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This is a special blog for all the parents in our community!
In writing it I wanted to leverage all I’ve learned through my mindfulness practice, as well as my deep knowledge of nature’s elements that are inherent in us all and always at work (for or against us!). Wouldn’t it be great to approach this Back to School season with grace and ease? In fact, wouldn’t it be great to rise above the stress and gain energy, productivity, and peace? YES, it’s possible! Give this mind, body & soul approach a try and let me know how it goes!
Before we jump into the HOW, I would like to invite you to take this opportunity to shift your perspective about this time of year. Our intentions can truly drive how we feel, and ultimately, how we act. If, for example, you’re saying to yourself, “Oh no, not again! Here comes a hectic month of no sleep, awful traffic, stressed kids, and no time for me!” Well, the Universe is saying right back to you, “Your wish is my command!” Yikes!
Let’s make the shift now. Here’s how to do it with our mind, body and soul in the lead. 

Mind Awareness 

Preparing for the new school year can feel like having lots of erratic little fires all over the place! In nature, we can nurture these fires by adding wood to create a slow, steady burn. We can look at the element of wood as our Inner Warrior, who strategically calculates the next step, and the one thereafter, getting us to our final destination. Our warrior cares about getting things done effectively and successfully. When we have too many things to do (especially in our head, or on lots of sticky notes!) and we are scattered and un-organized, we need to bring in that warrior essence of strategy and organization. In doing so, we take small steps that allow us to remove the scatter and focus on what we are doing NOW – one moment at a time. Our Inner Warrior – when grounded and focused, helps us to be those awesome, on-task parents that we want to be during back-to-school season, not the freaky, burned-out ones!
If you’re feeling scattered, here’s a tip to put out all those fires: 
Back to School Brain Dump! Let’s get all those to-do’s and “fires” out of your head and onto paper/into action!
  1. Block off 30 minutes of quiet time. Take a blank sheet of paper and write down EVERYTHING that needs to get done by the first day of school, and for the first few weeks of school (heck…the first month!). There doesn’t need to be any organization at this point, just a list of items.
  2. If the task needs to (ultimately) be completed by someone other than you (or in partnership with you), place and arrow with the person’s initial’s next to it. See my list here!FullSizeRender
  3. Put an asterisk next to those items that are the most critical and put those into your calendar as non-negotiable appointments now. Check out my calendar below! As you can see I use iCalendar to help me stay accountable to myself. It really helps to think of my to-do’s as appointments so I make room for them during my day. If you use another system that works for you, stick with that! Sometimes I’ll also create a task list (with check-off boxes) on my phone, which syncs with all my devices. Do what is best for you, but definitely make your list actionable and accountable.Screenshot 2015-08-08 20.00.39
By doing these three simple things, you’ll have calmed the many fires and created one slow, peaceful, productive burn!
Warriors also begin each day with powerful and focused intentions. Create an intention for yourself that you will focus on each morning for 5 or 10 minutes. You can do this while driving to work, while drinking your morning cup of coffee, or getting that first blast of morning sunshine as the birds rise and chirp away. You also can keep your intention with you (post it in your car, on your computer, etc.) during the day to remind you. My intention for this back to school season is: “I have all the time and energy I need to create an exciting back to school launch for my kids.” With this intention, these tasks now become less stressful and more enjoyable.
In doing this, you become the creator of your thoughts, and not the passenger going along for the ride, as Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, would say.

Body Awareness

In nature, not only does wood help nurture the fire, but it also controls earth out of balance. We can look at earth as our “Mother” energy, which can give, give, give, and do, do, do —for others, while leaving herself depleted. So, in addition to bringing in our effective Inner Warrior, we also can use our earthy mother energy to “mother” ourselves too!
We can nourish our bodies by giving them healthy, satisfying food, and by energizing them. This is not the time to indulge in mindless eating — fast or junk food (which will actually drain your energy and rob you of the nutrients you’ll need to sustain you), but rely on foods that warm you and comfort you—like mom would make you! It can be as simple as having a nourishing bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts in the morning to get you going, and a cup of hot mint tea with honey at night. Perhaps your feel-good food is a green smoothie in the morning instead. That’s okay too! You know what your body needs to run effectively. Plan for that and make it happen.
Also, study after study shows that even 10 minutes of physical activity in the morning will jump start your metabolism and energize your mind, giving you that push of energy first thing in the AM to accomplish all of those to-do’s. Now, I say 10 minutes, because I know how mornings are with kids!! What I love to do right before I jump in the shower is a few reps of jumping jacks, squats, push ups, side and forward stretches, and sit-ups. If I can work in a walk later, great, but if not, I’ve done my body good in between 6 and 10 minutes. Just wake up 10 minutes earlier and get it done! Give your body permission to work for you and nourish you!
 

