Can You Beat Burnout to Keep Your Focus?

When you think of a person who is ‘burned out’ you probably get a pretty clear view of them. Showing all the typical symptoms of burnout like exhaustion, frustration, a general sense of being at the end of their rope most of the time. The person used to have passion, be excited for the day ahead but now seems like they can’t get going even on things that used to light them up. We can spot it in others a mile away but when it is happening to us we’re typically deep into it before we recognize it in ourselves. How do you handle it then? If you’re not recognizing it for yourself until you’re already there, how do you come out of it? Once you’re burnt out are you just done, does that mean you quit and move on to something, or somewhere, else? I was Googling a little and found the suggestion that if you get to the point that you are snappy with co-workers due to burn out it is likely time to leave. OK. I would be willing to bet that for many, seeing the look on a co-worker’s face or the surprise in their voice at our tone might be the first indication to our level of burnout at work. So maybe that is true sometimes, but seriously you can’t just quit every time you’re frustrated and made a snippy comment, you’d go through all the jobs out there. You need a few of those facepalm, did I really just say that moments, to build your own perseverance and grit to get through the next painful moment. Your burnout might be a training ground for something bigger.

Let’s use one of my own facepalm moments in the course of burnout a few years ago as an example of how not to handle this. To set the stage I was about a year into a role that I felt like I was growing out of. I had learned a ton, was doing well, and wanted a new challenge. There were a few parts of the job that used to feel shiny and exciting and now felt like lipstick on a pig and drudgery to get through. I spent a ton of time attending meetings on these new lipstick topics but there were other’s that were eat, sleep, and breathing it. You see, we were talking about building an entirely new system to process all of our work in. This is a huge undertaking it takes years and we had had more false starts than I could count. Many of us would spend weeks working on what we were told was top priority work only to have it tossed out the moment the project stalled or went in a new direction. Then a few months later we’d get another request that felt identical but were assured was new, better, critical, and time sensitive. I was getting disillusioned by this work when I was asked to take a more inside roll. It felt like I’d be part of the game now, and I was excited but with a little distrust and side eye. I went to my first project team meeting, and it was like all of the hurry up, wait, throw that away and do this, that I had experienced in the years prior was just put on auto drive in warp speed during this meeting. Every time I opened my mouth I was talked over, corrected, told no, or just straight up ignored. I’m sure you can imagine that I sat quietly and reflected that there must be a perfectly logical reason for this, big no on that. I gave dirty looks, made comments like ‘THAT IS WHAT I JUST SAID’ and ‘Are you even hearing me?’ All while opening and shutting my laptop loudly in a meeting, to my boss, in front of their peers and other departments. I am not kidding when I say I am still embarrassed about that and I think of it whenever I see those who attended.

Super facepalm type moments in there.

So, what could I have done differently? Truly I could have just shut my mouth and quietly steamed, then confronted my boss, respectfully, later. Remember though, my snippy immature reaction is just a symptom of burnout. Let’s work on the root cause, not just the symptom. What could I have done to combat the burnout before I even got to the meeting where I lost my cool?

Plan for success. When you first jump into fulfilling work you think the excitement and motivation will carry you through, recognize that you’re wrong first of all, then build in breaks and goal points to recharge and keep you going. Now in mine you could argue that I didn’t really lose momentum, I had a bad experience that was continuing through the project. However, there will be adversity in any project or any goal you set. You need to plan so you can persevere through them. Set up you’re breaks after wins so you’re able to celebrate and then breath. It doesn’t have to be long, but something to close a chapter before diving into a new one.

Don’t lean all the way in and lose your balance. Falling off the beam is one of the key reasons people do burn out because other areas of their life start to lose traction. I could write a whole lot more here but to be honest, I already did, click here to read Maintaining Balance While Chasing the Goal.

Share the love. This one will be tough at first but I’m serious, it will help. Delegate responsibilities and for those tasks that you love most and are uniquely qualified for, train and develop others in the work. Involving others and developing them will help energize you when things are going well and provide relief (because now you’re not the only one who is qualified to do it) when you’re starting to lose motivation and momentum. You start with small things, maybe you’re the only one who ever researches from x site (give someone the link and let them watch how you use it), or you’re the one who always handles that type of call (explain the difference and how you handle bonus points for creating an SOP), or you’re the one who communicates the status (have someone ghost draft it and you review and give feedback before sending it out).

As with so many things, in avoiding burnout preparation is the key. Trying to avoid burnout (or pull yourself back from it) once you have one foot on the threshold will be much more difficult, but not impossible. Let’s revisit my story for just a second. After that meeting I apologized for my behavior and explained my frustration. My boss agreed and explained why she handled as she did. This helped me to take a ‘break’ for perspective, it was only like a day but I could close that chapter before moving to the next. Certainly, no celebration but similar effect. Then, while maintaining my balance, I involved my own stakeholders in the meetings and decisions. That way not only was I sharing the love but if I felt like my voice was being stifled in the future I could respectfully and professionally stand for them rather than my ego getting in the way.

