Because Creating is More Fun than Clean-up

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Business, Education, Featured, Relationships, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

Think for a moment about how many times a day you create something through your interaction with someone else. You greet someone on your way into the office. You lead a team meeting. You have a one-to-one conversation with an employee. You listen to your spouse as she processes the conflict she experienced at work. You participate in an evening board meeting. In each and every interaction, you are making choices about what you create with others. Most leaders are trained to prepare well for the situations that are perceived as high-stakes: an important meeting with top executives, a media interview, a pitch to a potential client, for example. Well-trained leaders invest time in attending to both the content and the professional presence they want to create in those moments. In the months and days leading up to an event, they review, rehearse, and visualize the outcome of what they are working to create. Highly effective leaders, though, recognize that the make-it-or-break-it moments are not confined to those high-stakes events. In fact, it is often within the more casual, intimate interactions that relationships are strengthened or compromised. Amazing leaders recognize that, in order to lead and inspire others, people must feel connected at a very personal level. That means that much of the creating that a dynamic leader does in the smaller, day-to-day moments is as important as what is created in the well-rehearsed, public opportunities. One careless remark or a moment of casual disregard can alter a relationship in an instant. Repairing a relationship requires a tremendous amount of work and is not as much fun or as glamorous as creating. Sometimes, the damage done is too great and repair is not possible. How do effective leaders bring their A game to each of the interactions and opportunities they have in a given day? Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. Effective leaders train like Olympic athletes. They realize that what they choose to do with their mind and body every day affects the level of success they will have. They become extremely aware of what they personally need to do to keep their own system running optimally and be at their best all the time, not just when the stakes are perceived as high. Effective leaders know that it is more fun to invest in self-care and creating than it is to engage in the clean-up of relationship repair that is required when they don’t. These people have the energy and presence to create with others in multiple interactions throughout the day, and they know that every interaction counts. Self-reflection is the other key component. After each casual interaction or formal meeting, highly effective leaders take stock of what worked, what...

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Gratitude and Happiness

Posted by on Nov 3, 2013 in Relationships, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

Happy First Week of November! Three years ago, a team of dynamic friends and colleagues worked with me to bring a vision to reality. We called the project The Gratitude Gala. In November 2010, over a hundred people gathered together for an evening of gratitude, joy, artistic expression, and community. Before each performance, the artists spoke briefly about who they were honoring or thanking with their performance. One member of our team, Rick, flew a young friend home from college for the day. She spent time with her family and then joined us in the evening to perform a special song for Rick’s elderly friend and mentor. Her voice was one of many that filled the room with heartfelt emotion. The expressions of gratitude shared that night uplifted us all. Since that transformative event, people have continued to reach out to share how gratitude has transformed their lives. People also share with me the research and work others are doing around the world. One member of our original team sent me a link to this video with a message that read, “Of course this made me think of you. And Landmark. And how it really works. Thank you for showing me what a difference gratitude can make.” I hope you enjoy this video as much as we did. Scientists Discover One of the Greatest Contributing Factors to Happiness–You’ll Thank Me Later      ...

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September Glory

Posted by on Sep 29, 2013 in Relationships, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

Last March, I wrote a blog called New Beginnings. In the article, I discussed how I have grown to understand my own rhythms of work and that October 1st and April 1st are my personal new beginnings. I also shared that “September often felt more like the final sprint at the end of a marathon rather than a new beginning.” This is still true. This month, every member of our family transitioned into a school routine in some way, and I professionally interfaced with multiple educators and administrators navigating new fall schedules. I completed my fourth triathlon during the first week of September, and celebrated my birthday with family. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and a friend’s Bat Mitzvah were all neatly tucked within the thirty days of September, and I considered just moving our family into the temple’s sukkah to reduce our commute. Unsure how best to answer the casual ‘how are you’ question posed by friends and colleagues, I found myself saying, “Well, it’s clearly September…in all its glory!” This, too, is true. It is September, in all its glory. In the midst of assuring my children and myself that we would make it to a calmer October, I remembered that I love this month. I love that I needed to pull out a sweater several mornings. I love that, some evenings, the scents of fall drifted into my windows. I love that, while on my way to a board meeting while the sun was still shining, I looked up and discovered an enormous Harvest Moon low on the horizon, visible only if glanced at the right moments of my trip. I love that the very pace of September reminded me of the gold-nugget life lesson that can be an answer to almost anything: be present. The intensity of our September schedule was breath-taking; yet our love of September was found in taking a deep breath and being present for each experience we...