Soul Awareness

In nature, the element of water serves many purposes. It provides hydration, deep rest, and can help to suppress, or “water down” our tendency to do too much. It replenishes us and prepares us for the work ahead—our Inner Warrior work! We can consciously bring in this element by drinking enough water each day (a minimum of half of our body weight in ounces); taking relaxing baths or showers (or a dip in the beach!); reading; meditating (to the sound of the ocean, even better!); getting enough sleep, and YES, going with the flow! If something does not get done, even though we have planned effectively, we can consciously accept it and move on. Our souls can feel neglected when we are so focused on getting things done, so hydrate your soul by making time for at least 1-2 of these kinds of activities (for you and your kids!) each day during back to school season. My daughter and I love to have hot tea together each night, and then we’ll read a bit from her summer reading book. What does your soul need from you?
What I hope you’ve picked up on is that we should do our very best to create greater balance during this both exciting and stressful time each year. In approaching the season from the framework of care for our Mind, Body & Soul, we also are creating that balance for our children, who also may be experiencing the excitement and stress of going back to school, especially if it is a big transition for them (first time, middle to high school, new school, etc.). We also will be ensuring that we are not running on empty or reserves, but on a full tank — a tank of internal strength and stamina to launch the school year with invigoration.
Wishing you lots of luck this back-to-school season!
It’s your life, lead it well!
Namaste,
Monique
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While I’m on vacation, please enjoy this post from June 2009. As my children are just coming back from a few weeks in Boston (with my husband’s family), creating lots of amazing memories, and as we get ready to travel to Montana (with my family) to create even more, I thought you’d also like to think about those memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime and want to go back “home” to.
Enjoy!


Finding Home-

It’s always fun to spend time in the Boston, MA area, where my husband grew up. More specifically, he was raised in Malden, where his parents still reside. Even though Boston is not my home, it “feels like home” if you know what I mean. In fact, when I travelled there with my husband (my boyfriend at the time) for the first time in 1994 it was meeting his parents and extended family that sealed the deal for me. Family was everything for them. We still joke that one of the similarities between our families (mine: Cuban; his: Irish/Italian) is that we all are so family oriented (and love to dance!). We both love spending time with our family members.

It wasn’t until our trip this June 2009 that I really got to thinking how going home was a way of “plugging in” for my husband—recharging his battery, especially since we don’t visit as often as we used to. The things we do when we are in Boston are things that for him are essential to charging his spiritual energy. It goes something like this…

  1. Arrive at Logan and be greeted by Mom and Dad.
  2. Tune into the local stations for “the best music ever”.
  3. Come home to homemade chicken wings, meatballs and sausage in “gravy”, and homemade pizza (among many other delicious goodies).
  4. Sit out on the deck with the lighted palm tree decoration and drink a few cold ones (usually Sam Adams) and talk about “the days” while taking in the cool air.
  5. NEXT DAY…the itch begins…we must go to Nahant (40 Steps) to see, hear and touch the ocean. This is the place where my husband’s dreams were born—his love for the ocean, what’s underneath the ocean, and scuba diving.
  6. Having a Maine lobster or “lobsta” roll.

You get the idea. The list continues for us…a check-off of sorts of things to do (whale watching, seeing old friends, a Sox or Pats game, etc.) before we head back home. This time, however, I noticed how truly important these activities are to my husband, as small as they may seem.  It’s almost like he’s on a mission—quiet, yet excited; eager, yet meditative, until he’s filled his cup. These are things “of the soul” that keep him charged so he can go back to his “adult life home” in Miami and get back to living. During our trips, I know not to say “no” or ask “why”—it’s clear that it is something he truly needs, an hourglass that continually empties and needs to be filled again.

