marketing strategies

Using Marketing for Self-Improvement

Most of my professional career was in the field of marketing. I enjoyed working on marketing strategies. We would define the goal we wanted to accomplish, then create strategies to accomplish those goals. After executing the strategies we’d take a step back and review our return on investment or ROI. Based on our analysis, we would revise our strategies and try again for success. Lately I found the process works the same when we want to make improvements to our lives.

Goal

Often in business, strategies or tactics – or how we get to the goal – are often mistaken for the goal. For example, the goal is not to create a website; the goal is to increase brand awareness. The website is a tactic in the strategy of increasing online presence. The tactic is the how we execute the strategy. The strategy is the path to the goal. As in business, our personal goals should be what we really want to achieve. When it comes to our personal lives, to truly achieve the life we desire, it is important to stay out of the specifics (strategies or tactics) and instead look to a larger goal. For instance, stop focusing on wanting a specific job or promotion. Instead, focus on the goal of fully expressing your purpose throughout your life. This may include a new position (tactic) within the strategy of living your purpose through your work. It may also include volunteering which fits within the strategy of living your purpose through a hobby or passion. Spend some time gaining clarity about what you want on a very deep level. Explore what you want to feel and experience. Steer way from specific ways to get there, instead define the overall essence of what you want.

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Strategy

Then open your mind to multiple strategies to achieve your goal. Often our thinking is limited. We can only see one way to accomplish what we want. What if instead there were multiple paths to our ultimate goal?  When we explore various ways to reach our goals, our stress levels decrease as our options increase. If we only see one path to our goal and if that path is blocked or delayed, depression, frustration or anger may be the result. Be open to multiple ways to reach your goal. Explore them all. See what works and what doesn’t. Find out if one or a combination of multiple strategies create the final result for which you are looking.

Tactics

The tactics are where we take action. Tactics are the daily efforts. If you are a procrastinator, break down your tactics into bite-sized chucks. Many of us may find the tactics stressful if we put too much importance in them. Remember we want to achieve our goal. We don’t always need to achieve each specific tactic. If we want to make a delicious cake, but we don’t have the exact ingredients the recipe calls for, we know we can still make something delicious with a few substitutions. Don’t stress over following the recipe. Make substitutions and use what is available. You may find that you are able to create something even better than what you had planned.

ROI Review/Revise

Sometimes our strategies help us reach our ultimate goal. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes when we reach our goal, we find out it isn’t quite what we wanted. Periodically review your strategies and goals. How often are we so focused on the doing of life, that we don’t stop to note if what we are doing is making us happy?  Every so often, review what you want out of life and how you are going about achieving it. Has what you want shifted? Is the effort in your strategies paying off or is it time to find a different way? Be open and flexible as you explore new strategies to achieve your dreams.

What are you choosing to experience?

Many of my friends are very into the Law of Attraction. The basic concept is that you receive what you focus on; that your thoughts become real life things. I have many thoughts on this subject and have shared some below.

You Create Your World with Your Focus

I touched on this a bit in my book, basically your life is determined by where you choose to focus. Whether it is because of how the energies of the universe work or due to your reticular activating system, I have seen a correlation between our thoughts/focus and what we receive in our life. It may be something harmless like focusing on the Chicago Cubs instead of the White Sox, or it can cause anxiety when we choose to only see the horror of the news and not the good that is happening as well.

You Can’t Get What You Don’t Define

Many people are unhappy. And many people don’t define what makes them happy. These people focus on what is making them unhappy and therefore they see/receive more of it. The first step to creating the life of your dreams is to define what an ideal life looks like. Focus on the feelings and the experiences you do want. What would make you happy, content, satisfied? What does the good life look like to you?

Don’t Focus on the Outcome

One of the problems I have with other discussions about Law of Attraction is the focus on receiving concrete physical world items.   The way the concept is presented is that the ultimate goal is to have stuff. I don’t know about you, but my goal in life is not to have stuff. Things are great, don’t get me wrong, but it is the experience of the things, not the thing itself that makes us happy. Instead of focusing on the new house, car, or job you want, focus on how you would feel if you had it. Then, even if you don’t receive the thing, you are still experiencing the feeling which is what we really want.

