Maintain A Healthy Brain

For some time now I have been curious about what I can do to maintain and even improve my brain health as I grow older. Like the brain itself, this is a complicated topic. There is no single factor that makes or breaks your brain health, but rather a combination of factors. The good news is, there are some key things that we control that can make a measured difference in our brain’s health as we age. So, let’s dive in and see what they are!

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Anne Tergesen called What Science Tells Us About Preventing Dementia which does a great job addressing key brain health topics. I recommend you check it out, however, if you don’t get the chance to read the article here is a summary of the key points as well as information from additional research I did on the topic.

Tergesen starts by stating “There are no instant, miracle cures but recent studies suggest we have more control over our cognitive health than we might think. It just takes some effort”. What I like about this approach is that it encourages us to focus on things we can control, rather than just worry about things outside of our control (say our genetics for example). A recent Lancet report (Lancet is a medical journal) distilled the findings of hundreds of studies and came to the conclusion that “around 35% of dementia cases might be prevented if people do things including exercising and engaging in cognitively stimulating activities”. On the other hand, the report pointed to factors that contribute to dementia risk including “midlife obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, social isolation, and low education levels”.

So, let’s get right to the practical stuff. What should we be doing to maintain a healthy brain? According to the studies referenced above they are as follows:

BLOOD-PRESSURE CONTROL: Proper blood pressure control was found to reduce cognitive impairment by as much as 19% as well as resulting in less damaging changes in the brain. The stated issue with high blood pressure is that over time, it may damage the vessels needed to deliver blood to the brain. This, in turn, can reduce blood flow and starve the brain of critical nutrition.

EXERCISE: As you know if you read my blog, I am a big fan of exercise regardless of your age! Now we can add one more positive aspect of being physically active to the list, our brain health. According to the study, exercise helps increase blood flow which in turn improves the blood vessels in the brain as well as raising levels of HDL cholesterol (HDL is the “good cholesterol” as it removes harmful “bad” cholesterol from your system). Indirectly, exercise is also known to help reduce stress and anxiety and help you sleep better. These indirect benefits also promote good cognitive health.

COGNITIVE TRAINING: Yaakov Stern, a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, wrote that maintaining educational and mentally stimulating activities “fosters growth of new neurons and may slow the rate at which certain regions of the brain shrink with age”. Cognitive training (also known as brain training) can be much like physical training where one implements a regular regiment of stimulating exercises for the brain. Medical News Today did a study called Five of the best apps to train your brain that you might find interesting.

DIET: Diets which include fish, fruits, nuts, and vegetables were determined to have a measurable positive impact on brain health. This is sometimes referred to by researchers as the “Mind Diet”. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. Specifically, the 10 brain-healthy foods recommended to eat are green leafy vegetables, other vegetables (ex: carrots, bell peppers), berries, nuts, beans/lentils/soybeans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine (in moderation). The 5 foods to limit are butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, pastries and sweets due to the high concentration of saturated fat and trans-fat.

SLEEP: I am a big believer in the value of getting enough quality sleep every night. I believe western culture encourages a lifestyle that robs us of this very important pillar of health while trying to replace the lack of sleep with caffeine and other artificial stimulants. Some believe that sleep allows the brain to perform important synapses repair, others that the brain washes out toxic substances while we sleep. Regardless of the actual physiological activity that happens to the brain while sleeping, getting consistent sleep is vital to a healthy brain and some even believe it may help fight Alzheimer’s.  

SUMMARY: Tergesen wraps up her article by stating that “there is a growing consensus that when it comes to preserving brain health, the more healthy habits you adopt, the better”.

I hope this summary has inspired you to think about what new habits you can introduce into your daily life that will contribute long-term to a healthy brain. Rather than trying to tackle everything at once and risk discouragement at not achieving them all, I would encourage you to pick one area you know you can improve in right now and work on it until it becomes part of your lifestyle. Then, come back later and add another using these steps one at a time as building blocks to a long and healthy brain life!