And isn’t it the same for us all? I compared my husband’s experience to my own and I do believe that there are times in our lives that we all must reconnect and fill our souls so that we can continue on our journeys. For me, since I live in my home town, it’s more about connecting with those things about my life’s experiences that were meaningful to me and helped to make me who I am today, like spending quality time at least once a year with my middle school girlfriends, eating my favorite childhood meal or dessert  when I feel I need “soul food” (arroz con pollo and arroz con leche—yum!), listening to music that reminds me of the “old times” especially the music my mom played, driving through my grandparent’s old neighborhood (Little Havana), etc.

So why not plug in when we need it? We all need to recharge at different times, perhaps when we are feeling a bit disconnected, unfulfilled, or when things just seem a bit mundane. What is it about these experiences that recharge us? It seems to me that the feelings we are trying to reconnect with are those of love, belonging, familiarity, comfort and excitement. So when you need a dose of these feelings, here are at least 10 ways you can recharge your soul:

  1.  Take a trip! If it’s been a while since you’ve visited your home town, why not take a few days and make that trip. Or, if taking a trip is not a possibility, how about picking up the phone and having a nice conversation with a loved one? If you live in your home town, why don’t you take the time to visit with a relative you hardly ever speak with or see? Web cams provide another great way to connect with those you love and/or miss.
  2. Girls/Boys Night Out! Same concept here, but with your childhood or close friends. Even if it’s for a few hours, schedule a dinner or cocktail with one or more of your close friends you don’t get to see too often. Reminisce and catch up. Have a few laughs!
  3. Have some soul food! Gosh… there is nothing like some good soul food! If you can’t actually make it out to that favorite restaurant or to your mom’s house where she can whip up your favorite dish, how about making it yourself or ordering out? It’s the feeling of eating the special dish that you’re after, so eat up and leave the guilt at the door.
  4. Visit that favorite place. For my husband that place was Nahant. What is it for you? Can’t visit? How about find a photo, frame it and hang it up in your home or office?
  5. Rent a movie. We all have that favorite flick that get’s us going. For me, it’s either Grease or Footloose. I have very distinct memories of reenacting these movies in front of my living room wall-to-floor mirror! What movie makes your energy soar?
  6. Turn up the dial! Does music lift your spirits like it does for me? What songs from your childhood/youth do the same for you? Find them and play them.
  7. Scrap. Photos have a way of instantly creating that connection once again. If you’re anything like me, you probably have many boxes stored and filled with photos from childhood and up. Why not sort through them, pick a few favorites that recreate those feelings you crave and create a scrap book? It also feels good to create photo albums or scrap books for others.
  8. Blog. There’s no better way to reconnect these days than through the internet. If you have not yet connected with those dear friends or relatives on Facebook, you can always use a blogging tool, like Blogger or WordPress to create a personal blog to keep you connected with your family and friends. You can share photos and keep everyone up-to-date on your life’s happenings.
  9. Take up a hobby. This doesn’t have to be too time consuming; a simple game can do the trick. What board game did you play with your relatives or friends that made you smile? How long has it been since you played it? Dust it off and get going. Or, was there something you truly enjoyed doing that you wouldn’t mind doing again, like playing an instrument, or taking a dance class. I’m all for finding some time to do those activities that create excitement and purpose for me. What are they for you?
  10. Journal or write a letter. Writing can be a soothing and healing process for many. When our lives are too hectic and we long to create or connect with something more meaningful, jotting down our thoughts, remembering experiences that put smiles on our faces, listing those things we are grateful for today, or writing a letter to someone who we miss dearly or appreciate can send our energy right back up again. Purchase a simple, beautiful journal—one that calls out to you—and give it a try.

Remembering the past doesn’t always mean living in it. It’s important to make that distinction as I’m a believer in living in the moment. This brings to mind Daughtry’s song “Home” where he says… “I’m going home, to a place where I belong, where your love has always been enough for me.” Going home means different things to different people. For some it is literal and for others, a cup of coffee, a song, or a conversation can create that feeling that will put us back in balance and provide us with some needed energy to keep moving forward in our lives with a sense of meaning and with a smile on our faces.

What creates that feeling of home for you? Add to my list! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

All my love to our family and friends in Boston who always make us feel at home!

With gratitude,

Monique

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P.S. I’ll get to Pinterest in a moment. 🙂

Dreaming and Doing. Is one better than the other, or do both together create the best productivity life hack?

In life we simply can’t escape the productivity conversation, which inevitably becomes the balance conversation, which then morphs into the just live in the moment and be happy conversation.

