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What do you want to be when you grow up?

When we speak to children, whether they are 5, 10 or 15, we often ask them: What do you want to be when you grow up? Some will say they want to become a pilot, a firefighter, a school teacher or a doctor. Some others do not have a straight answer. I was one of them. I never really knew what job I wanted to do. The only thing I knew from a young age, is that it had to do something with languages, with traveling, with living abroad. 

When we get older, we often fall into a routine; getting up, working (whether it is to work for a company or for oneself), going to bed. We frequently forget to pause and ask ourselves the question: What do I want to be when I grow up? How do I want to look back at my life when I am 80? Thinking strategically and having a long term goal in mind is something we have to do if we want to be successful and achieve our goals.

Have a long term goal in mind

Answering the question ‘How do I want to look back at my life when I am 80?’ is not an easy question to answer. It can take days, weeks, months or even years to answer it. You also may not be able to answer that particular question but you should ask yourself, every so many years: what do I want to do in 5, 10, 20  years? Once you have found your purpose in life and/or your long term goal, you can start working backwards and establish (short, medium and longer term) goals so that you can look back at your life and be proud of what you have achieved. 

Having long term goals in mind helps you stay focused. You may not know yet how you are going to achieve these goals, you may not know when you will achieve them. But by staying focused, you’ll be able to recognize when an opportunity will present itself and you’ll just have to grab it. In 2003-2004, I wanted to leave the Netherlands. I wanted to go and live either in Spain or in Italy. I was not speaking fluent Spanish or Italian, I did not know how I could move to one of these countries. Yet, this was my goal. And in 2006, the Quality and Training Manager of the Italian subsidiary of the company I was working for, resigned. The Italian Management team approached me and asked me if I would be interested to take over his job. I of course said yes. I was thrilled. It was because I had put my goal out there, to the Universe, that my dream came true somehow. Many people knew what my goal was. I had worked hard and had done my research. I had never anticipated my Italian colleague would resign. When he did, I was ready. 

 

Identify the gaps

Once you have a clear idea of your goal, you can identify the skills you need, the habits you need to have. You know where you are now which helps you identify the gap between the current situation and your goal. You can then start to work on them. What new skills do you need to acquire? And do you need to unlearn something? What habits do you need to get rid of? What new habits do you need to start doing? 

You may have already started to work on some new skills or competencies. But you may need to level up, read books, follow some webinars or training to develop them and improve yourself. 

You may also want to hire a coach or a mentor to brainstorm to have an accountability partner, who can challenge you and ensure you are taking action. Being motivated and taking action are sometimes not enough. You need to be disciplined and act on a consistent basis to make progress (see one of my previous articles here.)

 

Setting priorities

The main challenge is that people often do not prioritize the right things. They think everything is important. And by putting everything at the same level, nothing stands out. That is how the routine starts. People no longer know what is a priority.

It is critical to spend some time planning. Of course, being spontaneous once in a while, doing things at the last minute, is ok. We all need some flexibility. However, when it comes down to the bigger picture, this is where you need to stay rigid and focus on your goal if it is important to you. The way you approach things may change, the timing for which you’ll want to achieve your goal may also vary, as some things are outside of our control (the situation we’re currently experiencing is a perfect example). However, if something is important enough for you, you will find a way to achieve your goal. Take a break. Reflect, pause, evaluate and ask yourself: what do I need to do this week, this month, this quarter, this year, the next 5 years, so that I can achieve my goal by 20xx. 

 

Remember this: the most successful persons are planning years, decades ahead. They have also had setbacks and certain things probably did not happen as planned.  But they keep working at it. Continuously. Focusing on their long term goal, their vision. 

 

This blog was also shared on Linkedin.

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Preparation is key

Preparation is key.

When we have a deadline, we often focus on the task we need to do: going through an interview, delivering a training or presentation, providing a report. There are important milestones that we need to go through to achieve our goal. To be successful in achieving these milestones, two things are essential (see my previous article: The keys of success). However, there is one thing we often underestimate: preparation. 

 

Why is it important?

Even though preparation can be boring and not always fun, it is one of the most valuable things you can do to avoid stress and anxiety as the deadline approaches.

Being prepared as much as possible is critical if you want to be successful. When you are prepared, you can tackle challenges more easily and more efficiently. You will also be and feel more confident when you’ve worked on all the things you need to know and on the things you control.

In business

When you are looking for a job and get an interview, nothing is more important than doing your research, Find out about the company you’ve applied for, their values, their financial situation, locations, culture, etc. Find out more about the role by reaching out to people in your network who may work there or ask your connections if they know people working there. 

