Express Yourself: Why Bringing More Personality to Work Promotes Greater Employee Engagement

FullSizeRender sheRA pixWhether Madonna sang about it, or the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed it, the freedom to express yourself resonates deeply with many of us. Like my 77-year-old mom, who laces her texts with pink hearts and kissy emoticons to express love or my buddies Rich and John, whose Halloween party costumes – ranging from ghosts from the Titanic to 1960’s flight attendants – can be legendary. But when it comes to work, many corporate managers balk at bringing their authentic selves to the office. However, here are three reasons why expressing your personality can actually promote greater employee engagement:

  1. Makes you more accessible. If you manage employees, regardless of whether it is three team members or 30,000, that authority can be intimidating to others. So can senior-level titles. Ever notice how people can clam up when the big boss walks into a room, worried about saying the wrong thing? Yet if your team isn’t sharing what is really happening in the business for fear of reprisals or looking bad, that hurts the company’s performance. Expressing your personality at work makes you more approachable. For example, Chief Operating Officer Gene Long is responsible for the national and international distribution activities for our $2 billion supply chain management cooperative. He’s a recognized industry thought leader and most of the company employees ultimately report to him. Instead of taking himself too seriously though, Gene diffuses tension by making funny, self-deprecating comments. His office features toy trucks representing all of the different fleets managed in his career and the day the Minionsmovie opened, he proudly wore a t-shirt with the animated characters to work. All of which makes him more accessible to employees and ultimately, more effective in his role.
  2. Gives employees “permission” to be themselves. Encouraging people to express their personality shows that you value them as individuals, not just for the job they perform on behalf of the company. With the U.S. economy approaching full-employment, people in high-demand jobs have more options than ever before. Especially when it comes to the 86 million millennials who will be in the workforce by 2020. They are driven by authenticity, as an employee as well as a consumer. Recognizing that as a positive attribute at work deepens one’s sense of loyalty and connection to the company.
  3. Creates a more positive, supportive culture. Getting to know the people you work with goes a long way in creating a collaborative environment. We kicked off the first-ever meeting of our Key Leadership Group (Directors, Vice Presidents and Executive Team) in April by asking participants to talk about a leader that has inspired them. Neil Degrasse Tyson, Sheryl Sandberg and Lou Gerstner were mentioned, along with Julia Child, King David from biblical times and one man’s adorable seven-year-old daughter who inspires him to be a better person each day. We learned something personal about each individual that created delight and a sense of connection. Honoring, encouraging and recognizing stories about team members who volunteer in the community, do something innovative at work, have an intriguing hobby and more is part of our internal communication effort because my company understands how it brings us all together.

Finally expressing yourself at work is great, as long as you keep it professional. Let’s say that you have a passion for magic tricks. Perhaps you express this subtly in your workspace décor, perform an act during the employee talent show or delight kids with a demo during “Bring Your Child to Work Day.” But you probably don’t want to start pulling pennies out of co-workers’ ears during a meeting on company layoffs or walk into a new business presentation with conservative potential clients wearing a top hat and cape.

BTW, I take my own advice here. During the 1980’s I gained the nickname She-Ra, Princess of Power, after the popular kid’s cartoon. My boss called me that one day at work last year and everyone had a good laugh. So I promptly hung a framed poster of the cartoon icon in my office to give anyone that walks by a chance to connect with an inviting conversation starter.

How do you bring your personality to work? What kind of impact has it had on others and your own career?

Four Ways to Love Yourself While Loving Your Job

iStock_000016251684_SmallIn developing business communications, I often quote  thought leaders like Albert Einstein, Jack Welch and Sheryl Sandberg. My all-time personal favorite quote  though comes right out of the mouth of Carrie Bradshaw during the final episode of Sex & the City – “The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

Those are sage words. I’m lucky enough to have a great husband who really loves me, even when I repeat tired jokes about impending zombie apocalypses and often eat 80% of the premium chocolate bar he bought for us to “share.”  But I have had to recalibrate another area of my life recently   – balancing a job I love with taking care of myself.

