Please, Take Vacation.

Please, Take Vacation.
Millions of vacation days every single year in the USA go “unused.”  This makes me shake my head. As we approach the end of our lives, loads of research indicates that our seniors/elders say that they remember the memories and relationships. They also  wish that they would have worked less, and been more bold and courageous. So please, take vacation.
What a recent, one full week of vacation did for me and my partner?
Rest.  We didn’t wake up before 6am and we fell asleep around 10pm or earlier every night. That’s at least 8 hours of sleep. Yes, the amount of sleep that we are encouraged to get by all health experts.
Recover. Enjoyed downtime by the pool and the Caribbean Sea did wonders for my soul and mind. The water and sun were soothing.
Health. The resort had a  spa that was very handy; it offered hydrotherapy, massages, pedicures, manicures, personal trainers, etc. It was integrated right in to the resort, instead of being a separate building. The four restaurants all had vegetarian options, which played right in to my new focus of eating no meat or dairy.
Prioritize. Being away from my coaching work and my companies actually allowed me to refocus and re-prioritize what I needed to improve upon during the next 90 days.  It also gave us both great satisfaction as we reviewed what we got accomplished in the last 90 days.
Read. I finally had time, yes time, to sit and read a very impactful 400-page book. This book, “Being Mortal”, will probably help me age more gracefully and also help us as we help care for our parents as they age, too. It was a pivotal read, and I can’t imagine NOT taking the time to read it. And by the way, it had been on my bookshelf for 3 years…
Write. You see that here.
Reconnect. The time out of country, for the second time this year, allowed my partner and I to really connect, talk, and just be together. We were NOT busy, we were instead very present. We were there for one another. And yet still had our own alone time to do whatever the heck we wanted.
So please, take vacation.  It is good for your soul, mind, body, and your relationships at home and work.

Just Go See Them

In the last 45 days, the opportunity to “Just Go See Them” has come up over and over.  What do I mean by “Just Go See Them?” Some very important people in my life have recently faced some very serious health challenges, and I realized in the past, that maybe I was “too busy” to go see and visit friends during these challenging times.  That wasn’t going to happen this time around.

A very good friend had survived nearly 10 surgeries in the last couple months. We felt he was nearing the end of his life.  So we jumped on a plane, flew to Houston, visited with him (and his wife and daughter). We were able to connect: look at each other, smile, nod, and touch hands.  He died the day after we left.

My girlfriend just had some surgery.  We allowed her to rest for three weeks. On our drive to see her, we bought some flowers, visited for a couple hours to get all caught up on her healing and squeezed her new puppy.  She was full of life again!

One of my best girlfriends was caring for one of her best male friends.  He didn’t have many visitors at the hospital.  My exhausted, care-taking girlfriend reached out to me for a much-needed lift.  I quickly made a stop, picked up some fun items on the clearance aisle, and visited them both in the cardiac- care-unit hospital room.  We laughed, we listened, we prayed.  Together, that visit made the three of us better and more aware of each other. He is now back at home and working again.  She is vacationing with her family.  Both full of life.

My parents were at Mayo’s in Minnesota for some medical check-ups.  Knowing that this could be some complicated news that would be difficult for my parents to hear, I flew to Minnesota to be with my parents. It was one of those moments that a mother and daughter discuss life, each other’s existence, the next steps, and the potential gameplan. Being there further strengthened our incredible bond as mother and daughter.

In the last 45 days, every single person that I have met is “BUSY.” We all are busy.  I was busy.  Every one of these precious friends and family members was  even busier.  But, what I have learned is this:  Just Go See ThemIt Matters. We All Are Busy.  Have No Regrets. Just Go See Them. 

Keep On Keeping On

Keep trying.
Keep writing.
Keep staying connected with friends and family.
Keep forgiving.
Keep loving.

Keep giving.
Keep listening well.

Keep staying curious.
Keep giving very little advice to others.
Keep believing.
Keep being faithful.

Keep embracing kindness.

Keep resting and recovering.

Keep striving to be a better you.

Keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

Your Outlook Matters!

Are you a Woman in Leadership in a corporate or entrepreneurial setting? Or do you have a desire to become one? We work with women like you. Women who aspire ‘to sit at the table’ confidently; to run the financial side of business; to lead, collaborate with, and facilitate others; to let ambitions go hand in hand with a good work life balance; and to turn ‘hard work’ into ‘heartwork’, as this propells their leadership.

Our passion is to support/coach women, helping bring out their full potential and taking their leadership to a next level. We focus on the whole person, both work and private life, as we don’t see these as two separate worlds. With our monthly blog, (leveraging examples from our coaching and consulting practices), we provide tips, advice, and new outlooks which will encourage you to move forward. In our blog ‘What’s your top priority?’ we focussed on the importance of putting yourself first (#1), as leadership starts with you. What’s next?! Let’s start with a test.

