The 7″ Snowfall

As the weather channel updates shouted, “the snow is coming,” most were thinking, “so run to the grocery store, drive home quickly, squeeze in those last minute errands, get outside and shovel that snow, salt the sidewalk,” right? Well, actually no was the answer for me this snowfall. Yes, I said, “No!”

Stayed Inside. The snow arrived on a Saturday morning and snowed all day. I purposefully made the decision to stay inside. This decision allowed me to get some tax prep done, sort thru some piles on my desk, watch some NFL playoffs, get on the treadmill for over an hour, catch up on my Linked In connections, and just be/do nothing. I lit candles, had the fire burning all day.

Plenty of Food. We looked at all the food in the frig (removed some items that were dated “best used by 2017 and 2018”) and kitchen cabinets, and realized we had plenty of food for 4-5 days. Plenty! Even had time to make soup, rice, bean salad, omelettes, whole wheat pancakes, and protein shakes. Sorted thru and organized the canned goods, and noticed that we are truly executing on the Mediterranean diet: very little meat, lots of beans, fruits and veggies, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, some dairy, and yes, some red wine.

Write and Read. Staying inside, enjoying the views of the snow while sitting by the fire just simply allowed me to slow down. I read. I wrote. I refined my 2019 goals a bit more. I talked to some friends and family. I slept over 9 hours!

Leverage Others. One of our contractors came by with a snowplow on his truck, and he plowed my drive quite easily. Thus, zero back pain for me. When I went thru my grocery list, I ordered groceries with an online app, and after the snowstorm had subsided for more than 24 hours, I easily drove on clear streets to pick up my groceries curbside. These both were huge time savers, and that’s interesting during a weekend that I was choosing to spend time in the home, on me and friends/family.

How do you say “NO?” When do you say “NO?” It’s a decision that only YOU can make. I feel refreshed as I head in to my Sunday evening. How you manage YOUR time is YOUR decision. My recommendation is to maybe more thoroughly enjoy the 7″ snowfall, instead of getting caught up in the craziness. If you choose to “Stay Outside”, then go sledding. Play. Make a snow angel. Enjoy the 7″ snowfall.

Perfect Pancakes & Leadership

How could anyone ever correlate making Perfect Pancakes and Leadership? I have used this metaphor many times over the last couple years, especially when a leader may need to practice their key messages, or talk through key topics prior to having a critical conversation, or prep before they introduce a new product launch.

This Sunday morning, I whipped up some pancake batter and grabbed the Nutella spread from the kitchen cupboard. My mouth was salivating, thinking back just one year ago as we enjoyed our time in Cantania, Sicily, Italy, savoring all kinds of chocolate croissants, espresso and cappuccino. However, my first two pancakes didn’t turn out so well. Why did that happen, when I had such a great visualization going on in my head?

Because, I hadn’t made pancakes in a while. With no recent practice, I burnt the pancakes because the temperature in the pan was just too hot. Yes, I over cooked those first two pancakes. Torched them! The third and fourth pancakes turned out much better, and I quickly spread the Nutella on them and devoured them. And I am encouraged and now ready to make even more pancakes on New Years Eve and New Year Day mornings.

In our coaching work, I continue to be amazed at how some colleagues hardly practice for those huge, critical conversations, or for that presentation to the key prospect that might help make your yearend numbers look brilliant, or on how to deliver a new message or product to current clientele. As a former college athlete, I recommend to practice. In fact, I recommend it too frequently. Too many colleagues just are not practicing, and so when they don’t get the results they intended, they are frustrated and surprised. As a coach, I recommend practicing your messaging in your car, in front of a mirror, on a walk with a trusted mentor, and even with your spouse or partner.

Let’s don’t over-complicate how to execute better as a leader. Most leaders are former athletes. Do what you used to do, all the time: Practice! When on a team, the coach held more practices than games you played. Many more practices than games. Athletes become good because they learn how to execute under pressure due to their countless hours of practice, and yes, winning some games along the way.

As a leader, are you practicing? Are you learning from other leaders? Are you practicing on simplifying your messaging with great clarity? Are you taking time to develop personnel? Are you prepping for those critical conversations that can change the trajectory of you and your colleague’s professional relationship? Like making the perfect pancake, it takes a few before the good pancakes are eaten. Practice makes better pancakes, and it makes better leaders, too. Practice!