I returned to corporate America last October as the Executive Vice President of Communications for the National DCP, which is the $2 billion supply chain management cooperative serving the franchisees of Dunkin’ Donuts. (Yes, they stock our break rooms with goodies but I don’t have any samples to share.) The job has been like a Reese’s peanut butter cup of excitement for me – I have gotten to build our internal, external and corporate communications strategy from scratch while also leveraging my executive coaching skills at work each day.  Incredibly fast paced, the 24/7 environment never stops. I have been on the road for much of the past two months and given my level of responsibility, frequently work on weekends while constantly staying plugged into email and texts.

Exciting stuff, indeed. Until you realize that your healthy eating habits have left the building, normally high energy level has plummeted and the bags under your eyes wouldn’t fit in the airplane luggage bin. As I’ve been working on balancing my love for work with loving myself, here are some tips that are yielding results:

  1. Treat nutrition like a project plan. You’ve mapped out that new project launch in detail and know three quarters of financial forecasts like the back of your hand, but never give a thought to what you are going to eat each day. So diving into leftovers from another department’s catered breakfast or fast food discards tends to constitute most of your lunches. I’ve been planning ahead by bringing healthy lunches and two sets of snacks into work, which helps me pass up the leftover cookie pile. The same is true for work travel. Keeping natural protein bars or nuts in your briefcase or purse curbs your hunger in transit. If i know where our team is headed out for dinner, I will check out menus online in advance to select healthier options.
  2. Get enough sleep. This one can be hard, especially if you have to get up early and go to bed late after a work dinner. I love exercising before work but have realized that sometimes getting seven hours of sleep is going to do me more good than anything else and adjust my schedule. Plus its natural for sleep deprived souls to gravitate towards lots of caffeine and sugar to stay awake during the day so getting enough rest helps you make better choices.
  3. Start and end the day focusing on yourself. My best days are spent journaling, even for 10 minutes, before I go to the gym first thing and then work. At night, I try to stop checking emails an hour or two before bed and drift off reading a good book or listening to a positive recording.
  4. Take breaks and time off. My boss told us to book vacations in advance to ensure we keep our commitment to taking time off. So I listened to his advice and now have fun breaks scheduled for September and December; just writing about this makes me smile. But also try to balance the hard work with more frequent, smaller breaks. I have had to work a number of weekends recently and plan to take an upcoming Friday off to just focus on myself.

How have you handled making time for yourself with a challenging job? What practices keep you healthy and happy on a daily basis?

Eureka! Great ideas for locking in your “aha” moments and keen insights

easy-buttonEver had a brilliant idea or insight, only to get so lost in the swell of daily life – an impending work deadline, hungry kids, trying on 14 versions of little black dresses to find one that actually looks good for your high school reunion – that it slowly trickles out of your memory before you can do anything about it? It’s a pretty common occurrence in today’s 24/7 world. Who knows if Thomas Edison would have invented the light bulb if he was distracted by Twitter and I’m sure Marie Curie’s research on radioactivity would have suffered if she spent her weekends binging on the last season of “Orange is the New Black.” With a bit of foresight though, you can easily lock in those “aha” moments with these practices:

  1. Write it down. This means keeping a notepad and pen handy beside your bed, work desk, in your car and other places, or typing notes into your smart phone, to capture this lightening when it strikes. Jot enough notes that you can reconstruct that flash of brilliance when more time permits. For example, you might have a sudden insight on the best way to exercise despite an illness or recurring injury. Use keywords or an outline that will quickly remind you of the details that need to be filled in.
  2. Create a visual reminder. Many of my coaching clients are motivated by visual stimulation and memory. Recently one woman had some eureka moments about her career and love life that were centered around claiming what she wanted and taking chances. She came up with the visual reminder of a bottle of hot sauce, downloaded an image of her favorite brand online and then pasted it in several places, including as her computer screen saver, to serve as a reminder throughout the day. Your talisman can be a piece of jewelry, a photo or whatever floats your boat. A few years ago a friend gave me an “easy” button from an office supply store (you see an image of it pictured above) to help me remember success doesn’t have to be hard. It lives on my desk and I press it, enjoying the little voice that says “that was easy,” whenever that concept needs to be reinforced.
  3. Add embodiment. The truth is that emotions show up in so many places in our physical selves. When I keep thoughts bottled inside and don’t speak my mind, it usually ends up triggering a constricted throat or labored breathing that disappear once the emotions have been expressed or acknowledged. Let’s say that you realized that speaking authentically from your heart is going to improve your relationship with your spouse but then resentment over trash not taken to the curb or dirty dishes left in the sink starts to slither in. In this case, you might want to put your hand over your heart, sort of like delivering your own pledge of allegiance to love, as a reminder about what you truly feel.

