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By Ashley Ott

How having a personal brand can affect all areas of your life.

When I first heard the phrase "personal brand," I thought it was just a way people market themselves. I was sure it was another networking strategy or had something to do with how many followers they had on their social media sites. I was eager to find out more so I looked into it. Turns out a personal brand has nothing to do with popularity; it is actually much more complex than I had thought.

Ok, so what is a personal brand?

A personal brand is, quite simply, a reflection of how a person lives his or her life and precisely how they carry that into the world with them. It is about the actions one takes in their life to move them closer to integrity, to their values. Going above and beyond promoting oneself, the basis of it is to be who you truly are. It is about tapping into the innate goodness that is within all of us and using that to better serve the world. A true leader is someone who lives their life to their full potential by giving of themselves to others.

What questions should I be asking myself?

When I talk about a personal brand I'm also talking about awareness. What are you observing in the world around you? How and where can you be the most efficient? You create the world around you; you can let it get the best of you and define who you are, or you can allow it to strengthen you. The idea behind a personal brand is a mindful approach to how you can successfully be a leader and take your career to a whole new level.

Ask yourself how you can be more aware of how others experience you. Compare that to how you want others to view you. What is important to you? What do you stand for? It is more than work, more than a brand, it is living consciously and naturally, being your authentic self. I've found that people don't want you to put on an act, they want to see the real you!

According to a Forbes magazine study, less than 15% have truly defined their brand, and only 5% have been able to live it and continue to practice it in their daily lives.

What are the professional benefits of having a personal brand?

The importance and benefits of a personal brand are endless. If you want to move forward in your life, stand out, advance in your career, have more opportunities for personal growth and permission to be yourself, then you have arrived. But, as we know, anything that is worthwhile takes hard work, commitment, consistency and persistence. In a culture of quick fixes and immediate gratification, you want what you want and you want it yesterday; and I get that, but if that's what you are looking for then this may not be for you. Living a personal brand means that you are ready to change and have the ability to accept who you truly are. It is for those who have the willingness to improve themselves today so that they are better leaders tomorrow.

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