Here’s my take it on it…
The theme I created for myself this year was, “Flow in all things.” Just saying it out loud makes me take a deep breath and smile. I really like this feeling. And, the theme has really come in handy numerous times this year. However, I find myself also craving to not flow. To push a bit harder, as uncomfortable as it may be for me and for others. To ask, instead of wonder or let go. To create those waves, instead of float away. Perhaps, subconsciously, I created this theme because I knew I would push the envelope enough this year to require more breath-ful moments? Hmm. Could be.
Here’s what I know about productivity (the art of getting things done as effectively as possible, so we can do even more)… We are MUCH MORE productive when we are doing things that we are passionate about, really good at (like our talents/strengths), and that will help us achieve a highly-valued reward. Do our bosses want us to be more productive? YES. Do we want to be more productive at home? YES. Do we want to create and grow in our lives?YES.
We are humans! Part of the human experience is a desire to fill our cups as much as possible. After all, when we fill our cups (hopefully with the right things!), we can extract so much pleasure and growth. Ah! The human experience is good, indeed!


But what happens when we dream too much and don’t do?
I’ll let you answer this question. Go ahead, fill in the blank here: _____________________________________________.


In comes
Pinterest.

I LOVE Pinterest. In fact, I try not to log on too often, because I lose myself within the screen, and I lose myself within lots of yummy dreams! Typically, we’ll be attracted to things in Pinterest that excite us, and that help us to create a vision for all aspects of our lives. Dreaming feels great, and dreaming creates lots of good ju ju for us. When we dream too much, though and don’t do, our energy decreases, our motivation decreases, and our productivity decreases too.
So, I’m not asking you to quit Pinterest. Quite the contrary! It’s a great place to create our visions. BUILD THOSE DREAMS, but please DO take some action. The science behind motivation tells us that when we have lots of excitement (Pinterest ideas) mixed with lots of apprehension (Can I…Will I really do this?), it can have the opposite effect and deter us from doing anything at all, except create lots of pretty Pinterest boards!
So how do get the most out of our Pinterest habits and enjoy the happiness, thrill, accomplishment, and new skill building that these “P” projects can offer?


Here are some of the easiest, yet hardest, 5 steps to consider:

1. PICK ONE!

Our brains love to think that we can do it all! The reality is, though, that we can go into flight mode when we are overwhelmed and do nothing! Especially if you have the habit of creating many Pinterest boards and still have not tried any of the ideas you love, do yourself a favor and pick one to get started. I’d go for a really juicy one that is just slightly out of your reach, but will feel so amazing once you “get ‘er done!” Achieving these slightly out of our reach goals can positively affect us in many ways.

Here’s one I stored for a while. I had a HUGE party idea file and never did any of it. It felt not so great! I decided that the entire board—doing all of those party “things” was just a bit too much for me. But, creating the invitation did provide me with an attractive, yet uncomfortable challenge. I picked it and I did it! I was a proud mommy, and my daughter and her friends loved it.
 
And, this week, I decided to challenge myself with this activity, which also is slightly uncomfortable but exciting at the same time. One at a time. Rewards-a-plenty with both!

2. START!

The hardest part is to get started. Create a new board titled,“Started!” and place it there. Starting actually cuts the apprehension out of the equation and makes checking it off our list a new possibility, instead of “someday maybe.” In our minds we begin to see the check mark instead of the question mark.

3. TRACK.

Hold yourself accountable in some way (whatever way you know is best for you) and celebrate your progress, especially if it’s something that takes a while to achieve. For example, I love collecting “10 Minute” boards about exercising. What can I do in 10 minutes to tone my abs (for example)? But, guess what? If I only do 10 minutes of ab exercises once, I will not get anywhere. I need to do it for 30 days, perhaps, or if that’s too extreme, how about 3x per week?

4. BITE SIZE.

There are so many great recipes on Pinterest. I usually don’t have the ingredients I need, so I will start by picking my recipe and creating a list. Then, the next day, I will tell myself that I will cook it (get it done) on Saturday, and I will add to my calendar the time block which will allow me to go to the market to purchase the ingredients. If I don’t tackle these first three steps, this recipe will remain a dream. Chunk it down into bite sized pieces.

5. DEADLINE.

Tell yourself when you will finish. If you don’t stick to your deadline, extend it, but try to get it done. No deadline? Not done!

