7 Steps Towards a More Satisfying Life

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the University of California, has conducted considerable research in the area of personal satisfaction. The following seven points summarize her findings.

There’s a lot of common sense wrapped up in these steps. Unfortunately, our calendars and to-do lists often get in the way of common sense. If you find you “can’t get no satisfaction”, try any or all of the following.

1. Count your blessings. One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful—from the mundane (your peonies are in bloom) to the magnificent (a child’s first steps). Do this once a week, say, on Sunday night. Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.

2. Practice acts of kindness. These should be both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbour). Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects—it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness—all happiness boosters.

3. Savour life’s joys. Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe strawberry or the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade. Some psychologists suggest taking “mental photographs” of pleasurable moments to review in less happy times.

4. Learn to forgive. Let go of anger and resentment by writing a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. Inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows you to move on.

5. Invest time and energy in friends and family. Where you live, how much money you make, your job title and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.

6. Take care of your body. Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying.

7. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships. There is no avoiding hard times. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular beliefs enshrined in axioms like “This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” The trick is that you have to believe them.

5 Tips for Efficient PowerPoint Presentations

5 Tips for Efficient PowerPoint Presentations

Creating a PowerPoint presentation requires skill, knowledge and creativity. Here are five tips to help you create an engaging and fun PowerPoint presentation.

Share a story.

All PowerPoint presentations should tell a narrative which includes a beginning, middle and end part. The initial part of the presentation should give a brief introduction of the problem. Try to ask yourself the question—“What are the things that you want to solve today?” Key findings should be presented in the middle portion of the presentation, but these facts should tie back to the main issue that you want to solve. By the end of the presentation, the audience should feel they have learned something and have a good understanding of the solution.

Always remember, less is more.

More often than not, people have this tendency to over-complicate a simple presentation with quirky transitions, too much text or flashy images. Some of these features are unnecessary. Try to make each slide free of clutter, using only a single image to sell an idea.

Branding is the ultimate key.

Create a PowerPoint presentation that will reinforce your brand image. Use the same fonts, logos, and color schemes that you use for the business. Treat a presentation like a marketing or advertising campaign. Don’t skimp.

Take a break.

Based on a research conducted by the University of Tennessee, the average adult’s attention span lasts for 20 minutes. It is best to keep your presentation brief and straight to the point. If you think you’ll use more than 20 minutes, give the audience a minute or two to relax. Steve Jobs often allotted a blank slide as a way for the audience to maintain their focus.

Practice and practice some more.

A wonderful presentation comes down to its speaker’s ability to capture the audience’s attention and keep them focussed on the topic. The best speakers are the one who don’t stare at their notes and don’t read scripts. Try to focus on the main points and let handouts outline the rest. Brilliant speakers don’t convey information; they sell ideas.

Places You can Promote Yourself with Public Speaking

Places You can Promote Yourself with Public Speaking

So, you’ve decided to start giving speeches to promote your product or yourself. You know your subject and you have material ready. Where can you go to speak?

Guess what? There are loads of places looking for someone to speak. The weekly e-mail newsletter from my professional association periodically carries the tagline, “We’re looking for speakers. If you have something to share that you feel would be of benefit to our members, place contact…”

So, where can you speak?
  • Service clubs: Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.
  • Community organizations: Chamber of Commerce, 4H, Junior Achievement, Libraries etc.
  • Professional and trade associations: Realtors, Insurance Agents, etc.
  • Direct sales groups: Amway, Avon, PartyLite, etc.
  • Church groups:
  • Community learning: Community colleges, civic education programs, universities
  • Conferences: Local, Regional, National, etc.
  • Small business: Small businesses generally do not have a big budget for staff development. Speakers can provide employee training for such business.
  • Non-profit organizations: Same as above.
  • Speakers groups: National Speakers Association, Local Speakers Bureau, Toastmasters International, etc.
  • Related industry listings: Association of Meeting Planners, Corporate Meeting Planners, etc.
  • On-line search: Enter “call for speakers” in your favourite search engine.
  • Networking: Word of mouth is the most successful way for meeting planners to find speakers for their events.

