Let the World Know You’re Here: How to Express Yourself Authentically

Recently I took a personality test, which asked me about 144 questions about myself and how I view or feel about different situations. Some of the questions were spot on, easy to answer, and I was sure of how I felt. Others made me think a lot more, and some made me a feel a little uncomfortable because my honest answer wasn’t the answer that I hoped would reflect the real me. There was one question in particular that stood out to me in terms of who I am and who I hope to be. It had two statements to choose from and looked like this:

  • I have preferred to inhabit my own little world.
  • I have preferred to let the world know I am here.

This question really stuck with me. I am someone who has definitely inhabited my own little world! Of course I want to be recognized, accomplished and make my mark on the world, but I am also a mom of two boys under 4 years old, a grad student, volunteer, daughter, sister, friend; and sometimes just getting through the day and getting everything done is a “win” in my world. Although it is chaotic, it is also my comfort zone, and sometimes it takes just one experience outside of your comfort zone to open up a whole new perspective for you.

I was asked for a class to Google myself and see what came up. According to Google I pretty much didn’t exist in the world.  Of course, not everyone wants to be found online, but if I am going to show up at all, I want to be found for the things that matter to me, my contributions to others and that reflect my own voice, not just my Facebook profile. I am more than my day to day life, and I want express myself in a way that represents the bigger picture of who I am.  So how do we stand out and make our voices heard in a way that represents ourselves authentically? First we need to identify our values and how we want to connect with others, and then express ourselves in a real way that adds value to your presence.

Representing yourself and finding achievement through self-expression can be inspiring, creative, and can help you find emotional energy and freedom in your work. Self-expression is being aware of your true self; what you value, care about, and what gives you energy and motivation. Once you define this in your life, you can control when and how to present it to the world in a way that represents you.

Here are three ways to start expressing yourself authentically:

  1. Do it for you: You don’t need to impress anyone. Don’t be afraid of how others might react to when and how you express yourself. You don’t need anyone to validate or approve of you, especially when you are being authentic. Sometimes we take so long to create the perfect message in our minds that when we are ready to share it, the moment to do so has passed. Try and live in the moment and nurture your own voice. Don’t base your value on the number of people who “like” what you have to say.
  2. Find your passions: What do you love to do? How do you want to help people? Maybe it is something you want to do but don’t take the time to, or are afraid to do it because of where it might lead you. Experiment with different hobbies, sports and classes to find what outlet allows you to feel like you can be true to yourself.
  3. Let go of the outcome: We can’t control how others are going to express themselves and it is not always going to be positive or supportive. Be truthful to yourself and let the real you shine through. People will appreciate your genuine thoughts whether they agree with you or not.

Everyone has something to say, and expressing yourself in person and online can allow you to have a real connection with people who appreciate you for more than what’s on the surface. Having a presence online allows you to be found and attributed to the things that you care about. You are probably going to be found one way or another, so why not control that information yourself? You can be seen for the real you and the messages you want to send to people. Find your voice and an outlet to express yourself in a way that makes a difference in your life and in your community. Let the world know you are here!

Attitude is Everything

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In my previous post, I talked about stepping out of my comfort zone by traveling with UNR classmates to Australia, along with the benefits of travel for personal growth and self-reliance. I learned a lot about myself and others on this trip, and the most significant take away was the importance of attitude.

The travel group was split into two flights, with ten of us flying from Reno to Los Angeles and then to Sydney. Some of us had never traveled “alone”, some had never traveled internationally, and most of us had never met each other before. As our flight was further and further delayed, our chances of making it to our Sydney flight became slimmer. We all seemed a little frustrated and anxious, but once we got on the first flight we had hopes that we could still make it. As we arrived at LAX close to 10:45 pm we were told we missed our connecting flight by two minutes. TWO minutes! The next flight out wasn’t until the following day at 10pm and United Airlines gave us four hotel rooms for the 10 of us strangers for the night. This was the time when everyone was going to have a melt down for sure.