Intentional & Curious

In February, we headed to Mayo’s with incredible intentionality. We did not like the uncurious answers by local doctors and experts to our questions about our health. We scheduled, in advance, a two-day appointment. This gave us time to gather our records, which helped Mayo’s with their work in understanding our health situation much better.
  • Was the $1,000 Trip (food, airfare and 2 hotel nights) worth it? Yes.
  • Why? When you find out that at this 4th opinion, not just a 2nd or 3rd opinion, there is “no need for surgical intervention on your heart,” we were relieved and that was a priceless feeling. In common language, the doc said “we don’t think you need open heart surgery.”
  • Are you staying curious enough, when you know the symptoms are NOT there? Are you intentional enough to go get multiple opinions? Are you willing to take the time and energy to do it? Do you do this with your business? Your own health?
My lesson learned is quite simple: remain curious and be intentional. If you settle, sometimes an unnecessary open heart surgery can happen due to the system’s or the doctors’ lack of curiosity, as well as the potential conflict of being paid handsomely for the surgery.
In reading and finishing (billionaire) Ray Dalio’s book, “Principles”, he talks thoughtfully about radical open mindedness and radical transparency. He, too, went through the energy and effort of getting 4-5 medical opinions, only to find out that he NEVER had cancer in the first place.
Remain curious and intentional, my friends.

90 Day Priorities

You have some goals and priorities at the “new year”? Do you keep those goals progressing every 90 days?
Here’s a hint to help you execute on those goals:
Write them down. 
Review them and discuss them with someone you deeply trust throughout January.  Weekly. Then do that same process again in February. Weekly.  And again in March.  Weekly.
Wisely attack a few of your goals. All of your annual goals do NOT have to be started in January.
For example, I have always wanted to read more. Every single year. But in 2018, I was more specific with my “read more” goal. I wanted to read books that would help me improve my leadership training and business ownership skills, and to help me coach others on sales growth. After discussing this with a ferocious reader, he recommended that I utilize an app and listen to books as I drive. So I downloaded the mobile app Audible, and got my first book free. I have already finished it, downloaded another book and finished it, too. And have read five hardback books that were within reach in my office. Yes, three books read by Feb 4. And now 7 books read by March 17, 2018. A new record for me, all because I changed a few critical behaviors: downloaded an app, listened/listening to books on Audible, and taking more time to read the good books that I already own.
The annual “eat more healthy goal” was also written down. However, this year I am taking trips to the grocery store and buying different type of foods. Olives. Oranges. Sugar-free dark chocolate. And I listened to a podcast on mindful eating; now I am much more aware of WHAT I am eating and the size of portion, as I now compare those portions to my palm and hand.
Lesson learned for me is simply this: take VERY specific actions to change behavior quickly, after you write down and share your goals. Review your progress weekly, and then re-evaluate every 90 days.  Simply ask yourself, how did you do? If you progress and achieve at 75-80% success rate, pat yourself on the back, and continue your progress.  Kudos to YOU!

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

Can Leaders Become Master Gardeners?

As I began planting flowers this spring, I noticed a lot of similarities between developing businesses (and people) and growing a garden. My grandmother had a natural green thumb; she just knew how to get plants to take root and grow. She passed her love of gardening on to my mother. Mom has won numerous garden show awards by showing flowers and arrangements from her English-like gardens in the country. As for me, I can only hope to be as accomplished as they both were with their gardening skills, since I thoroughly enjoy working in my yard, especially with flower containers, and in community gardens, routinely checking out the multitude of flower beds. However, as I work in those beds, I find that I am using it as time to fine tune how I might help develop businesses and the people who make those businesses grow.

Here are the similarities that I notice between gardening and growing people and businesses:

Cultivate the soil. As you get ready to start your businesses, preparation is key. You may pull all-nighters thinking about the idea. You might provide a business plan to your banker, your partner or investors. You might even work for a competitor to learn and establish your own secret sauce. The key here is prep. The seed might just take root if the soil is cultivated just right.

Plant the seed. Once the prep is done, it’s time to plant the seed and get the business growing. Be watchful, to ensure the seed or idea sprouts. However, be patient and allow time for the business or person to grow. All things take time, but all things need a bit of attention, too. Be very selective with people; like seeds, they’ll grow best where the soil is ready and the support is easily available.