What great ideas, realizations or insights have you had lately? How do you lock those moments in to help you achieve what your heart desires?

Three Reasons Why It’s Good to Sometimes Let Yourself Feel Bad

Group of business executives with sad emotionsWe’ve all heard about the dangers of peer pressure during one’s formative years when it comes to drinking, drugs or in the case of my high school years, to wear one’s hair as sky-high as possible. But years later, societal pressure for adults to always be upbeat and “turn that frown upside down” isn’t doing us a whole lot of good either. Because at some point you need to let yourself feel anger, sadness, disappointment or a whole host of other not-so-positive emotions to come out authentically happier on the other side of the issue. Here are three bonafide reasons why it’s good to sometimes let yourself feel bad:

  • Acknowledgement is an important part of the healing process.  Ever have a bad breakup and immediately try to convince all of your friends and yourself that everything is fine and you’ve already started to forget his name after spending the past 14 months together…only to find yourself wanting to cry hysterically a week later while delivering a PowerPoint about budget forecasts at work?  Whatever the challenging situation might arise, it is best to let yourself fully acknowledge the pain and sadness that is present for however long it takes – a few hours, weeks or months – in order to move on in a healthy manner. The key is to be loving and gentle with yourself while doing so, seeking the support of others, journaling and doing things to nurture your well-being in the process.
  • Bottling things up can make you act out. When you don’t give negative emotions their due, you might find yourself taking it out in non-productive ways. For example, a multi-year client recently faced a number of business challenges and had to completely eliminate their Public Relations work with my firm. We have lots of mutual respect for each other and parted on the best of terms. I tried telling myself and others around me that it was perfectly fine, and that’s just how it goes in business sometimes. But a few days later I found myself trying to inhale anything chocolate within a several mile radius. Glossing over the sadness I felt about losing a good client prompted me to turn to emotional eating instead. Only when I honestly expressed the sense of loss to myself through journaling was I able to start moving past it and those misguided sugar cravings disappeared.
  • Allows you to learn and grow. Tired of “learning experiences” that don’t feel so great in the process?  Well buck it up because they are just as important to your well-being as eating green veggies and getting enough sleep at night. Understanding what happened to cause your sadness, anger or loss can help you better deal with those situations in the future while becoming a more centered, better version of yourself in the process.

Have you seen the benefits of letting yourself sometimes feel negative emotions? How has feeling bad ever contributed to your greater good?

Want a healthier, happier life? Then sleep on it!

Sweet dreamsWhen it comes to wellness, good nutrition and regular exercise tend to be the rock stars. It’s no wonder with benefits like increased energy, better fitting clothes, bolstered self-esteem and so much more becoming apparent within a relatively short period of time. But did you know that getting enough sleep is just as important if you want a truly healthier, happier life?

Until recently, it felt like sleep was the red-headed stepchild of wellness – a necessary practice but one that often got overlooked in our 24/7 super-charged lives. I often had insomnia from my teenage years throughout my thirties, rarely grabbing more than five or six hours of shut-eye a night during the week. Sadly enough, I thought this as a good thing, giving me extra time to read, be social or work when others were still ensconced in their beds.  That changed when I hit my forties and suddenly my body started craving more sleep. At first I was annoyed.  Until I realized that my mood and concentration levels tended to be better when I caught seven hours of slumber.  Started doing research and found some really compelling reasons for getting enough sleep for optimum wellness:

1) Sleeping more can help you eat less. According to this 2012 Time Magazine story, sleep deprivation can lead to overeating. In fact, a report presented by the American Heart Association’s annual Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism conference found that study participants who were sleep deprived ate more than 500 additional calories daily. It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that amount of calories can quickly add up into unwelcome extra pounds.