Luckily, at orientation for the program, we all talked about the importance of “going with the flow”. This could have been a time where we became divided, uncomfortable, angry, and sad because we would miss the first day of class in the Blue Mountains National Park, where we all were looking forward to visiting the most. Surprisingly, a few people had a positive attitude and a calm sense of what to do next, which became contagious, and instead of pouting about a bad situation, we all remained positive and made the best of it because we were all in this together.

Since we were all stranded for a day in Los Angeles until our flight at 10:45pm, some of us went shopping, visited the Santa Monica Pier, and genuinely made the best out of a whole day that we were supposed to be in Sydney. We all had shared an experience that allowed us to get to know each other and connect on a level that we may not have otherwise.

When we finally arrived in Sydney, dubbed the “Terrible Ten”, we met up with the rest of our classmates, and all stuck together and laughed about the unfortunate luck of our travels. We all went in together as somewhat strangers, and came out of it as friends. Everyone’s relentless dedication to staying positive and going with the flow turned a situation that could have been a horrible experience, into a fun adventure that led to friendships that I hope to have for a long time. Attitude is everything, and although sometimes it feels out of our control, we have all of the power to determine how a situation or a person will affect us. Attitude directs our thoughts, energy and the actions we take, and once we realize the power we have to control our attitudes, we are more in control of our lives.

Where before I was uncomfortable flying alone, or traveling with strangers, I now feel confident in my ability to do it again and to have a level head and good attitude when things go wrong. I encourage everyone to be conscious of your attitude, especially in tough situations, and think about how you can make the best out of your situation. It may change your outlook, your experiences and might even help someone else get through a difficult situation.

Traveling for Change

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Alright guys, I am taking my own advice and going way out of my comfort zone this week. A little over a month ago, a lovely classmate and friend, encouraged me to go to Australia with the Nevada Global Business program. I kept thinking about how amazing it would be, but had a feeling it wouldn’t happen because first off, I would be travelling by myself, or without my closest family members or friends, and second, I would be leaving my husband and two kids for two weeks which made me uncomfortable only because I knew I would miss them so much.  I had about a day to decide because the deadline was passing, so I just went for it and said, “Yes!”

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Tomorrow I leave for Australia, and although I am anxious and incredibly nervous, I know that travel is such a great way to open your eyes to different cultures and perspectives. Equally as important to me will be the confidence that I build from stepping out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I can get in my own head about what to expect, but the only thing I can do is really to just DO it. Then I will know that it isn’t as scary as I thought it would be and I’ll find that the benefits of my personal growth outweigh the temporary anxiety of stepping out of my bubble.
Traveling gives you confidence to know that you can cope with new and challenging situations, whether it is a language barrier, losing your luggage, or getting lost. Overcoming the unexpected is very rewarding and shows yourself that you are more than capable of finding solutions. I am going into this adventure with an open mind and I am hoping to learn more about myself and others by getting out of my usual environment for two whole weeks. Maybe that isn’t a big deal for some, but for me it is substantial!

Social media makes the world feel much smaller than it is, and according to Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, globalization will continue to shrink and flatten the world through insourcing and outsourcing, global supply chains, and the rise of digital and mobile technology. After my 18 hour flight, I will let you guys know if that feels true. Any tips on traveling around Sydney is greatly appreciated! I challenge everyone to say “Yes” this week to something that feels scary, or out of reach. You don’t have to travel around the world to grow yourself, but in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take. I’d also like to note that without my friend’s encouragement, there would be no way that I would have embarked on this adventure. So I urge everyone to find someone that pushes them out of their comfort zone and inspires you to be adventurous.

Running for Resilience

My mom running the RTO

It seems like every week there is a different running event going on in Reno. In April, there are going to be at least 9 different races, each with different themes and charities to benefit, and that is not even including the Tahoe area.  The running community in Reno has exploded in the last 10 years. Participate in one 5k and it will all make sense why.

