Pause and Reflect With Powerful Questions

Photo credit: Glenn-Carson Peters, unsplash.com

Photo credit: Glenn Carsten-Peters, unsplash.com

Happy New Year, and welcome to a year of possibilities. Regardless of how 2017 ended for you, the benefit of turning that calendar page to a new year is that you have an entire year ahead of you, ready for planning and action. Here are a series of questions to keep you focused and engaged in making 2018 a productive and meaningful year for you.

First, Take a Brief Look Back

While it’s not often healthy to dwell in the past, it is helpful to take stock and summarize how the past year went for you.

What were the high points of the year?

What did you do extremely well?

In what areas did you exceed your own expectations?

Did you meet or exceed your goals?

What were the top three lessons you learned from your experiences? (Include both career and life experiences)

Who provided you with valuable mentoring or coaching expertise and guidance?

If you could use one word to sum up 2017 for you, what word would it be?

Now, Look at This Moment Only

After you have reflected on the year that has just passed, now turn your attention to this moment…right now, today. Don’t even look at or think about tomorrow yet. Answer a few simple questions:

How are you feeling about yourself, your life, right now? (Good? Not so good? Not sure?)

If you could choose to do anything at this very moment, what would it be? (Is it something you usually do or rarely do?)

What are you most grateful for today? (Do you feel this way every day? Sometimes? Never?)

What person(s) are you coming into contact with today, and why? (Are there positive or negative feelings attached to that person/those people?)

In what way are you living your core values today?

What one word best describes your attitude today?

Last, Take a Look Ahead

Good for you. You have summarized the past year. You have taken a moment to value and appreciate how you’re feeling today. Now the fun begins…the future! The thing about life is, even if you have planned out everything in the finest detail, there are going to be unexpected twists, turns and events that can postpone or sidetrack your goals. How resilient or flexible will you be when that happens? How long will it take for you to get back on track?

Looking out across the next 12 months, what is the one big goal that you want to achieve this year?

If you took that big goal and divided it into 12 smaller chunks (by month), what would your plan look like?

Example: If your goal is to write a book (which is a big goal; I speak from experience), then what steps do you need to take between now (no book) to then (finished product in your hands)?

What resources will you need to accomplish your goals?

What mentoring or coaching services would you need to help you meet your goals?

Looking at December, 2018, if you were to look back on the year that has just passed, what would you like to say about your accomplishments?

I hope these questions have helped you to put into perspective the year that just passed, where you are today, and where you would like to be in 2018. May it be one of your best years ever.

Give of Yourself This Giving Tuesday

#GT_logo2013-final copy small

Black Friday has come and gone. Cyber Monday sales are over. And the numbers are in. Drum roll, please. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online retail sales totaled $13 billion. Yes, that’s with a b. Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is designed to remind us that amidst the rush of holiday spending, we must also remember that in every community, there are people in need who need our support. Here are some thoughts on how you can participate in this global giving event:

Set aside funds for charity. Let’s say that between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you spent $1,000 on gifts for your family and friends (and you know there were a few purchases for yourself too). If you took just 10% of what you spent and gave that $100 to charitable organizations, you could make a difference in other people’s lives. (Could you imagine what it would be like if charitable organizations benefited from this 10% philosophy? Ten percent of $13 billion in retail sales equals $1.3 billion to nonprofit organizations. Wow. Imagine what we could do if we adopted this 10% philosophy.)

Think small, dream big. Within the nooks and crannies of communities are smaller, lesser known nonprofit organizations that achieve great things for the underserved, usually because the organizations don’t have as much overhead. Do some research and find those organizations in your community.

Give a little. If your funds are tight this year and you don’t have as much to give, then give a dollar or two. Do you realize that you can feed one hungry person an entire meal for about a dollar?

Volunteer. Beyond financial donations, charitable organizations benefit from hands-on help from ordinary people like you and me. Tasks can include serving meals, delivering food baskets, cleaning up properties, teaching people to read, or visiting the elderly. Organizations like Volunteer Match offer volunteer opportunities in more than 100,000 communities worldwide.

Let others inspire you. If you need to be inspired to volunteer, then review this year’s CNN Heroes list for consideration. The stories of unconditional love and a passion to serve will inspire you.

Be a positive role model. If you have children in your household, in your neighborhood, or in your workplace, teach them to care about others at an early age. Let them see you in action volunteering and helping others who may be less fortunate. Seeing is believing. You will inspire them to serve.