Maintain Balance While Chasing the Goal

Can you really have any semblance of balance while you’re working hard on one specific goal? I mean, maintaining balance is hard enough when that is the goal, am I right? In the time of year when you’re just trying so hard to grow in one specific area of life or trying to become the best you can be at really anything, you start to set yourself up for life to revolve around that. Whether your goal is to lose a pile of weight, hit a financial goal by saving or investing your money, or finally get organized, you start building your calendar and your life around making that one thing happen. That’s a fine place to start right? I mean after all, if you don’t prioritize the dream you have for yourself and make time for it, you will never achieve that goal you’re after. The problem is when it becomes all consuming. The problem is when you go all in on the goal to the point that you have complete tunnel vision and other areas of your life, important areas, start to get pushed too far to the side.

Now, I can get pretty driven on a goal and that serves me well in some instances and completely backfires in others. I’m really good at seeing how well things can go if I am all in seeing how it can positively impact the overall strategy by getting this one part right. One of the clearest areas of life that this can happen for me, you guessed it, work. Again, it can often be helpful to have this mentality, until you take it too far. I know this and very actively take steps to improve myself in this area but I still get tripped up from time to time. Case in point, just a couple of years ago I had a big project, huge. One that would get me noticed if done well. A project that would really benefit my boss and his boss and her boss if I did it well. A project that would impact the bottom line of the company and be remembered, both if it went well or was an epic flop. So what did I do? I set literally everything aside. Everything. I drank way too much caffeine to keep me alert and working on it. I stopped running so that I wouldn’t ‘waste’ that 30 minutes during the day. I rarely even took time to shower. There were nights that I would take final meetings in my truck on the way to pick up my kids because the meetings were going so late that the daycare was going to close.

Then one day I told my boss I had to leave for about 90 minutes that day to see the chiropractor. He was supportive but bewildered. What did you do to your back? Nothing, I had done nothing ‘to my back’. He told me, Your health comes first, go to the appointment and we’ll work more on this when you’re back this afternoon. The chiro found nothing wrong with my back and really said that there wasn’t much he could do for me. He asked if there was anything that gave me relief and, there was. The funny thing was that there was one healthy habit I held to and while I was doing that my back didn’t hurt. I had managed to continue through the duration of the project to walk every morning. I forced myself to get out of bed early enough to walk on the treadmill 1 mile before I started work on anything else. When I was walking, and for about a hour after, my back felt fine. When I started to do anything to do with work, or even think of it, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even put on shoes. I’m sure reading this there is no mystery as to what was wrong with my back, though I had done nothing to it.

A little movement and time with my guy. Now there’s a way to combat stress.

The stress of leaning so far into the project was causing me physical pain. Me not focusing on my marriage, my home, or my health was causing pain. My choice to not play with my kids was actually making it so I physically couldn’t get down on the floor to play with them. I had lost my balance while chasing the work goal which in turn, affected the work goal. I think of balance as walking on a beam, it isn’t a static pose but a movement where you’re constantly correcting and quaking and realigning. You can lean to one side and still stay balanced on the beam, but you can only lean so far. I had fallen off the beam and was now stuck on the work side with no ability to even lean into any other areas. You were meant to stay on your beam. You were meant to lean into all the areas while you’re up there and build your strength while you stretch and grow in all of those areas.

So that’s neat huh? Sounds pretty and all, great imagery of you standing on the beam balancing and stretching your arms out only far enough that you don’t actually fall, but how? How do you maintain that balance? I don’t have a magical answer and I think you have to fall off that beam a few times to learn enough about yourself and what keeps you securely anchored there. I do think you need one or two in different areas of life. Think of them as tie downs to different areas on the mat below your beam, if you have a variety of them going off in different directions the odds of you leaning too far without a counterbalance are pretty low. A couple of things for me:

  • physical activity: This could be a run, yoga, barre, dancing, snowshoeing, anything really that gets my head off of other things and puts it back in my body where it belongs.
  • reading the Bible: I think there were probably 7 days total last year where I didn’t read at least a verse or two out of the Bible. It helps me remember that I am not in control (nor am I meant to be) and to be grateful for the amazing blessings I’ve been given.
  • time with my husband and kids: I am writing these together, but they are separate things. I need time with each separately to feel connected to them and feel as though I’m making progress in those relationships.
  • clean dishes: I am not a slob nor am I a neat freak but, having a clear space where the dirty dishes would have been and a clean sink, brings a special kind of calm that I really appreciate.

So yeah, you might need to fall off your beam once or twice to find your own version of clean dishes that you know will help you stay balanced in the future but it’s worth it. Trying to tell yourself what your counterbalance tie downs are will likely result in you choosing things that don’t work for you but sound nice. (For example, I’ve tried journaling, making my bed, showering and getting dolled up every day, and smoothies all of which last very short periods of time before being dubbed wastes of time.) I’ve tried enough things and reflected enough to know what actually keeps me centered and balanced. Now, when I have projects that threaten to pull me off my beam I can quickly look to these top things and ask, am I balanced? If the answer is yes, then let the rest of me go all in because when I keep my counterbalances pulled firm, I am confident that I can lean into the area that needs my attention.

