Be clear about your why. Probably the biggest mistake people make in life are doing things that are not aligned with their ultimate passion and purpose. When you are guided by not what you are doing, but why you are doing it, your perspective changes. It makes being discipline and consistency in the small habits much more rewarding because they are leading to something more meaningful. Before you take on a new role or sport, assess your driving reason and how the activity contributes to your full life path.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ti’eshia Moore.
Dr. Ti’eshia Moore is an adult learning expert and former college faculty turned purpose-based researcher and CliftonStrengths (Strengthsfinder) coach. She is the founder and Chief Ah-ha Maker of TieshiaMoore.com which uses positive psychology to help high achieving individuals and organizations unlock and aim their Strengths in five key areas: personal, interpersonal, spiritual, emotional, and business. Dr. Moore began her work in non-profit and learning and is passionate about helping people connect where their own innate abilities and their courageous calling intersect. She and her husband are the Pastors of City Place Church.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin from teenage parents. My mom was 16 years old when she had me and my father was just 15. I have a bi-racial heritage and was navigating what it was like to be of a mixed race long before that was a celebrated attribute within our nation. Looking back now, I know that my family was doing their very best with what they had, but the earliest memories I have are surrounded with financial struggles, awkward racially-based conversations, and experiences of rejection from my father who left us when I was a child. To say it was a rough start would be an understatement.
Luckily, my mother was obsessed with child development. She went to college and quite literally implemented lessons from her classes on me for homework. It was often just her and I, and I remember being “emotionally awake” pretty early on. The combination of all of these things meant that I developed a loved for learning at a very young age and it formed in me a true passion for ah-ha moments which has become sort of the driving force of my adult life. I was keenly aware of my mom’s personal sacrifices and love for me but I was very fortunate to still experience so many things kids from my background could not such as international travel and service work, extracurricular activities, and I was even a host of a teen talk show at one point. I excelled in school and later received a full scholarship from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pursue my studies from Bachelors through the Doctorate degree.
I became deeply fascinated not just with the learning that changed my life but that which is specific to adulthood when people have the maturity and wherewithal to actually do something with their knowledge. In addition, I honed in on learning not just for knowledge’s sake but for transformation and started to research life purpose as a result. When I earned my doctorate, I thought I would pursue a teaching and research career in academia, a lifelong dream. But I hadn’t considered the indirect and delayed rewards of teaching nor the political environment of higher education. In essence, I knew I could help people experience true transformational moments, but I had not calculated that I would not want to deal with everything that came with it. I feel into non-profit leadership with Habitat for Humanity to resolve that and became passionate about not just doing what I loved, but also using my best energy on people and projects that would last beyond my career or even my lifetime.
Years after I’d made this transition, my husband whispered to me one night that he’d dreamed of planting a church. I could sense the gifting within him, and I knew the winds of change were blowing once again. Life is sort of like a collection of converging roads and mine were joining together at this juncture. I realized that over the years, my story was about helping people achieve transformations in many areas- personal, interpersonal, spiritual, emotional, and business development, not just in formal education and so we packed our belongings in a truck and were off to change the world.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
For as long as I can remember, I have had an innate love and gift for teaching. I didn’t need much inspiration when I discovered Strengths-based research and coaching which is about finding out what’s right with people. But I had to wrestle a bit with purpose to find this gift.
In my 20s, I had an unexpected meeting with Dorothy Height, a civil rights icon. She told me about the story of a young man who was in anguish about his own life calling. He didn’t know whether he should pursue law, education, or ministry and was in deep agony over the decision. Later, she revealed with a sheepish smile, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. I have thought about that conversation so many times in the course of my life. If Martin Luther King who was a hero of mine would struggle with his calling, I knew I shouldn’t feel guilty for doing the same.
People thought I was crazy when I left teaching at a respected state university to lead a local Habitat for Humanity. My mentors told me it was a career suicide and that it would make coming back incredibly difficult, but my husband knew that I wasn’t one to back down from a fight and the organization was in trouble. He’s the one who slipped me the ad announcement and encouraged me to apply. Only in non-profit leadership, where I was 100% responsible for my entire team, did I ultimately learn the gift of human-centered leadership versus management. I led the organization out of a crisis by rebuilding trust, systems, and heathy organizational habits all while being situated in a small Southern community that had racial tensions of its own. I related to the individuals I was serving who needed a hand up, not a hand out, and I could coach them to see themselves differently in the process. Years later, my husband who watched me help others overcome their own limiting beliefs, asked me why I was holding myself back from teaching and coaching once again. He began to call out dreams I’d shared with him years earlier to teach and coach and help people have ah-ha experiences. He wouldn’t let me ignore them and reassured me he was there to support the process of me growing in my own strength.