Water it/let it rain. Flowers and plants need the right amount of moisture, or they can’t produce nutrients for themselves. Water is the No. 1 need for plants and humans. How can you keep your employees fluid and engaged, bringing their ideas forward and solving problems quickly? Whatever you do, don’t let your people or your business idea dry up.

Sunshine. The sun is the most amazing star, at the center of the solar system. It gives plants, flowers, and people rays of hope. Employees need encouragement and recognition. Businesses need to see lights at the end of the tunnels. We all embrace sunrises and sunsets because of their simplistic beauty. Give your business and employees plenty of sun!

Fertilize appropriately. Every now and then, we all need an extra dose of something. A flower container might be stagnant, but with a shot of fertilizer, it can grow to a whole new height. Employees and business owners who gather advice, mentoring and coaching along the way have a better chance of having a growth spurt than those who don’t ask for feedback.

Remove the weeds. As business grows, you may have to eliminate some products, services, locations or employees. Toxic employees, processes, ideas or suffocating customers can kill growth. Just like a flower or vegetable garden, don’t allow the weeds to take over your harvest.

Just like gardening, there is rarely a magical fix when developing successful businesses and people. It takes continual good decisions with a mixture of appropriate actions for a business and employee to thrive. Too much of one thing can quickly overcome a business (or a garden). Be watchful and attentive; but once you have it figured out, watch it grow to an amazing garden/business/employee.

After a while, a flower garden can become overgrown. The gardener then splits up some of the flowers and transplants them in a new flowerbed. In business, that might mean finding a new location, expanding services or adding new employees to further grow the business. Whether you’re an emerging leader, a woman in leadership, or an entrepreneur, embrace becoming a master gardener for your business!

Volunteering Catapults You & Your Career

Are you stuck in your role at work? Are you missing opportunities to get that promotion? Are you not viewed as a leader yet? Your answer could be as simple as volunteering. Every time I volunteer, it helps me build my network and further my career. It has also made me better and more informed as a leader and community member. Let me share a few examples.

In 1987-1988, a mid-level leader asked me to coach basketball with him, as his daughters were on the team. After declining a couple times, I finally agreed (after someone else encouraged me to do it). Our results with these middle school girls helped change their lives; they won more games during those two years than they ever had in the past. Many of the girls said that winning improved their confidence levels. As for my takeaway, the mid-level leader I coached with became a senior executive a few years later and was a strong supporter of mine during my entire career.

In 1993, a senior executive asked me to help manage the United Way (UW) of Middle Tennessee campaign for our financial services company. This was my first experience working with a national non-profit organization and it was also the first time a campaign had been run at this Company. We accomplished a spike in giving to United Way by our employees and leaders, and they also became involved in additional volunteer opportunities. UW of Middle TN recognized our Company for being an outstanding first time campaign. My takeaway? The senior executive who asked me to run the campaign became one of my biggest and longest supporters in the Company.

In 2000 I lost my battle with ulcerative colitis. I began walking to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). I quickly realized that walking actually helped me feel better physically. I also noticed that as I asked people to donate to CCFA, it gave me the opportunity to refine my message, i.e. “why am I involved in CCFA”. This helped me when I spoke to all size groups. Within a few years, speaking became a strength for me. When I launched my own non-profit and scholarship fund (Can Do 4:13 Scholarship & Mentoring Program), the practice I received with CCFA gave me the confidence to state my goals for Can Do, including why I created the program, and why people should donate. I utilized these same skills as I articulated business plans and marketing strategies as a senior leader in my Company.

Because of my work with CCFA and Can Do, a fast moving leader (who also was a previous boss) asked me to replace him as a Board Member at the Community Foundation of Central Illinois in 2005. This was a huge step for me, as I had never been on a Board. The role had fiduciary responsibility, as well as being more aware of what was going on in the community because we selected grants to distribute. The experience helped me improve my financial business acumen, clarify my values, and refine my message on my passions. Fast forward to 2010; guess who my new boss was? That same leader who recommended me for the Board position.

Volunteering and continually being nudged along by key influencers definitely helped my career. More important than my career, it helped me become a better, more informed and caring woman. So what’s getting in your way of volunteering? Are you a woman in leadership or an emerging leader? If you want to build your network, increase sales or make a difference, pick a volunteer opportunity that you are passionate about, or have a leader/colleague/friend gently nudge you along. It just might catapult you and your career to new heights.