Test your outlook (Self-Assess)
Answer the following questions with yes or no. We recommend you just follow your heart with your answer, not thinking too long. Tip: why not share your answers with a trusted friend or partner? It may turn out to be the start of your heartwork ‘support-team’.
1. When I wake up, I usually think ‘yes, this is going to be another good day!’.
2. When I receive a ‘bad’ comment, I typically view it as a learning opportunity.
3. I truly believe that not all people have to like me.
4. When my boss wants to have a talk with me, I don’t expect ‘trouble’.
5. When things go wrong or not as planned, I look forward to find the best solutions.

What’s your score?
Did you score four or more yes answers? If so, then there’s a big chance you are the optimistic type who sees the glass as always half-full. With mostly no’s on your list, you are probably the type who’s glass is half-empty or as a person with a pessimistic outlook. Did your answers ‘split’ with 2-3 yes’s or no’s? Then you first have to do some work on self. With a coach, you can explore what makes your answers a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, what’s getting in your way, and find out more about your outlook.

Does it matter? 
Yes! In our practice, we see that optimism facilitates women with their heartwork. Optimists stay focussed, action oriented, and keep moving ahead instead of spiraling down when things do not go the desired way. Optimistic ‘framing’ supports women to sustain themselves on their path to leadership.

Good news!
If optimism does not come naturally to you, the good news is that it can be learned. You can train yourself to be more optimistic, use less energy on negative thoughts, and prevent yourself from spiraling down. In our practice, here’s what we have learned as some tips from other women:
1.    Reflect on what’s really meaningful for you. Listen to your heart and make ‘adaptations’ in your (whole) life, if needed. It ‘brightens up’ your outlook.
2.    If you are a ‘worrier’, list all things you worry about. Which ones can you truly influence? Think of specific actions that will help you influence & solve them,  and then do it!
3.    When something goes wrong, do not think of the worse-case scenario. Instead,  reverse it! As a practice, sketch the positive scenarios first.
4.    Do you often have a little voice in your head that amplifies and/or dispapproves of  every mistake? Talk back and move forward!
5.    Are you an ‘approval junkie’? Then reflect on ‘What makes others opinions more important then my own?!’
6.    Do you avoid conflicts? Remember that conflicts are part of life and not the end of the world. On the contrary, they often lead to the long sought-after solution! Embrace this solution.
7.    Is your environment a bit ‘gloomy’? Then step out of this environment regularly. How? By meeting new people and doing new things. Like siging up of an art or fitness class, doing community work, reading inspiring books and articles…….
8.     Go the appreciative way: look for what works, instead of what does not work. It ‘opens up’ new possibilities and changes your worldview.

Just do it
It is this ‘simplicity’ which will make the tips effective. At the same time, this is the ‘difficult’ part. It requires letting go of old habits, exploring new territories, and adapting your framework. Yes, this is a challenging process and it may take some practicing. Where do you start? It all starts with a choice: choosing yourself and engaging in heartwork. Once you have taken this leap, practice is the key. Take many small steps (instead of one big step). Be aware of ‘overdoing’ it, as being too optimistic often leads to excuses. With all that in mind, just imagine what could happen if you go the optimistic way? Do not stop there, just do it!

Note: Authors Maleene de Ridder and Jen Wilfong are passionate about developing women as leaders. They embrace purposeful balance, wellness and ongoing learning, as well as leveraging global trends to further their coaching & consulting businesses. Both are certified coaches from the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, CA. For more information, check them out on the web at www.maleenederidder.com and www.jenwilfong.com

At 50, Leverage Your Strengths

Today I was prepping for some Strengths Finders training that I will be attending during the week of July 6 in Princeton. In reviewing my strengths that I took back in 2013, I was reminded that discipline is my top strength, closely followed by focus, achiever, responsibility, and learner. Thus, it is probably not a surprise that I am prepping 2-3 weeks in advance, being someone with those discipline, focus, and responsibility strengths.

Before turning 50 in August 2014, my partner and I made the pledge to look good in our photos during our trips to Italy, Chicago, and the lake in the summer of 2014. That pledge really leveraged my strengths of achiever, but also discipline and focus. As we traveled last summer, our snaps turned out great and we felt good in the process of hitting the big 50. We had energy, we enjoyed friends and family, and felt great.

After I turned 50, I quickly became a bit lazy and quit leveraging my discipline strength. I gained weight back, even though we were working out and ran a half marathon in the Fall 2014. But in January 2015, I wrote down: “get in the 150’s (pounds) and stay there.”  By writing that down and embracing my strengths, I have found it easy and focused to eat less this year. And I weigh 8-10 pounds less than I did while on our trips last summer.