Finding Strengths-based coaching was a tremendous gift that brought together the ability for me to teach and coach but also to help people see real change in every aspect of their lives.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Besides my mother who was single-handedly the strongest supporter and influence of my life, I had a series of amazing mentors. In particular, Sharon Hubbard, who was my journalism teacher in middle and high school had a profound impact on my life.
To her, every student was special, seen, and acknowledged. She never looked down upon her students for being kids and always communicated with us from a place of what and who we could become. I didn’t know it at the time but she was demonstrating what a Strengths-based teacher looked like. Each of us has a measure of innate talent, in various stages on the spectrum of raw to maturity. Even though her classroom of adolescents were in raw stages of talent, she had a knack for believing the best, preparing us well, and speaking words of life. It made all the difference.
Ms. Hubbard helped me hone my writing, gave me leadership responsibilities, and suggested me for school scholarships. She did more than teach; she used her energy to help make me a success.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I almost never became a Strengths coach because I didn’t believe I could help people get transformational results. A decade of research in teaching and learning. Check. Tons of ah-ha experiences. Check. Heck, I’d even started a company in college called the Ah Ha Experience. Yet, I struggled with imposter syndrome really bad where I questioned my own capabilities. This wasn’t funny at the time, but looking back now, I see how crazy it was to believe that I wasn’t in the right lane! This goes to show that absolutely everyone has to overcome challenges at every new level. This take time and intentionality and is something you never graduate beyond.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
After over two decades of research, reflection, coaching, and pastoring, four thoughts resonate:
- Your life purpose is a collection of life experiences, moments, relationships, and contributions. We often put ourselves under too much pressure to “find” our purpose but we must remember 1) it’s not hidden; purpose is a collection of experiences to be lived and 2) it’s a journey, not a destination
- Stop telling yourself that you should be further along by now. Comparison is a trap that robs you of joy and perspective. When you are walking in your designed space in your time and your way, it will take time to develop. It took me years to discover not only what I wanted to do but also who I wanted to be. Give yourself grace and the gift of time to live and not rush to “make it.” You are not late!
- No one has it all figured out. Don’t be fooled by the highlight reel in the form of funny videos, smiles, and poses for the camera. I work with some of the most influential, ambitious people and often discover that, behind-the-scenes, everyone needs attention in some aspect of life. So yes, while someone may excel in business, they may lack satisfaction in personal relationships. Or they may have deep spiritual satisfaction but struggle in health and wellness. Your calling is your own and you’ll often be tempted to compare your process to someone else. Fight it!
- Your rest is just as important as your work.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki revolutionized my thinking about money when I was in college. I’d always thought that I would get a great job one day and take care of my mother who had worked so hard. But I desperately needed an understanding of how money worked and that skill was not taught in any school classroom. Not until I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, did I really understand that being wealthy was about having time, financial resources, and flexibility to advance the causes I am passionate about. And even entrepreneurs and high wage earners can get trapped in a cycle of not having these three.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God. Mark Batterson wrote this in his book Circle Maker and it stuck with me. My life has been a product of choosing to show up and do the work, both physically and spiritually. I must give myself every opportunity to succeed through hard work (inside and out). I have to work like everything depends on me- no free lunch. And simultaneously, I have come to realize that the plan for my life is bigger than what I can grasp. I have to pray diligently and release my work to God who is exceptionally good at His job.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
This year I built my own signature program based on years of research, counseling and coaching called Clarity, Courage, Action, the three biggest needs people face when discovering their purpose. The program helps people discover their personalized, research-backed Strengths using the CliftonStrengths tool, navigate how that applies to their lives through self-paced deep learning modules I created, and what to do with them in an ongoing coaching experience with an expert. Clarity, Courage, Action has been a gamechanger, specifically for ambitious people with big goals who are navigating bold decisions, change in their personal or professional lives, or who are ready to do the brave work to get “there”.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Put simply, the biggest accomplishments that any individual can make are distilled down to two things: bite-sized goals and daily habits. Creating good habits, is about consistency, and consistency breeds results. What you are consistent in will determine whether the ending results are positive or negative.
Do some people stumble upon the lucky tree and get things that they haven’t worked for? Sure. But then their foundation is not solid, and nine times out of 10, they end up broken or worse off later in life. I get the opportunity to have candid conversations with very influential people and it is always clear when people have done the work and when they have to stop later in life to repair broken places because they took shortcuts.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
I include a few critical habits in my daily and weekly routine that directly align with keeping myself on top of my game and also directing me toward future goals. A great day includes some form of physical movement, preferably in the morning, time for reading and journaling, and white space to reflect and make sense of what happened in the day. These things help me stay grounded and present in the moment.