Prepare your answers to some of the common questions (tell me more about yourself; why do you want to work here; what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc.). Don’t forget to prepare questions to ask the recruiter, hiring manager etc. Interviews are a two-way conversation and candidates often forget this, 

When you deliver a presentation or a training, you also need to spend as much time preparing as possible. It helps you create something that will interest your audience and you can link things between a project, the company, the department, to your presentation. When you are well prepared, you will have worked on everything that is in your control (have a backup ready in case you have some technical issues; be ready to answer questions or objections; know the layout of the room in case you have to do some team exercises, etc. ). The more information you have beforehand, the more chances you have to show your professionalism, knowledge and expertise. 

Preparation is key.

 

In life

Same as in business, if you want to put all the chances in your corner, you need to prepare. 

When you want to cook something special, you usually need to look at the recipe and buy the ingredients in advance. You also need to make sure you have all ustensils so that you can make that special dish. Unless you’ve been cooking that special meal several times in the past, you need to spend some time in the preparation to be sure you’ll be able to make that dish on time.

Whether you want to run a marathon or start a new fitness routine, you need to first know your exact goal and where you are starting from. Same thing if you want to improve your health and lose some weight. Once you have identified the gap, you can prepare, put actions into place that will help you achieve your goal. You may have to buy certain equipment, buy certain food or change your schedule. All of this requires preparation. 

Preparation is key.

When traveling

When you want to travel for pleasure or business, or need to move abroad, preparation is also critical. 

What is the cost of living? Which places can you visit? What type of food do people eat? How is the weather? If you are a woman, are there areas you need to avoid? 

If you got a job abroad, find out about the tax system and if there are many expatriates. You also should enquire if the city you’re going to has (international) schools for your children and if your partner will be able to find a job easily. These questions may not be relevant first but things can go quickly sometimes, and the better you are prepared, the easier the transition will be. 

Preparation is key.

 

Conclusion

Whatever your goal, make sure you set some time aside to think, organize yourself and work towards what you want to achieve. Obviously, sometimes unexpected things happen, but when they do, they are mostly things you cannot do anything about. 

So remember that preparation is key, not optional! See it as an investment that will allow you to relax more and will put you at a competitive advantage. Even though it may seem like a ‘waste of time’, being prepared will in the end save you time and money.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Colin Powell

#vlvcoach #leadership #leadershipdevelopment #mindset

This article was also shared on Linkedin.

How to be / stay motivated

These last few weeks, a few people asked me: how do you stay motivated in this period? You’ve been posting and staying positive, I don’t know how you do it…

With the Prospective Force team (Anton, Kevin and Juliet), we’ve discussed motivation last week. Everybody deals with motivation differently. Am I motivated all the time? Of course not. I also have my ups and downs. However, there are a few things that can bring back motivation.

 

Extrinsic motivation

Whether we are aware of it or not, we do get motivated by external circumstances. Sometimes we hear a story: someone we know has done something unexpected. They recovered from a serious disease or accident; they’ve lost lots of weight; they found another job after a long time; they left their corporate job to set up their own company. Or one of our friends or connections has overcome a very challenging and difficult situation, etc. The examples are numerous. Hearing all these stories are often very powerful, as it provides us inspiration and motivation so that we act to move forward. 

Sometimes it’s a book or a movie that will motivate us to get into action. From time to time, it’s an upbeat song that will get us into action. That is why it’s very important, especially in the current times, to take some time for ourselves. We need to include some fun times, ideally every day, to lift ourselves up, to laugh, to forget about the situation and recharge our batteries. Nowadays with the internet, it’s never been easier to find all kinds of uplifting videos, movies or music to cheer us up. 

We can also be motivated by those around us who comment about us. Some people will give you direct compliments and tell you they admire you for x or y reason. Whether they tell you this personally, send a direct message or even tag you in some posts, all of these are signs that people respect and appreciate you. These signs can give you a boost and get you re-motivated if you are feeling down. At work, it can be a pay rise, getting the opportunity to work on a special project or getting additional responsibilities. It can also be as simple as getting a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done for a great job’. 

 

Intrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is very important, however, it has to start with ourselves. We need to focus on our thoughts, our body and make sure we are in the best health we can. To motivate oneself, you can do a few things; meditate or pray, even if it’s just a few minutes per day. You can also take a break. Make sure you also have a hobby or passion that you can do on a regular basis, to release stress, focus on the moment and re-energize yourself.

Practice gratefulness on a regular basis. As human beings, we often have a tendency to focus on the negatives. When we shift our mindset and look at all the things that we have, starting with being alive, having a roof over our head and food on the table, it helps us put things into perspective and (re)motivates us.