Do You Go Hard on the Plan or Try Once?

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to do something one time? To just do something once feels nearly impossible. Let’s talk through a couple examples. Could you try just once to eat anchovies? I know, I know, they are these gross little fish that TV and movies have basically made the most disgusting thing on the planet. Who would want to eat these nasty little fish? Particularly if you’re like me, living in rural mid-west, this is not a thing we do. After all, we have deer, bear, and even smelt that are far more plentiful and more appetizing than anchovies. We come up with excuses like, I don’t know where to find them, or how to cook them. What happens when we don’t like it? Why would I waste money on something I know we won’t like? I’m maybe could do it but I could never have my kids eat that?! As if we’ve never found a new recipe on Pinterest or found a new ingredient in the grocery store. We act like our kids have never disliked a meal and we don’t have a completely canned response for what happens when they don’t want to eat something we’ve made.

They really are gross looking little things, but my family does eat them probably about once a month.

Or think about a time you were invited to go for a run with a friend or even were suggested to do it on your own. I would be willing to bet you didn’t have the right shoes, it was too cold, hot, windy, or humid. Your clothes were too loose or too tight to be right for running. You are too tall, too short, or too fat to just start running. And very likely, you do not have time. (Please keep in mind that I know these excuses because I’ve used these excuses.) All of this we say as if we don’t own shoes and clothes we walk in which is very near running. The weather is certainly not setting any new records that millions of other people haven’t run in before. If we started a run and weren’t able to run the full distance, we would have no idea how to stop and walk the rest of it. Finally, we would rather spend 30 minutes complaining that we don’t have the time than to take the 20 minutes to actually do the run.

We love to think about going hard this time of year. We make these plans to lose weight, get healthy, save thousands of dollars, be more adventurous, etcetera etcetera. To put any of it into action is so much harder than we imagine though. We come up with all of the excuses that we already know the solution to and act as if just planning it out was enough but things like ‘how would I even cook that’ thwart us like the summit of a mountain. And again, I’m not immune. I am not saying ‘we’ do these things as a social marketing way to feel united. I’m saying ‘we’ because just last week I didn’t go for a run because the right sports bra was in the wash and even though I have about 7 that are ready to go, I couldn’t possibly run without the purple leopard print one (insert all the eye rolls).

Yes, this is my judgement face…. aimed squarely in the selfie lens to reflect back at me.

What if this year, instead of making the grand plan, we just did the thing? What if, instead of restricting calories and signing up for the gym membership and buying the new fancy water bottle we just acted. What if we ate a salad for lunch today but didn’t calculate how many calories were in the dressing? What if we tried a new recipe without it fitting into the elaborate meal plan? What if tomorrow we put on our worst fitting shorts or sweatpants, the wrong bra, and the shoes that couldn’t possibly work and just tried going for a jog? I know, doing it once won’t get you the results you want, but it will get you a start. Trying it once could be the start of a habit you do every day, but you don’t have to force it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Doing something once will beat out making the plan to go hard, and then doing nothing, every single time.

OK, so that’s it, that’s the blog post. Stop reading now if you just wanted to be entertained and inspired (as inspired as you can be by anchovies and ill-fitting sweatpants). If this got you thinking hey, I might want to do a little something more to kick start my goals without putting a ton of time into the grand plan, I’ll let you in on a secret. You really just need a single thing to focus on, a why bigger than your excuse, and someone to keep you accountable. I can walk you through that here, in the Challenge, but if you’re just going to make a plan and then not do the thing…. see above and don’t bother. If you’re in, just remember, you just have to try.

Reflection Before Action in Goal Setting

This week is a great week. I know some people take this week off and since having kids I do take one day during the week to hang with them but for the most part I work, and I love it. I spend time considering all that has been achieved this year by my team, our organization, and by myself personally. There is a little time spent thinking about the gaps and weaknesses of the group, and again, me personally. Then I cap that off with some solid strategizing around what next year will look like. Where will the greater focus be? How can I lead my group to that end? Where do my skills fit into that puzzle? This practice energizes me like no energy drink or fancy coffee ever could. It also allows me to start off the following year strong with my eye on the prize and a plan to accomplish our goals.

Now, I said that I work, and clearly, I have some big plans to get done in 4-5 days, but there is time saved by not running to a million meetings or responding to the hundreds of emails I typically get in a week. With that time, I’m able to create a little more margin on the beginning and end of my day. Meaning, that same intentionality I’m bringing to work I’m bringing to my personal life as well. I do go back through my memory and try to think of what went well this year, what obstacles we faced, and what we learned from it all. (To be honest, I could probably do this part a little better and not lump us all together but who can separate a kid’s win or mistake from the parent’s when said kids are all still in single digits age wise, right?) Where are we going as a family and what are some of the themes from last year that will carry us into the next year and what will need some boundaries around it?