How are you celebrating Giving Tuesday? What one thing can you do to help others?

Get up-to-the-minute news posts by following Giving Tuesday on Twitter at @GivingTues.

Responsibility Needs an Overhaul

responsibilityWho are you responsible for or to? Well, first of all, you are responsible for yourself…specifically your actions and behavior. You also may be responsible for your family, for your work team, and you may even take responsibility for your community and beyond.
 
Just how responsible do you feel to others? You may think “It depends.”
 
The news recently of yet another case of sexual harassment – this time with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein – got me thinking. Do we as employers, leaders, bosses, or co-workers have any responsibility for shedding light on sexual harassment when it doesn’t “involve” or “impact” us? Unfortunately, people don’t want to get involved because they figure it’s not “their” problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every one of us is responsible to get actively involved in stopping this pervasive societal problem.
 
Most company employee manuals contain a section on inappropriate behavior in the workplace and even more specific retribution for sexual harassment. As we have learned through some national media examples, even for some companies who do have it in writing, those rules can still be violated, and the perpetrator’s actions are often quietly tolerated and ignored.
 
Specific language, whether verbal or nonverbal, provides context and meaning when it comes to sexual harassment. For example, there is a difference between a man telling a female co-worker, “You look great” and “Wow, that dress really shows off all of your curves, and in just the right places too.” And if the latter statement is accompanied by any physical contact, that’s sexual harassment.
 
If you see it, if you hear it, or if you experience it, then take responsibility and give voice to it. Don’t be silent. Nothing is more painful than hearing someone say “We all knew how he was.” Sorry. That answer just isn’t good enough. If inappropriate behavior is happening, people need to say or do something. Perpetrators may think their comments are innocent or no big deal. They may believe there is nothing wrong with making lewd comments. It’s time to educate people.
 
Some of my colleagues and friends have shared their personal experiences with sexual harassment by joining the #MeToo and #MeToo Men movements on Twitter and Facebook. The volumes of posted comments demonstrate that this remains a problem in our society, and it can no longer be tolerated. It’s not just women who are harassed; men are sexually harassed too. An excellent article from United Nations Women (UN Women) calls for men getting involved in speaking out in sexual crimes against women.
 
So the next time you pause, hesitate, or question if you should address the issue or have a confidential talk with another person, remind youreself that you have the power to shut down sexual harassment. Your stepping forward could save innocent people from becoming victims.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Get Involved in Make A Difference Day

DLPk7ggWAAAjC08.jpg-largeSaturday, October 28, 2017, is Make A Difference Day. Twitter: #MDDay. This event is one of the largest single days of service across the country. Projects range from cleaning up public parks and building homes to serving meals to the needy. The annual event began in 1992, sponsored by TEGNA, Inc. with the support of Arby’s Foundation and Points of Light.

You can either start a project or volunteer for a project that is already organized. Find a project in your community here from the Make A Difference website. When I searched for events in my zip code, I discovered 20 projects that are happening in my area, from park clean-up and reading to underprivileged children to building an inner-city garden hoop house and knitting warm scarves and mittens for the homeless. Also, check your local television stations, radio stations, public libraries, schools, park systems, or nonprofit organizations to find projects right in your community. Or if you are feeling ambitious and want to travel out-of-state, participate in a larger scale project or historic site preservation. You will feel inspired when you read the stories about the 2016 project awards.

Beyond this one national day of service, consider simple things that you can do to be of service to others every day.

At the end of the day today, take a few minutes to pause and reflect on what difference you have made – in the lives of people who you have touched or in your community. When you invest that time in assessing your impact on the world around you, you will value and appreciate your many contributions. You will feel great pride in what you do. You will inspire and motivate others to do more.

First, it begins with you. Take care of yourself and your health so that you can continue your good work. What did you do for yourself today that made you feel good about yourself? Did you start your day with nutritious food? Did you walk a few laps around your neighborhood to improve your stamina?

What did you do for others today that brought you joy? It could be something simple like packing a note in your child’s lunch, or involving a neighborhood in creating a delicious meal together. Did you open the door for a disabled person at the office? Did you help an elderly person carry her food tray to her table? Did you stop and visit a friend or relative who lives alone and enjoys your companionship? Did you give someone a chance to lead others because you believe in that person?

