Now that I’m less that two months away from hitting the half century (50) mark, felt it was time to reflect on what I’m so grateful for during these last five decades.
In 2010, my father shared some wisdom at his and my mother’s 50th anniversary party: “Have someone to love, love what you do, and have something to look forward to.” Isn’t it best to embrace what your father says, right? Why? Because 424 million paid vacation days went un-used in America in 2012 (source: WSJ, 12/2012). In our house, we have a fun discussion at the beginning of every year to openly share our annual goals, complete with some yummy Reuben sandwiches. We find that this tradition really matters, including every single ingredient, all the way down to the type of mustard on the Reuben. To help ensure accountability, balance, and adjustments that might be necessary throughout the year, we have quick planning discussions every weekend that help us plan our meals, time for exercise, commitments to others (family, friends, and work), and future trips and vacations. Thanks to my Dad’s advice of “have something to look forward to”, we created some very special moments in 2012, centered on sports. Here’s just a few of them:
Super Bowl. One of our bucket list items was accomplished. Living in Indianapolis, why not go see one of your favorite teams play in Super Bowl XLVI? Plus, our dear friends, my parents, nieces and nephew, brother and sis-in-law came in to town to enjoy the festivities. Priceless memories made, even though our team lost.
Tennis. We are huge tennis fans and had not been to the US Open in New York City since the early 1990’s. When do you get the chance to see Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams in the same day? Without any tickets, we jumped in the car and drove a couple hours to Cincinnati and saw them play. So worth it!
Indy 500. My family loves this Hoosier tradition; we have been to the Indy 500 for many years. But this year, I was given the opportunity to go around the Speedway track at a very fast speed. Why not, right? Wow, those were an few exhilarating minutes. Took me an hour to settle in, but I called my dad to tell him what I did; he was thrilled I got that opportunity. And, I got to meet and visit with Mario Andretti.
Golf. The PGA returned to The Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, IN. Located just minutes from our place, I walked the course and watched former #1 Tiger Woods and current #1 Rory McIlroy play together. What a treat to see this, because the PGA announced that it also was the tournament of the year.
Boston in Philadelphia. We headed to Lehigh, PA for my cousin’s college graduation ceremony. Not only did we embrace the trip, we also went to see the Phillies vs. Red Sox and the 76ers vs. Celtics, and reconnected with a couple of friends. This renewed relationship is now beyond strong; we’ve already vacationed together and are planning another trip in 2013. My cousin was thankful beyond words, because we were there to see her graduate, through an outdoor ceremony in an absolute rain shower.
Half Marathon. Two of our best girl friends had never been up for running, but run we did. The six of us gals trained for this event (held here in Carmel) and we all finished. We proved we all could do it; the connection and strength gained by completing a difficult task further cemented our relationships. Oh, and then we ate and celebrated the rest of the weekend!
Foul Balls. As Red Sox fans, if they play at Wrigley, isn’t that a must do event? Well of course it is, and bring along your best friends (and their kids who have never been to Wrigley). And during the 5th inning, a foul ball heads our way, and yes, we grab it. What a memory that all of us will never forget, especially as we were telling stories around midnight at the IHOP by Wrigley Field.
Like most of us, we do a great job of planning our to-do lists and daily schedule for the kids’ activities and our work. Try a little self-assessment by asking these few questions: How well are you planning your life? What type of moments are you creating that will impact you and your family forever? What do you want your legacy to be? How will you implement accountability to plan your personal life as diligently as you do the rest of your life? Happy 2013!
Have you ever had that moment in a conversation when someone asked you a few questions, and your answers were a bit unsettling? From 2007-2010, I realized it was going to take some work to be able to answer the three most important questions in my life. So in January 2010, I signed up for a program called “Life Launch,” which helped me to articulate further my answers to these three questions.
1. Are you living where you want to live? My Answer: No.
Realizing that we wanted to be closer to family, live in a larger city, with easy access to a great airport, arts, sports and culture, achieve moderate cost of living with world class health care, we identified five cities that would meet these deep needs. In November of 2011, we relocated to Carmel, IN, and months later, it was named by Money as the #1 place to live in America for small cities. Call that lucky, for sure.
Young adults today have this question figured out. Unlike the Baby Boomer generation who relocated multiple times and lived in the suburbs with long commutes, the trend is that this new generation is courageously moving to where they want to live first, and then finding meaningful work with a limited commute.