P.S. Share your thoughts below on what you are doing to maintain a healthy brain, and don’t forget to subscribe to receive an email notification each time a new blog post is published!

Love & Sunshine – The Perfect Balance

It was an amazing fall day with thousands of brightly painted leaves drifting down from the canopy above through the soft rays of distant sunlight. We had picked the perfect day for a long walk through the woods!

We found some hiking trails on the grounds of an old estate that sits high above the Hudson River and set out on our walk through the woods. At first, the trails brought us past some carefully groomed gardens, around the back of a historical European styled manor, and then on towards the woods where we came across a family pet cemetery. We stood for a moment contemplating the love the owners had for their many pets and then pressed on down a steep hill into the woods. Suddenly, we sprang into a small meadow with a pond flush with tall bulrushes growing at the water’s edge. As we skirted around the left side of the pond, we noticed a dog standing in the shallow water at the far end carefully watching us. We left the pond and pressed deeper into the woods where we stumbled upon a little waterfall and a rickety wooden bridge across the trickling water. After taking a couple of pictures, we continued through the woods and down the hill until we finally came to an opening where the river spread out in front of us in both directions and the stately home where we started stood for behind us high on the hill. It was a perfect day, with the perfect balance of love and sunshine.

The pond with the bulrushes at the water’s edge

When was the last time you set work aside for a day and spent time somewhere peaceful, perhaps even with someone you love, and just walked for a while? It is so easy to be consumed by all the things we must do and to forget the simple things that we really should do. I would like to encourage you to take some time, find a place to walk, and just breathe for a little while.

I thought I would share some of the pictures with you of our perfect day and hopefully encourage you to find a similar place to walk and to be inspired. For the past couple of weeks, we have been sharing on how to live inspired and taking in nature is a great way to do this, and also a way to clear the clutter out of your mind. If you have the opportunity, find a place around you away from the crowds and just walk for a while. See if you don’t find inspiration in the company of someone you love and the beauty around you. If you can’t actually get away, then walk with us through the pictures and be inspired.   

Sunshine Through The Trees
The stream we stumbled upon

Your life is like a stream, always moving but often interrupted by hard things that get in the way and throw it out of balance. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

P.S. Share with us in the comments below the things that inspire you and how inspiration shows up in your life.

A Poem of Inspiration

Inspiration

I looked to the rolling hills, and the mountains overshadowed me

I listened to the soft breeze, and a roaring wind spoke to me

I considered the flame, and fire sprang up within me

And then I understood, Inspiration is always greater than my thoughts

Steven Doggette    

I sat down at my computer today, turned on some soft piano music in the background and immediately this poem sprang onto the page. You see, I was not expecting it but there it was just waiting for me to write it down.

In my September 8th blog “Live Inspired” I challenged you to not only be inspired but to begin capturing your inspirations like butterflies so they are not lost. We talked about how inspiration is the genesis of all creativity, and how Inspiration Often Comes Early, Inspiration Sometimes Surprises You, and Inspiration Can Be Lost. But now I understand there is one more aspect of inspiration we need to cover, and it is…

Inspiration is always greater than your thoughts

Like the opening poem, whatever your thoughts are, inspiration always makes them bigger. Whatever creativity you start with, inspiration will always come back in larger form. It’s up to you to take the first step and then let it come back to you larger than life.

So, what have you been dreaming about for your life? Is now the time to improve your health habits? Are you finally ready to commit to that relationship? Is it time to start your own business? What is it that you need to step out and do? Are you living inspired?

I challenge you to find a peaceful place in the near future, perhaps somewhere outside, and dream a little. Then wait for your thoughts to find inspiration because inspiration is the genesis of all creativity.

Summary

Inspiration is always greater than your thoughts. Watch for it to show up, and then grab it!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Live Inspired
Home Business Training
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P.S. Share with us in the comments below the things that inspire you and how inspiration shows up in your life. 