One thing you also should not forget is to have a long term goal in mind. Circumstances will never be perfect. Unexpected (challenging) things will always happen. However, when you keep on remembering your goal and thinking on how it will make you feel when you will achieve it, you’ll probably want to go and work on it. 

 

Conclusion

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play a big role in our life. This is how we take action and move forward. However, you can be 100% motivated but if you do not act – consistently – you will never achieve anything. It’s not all about motivation. It’s about discipline.

Jim Ryun said it well: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

#vlvcoach #motivation #mindset 

This blog was also shared on Linkedin.

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Your health is your wealth

“Your health is your wealth”, we all have heard this expression.

In these days where most of us are stuck at home trying to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, I can’t help but think that this expression has never been truer to me…

Being healthy does not only mean being ‘fit’ i.e. not overweight. It also means being healthy in our mind. 

 

Physical health

When we say ‘health’ the first thing that comes to mind is usually our physical health. It is important to practice a sport regularly to feel good, to build your muscles and stamina. It also helps to release your stress and to sweat to release toxins from your body. Practicing a sport regularly helps you stay in a good condition and prevents you from having certain aches. After I had my serious car accident, dancing helped me build my muscles again. And these last two years, I’ve also started doing yoga. It helps me strengthen my muscles, especially those in my back.  

It actually does not matter which sport you do. Whether you like to run, play golf or tennis, dance, swim or cycle, as long as you do something regularly. 

 

Food

Being healthy also means paying attention to your nutrition. Many diseases we get are because of (1)  deficiency in vitamins and minerals and (2) toxicity. We often eat processed food and even though they may taste deliciously, they are often the food with the least nutrients to nourish our bodies. In addition, these processed foods often have lots of additives which, in the long run, make our bodies ‘toxic’. Think also about all the chemicals we use (not only to clean the house, but I think about the pollution we have outside. I also think of what we, women, use; the make up, nail polish, the color for our hair, etc.). By eating as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, we are helping our body – and mind – stay strong. We are providing them with vitamins, minerals, basically nutrients that are critical for our health. 

 

Mental health

Having a healthy mind is also critical to being healthy. What does it mean? It means trying to have positive thoughts, practicing affirmations. When you are constantly thinking ‘bad’ thoughts, you will stay in a negative framework. To have positive thoughts, pay attention to the words you use. Challenge yourself when you say something like “I always fail” or “I can never do this”… Is it REALLY the case? Is it really “ALWAYS” or “NEVER”? Or are you just exaggerating? 

Being mentally healthy also includes meditating or praying. It includes focusing on the present, the ‘now’. It also means removing as much negativity as possible. It means letting go of negative emotions and practicing gratitude. I know that in these challenging times, it is sometimes very difficult to let go of the negativity and practice gratitude, but there is always a silver lining in any situation…

From my experience, being healthy mentally is THE most important. The mind is stronger than the body. Napoleon Hill said it “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve” and Henry Ford as well: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

To summarize

All of these actions take time and practice. Nothing will change from one day to another. But by doing little things every single day,, you will see some positive differences in the long run. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.

 

We should always be our Number 1 priority. 

This is not being selfish. 

This is being a leader, our own leader (see my previous blog on this). We can only help and support others if we can help ourselves first and are (mentally and physically) healthy. 

 

#vlvcoach #leadership #health

This article was also published on Linkedin.

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How to stay positive

Stay positive! Easier said than done! Life is full of ups and downs. We all have our struggles…

Like everyone, I had my share of challenges. When I look back, and even if these situations were tough at the time they happened, I am grateful they happened, as everytime I came out stronger. The main reason was because I always stayed positive. Of course, I have had times when I cried and felt depressed or down, but I always managed to look on the bright side…

 

How do you stay positive, even in challenging times? Here are my few tips.

 

Surround yourself with positive people

Nowadays, we are surrounded by negativity (the news, the bad weather, people who envy us, etc. ). It is critical that you surround yourself with people who support you, people who encourage you and who can challenge you to become a better version of yourself. We are never alone. Even if you do not have close friends where you live, you can always manage to get some support and create some great friendships online (I know I have, mostly via Linkedin).

 

Have a goal in mind

Especially when you are going through some tough times, make sure you have a goal in mind. When my parents got divorced, I had to take some exams at the university. Focusing on them helped me go through my parents’ divorce in a more ‘peaceful’ way. When I had my car accident, my goal was to be able to walk again and go back to my normal life. This was my priority number1. Literally, every step I was making, every progress I achieved, made me happier and happier, as I was coming closer to my goal. 

When you focus on something positive, something you’d like to achieve, you’ll be able to cope better with the more challenging experience you may be facing.

