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.

Winter Solstice Celebrates Darkness and Light

 

Photo credit: Ben White, unsplash.com

Photo credit: Ben White, unsplash.com

I never paid attention to any of the Solstice events when I was growing up. I just knew that in the Summer, the sun stayed out later so we could play longer, and in the Winter months, we somehow adjusted to the darkness.

Now that I am older and wiser, I have discovered that the Winter Solstice isn’t just about being the year’s shortest day and extended darkness. It’s about light, in the fact that the date, December 21, represents a season of the beginning of more light, adding about a minute each day or two to our evening light, leading us towards Spring. Does that help you to feel more hopeful? Visit the Sunrise Sunset website to see the daily calendar for your city.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, which often includes shopping for that perfect gift, planning the perfect family meal, or baking favorite holiday treats, the Solstice is a perfect time to simply be in nature. When you feel like things are spinning out of control right before the holidays, take a moment to return to the rhythm of nature to clear your head.

The natural world offers its own timelessness that you can get lost in, observing subtle changes in the weather, listening to the sounds of nature, or experiencing the smallest change, like feeling the breeze touching your face.

If your body is feeling lethargic from too much good food or mounds of sugary sweets, put on your walking shoes, go out into a local park or nature preserve, and take a stroll. Not only will it make you feel better physically, it will melt away any emotional unrest. You will feel much better equipped to handle anything that comes your way at holiday socials or family events.

Celebrating International Day of Peace Raises Our Collective Conscience

International_Peace_Day_logo

United Nations symbol for International Day of Peace

September 21 marks the International Day of Peace, a recognition that promotes  peace around the world in countries, cities, and communities. The 2017 theme  is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An event map indicates where events are being held around the world, including meditation, music, marches, and other events.

Put into action in 1981 by a United Nations Resolution, and celebrated for the first time a year later, the International Day of Peace reminds us all to bring peace into our lives, whether here at home or abroad. The International Day of Peace uses education as a means to encourage peaceful co-existence and safe, open dialogue as a means of understanding.

Some of us are more removed from speaking out for peace because our lives seem rather “peaceful” as they are. Yet for millions of people of all cultures, genders, ages, and economic classes around the world, they have only known war; they have not experienced peace.

When we consider war, we may think that battles are only fought with destructive weapons and artillery force. Yet, some people experience a war of a different kind as they try to simply live their lives as best they can. A war of words can be a form of abuse. A war-torn body can show signs of a domestic dispute and physical abuse. Belittling another human being can leave scars of emotional abuse.

Within families, wars are fought too, with relatives often choosing sides, deciding whom they will defend. Within companies, wars among departments or staff can occur when judgment and ego get in the way of collaboration and cooperation.

How are you making peace within your world? Are you encouraging those around you to share their thoughts and opinions through open dialogue? Are you trying to look at challenges and disputes, then identifying potential solutions? To make the world a better place begins with one person: You.

The United Nations has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to improve the lives of every person on the planet, which include:

1.   No poverty.

2.   Zero hunger.

3.   Good health and well-being.

4.   Quality education.

5.   Gender equality.

6.   Clean water and sanitation.

7.   Affordable and clean energy.

8.   Decent work and economic growth.

9.   Industry, innovation and infrastructure.

10. Reduced inequalities.

11. Sustainable cities and communities.

12. Responsible consumption and production.

13. Climate action.

14. Life below water.

15. Life on land.

16. Peace, justice and strong institutions.

17. Partnerships for the goals.

As you consider your contributions to your community and the world, what goals are you working on every day to create a better life for all? Peruse The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World, compiled by the United Nations, and you will find many simple tasks that you can complete easily. Share it with co-workers. Create a conversation. Take action.

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

United We Stand, United We Fall: A Lesson in Brand Ambassadorship

united.com

united.com

As a professional, your actions represent not only you…they also represent your company. You are a brand ambassador when you work with customers, speak at a national conference, or volunteer in the community. You are the brand, and all it stands for. You are the face of the company. One false move, like bad behavior, can stunt or end career success.

The recent United Airlines debacle demonstrated that actions speak volumes about who you are and what you value.

