alive@work Blog with Joe Contrera

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Arrogance … Death of a Leader!

You know an arrogant leader …

You’ve worked for an arrogant leader …

You are an arrogant leader?

God I hope not!!

How would you know?

10 Things Arrogant Leaders Do:

  1. They put their needs before the needs of their people.
  2. They make irrational business decisions based on their emotions and how they feel not on sound business judgment.
  3. They take everything personal because everything is about them.
  4. They attempt to control everything and everyone.
  5. They believe that people are in their lives to serve them.
  6. They’re the first one to point the finger of blame and the last one to take ownership for their mistakes.
  7. Their actions are in-congruent with their words.
  8. They slow the development and growth of others so that they get ahead and stay on top.
  9. They talk big and play small.
  10. They play small because deep down inside they are small.

The good news is that just like Extraordinary Leaders … the law of reciprocity prevails and so they always reap what they sow!

Just be sure that you are putting out there what it is you want in return … respect … trust … honesty … etc.


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Authentic Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Speaker, Values.

Change … an About-F.A.C.E.™

Life continuously offers us opportunities to change and move forward in your growth and development. This may mean that you need let go of the past and embrace your present situation. It may mean that you need to view an old problem from a new perspective in order to find a solution. Or, it could mean that you need to attempt something difficult or different, something that pushes you past your fear and far beyond your comfort-zone.

Regardless of what the change may be that needs to take place in your life, the truth, is that each of us navigates change in a different manner.

The good news is that you have choices in how you F.A.C.E ™ change. You can:

  1. F-ear it – You can run, you can hide, you can pretend like it isn’t really happening and therefore you don’t have to change.
  2. A-ccept it – You can agree that it’s there and that maybe, possibly, someday, you might have to adapt … or not … least not right this moment or for the foreseeable future!
  3. C-hallenge it – You can confront it, fight it, and attempt to convince yourself and everybody else around you (mostly yourself), why it doesn’t really apply to you, or why you can’t, won’t, or don’t need to change.
  4. E-mbrace it – You can wrap your arms around it and look for the hidden gifts that this new opportunity might bring you. Sometimes the gifts are not quite so evident at first glance. That said, if you look for gifts you will find them. If you look for excuses you will find those too!

So how do you respond to opportunities to change? Do you find yourself consistently reacting to change in one of these four ways? Do you find yourself clinging to the past, hoping and praying that nothing will change? Or do you consistently lean into the change so far that you can’t step back?

3 Questions to think about as you wind down this year and begin a new one:

  1. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you could not fail?
  2. What if you believed that you were so powerful that you could change your life starting this very minute!
  3. What if you made a decision to not just F.A.C.E. ™ change but actually embraced it this next year? What would you start? Stop? Change? Do?

2018 could be just like 2017 because you decided to continue going through the motions while clinging to the past and praying that nothing changes?


2018 could be the most significant year you have ever experienced. It could be your best year ever because you broke through your comfort zone and achieved the success, love, purpose, you deserve!

Just remember, it all begins with you and the choices you make. Most importantly, how you F.A.C.E. change.


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Decision-Making, Empowerment, Fear, Growth, Leadership, Personal Growth, Professional Growth, Results.

10 Signs Your Work Life Balance Isn’t Balanced

I’m sure most people have seen the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick entitled, The Shining.The story, written by Stephen King, is a psychological thriller about a writer who takes his family to an isolated hotel to be the caretaker in the off season. It will also give Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) some much needed time to work on his new book.

At one point in the movie, Jack’s wife begins to realize that things are getting a little weird and that is when she stumbles across his manuscript which is comprised of line after line, page after page of this sentence, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well things go down hill from and the insanity begins.

Here’s the point:

Sometimes in our striving to be successful we lose site of those things that bring a sense of balance to our lives. We push ourselves to continuously do more, accomplish more, or be more. And in doing so, we never take the time to occasionally unplug our “work brains” so we can recharge the batteries and get re-balanced.

As the year begins to wind down, we may wake up one day and realize that we are running out’ve time to accomplish some of the goals and objectives we wrote down at the beginning of the year. Add in a few holiday parties, Christmas or Thanksgiving with the relatives, and you are certain to get a bit off balance.