No matter where your focus is, this is the perfect time to reflect before you start taking action in the new year. It is almost like one week of Sundays, a natural reset if you will. We can all take a deep breath after richness and fullness of the holidays right before we kick off the new year with all sorts of strong intentions and plans. What do you do during that breath though? I mean, it would be a waste to spend the whole week just waiting for New Year’s Day, right? It doesn’t have to be a fog. Add a little intentionality around the major areas of your life to decide where you want to go.

You can have a goal of being an angel on Christmas day but unless you know you’re starting as a couple of witches it’s tough to get there.

Though I hinted at the steps above, here are the pieces to consider as you look back at the past year. There are only three but as with most things, you get out of it what you put in. If you want to phone this in, you can totally think through the steps on your drive to work or while you’re folding laundry. If you want to take this to the next level, break this down in a journal or some loose paper. Go through your camera roll to remind you what you’ve been up to the past 12 months and dig in.

Reflect: What success have you and those around you seen this past year? What challenges have come up? What obstacles stood in your way? The tendency is to box yourself in here. If you first come up with a success in parenting your brain will then rattle off 10 more memories to do with parenting. Resist the urge my friend. Cast a wide net here and consider all areas of your life with this one.

Analyze: Here we’ll break this down a little more. When you consider those successes and challenges, what was the driving force behind them? Were some of them situational? (For example, lots of people were sick and missed Thanksgiving which allowed you to connect with others that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.) Who drove the success or pain points, was it primarily you? Were there other impactful players?

Find the themes: Look for the areas of life that were mostly impacted. After casting a wide net, now is the time to break it down a bit. Did you have a lot of successes in your health but obstacles at work? Did you learn a ton about your family or perfect sourdough baking? Maybe you’re realizing you have nothing, good or bad, listed around finances. Are there areas you want to be paying more attention to?

Now I said you can phone this in, and I mean it, there is much to be gained by doing something halfway compared to not doing it at all. So, before you get to long term goals, short term goals, and smart goals take a little time to at least think through where you are. Before we get to New Year, New You we have to understand our starting point. Are you feeling like just the starting point is leaving you hanging a little? Cool Kel, now what do I do with this information? This is just the first step in setting and achieving some awesome goals. If you want more click here and join the Challengers. We only open this up a few times a year so here is your chance to make the most of preparing for the year to come! Happy holidays and Happy New Year everyone!

Developing Your Career Strategy

A few years ago my boss messaged me and said in our next touch point I want to spend the bulk of the time discussing your development plan. If you’ve been with me for any amount of time you can imagine my excitement. Talking about development, mine or anyone else’s for that matter, is my favorite. Taking a full hour to devote to the topic, sign me up! (Here is where I qualify it to say that a few years ago I was excited about it but not prepared in the least bit.) So, I marched my excited self to her office and waited for her to tell me what I should develop into and how, give me the career progression road map please and thank you (and here is where I simultaneously shake my head and do a bit of a facepalm). When we started to get into the topic, she asked the most obvious question there is, what do you want to do…. crickets. I think I responded with some sort of I don’t really know what’s out there type of thing, still expecting her to hand over that road map any minute. She tried to pull somethings out of me and suggested Human Resources which sounded ridiculous to me at the time. Then she said something that sounded even more crazy. She told me to figure out what I wanted to do and come next time with my plan on how to get there. She wanted my plan?

As it turns out, you are in charge of your own career progression and development planning. This might sound a little obvious to some, but I was truly surprised by it that first time I realized that. Up until then someone had always been telling me what the next right step was and where I should end up. While I don’t believe in shoulding on people it never occurred to me to question where I wanted to be or how I could get there. It was a shock to realize that my career didn’t have to be a ladder climb. Once I put it together and realized I needed to be in the driver seat of my career I was a little scared but mostly stoked. I got to decide the strategy of my career. I got to say where I wanted to be and then set up my own mile markers on how to get there. The strategy was entirely up to me, and the players could be added or deleted as needed. The game itself could be altered as needed even, to some extent at least, and I was all about it.

This is where I got really excited…

Do you get jazzed about strategy? Could that possibly the nerdiest sentence ever written? Maybe but, do you? I totally do. I love it in most contexts but now, I particularly love it in my career and how that intertwines with my life. I see ideas in a whole web of what else they could benefit and be a detriment to. What do I want my career to look like down the road? What do I want to be working on and who do I want to be working with? Am I knocking out solo projects? Am I pitching ideas and implementing through others? Am I leading newbys and seeing the lightbulbs come on in their eyes every time a new assignment makes complete sense? How do I make this plan a reality and what do I need to have done along the way to be content when I get to the destination? These sorts of questions energize me and make me want to play out every option to find what feels best and then implement the plan like my life depended on it. That might not be everyone though. (I’m guessing I’m in a bit of the minority actually) So if you just raised an eyebrow at my initial question and then made crazy eyes as I got further into the description, don’t worry this next part really is for you.