For some, creating those invitations I posted above would be easy. Perhaps crafting is something they do often. For me, although one of my strengths is ideating, I do need a black and white way to commit to it and get it done. I followed this process to complete it and I really loved doing it! The rewards were many: I was using my creativity, I was doing something that would ultimately make someone else in my life happy (my daughter), I challenged myself, it engaged me in ways I’m not normally engaged, and it gave me a craving to use my creativity in new ways. Cha Ching! And, for those of you who follow my strengths-related work and blogs, you can absolutely believe I leveraged my strengths to get this done, creating even more benefits.

So, are you in the Pinterest Paradox? If so, I’d love to have your commitment to take one the ideas that EXCITES YOU AND CHALLENGES YOU, and follow the steps above. AND, I would LOVE for you to share with me what you are committing to. Let’s go from Pinterest Paradox to Pinterest Passionate Productivity!
 
You with me??
 
It’s your life. Lead it well.

 

 

It’s Okay to be the Boss (of your kids!)

 

As you’ve most likely read before in one of my previous blogs, not only am I a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, but I really try to live true to my strengths daily. My #1 strength is Learner, which for me means that I LOVE learning on my own and from others. And, in particular, I love to deepen my knowledge about leadership, wellbeing, and personal and professional development in general.
Today I had the opportunity to learn from a wonderful leader in our community, and a friend, who I have the pleasure of engaging with on a regular basis. Janet Altman, marketing partner at Kaufman Rossin, is a member of The Commonwealth Institute (of Miami) Forum of executive women that I have the pleasure of facilitating each month. She took us through a one-hour version of It’s Okay To Be The Boss, based on the book by Bruce Tulgan. It was enlightening, and practical, and I can’t wait to put some of these great strategies into action. 
 
But, if you’ve been following me for a bit, you know that I love to take what I learn in my professional life and apply it to my personal life; in particular with my children. I am a firm believer that we can instill leadership principals into our children at a young age, and help them to lead conscious, reflective lives. 
 

I’m sharing this with you today for two reasons:

  1. For those of you who are parents and want to give these tips a try, and 
  2. For those of you who also believe, like I do, that we can empower our young people early on to see themselves as leaders and take personal responsibility for their success and wellbeing. 
Whether you’re a parent or not, I guarantee you’ll have many chances to help our awesome young ones out there (our future leaders, by the way!)
 

Here’s what I’m trying out immediately (or trying to do a better job!):

  1. Manage Every Day.
    I believe in teaching my children to be independent as much as possible, but my husband and I are “in charge” of our children. Every day is an opportunity to check in and be in the know. Even a 5- minute check-in shows we care and are “here” to support and help guide. We may even catch things early that will need some intervention.
  2. Talk Like a Performance Coach.
    I am a coach, but sometimes as coaches we don’t tell others what needs to be done, we encourage those conclusions/outcomes by asking great questions. Well, as parents, it’s our job to do both. Sometimes our kids need us to just listen and ask questions, but other times, it truly is necessary for us to show them how things need to happen. We have to be teachers too.
  3. (Manage) One Person at a Time.
    This one made me laugh, because I can hear my son, almost daily, say, “Mom, why are you saying ‘both of you’ when I didn’t do anything wrong?” Well, he’s got a point! Sometimes I have the habit of saying, “Both of you (my 2 kids) need to stop doing X, Y, Z” when I really am only speaking to one of them. Ever done this before? I can see how this could be frustrating to either my son or daughter who perhaps was not doing anything wrong in that instance. Stay away from “both of you” or “all of you”.
  4. Make Accountability a Process Not a Slogan.
    Just a few nights ago (at 10 pm!!) my son needed to print his homework, when he realized that we have no printing paper. He says, “Mom, why don’t you have paper? Now I can’t print my homework!” Well, that didn’t sit too well with me. I’m thinking to myself, “Yes, I know I’m his mom, but I can’t be in charge of everything and remember everyone’s needs!” Feel me?? So, now, I’m realizing I need to be more clear with kids, in general, about those things that they must be responsible for. From this point on, I’m going to expect that my son keep his own stack of paper and advise us of when he’s almost out so we can purchase more. What are you holding your children accountable for?
  5. Do More for Some People and Less for Others.
    Do you feel you need to be fair all the time with your kids? If you buy something for one, then you feel you have to purchase something for another? My daughter recently asked for chores. I was so excited! She wants to earn some cash so she can both save and shop. Of course I complied! The question, however, crossed my mind, “What if my son gets upset that I’m giving my daughter an allowance?” Well, here’s my answer… he’ll get an allowance when he has chores! Pure and simple. Do you agree?
There are more comparisons I can make, based on these general management axioms, but these were the most applicable for me this month. Teaching our kids (or young people in general) some of these lessons will definitely help them once they go off into what we call “the real world!” Knowing that my son is just a few years away from college, these “lessons” become opportunities to model for him how to better understand what he may encounter in college and in work environments, without taking things personally. I see this as uber valuable (for him/them) and easier on this “leader mom” too!
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
It’s your life, lead it well.
Monique

