Good Times: Are you prepared for the best to happen?

From Stephen King to Maya Angelou, numerous cultural icons have been quoted on the concept of hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Many organizations certainly operate with that mindset, creating contingency plans galore for handling crisis situations. But if everything goes right, how well-equipped are you to accept the good times? It takes a different mentality to handle better than expected outcomes. Just ask my friend Jini Thornton, whose quest to find her biological parents exceeded her wildest dreams.

Adopted at birth by a fierce, loving single mother who passed away 17 years ago, Jini has created a great life for herself. She built a successful business management firm that represents major entertainers and thrived personally with a happy marriage, raising two now adult sons. Then last year, Jini’s curiosity about her birth family prompted an exploration of Ancestry.com. She steeled herself for disappointment and possible rejection.  This past Good Friday, the website presented a DNA match with a man who ultimately proved to be an uncle by birth. Next came meeting her birth mother, who was forced to give Jini up for adoption as a pregnant teenager.  Initially cautious in their interactions, Jini and her birth mother, who serves as an administrator at an Ivy League university, have maintained near daily contact since.

Connections were formed with dozens of friendly cousins and extended family members along the way.  Just a few weeks ago, she met her 95-year-old maternal grandmother at a heartwarming, emotional family reunion. One of the most special moments was meeting her birth father at that same event. He had no idea Jini existed until she contacted him. A recovering addict who has been clean for over a decade, he has welcomed her with open arms. “I hear from my father almost daily and he calls me sunshine,” says Jini.

Sounds like the ideal ending to a Hallmark Channel movie, right? In many ways, it is. But welcoming good times still takes a lot of energy. Here are three tips to help you make the most of good times:

  1. Prepare for the best. All too often we approach situations with the inevitable veil of failure. You know, defeatist self-talk like “I’m going to ask for a raise but of course it won’t happen” or “submitted my application for the new job but they probably won’t call.” Instead, visualize yourself achieving good times and the very best outcome…accepting a huge raise, nailing the important presentation, winning a big client and more. Then map out the steps associated with success. For example, getting a raise would involve how you plan to celebrate, allocate the extra income, share the good news with others and more.
  1. Focus on self-care. Change – good times and bad – can be stressful and requires a certain amount of energy. That’s why it is so important to focus on taking great care of yourself. For starters, get enough sleep. Benefits include better handling of stress, mental acuity, increased creativity and more which support welcoming great outcomes into your life. Incorporate daily practices that keep you centered, happy and motivated. I’m inspired by my personal trainer, Jenna Minecci, who is fueling her mission to spread awareness about ACL Injury Prevention in female athletes though daily meditations and working on a book about her experiences with multiple surgeries. As for my happy place? Well, that’s achieved by early morning exercise sessions involving killer music before heading into the office.
  1. Create healthy boundaries. If you’ve heard of the concept of Positive Intelligence, it is all about unlocking your potential by mastering your mind. Good stuff, right? Check out the complimentary inner saboteur assessment on the site. My top inner saboteur trait is the pleaser, which is known for trying to make everyone else happy at the expense of oneself. I said yes to just about everything, not wanting to miss out on fun opportunities or disappoint others. This Giving Tree-type behavior ultimately lead to a boatload of exhaustion and  So now, I try to focus on just a few “extra-curricular” activities and do them well, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.  Even when faced with numerous exciting possibilities, having those boundaries in place makes the ones I choose more enjoyable and meaningful.

How do you prepare for great outcomes? Have a story to share about hoping for the best and receiving something even better in return?