I grew up running in sports, but after high school it was harder to find the motivation without a coach telling you what to do and a team who you would let down if you slacked in your practice. I decided to run my first 5k when I was about 3 months pregnant with my first son. It was the Leprechaun Chase in downtown Reno and I felt confident because I had the best excuse ever if I needed to walk or was taking it slow. I was pretty intimidated and had no idea what to expect.  What I found was that there were a lot of really fast runners, but also slow runners, walkers, parents pushing strollers, kids, and grandparents all running together. Families and friends cheered on strangers from the sidelines with motivational signs and chants. When I finished, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I felt like part of this incredibly supportive community of people who were all doing this thing together.

Reno Tahoe Odyssey

Since then I have ran numerous races in Reno and Tahoe, and this will be my 5th year running the Reno Tahoe Odyssey, a 178 mile, 12 person relay race around the Reno/Tahoe area. Running has given me a sense of empowerment over my health, happiness and my ability to meet goals. I have learned to accept failures and to praise myself for my efforts. Overall I have become much more resilient, and that has given me confidence to take on other goals that I might have otherwise felt were out of my reach.

Here are just a few of the ways that running adds value to your personal development journey:

Community

Our RTO team crossing the finish line together.

There are a lot of factors (technology, careers, families, busy lifestyles) that contribute to making it harder for us to find the time and confidence to connect with others. We naturally crave connections with others, and it is so important to invest your time into something where you feel a sense of belonging; where you are part of a tribe. They push you to be your best and elp lift you back up when you are at your worst. In a running community, everyone is at a different level and no one judges your speed or your process, but rather they praise you for just being there and giving your best. It is a great discipline to teach yourself strength, not only physically to push through when you feel weak, but also mentally to talk yourself through it and believe that you can succeed. Belonging to a group lets you see that people are not judging you, and that they value your presence, and helps you work on accepting others and letting go of your own judgments.


Accountability

There are a lot of curve balls that life throws at us, but with running, you are in complete control. You set your goals, find motivation from within, and tell yourself when it is time to push harder, take it easy, or call it a day. Your performance is the outcome that comes solely from the motivation you give yourself and the actions you take. There’s no one else to blame if the outcome isn’t what you expected, and there is a lot of personal accountability that comes from that. There’s also a lot of personal gratification and there’s nothing like the feeling of running that last stretch to the finish line and knowing that all of your hard work has paid off. The best part; the only way to fail is to give up. You ran 5 miles yesterday and only a half mile today? Awesome! You got out there and did it. Small efforts still make a contribution to your goals; don’t give up.

Resilience and Confidence

My sister and I after running up to Virginia City on the RTO

Running isn’t easy, especially if you are just getting started. Every season when I start to train for the Odyssey, I am dying trying to run a few miles. It is something that you work on day after day and you can definitely set yourself up for failure if your goals aren’t realistic or if your negative self-talk is overpowering you. When you come across something that is physically and mentally difficult and you are able to push through that and keep going, that resiliency that you build up spreads to other aspects of your life. You start to see that you are strong and what you are capable of if you really apply yourself, and that is a powerful feeling.

If you live in Reno, check out a list of upcoming races here, and even more are listed at www.race178.com. Regardless of the level you are at now, I encourage you to sign up for a 5k in your city, even if you want to walk it. You might surprise yourself how much fun you have while setting goals for yourself, building strong transferrable skills and most likely benefitting some local charities too.

How Education Affects Our Brain Health

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What affect does education have on our brain? As a person who comes from a long line of dementia and Alzheimer’s in my family, this question is particularly important to me and is one of the reasons I am so passionate about continuous learning and development of myself and others. If we can continue to learn through education and experiences, can we not only enrich our lives now, but exercise our brain to have less cognitive aging effects in the future?