Live Inspired

Butterfly

Inspiration is the genesis of all creativity. You first have to see it in your mind, and then find a way to make your inspiration take on some form of reality. Inspiration for me comes mostly in the form of content ideas for this blog or for my business, although I have been known to do some poetic writing as well. What are you inspired by and what form does it take in your life? Do you know how to live inspired?

Inspiration Often Comes Early

When are you most likely to be inspired with thoughts related to the things you are passionate about? For me, it’s almost always in the morning during my quiet time, when I am working out, or even in the shower. During these early hours of the day, while my brain is well-rested, my head is often full of fresh ideas, dare I say inspiration. In the past, this would frustrate me because I was on a mission to get out the door and off to work and my thoughts while inspiring, were also a distraction. But now, I have learned to build a little extra time into my morning routine in case inspiration comes knocking because inspiration often comes early!

Inspiration Sometimes Surprises You

Then there are other times when inspiration shows up when you least expect it. Maybe it’s triggered by a song or a sermon. Perhaps it comes when you are daydreaming or is sparked by someone you see in a crowd. Sometimes it just has a way of sneaking up on you and that’s OK. It is inspiration’s job to show up now and then, and when it does it is your job to somehow capture it. Always be on the lookout because inspiration sometimes surprises you!

Inspiration Can Be Lost

Inspiration is like a beautiful butterfly fluttering around your head one moment and then gone the next. There have been so many inspired moments that I have lost because I was not ready to catch them, but not anymore. Now I am ready for that moment, that thought, that inspiration that is waiting to be caught. My little blue journal notebook has become my butterfly net and every time one flutters by, I capture it with a few words so I can come back to it later and develop the thought. Regardless of how or when inspiration comes, you must always be ready to capture it, because inspiration can be lost!

If you feel dry and inspiration does not seem to come naturally to you, you have to practice making room for it in your soul. Start by exposing yourself to the type of content that you would like to create. Listen to music or inspired speakers. Read books or listen to podcasts in your chosen venue. Make sure you are not unnecessarily cluttering your mind with stressful TV shows or unhealthy online content that will dominate your thoughts and kill creativity. Make sure you are fostering a positive, grateful outlook on life. And finally, make time in your day for it to show up. If you are always rushing from one activity to the next inspiration may come your way, but you will never see it.

So, grab your notebook, write your core values on the inside cover and start capturing your butterflies, one inspiration at a time! Live inspired! 

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Change Your Mindset Blog

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P.S. Share with us in the comments below the things that inspire you and how inspiration shows up in your life.

Time Management Part 4: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning

“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate what they can accomplish over the long term” – Author Unknown

One of the most difficult areas of time management is strategic planning. Generally speaking, most companies have at a minimum a three-year rolling plan in motion at all times. This helps ensure accountability and that business and financial targets are met over the long hall. The question is, how can you introduce strategic planning into your personal life so that your big goals are realized over time, just like companies do? The answer is to start at the finish line and work your way back to now!

When I first heard strategic planning laid out like this, it was like a light went on for me. I always understood the strategic plan concept but never thought of it in the reverse order paradigm. This is how it works. Pick a big goal for yourself that is only achievable over the long term. On a whiteboard or somewhere visible, create a three-year timeline (years represent key milestones) with each year broken up into one-month increments. This will create monthly placeholders for you to map out your action steps within each yearly milestone. Then, fill in your chart as follows:

  1. Start at the end of year three and write out specifically what your achieved goal will look like (what, where, how much, etc.).
  2. Then, step back through each year one by one, noting the big milestone you will need to reach over the course of that year to hit your end goal.
  3. Finally, fill out the incremental steps you will take each month that will get you to your yearly milestones.

Let’s say your goal is to take that special someone in your life on a cruise around the world. Great goal, but really expensive! First, do some research and figure out what the price range is for your dream cruise, taking into account any extra spending money you will need for the journey. Let’s say for the sake of this example that your luxury excursion costs $3,000 and you will need an extra $600 for spending money, bringing the total to $3,600. First, calculate how much you will need to save each year to reach your annual milestones. In this example, that would be $1,200. Here is what your strategic milestones would look like, keeping in mind you need the more granular monthly increments to stay on track.