 

Listen to some uplifting music or watch funny movies

When I had my car accident, I had to lie down in bed in the hospital for weeks, I remember listening to some songs that were uplifting. They were making me happy. 

Watching movies that make you laugh also help you be more positive. Laughter is actually very good for your health. It helps strengthen your immune system and boost your mood among other things. Laughing helps you lighten your challenges. It helps you release your stress. 

 

Smile

This one is so easy and powerful and yet, not many of us do it on a regular basis. Smiling has a huge impact, not only on others but also on ourselves. It helps you relax and gives you hope. 

Try to smile and have negative thoughts at the same time, I challenge you! 😉 

 

Challenge your negative thoughts

When something bad happens to us, or someone disappoints us, or when something goes wrong, we have a tendency to generalize and make things worse… “Why does this ALWAYS happen to me?” or “Why am I NEVER able to do xyz?” etc. These little words such as ‘always’, ‘never’ are actually rarely accurate. We exaggerate our feelings. 

When you have these types of thoughts, ask yourself: is it really true or am I exaggerating? Can I think of one example when this was not the case? You will very often find an example if you are looking for it. 

 

Try to see the glass half full instead of half empty 

There is always something to learn from any situation. It’s ok to be sad, to feel angry, disappointed, down, but then take a moment to think: what is the lesson here? How does it help me? Going through challenges is never easy. However, when you look at life on the positive side, things start to brighten up

 

Be grateful

This one is probably the most powerful. When I had my car accident and ended up in the hospital, I was grateful to be alive. Yes, I was in a poor condition but I was alive. When they put me in a wheelchair, I was grateful my condition had improved. I was grateful for all the people who came to see me, for my colleagues who phoned me every single day for 6 months to know how I was recovering….Since then, I’ve been grateful every single day for being alive, for being able to walk, to run, to dance and I appreciate life more and more. 

Being grateful not only improves your mental health, it also helps improve your physical health. It increases happiness as well as your energy level. 

 

Remember

I would like to finish with a sentence, which I purposely used as the subtitle of my book “My revenge on life”.  

 

No matter the circumstances you’re facing, remember: Stay positive!

 

There is always the light at the end of the tunnel…

#vlvcoach #inspiration #mindset #leadership #staypositive

This article was also published on Linkedin.

Always believe in yourself

No matter what people think of us, always believe in yourself.

 

When I came back in the Netherlands in 2008, I had found a job in one of the big international banks in Amsterdam.  I had been hired in the technical department of the bank to set up a team in India.

I’ll always remember my 1st day at the bank. 

My first day

When I arrived, I could not help but notice that there were only 3 women in the team (out of approx. 40). All the others were mostly Dutch men in their 50s & a few young Indian men.

I went around and introduced myself to each of them. All were really welcoming. 

All of them except one man. He was the oldest. 

When I came to introduce me to him, I reached out my hand to him, told him my name and said that I was the new manager of the team. He then asked me:

‘Do you have any technical background?’ 

I replied ‘No’

He looked a bit surprised and continued:

‘And do you have any banking background?’

Here again, I said ‘No’

He looked puzzled. I knew he was wondering how I could have been hired to work in the IT department of the bank: me, a young woman, French, without any specialist knowledge. 

At that moment, I told myself ‘Fair enough’. He does not know me, he does not know what I can do. And maybe, I would have reacted the same way if I had been in his situation. 

 

The next few weeks, months, years…

From the next day onwards, I started to get to know my team members, my job, got the opportunity to go to India and meet some other colleagues of mine. 

Every day, this man was always a bit grumpy and not very friendly. Although it sometimes bothered me, I continued to build relationships with all my colleagues and team members, getting to know them while they were getting to know me. I was one of the few women, one of the youngest and one of the few foreigners in the team. Yet, I was confident in my abilities. I kept remembering myself thatI had been hired for a good reason. My manager had told me during one of my interviews: “I already have many specialists in the banking and IT areas. What I need is someone who has experience in managing international/virtual teams.” 

Then, 3 years later, this man had a heart attack. I went to visit him in the hospital and at his home when he was better. I helped him dealing with HR and any other challenges he had while he was recovering.

He came back to work a few weeks/months later. He had become very friendly with me. The fact that I had helped him when he needed it had apparently had a positive impact on him.

A year later, he decided to retire.

And then, the unexpected happened…

On his last day, we had a farewell gathering and he did a little speech. He had worked for more than 40 years in that same bank. He told little stories and thanked the bank for all the opportunities he got…. 

And at the end, he said: “There is also one person I would like to thank here, and this person is Virginie. She has always provided me all the support and help I needed, especially when I got sick.”