Why I like the NFL? Vision and Role Clarity

Why do I love the NFL? It is a great mixture of world class athletes, intense and emotional competition, vision and strategy, precise execution, fan interaction, and big business.  For example:

It’s emotional. Only one team wins the big prize annually. The Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy is adorned; grown men have tears in their eyes while they embrace that trophy like their own child, after winning the Super Bowl.  For teams who don’t follow the rules, they get penalized. Teams lose players to short and long term injuries, which can be devastating to the player, the entire team, the fans and the owner’s bottom line.  Players are locked out. Referees are too. Owners balk, and then agree. Egos abound!

It’s consistent. During the fall and early winter, the games are all day every Sunday and Monday evening.  And now every Thursday. Although lifestyles are very busy, millions of fans routinely make time to watch this #1 sport in America.

It embraces strategy. The owners are willing to invest a lot of money into players, coaches, fans, and facilities, to get a higher return on their investment.  During the games, the teams have gameplans (strategies) on how to prepare, compete, and win. Countless hours are spent in the film rooms AND on the field prepping for the competition as well as honing the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

It’s about leadership.  Each small group on every NFL team has a coach. Sure, there is a head coach.  But there are also running back and linebacker coaches.  There are owners and general managers. If all of these leaders are executing with precision to the strategy, it can be magical.

It’s all about execution. The team that executes with precision, wins. Execution is difficult to do, but easy to identify when it is done right. Whether it is scoring with 12 seconds to go in the first half to take a lead in to halftime or defending a goal line stance during the last two minutes, you know execution when you see it.

It’s about change. It is interesting how quickly a team can come together, even though EVERY team roster changes annually. Audibles are utilized and implemented within seconds after the offense reviews the defense stance.   Each player has to perform and adjust as the game develops.

It’s about role clarity. It is fascinating to see how each player clearly knows his role on each play. A wide receiver runs his route, with timing and yardage completely in sync with his quarterback’s release of a throw.  The offensive lineman block to protect the quarterback and to help gain yardage for the running back. The special teams help block for the punt returner. The athletic trainer and doctors know when to administer what treatment for injuries and pain.

It’s hi-tech. The stadiums are electric with big screen replays of nearly every play. Fantasy football allows the fan to build and manage his own team, anytime, anywhere. Nearly every game can be viewed ubiquitously, whether on a mobile device, laptop, via the internet or satellite TV. Games can be watched later in either full or 30 minute versions.

It gets people together. In the fall of 2011, 23 of the top 25 shows viewed were NFL games. And in many cases, these NFL games are watched in groups of fans who are eating, talking, and drinking together. Tailgating starts on early Sunday mornings in the stadium parking lots and goes well beyond the end of the game.   Camping in the woods and parks has now moved to asphalt parking lots near stadiums.

It’s about patience.  The teams who consistently perform at the highest levels are the teams with lack of turnover. For example, the NY Giants have remained committed to Tom Coughlin even though the NY press wants to fire him annually. Coughlin’s answer? Two Super Bowls in five years. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been in the hunt for decades, with the same family leading the franchise and purposefully selecting coaches who embrace their values. The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers were truly dominating in the 1970s’s and 1980’s, respectively, with steady ownership, coaches, and quarterbacks.  The New England Patriots have an owner in Robert Kraft and coach in Bill Belichick that trust one another and demonstrate excellence year after year.  The Green Bay Packers fans are the most loyal in the business, as they own the team. That is not going to change.

It’s BIG business.  Billions of dollars in television rights across five networks (NBC, FOX, CBS, ESPN, and NFL Network) and stadiums worth hundreds of million dollars grab the attention of fans, hopes and dreams of children, and other businesses who want to be a part of the NFL picture to broaden their brand.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that high-performing teams on the court/field and in business have the ability to perform at a very high level because each and every person on the team clearly knows the vision and their role, and executes it with precision.  In today’s business world, role clarity and execution are becoming more and more important, as the room for error is so slim due to increased governance, regulations,  shareholder and customer expectations.  Is your team operating at a level that meets your vision? If not, identifying your vision and further clarifying roles might be the first steps to address.  The NFL demonstrates this every week, on five different TV networks, with 32 teams owned by 32 different men in 32 different locations, with 53 players, who all know their role. Complexity in business can be overcome by a clear vision and role clarity. The NFL is a living and successful example.

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.