While this example is simplistic for the sake of showing the process, the more complex your goal, the more this type of visual planning will serve you. You must have tangible milestones that move you in the direction of your destination. You must know what winning looks like for you, or you will never achieve it. Finally, here are some steps to make sure you realize your strategic target.

  • Look at your three-year plan each day
  • Take DAILY action towards your goal no matter how small
  • Adjust the next increment or milestone to catch up if you fall behind
  • Experience the joy of reaching your goal now, as if it has already been realized

So, what big goal do you keep putting off because you can’t find the starting point, much less visualize the finish line? Dust off your goal, pull out a whiteboard and start dreaming. Then turn that dream into a strategic plan and make it a reality! Remember, most people overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate what they can accomplish over the long term.

Resources

Here are links to previous time management articles.

Time Management:
Morning Routines
Time Management:
Love Your Commute

Time Management:
The Short List

P.S. If your big goal is to start your own online business, then I can help. Check out these training resources and start building your strategic plan today!

Time Management Part 3: The Short List

List

It was a hot Saturday afternoon and I was feeling good. One by one I was proudly checking off the long list of household to-do items on the whiteboard in the front hallway. With each checkmark, I would stand back and admire my excellent time management skills based on the progress I was making. Later that day when I came back into the house to check off yet another heroic accomplishment, I stopped in dismay. Someone had erased all of the finished tasks which had checkmarks, only leaving the unfinished ones. I suddenly only had evidence of what I had yet to do, with no proof of my accomplishment to-date

If you are like me, this is how it can feel at work most days. Somewhere between the flood of emails, instant message requests from the boss and meetings as far as the eye can see, we have “real” work to accomplish. There was a time when the multiple streams of work and distractions stressed me out as I watched my day slip by without any tangible progress against deliverables. Not anymore! The answer to time management problems at work is The Short List.

This is how it works. The minute you sit down at your desk each morning, make a list (preferably in red) of the three non-negotiable deliverables that need to get done before you leave work today.  By the way, these should not be softball tasks that would get accomplished anyway in the course of the day, these should be real deliverables. Then, every time you switch from one activity to the next (exit a meeting or finish an email, etc.), review The Short List and look for an opportunity to attack these deliverables. If you happen to miss a key deliverable on a given day, start the next day’s list with that item or eliminate it altogether if it is no longer a priority. Here is an example of what that might look like.

The Short List

  1. Plan the team offsite
  2. Finish/submit Q4 budget forecast
  3. Recognize John Doe for his outstanding contribution

This may not look like much but if you complete the shortlist each day, that is 15 completed deliverables per week. How many key deliverables are you accomplishing now with your current time management approach? We often say we need more hours in the day. The way to have more hours in the day is to have a better time management plan. It’s called The Short List!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Time
Part 1: Daily Routines
Daily Commute
Part 2: Love Your Commute
Start Your Online Business

P.S. Remember, business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it!

Time Management Part 2: Love Your Commute

Daily Commute

Last week I worked out of the Jersey City, NJ office where you look directly across the Hudson River at mighty lower Manhattan. As I met various teammates that I do not normally see in person, I asked them about their daily commute to the office. Without exception, I was greeted with painful stories of riding the trains and subways for up to 90 minutes each way to and from work. Not one of my teammates had a positive spin on this required chore or a thoughtful time management approach on how to make this time work in their favor. Why is it that no one likes their work commute? I for one love my daily commute to and from work!

Commuting to and from the office is a necessary evil for most of us. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes. If you subtract 4 weeks for vacation, sick time and other missed work events, that is about 203 hours per year or the equivalent of 25 workdays! Imagine what you could accomplish with an entire extra month per year of time? Here is the answer to making that time work for you and how to turn your commute into something you love.

