Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, is on a mission to unleash female ambition so that more women are in decision-making roles and having a profound impact on issues. Sandberg calls this “leaning in.” Women (and men!) worldwide are getting involved in the conversation around women’s leadership through community, education, and circles focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.
Linked in is a great place to connect with others “leaning in” to their best selves! You can connect with a group from your local area or be a “virtual member” of any group. I am proud and feel privileged to be taught, supported, and challenged to grow by the amazing people in the Lean In Together Minneapolis-St. Paul group. At its heart, Lean In is about defying limitations through supportive relationships…
Read the book. Join a circle or online group. Get ready to Lean In to your best self. You’ll be glad you did.
(click on the book to see more!)
Writing. Teaching. Training. Speaking. It’s what I do best. It’s what I love. I tried to fit my “square peg” into a round hole these past two years pursuing a “real” job… 9-5 at a major employer. Other than making some amazing friends (a BIG shout out to Jeanine, Gillian, Carey, Carla, Rebecca, and Amanda!) this journey solidified what my heart already knew… This “renaissance soul”, this “scanner” this “polymath”, this”multipotentialite” has a different approach to using my gifts. (For a complete explanation of this personality type I highly recommend reading Emilie Wapnick’s insightful explanation on her blog Puttylike.com)
I am back to writing, with the outline for an e-book brewing in my head and blog and training topics multiplying daily. I am back in my studio painting. I take writing breaks by working in my perennial gardens. These are solitary pursuits, and I love socializing, so a challenge will be for me to step away from the computer and experience life “out there”. When you are self-employed, this is sometimes a hard thing to do… A lot of great relationships are formed and maintained “at work”… working from home? Not so many. What I am asking from you, dear readers, is support, encouragement, topic ideas, networking, and maybe a glass of wine every once and awhile. I am looking for speaking, training, and workshop leading opportunities, so keep me in mind if something crosses your path.
Following my own advice to live authentically and intentionally,
I don’t know about you, but I have never been finished with ALL of my work. There is always something I just don’t get to. Either I drag my heels because it is an unappealing chore, or I am just too tired to do one more thing. I usually feel guilty, lazy, or disappointed with myself… I am, after all, a born and bred Minnesotan.
You have most likely felt the same pressure to “get it all done” at some point in your life. In our culture, so much of our identity, success, and our self worth is tied to our usefulness and productiveness. What is one of the first things you ask a new acquaintance? Usually, it is “What do you do?” Sadly, we are often valued for what we do, not who we are. The constant pressure to perform is spiritually, mentally and physically exhausting. To cope, we eat too much, drink too much, develop a short fuse, and often become depressed. We sometimes get sick. Some of us die.
Take a look at the numbers:
- 435,000 American women have heart attacks annually; 83,000 are under age 65; 35,000 are under 55. The average: 70.4.
- 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year, compared to 24% of men.
- Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
- 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks, which kill six times as many women as breast cancer. Another 31, 837 women die each year of congestive heart failure, representing 62.6% of all heart failure deaths.
With numbers like these, we can’t afford not to make some changes in our own lives.
In my search for more balance and purpose in my life, I have often struggled with finding time to rest and just “be”. In a busy household, there just isn’t a lot of margin some weeks. This week has been full of endless rounds of the “mom where is my….?” game. Recently, however, I was led to look more closely at a very familiar Bible verse. Many of us have heard before that God rested on the seventh day. I am sure the creation of the earth and all that is in it was no small job! However, I had never noticed a few key words in the verse that have a deeper lesson for us.
.. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.(Genesis 2:2) (emphasis mine)
God had finished the work he had been doing.
Not ALL his work, just the tasks of the day, the jobs at hand. Moreover, he didn’t head to Starbuck’s to have a latte for thirty minutes. He rested for a WHOLE DAY! I repeat, A WHOLE DAY! (I can hear you now.. “Yeah, right. I can’t even brush my teeth in peace!) Just bear with me here.
The Jewish tradition has been practicing this idea of a day of personal renewal for centuries; they call it “Sabbath keeping”. The meals are cooked the day before, the work is put out of sight, the house is tidied up and 24 hours of rest begins. Sometimes candles are lit to welcome the Sabbath. As productivity and accomplishment ceases, an amazing, freeing thing happens: spontaneity and childlike ability to play becomes uncorked. When we are not under the compulsion to produce, we are given time to be with others and discover who they are.