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I love it when nature becomes the perfect metaphor for life and leading. My family and I recently took a super fun excursion on a GINORMOUS buggy deep into the Everglades. I have to admit that I was both excited for the adventure, and scared of the “what if’s!” It’s sad to admit that I have not taken much advantage of this beautiful resource in all my 40+ years in Florida.

I was with my children, though, and I kept listening to my inner chatter, which at times was saying something like, “You don’t want your kids to be fearful! Suck it up, smile, and have a blast!” In this moment, my leadership role was as MOM to my kids, preparing them for the Jungle of Life! You know what’s in the jungle…lions, tigers and bears (oh my!)
In this jungle, on this perfect sunny and cool day, we encountered fresh panther and bear tracks (yes, I said fresh!!!) And, as we explored one Cyprus Dome after another, we came across a water moccasin! It got a little hairy at that point, and we realized that we were, in deed, in the presence of danger. We held our breath. We laughed it off. We kept going.

I look back on that day and see all of us without the proper gear (although we tried!), up to our thighs in mucky cold water exploring our South Florida gem, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished and survived as a family. My 16-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter dug deep that day, kept their thoughts positive, and pushed through. And, well, I kept my cool even during those moments where I wanted to grab my kids and run back to the buggy! I pushed myself. In the end, we had a fantastic adventure and created great memories. In fact, our wonderful guide shared that he’d never met a more adventurous family!

On the buggy during our ride back, I couldn’t help but notice how one side of the ‘glades was black, dry, and brittle from brush fires, and the other side was green, lush and vibrant. For me, this signified the yin and the yang in everything, just like my feelings of both excitement and fear. Additionally, it was a great reminder that some things have to die to bear new life.

So what does this have to do with leading? I’d love for you to identify for yourself a personal experience where you could take those learnings from “life” and bring them into your “work life”. I truly enjoy making these parallel comparisons often.

For me, here are a few leadership learnings I took from this journey into the ‘glades:

1. Expect Yin and Yang in Everything!

Even the best of opportunities bring some challenges. Where there is light there also is darkness. Be prepared. There is no better example of this than in nature. As we witnessed…a tree, completely burned, with one small leaf growing out of it! Death, yet signs of new life! I also think about perspectives. Where there is one perspective or opinion, you can bet there will be another! As a leader in all situations, being prepared for this dichotomy can save us a lot of wasted energy.

2. Set the Pace. Be the Example.

Leaders are expected to lead. When we don’t meet those expectations, our tribe loses faith in us. We are nothing without our tribe! My children were definitely looking to my husband and me to model how to think, feel and act during this new adventure for us all. And isn’t that how leadership begins? We learn by and through others. Some leaders are great, and some not so great, but the learning is continuous regardless. Especially when teams and organizations are in challenging, and perhaps risky situations or environments, it really helps to hunker down and follow the leader. Sometimes, that’s the only way to make it through to the end. For us, heading in and out of these high grass and water domes, there was no other way…it was one behind the other!

3. You don’t know what you don’t know!

Although we tried our best to prepare, I’m not sure we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into! We made a quick run (the day before!) to Target and purchased anything that resembled “jungle gear”. We made some great finds, but we didn’t realize how under-prepared we were until we hit our first dome. That was the negative. The positive is that you better believe we’ll be ready next time. As leaders, if we are able to do the necessary homework and preparations to plan for success, do it! Err on the side of caution. Although we were lucky enough to not encounter a truly sticky situation, we did come really close with that water moccasin! Too close. Sometimes business is unforgiving and you only have one shot to win. I am grateful for our tour guide, and learned a lot from him. As leaders we really don’t know it all and we have to be willing to listen and learn in order to grow.