What did you do for your community today that made a difference? Did you bring your talents to a nonprofit organization’s board? Did you help to make an important decision that will have a positive impact on your community? Did you volunteer at a local fundraising event? Did you help build a home for a family in need?

If you want to invest more time in making a difference, then focus on that outcome. When you choose to do more for others, to make someone else’s life more comfortable, or to make your community a better place, the opportunities will come to you. You can also bring your own big ideas into fruition. Anything is possible when you have a strong desire to make positive change a habit.

Find Joy in Serving Others

HelpingHands2One of the greatest pleasures you can get out of life is being completely selfless — thinking of others before you think of yourself. It doesn’t require much effort…just a little.

On a hot summer day more than a decade ago, my husband and I attended a local art festival. Did I mention that it was a hot day? It was about 90 degrees. After an hour of walking in the heat, I needed something to quench my thirst. The iced cold beverages were flying out of the vendors’ coolers and I decided to buy one. As I stood in line, a woman in a wheelchair was ahead of me. She asked the vendor how much the water was. “One dollar,” he replied. “Oh, I don’t have a dollar with me,” said the woman. The man said he was sorry but the water cost one dollar.

That’s when I decided that I would buy this woman a bottle of water. After I made my purchase, I walked over to the woman and handed her the bottle. “Here is some water for you,” I said. She looked at me in disbelief. Surely she was mistaken. Why would a total stranger present her with a bottle of cold water? “What?” she asked. “I overhead you say that you wanted some water. Here’s some water for you,” I said again. She extended her arms up and pulled me down to her to give me a hug. She began to cry. She said, “God bless you! Thank you. I was just released from the hospital this morning and I don’t have any money with me. I’m so hot and thirsty. Thank you so much.” Giving water to that woman was the high point of my day. I have a feeling my act of kindness was the high point of her day.

Think of the people around you — at work or at home — who may be struggling, frustrated, or simply confused. Your word of encouragement, act of kindness, or generosity of time can change their outlook. What can you share with them?

Sometimes you have to trust your intuition and do what your heart, not your mind, wants to do. When you see someone in need, ask yourself how you could help. You, too, could make someone’s day. Wonderful surprises await you. Ask yourself every morning, “Who can I help today?” At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Who did I help today?” It only takes a minute or two. Soon, serving others will become so natural for you, you will do it without thinking.

©Christine Zust

At Penzeys Spices, Kindness Rules

KindPinI have never met Bill, yet, I look forward to receiving and reading his frequent emails. He is one person who is changing the world one email at a time.

You see, Bill is the CEO of Penzeys Spices, a purveyor of herbs, spices and all things gastronomic. Not only is he passionate about cooking; he is passionate about being kind to others.

Bill is not your average CEO. He is way above average, a CEO who understands what it means to pay it forward. I wish more company leaders provided an environment of love, support, and kindness. Imagine the level of true prosperity that we could experience as a society.

Being a fan of Penzeys Spices, I – like many smart gourmandes – signed up for the email list for free spices, offers, recipes, and other goodies. What I received in return was a newly-acquired taste for goodness. I’m not talking about just gourmet goodness…I’m talking about simple human goodness.

Bill is a good guy. The goodness he shares comes from his world view, his spirit, and his written word which appears in Penzeys Spices emails.

The one email that got my attention was Bill’s offer to send a free Kind pin (pictured within this article) to anyone who marched in The Women’s March on Saturday, January 21, 2017. As you recall, this national spirited March attracted unprecedented numbers of women, men, and children in Washington, D.C. who had a strong desire to share their voices with the world. And this March happened not just in cities across the United States; it happened globally, in cities around the world. The voices of the masses shared positive messages of hope, compassion, joy, love, understanding, peace, acceptance, and kindness.

In return for the free Kind pin, Bill requested that marchers share their personal stories of why they marched, and any kindness that they experienced or witnessed that day. In an email, Bill said, “I believe history will show just how important The Women’s March was, and just how great of a debt we owe those who Marched. Their humanity, kindness, and strength were just the reminder we needed of what really makes America great, at the very moment we so desperately needed to be reminded.” In total, Penzeys Spices shipped 174,139 free Kind pins to people who participated in The Women’s March.

What Bill – and Penzeys Spices – did through his generosity and act of kindness was to remind us that true change begins with one simple idea that is put into action. Thank you, Bill, for being a positive role model and inspiring others.