What Wonder Woman teaches us about employee engagement

It might seem like Wonder Woman doesn’t have much to do with employee engagement. After all, the beloved icon uses bullet proof bracelets, the lasso of truth and super human strength to protect humanity (and rack up box office gold) while companies focus on employee engagement to improve productivity, reduce turnover and enhance results. However, given that Wonder Woman’s compassion, courage and commitment to doing what’s right truly saves the day, organizations can learn a lot from our superheroine about engaging their workforce. Lessons include:

  1. Operate with clarity and purpose – Okay movie fans, if you haven’t seen the film yet, spoilers are ahead. In this inspiring flick, Wonder Woman is clear her mission is to protect innocent people and stop Ares, the God of War, from destroying humanity. That’s something we can all rally around, right? Companies that have that kind of clarity about their mission, vision and values connect better with employees and generate stronger results. In fact, a Gallup Survey found that a 10% improvement in employees’ connection with the mission or purpose of their organization would result in a 12.7% reduction in safety incidents, an 8.1% decrease in turnover, and a 4.4% increase in profitability.
  2. Build strong teams – Despite her strength and smarts, Wonder Woman couldn’t have prevailed without the support of the rag tag team brought together to infiltrate enemy territory. (Plus there’s her future affiliation with the Justice League, where Batman, Superman and their brethren all work together for the greater good.) Super star employees are great, but super star teams are even better. Investing in training, leadership development and succession planning to help people reach their potential – something which ADP reports only a third of U.S. employees give their companies high marks in those areas – is a win-win situation.
  3. Embrace ethics – Wonder Woman had the choice of ruling as an all-powerful being with the villain, or staying true to herself but battling it out. She picked the second option, finding the inner strength and ethical fortitude to prevail. Companies that choose the ethical path, even when it can impact short-term profits, connect deeper with employees. For example, corporations like AFLAC, Accenture and Marriott International were recognized as one of the world’s most ethical companies which no doubt influenced their inclusion on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work
  4. Care about others – Her deep concern for others prompted Wonder Woman to plunge onto a battlefield to free a French town occupied by German soldiers during World War I. Companies that genuinely care about the communities and people they serve inspire greater employee loyalty. Many organizations are placing an increasingly higher value on corporate social responsibility. At National DCP, our community outreach effort focuses on health and wellness, hunger relief and sustainability issues and we’ve been rolling out an employee volunteer time off program. Some employees see corporate social responsibility as a key factor in choosing where they work; Horizon Media estimates that 81% of millennials expect companies to publicly pledge to be good corporate citizens.

As a kid, Wonder Woman was my favorite superhero/superheroine.  (Though she had some hefty competition from my close namesake – She-Ra, kick-butt cartoon goddess extraordinaire – in the 1980’s). In addition to being a positive role model and empowered character, it is gratifying to see how her behaviors can inspire better corporate cultures and employee engagement too.

How does your organization engage employees? Who is your favorite superhero or superheroine and how has that impacted who you are today?

Five Tips for Creating a Kick-Ass Vision Board

vision board 2014Ever heard the term “you’ve got to see it to believe it?” For so many people, visualizing a specific pathway, goal or dream is the first step in making it a reality. A really helpful tool in this process is the vision board, which is a visual representation of the elements you’d like to create, focus on and attract into your life. Here are five tips for creating a kick-ass vision board that helps you claim your heart’s desire:

 

1.  Determine your main themes. Is it love, financial prosperity, better health or increased fitness? Think about your main goals and interests for the year or whatever time period you are focused on for the vision board. If possible, come up with an overall theme or focus that will land in the middle of your creation too. Need an example? I’ve posted a photo of my vision board above. Nestled in the center is the phrase “Inspire…Be Inspired” which really sums up my focus for 2014, while the other themes represented in clockwise fashion are healthy eating/fitness/wellness, how writing my book inspires me, love, resourcefulness, success, financial prosperity and fun (represented by the minion from Despicable Me).