So how can you tell you’ re out of balance. Here are a few signs.

10 Signs Your Work Life Balance Isn’t Balanced:

  1. You’re family is crying when you come home from work … not when you leave for work.
  2. You would rather work late, than go home to be with your partner, spouse, or kids.
  3. You’re family is going on vacation … and you aren’t invited!
  4. You wake up at 2:30 AM and decide you need to send an email to clarify some point you made to someone earlier in the day.
  5. You wake up at 2:30 AM and send an email to anyone for any reason.
  6. You have so much vacation time built up, that you could literally take 3 months off and not skip a paycheck.
  7. You walk in the house one day after work and your spouse asks “Who Are You?” It is only at that point that you realize you’ve walked into the wrong house!
  8. You home one day from a long business trip with a Teddy Bear for your little boy and find him upstairs in the bathroom … and he’s shaving!
  9. You have this sudden desire to start typing “All work and no play makes Jack, Tony, Susan, or any other name a dull boy or girl!
  10. You come home from work one day and find that your family has moved out … when you track them down they tell you they filed a missing person report for you because they actually moved three weeks ago!

Okay so maybe you chuckled a bit. But on a more serious note you will be far more productive over the rest of the work year and have a better start to next year if you pause to get re-balanced and re-centered so you can focus on what is truly most valuable in your life. The truth is that there is no job, position, title, or amount of money, that can replace the your family, especially the short time you have with your kids. Sad thing is some people never get this until they lose them (physically or emotionally).

Providing for your family is only half of the equation, spending quality time with them (especially during the stressful holiday season) is is the other half of the equation. Do what ever it takes to get re-balanced and stay balanced this holiday season!

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Growth, Happiness, Leadership, Leadership Speaker, Success, Work Life Balance.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

So what’s all this mumbo jumbo you keep hearing about Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence can be defined as a person’s ability to effectively negotiate social relationships and environments.

Emotional Intelligence is a relatively new science and is becoming an important factor in determining a persons success in business and in life.

A recent survey of over 2200 hiring managers showed that the majority of managers would select a person with high Emotional Intelligence and a moderate IQ level over a candidate with a high IQ and a moderate level of Emotional Intelligence.

What might be interesting to note here is that Emotional Intelligence can be developed in children at a fairly early age.

A recent article in Psychology Today cited that Emotional intelligence appears to be a key predictor of children’s ability to make suitable peer relationships, get along at home, develop a well-balanced outlook on life, and to reach their academic potential at school.

Again … a key predictor of success.

For the record …

Studies show that video games and video game addiction can stunt Emotional Intelligence. So much so that a 21-years old could have the Emotional Intelligence of a 12-year old because they lack the social skills to interact in face-to-face social situations.

So What’s Your Level of Emotional Intelligence?

There are 100’s of online assessments that vary widely in statistical validity. Some organizations and consultants have created their own while other companies provide statistically valid assessments. So be careful what assessment you utilize. Our organization does provide EQ Assessments if you are interested please feel free to contact us.

The good news is that regardless of what your Emotional Intelligence score is, you can always improve. Unlike other aspects of your self that can be difficult to change, Emotional Intelligence happens to be something you can improve with a little focus and intention.

3 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Journal Daily – Recap your day and identify your experience from an emotional state at various times throughout the day.
  2. Keep a Log – Identify your emotions and write them in a in a small notepad or enter them in your phone as you go through your day.
  3. Pay Attention to Stress Triggers – Pay attention when your emotions are running high or you are shutting down in a situation. Before it goes on for too long, excuse yourself from the situation. Find a place where you can stop and take at least 5 slow deep breaths in through your nose, hold at the top of the inhale for 3-4 seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth (repeat 5 times) and then return to the situation at hand.

Managing your emotions is the key to collaborating, relating, leading, selling, coaching, interacting, communicating, parenting, serving others, volunteering, teaching, mentoring, etc.

Get the point?

Your ability to stay centered and calm in what could be an emotionally uncomfortable situation will create more success in your business and your life and after all isn’t that what we all want?