You don’t have to take your career strategy to the outer limits like I do. You can just look at it one or two steps at a time and that is totally ok if that is the right way for you. Sometimes just knowing where you want to be in 2-3 years, or maybe just next year is exactly what you need. Whatever version speaks to you, mapping your career as a whole or mapping out the next 6 months. the following points are the highlights you want to walk away with.

You’ll want to take some notes for this next part.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Honestly ask yourself, what do you want out of your job/career? Be as specific as possible here. Thinking, I just want to be happy, is not how we’re going to start if we’re going to get anywhere. You might want to, solve problems that save companies money, work directly with the customer, be part of the decision-making group, etc. It could also be things that further impact your life as a whole. This could include working a specific number of hours per week, making x salary or wage, having a specific title or status. The important thing is that you come up with the list that you want.

Next determine where are you now and what kind of gap do you have? Consider your current state on all of the areas you came up with for where you want to be. Maybe on some you’re already at a 9-10 and on others you’re way off base. Understanding it is the first step in making progress in it so own that. If you want to solve big company problems and you’re currently processing and not encouraged to think outside the box, you need to know that before you can do anything about it. If you want to step into management but have never formally led people, you have to be able to recognize it. A word of caution though, don’t let the recognition of a gap in your current skills deter you from running toward your goal.

The final step then is, how can you fill that gap in a meaningful way? Notice I didn’t say as fast as possible, make a solid decision here and accept that it might take time. Notice I didn’t say anything specific about training, or networking, or projects. You’re filling the gap, and that is wholistic, it won’t be accomplished with any one of those things, you’ll need them all. I would highly recommend that you come up with some ideas, but this is the perfect step to bring that manager or mentor in at. Allowing someone who is either in or has perspective to a role you want, or is just outside of the situation, can really open you to new ideas and creative ways to fill each gap and build on the skills you already have.

Having even a couple bullet points in each category can go far in determining what development you need on your own or answering the questions I got years ago. Building it out, big or small, will get you to the point that you’re ready to consider that next step in your career. If you’re looking for a way to walk yourself through preparing for the next step, get prepared by working through my free guide on Taking the Next Step that will help you align the skills you have now with where you want to go. Get the message from your boss to talk development and walk in with this much homework done, and you’re bound to impress and get yourself that much closer to where you want to be.

Get Back on Track When Overwhelm Strikes

A few weeks back I was sitting with a friend discussing a challenging situation he’s walking through with his team. He was pouring out his heart on their level of disengagement, how frustrated he was with this one’s behavior, another’s commitment to work, and another one’s attitude. He needed them to rally and finish the year strong but just couldn’t seem to get through to them. With all of the other people his direct reports lead, he could not allow this to infect the department further. We were walking through options and I was giving a little advice but mostly listening and asking questions. Then he made a comment about how he’d need to leave at some point to take a call on severe bullying at his daughter’s school. It occurred to me that he had left early a few days to take his son to various appointments for stress and anxiety already that week. I finally just stopped, looked at him and said, how are you doing all of this? With that comment his entire body language changed. He slumped over the table and with a defeated look on his face and a tear in his eye he said, I’m not. I’m not doing it well. I need help.

Expectations on people are high and in the virtual environment they are increasing in all areas of life. I know the first thought here is that I’m talking about my friend needing to wear all of these hats. I’m not. I’m talking about each person in this story. There is a kid experiencing stress and anxiety to the point of needing appointments with multiple doctors in a week. The bullies in a school are bullies because they’re trying to control some aspect of their lives. Each of the ‘problem’ employees are dealing with something (multiple somethings) outside of work that is impacting their performance. Now this man, father, leader is having to hold all of it and in his words, is not doing it well and needs help.

The best thing about this story, he recognized the need for help and reached out for it. He has one million and one irons in the fire and rather than trying to act like he’s superhuman just because he feels the weight of everything shifting to him, he recognized his limit. So many of us miss that part. By reaching out and just sharing where you’re at you get validation and a chance to process with another person everything that has been in your head. The questions that person asks will very likely spark some new ideas on how to handle or give you permission to act on something you were considering. The next best thing, he was able to prioritize on the large scale. He knew that there were difficult things going on with his team, with his work/job in general but first and foremost, there were things that needed his attention for his family. While he wanted to work on improving his team, nothing was going to keep him from taking the call from the school or getting his son to his appointments. This is critical and I’m so proud of him for taking that step.

Now, why did he come to me? He needed another perspective on what he could do to improve the attitude on his team. He needed help ordering his priorities within the team and knew that bouncing ideas off someone who has a different style but experience with his team (even if limited) could assist. This is exactly what I did. I didn’t tell him that what he was doing was wrong, or that he needed to make huge changes in his approach. I listened and validated what was happening with his team and their situation and asked questions or offered suggestions based on their strengths and skills.