“From a physiologic perspective, we know that sleep is a very important time for the release of many physiologic hormones,” says Virend Somers in the article, lead author of the study and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic.  “It’s a time when the body repairs itself, the brain consolidates memories, and growth hormone is released. All of these important functions are impacted by less sleep time.” And that includes levels of hormones involved in appetite. Regardless of why sleep loss contributes to weight gain, Somers says in the article it’s important for people to start appreciating that the two are intertwined.

2) Sleep makes you more creative. Ever heard that when faced with an issue or question, sometimes it is best to sleep on it? In this intriguing article from BBC, researchers found that sleep helps make people more creative by building remote associations. Making the links between pieces of information that our awake minds see as separate seems to be easiest when we’re catching some shut-eye.  I’m a big believer of this practice. When I’m stuck on my writing or branding work, I will sometimes ask myself to think about the issue or challenge right before dosing off and usually wake up with great insights.

3) Lack of sleep can leave lasting damage. Feeling sluggish and looking tired aren’t the only negative physical side effects of substandard levels of sleep. In this recent article, researchers found that inconsistent sleep patterns can hurt your brain. The problem is the potential loss of neurons that impact alertness and cognitive function. Think you can catch up on sleep deprivation on the weekends and this will all remedy itself? Actually, researchers say not so much. Getting enough sleep most nights is the key to better health and wellness.

I hope this information doesn’t keep you up at night and instead, puts you to sleep (never thought I’d say those words about anything I’ve written). What are your sleep habits like? Is catching enough slumber part of your wellness strategy or a goal you are working towards in the future?

How to make the best of a fast food situation

iStock_000007141433SmallIn an ideal world, we would gravitate towards unprocessed, healthy foods in the same way that Kanye West adores Kim Kardashian…fully and completely, no matter what haters or Saturday Night Live parodies say. But even when eating clean comes to you as easily as breathing, sometimes you don’t have access to healthy choices. Like that time you were stuck in an airport, without an emergency protein bar stashed away at the bottom of your purse, or when you bolted late out of work to catch a concert with your sweetie and dinner was going to be limited to whatever the concessions booth served. Here are a couple of tips to make the best out of a fast food situation:

  • Look for the best of the bunch. the Centers for Disease Control estimates that fast food accounts for more than 15% of daily calories for people in their twenties and thirties. That’s why FITNESS Magazine put together this list of two relatively healthier options on the menus of each of the top 10 fast food chains in case you need to indulge in an occasional grab-and-go meal.  For example, they highlight the Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and low-fat balsamic vinaigrette plus Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait; for a total of 375 calories, 9.5g fat (4g saturated) at McDonald’s.
  •  Forego the extras. Chipotle is my favorite fast food restaurant, primarily because they buy anti-biotic free chicken and beef, prepare items fresh and try to use organic and/or local items when possible. But even there, the calories and sodium content add up. So I forego a lot of the “extras” to keep things healthier – opting for a burrito bowl without the flour tortilla, asking for only one scoop of brown rice with my chicken, veggies and black beans, and saying no to the cheese and sour cream in favor of a scoop of guacamole. Whenever I have an early morning flight back home, breakfast is usually oatmeal from Starbucks, without adding any sugar. Think about how you can choose filling proteins, veggies, fruits or salads from fast food menu options without falling into the deep-fried foods trap.
  • Think small. In our supersize culture, portion sizes have gotten out of whack and a typical fast food meal way exceeds an average person’s recommended daily calorie allowance. Consider options from the kid’s meal or whatever the smallest portion sizes may be. Don’t hesitate to ask for water instead of the soda that comes with your meal or ask anything that can be custom plated to come in half the normal portion size.

How do you handle fast food situations when nothing else is available? What are some of your go-to-foods at quick service restaurants?