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This or Something Better

I have to admit, I don’t always know what is best for me. This is another reason I don’t focus on the outcome. If I achieved the dream I had when I was a little girl, to become a movie star, I would be very unhappy today in the role. Imagine an introvert being constantly in the limelight and spending time with the falseness that is Hollywood. Yuck. Not my dream now. When I focus on something I want to bring into my life, I always say, “this or something better.” It is my loophole. If I am thinking of something that won’t make me happy in the long-run or if what I am asking for is less than I should receive, this or something better leaves space for the powers that be to bring to me what I really want and need.

Release the How

When I talk to people about what they really want in life, they often put restrictions on how they can receive it. When I retire I’ll have the time to do X, when the kids are off to college then I am free to do Y, once I meet Oprah my book will become a best seller. The amazing things that happened in my life never happened in a way I imagined. I had absolutely no clue as to how they would happen, but since I was focusing on what I wanted when an opportunity came up that was in alignment with my dream, I took action.

Show Up

This is not Uber Eats where you place your order and it comes to you. You need to make a little effort and move in the direction of your dreams. Sitting in your room and wishing for a million dollars is not going to make it appear (probably). You have to go out and buy that lottery ticket or start that business you always dreamed of. Imagine, pray, and then act.

Have Gratitude

Be grateful for where you are now. Be grateful for the baby step which takes you closer to your dream. Be grateful every step of the way. One of the ways we are unhappy and we stifle what could be, is by not being happy about where we are. Love and appreciate what is great in your life right now, and dream of this or something better.

We only get one try at this life. Why not make the most of it by choosing to make it the life you want to experience and enjoy?

No Rules. Just Right.

I lived the first half of my life by the rules. I studied hard in school. I focused on work and advancing my career. I followed social norms and protocols. I did the best I could to do everything “right.”  Then somewhere along the line, I realized there are no rules.

My husband and I often jokingly say, “I don’t make the rules,” when we expect the other to do something they don’t want to or when we request something to our benefit. “I don’t make the rules” means this is just how things are, ignore that it is completely and utterly in my favor. Just because it is a benefit to me doesn’t mean that I created the rule. But don’t we all create our own rules?

Some people create rules that benefit themselves. Other drivers should give them the right of way. They should get the next promotion because they have “put in their time.” Everyone should treat me fairly because I strive to treat them fairly.

Some people create rules because they expect struggle. Nothing ever goes my way. I never have enough money. People are going to hurt me. Whether beneficial or worrisome, we are still creating our own expectations. We are creating rules for life. But in reality, there are no rules.

la felicidad - to happiness sign
Photo by Cesira Alvarado on Unsplash

I think I first started to awaken to this as I got out into the world. The ways of life I learned in childhood were not absolute. Not everyone believed in the same religion. Not everyone grew up in a Suburb of Chicago with Midwest manners and extreme weather. Not everyone had the same career goals or the same description of success. This concept really gelled with me as I changed careers. I spent my early years focused on theatre. The goal was to make it to Broadway, or at least to get enough steady work to eat while fulfilling the passion to create. Then I landed a position at a company that created amusement park attractions. Suddenly there were new influential players, new definitions of success, a new language, and new viewpoints. I then moved to direct marketing and then to product marketing in four vastly different industries. Each time there were new rules, new expectations, new languages and culture, new definitions of success, and new assumptions of how to act.

Through all this I finally learned and began to accept that there are no hard, fast rules. No labels. No shoulds. At first it was a bit terrifying, as if the ground I was standing upon was no longer there. Then it was freeing. I now had the power to create life as I desired. Have you had this mid-life “unraveling” as Brené Brown calls it? Have you stopped to look at the rules you have agreed to? Have you explored if they are working for you – or not? Have you looked into new ways to live?

Take a step back. Write down the beliefs you have about what life and work are all about. Define what success looks like. Define your expectations for daily life. Then toss out what does not serve you. Start writing new rules. What do you want to see and create in life? Don’t be swayed by what was, what is currently, or what others believe. What do you want? Then take baby steps toward accepting and moving toward your own set of rules.

journal

Dishonest Thinking

Lately I have been digging into the concept of “dishonest thinking.” Dishonest thinking is the playlist of thoughts that we cycle through daily and think are true, but are not. Dishonest thinking is the mental monkey chatter which says we are not good enough. Dishonest thinking is judging others based on our own assumptions, beliefs and desires for conduct. Dishonest thinking holds us back with limiting beliefs of who we are and what we can accomplish. Dishonest thinking is the computer program of our brain running in the background keeping us from living fully and enjoying life.