First, he needed to define how he wanted this all to work. Where should he spend his time? What would the team look like, including his involvement, in a perfect world? Then he could start to work on how he would need to organize the work to support that strategy. What things can people on the team take off his (or other people’s) plate that would allow them to focus and take more ownership? What work was possible to be done by someone other than him? Finally he could look at what was needed for the team to feel good. What type of work and projects could reengage those who have been struggling? Where might he need to shift to another style with team members to the criticality of their behavior? What outside support is needed at all levels of the team?

This is a pretty simple, repeatable practice when things are feeling overwhelming.

  • Recognize you need help and ask for it.
  • Prioritize and develop a strategy based on those priorities.
  • Determine how to tactically support the strategy, this will include some sort of delegation.
  • Find resources (be they through you or external) to support the people.

I know that there are people who will cringe at my order here. People should be first. I get it and while I don’t appreciate the should I understand the unease. A lot of people try to start with the people and the trouble there is you don’t necessarily know what you’re solving for when you do. If you don’t understand the priorities and the strategy to realize them, you won’t be able to find the right support and you won’t know what outcome you’re driving at. Also, for those non-corporate leaders, yes, this applies across the board too. You can use this practice to help you get to the bottom of a struggling team, church counsel, teenager, etc.

Building a Life of Abundance

When I was a kid I thought we were well off. As a real young kid, like 4 and under probably, my dad was able to stay home with us. My mom worked but was always around in the summer. We got to go camping and to visit family. As I got a little older I was still sure we had more money than we needed. We were able to take camping vacations in other states and would go see some attractions. We were together seemingly all the time which didn’t leave much time for cooking so we had lots of meals that came from a box with a can or frozen bag of veggies. When both of my parents started working they still didn’t have to work in summer and we had family kick ball games and campfires. My parents never complained about money and when they didn’t buy me something I thought was critical to survival they would just explain why it wasn’t needed or that I could save my own money to get it. As I got older and saw my friends and their parents view of money a lot of them seemed to spend much more of it but never feel as though they had enough. To this day I have no way of knowing who had more and it didn’t matter, we were rich, we lived a rich life regardless of what the bank account or brand of sneakers had to say about it.

I know my boys think we’re rich. Not for what we’ve bought them but for moments like this, dropping everything to play baseball at a nearby church.

I use some version of this example all the time. Living a life of abundance and feeling rich have very little to do with the actual amount of money you have. Likewise, working with abundance has little to do with how much support, tools, and resources you have. Those who follow need not know how much support is coming corporately and don’t need to know, if you approach leadership richly. I have worked at companies where there were more tools than you can believe, others where the idea of leadership (and was needed to do it well as opposed to manage) wasn’t even on the radar, and still others that run the gamut of in-betweens.

Working in a large corporate environment where every new leader was flown to the home office for a week of training what it means to lead well, why it’s important, and how to do it didn’t seem to yield consistent results. There was follow up consistently and leaders got great resources on how to handle different situations and changes. As an employee in a company like that you either felt valued, developed, and heard or slighted, stunted, and silenced depending on how your leader felt. If they were leading from a perspective of richness and abundance, you were feeling it to. In companies that were either smaller or just didn’t have the focus or resources to devote to leader development, you saw the same thing. Whether those you lead are employees or children (or both), taking an attitude of having a voice, ability to grow and advance, you know, overall richness and abundance of opportunities, will allow them the same lens to see the world.

So if you’re not in that place yet yourself, how do you do that?

How do you change your mind?

Here are my top three ways to live in abundance and share that life with others.

  1. Truly feeling content with what you have and exposing that content feeling to others. OK I know, right off the bat my suggestion is to ‘feel’ different and you don’t exactly have control over that… or do you? When you look at the positives and approach life from a place of gratitude you will change how you feel. If you want to go deeper on either of these ideas, go back and read my how to’s around gratitude and positivity.
  2. Having a plan and goals that you’re consistently working for. Whether we’re talking money or career, have a big goal you’re working toward and a plan on how to get there. The goal should be anything that speaks to you and is big enough to take a while, probably years, to accomplish. When I was a kid the goal my parents had was to build a house. We talked about it all the time and while I didn’t always understand why it took so long to save for it to become a reality I did connect that we made decisions that supported that goal. As an employee I understood our goal to be quality and production, while I didn’t understand every decision made I could see it through my leaders lens of one, or both, of those things. My leader also had her own personal career goals that I didn’t have the details on but could clearly see that she viewed her career as having continued opportunities and that I could, dare I say should, do the same. Now as a leader my goals for my team are quality and influencing change and like what’s been modeled for me, I share the importance of career progression with them as well.
  3. Understanding that the excitement comes in working toward something, not necessarily in the achievement of it. This is the fun part about the goals and the plan, it doesn’t actually matter what it is. A new opportunity, better than you could have even planned for at the time, or a shift in priorities on your way to your original goal is totally acceptable and amazing. It isn’t about actually getting to the goal, its about what happens to you and those around you on your way there. The excitement, the feeling of contentment, and the drive for more comes in the pursuit of what you’re after, not in getting it. Chasing down that big goal, and encouraging those around you to do that too, will help you live into your abundant life.

