Reflecting on the Year Gone By

 

The final days of the year are here and soon 2014 will be a distant memory. Like every year, it has brought numerous gifts and opportunities, as well as challenges and setbacks to so many. As the media recaps the best and the worst of the year, our emotions can run the gamut—from joy and laughter to anger and despair, and even hope and inspiration. So much life has happened in such a short span of time. It’s remarkable.

Aside from these very public events that replay over and over on our televisions and in our minds, much has also occurred in our own lives—stirring the same emotions along with many more.

For some, reflecting on these past moments and events can be difficult, and almost too painful to extract real value. After all, shouldn’t we just forget what’s happened and move forward?

Not necessarily.

A Peaceful, Loving, and Joyous Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve and the promise of snow is on its way here in Chicago, enveloping our city with soft white pillows and intricately laced trees. What a wonderful gift to look forward to as we put last minute touches on our holiday feasts and festivities. The holidays can bring chaos and stress if we allow them to. Endless shopping and crowded stores, strained bank accounts and pocketbooks, the pressure to attend every holiday party and gathering, and the added stress of travel mixed with unpredictable weather conditions.  It can deplete our energy and drain our joy.

Instead, let’s remind ourselves what the spirit of the holiday season is about and eliminate as much of the unnecessary, over-the-top extras that really do little for our mental and spiritual wellness, much less the health of our most important relationships.

25 Compass Questions to Navigate Greater Results in 2015

When the month of December finally arrives, are you like me where you become excited to start planning for the coming year? Do you let the idea of a fresh start and renewed focus wash over you as you reflect on past successes and failures—enthusiastically greeting a clean slate? Or are you typically looking back wondering how it went by so fast with little evidence of improvement or growth? Do you get a sense that something happened along the way that knocked you off track and you really never recovered?

The New Year introduces a shared experience where the entire world immerses itself into declaring new aspirations and opportunities. Collectively, we each want to do more, do it better, and with greater success.

Reinvention | Big ‘R’ vs. little ‘r’

re·in·vent, v. — meaning, to make major changes or improvements to (something): to present (something) in a different or new way.

I’ve always loved the idea of reinvention. Examining who we are today and where we want to go tomorrow. Renewing ourselves, our careers, personal brands, businesses, private lives—whatever it may be. It’s an opportunity to edit how we define ourselves or how others perceive us, offering a clean slate, and telling a new story. It can be exhilarating, therapeutic, and provide to us renewed energy and enthusiasm.

It can also be overwhelming, scary, challenging, and met with resistance.

When we attempt to make large or drastic changes in our lives, those around us may not be ready, or may not understand what we are trying to achieve. Maybe they liked the old version better. Maybe they were comfortable with our lack of success, making them feel better where they were. Or maybe it’s simply too much for them to handle all at once.

Happy Thanksgiving! | Begin Reaping the Benefits of Gratitude

For most of us, the Thanksgiving holiday provides the perfect opportunity to step back, reflect, and think about those things of which we are most grateful. A wonderful sentiment and a lovely tradition, but an even better exercise practiced daily.

The ability to express gratitude can be challenging, especially when the world we live in has so much chaos, or we hit tough times and see others around us doing better than ourselves. All of us are guilty of wishing certain things could be different—that we had more money, a bigger home, could finally meet that special someone, could travel more, or buy those expensive designer clothes. The list could go on and on.

Spending just a few moments each morning or evening listing out in our minds or even better, on paper, the simple things that we are so blessed to have can be life-changing. A roof over our heads, food on the table, good health, friends and family who care about us, new or unique experiences and opportunities, and just those small, simple moments—there is an infinite number of things for which to be grateful. Being appreciative of what we have now opens the doors to more wonderful things to come.

Halloween is Here, Beware Dark of Night!

 

Halloween in my family was probably our favorite holiday.  Besides the fact that for many years we lived in one of the creepiest houses on the block, a 100-year-old slightly run down Victorian, my mother had a propensity for making it very special.

Every year she would line us girls up outside of her bedroom door. One-by-one we were brought inside where she would quickly conjure up an amazing costume with full makeup. My mother had an entire dressing room filled with old clothes and jewelry she never gave away, so her resources were plenty. We typically never knew what we were going to be unless we had a special request, but it was always different and never something store bought. I’m not sure she even knew what she was going to do before we stepped inside, but as we waited in great anticipation for each big reveal, we were never disappointed.

For all my scary friends and family, I’ve penned a special Halloween poem just for you.

The Proust Questionnaire | My Honest Responses

The Proust Questionnaire was originally a parlor game of the late nineteenth century designed to better know the personalities of friends and family. During this time, a teenage Marcel Proust was given a set of questions by his friend Antoinette, the daughter of the president of France. The questionnaire’s notoriety first arose when two documented versions with sets of answers by the French writer were discovered in 1924, a few years after his death. Proust believed that an individual’s answers would reveal their true nature.

The questionnaire regained popularity when French television host Bernard Pivot resurrected it as a basis for his literary interviews. Today, a revised version is regularly published on the back page of Vanity Fair magazine, with answers by various celebrities and public figures.

I’ve read these responses over time and often wondered how I would answer the tough questions myself, but never actually put pen to paper…until now.

Creating the Optimal Home Office

 

Who doesn’t dream about working from home at least a few days a week, if not full time? For me, not sitting in some drab cubicle or bland, boxy corporate office is one of the biggest draws to a virtual work lifestyle. I’m an aesthetics person by nature and as such, my surroundings deeply impact my mood, productivity, and general well being.