Some years ago, after the death of our second daughter, Julia, we began the practice of Sabbath keeping. Our day included, previously cooked meals, naps, reading, watching movies, and playing games. Looking back, I value how those days provided a rootedness and peace in our family. Now, as the kids are older, other activities and needs have been in fierce competition for our day of rest and togetherness, and I feel the fatigue and tension in the house when we don’t take the time to slow down and connect with each other. My kids are learning to do, do, do in unhealthy levels as well. We have fallen into the trap of the 24/7 superstores and living life constantly on the go. The “crispiness around the edges” is showing. It is time to revisit the ancient paths again.
Although many of you hold jobs that require working on Sunday, all is not lost. You may not be resting from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as the Jews do, or on Sunday, the traditional day set aside by Christians. Set aside a different day. Maybe you don’t consider yourself to be a religious person. That’s OK. The goal here is to find peace and rest among the busyness called life… the important thing is to consistently set aside a day from work. By all means, give the day a name that is meaningful to you if Sabbath doesn’t fit. During your time, choose to celebrate your day of rest in ways that are meaningful to you. You might sleep, read, walk, enjoy the company of a friend, pray, watch the clouds, or any of a hundred other things. The point is to not be enslaved by time. Feast literally and figuratively on the goodness in your life. Appreciate your blessings, the breath of life and the gift of the day.
When you have the goals of ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting, you will discover the rewards of Sabbath keeping. You will begin to hear yourself think again. You will find your creativity energized. You will be living intentionally. You will experience rest and peace.
Make Today Count!
For a deeper look at Sabbath Keeping, check out Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn
I am blessed with many friends. A few are truly closer to my heart than family members. We have invested countless hours over the years talking about our dreams, our childhoods, and all the ups and downs of daily life. Our relationships continue by mutual choice and grow deeper because we continue to make the effort to know and understand each other.
I sometimes lead a fast paced life juggling the responsibilities of a wife, business owner, college professor, and mother of teenagers. (ok, MOST of the time!) Caring, understanding, and insightful friends who aren’t afraid to hold me accountable, point out weaknesses and errors, and generally “tell it like it is” are essential to my achieving balance in my life.
Hopefully, you have one or two of this type of friend in your own life…
With Christmas and New Year gatherings now behind us, I have had a few minutes to reflect on the time I recently spent with family and friends. I was warmed by the memories of shared food, laughter, and conversation at my sister’s house in Atlanta. We had a great time eating Tapas and playing American Idol on the Play Station. My niece, Faith trounced everyone, but the men should decidedly stick to their day jobs! They were a little pitchy dawg! My life is much richer for having my brother-in-law, Pete, in my life, even if he can’t sing.
A visit awhile ago to my best friend’s house in North Carolina was equally dear to my heart, even though both she and her husband were sick. They are a big part of my “family of friends” and cozying up to watch a movie with them was just what I needed.
Getting to know someone… their likes, their dislikes, their childhood stories, their dreams for the future… takes conscious effort and an investment of time. In this fast paced and disposable minded society, relationships are often neglected or even ignored. Nearly gone are the days of hand written thank-you notes… we send an e-mail, if anything at all. Christmas cards and letters… too expensive. A visit… gas prices and “going green” sideline travel. Talking over a nice hot cuppa tea… no margin in our schedules. Asking personal questions… we might be “politically incorrect” or offend someone, so we stay silent. A little gift… just “one more thing” on our never ending list of things to do.
-William Arthur Ward
Do you REALLY know your family members? Your friends? When is the last time you invited your sister-in-law out for a cup of coffee? When is the last time you asked your neighbor what books he is enjoying reading or what new music groups he is listening to? When is the last time you asked your in-laws to tell you a story from THEIR childhood? How long has it been since your friend’s mom died… did you ask if this Christmas was hard for him?
Many years ago, as a young bride, I struggled in a relationship with an older family member. I was very young and rather intimidated by the challenge of making friends with my husband’s family. No matter what I did or said, I always felt that this person was picking on me. Well, one day the light bulb went off… I decided to start asking questions about her… granted it was self-defense.. anything to have her stop picking on me! But do you know what? A wonderful thing happened. In asking about her girlhood, her work, her life, our relationship blossomed. I gained a new fondness and respect for her and enjoyed our times together immensely. We became friends and our hearts bonded after I took the step to reach out to her.
Who in your life could use a little extra attention?
Can you pry yourself away from the internet long enough to pick up the phone or hand write a note? Is a coffee date a possibility?
My challenge to all of us in the coming year is to invest.
Not in the economy, but in each other.
Strong relationships will strengthen you as you face the challenges of work and family this year. Life is precious and life is short. Don’t miss out on the richness of truly getting to know someone, just as they are.