  1. Identify an area of personal growth that is a focus area for you to invest in. Make sure it is something you are passionate about even if it does not directly align with your day job at the moment. You will be amazed at how growing skills around an area of interest will spill over in positive ways into your current work environment.  In my case, that would be learning the skills and mindset necessary for living (and teaching) a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  2. Identify 3-4 mentors in your field of interest. If you don’t know who that should be, start looking online at leaders in the field and consume some of their content to see if your interests align. From this group, find those who have weekly podcasts and subscribe. If they do not have a podcast, they may have e-books you can download. As you listen to a given mentor, they will lead you to others in the field that you can start to follow and be mentored by.
  3. Immerse yourself in the chosen topic each day to and from work. It will not be long before you start to see the payoff. Not only will you begin to grow in an area you are passionate about, but you will also start to look forward to your daily commute as a treat, and not a chore.

What was 30 minutes of dead time to and from work each day, is now one of my favorite activities. What are you passionate about? What new skills do you want to learn? With a little creative time management, you too will have an extra 203 hours a year to invest in yourself and a commute that you love. Let’s get started! 

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

List
Time Management Part 3
Start Your Online Business
More About Me

Time Management Part 1: Morning Routines

Time

While listening to one of my mentor’s podcasts today, I heard the statement to be successful we need fewer cheerleaders in our lives and more coaches. A cheerleader (say your mom for example) is going to cheer you on no matter what the quality of your output is. A coach (or mentor) on the other hand, is going to give you the tough love feedback needed to get to the next level. Today’s time management discussion likely falls into the tough love category for the 50% or so of the population who do not consider themselves a morning person, because it deals with actively creating and managing morning routines. Let’s get started.

Having a set routine in the morning is a critical factor in setting up your day for success. Rolling out of bed late after hitting the snooze a couple of times, grabbing whatever happens to be around for breakfast (or skipping it altogether) and rushing out the door to work is not a plan for success. You need to create margin in your mornings to consciously establish the mindset that takes you in the direction you want to go in. Almost all of my inspirational ideas come in the morning while I am working out, taking a shower or eating breakfast. All of this happens before I walk out the door for work. Knowing this, I build time into my mornings so I can reflect and jot down key ideas that come to me while my brain is rested. Then, I can go back to my notes later and build on them.

Yes, we are all at different seasons of life with varying responsibilities each morning which may include getting others up and out of the house as well. That’s where getting up a little earlier might just create the space you need for your morning routines. With this in mind, here are some keys to make every morning a success.

  • Set a specific wakeup time five days a week (assuming the standard Monday-Friday work schedule). On the flip side, set what time you will go to bed to get 7-9 hours of sleep, depending on your specific rest requirements – no excuses! Getting the right amount of sleep is critical to your overall health. Do not use the snooze function on your alarm. When the alarm wakes you up, get up right them. Once you train your body clock, you will no longer require an alarm to wake up on time.
  • Establish morning routines that you repeat daily in the same order from the time you get up to the time you leave for work. This should include doing something you love that charges your batteries such as exercise, inspired reading, saying your prayers, walking the dog, etc. Schedule time for a healthy breakfast, whatever that looks like for you, and make sure you begin hydrating right away (preferably with water). This will help to increase your brain function in addition to the other benefits of proper hydration.   
  • Review your vision. Take some time to write down big accomplishments you aspire to and start each day by reviewing them. These should be visionary aspirations for your life. How will you know when you get “there” if you never define your destination? Something we always ask ourselves at work which applies here is what does winning look like? Know where you are going.
  • Listen to a mentor during your commute. I will cover this in detail next week in Time Management Part 2: Loving Your Commute. In short, find someone you admire who is ahead of you in an area you aspire to, and then listen to their content daily.