Yesterday I wrote about building a professional virtual workplace persona, but now I’d like to explore designing a proper physical space.

If you haven’t spent much time working from home, there are a number of considerations before you set up shop. The occasional remote day with a laptop and a mobile phone are one thing, but establishing a professional workspace that is optimally designed for daily efficiency takes more thought and planning.

Hard Choices and Tough Decisions | The Art of Selection

What do I want for dinner? What am I going to wear today? Where should I go on my next vacation? Should I share this idea or that one? Should I email this to my client? When should I speak with my boss about that raise?

One person makes thousands of decisions every single day. Most of the time we are unconscious of the process and move rather seamlessly through the day making relatively small choices. We don’t overthink them, we simply choose and move on.

But sometimes we’re faced with more difficult decisions requiring more attention, and often causing sleepless nights. How do we make these choices? What steps do we typically take that help us to get to a final resolution so we can carry forward?

7 Life Disciplines We Can Learn From Marathon Runners

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” – Anonymous

This Sunday is the 37th running of the Chicago Marathon. Every year, this inspiring event runs right by my building on Michigan Avenue, very near the home stretch. As 45,000 participants grace our city streets, I join the 1.7 million spectators cheering them on in pure awe as they fight every obstacle to make it to the finish line.

Like many, I try to get out early so I can witness the winners in all categories pass by with the full press, helicopters, and police escorts. Each time I see them passing by, I get incredibly choked up as the crowd goes nuts witnessing their amazing inner strength and perseverance as we all share in their great accomplishment.

Becoming Fearless | Building a Lifetime Habit

Last week social media channels were buzzing with the impassioned speech that Emma Watson gave to the United Nations on feminism. In her new role as UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma spoke from her heart on the pressing need for gender equality and asked that men and boys worldwide join the movement of the #HeForShe Campaign. It was powerful, emotional, honest, poignant, and it was fearless.

I’ve been thinking a lot this past year about what it means to be fearless. I see wonderful examples of it everyday—from people as visible as Miss Watson, on down to the little kid who whips by on her skateboard completely unaffected by the rough terrain ahead. That sense of knowing the road will be tough, but wanting it so badly that nothing can stop you from pushing yourself to go for it. That’s living fearlessly.

I’ve made some tough decisions this year with the intent of getting me closer to the life I want to live. I like to think I’m being fearless along the way.  …

10 Most Admirable Qualities of My Female Role Models

There are so many articles being published of late that speak to the “top things successful people do.” I find these a useful reference mostly, but when I really think about the things I need to do, the behaviors I want to instill, or the steps I must take to make myself a better person, I turn to those I have admired most—my female role models.

As a woman, I tend to look to other women as my role models.  There are many that I have looked up to over my lifetime, and that net continues to widen as years progress. Those that inspired me early on include a host of well-known people like Katherine Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Amelia Earhart, Gloria, Steinem, Mary Tyler-Moore, Marlo Thomas, and comedians like Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Lucille Ball, and Gilda Radner. Later came people like Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Maria Shriver, Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Jill Abramson, Melissa McCarthy, Lisa Kudrow, and so many more.  All are women who showed passion, enthusiasm, intelligence, wit, humor, positivity, tenacity, and fearlessness—all traits I deeply admire—and they built amazing lives for themselves.

Optimal Timing for Engaging and Sharing on Social Media

We live in a world where the increase in content and ideas being shared across the globe continues to rise. Content creators are publishing on a multitude of platforms, in a variety of media formats, and at a rapid pace. We are all vying for the attention of our oftentimes similar target audiences, and competing for interest within a limited span of time. While I personally believe there is no one magic bullet to attract and retain visibility, there are things we can try to increase our odds.

There are several resources available where research has been done examining the highest access times across social media platforms. These are a great start for experimenting with your content publishing schedules; however, there are always unique circumstances to consider depending on your intended audience.

Back To School | Grab Your Crayons and Commit to Learning

Fall is my favorite time of the year, for many reasons. One, in particular, involves heading back to school. As the youngest of ten kids, everything I had was a hand-me-down, with the exception of new school supplies. Crisp and clean white pages of a new notebook, never touched crayons exploding with color, a shiny set of pens and freshly sharpened pencils, a full bottle of glue with no messy residue around the tip yet, and a fun new school bag with which to carry it all around. Pristine supplies, the crisp fall air, and the sense of new possibilities cultivated a visceral response and general eagerness enticing me back to the pursuit of a formal education.

As adults, we don’t necessarily have the same right of passage as the start of a new school year. And most of us don’t have a structure or discipline for expanding our professional development, particularly as we become more seasoned pros. Yet that’s exactly what many of us need to provide a fresh lens to the work we do.

With the start of a new school year, I challenge you to build your own professional development plan to support your career growth, and maybe expand outside of it as well.

Monday Motivation | 14 Tips to a More Productive Week

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain

For many of us, getting started on a Monday morning is easier said than done. Our minds are still in weekend mode, our bodies want to crawl back into bed, and the thought of that pile of work waiting for us is exhausting. While research shows that Monday mornings are the most productive time of the workweek, getting excited and energized for another round of long meetings and short deadlines can still be a challenge. Building some level of routine to jump-start the week is a great way to begin and end on a more productive note.

Below are just a few of my tips for giving some rigor to the week, while instilling renewed motivation, energy, enthusiasm, and positivity. What are your tips? What rituals do you incorporate to make the most of your week?