When I was a kid, everyone loved school fire drills. When that buzzer rang, we knew that we would get to ditch our lessons and head outside. Heck, sometimes we even got to see a fire truck! By the time the drill was over and everyone was back in order, there was usually not enough time to finish what we had been working on, so we had a bit of free time before the next class. Free time was always a treat in elementary school!
The one thing I remember about the fire drills, besides the welcome interruption, though, is my teacher telling us to WALK! Don’t run! to the nearest exit. Now, I know there is a very logical reason for this. When we run in panic, we risk being hurt even more than if we stay calm and respond with cool purpose. Our human instinct is to take “flight” when we are afraid or panicking when there is a threatening situation. If we hear someone yell ”FIRE”, we might very well be inclined to bolt out of the dangerous situation. Tragedies are reported often about needless deaths due to panic. In other, less life threatening areas of life, I liken this to my knee-jerk reaction. I just ACT! Now. I don’t think more than a second, if at all. I just act.
I see a direct application of this life instruction to “WALK! Don’t run!” to our current life challenges and decisions. How many times, when faced with a tough decision, do you “knee-jerk”? How many times before giving your answer to someone do you say “I’ll let you know in a day or two after I’ve had a chance to think it over”? Not as many as you would like, I suspect. How many times have you regretted giving an answer right away because you decided upon later reflection that you really didn’t want to do it at all? Personally, being far too “Minnesota nice”, I have given a knee-jerk “yes” to many things I truly didn’t want to commit to.
The bottom line is this: when we WALK! Don’t run! into decisions and fearful situations, we are much more likely to arrive safely on the other side. The flames may be on the other side of the door, but by thinking through what to do, we can exit through the right door… the safer door.
Sleep on it.
Do you remember as a kid watching the cartoon where someone was pulled from the water after nearly drowning and his “rescuer” pumped on his chest chanting “out with the bad air, in with the good”? The water spurted forth. The victim sputtered and coughed; a life was saved.
Read that last sentence again. There is a great object lesson there.
So many times, our life has something that makes us feel like we are drowning; a relationship, a job, a lifestyle, an addiction, or maybe just our own bad attitude. Day after day we feel like we are going under again. Do we have the energy to make it to the surface another time?
Is there something giving you that drowning feeling in your life? What is the bad thing that needs to be eliminated? Sadly, sometimes there is no one around to rescue us but ourselves.
You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there.
~Edwin Louis Cole (1922-2002)
Are you willing to chant “out with the bad air, in with the good” in order to breathe again? Are you willing to get rid of the “bad air”?
Eliminating the bad takes courage.
Sometimes it takes everything we have. But, after the pain, the fear, the coughing, and the sputtering is fresh air and you will breathe easy again.
One of my favorite movies (that does not star Audrey Hepburn!) has always been The Wizard of Oz. Now, I’ll admit, as a child those flying monkeys gave me nightmares and Miss Gulch on her bicycle STILL scares me. The munchkins will always be cool in my book and I have been known to do a mean imitation of the Wicked Witch of the West’s famous line “I’ll get you my pretty!” (with Bugles snacks on my fingertips, of course!)
Watching The Wizard of Oz as an adult, and remembering Ms. O’Connor’s high school English lessons about finding the “underlying meaning” in a story, it feels like I am watching a whole new movie. Themes of loyalty, friendship, justice, and risk-taking are now more apparent to me.
As I also think about mid-life, one theme in this movie has come to the forefront. Do you remember near the end of the movie when Dorothy, Toto, and their pals finally get in to see the “great and powerful Wizard of Oz”? Everyone in the land of Oz thinks they know the Wizard. Powerful, wonderful, all-knowing, he can do anything. Well, thanks to Toto, who pulls away the curtain, the true wizard is revealed. And, lo and behold, he is a nice, simple, humble, likable man.
What would I see if I peeked behind your curtain? Are you one person at work, another with your friends, and yet another at home? Which is the real you? I find it hard to maintain these separate “me’s”. Goodness knows over the years I have tried! But, what if a colleague or client becomes a friend? Who am I to them then? I don’t know about you, but I feel uncomfortable and sometimes like a phony when I am wearing these masks. I think things like “they’d run for the hills if they knew the real me!” I have also found that keeping up different me’s is A LOT of work and A LOT of stress. It takes so much extra energy!
When you drop your pretenses and live truer to your genuine self, you feel better in your own skin. You feel more confidence because your values, your characteristics and your interests are consistent, genuine, and authentic.
I’m not suggesting that you wear your favorite sweat pants to your next big business meeting, BUT, I am encouraging you to find ways to be consistent in who you are. Let the real you shine through! Just like the Wizard of Oz, you’ll feel better when you come out from behind the curtain.