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According to Psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, our brains are designed to get rid of unused synaptic connections which is why our cognitive skills tend to decline after we graduate from college or retire from work. Even normal aging has a devastating effect on our ability to learn and remember, to reason, and on the speed with which we process information. However, every time we learn something new and practice it, our brain changes the structure of its neurons and allows them to receive information faster. Dr. Amen says, “You can harness your brain’s inherent plasticity to learn new skills, build a better memory or quicken your speed of processing abilities, which will help to keep you sharp as you age.”

SUBARACHNOID SPACE Left: 27-Year-old brain The space, located between skull and brain is tight during youth. Right: 87-Year-old brain Neuronal network shrinks, space widens, and mental processing slows. Photo Credit

Learning in a formal system allows you to continously be involved in mind stimulating activities which leads to less mental aging. “These acquired skills and knowledge, developed from extensive education, are likely to construct new, intensive, efficient, and stable (resilient and robust) neural networks that mediate cognitive functions like memory, language, and higher-cognitive processes.” Clinical studies show that patients with higher education have longer delays in dementia manifestation.

Informal education can be equally as important in exercising your brain which is where more experiences and casual classes outside your scope of normal study come in to play. As your brain ages, skills such as working memory, attention, organization and planning further develop with practice.

“Learning, whether by training or school education, is a process that modifies the brain through experiences.”Jaeik Kim.

Life tends to push us in the direction of doing the same things day after day, but making a conscious effort to throw something different in your routine that you wouldn’t normally do, can provide long-term benefits. If formal education isn’t for you, try to seek out new experiences or literature that you are naturally drawn to which can provide important learning opportunities. It is hard to think of a better reason to invest in continuous learning for ourselves. I know that I want to do whatever I can to ensure that I am there mentally for my two boys as I grow older, and what better way to try and do that than by making my life better now?

My “Why”

I encourage you to find your “why”; your motivation and reason behind creating a better you. Write it down and keep it in mind when things seem hard or discouraging. You are the only one who can make the decision to improve your life now and for your future, and we are all capable of making small or big changes to get there. Thank you for reading!

Who is the Real You? Identifying Personality Types for Self-Awareness

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In order to measure your goals, you need to first establish your baseline; where are you at right now prior to doing any work towards your goal? Sometimes in personal development, it isn’t that easy to define or quantify who you are or where you are at any point in your journey. How do you define your values? How do you value yourself? Your relationships? These are questions that can be difficult to answer about yourself, and the answer you are drawn to isn’t always the reality of your situation.

I would encourage anyone, in any place in their lives, to take a personality test. There are several personality tests that you can take, which usually range in 100-150 questions about yourself and how you handle, view or feel about different situations. Before I began working on my MBA, I knew exactly who I was. I was positive natured, adaptive to any situation, creative, social, caring and nurturing, perceptive to others emotions, easy-going and also pretty sensitive in general. My mother in law, who works as a relationship and leadership coach, encouraged me to take a personality test for fun about a year and a half ago, and it said pretty much the same things I already knew and gave me some insights into my personality type.  There were no real surprises but I thought it was a fun exercise.

This week she told me about another test she likes to use, called the “Rheti test”, through the Enneagram Institute. I have changed a lot as a person throughout the process of becoming a mom, balancing two kids, a family and working on my MBA. I have become tougher, more goal-driven and have a very different outlook on my future. I wanted to take the test because I knew my results would tell me something different about myself, about the “new me, and I needed to hear it from an outside source.

My results: “The Individualist”, aka exactly who I have always known myself to be. I was expecting some drastic change and at first, I was a little disappointed because I have worked hard to develop myself on many levels, but later I realized that my values haven’t changed, who I inherently am hasn’t changed, the only thing that has changed is that I am actually following through on my goals. I am still emotionally honest, self-aware, creative and pretty much have my head in the clouds, but also I am in a constant state of discomfort because of all of the changes in my life rather than living in a bubble of comfort, and I am happier and more fulfilled than I ever have been. All of that is coming from knowing who I am and pushing that person to be better. While some things were definitely a little harsh to read about myself, it was honestly nothing that I disagreed with.