The United Airlines Flight 3711 incident, which occurred on Sunday, April 2, has been reported, analyzed and picked apart by the media, bloggers and regular folks like you and me. Here’s what happened: The flight was fully booked, and passengers were already seated. One passenger, Dr. David Dao, had been asked to relinquish his seat (which he had paid for) to make room for a United employee. He refused. As a result, Chicago Department of Aviation officers swooped in with brut force, handcuffed and carted Dr. Dao off the plane. In the process, his nose and a few teeth were broken. A video captured by another passenger immediately went viral. The rest, as they say, is history. In fact, it was an historic event.

It didn’t have to be this way. A moment of thought before taking an action would have resulted in an entirely different outcome…a more positive one…for everyone involved.

Days later, top headlines are still trending:

Newsweek: Why United Was Legally Wrong to Deplane David Dao

NBC News: United CEO: Doctor being dragged off plane was ‘watershed moment’

What would a good brand ambassador do? Here are a few thoughts:

Know what your brand stands for. Your brand is that one thing that represents who you are and what you stand for. First, United’s brand begins with its name, United. That one word creates a larger-than-life image of the company. What does United stand for? Second, you may or may not remember United Airlines’ famous tagline, “Fly the friendly skies.” Because of the brut force that was used to remove Dr. Dao from his seat, one might question, “Is United really friendly?” If United’s thought leaders had really, well, thought about this, they may have come to the conclusion that the action that was being considered didn’t fit with the United brand. But things didn’t play out that way. Every employee of United is a brand ambassador for the airline. And every employee of the Chicago Department of Aviation serves as a brand ambassador for the organization.

Do the right thing. Consider the public’s reaction once the video went viral. It was clear that everyone agreed that the situation was not handled properly. We have all been in situations where our gut screamed out to us “Don’t do it!!!!!” Yet, we ended up not listening to our intuition and lived to regret our poor choice. When your conscience speaks, listen.

If protocol is flawed, pitch it. “I was just following protocol” is not a good enough reason. Sure, United Airlines had a policy. All airlines have policies, procedures and protocol. Sometimes you need to look at protocol, look at the situation, consider the outcome, and ask if the protocol fits the situation and if the outcome is one you desire. If things don’t add up, it’s time to re-examine the protocol or throw it out completely in that situation. The incident has resulted in United Airlines changing its policy.

Take quick, responsible action. The leadership at United Airlines first offered a boilerplate response to the media, saying they were examining what had happened before commenting. A few days later, United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized and took full responsibility. This was too little too late. Two days after the incident, United’s stock had fallen by 4%, roughly $1.5 billion. Although the stock has regained some of its strength, United will carry this ding on its record forever.

Be strategic. In my workshops, I remind people how important it is to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the marketplace. Technology makes it so easy to do. If you want to get ahead in your career, you have to stay ahead of the competition. A change in the airline industry began shortly after the United Airlines incident. A CBS News headline says it all: “Three airlines change policies in wake of United’s passenger dragging incident.”

Build a culture of respect and compassion. You will never find yourself in an awkward situation or have to apologize for bad behavior if you treat every person that you meet with respect and compassion. More people recognize  that this is the best way to move forward together.

The United Airlines incident is already becoming an important case study for business schools, communication scholars, human resource professionals and enforcement officers. Hopefully this is one case where we will learn from mistakes and bring about positive change as brand ambassadors.

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

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!

Media Fasting Keeps Overactive, Multitasking Minds Healthy

A mare greets the morning sun at Assateague Island State Park, MD

A mare greets the morning sun at Assateague Island State Park, MD

The sound of ocean waves lulls me to sleep as I nap on the beach of Assateague Island, Maryland. That’s how much of my vacation was spent last week. Assateague is a magical place, with miles of walkable beaches, stunning sunrises, and wild horses.

Wouldn’t it be nice to experience that soothing sound rather than listening to the chatter in my head? Always brimming with ideas, thinking of tasks to get done, staying connected, and if I’m lucky, planning to go more places.