Maybe we are born with some of this programming. Perhaps it is in our ancestral DNA making us relive the thoughts of scarcity our grandparents had during the Great Depression. Perhaps we incorporate the dishonest thinking of our parents when we learn to navigate through their well-meaning guidance. Our dishonest thinking can also be the result of a traumatic event changing the way we see people or life. Where these dishonest thoughts come from is not as important as identifying and replacing them with more beneficial thinking.

journal
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Journaling is a great way to expose our thinking. When you are triggered, fill up the page with your version of the event. Don’t hold back. Don’t sugar coat it. Let your inner child throw a tantrum. Scream and yell on the page. Take the gloves off and let us know how you really feel. Pour out your assumptions and expectations. Explain how the other person or the situation are not acceptable. Then walk away.

Come back after an hour, a day, or a week. Read what you wrote. Then read between the lines. What rules of life do you live by? What expectations for you have for yourself or others? What fears do you have? How do you see relationships and how people should relate to each other? Be an anthropologist and dig deep into the underlying beliefs. Let go of the specific incident and identify the rules of life you live by. If this is difficult, ask a coach, counselor, or trusted friend to help you.

Next look at what you uncovered. How do you see life and how to live it? What, if anything, is serving you? What is based in reality? What expectations do you have which never have the possibility of coming through? How is what you wrote holding you back and making you unhappy?

Finally, take your dishonest thoughts and make them honest. Change “I am worthless if I am not perfect,” to “I am imperfect and that’s ok” or “My worth is inherent.” Reverse all of your dishonest thoughts to be honest, helpful, positive statements. Read these new honest beliefs daily so you can begin to create new positive grooves in your brain. Watch yourself throughout the day. Catch and release any dishonest thoughts that come to the surface. Watch how your new honest thinking begins to change your actions, your reactions, and your experience of life. You have the power to create a new amazing life, one new thought at a time.

Second Thought, First Action

I am so glad I found Cine Club Los Cabos. Every Thursday they show movies for free at the local high school. This month will be French films with Spanish subtitles, which will be a fun language lesson for me. Last month they showed movies about and created by women. “BrØdre” or Brothers was one of the movies shown. Although it centered around two men, it was a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The film shows the progression of the no-good alcoholic brother becoming a standup man, and his brother falling into violence and lies after being an upstanding citizen, good husband, and esteemed military leader.

The start of the fall begins when the older “good” brother has to make a life or death decision in wartime. He may not have made the choice we would hope he would, but it was during a war and he was going to die otherwise. I couldn’t really fault him for what he did. What did become difficult to watch was how he lied about the incident again, and again, and again. In one scene, he goes to visit the family of the man he killed. If ever there was a chance to redeem oneself, this would be it. But instead of telling the whole truth or at least that her husband is dead, he tells a massive lie which gives the spouse hope of her diseased husband coming home with no potential of it ever occurring. As I shook my head and sighed, I noticed the woman in front of me doing the same.

How easy it is to see what someone should do and how difficult it is for us to do it in our own life.

angry action
Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

I have been doing a lot of personal work lately (again, still) and one of the things I am focusing on are my thoughts and reactions to situations.  I am noticing how my first thoughts when I am triggered are to blame the other person. I can put together a laundry list of how they are a bad person and how what they did is inexcusable. My first desire is then to attack them for how bad they are. Instead, now I try to stop and to look at my part. Once I can see how my words and actions caused or inflated the situation or maybe how I would act the same as they did if the roles were reversed, I can find empathy for the other person and find the right words to make it a growth experience for both of us.

It is not easy, or even commonplace, to not act rashly out of anger. Go on social media for 10 seconds and you can find 50 people who are more than happy to blame the other for the ills of the world. The other political party, the other race, the other gender, the other baseball team. Someone can always be found to blame for the bad in our lives. As a society we thrive off being justified in our anger, outraged, and attacks on the “bad guy.” What we are not good at is taking personal responsibility. I am certainly not perfect at this either. A concept I heard that helps me and has become my mantra in contentious situations is, “I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.”