2. Are you doing what you want to do? My Answer(s): Yes & No
Marketing had been my life for 20+ years, but I found that I truly enjoyed coaching others and watching them develop. From 2006-2011, I connected with three amazing executive coaches and admired the work they did and how they did it. I soon realized a future role for me was to become a coach. After attending “Life Launch” in early 2010, I completed a year-long coaching certification program that year. It was training that I needed; it helped me become a certified coach, but also a better person, listener, partner, and friend.
We ask people in casual conversations that infamous question, “what do you do?” How incredible could the conversation potentially be if someone asked, “what do you want to become?” or “are you doing what you really want to do?”
Every day, I encourage colleagues and friends to embrace their strengths, because the return on improving your strengths and deploying them is an 8-10X return (StrengthsFinder 34, Rath & Conchie). If you don’t like your job or role and know you that you have strengths being under-utilized, then put your plan in place to soon be doing what you are good at because the return will be much greater.
3. Are you with who you want to be with? My Answer: Yes
In 2007, I broke both wrists in a bad fall. I realized quickly who were the most reliable people in my life. When you can’t feed, wipe, or wash yourself, you truly realize who are your friends and family. That fall helped me realize that I did have the right person in my life, to be my partner. We also realized that our friends were truly incredible; a couple of our friends went to the wayside, but the bulk of our real friends were amazingly there. We also realized that as we age, we wanted to be closer to family so that we could be there for them, if and when needed.
In interviewing the elderly in The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner quickly realized that centenarians have strong social connection locally and regularly. If you aren’t with who you want to be with, his long-living research would hint to resolve that and be with who you want to be with.
As you progress through life, how can you ask yourself these three important questions? How can you ensure that you are living your life, completely on purpose? How can you utilize these questions with loved ones, and give them the gift of listening to their answers? We all can be distracted at times during our lives or even take detours, but these three questions might just help you get back on your purposeful highway of life. Recommend finding a memorable time to annually ask yourself these questions, self assess, and make appropriate adjustments wisely.
My brother called me the afternoon of the 2012 election and said, “Come to the track tonight. We might have some winners.” In his 30 years of training and racing harness horses, he had never done that. So, what do you do? Do you change all your plans and go, or do you wish him good luck and stay at home on the couch watching the election results roll in? We chose to change our plans, drive to the track, and watch him win three of four races in one evening. The lessons learned were plentiful and worth sharing.
Listen. My brother had never called me to say, “Come to the track tonight”. When he did call, I listened to him, his excitement, and his need for someone special to be there to see his success.
Watch. At we sat in the clubhouse, we watched with clear vision how my brother’s horses performed. We even got to see the race replay on the TV at our table.
Support. When Grant’s horses won race after race after race, each and every time we supported him. How? We got up from our table, let our dinner get cold, and sprinted to the winner’s circle to get our picture taken with him, his daughter, the winning horse and (harness horse racing) driver.
Spontaneously Change. Sure, it was a busy day. Just getting to the voting polls and completing a full day of work was an accomplishment. But we committed to changing our evening schedule spontaneously to give time to someone else, and watch them accomplish their goals.
Grow. Because we showed up at the track during a busy day and truly supported him, it sure has further deepened the roots of our healthy relationship. This spontaneous act proved something beyond the ordinary.
Celebrate. Even if you really don’t understand the magnitude of what another person is accomplishing, embrace the moment and celebrate with them. We found that it was a blast sprinting to the winner’s circle three times in one evening and coming back to finish our cold dinner. The others in the clubhouse were sure wishing they could celebrate like that!
What we choose to do and how we choose to do it can help transform and deepen relationships, as well as results. My personal mission statement is Encourage. Embrace. Expand. This was an example of how we embraced an opportunity, encouraged others which will lead to expanding relationships and results.
Since I have been coaching women and emerging leaders, I am hearing a common concern: “Jen, I am overwhelmed. I just can’t say ‘no.’ Sometimes I don’t know where to start.”
When a coach hears her client truly open up, we are encouraged because we know the client is becoming introspective. As coach, it is my role to help the client reach a comfort level where she is able to open up and pull from her what is causing her to be overwhelmed. Once that difficult first step is clarified and we both have a common understanding of the current state, then we move to step two. We brainstorm and identify what the client can do to become more able to own the cause and get organized. Nearly every time, the client has great ideas and answers.