All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t make the most of the resources (be they financial or leadership tools) you have. I also don’t want to diminish the privilege associated with having those resources. However, your attitude and the influence you have over others with your attitude is not tied to the amount you have. You determine if you’re living a life of abundance, regardless of how much you have.

Thank you.

I started writing this blog as an outlet but with this glimmer of a dream of what it could build to become. There was a time when I needed all the support and I couldn’t fathom being able to pour into anyone else because my cup had just been dipped into too many times to have anything left to give. The thing that started filling my cup, ironically, was talking about what I had learned through it. I gave tidbits of information to my teammates, offered advice when asked to my peers, shared little nuggets with my kids on areas that could apply to them. I knew I would come out of that valley and sharing the lessons I had learned (and continue to learn) with others helped me to climb out. I didn’t realize at the time how much of a twofold lesson and blessing it would be to share, listen, learn, collaborate with everyone in my life on a holistic level.

That is when I started the blog. If there was this much to be gleaned from my small circle in rural Wisconsin, how much more could be shared and learned on a larger scale? As I started to share, I was very nervous. What if this didn’t translate beyond my little town and experience? What if it wasn’t useful and everyone already knew that what you learn in one setting (work, home, family, etc) could be applied to every other setting? Then I thought, if it just helps one person from feeling what I felt, that is enough and whoa has it been more than one. You all have come out in full force and I love that.

I’m not looking for likes and views, I mean, I watch the stats to try and write on topics that people are reading about, liking, and commenting on, but this is not a vanity project. I feel called to share this leadership journey with the world so that anyone who is in a similar valley won’t have to feel as alone. They won’t have to fight so hard to learn the lessons, to prove their worth, to develop skills while not getting the traditional support they expected. Based on watching and asking, the blog has grown. It went from a post every month or so to weekly posts on requested topics, to include regular emails, and supportive resources and tools. With your help and support we’ve been able to support people in their reflection, objectivity, and action to lead their families, communities, teams, and anything else they can think of.

So I want to thank you. Sincerely from the bottom of my heart for going along with me on this journey. If you are reading along and learning from or maybe just enjoying reading about my missteps, I want to invite you to take a step you maybe haven’t yet, join the list. Every week I send content that either compliments the blog post that week or speaks to another relevant topic we’ve learned about. There are also totally free offers and invitations to take part in. Click here to go to choose a way to enter the list that will get you a quick win right off the bat. Looking for a tool to manage stress? A resource on growing personally? Or maybe professional growth is your hot topic? If you’re not finding a resource that works for you, please reach out and let me know what you’re needing. Like I said, the goal here is to support you, so if there is a gap I want to know about it.

Shifting to an Attitude of Gratitude

What does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude? To live life thankfully and humbly? These catch phrases pop up frequently this time of year on social media, on mugs, and fire place mantels all over the country. But what does it mean? It has to be more than a gratitude practice throughout the month of November right? I have been one to shy away from what I felt were forced or overly timed shows of thankfulness through the season. I do look back though and realize that I started my own gratitude practice years ago centered around one thing, the way I woke up.

As with most things with me, this development doesn’t start out with an intentional action to improve but with me realizing that my own crazy was going to drag me under. I woke up every day for about a week, crabby. Like, really crabby. My alarm went off before anyone else’s and I was sure my kids would be bears in the morning, I would be running late, and my husband would be no help. I knew that when I got home I’d have yelling hungry kids and a husband with something else that needed to be done. I was someone I had no interest in talking to before I had even stepped out of my bed, and no one else had even opened their eyes! I was starting my day assuming that everything was going wrong and then trying to use my afore mentioned positive attitude (to read about how I accidentally learned to be positive click here) to pull me out of it. That is a lot of pressure to put on an attitude. I would steadily improve throughout the work day, a meeting would go well or a project would make progress but I was setting myself up to fail and my family was taking the brunt of it.

Because all of my hostility toward the world was starting with me waking up, I resolved to not get out of bed until I said a prayer of gratitude. I admit it started passive aggressively, I would pray things like I’m so thankful that I only had to get up twice last night and Thank you for allowing me to have a husband who trusts me to take care of alllll of the things (cute huh). It was like a way to complain but with using the word thankful in it. Funny thing though with those annoying, forced gratitude lists, they do stick with you and you do tend to change your own mind in speaking them, writing them, or even intentionally thinking them. You start to train yourself to be more thankful and grateful even for those passive aggressive things. Eventually, they turned more into, Thank you for allowing me extra snuggles with my little dudes. This time is so short and I’ll take all the time I can get. and I’m so thankful for the things my husband does around the house, things I don’t even have to think about or consider on my plate. Now some of my frustrations were legitimate, however coming at it with a heart of gratitude greatly impacted my perspective and ability to influence it.

A particularly irritating incident where he was asked to clean up but managed to just get out more toys.
So thankful these little dudes are loved by so many to have this many stuffies as gifts.