It’s time to take advantage of the most important part of the day by introducing good time management routines into your morning schedule. As an aside, always have a notebook or journal handy to jot down the inspirations that come to you now that you are not rushing through your morning. When you get to work you may outpace others because of your pre-work routine. Take advantage of this edge and be a leader because you know where you are headed. You already settled your destination in your morning routines. You know what winning looks like!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Daily Commute
Time Management Part 2
Start Your Online Business
Life Coach
More About Me

3 Keys to Make Exercise A Lifestyle

Men Running

OK, here’s the warning! Always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

I was very careful in the title to indicate exercise should be a lifestyle. Starting exercise regiments based on a new year’s resolution or even jumping into hours of training for a specific event often leads to spurts of great effort, followed by long sedentary off-seasons. The only way to truly increase your physical strength and flexibility as well as improving overall cardiovascular health is to make exercise a lifestyle.

Proper exercise has officially become a discipline that we now need to schedule into our daily lives. When we were primarily an agriculture-based society, exercise came naturally in the course of hard work on the farm. Now that more jobs are becoming serviced based, too many of us find ourselves lost in the dreaded cube farm staring at a computer screen 10 hours a day. If this describes your average day remember, your body was created to move and not sit at work all day followed by an evening on the couch watching TV. It’s time for you to make exercise a lifestyle!

If you are just starting out pick a level of exercise that is appropriate for you right now and that will also build a base for a more active tomorrow. For example, I have a friend who decided to lose weight and start exercising. So, all he did was remove bread from his diet and on day one walked around his block. On the next day, he walked around two blocks and the next three and so on. Before he knew it, he had lost 20 pounds simple by eliminating bread and starting a daily walking routine.

Keys to Get Moving

  1. Create a Workout Schedule. Pick the cadence for your weekly workout (every day, every other day, etc.). Whatever it is, schedule it like you would your meals. Lay out a realistic schedule that you can stick to and then be very protective of this time. Schedule your weekly workout plan on your calendar or map it out on your whiteboard, but have it charted somewhere so you can check off each workout and track your progress. Mapping out and tracking your workout schedule will dramatically increase your success rate! You can also build in a make-up day. For example, if your schedule calls for Monday through Friday workouts, keep Saturday open as your make-up day in case you are forced to miss one of your week-day workouts.
  2. Chose a Workout Place. For me, it’s my basement. Five days a week I am in the basement at 5:40 AM working out. I keep telling myself I am going to invest some time to upgrade the space to look like a proper gym but I am not waiting for that project to complete before I get moving. For you perhaps it is a gym, the track at your local school or simply the streets of your neighborhood. Wherever it is, make sure it is accessible to you when you need it. Also, if your preferred workout location is outside, have a go-to fallback in case of bad weather. Don’t allow the elements to dictate your exercise lifestyle.
  3. Have a Workout Plan. Decide in advance what your daily workout is going to be. I purchased a couple of 30-minute workout plans (one weight lifting and one cardio) that I alternate between every other day. They are my virtual coaches that guide me daily through my workout, pushing me beyond what I would do on my own. The plans also take me through a series of workouts day after day eliminating time wasted each morning trying to decide what workout to do. Whatever your approach is, make sure you have a sustainable plan before you get started.

What changes will you choose to make that will become building blocks for your future health and wellbeing? If you are not exercising today, start slow but never stop. Make exercise a lifestyle!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Healthy People Blog
Online Business Training

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Dress for Business Success

Man in business atire

Business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it!

If you work in a professional office setting you have likely been introduced to the “business casual” approach to modern day workplace dress. The concept of dressing for business success is quickly fading in many work settings. There appears to be no baseline for what appropriate workplace dress should look like anymore. What was once casual Fridays has now become the norm five days a week. While I am all in favor of loosening (or losing) the stiff necktie look, workplace dress is still an area where you can set yourself apart from the crowd in subtle ways with a little planning!

Another contributing factor to the change in dress culture is the fact that many employees now have the option to work from home part of the time, making it even harder to dress appropriately when they need to make an appearance in the office. Then, there is the younger generation entering the workforce with very few examples of what business dress should look like. Regardless of the reasons, dressing correctly for your business setting should be something you leverage to your advantage.