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Coaching, Coaching Others, Communication Skills, EQ, Influencing, Influencing Others, Leadership Speaker, Leading, Leading Others, Results.

The Relationship Between Effort and Self-Worth

“So I tried pleasing Mom, I tried pleasing Dad. Tried pleasing those voices, Spinning ‘round in my head!”

(Excerpt from the book, I Could Love No One Until I Loved Me)

Effort is a good thing … unless you find yourself tying your sense of self-worth and value to it …

I am 7 years-old, I am standing in the hallway of St. Francis De Sales Elementary School in Parma, Ohio. I am in the 2nd grade. My eyes are closed, my fingers are crossed as I am waiting for Sr. Miriam Therese to call out my name so I could walk up in front of the entire school and be pinned with the highly coveted prize, a small blue and white button with the word ‘EFFORT’ emblazoned across the front of it.

She is ready to call out the last recipient, my fingers now double crossed, as she utters the words … M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E … V-A-R-G-A … I am crushed! What???? Hey wait a minute, what about me? Where’s my button? Don’t you see how hard I’ve been trying?

I believe this was a defining moment in my life (as you can see I’ve completely forgotten about it) because it was reinforcing the belief that other people defined my sense of self-worth and value. When you are a child, other people have an amazing amount of influence over what we believe about ourselves and sometimes we drag those beliefs behind us like an anchor for the rest of our lives.

Growing up, we have all had times when we felt so good about ourselves and what we accomplished, until someone ran a faster race, got a higher grade, or had a newer bike. Sometimes, the only thing that changes as we get older is that the toys get bigger and more expensive, so instead of comparing bikes, we compare houses, cars, and net worth.

Growing up we may have tried our hardest at accomplishing a task or overcoming an obstacle only to hear, “Imagine how much better it would have been if you just tried a little harder, worked a little more, or exerted even more EFFORT like your brother, sister, cousin Steve, etc.?”

In these moments we typically choose one of two paths. We shut down, go inside of ourselves and feel horrible, or we adopt the do good, try harder method to prove our self-worth and value to ourselves and the rest of the world.

This past week, as I was reflecting on the events of this last year, I came to a few realizations about the relationship between effort and self-worth.

  1. Sometimes more isn’t necessarily better … this includes more effort and sometimes more ice cream!
  2. If I am exerting enormous amounts of effort and it doesn’t bring me joy, I might need to redirect my efforts and focus on something that will.
  3. Success in life and in business doesn’t need to be hard in order for it to have meaning or for me to feel valued.
  4. My sense of self-worth comes from within, if I am not feeling worthy, looking outside myself and blaming others is not the path to joy, peace, and happiness.
  5. I can create more, help more, and bring more value to others by simply showing up and being who I am. ‘Being’ who I am requires a lot less effort than trying to be someone I am not!

If any of these words resonate with you, if you’ve ever felt like you had to try harder to feel like you are enough or know someone who does, click on this link and gift yourself or someone you know with a copy of the book, I Could Love No One Until I Love Me!

It just might change your life!


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Authentic, Beliefs, Personal Growth, Success.

Choose Your Attitude … Choose Your Life!

Have you ever experienced something in life that you didn’t like, didn’t want, or wished that somehow it was different? Have you ever found yourself uttering the words … “Why did this have to happen to me?”

The truth, is that even though you may not like what is happening, you can choose how you will respond to that particular situation or event. You have the power to choose what you make things mean (your thoughts), and what you make things mean determines your attitude. And your attitude determines how you navigate through life.

American author and pastor, Chuck Swindoll said this about attitude: I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is simply another to give yourself permission to choosing a bad attitude. The attitude you choose each and every morning can determine the quality of your day, your week, your month, and your year. The average person living in the United States will experience approximately 28,616 mornings. That’s 28,616 opportunities to wake up on the right side of the bed.

Do you choose your attitude or do you give your power away and let someone or some external factor determine your attitude for you?