4. Share and Celebrate.

Don’t we always have war stories to share? No matter what the outcome, it’s so important to focus on what went well and cement those awesome moments in our memories. They really do help us stretch. We all were outside of our comfort zones that day, and stretch we did! We celebrated our adventure with a yummy BBQ lunch, and we still can’t stop talking about it and sharing it with others. At work, these are moments that can really bond a team and provide spaces for vulnerability, which help us all understand that we’re human after all.

I bet you have a similar experience, and I’d love to hear it!

Share and celebrate!

It’s your life. Lead it well.
Monique

 

Life Well LED Community,

This week I’m so thrilled to feature a guest blog by Speaker, Author and Conversation Catalyst Anne E. Denny.

I had the privilege of meeting Anne at Michael Hyatt’s Platform Conference a few months ago, and I was moved by Anne’s passion and her very important work. It’s personal for me, and perhaps it is for you as well.

You see, when my grandmother, Amelia, fell ill many years ago, I saw my mother’s life change before my eyes. It was a blessing that she didn’t work and was able to manage my grandmother’s care, but I saw it take a toll on her. For 7 months until my grandmother’s unfortunate passing, she had to put her life on hold, figure everything out, and make difficult decisions that she often did not know were right or wrong; good or bad. It was extremely stressful and emotional.

At some point in our lives (and many of you have been there, or are there now), we may have to care for a loved one. Anne helps us to be proactive, make those difficult conversations easier, and mostly, prepare us for all the potential experiences that can drain us of our time, energy, and resources if we are not prepared.

I know you’ll appreciate Anne’s work as much as I do.

It’s your life. Lead it well.
Monique


January is a “can-do” month. Fueled by our New Year’s resolutions , we feel empowered to achieve numerous goals. While some may be noble and virtuous, such as volunteering for a good cause, many are self-improvement focused: weight loss, increased exercise, financial success, and more.

Are any of your goals this year focused on your family’s peace and emotional future? Specifically, have you ever considered the potential impact on your family if you have any major unexpected changes to your health?

Recently, a dear friend and business colleague called to ask for my assistance. Dave’s wife had just been diagnosed with melanoma. An appointment at the Mayo Clinic was days away. Both his wife and he wanted to make sure her preferences for care were clearly defined. In the event a treatment decision was required—and she was unable to communicate her wishes—Dave wanted to be sure he was honoring her choices.

Dave’s family Summer 2014

Today I received an email from another friend telling me she was being discharged from the hospital after a radical hysterectomy. The words “stage IV” cancer took my breath away. This is her second journey with cancer.

None of us knows what might befall us. Life happens—but denial is not an effective strategy. Proactive preparation for future healthcare decisions can protect your family’s peace, sparing those you love from arguing over your care.

Answering three key questions will open the door to important end-of-life conversations with your loved ones.


Who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself?

If you are unable to make or communicate your treatment and care preferences, who will make the decisions on your behalf? Choose your healthcare agents wisely. Your agents are the people you select to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot communicate your wishes.

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All too often, healthcare agents are chosen by tradition. A husband assumes his wife will be prepared to make the healthcare decisions that honor his wishes. A widower assumes his eldest son will lead his siblings to consensus regarding the best treatment option for his care.

But what if a spouse is unwilling to let go of her beloved husband of 60 years, disregarding clear evidence that death is imminent? Or, what if the passive character of the chosen healthcare agent is overrun by the emotional dynamics between siblings, spiraling the family into bitter disputes?

 

Tip #1: Choose your healthcare agents wisely.

By understanding the responsibilities of your healthcare agent and the critical traits of an effective healthcare agent, you can choose your decision-maker(s) wisely.


How will your loved ones know what choices to make?

Assuming your loved ones will know what to do is a common, and often disastrous, mistake many people make. Even if your spouse or adult child knows you well, imagine the emotional stress they might experience if a doctor asked them to quickly make a life-or-death decision regarding your healthcare treatment. In a crisis, we are not clear thinkers. Emotions are amplified. Family dynamics are on steroids.

Tip #2: Write a healthcare directive to put your treatment preferences in writing.

