Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy, and I was very glad to have been able to attend it with my friends and coworkers at Franklin University. I cam away with ideas on how I can improve my own work. If possible, I hope to attend the conference again in the future.