Another habit, I’m quite proud of is related to human interaction. I have made a habitat of stopping what I’m doing and looking people in the eye when they are speaking. In our super busy, multitasking world, really observing what’s going on in people’s eyes has made a world of difference in my key relationships.
Lastly, I spend a few times per week in a dedicated learning mode outside of my normal bubble. It’s human nature to find a tribe of people and environments where we feel comfortable and camp there. For the sake of innovation and staying fresh, I dedicate a few hours each week to let my mind and attention drift to find and explore new people and new ideas. This could be a new book, allowing myself to explore new voices on social media, or immersing myself in a new conference or training. I try not to keep things overly structured, but rather just give myself space to explore new things, whatever that may be.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Absolutely anyone can develop good habits if you can understand and follow the four-part cycle.
- Healthy habits begin with positive intentions. Your mind is a powerful muscle. It needs to be worked and guided to positive action. The good news is that you have the power to direct your mind which controls your intentions. You can’t wait to develop a habit until you feel like it, you have to set an intention to do it. Declare what you want to see in a bold, positive affirmation, for example. Own your intention.
- Identify the barriers. Identify any possible roadblocks that will keep you from being consistent. It may help to invite someone who knows you best to help you imagine anything that could get in the way. Pre-plan what you are willing to do when those barriers arise. Want to be diligent in your workout? Think through and pre-plan what happens when you are tired, unmotivated, or the weather is bad, for example.
- Associate your habit with something bigger than the action itself. If you want habits to become long-lasting, you’ll have to find a way to get past thinking about the small habit as small impact. Using the same workout example, you may ask yourself why you are working out. What does health look like to you and why is that important? Then, when you are working up the disciple and consistency in exercising. Don’t think about the workout as much as the overall picture of health you are on your way toward.
- Celebrate your milestones. When you start with the big goal in mind, broken down to bite-sized pieces, celebrate like crazy when you cross a milestone. Do something private and public authentically. Your real journey will likely inspire someone else to action.
Stopping bad habits follows a similar path. The first step is to identify what’s driving the existing bad habit. Often times, our bad habits are associated with deeper issues. They can mask negative or limiting beliefs that show up in the form of self-sabotaging actions. When you understand the root issue of a bad habit, you can consider the best strategy to overcome it. For stopping negative habits, accountability is a must. This one is important because we have become an increasingly self-reliant culture. But, if you could have stopped bad habits on your own, you would have likely done it already. You need accountability and a regular mechanism by which you will be honest about your wins and losses.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
We often think about wellness in our physical body but optimal wellness happens when we nurture our mind, body, and soul. As a result, I’m a big advocate for habits that nurture your holistic self. Here are a few starters:
- Own your morning. How you start your day affects what you should expect from your day. Starting your morning with healthy routines allows you to direct fresh energy toward what lies ahead instead of being reactive and overwhelmed.
- Practice gratitude. It takes time to train your mind to see the things that are going right in your life as opposed to finding what’s not working. Practicing gratitude will help you to become appreciative for what you have, reframe your thoughts, and be ready for what the future holds.
- Clear the air. To the best of your ability, attempt to begin and end each day with a clear conscious and slate. Is there anyone with whom you need to clear the air? Handle it. Is there an issue that’s weighing on you? Work it through instead of waiting until tomorrow.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Choose a morning routine that you can live with indefinitely. One option is a 10/10/10 format which includes at least 10 minutes of movement, 10 minutes of quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer, and 10 minutes of journaling. As you develop healthy routines, you can build upon this routine to extend your time and/ or add in other components like affirmations or reading as well.
- Keep a gratitude journal that you can contribute something you are thankful for to every single day. You will soon find it easier to naturally reframe negative feelings to positive ones.
- Make a habitat of actively not only journaling but reading through your entries. Ask yourself, is there any action needed today or anything I need to target my courage toward for the future?
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
- Be clear about your why. Probably the biggest mistake people make in life are doing things that are not aligned with their ultimate passion and purpose. When you are guided by not what you are doing, but why you are doing it, your perspective changes. It makes being discipline and consistency in the small habits much more rewarding because they are leading to something more meaningful. Before you take on a new role or sport, assess your driving reason and how the activity contributes to your full life path.
- Find the gap. Every organization has gaps. If you want to make yourself invaluable, look for where you can add value. Instead of being a vocal critic about what’s not working, find a solution to the biggest problems and inefficiencies. Finding solutions leads to innovations and becoming invaluable.