A variety of tools and resources are available to help you write an effective healthcare directive that includes:

  • Clear treatment guidelines for your care,
  • Statements of values and beliefs that will support decision-makers, and
  • Expressed needs for emotional and spiritual care.

Will your loved ones be prepared to honor your wishes?

The emergency room is the worst possible place for your family to consider for the first time what your wishes are for end-of-life healthcare. In the absence of your written, clearly stated treatment preferences, disagreement over your care is not only possible—it is highly probably. Sibling battles can rage as each individual argues for what he or she believes is the best choice for Mom or Dad.

Family conflict is one of the primary reasons patients languish in Intensive Care for weeks. Loved ones who are unwilling to let go advocate for more and more treatment—hoping for a miracle—in spite of clinical evidence that the patient is actively dying.

Tip #3: Have a family meeting to share your wishes.

Openly discussing your end-of-life preferences with all of the impacted loved ones is incredibly helpful. Everyone can hear the same message. Questions can be answered. The chosen healthcare agent(s) can be identified so everyone knows who will be the ultimate decision-maker(s). Having the support and guidance of a trained facilitator, such as a social worker, therapist, or nurse, is worthy of consideration.

Together, you and your family can prepare for a future medical emergency. Choose your healthcare agents wisely. Clearly document your wishes. Have a family meeting to communicate your wishes. You—and those you love—can have peace of mind.


About the author:

UntitledSpeaker, author and blogger Anne Elizabeth Denny educates, inspires and equips families to share meaningful conversations about end-of-life healthcare choices. Anne graduated from the University of Notre Dame. She has served as a business consultant in the healthcare industry since 1995. Anne’s professional and personal experiences inspired her to write her book My Voice, My Choice: A Practical Guide to Writing a Meaningful Healthcare Directive, create her blog, and develop healthcare directive software for healthcare delivery systems. Most of all, Anne loves to share motivational presentations to make end-of-life healthcare planning approachable for everyone.

 

Get into the Spirit of Spirit! As we approach the holiday season, I invite you to join me in slowing down, in appreciating what’s in front of us in each moment, to paying close attention to those significant relationships in our lives, and to connecting with our spirit—what never goes away!

I love this time because I feel more connected to myself, to others, and to the world. If you think about what spirit is, it’s what we came into this world with—naked! And it’s what we’ll leave with as well. No matter how successful (or not!) we are on this earth, our spirit won’t judge us. And best, it won’t leave us! It’s ever present. And it contains that SPARK of something special that we can never truly put our finger on, but we know we have it, and we know we’re lucky for having it!

This time of year is a great time to soften our intensity. To be reflective. To be grateful. To be giving. To be LOVE. And it’s a great time to connect with our SPARK to light things up for our new year.

As part of my Journey to Wellbeing program, which is wrapping up it’s 3rd month, we are now working on TWO things:

  1. Becoming clear of any deeply held thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve us. We are allowing them to rise to the surface. We are acknowledging them. Thanking them for their service, and we’re bidding them adieu!
  2. Choosing ONE overarching Intention for our New Year. It’s not a goal to achieve. It’s not an item on a checklist. It is a new Thought. A new Belief. A powerful, authentic, and empowering Feeling that will GUIDE our decisions and the small, yet effective steps that will take us to our destination.

I invite you to join us and do the same! What’s that one thought you need to get rid of and kick to the curb? What’s that inspiring intention that will be the tipping point for all that you do in 2015? Please share them with me in our comments section below, or on Facebook.

My husband may kill me for this, but I want to share a story that I feel will help all of us get into the SPIRIT of our SPIRIT! Here it goes…

When my husband was a boy he had a lot of energy (that’s the nicest way to describe it! LOL!). In fact, there were very few things his parents could do to calm him and get him to sit still and/or rest. In fact, he usually just collapsed at the end of the day, falling asleep in unusual places, like chairs, or under tables, etc. BUT, the one thing that did calm him—in fact it mesmerized him, was sitting in front of the Christmas tree and staring at the lights! Who knows what thoughts he was thinking. Who knows why it calmed him. But, I’d love think that in those mindful moments, he was at peace; at one with his SPIRIT.

So why not try it out for yourself? Whether it’s a Christmas tree, or a menorah, or a child playing in the snow. Indulge in the simple things of the season and just BE with WHO YOU ARE. With what is unchanging.

With SPARK,

Monique