Think about your desired audience. Don’t go and speak just anywhere and everywhere. If your speech doesn’t fit the group’s function, they may not be listening to what you’re saying.

Not every speaking opportunity carries a cash payment. Smaller groups and organizations will often provide a meal and a small token thank you gift. Larger groups may give an honorarium and others still will ask you to set your fee. If you do a good job of marketing yourself or a product, you will make money.

Get out and do it. You may not be a brilliant speaker at first, but you’ll be good enough and will improve with practice. You will start enjoying it, and the opportunities and profits will multiply.

Shape Thinking with Experiences that Make You Proud

Do our thoughts shape our lives? Albert Einstein believed so. He said, “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” James Lane Allen, author of the book “As a Man Thinketh” states, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

It’s easy for us to focus on the negative parts of our lives. In doing this, we sub-consciously shape our future responses toward the negative. If you want to move in a positive direction, you have to shape your thoughts with positive thoughts. One way you can focus on the positive is to have a pride-experiences list.

List past experiences that are positive for you; things you are proud of, that energize you as you recall them. Include your earliest memories. They can be anything from building a house to drawing a picture or running a race. It only matters how you feel about it. The standard for items on this list is your own pride in feeling, “I did it myself.”

Examples of pride experiences are:
  • Coached my baseball team to a winning season
  • Created an innovative new procedure and trained staff how to use it
  • Designed a go-kart with 2 friends and won first prize in a race
  • Doubled the sales volume in my product area in a two-year period
  • Earned enough money to travel through Europe by holding three part-time jobs
  • Helped solve an important personal problem for an employee or neighbour
  • Initiated a program, product or procedure at my job
  • Learned to swim and dive at age seven
  • Organized and led weekend Girl Guide camping outings
  • Raised $1,000 organizing a raffle for my children’s school
  • Remodelled and redecorated part of my house
  • Set up and ran a summer business that earned enough profit to pay for my school tuition
  • Successfully managed a difficult project to completion
  • Taught myself how to create a web site by studying a how-to book
  • Wrote an innovative database program to help my class manage a research project

This is not merely a mental exercise; write the list on paper or in your mobile device. Refer to the list regularly. In particular, when you feel negative thoughts coming on, pull out the list and remind yourself of the things you have and can accomplish.

7 Things Great Leaders Do

7 Things Great Leaders Do

Once in a while you meet a someone who stands out as a leader. They are more than just charismatic or likeable. You can quickly tell, they think and act and lead differently than most people.

However, people don’t become outstanding leaders overnight. Truly outstanding leaders are made. Through training, experience, self-examination and practice, they learn to nurture, motivate, and inspire.

They learn to truly lead.

Over time, those skills become automatic and reflexive. While great leaders do a tremendous amount of thinking, that thinking happens behind the scenes. In the moment, in the trenches, when people look to them and need them most, they act: swiftly, decisively, and confidently.

Want to become a truly outstanding leader? Work hard to do these seven things well:

1) Build a great team

Leaders must be rigorous in the selection process for getting new people “on the bus”, as Jim Collins puts it, in “Good to Great”. Invest time in evaluating each candidate and make systematic use of at least three evaluation tools (e.g., interviews, references, background, testing, etc.).

When in doubt, do not bring that person on the team. Keep the position vacant—taking on extra work as needed—until you have found the right person. Ensure your company does an exceptional job of retaining the right people to perpetuate good hiring decisions.

2) Offer recognition and praise

Offering praise to your employees is all about recognition. Most workers thrive on feeling appreciated. For an employee, knowing that what they are doing means something to their boss and the business, gives a feeling of worth that can motivate them to improve their work.

The happier your employees, the more engaged and productive they will be. Receiving praise is empowering. It doesn’t cost anything to recognize and praise your staff. However, not giving them credit when and where credit is deserved can cost you big time.

3) Improve constantly

Whatever you’re working toward, it’s important to constantly assess, evaluate and appraise where you are and where you want to be. It’s something you do because you want to be a better leader, not only for your own sake but also for the sake of those who are part of your team and work hard to achieve the vision and goals you set. Great leaders make self-improvement a daily practice.