5 Things You Can Do To Shift Your Attitude:

  1. Decide: make a decision to choose differently. Remember that you control your attitude because you control your thoughts. Your thoughts are one of the very few things you actually do control. Decide how you want to respond to people, situations, and events, and then take action based on your decision.
  2. Do something physical, exercise, go for a walk just move! Physical activity can shift your attitude and get you moving forward in a more positive direction.
  3. Other-Centered Therapy … in other words, go spend time with someone in need. The elderly, the homeless, anyone who would deeply appreciate an act of kindness or just the opportunity to be with someone so they are not alone. Being other-centered will get you out’ve your own head and focusing on someone who is grateful for your time or attention. It may help you realize how grateful you could be for what you have.
  4. If you wake up in the morning on the wrong side of the bed. Get undressed, crawl back into bed, roll over to the other side and get out on that side telling yourself, “this is the side I needed to get out on, this is perfect!” You think I’m kidding … I’m not! It’s called anchoring and it’s about tying a physical object or activity to a shift in your thinking.
  5. Affirmations: Before you go to sleep at night, tell yourself that tomorrow you’re going to wake up rested and refreshed, with an attitude of joy and happiness … regardless of what happens!

A Brooklyn New York homemaker who once described herself as an “Overweight woman, married to an overweight husband, surrounded by overweight friends.”said, “It’s choice–not chance–that determines your destiny.”

Jean Nidetch was the founder of Weight Watchers, one of the most successful weight loss programs in the world. Based on her words and action she apparently chose a different attitude one day and started a business that not only changed her life, but changed the lives of millions of people around the world!

Do you need to decide that as of today, you will no longer allow outside influences to determine your inner happiness?

Do you need to decide that after all these years, you really do deserve an extraordinary life? A loving relationship? A job you love? Your own business?

You know the decision you need to make, which means you already know the action you need to take.

What if this was the moment you decided? What if this was the moment you took the next step? It just might be the best thing you’ve done today, this week, this month, or this year?

Remember that every second of every day, you have the privilege and the opportunity to choose your attitude. Choose well!

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Beliefs, Empowerment, Happiness, Leadership Speaker.


The difference between a good leader and an extraordinary leader is clear in the minds of their people.

When a good leader is present, their people say “Look at what they have done!” When an extraordinary leader is present, their people say, “Look at what we haveaccomplished!”

What do your people say about you and your leadership?

Below is a list of 5 things extraordinary leaders know and do that moves them from being a good leader into being an extraordinary leader who achieves extraordinary results!

5 Things Extraordinary Leaders Know & Do:

  1. They know their job is to teach and not to do. They are much better at asking questions so that their people come to their own solutions then they are at giving them solutions, or telling them what to do and or how to do it!
  2. They hold themselves and their people accountable all the time, not just some of the time. They know that inconsistency in their behavior and their actions creates doubt. They know that people will not trust them if they don’t consistently hold them accountable.
  3. They know they are responsible to their people and not responsible for their people. They create a safe environment where their people can succeed and they don’t take responsibility or credit for their successes or beat themselves up when their people fail.
  4. They know to not do anything for their people that they can do for themselves and they know that their folks can do most things for themselves … if you let them. They know that their people don’t need to be saved, because their people are not broken nor do they need to be fixed. They trust them to do the work.
  5. They realize that their focus needs to be on helping their team to tap into their brilliance, their genius, and their strengths, so they can reach their fullest potential. That only happens when you ask them to play a bigger game and not allow them to be stopped by challenges, problems, or adversity. Extraordinary leaders call their people to be extraordinary!


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Executive Leadership Development, Leadership, Leadership Speaker, Leading Others, Results.

Leadership – Do You Draft or Pull?

A few years ago I participated in a Sprint Triathlon (a shorter version of a triathlon which includes swimming, cycling, and running). During the event, I had an opportunity to notice two different approaches by two different racers. Both people were involved in the exact same race and yet, having two completely different experiences.

Leader 1: A fifteen-year-old kid, pulling his developmentally challenged brother in a life raft behind him for 400 meters in a swimming pool while the crowd cheered them both on. He then pulled him in a cart for the bike portion, and finished by pushing him across the finish line in a different cart to complete the the race. Throughout the entire race, the look on his brothers face was sheer and utter joy. Why? He was in a race, he was swimming, cycling, and running with his big brother … he was part of a team!

