Seven steps for developing a better you!

Nancy J. Lewis, MS, PHR
President, Progressive Techniques, Inc.
Fayetteville, Georgia
Presenter, 2004 APWA Congress

In this fast-paced, ever-changing world where we must learn to do more with less, we must be grounded in who we are. To cope with the changing world of work, diverse customers and employees, the generational divide, rightsizing, downsizing, whatever the term used, we must have a strong sense of self.

Developing a better you requires recognizing that everything begins from within. We must remind ourselves of the unique gifts we possess that make us special. Too often we focus on our failures and forget the successes we have had in life. Our failures help us grow because they challenge us to find a way to persevere until the victory is won. Our successes propel us forward to continue to run the race before us because we have what it takes to succeed.

1. Believe in yourself
You must know that you are unique and decide to validate yourself. You must have positive self-talk and recognize that failure is not final, merely a steppingstone to greatness. Commit to measuring yourself with yourself and not someone else. I once read you can be a first-rate you or a second-rate somebody else. Affirm today: I am confident, courageous, and capable.

2. Surround yourself with positive people
People with negative attitudes are energy draining, and when your energy is zapped you have to go and get recharged. Is it always easy to have positive people around? Absolutely not! We must continue to help others by suggesting sources of inspiration such as self-help books, motivational tapes, and spiritual literature. Then we must challenge individuals to be willing to take charge of their lives and the things they can change. Often, you will find yourself spending less time with persons because you can see that they really do not want to change. These negative people are often dream busters and, if you let them, they will shatter your dreams. Be careful who you share your dreams with and do what you must do for yourself to remain focused and positive. Each of you must decide to embrace life with an attitude of gratitude. Affirm today: I will focus on the positive things in life.

3. Visualize success
In order to visualize success, you must see your dreams and goals with clarity and have a plan. Steven Covey states that you must begin with the end in mind. The Bible states that where there is no vision the people perish. It is so important to have a blueprint to guide and direct your path as you work towards achieving your dreams and goals in life. Commit to developing a plan for the dreams and goals you have set for yourself in your personal and professional life. Affirm today: I will take one positive action that will lead me one step closer to reaching my goals.

4. Welcome and embrace change
How many of you love change? Most of us resist change because of uncertainty and the risks it brings. The only constant in life is that things will change. Our ability to cope with change will help us reduce the stress change often brings. Many of us are currently facing some form of change in our lives: empty nesters, taking care of aging parents, family crisis, jobs being downsized or eliminated, mergers and acquisitions, and the list goes on and on. It is vital that we find ways to embrace and welcome changes that will take place in our personal and professional lives. Change allows us the opportunity to expand our boundaries and grow. Affirm today: I will welcome and embrace change.

5. Celebrate successes every day in your life
When you achieve a major milestone in your life, how do you reward yourself? Start a happy file, smile file, or success journal today. When someone sends you a note, an e-mail message, or a letter that lets you know they appreciate you, put it in that file. Start to focus on the nice things people say and do for you and help them begin their happy file by sharing with them a note of appreciation. When you start recognizing the successes and strengths of others, it is amazing how much more people start to recognize yours. What you send out to others returns to you. Begin the habit of rewarding yourself for the milestones that move you closer to your goals. These milestones may be big or small. It really doesn't matter the size, only that you recognize them. The important thing is to celebrate because small successes lead to big successes. Affirm today: I will start my happy file.

6. Love yourself
What kind of self-talk goes on in your head? What do you say about yourself to others? Learn how to look in the mirror and declare that you love the reflection you see. There is no one else like you in the universe. You are special and always remember that. Love you for the wonderful person that you are. Affirm today: I value and love myself.

7. Maintain a winning attitude about life
Life may not always deal you the hand you want, but learn how to play the hand you are dealt with a winning disposition. Maintaining a winning attitude means that when challenges come, you recognize there is a miracle in your struggle. When you are able to maintain a winning attitude about life, you draw people and circumstances that will be a blessing to you. So go forward and keep your winning attitude about life and watch your garden of greatness grow. Affirm today: I will maintain a winning attitude about life.

Nancy J. Lewis is a leading motivational speaker, life skills trainer, author, and human resources consultant. On Tuesday, September 14 at the APWA Congress in Atlanta, she will be the featured speaker at the Diversity Luncheon (11:15 a.m.) and the presenter at the following educational sessions: "Effective Listening Skills" (2:30 p.m.) and "The Seven Steps to a Better You" (3:30 p.m.). She can be reached at (404) 559-7614 or at