4) Cross-pollinate

Great leaders know the benefits of working in a variety of departments in the organization. This cross-pollination is a productive development tool, giving organizations a competitive edge. When leaders better understand organizational processes, they can make better decisions. The same applies to staff.

Rather than compartmentalize employees in rigid departments, great leaders mix people from a variety of fields and allow them regular contact. As a result, the employees have a better understanding of the overall operations of the organization. This allows them to apply ideas from as many fields as possible to the problems at hand, just in case something unexpected applies.

5) Delegate

Delegation in leadership not only helps get things done, but it also empowers employees by giving them greater autonomy. No leader can do all things at all times, and delegation is a key tool for boosting team and organizational performance and efficiency. A Gallup study found that companies led by CEOs who were strong at delegating achieved a higher overall growth rate compared to companies whose CEOs delegated less.

Great leadership has many components, and delegation is an important factor for maximizing employee contributions and increasing productivity among all members of a team.

6) Share Information

Communication is a core leadership function. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. Leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups, and sometimes on a global scale.

You need to think with clarity, express ideas, and share information with your team. You must learn to handle the rapid flows of information within the organization, and among customers, partners, and other stakeholders and influencers.

7) Create a Vision

“In order to take the organization to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision.” ~Warren Bennis

Leadership vision is essential for focusing attention on what matters most; on becoming the kind of leader you wish to be. An effective vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see.

A visionary leader who clearly and passionately communicates his or her vision can motivate employees to act with passion and purpose, thereby ensuring that everyone is working toward a common goal. The end result is that everyone contributes to the organization’s forward momentum.

Places You can Promote Yourself with Public Speaking

How to Make Your Public Speaking More Effective

From the Office of Educational Development at UC Berkeley:

Analyze Your Audience
  • Remember that the members of the audience are beneficiaries of your communication.
  • Don’t make assumptions about your audience.
  • Figure out the basics. Who are these people?
    • demographics (age, ethnicity, gender mix, etc.).
    • predispositions (hopes, fears, positives/negatives, level of interest).
    • knowledge of/experience with subject/me.
  • In what kind of setting will you be speaking?
    • large lecture hall or small seminar room or classroom.
    • lighting and sound issues.
    • time of day.
  • Take into account the “me, here, now.”
    • Picture yourself as a member of the audience and ask “How does this message affect me, here, now?”
    • “Me, here, now” translates into what you as a sender have to offer your audience/receivers—what they will be able to understand, accept, support, consider important—because it matters to them.
  • Establish objectives for your audience:
    • What do I want my audience to know?
    • What do I want my audience to do

Openings, and Closings

OPENINGS. Stay away from the predictable (Good morning…, Today, I’m here to talk about…). Instead:

  • Begin with a provocative question, anecdote, or current event—and how it relates to the content.
  • Ask the audience a question
  • Set up a problem—and promise that they’ll have all the tools for a solution by the end of the class.

CLOSINGS. Many speakers simply talk until the end of the time or beyond it—and say, “I see we’re out of time.” Instead:

  • Plan a rhythm for your speaking—plan to end with content 5 minutes early, so you can summarize, raise questions.
  • Set aside a time for questions—and structure that time.

Preparation

You won’t cover everything you want in a talk or speech.

  • Decide what is essential, what is important, and what is helpful.
    • Cover the first; try to cover the second; forget about the third.
    • Release a little control over the material and rely on a list of supplementary readings for the nonessentials.
  • Set objectives.
    • What do you want to have accomplished at the end of the speech?
    • What do you want the audience to know at the end of the speech?
  • Plan a speech to cover less than the allotted period.
    • It takes some time to get going.
    • Questions always take up more time than you expect.
  • Divide the speech into segments and follow the standard speech structure.
    • Divide it in terms of time and material.
    • Try for roughly equal blocks, each one on a topic.
    • Tell them what you’ll say, say it, and tell them what you’ve said.
  • Speak from notes or an outline, rather than a complete text.
    • It’s too tempting to simply read, rather than lecture, from a complete text.
    • Reading also creates a barrier between speaker and audience.
    • Writing up an entire speech is time consuming.
    • A written speech often becomes a fossil that never gets updated.