It is the third step that is most difficult: which idea(s) will the client implement to help reduce this overwhelming feeling? For example, recently, a woman leader that I am coaching implemented and owned her plan by making a handful of adjustments. She had an open conversation with her husband and they both agreed to outsource a few low priority areas of their lives that were frustrating them both. She also began saying “no” to trivial requests. With more time available to work on higher priority opportunities, she noticed her business began to thrive and she was starting to achieve the audacious goals she had set in Jan. 2012.
My client no longer feels guilty about saying “no.” At the beginning of her work day, she implements a daily task lists. She even prioritizes her early mornings, with a wellness/fitness/nutrition plan to get her rolling.
The upshot? If you are overwhelmed, open up, own the situation, get organized, utilize outsourcing, and get orderly. You’ll soon become less overwhelmed and ready to face whatever challenges and opportunities that come your way.
Recently my parents called me and I answered the phone to the scary comment, “there’s been an accident.” They had been in a farm accident!Mom broke her arm, has two bum knees and a busted lip. Dad’s ankle was horribly bruised after a truck loaded with hay ran over it. Thank goodness for the neighbor who called 9-1-1 and got help to them quickly. I share this story about my parents’ accident as an example of how one person who was stressed and didn’t take time to communicate, ended up causing both of them to be injured.
Many of my clients say, “I am so stressed…” Stress comes in lots of forms. Some stress is good and helps us perform better—like meeting a deadline on time. Other types of stress have the opposite effect on us and we perform poorly. When clients bring up stress, questions I typically ask include: What are you doing to reduce the stress? How will you do that? Who will you communicate to? This last question is critical to successfully reducing stress. I’m finding a common pattern among clients when they admit they are stressed. If the client identifies a game plan and communicates the plan with a trusted person, the client typically a) implements the changes to help reduce the stress, and b) has a powerful conversation that helps both people.
When you are stressed, what gets in your way of stopping and communicating to someone you trust? Maybe it’s because you think those closest to you understand what you are thinking and know you better than anyone else. Maybe it’s because you think someone else has it worse than you do, so you aren’t willing to share your concerns about what is stressful. Whatever the reasons, I want to share a few tips to help you when you are stressed.
Stressed? Feel and Stop. If you are feeling stressed, stop and become aware. A good practice is to write or journal what is causing the stress. Where is it coming from? Have you ever experienced this cause of stress before? If so, what makes it different this time? How do you think it can it be reduced? For example, one of my clients was very stressed about her work and the amount of time she was spending at work well into the evenings. After journaling for just one week, she quickly noticed that her stress was actually coming from her children. Because she stopped and journaled, she was able to notice what was causing the stress and increased her one-on-one time with her kids.
Stressed? Share with care. When you do feel stress, it’s a good step to not only stop, but also think about who you might talk to that deeply listens and cares. It amazes me that when I ask clients who they might share their stress with, most of my clients say, “I hadn’t really thought about that.” Together with the client, we put together a plan that helps identify who he/she wants to share with and when; what he/she wants to share; and how he/she might put the plan into action. In fact, I’ve helped my clients practice and dry run these conversations/plans. This practice provides a lot of confidence to the client.
Stressed? Communicate calmly. When stress strikes, some cultures and individuals actually reinforce cocooning and isolation to mask the situation. What I’ve found with clients that “Feel and Stop, Share with care,” and “Communicate calmly,” is that the conversation is not just needed by the client but also by the other person and is helpful to more than both of them, and typically is replicated because it was successful, thoughtful, and rational. One client realized that her stress was impacting the entire family. However by opening communication with her husband, they established a plan and helped one another—and their kids.
Could my parents have avoided their horrific farm accident? Yes. My father was stressed about getting ready for a two-day trip and needed to feed 14 hungry horses on the coldest day of winter. Instead of feeling the stress, stopping, and figuring out a plan to feed the horses before entering their pasture, he proceeded quickly and asked my mother to help him drive a truck and keep the horses from coming through the gate. Because he didn’t share, nor communicate a well understood game plan, a drastic error was made when the horses moved toward the truck. My mother ran over my father’s leg while turning the truck to miss a horse. As she got out of the truck to run to his aid, she fell and broke her arm. As with most clients, the time it would have taken my father to Feel and Stop, Share with Care, and Communicate Calmly would have taken a few minutes. Instead, both of my parents will be recovering from their injuries for weeks.
The next time you are stressed, how will you communicate to help ensure you have positive results instead of stressful consequences?