What type of change do you want to initiate? Get started today!

Photo credit: Christine Zust

Without Art, There Is No Humanity

Pictured: Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre. Photo by Steve Wagner.

Art is an essential part of my life. It enhances my well-being. You may be the kind of person who values access to community programs that offer music, dance or theatre performances, literary readings, or lectures on philosophy or history. Without art, there is no humanity. Without humanity, hope is compromised.

I was introduced to the arts at a very early age. My mother, a gifted singer, played piano and sang to me in our living room to keep me occupied before I was old enough to go to school. She also acted in our local community theater for many years. I have fond memories of sitting in the back of that community theater, watching my mom in rehearsals. I continued that love of artistic expression into adulthood, and served on the board of directors for several small arts organizations. Today, I remain a dedicated arts patron.

Every nonprofit arts organization relies on some form of public funding to bring its creative and brilliantly produced programs to the community. Currently, several important cultural institutions are being threatened: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). As independent agencies of the U. S. Federal government, the NEA and NEH were established through the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, which was enacted by Congress.

The NEA supports arts programming in the areas of accessibility, dance, international arts, media arts, musical theater and theater, visual arts, design, literature, museums, opera, arts education, folk and traditional arts, and music.

“What are the humanities?” you may ask. The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, as amended, explains:

“The term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 is also under scrutiny. CPB provides funding assistance to more than 1,500 public radio and television stations across the country. Programs provide rich educational, historical, and entertainment content.

Funding for these three essential organizations is less than $750 Million. To put things into perspective, proposed U.S. military spending is expected to increase by 10%, equivalent to a $54 Billion hike. That’s with a B, and that’s just the increase.

Where would our American society be without the arts and humanities? The value that these three organizations provide to citizens is unparalleled. Millions of underprivileged children have benefited from after-school arts programs. Senior citizens on fixed incomes have tuned into interviews with thought leaders and listened to great performances. Families have enjoyed free community performances.

Consider how your life (and the lives of your family, your children), has been enriched by programming in the arts and humanities. Now think about how the lives of future generations will be affected if these vital organizations disappear. Take a moment to join the fight to retain the NEA, the NEH and the CPB. It only takes a moment.

#NEHMatters

#NEAMatters

#CPBMatters

#SavetheNEH

#SavetheNEA

#SavetheCPB

@NEHgov

@CPBMedia

@ClevelandPublicTheatre

Women’s Voices Are Significant to the World

iwd-logomain2Today marks International Women’s Day, one day each year that celebrates the “social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” This year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Take a moment to honor and recognize the women who have served as positive role models in your life, who have inspired and motivated you, and who have bravely charted new territory as pathfinders.

Now imagine your life without them. Oh, wait a minute. You wouldn’t be here if not for a woman! This message is being reinforced by leaders of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. They are encouraging women to participate in A Day Without A Woman on this International Women’s Day by not spending any money (or alternatively supporting women- and minority-owned businesses)  and by not engaging in any work.

Think about all of the women who have encouraged and inspired you. Mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. Daughters. Granddaughters. Great-granddaughters. Sisters-in-law. Mothers-in-law. Teachers. Bosses. Co-workers. Neighbors. Religious leaders. Shop owners. Community leaders. Political leaders. Friends.

I for one would not be the person I am today were it not for the courageous, intelligent, fearless women who came before me.

On this day, I honor my maternal grandmother who emigrated from Poland to begin a new life in America. She spoke no English when she arrived at Ellis Island. As a wife and mother, she ran a large household (with seven children) on a small stipend. Her values of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice were passed on to her children.

My 96-year-old mother continues to inspire me every day. I have enjoyed many lengthy conversations with her over the years, listening to her life story, and understanding her remarkable life as a first generation American. It took her ten years to work her way through college to receive her first degree – at the age of 47. At the age of 80, she received her second college degree. Although she could have audited classes for free as a senior citizen, she preferred to pay for every class so she could earn a degree.

Many women have inspired me from afar. The list is too long to include all of them here, yet, a few stand out…women of all ages and backgrounds:

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem

 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou

 

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

Tina Fey

 

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai

 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa

 

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” Amelia Earhart

 

“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” Barbara Walters

Now more than ever, women’s voices must be heard. We are economic decision makers, leaders in education, innovators in science and technology, entrepreneurs, and nurturers of the human family. Our inclusive and collaborative style leads to positive change. A quick review of Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s 100 Most Influential Women” will remind you of the capabilities and accomplishments of women.