Leader 2: A 30-something year-old racer who continuously drafted behind me during the cycling portion of the race. Drafting (using the space created behind another cyclist to avoid the resistance of the wind to save energy) is considered cheating and the rules specifically state, that if caught, you will be disqualified. To hide his intention, he moved to the side when passing the referees and judges and then would tuck back behind me when we were in the clear.

I was struck by the enormous gap between the purpose and intention of these racers. The fifteen-year-old young man was racing for his brother, his goal: give his brother an experience he could never achieve on his own. He didn’t care about his time or where he finished in the rankings as much as he cared about his brother. It wasn’t about him, it was about his team. Yes his team, his brother may not have been physically capable, but imagine the inspiration he felt when he looked behind him and saw the smile on his face or heard him cheering his older brother on.

The racer behind me who was cheating the system to move higher in the rankings was a different story. His race was all about him and winning. It didn’t matter if he cheated and broke the rules, he didn’t care. He was the epitome of what it means to be self-centered. He wasn’t willing to exert the effort required to work hard in order to win, instead he let others do the work while he cheated the system and took credit for their effort and hard work.

As a leader, each day you have to face yourself in the mirror. And while we all want to believe that we are more like the fifteen-year-old leader and not like the leader who cheated, we have to live with the decisions we make.

Are you a leader who believes that you don’t have to go out in front of the pack and lead by example? Do you believe that you can lay low and ride on the coattails of the work that other create? Do you believe that it’s okay to take credit for the work of others?


Are you willing to give your best effort each and every day regardless of the results? Are you more concerned with getting the team across the finish line or yourself? Would you sacrifice winning as an individual if it meant that the team would do better?

As a leader, each day you are faced with multiple decisions to be other-centered and inspire others, or to be self-centered and make it all about you.

Extraordinary leaders inspire others to do or to be their best. And when they are inspired by you, they will trust you, and when they trust you, they will follow you.

As we all stared in amazement at the courage of this young man swimming his heart out as he pulled his brother behind him in the pool and throughout the rest of the race, I couldn’t help but think about how much he inspired me to be a better person.

After-all … that is what great leaders do?

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Influencing Others, Joe Contrera, Leadership, Leading Others, Teamwork, Values.

Forgiveness: Elephants Can Forget!

“I’ve been tryin’ to get down … To the heart of the matter … But my will gets weak … And my thoughts seem to scatter … But I think it’s about forgiveness.”   Don Henley

Forgive and Forget?

While that sounds simple, it isn’t always easy!

Sometimes, atrocities happen in life that are caused by the actions of another person. Those can be extremely difficult situations to forgive the offender, and yet, it has been proven that forgiveness, even in those horrendous situations, allow the victim to set themselves free.

Sometimes, situations arise where we wonder how in the world could somebody be so offended or feel they were wronged. It could be the slow moving 16 year-old taking an order at McDonald’s, the speech delivered by an opposing political view, a 100 year-old statue, or a single word. In today’s world, people get offended at the most trivial things. Why? Because they believe that everything that happens in this world is a personal assault on them. Even when what the other person did or said has absolutely nothing to do with them, they search out reasons to remain entrapped in a pseudo-victim mentality, and they find one, even if it is not the truth.

But what about the situations where we conduct our own mini-version of Law & Order in our heads? We play the judge, the jury, and the prosecutor, in a courtroom where we are on trial and the verdict always ends in … guilty as charged.

Sometimes, what prevents us from moving to the next level of success is a self-imposed, imaginary glass ceiling that keeps us stuck in a place we don’t want to be in.

In most cases, I find that our level of success is directly tied to sense of self-worth and value, basically, what we believe about ourselves.

Sometimes, our sense of self-worth is impacted by beliefs that we were imprinted with by what someone (parent, sibling, relative, ex-spouse, teacher) did or said to us a long time ago. Maybe, the message was that we were no good or not good enough, and we can’t seem to shake those old beliefs. So we stay stuck because we don’t believe we deserve to be free, happy, or loved.

And then there are those times when the person we need to forgive most is ourselves. We made a poor choice in the past, a few bad decisions along the way, or we harmed ourselves or another person, and for some reason we just can’t forgive ourselves. The course for our lives was set when we made that decision and it can never be changed.