Last week, I didn’t post my usual weekly blog because I was on vacation. I didn’t take a computer with me. I didn’t read any emails. I didn’t return any calls. All of my clients knew I was on vacation, as did my friends and family. For the frequent robo-calls I usually receive, I didn’t miss hearing their impersonal, electronic voices.

It felt so freeing, to wake up every morning without a To Do List staring at me, without having to check to see if I received any texts. Honestly, I felt like I was living back in the Twentieth Century. It was such a liberating feeling!

My media fast lasted exactly one week – Sunday through Saturday. Gone was my daily routine of turning on my computer, checking email and social media posts. Guess what? I didn’t miss any of it. Instead, my new daily routine consisted of waking up earlier, watching the sunrise, walking the beach and collecting sea shells. Then came the coffee and breakfast. And later, seafood, of course. The day simply unfolded. No checklists. No stress.

My priorities completely shifted. Usually my leisure time takes a back seat to work priorities. It was a nice change of pace to do exactly the opposite. My leisure time needs came first.

My husband and I returned from our vacation relaxed and refreshed. I doubt that we would have had the same result if we had remained completely plugged in throughout the week.

If you’re not sure if a media fast could work for you, think about its potential positive effects on your health. One study suggests that reducing the amount of light emitted from electronic devices before bedtime could result in a better night’s sleep. That means don’t view your computer, your mobile device or television right before retiring. Try this and see how you sleep.

Even when you’re not vacationing, you can still enjoy a mini media fast. Consider starting on a weekend with, say, an hour at first, then expand to two or three hours, and perhaps a full day without media. You could also choose to fast from just one source of connection, like Facebook or your favorite online news source, like MSNBC. Notice how you feel after fasting. You may experience feeling more connected…to yourself and the people around you.

The Power of Unified Silence

CircleBannerOn Sunday, July 17, 2016, on the eve of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, I witnessed the power of unified silence by participating in Circle the City With Love, a 30-minute silent “stand” to show the world that with peace, love and unity, anything is possible. Standing with me was my husband, Mark, my sister Marianne and my brother-in-law Gene. Circle the City With Love was the idea of Sister Rita Petruziello, executive director of River’s Edge, a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph on Cleveland’s west side.

People from all walks of life, representing diversity in age, race, religion, lifestyle, economic background, and gender, joined hands as a sign of solidarity in bringing the Circle the City With Love message to the community, the nation, and the world. More than 2,000 people spanned the Hope Memorial Bridge, forming two lines across the historic 4,490-foot bridge. A group of about 30 police officers on bicycles received cheers of support and thank you’s from the crowd as they rode across the bridge.

SrRitaPetruziello

Sister Rita Petruziello

When the fog horn blew, indicating that the 30 minutes of silence had begun, people became quiet immediately. I found myself fully present and aware of every environmental sound and sensation, the breeze, the heat of the sun on my shoulders, the din of distant traffic. Within moments, I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I experienced firsthand the power of purposeful silence. I wasn’t distracted by my usual “monkey mind” which is quite active, thinking of things to do. Rather, my mind was relaxed and at peace, joyfully demonstrating solidarity, unity, peace, compassion, love, and hope in action.

When the fog horn sounded to indicate the end of the stand, strangers embraced, hugged, shook hands, chatted a bit, and then went on with the rest of their day. Donning our Circle the City With Love t-shirts allowed us to identify our community anywhere in the city for the rest of the day. We didn’t have to say a word, just simply nod, sending a nonverbal cue that we shared a common purpose.

-8a5c2ebe922493b7Just one day prior, I had listened to Day 6 of Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey’s free 21-day meditation series, Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life. The message for that day was You Deserve More Than Second-Hand Experiences. A first-hand experience is one that you create for yourself, one that no one else can demand of you, one that reminds you, as Deepak suggests, that “I am the author of my day.”

For me, the Circle the City With Love experience was a powerful, memorable first-hand experience. As a result, I am challenging myself to create more first-hand experiences that expand my perspective and worldview.

When you live a purposeful life, you gain more from it. As Henry David Thoreau said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

How are you rising above and becoming the author of your day?

Images: Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com.