I was recently touring the Indiana State Museum and ran across an exhibit about clothes with the following statement, “We choose the color of our clothes to express ourselves, follow fashion trends or to signal the roles we play in our personal or professional lives”.

Six simple steps to gain a professional edge and increase your personal brand

  • Know Your Color Pallet. Understand what colors work well for you personally and what they are saying about you professionally. For example, blue represents someone who is trustworthy, loyal, and sincere. White indicates you are inventive and self-confident while red reflects someone who is confident and impulsive (see a full-color map at the end of this blog). Regardless of color, solid lighter button-down shirts or tops are always going to look more professional.
  • Wear Dress Pants. Avoid kakis or other more casual pants that wrinkle quickly. Instead, pick dress pants that hold a crease well and create a good base for whatever top you chose to wear. Remember, the pants (or skirt) should be a darker plain color that does not draw too much attention, but rather complements what you are wearing on top.   
  • Keep a Jacket or Blazer at Work. I always have a jacket on standby at work. A solid black or navy-blue jacket or blazer can instantly raise the level of most any professional outfit. You never know when you will be pulled into a video conference with senior management or a surprise meeting where you need to take your look up a notch.
  • Wear a Watch. A watch not only provides functional value it also enhances the overall professional look. The trendy iPhone watches are fine but a classic timepiece with the hour and minute hands is preferable. You do not need an expensive Rolex to make the right impression, in fact, it might tend to detract. Get a classic looking watch and add it to your standard professional look.
  • Skip Casual Fridays. If you work in a professional office, take a pass on the casual Friday routine. Dressing the same on Fridays as on the other four days of the week will increase your opportunity to create the right impression by 20% over your coworkers!
  • Post a Professional Picture on Company Media. If you have Intranet work platforms such as contact profiles or workshare applications where posting a picture is optional, post one! Too many people overlook this free opportunity to increase their personal brand. Also, take your dress up a notch for this post. Avoid the awkward selfie and get a professional headshot made if you can. Make sure you do not post casual, non-work appropriate pictures on business media platforms!

I remember an executive telling the story of a visit to another city where he had some employees he had never met before. One employee that made a specific impression (and not the good kind) showed up to meet him in the office in shorts and flipflops. Her excuse was that she normally worked from home and therefore did not have the need to dress up. This was a monumental unforced error on her part!

If your personal business plan is to blend in with the office crowd, then pull out the jeans and sneakers or whatever casual dress others are wearing. If on the other hand, you are a leader, dress like one! Take a little time to evaluate your wardrobe and start dressing in a way that reflects your commitment to excellence. Remember, business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it.

Full-Color Map

The following information is based on an exhibit at the Indiana State Museum named OUR CLOTHES TELL THE STORY OF OUR LIVES.

  • White. Reserved, Refined, Orderly, Elegant, Centered, Inventive, Self-confident, Reflective
  • Blue. Calm, Sensitive, Steady, Trustworthy, Introverted, Peaceful, Loyal, Sincere
  • Green. Sensible, Calm, Outspoken, Curious, Reliable, Balanced, Persevering, Respectable
  • Yellow. Optimistic, Happy, Idealistic, Faithful, Enthusiastic, Helpful, Spontaneous, Responsible
  • Orange. Social, Independent, Active, Adventurous, Happy, Witty, Open-minded, Playful
  • Red. Passionate, Confident, Vibrant, Ambitious, Energetic, Impulsive, Determined, Extroverted
  • Pink. Affectionate, Sympathetic, Romantic, Playful, Generous, Nurturing, Kind, Emotional
  • Purple. Creative, Supportive, Sensitive, Imaginative, Peaceful, Spiritual, Charismatic, Compassionate
  • Black. Dramatic, Bold, Powerful, Mysterious, Independent, Serious, Private, Elegant

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

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