I want to be role model of wellness at 50, and so my strength of responsibility is really kicking in right now. The self esteem burst of “look good, feel great” is worth the effort to the daily rejection of sweets, desserts, extra helpings, and that extra drink. My focus on wellness is delivering on this:  Be happy. Be healthy. Be connected. Be grateful. Be well. Be encouraged. Be a role model.

What are your strengths? I bet you are using them at work. But how about in your personal life and with your own well being? My hope for you is that you deploy your strengths routinely in your blended life of home, play, family, friends, faith, and yes, at work.

Reflections at Mid-Life

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.

My Parents. Always there, so supportive. Taught me how to work, that details and follow up matter, and that traditions can be made and upheld.
My Family. Thanks to my brothers, I truly enjoy being an aunt to 11 nieces and nephews, and savor the memories during the summer trips with them.
My Homes. Carmel, Indiana is my home now, although my roots go back to Carthage, Knightstown, and Bloomington. Connecticut, Nashville, Houston, and Peoria were stops along the way that transformed my career development, as well as helping me to see so many ways to live.
Ongoing Learning. What an opportunity it was to go to Harvard Business School in 2007, and then on to the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara in 2010 for my executive coaching certification.  These two “mid-life” stops have been critical to my ability to remain relevant in the business world as well as improving my quality of life with personal relationships.
Merrill Lynch. The past two years have been the most impactful in my 28 years of working, helping others truly improve results and change their businesses via coaching.
Caterpillar. The 25 years of global experiences that helped me to learn so much about business, financials, marketing, leadership, and collaboration.
Indiana University. The fours years at Bloomington allowed me to learn about physical fitness, the art of managing time due to ongoing travel, business skillset, adulthood and the wisdom gained via decision making.
Eternal Life. The promise of eternal life by giving my life to Jesus Christ.

Dad’s Wisdom, Use Your Vacation in 2013 (424 million days of paid vacation went un-used in USA)

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!

The Three Most Important Questions of Your Life

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.

Sprinting to the Winner’s Circle

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.

How Beach Volleyball Solved Work-Life Balance

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings held hands during the National Anthem Wednesday (8/8/2010) evening. They held hands during their late night interview with NBC’s Bob Costas and early morning interview on NBC’s Today Show. This duo is a great partnership of complete excellence.

As three-time gold medal champions in Olympic beach volleyball, Misty and Kerri don’t struggle with nor complain about work life balance. They flipped work life balance on its head. Instead, they completely embraced a purposeful life with goals, and did it. How did they do it?

They are friends, who trust each other immensely. As a great partnership over a 12 year period, they went 21-0 in Olympic competition. They lost just one set in the Athens, Beijing, and London Olympics.

They are wives, with children (Kerri) or kids in the future (Misty). Their husbands completely supported them with this purposeful goal. Yes, these two are loved by their husbands and families, but now adored by the global community.

They are coached. Yes, as good as they are, they have coaches who helped guide them to their third gold medal. Although they won their third gold medal, they still only gave themselves a B plus.

They are confident. How many 33 and 35 year old women would want to play beach volleyball in a two piece swim suit? Who would be comfortable doing that in front of an audience of 15,000?

They are competitive. They weren’t afraid to state that they expected to win the gold medal in London 2012. They set the bar high, and cleared it.

They visualized success. They saw themselves on the gold medal podium, throughout their training and matches. And they celebrated after each winning point, set, and match. Regular and energetic high-fives and fist pumps were a part of their matches.

They are resilient. Misty recovered from a torn Achilles heel, one of the most damaging injuries a world class athlete can face. After having two children, Kerri rebounded to be a stronger and wiser athlete. They adapted and changed their training and communication through the 12 year journey.

They are appreciative. They thanked the 2nd place/silver medal team of Jen Kelly and April Ross for pushing them. They thanked the ‘army of support’ behind them through this journey.

They are inclusive. After every match in London, Misty spoke in to the TV camera and thanked a variety of people and teams (the American troops and the Dodgers); Kerri always recognized and gave high fives to the ball girls and boys; and Misty jogged around the stadium after each win, engaging and thanking the fans. Before one match, they warmed up with a few members of the USA men’s basketball team. Who does that? That makes them so likeable and marketable.

As a business coach, I frequently hear the phrases, “I don’t have time, I struggle with balance, I can’t delegate, I can’t find time to exercise, our team isn’t accountable.” Recommend embracing what this duo did:
1) set purposeful goals (to win their 3rd gold medal, establish a legacy, and change the face of beach volleyball globally),

2) partner with friends or colleagues that you completely trust,

3) gain support of those closest to you,

4) visualize success,

5) celebrate every step along the way,

6) expect a few hurdles along the way but don’t let them stop you, and

7) enjoy the journey.