 

2.  Select images. Flip through magazines for inspiring photos and headlines that belong on your board. This year, I found most of my images online and printed them out, adding personal photos and phrases that resonated strongly. Like the photo of Sandra Bullock from her role in the movie Gravity that appears in the bottom right hand corner of my board…I chose that image because it shows that no matter what comes up, I can be resourceful (like an astronaut lost in space who saves herself – sorry for the spoiler!) and because the movie was so creative and unexpected that it redefined filmmaking this year. Make it three dimensional if you like…I’ve seen people cut out greeting cards, sentimental trinkets and adhere a light bulb on some cool vision boards. If you have natural artistic ability (which doesn’t exist in my DNA at all), consider drawing, painting or sculpting the visuals that invoke your passions. Heck, go crazy and repurpose that old “glued-on macaroni spray-painted gold technique” used so effectively in the second grade to decorate a candle holder for mom. There are no limits!  

3.  Craft a “canvas.” My vision board is simply a large white poster board with photos and images glued or taped down in different quadrants. Easy-peasy, right? But I know people who create vision boards in the form of a PowerPoint slide show, computer screen saver or another surface that beautifully hosts their vision for the year. Figure out the best home for your vision and pull it all together in that space/surface.

4.  Share with others.  It’s perfectly fine to keep your vision board to yourself. But think of all the positive energy that is churned up when you talk about it and share your enthusiasm with others. During the first weekend in January, I had a dozen super cool ladies over to make our boards together. Sure enough, we did a “show and tell” at the end that was fun and reinforced our goals.

5.  Check it out daily. The most diligently crafted vision board isn’t doing you any favors if it languishes in a dusty corner. Display your creation somewhere in which you’ll easily see it several times a day. My friend Terri hung her vision board in her walk-in closet, ensuring she engages in those positive images every morning and night. Mine is displayed at eye level across my office so I view it several times a day when leaving my desk. You can always take a photo of it for your smart phone or tablet screen saver too for easy reinforcement.

I hope you enjoy creating this art project with a purpose. Have you ever created a vision board before and if so, how did it work for you? If you were to develop one for 2014, what would some of your themes or images be?

 

Three Ways to Identify Your Life’s Purpose

iStock_000028679544SmallFrom David Bowie to Taylor Swift, change has always been a popular song theme.  The topic has sure been on my mind lately, as I’m building on my nearly 13-year-old Branding & PR consultancy to also become a certified life coach and continue to make great progress with my book project on helping people get unstuck. A huge catalyst recently was getting focused on my purpose/mission, and now I wanted to share three tips to help you identify your life’s purpose as well:

1)      Recognize your passions.  Make a list of all of the activities and experiences that truly floats your boat.  There’s no limit here…it could be just a few items or a list that covers several pages. Whether you love zumba classes, gardening, international travel or writing “50 Shades of Grey” fan fiction (hey, I don’t judge), take note of what lights you up at this moment in your life. Now circle the three items that resonate with you most strongly. Are you seeing any patterns or themes here? 

2)      Fill in the blanks. Here’s a handy tool, courtesy of the Coaches Training Institute, the extensive program I’m currently enrolled in to become a professional life coach.

I am the (fill in the blank – metaphors are great here) that (describe your impact).

For example, I’m a rabid pop culture geek, so naturally images of super heroes come to my mind.  A couple of years ago at a dinner party, I was asked to name my super power/hero name and the first thing that popped into my mind was “The Illuminator,” based on inspiring others to maximize their potential. Okay, it doesn’t involve laser beams or sick martial arts skills, so I’m definitely not getting a part in the next “Avengers” movie. But it felt right and has been at the back of my mind ever since.  Lately it dawned on me that what all of my interests have in common is possibilities…I help create them for companies and while providing individuals the chance to recognize and claim their greatness.  Take all of that together, and here’s the life purpose statement I just finalized last weekend:

I am the Illuminator, helping people see and step fully into possibilities.

3)      Take ownership. For me, the first step has been writing this blog post and bolding the above statement. Next I’m working on how to bring all parts of me together – this blog and my current business website, into one place that encompasses what brings me joy and honors that purpose. Once you’ve identified what your purpose is, give it life. Write about it in your journal or blog, tell friends, create a vision board about it, etc. When you focus attention and love on it, great things will happen.

Have you identified your life purpose? If so, what is it? What are you most passionate about these days?