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Nothing Stays the Same

Posted by on Sep 8, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 0 comments

A couple of years ago, I called a dear friend of mine late at night. My grandmother had recently died, and while I knew I was grieving the recent loss, I had not anticipated all the other doors of grief and loss that would fling open in my face that night. I was feeling too much, and not finding a peaceful way to navigate the experience on my own. My friend listened and said little. When she did speak, she acknowledged and validated the whole tribe of emotions that were stomping all over my heart. Then she offered a bit of perspective. “Mark your calendar, Sarah, for one year from this day. You will be in a whole different space than you are right now. Wait and see. I promise life will look nothing like it does to you right now.” Her words soothed my soul that evening and reminded me that nothing is forever, including our perspective and experience. She was correct, too. A year later I was in an entirely different space and was able to reflect on how much I had grown from that moment. On the Sunday this blog is posted, I will be participating in my fourth sprint triathlon. I remember the fear I felt five years ago when I signed up for my first triathlon without knowing how to swim and breathe at the same time. I trained and trained for that first triathlon, determined to finish with joy. The following year, I swam through my fear of being in the ocean and finished a second triathlon in a different location. Last year, I returned to the location of the first triathlon and participated with a team. The purpose of our team was to support courageous women completing their first triathlons. This year, I am returning again to the same course I completed the first year, and I am completing the triathlon on my own. I am still determined to finish with joy. This year, despite the fact that I have not trained with as much intensity or intentionality as in previous years, I have a sense of peace and confidence within me that I could not even fathom in the days and months leading up to that first triathlon. Nothing stays the same. Over time, even when faced with the same set of circumstances, our perspective changes. Our ability to rise up and greet the experience that is before us changes. The only constant thing in life is change. We change, we grow, and through our transformation, nothing is exactly the...

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Grieving the Loss of Living Loved Ones

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Relationships | 0 comments

September can be a tricky month for parents. Some parents are sending children to kindergarten. Some are sending young adults off to college in different cities and states. In my circle of friends and family, I know several parents whose grown children also chose this month to relocate and begin life anew in a different part of the country. While each of these new beginnings can be filled with hope and excitement for the children embarking on a new adventure, some parents also often experience less comfortable emotions, such as grief and anxiety, while helping their children navigate these transitions. Although their children are alive, healthy, and thriving, the sense of loss and grief is real and, sometimes, intense. Yet, knowing that their role as a parent is to be happy and supportive for the growth of their child, these very real feelings can quickly become the source of embarrassment or shame. To further complicate the issue, not everyone experiences loss and grief in the same way. Two friends who may have children going through the same life transition may have opposite responses to it. The interesting thing to note is that grief, regardless of the nature of the loss, is still grief. Navigating grief and transition creates abundant opportunities for growth in communication and connection, whether we are the person having the experiencing or we are the person offering support.  Many of the resources designed to offer guidance in supporting someone who is grieving the death of a loved one are relevant and applicable when supporting someone who is grieving the loss of a living relative as well. Here are a few, basic guidelines that are good to keep in mind: 1) Be patient and kind, and keep an open mind. Even if you have gone through something similar, you have not experienced life in the same way this person has. Be willing to be present to hear what this person is currently experiencing without bringing your own thoughts or opinions to the conversation. 2) Talk less, listen more. Listening without commenting, judging, or comparing is one of the biggest gifts a person can give another person. 3) Let the person know he or she is not alone. Acknowledge and validate the feelings and perspectives that this person is choosing to share with you. For additional tips on supporting a person who is grieving, visit this helpful link: Going the distance with a person who is actively grieving is significant and important work. Not everyone is prepared to offer the kind of support a person needs while grieving. If friends do reach out to you during their time of need, being gracious with their request for connection...

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Unsafe or Just Uncharted Territory: How Do You Know the Difference?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 0 comments

In last week’s blog, I shared the radical request I made of my daughter. Today’s posting is the second part of that conversation. “Can you tell the difference between the two?” I asked my daughter. “Can you feel the difference between when a situation or person is not safe and when your brain or body perceives a situation as threatening because it is different, new, or undefined?” “Yes, definitely,” she answered right away. “In the first situation, it’s a real person or something that is actually happening. In the second situation it is something that is…” She paused. “Hypothetical?” I offered. “And because you don’t really know what is involved, it feels scary?” “Exactly.” In some ways, my daughter’s finely tuned alarm system is a blessing. She is well-connected to her intuition, and can read people and situations well. We share this trait, and discuss what it feels like to navigate our environments, listening to our intuition. While others often need to wait until something tangible or provable happens, we know the moment we meet a person or enter a situation if it feels unsafe and we know to keep our distance or get the heck out. Being able to read when a person or situation is not safe is a gift I want my daughters to nurture and embrace, not minimize or ignore. Yet, I have also seen my daughter respond in fear or defensiveness to irrational perceptions that are not based in reality. The gifted occupational therapist (OT) that worked with our family for several years explained to us that sometimes, after we have a negative experience with something, our brain creates pathways that anticipate and fear having additional negative experiences in a variety of new, generalized situations. For example, when my daughter was much younger, she had very real, negative experiences wearing different textures of fabric and styles of clothing. Her sensory system, at that time, was not able to cope with how zippers, elastic, tags, or tight-fitting clothing felt on her body. The OT helped us understand that when my daughter looked a new piece of clothing, her brain reacted from a fearful and defensive place based on all of her previous sensory experiences. Over time, and with great patience, they worked together to improve my daughter’s physiological ability to integrate different sensory information. They also worked extensively to identify “fear vs. reality” in new situations. When the “No Way!” response came up for an article of clothing, they developed ways for my daughter to stay in the conversation long enough to identify what, specifically, her body was perceiving in that moment. Was this sweater we are looking at now (not all the ones your...

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