At some point today, pause for a moment, and silently thank the women who have encouraged, supported, and inspired you. Or better yet, pick up the phone and call them!

Follow more activity on:

#InternationalWomensDay

#BeBoldForChange

#ADayWithoutAWoman

Step Away From the Circus

not-my-circusYou may think that drama plays out only on the movie screen or theatre stage. Not so. Look around you, in your work environment or personal life, and it’s there, disguised yet still visible to the keen eye. People “performing” as stellar showstoppers, pulling everyone in their path into their dramatic vortex. If you’re not careful, you may disappear into the darkness never to be seen again.

I came across a graphic phrase that – to me – puts things into great perspective. The sentiment is spot on.

Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Brilliant! Little did I know that this is a Polish phrase (I am a Polish American). I have shared this saying with colleagues and friends who are overwhelmed by the emotional clutter in their lives. Here are a few tips on controlling your involvement in someone else’s drama:

Listen without judgment. Simply hear what the other person is saying. Ask questions for clarification if you need to.

Separate the drama from the content. What is the person’s emotional connection to the content? Anger? Frustration? Pain? Hurt? Anguish? What is the primary message being shared?

Determine your role. What is it exactly that the other person wants from you? Is it simply to hear her voice/opinion? Is there an expectation that you will guide, offer advice or suggest a solution?

Remain objective. Drama divas love to get you worked up to their same emotional level. Remain clear-headed and objective, asking, What does this person want from me? What is the point? How (if at all) can I help?

It’s not your circus. You are not the ringmaster. You are simply an observer. If you find yourself being sucked into the circus, consider the price of admission. There are no free circuses.

If it’s gossip, step away. Nothing breaks down fruitful relationships faster than gossip. Especially in the workplace, do not get pulled into the drama of gossip. It serves no purpose and is a waste of your valuable time.

Make a referral. If you are not the person to offer guidance or assistance, refer the person to a better qualified professional. On-staff psychologist or counselor? Human resource professional who knows company policies? A religious leader to offer spiritual guidance?

Be proactive and create parameters if you’re stuck in the circus. I know what you’re thinking. What if it’s my boss’s circus? How can I escape? Be proactive and create parameters so that you can remain sane in your work environment. Develop a system of handling the drama that works for you. The other option, of course, is exiting the tent.

Imagine putting on your invisible armor every morning, a T-shirt with the words “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” With laser sharp focus and determination, walk into every situation “mentally” wearing your T-shirt. Let it protect you from the drama divas. Remain objective and nonjudgmental as you enjoy your day that is fabulous, trouble-free and drama-less.

 © Christine Zust 

This article first appeared in my monthly newsletter, Q Tips. If you would like to subscribe to this free e-newsletter, click here.

Out With the Old Goals, In With the New

2017-1It’s that time of year again…time to review the year that is ending and plan for the new year that is about to begin. The last week of December is an excellent time to take stock of professional goals and achievements. The review begins with a few simple questions:

For 2016: Goals/Achievements

What were your top professional goals this year?

What were your greatest achievements? (list as many achievements as you like)

Which achievement are you most proud of? Why?

What was the greatest lesson you learned? In what way are you applying that learning to your career?

For 2016: Unachieved Goals

What goals did not get completed? Why?

Will any of these unachieved goals move into 2017? Where do they fit in your priorities?

For 2017: Goals

What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

What are your top goals?

What skill(s) do you want to improve or add? In what way will that skill help to advance your career?

How will you reward yourself when you achieve your goals?

Paying It Forward

In what way will you help others achieve their goals? (Will you serve as a mentor or coach? Will you help to develop an initiative for young leaders within your company?)

How will you recognize or reward others for exceptional work?

In what way will you help to create an open, supportive environment at work?

Taking the time to answer these simple questions is time well invested. By reflecting on your achievements for 2016 and focusing on goals for 2017, you will enter the new year with a fresh perspective on the work that lies ahead. If you like the process, ask these questions at the end of each quarter as you prepare for the next. By the end of 2017, you will be so used to the process, you will be ready for another new year. Who knows? In a year, you may be even further ahead in your career than you anticipated!