Delivery
  • Be conversational; speak naturally; be yourself.
    • That self may be formal, “laid back,” understated, or hyper. Use those traits; don’t fight against them.
    • Talk about the material; don’t lecture about it.
    • (Talking is easier if you don’t read verbatim.)
  • Vary your pacing and voice.
    • Gauge audience reaction.
    • Repeat critical points immediately if you sense the necessity.
    • Use your voice to emphasize the important points.
    • Pause before new points.
    • Use transitional statements to move to the next idea.
  • Use gestures to emphasize points.
    • Have your gestures mirror your voice.
    • Adjust your gestures to the size of the room.
  • Look at the audience.
    • Try to cover all parts of the room by dividing it into four quadrants.
    • If direct eye contact makes you forget your place, try looking just over a listener’s head, or between two audience members.
  • Use language to create pictures.
    • Use metaphors, analogies, and similes.
  • Observe the techniques of others.
    • Try out techniques you admire in others.
    • Like any skill, delivery must be learned

Credibility & Commitment

Although speaking isn’t theatre, we know that audience find concepts and ideas most accessible and credible from someone they consider entertaining.

  • Think about antecedent image—perception is often stronger than reality.
  • Credibility is enhanced by:
    • Your own sense of comfort and confidence presenting material.
    • Your enthusiasm and interest in teaching.
    • Your research and own ideas.
  • Commitment is enhanced by:
    • Relating your own experience, ideas, and feelings.
    • Taking the first person approach, not separating yourself from your subject.
    • Relating your “passion” for your subject.
  • Delivery is tied to both commitment and credibility:
    An old UCLA study of effective presentations analyzed 3 elements (verbal, vocal, visual). Here’s what it found was important in establishing credibility/believability:
    • Verbal (words you say): 7%.
    • Vocal (how you sound when you say them): 38%.
    • Visual (how you look when you say them): 55%.
  • Your energy and intensity will move your audience—and help you reach your objectives.

Building Interaction
  • Learning takes place best in an active, not a passive environment.
  • Interaction is a continuous way to
    • Assess the me, here, now.
    • Determine whether or not your content is understood.
    • Share the responsibility of learning more equitably and appropriately.
  • How to build interaction?
    • Have questions prepared—begin with relatively easy, accessible ones.
    • Work to get everyone involved, even in large groups.
  • Ask the audience to consider issues with the person sitting next to them/jot down ideas, questions, concerns.
  • Discuss as a larger group.
  • Move yourself!
    • Don’t scurry back and forth, but don’t get locked into one position.

Handling Questions
  • Explicitly request and encourage questions.
    • The audience will see that you have a genuine interest in what they’re thinking.
  • Be aware of how your behavior and comments can set the tone for questioning.
    • A negative response (e.g., “We’ve already covered that”) discourages further questions and may make the audience think you don’t really want questions.
  • Make sure everyone hears the question.
    • Repeat it if necessary.
    • But don’t make a habit of simply repeating every question.
    • Ask the audience if they heard the question; then ask the person to repeat.
  • Clarify questions.
    • Say, “Do you mean that . . . ,” or “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question,” rather than “Your question isn’t clear.”
  • Answer questions as directly as possible.
    • Address your answer to the whole audience.
    • Ask whether you have answered the question.
  • Be diplomatic when people raise tangential, overly complicated questions, or persistently ask questions just to be asking.
    • Ask them to stop by after the presentation or to contact you.
    • If a someone is simply confused, say, “Let me go over this point a bit more slowly.”

Getting Feedback
  • Get regular feedback.
    • Ask the audience to spend the last five minutes of class writing down the most important thing they learned that day or one question they have as a result of the talk.
    • Or ask them to write down questions they still have.
  • Use eye contact as a tool for continuous feedback.
    • If you notice people with questioning looks, stop what you’re doing and ask if you need to clarify.
    • If you get no response, go ahead and clarify.