- Ask for feedback often. Ask for feedback often with an open mind. Having an open, willing, learner’s mentality means that people will be see you as teachable and, in turn, they will be more apt to help you succeed.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Keep your long-term goals before you every day. Maybe it’s a picture on your phone or computer, symbolic jewelry, or a painting you look at often. Remind yourself of the driving force behind your daily actions.
- Make a habit of asking people if they can see any blind spots in your work or areas for improvement.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
As a self-proclaimed multi-passionite, I deeply understand the draw to do many things simultaneously. Researchers have consistently debunked the myth that multi-tasking is effective. The truth is that it’s not that we are not able to do many things, it’s simply that we cannot do them all at the same time. This requires making hard choices and choosing not to run ourselves into exhaustion. Therefore, optimal focus is about saying no to what’s not for you right now. The great news is that asyou tap into purpose, you can always incorporate new passions, relationships, career interests and more, just not simultaneously. Here are a few habits that contribute to optimal focus:
- Build ample distraction-free time into your day. You can’t focus with hundreds of interruptions, notifications, and pulls for your attention. Set a time in which all notifications are silenced and let others know you are in focused time so they can honor your attention.
- Set a short must-do list. The Achiever talent in the CliftonStrengths assessment are those individuals who loved to complete and accomplish tasks (and it’s the most frequent of all talents in the top 5 strengths). Often that means we make a never-ending to do list that is both overwhelming and impractical in order to feel accomplished. Instead, set a short must-do list that is manageable and urgent with no more than three tasks that deserve your best energy. Tackle those tasks at the part of the day where you are at your best and you can dedicate your best effort. Leave more complicated and less exciting tasks for other parts of the day.
- We underestimate the power of rest in producing great ideas. It’s hard to focus when you are mentally, physically, or emotionally strained. When you give your body and brain ample time to rest, you will be surprised at how it performs in working hours.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Include scheduled time for uninterrupted white space on your calendar each week. Be clear with your co-workers and family what you need and what this time looks like.
- Have two lists to accomplish each day- one with 1–3 must-dos and the other with other things that normally appear on your to-do list. Prioritize your must do list and set your satisfaction on consistent completion of this list each day.
- Make a habit of getting adequate sleep each night. You’ll show up refreshed and your body will be able to perform for you.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
This is something I target with my clients on a daily basis. Flow is a part of the Strengths research because it takes the guess work out of what types of behaviors, thoughts, and actions can put us in a state of flow where we excel. Flow happens when you are operating in your Strength zone or your zone of genius. It’s the things that bring you pleasure and where you feel you are uniquely gifted to perform. So, first things first, in order to tap into flow, start with knowing and owning your strength zone.
Second, flow happens when you allow yourself to get immersed and lost. How does that happen? Often when you are quiet and alone. Flow does not happen in a rush. This is why giving yourself margin and white space is so important. In flow you can get lost in a passion you may not have stumbled upon if you were overscheduled.
Lastly, flow is most often an individual experience. Flow is tapping into the most intimate and personal parts of yourself and is a journey that is deeply personal. It doesn’t mean that you have to be physically alone, but rather fully able to get lost in your own emotions and reflections without outside interruptions.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am a firm advocate that we all have a responsibility to give regularly to those who are underserved, especially those living in extreme poverty. I am a passionate advocate for business incubators and entrepreneurial training in the third world, especially for women and girls who experience the greatest economic hardships. Everyone has something to give to even the playing field- knowledge, mentorship, financial generosity, educational opportunities. We all play a role.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
That’s easy- Michelle Obama! Not only does the former First Lady have a tremendous amount of grace and poise often in the face of tremendous criticism and public opinion, but she also spent eight years in complete support of her husband and family. Michelle Obama was incredibly accomplished in her own right before they took office, yet sacrificed her own position without hesitation for the sake of serving her family and nation which is fascinating to me as a purpose researcher.
This is particularly important because many women experience silent tension in advancing their own dreams against supporting their families. In fact, I spend a lot of time coaching very high achievers who balance the need to make meaningful contributions and global impact while not forsaking those closest to them. I am so eager to talk with her about her years in office and how she made peace with this season. Now as she is flourishing and finding her voice, I am also curious what she would say to highly ambitious people who feel though they are living in “hidden years” for one reason or another.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I really do love connecting with individuals and geeking out on all things purpose. I host most content and training on Instagram (@drtieshiamoore) and Linkedin. If you have never taken the CliftonStrengths (Strengthsfinder) assessment or have never processed your Strengths with an expert coach, I’d love to have you join us for the Strengths assessment or the Clarity, Courage, Action program at www.tieshiamoore.com
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.