Second Thought

We are human. More times than not our first thought will be self-serving. Our first thought will be anger. Our first thought will be attacking others. Our first thought will be self-protecting. Our first thought will be based on the fears we learned in our childhood. We are not bad people because we have that first thought. We all do and that is ok. Where the power and freedom and strength come in is when we pause and allow ourselves to have that second thought. When we can look past ourselves to what the other may be experiencing. When we can find empathy and understanding for their situation. This second thought frees us from how we always react. It frees us from mental pain and anguish. This second thought opens up better ways for us to approach our lives and our relationships.

First Action

Most of us tend to live life using knee-jerk reactions. We get cut off in traffic, think the guy is a jerk, and find ourselves flipping him the bird before we consciously choose to. Much of the actions we do during the day are done unconsciously and based on our first, not-so-ideal thoughts. When we take the time to stop and think a second thought, and have the courage to wait for that second thought before we act, we can create a brand new life.

As you go about your week, be aware of your first thoughts. Can you pause long enough to have second thought before you act?

computer code

What’s Your Glitch?

I have been burning through the latest offerings from Netflix including Russian Doll which explores choices, redemption, and the meaning of life.  In one episode, Nadia is called into work to fix a bug. Somewhere in all the code for a computer game, there was a glitch, some poorly-written code. Nadia reprogrammed the code, and all was well with the game.  What I have realized is we can all fix our lives with a bit of reprogramming.

We all run on code. Some of the code we are born with, like how our lungs and heart know how to automatically breath. Some code we consciously or unconsciously write ourselves. We learn from our parents, our teachers, our friends, society, and our own experience how to live. We learn something once or twice and then we write our internal code as to how to respond. We don’t have to relearn every day that a stove is hot. We learn it once and then it becomes programmed in our mental database along with the appropriate response (don’t touch). Much of our programming is done in the first seven years of our lives (based on current scientific thinking). Therefore, much of how we live our life at 30, 40, or 50 is based on programming decades old. Sometimes that old programming has glitches. What we have internalized as truth worked in one specific situation years ago, but it is not the best choice nor should be applied to current situations. We need to reprogram our outdated thinking.

computer code
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I am aware of many of my glitches or character defects, and I am sure there are many unconscious glitches yet to be brought to the surface. Here are some of my currently recognized defects/glitches. I react to strong egos and the greedy. I react to those who are “too pretty.” I react to what I deem is injustice. I react to the need to label and create exclusive groups. I react to those whose desire for money supersedes the welfare of the many. I react to those who appear to have had an easy life and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. Because of these preprogrammed thoughts, I sometimes react to people and situations based on these beliefs and not by the real situation at hand.

Much of our life we live on autopilot. We react to current situations based on the code we created decades ago. We are not in the moment analyzing and acting based on current data. We are usually unconsciously reacting based on something that happened to us when we were five. And it can get us into trouble.

I have addressed many glitches already like the belief that it is good to put work above the welfare of those I love, and have hopefully reprogrammed the ones that were causing the most frequent and damaging harm to me and those around me. Currently I am digging deeper and working through more of my programming with the goal of living every day from a place of in-the-moment conscious action versus living-in-the-past unconscious reaction. Here are the steps I am taking:

Uncover

I am taking a fearless inventory of my past and am being aware in the moment of the contentious situations in my life. Analyzing each situation, I uncover the glitches in my thoughts and the unconscious programming which are causing harm.

Be Here Now

If your mind is like mine, it goes a mile a minute. And unfortunately, my mind is usually replaying again and again something that has already happened or playing out fifty different what-if scenarios for the future. We can not change the past nor accurately predict the future. What we can do is affect the present. To help me as Ram Dass suggests to Be Here Now, I do my best to meditate every day. I find that even spending five minutes a day can disconnect me from the busy-ness of life, turn off the useless monkey-chatter of my mind, and help me center so I can make conscious decisions.

Reprogram

Using the knowledge of my defects and doing my best to be present, I can consciously choose differently in the moment. Instead of being on autopilot, I have the power to make rational and better choices acting on clear thought versus reacting from poorly-written programming. And every time I make a new, healthier choice, I am creating new programming for the future.

What are your glitches? How do you work around them? How has your life improved when you remove poorly-written programming?