 

He brought tears to my eyes…. I was touched by his kind words and could not help remembering my very first day in the department, as well as his remarks and look…. How different it had been!

 

On that day, I really became aware of one thing: 

No matter what people think of you, 

  • Believe in yourself. 
  • Stay confident 
  • Continue doing what you need to do, what you are good at. 
  • And be human. 

 

As Theodore Roosevelt said: “‘Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care’.

 

#vlvcoach #leadership #confidence #believeinyourself #nevergiveup

 

This blog was also posted on Linkedin. 

If you want more inspiration on this topic, go and have a look at my other blog.

 

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Have you ever been in a situation…?

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought

‘I don’t know if I can do it…’ 🤷🏽‍♀️

‘Am I the right person to do this job? I am really not sure…’ 

‘What if I fail?’

 

Well…

 

I’ve been there

And more than once!

 

I remember many years ago 

When I was managing Quality Programs in EMEA for a contact center

I was asked to go to a client in London

To do some consultancy

 

I had never really done that before, and was wondering what I would need to do exactly, would I be able to answer all questions? Would I be able to notice everything? Etc. etc. 

Even though I welcomed the opportunity and said ‘yes’

I was full of doubt…

 

I went there for 2 days

Spent time with the client and their employees

And the feedback I received afterwards

Was that the client had been impressed by me!

 

What did I do?

 

I did what I knew, 

I used my skills and knowledge

I stayed true to myself

And I believed in me

 

Sometimes, we have to kill that ‘little voice’ in our head

Because we can be our own enemy…

 

Have you ever been in such a situation?

What did you do to kill those negative thoughts?

#vlvcoach #mindset #Leadership

 

This post was shared on Linkedin

 

Some dates we never forget…

Some dates are always ‘special’ to us and we never forget them… These dates are the milestones in our life that remind us we are alive.

For me, this special date was yesterday, 14th August.

 

Many years ago, I had a terrible car accident.

I had to lie in bed for 6 weeks without being able to get up or even sit down

Then I ended up in a wheelchair 

And had to learn to walk again like a baby.

 

It stayed a total of 3 months in the hospital

And it took me a total of 9 months before I could get a normal life.

 

Doctors thought I would be paralysed

Then they told me I would probably limp

And did not allow me to wear high heels any more.

 

A few years later, I learned to dance salsa

And it saved me!

 

I now dance at an advanced level with high heels 😊💃🏽

 

I wrote a book to share my story, to help and inspire people who may be in a similar situation

 

The name of my book is ‘My revenge on life’ (or ‘Ma revanche sur la vie’ in French). The books are available on all Amazon marketplaces (for US: English version, for French version / version francaise)

 

The lessons from my story are the following…

 

Whatever the circumstances

Never give up❗️

Believe in yourself ❗️

There is always light at the end of the tunnel

This post was also shared on Linkedin.

#vlvcoach #nevergiveup #mindset #thinkpositive #believeinyourself

Breaking stereotypes

We should never judge a book by its cover, nor a person by his/her own appearance. Yet, we all have many stereotypes in our head, many bias that we should not have…

How often do we think ‘This person cannot do this!’ or ‘This is impossible, he/she will never be able to reach this goal!’

Audrey Hepburn said it: ‘Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’! 


This video is another  proof….

 

Whatever people tell you

Believe in yourself

Work hard

And never give up!

 

⭐️ As Amanda LaCount says it in this video: “If you love it, DO IT!” ⭐️

 

A short version of this post was posted on Linkedin.

#vlvcoach #leadership #nevergiveup #mindset #believeinyourself

 

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Relax and recharge once in a while!

For 10 days, I took a break from social media to relax and recharge my batteries. This explains why I have not been much on internet lately. I needed to forget everything, focus on something else and re-energize.

And what better way to do this than attending the biggest Salsa/Bachata Festival of the world in Croatia in Rovinj (also refered to as the Summer Sensual Days and Croatian Summer Salsa Festival)! 💃🏽

I love dancing salsa (and bachata) 😊

Dancing is one of my passions.

It is my workout, my emotional and physical stress relief.

It also allows me to connect with people in a different way. One more reason why I love so much dancing salsa is the diversity of people I meet.

During 10 days, I danced days and nights with people from all over the world: China, South Africa, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, Poland, UK, US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, India, Suriname, etc.

We all had one common language and one shared passion: dancing. It is truly a universal language.

Salsa in Rovinj

I’m now back all refreshed and ready to tackle the second half of 2019 😉

My advice to you all: Do not forget to take a break once in a while to relax and recharge your batteries!

vlvcoach diversity salsadancing