Fast forward a few years and this ‘practice’ is going strong. Not only do I continue to say a prayer of gratitude every morning but by doing so it has permeated my entire life. I now can’t seem to do anything without recounting a bit of gratitude. Go to the grocery store, so thankful I don’t have to worry about the prices. Scrub the shower floor, blessed to have been able to build the shower I wanted. House is too noisy, so thankful we have a basement to send the kids down to play where at least there is a buffer for the shouting. In a meeting with someone who is particularly grating on my nerves, grateful I have control over my emotions and reactions to redirect the conversation and model for my team how I’d want them to handle. Like I said, some of the frustrations are legitimate and being thankful doesn’t mean you have to live on a cloud of lovely acceptance but it does give you a different perspective to see it from. That perspective allows you to see that you already have so much and this frustration is either part of what you asked for (as with my shower) or something you can use to bless others (as with my meeting). The best is when it all converges and you have an OMG moment of just how beautiful the mundane actually is.

Recently as I was driving to pick up my kids from afterschool care I found myself praying. I wasn’t asking Him for a dang thing or praying for safety or health of a loved one. I was simply thanking Him for all He’s provided for me and had a hand in that day. The funny thing was, there was really nothing special about it. I worked a normal day with meetings and small fires cropping up. I got a few things done around the house. I took a shower, which is big lately I suppose. As I drove and looked at the sunset I thought to myself how grateful I was for the positive impact I was able to have on family members, coworkers, my kids, husband, dogs, and home. I was thankful for all He’d equipped me with to be able to love well that day. That is an attitude of gratitude. That is the key to the positive mindset, finding appreciation for the little things in life that provide the greatest impact.

Mom Development: Boosting Your Parenting Resume

Being a mom is so very challenging. We wear all of the hats from playmate to maintenance, activity director to prison warden and all of the things in between. We have to learn what our kids want and need and how to best help them interact with others and the world around them in general. They start out literally not being able to survive without us and all it says in our job description is to flip that truth on it’s head by the time we retire. As we all know either from experience or watching others, this is one job we’ll work the rest of our lives.

A singular job responsibility sounds great until you consider all that is needed to accomplish working yourself out of a job. You have to tell them what you want them to do and how you want them to act. You can’t just tell them though you have to model for them what that would look like and sound like. You have to be flexible to where their journey is different from yours and discern how much of your truth you should equip them with. You have to coach and guide their experiences to allow them to learn things for themselves. You have to protect them from harm while allowing them to have their own lives and learn first hand. Basically, every responsibility you have for your kids you also have an opposing one. It can feel just impossible to get right.

You’re doing all the things. You are getting more right than you realize. You are working yourself out of a job just beautifully. So today I’m here to offer a little mom encouragement, corporate style. Think of it as a resume boost for the toughest job on Earth. Because who knows, some day you might be up for promotion, and you want to be ready with the skills to help train up those grandbabies with all the wisdom you’re gaining today.

Capable of Instilling Strategic Mission through Day-to-Day Actions. You always have your child’s best interest at heart. It isn’t a matter of saying no to candy before breakfast because you’re mean it is about making healthy choices for your body, developing self control, respecting the norms and rules of the house, and then sometimes, because you want your kids to see the fun side of getting a little crazy, you allow them a secret Twix with a wink and they look at you like you just handed them a ticket to Disney World.

Consistent Reinforcement of Critical Lessons. You see the bigger picture in each lesson you give your kids. You tell you child to be careful, you explain the consequences that could accompany making a poor choice, you remind them of the consequences, and when they still ‘borrow’ your ______ (phone, clothes, tools, car, etc) and misuse it, you let them feel the weight of the consequences even when it pains you. You know the value of consistency and following through. You’re teaching your kid that, just as much as the consequences of their actions.

Demonstrated Ability to Develop Character. Could you feed the dog, put away the laundry, or vacuum the living room yourself in 1/2 the time with a 1/4 of the fighting (let’s be honest we’d still argue it in our heads at least for a minute) yes, but getting the job done is one small part of why you’re asking. Learning that we all work together as a family and the value of providing for someone else rather than yourself are critical life skills that can’t be taught anywhere else. These skills will take that kiddo far into adulthood and we know that it all started with a simple, hey, could you take out the garbage?

Experienced in Fostering Growth Mindset. Every time you tell them they can be anything when they grow up, every time you tell them the sky is the limit, every time you tell them that all they need to do is apply themselves and they’ll get there, you’re developing growth mindset. Every time you dry their eyes because they think they are dumb, and tell them it was just a mistake, every time you encourage them to get back on their bike, skateboard, or ballet shoes after a fall, every time you suggest coming at a problem from a new perspective, you’re developing a growth mindset. Sometimes that can feel easier to tell them than to tell yourself, but all of those lessons you’re teaching your kid, they are true of you too. If you want some support in building that out for yourself, check out Love and Grow Yourself for a framework to help you do just that.

You got this mama, and daddies you too. Keep finding your balance and remember that they don’t need perfection, that is part of what you’re teaching them too. There is no such thing as perfect, just working to improve and be your best each day. You my friend, are doing a dang good job.