Even though everything I read in the description (which is in great detail) was something I already knew about myself, it was so important to read it coming from an outside source. Knowing who I am allows me to challenge what I didn’t like, and helps me identify how to grow. Sometimes it takes outside feedback for you to really see where your natural strengths and weaknesses are and more importantly, it gives you a starting place. The Enneagram test tells you how to read your personality type, your relationship issues, dynamics and variations, your instincts, levels of development, and gives personal growth recommendations. It is based on nine personality descriptions which fall into the categories of Action, Thinking and Feeling, and tells how they connect and interact with each other.

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Here is a super short version of a few of the recommendations for my personality type in terms of personal growth:

  • Don’t pay so much attention to your feelings as they are not a true source of support for you. The fallacy is that to understand yourself, you must understand your feelings before acting. Your feelings are telling you something about yourself as you are at this particular moment, not necessarily more than that.
  • Avoid putting off things until you are in the right mood. Commit yourself to productive, meaningful work that will contribute to your good and that of others, no matter how small the contribution may be.
  • Even if you start small, commit yourself to doing something that will bring out the best in you.
  • A wholesome self-discipline takes many forms, from sleeping regular hours to working regularly to exercising regularly, and has a cumulative, strengthening effect. Since it comes from yourself, a healthy self-discipline is not contrary to your freedom or individuality.

I could go on forever about how beneficial this was, but in short, a quick test could help you identify where you are and what you need intellectually and emotionally, and can be a good starting point for creating a plan for change and goal-setting. If you don’t like something you read about yourself, how can you work to change that? Or if you agree, how can you nurture it? You have to help yourself first in order to help the people you care about, and to begin that journey you must first understand yourself on a deeper level. When you create self-awareness, you can determine what you need, how to strengthen your relationships with others, and that you have control over who you are and who you can be.

Obviously,a test is not the end all-be all of who you are, but it can be a helpful tool to begin to recognize yourself in ways that you may not have identified before. Know who you are, own it, and build upon it. Take the Enneagram test here. It costs $12, whereas some others are upwards of $100, it is a great deal and a worthwhile investment in becoming more aware of yourself. Feel free to share your results!

Own Your Financial Future: Retirement Planning

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If you are beginning or continuing to invest in yourself, there is a good chance that you are doing it to help ensure that you have more options for yourself personally and professionally in the future, and that in doing so you will improve your financial situation. Investing in yourself allows you to take control of your future by determining where you are today and identifying where you want to go and how to get there. Setting goals and measuring their progress is key to success in any area you are focusing on improving, especially your finances. Although there are many financial demands that we face every day, it is so important to begin saving, meet with a financial advisor and start investing your money. If you want to create a better life for yourself, you have to be smart about your finances and your future.

It can be hard to think about saving for retirement when you are in your 20’s or 30’s, but it is important to create a baseline for saving for retirement as soon as possible. According to Time, 1 in 3 Americans across all ages do not have any money saved for retirement, and 56% have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. For Millennials, saving as little as 5% each paycheck can add up to make a big difference long term. Make sure to take advantage of any employer matches, and automatically transfer funds from your paycheck to your retirement fund so that you do not even think of that money as disposable income.

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It is so easy to focus on the present but I urge you not to procrastinate. Start today by talking to your employer or financial advisor about your options, or start consistently putting even a small amount each month into savings. A small amount may not feel like much is happening in terms of growth, but 20 or 30 years from now, you will be thankful that you started. Personal development is about seeing the potential for yourself in the future through things you are doing today to make it happen.

When you reach retirement age, you are still going to want to do all of the fun stuff you do now like travel, pick up new hobbies, or start a new business. Make sure you have enough saved up to finance your dreams. Start now! Don’t fall behind, your future self will thank you!