Regardless of the situation or reason, it is the lack of forgiveness for ourselves and others that keep us stuck. The crazy thing, is that some of us are holding onto old beliefs and ideas that are not the truth.

Yet, like trained circus elephants who have been tied to a stake for years, when the ropes are removed, offering them freedom, the animals choose to stay in the same area as if they are still tethered. They believe what they were trained to believe, I can’t move beyond this point, I don’t deserve to be happy, I don’t deserve success, I am a failure, It’s not safe to take risk, I will get hurt again, and on and on and on and …

Is Forgiveness Holding You Back?

Do you need to let go of some past hurt or act caused by another person (real or imagined) that has you believing you don’t deserve more?

Do you need to forgive yourself for a past mistake, failure, or a bad decision you made, that has you tethered by an invisible rope that only you can cut?

Yes, forgiveness and letting is not easy … if that’s what you believe.

Just remember that things will be difficult … until they’re not!

And that my friends … is completely up to you!


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Empowerment, Fear, Forgiveness, Happiness, Joe Contrera, Leadership Speaker, Success.

10 Decisions To Empower Yourself!

A friend of mine once asked me a question when I was going through a pretty tough time in my life … “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Believe it or not, my initial response was, “I want to be right dammit, don’t you?”

Over the course of my life, I have been in similar situations where I needed to choose how I was going to handle a particular decision. While the severity of the situation varied, there was always one fact that remained: I had choices.

I learned, that when I create options, and then choose one of them, I empower myself. I don’t have to like all of the options, I just need to choose the one I think is my best option at that moment in time.

I found, that if I was willing to think through the issue and come up with a few alternatives, I could empower myself in practically every situation I encountered. With one caveat: I had to be willing to take 100% responsibility for myself, my decisions, my successes, and my failures.

If I choose to blame others for the results I am getting in my life, If I place responsibility for my happiness on anyone else other than myself, I am choosing to be a victim with a victim mindset.

Most victims are unhappy because they fail to see that regardless of the situation, they have the power to choose something different. Different may be a different way of looking at a situation, letting go instead of holding on to something, some one, or a situation that is making them miserable, or the fear of moving into an unknown situation.

So how can you feel more empowered?

Below is a list of 10 questions you can ask yourself in a few given situations that can help.

10 Questions To Empower Yourself: 

  1. Do I need to be right or do I want to be happy?
  2. Do I need to insert myself into this situation or do I need to mind my own business (and this is none of my business)?
  3. Do I need to focus on what I must do to make things right or do I want to prove someone else wrong?
  4. Do I need to empower myself or do I want to give my power away (letting someone else’s actions or words determine how I think, feel, or act)?
  5. Do I want to waste my time being angry and resentful or do I need to forgive and move on (a friend once told me that holding on to resentment is like taking a poisonous pill and waiting for the other person to die)?
  6. Do I want to stress out and worry about the outcome or do I trust the process to unfold the way it is (confusing the facts and what it is versus what I want it to be)?
  7. Do I want to focus on the past/worry about the future or do I need to live in the present moment?
  8. Do I want to focus on the problem or focus on a solution?
  9. Do I need to create peace or do I want to create chaos (yes, some people are addicted to drama and chaos)?
  10. If this was my last day on earth, would I spend my time and energy on this particular situation, problem, or challenge in this exact same way or would I handle it differently?

The whole idea is to stop yourself and make a conscious decision of how you want to live in that moment.

Why? Because how you choose to live in each moment determines how you live each day ….

How you choose to live each day determines how you live each week … which determines how you live each month … which determines …. well I think you get the idea.

Creating choices and deciding how you want to respond, who you want to be, or what you want to do, will determine your level of success and overall happiness in your business and in your life.

You just have to remember that the power to em-power yourself lies within and begins when you start to create choices. The more choices you can think of … the more empowered you will feel!

Of course this list is incomplete, so feel free to comment with choices you have made that help you to empower yourself. Who knows … something you share may inspire someone else to do the same.

Now wouldn’t that be empowering?

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Accountability, Decision-Making, Empowerment, Joe Contrera, Leadership Speaker, Personal Growth.