 

 

 

 

 

Three Lessons from the “Too Thin” Biggest Loser Winner

Biggest Loser feb 2014While The Biggest Loser inspires many viewers, I don’t watch it because there is so much focus on quick-weight loss and not enough on what it takes, psychologically and emotionally as well as with exercise and nutrition, for long-term wellness. Have to admit that even I was shocked when all of the articles ran yesterday, like this one in Entertainment Weekly, that showed the season’s winner, Rachel Frederickson, losing 155 lbs. to land at 105 lbs., which on her 5-foot 4-inches frame is well below the body mass index of a healthy range.  Her emaciated arms contrasted greatly with the joyous smile on her face and it broke my heart. That’s why I wanted to share three lessons we can learn from Rachel’s experience:

  1. Look for encouragement in other ways. When I slowly but surely took off 50 pounds over 20 years ago, getting compliments from people helped fuel that journey. I hadn’t gotten much positive attention for my appearance before and it was thrilling. After that 15-month process though, others got used to the new healthier, fit version of me and compliments slowed down to a trickle. So if you’ve come to rely on the lovely feeling of being cheered on and then it dissipates, that can be hard. Finding encouragement from other means, including yourself, is essential in maintaining a healthy balance with your weight and overall wellness.
  2. There can be too much of a good thing.  Losing pounds at some point should stop when you reach a healthy weight with strong muscle mass. Rather than continuing with behaviors that focus just on shedding pounds, consider consulting certified nutrition and exercise professionals or a physician to find the right balance for your individual body. Weight loss maintenance actually takes a different set of skills to thrive in the long-term. Many successful weight losers deal with “course corrections” along the way, in the form of gaining back a few pounds to reach a healthier, more maintainable place or having to shed extra weight that might return as habits shift in life.
  3. Get realistic role models. Rachel is a voice-over actress in Los Angeles, where many women in the entertainment industry are encouraged to be as thin as possible. If she has been working in an environment where trying to emulate runway model skinny is seen as success, then the weight she landed probably seems delightful to her.  And I know there’s a whole argument out there that Rachel could be absolutely healthy and is beaming in the media interviews when describing her experience. But given the importance of emphasizing being fit over being skinny to others looking at Biggest Loser winners as their role models, I wonder about the negative impact this could potentially have.

What are your thoughts? Does she look too skinny or should we all shut up and let her be thin in peace? Have you ever had to consciously regain a few pounds for better health?

 

Photo Image Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

 

Exercise tips to help survive a zombie-like snow apocalypse

atlanta traffic in snowYesterday I got proof that if a zombie apocalypse happens, we’re all toast. Not just because of the brain sucking zombies mind you, which is bad enough. I’m talking about the seemingly minor snow and ice event that hit Atlanta yesterday around noon. Without any coordination, the local government, businesses and schools shut down at once, releasing what felt like a million motorists on the city’s highways simultaneously. People got stuck with a capital “S”;  some friends took seven or eight hours to drive six miles, and they were the lucky ones compared to the thousands stranded on the roads overnight in icy conditions. But when the chips are down, you’ve got to get moving…literally. Here are some great exercise tips you can do when home-bound by snow, ice or any challenging weather situation.

At a time when I keep getting emails about closings and cancellations from fitness studios because of the treacherous driving conditions, what really stood out is this at-home training routine Dan FitzSimons of BodyFitz studios sent to his followers today.

“When it seems like everything is shut down, there are more than a few things we can do!” notes Dan. He created this challenging routine for his wife Tracy which can be modified however you like:

  1. Walk up and down the stairs for one minute. What? No stairs?  Grab a stool, or march in place for the same amount of time.  Then perform 20 “standing super peoples”! (alternating right arm/left leg)
  2. Get back on the stairs, up and down for one more minute…now perform 10 squats.  Perfect squats please ! Push the rear end backwards, keep the back strong and straight with your eyes elevated.
  3. Arm Circles…yup, just like sounds: standing with plenty of room around you. Straighten out your arms to the side and parallel to the floor. Make small circles with your arms for ten seconds in one direction and then ten seconds in the opposite direction..rest.
  4. Time for a Wall Sit.  Once again, just as it sounds.  Put your back against the wall and get into a sitting position.  Make sure that your feet are out front under your knees.  Meaning your knee and hip joint should be a perfect 90 degrees. (square)
  5. Back to the stairs, this time for 90 seconds,(if you can).  Jog if you want, or take two stairs at a time.  Push yourself a little bit more this time as you are getting more and more warmed up.
    Water break…Remember we can still get results…we just need to get enough intensity to work up a sweat.

In addition, Dan offered these bonus exercises to be executed at your own max potential in 20-30 second bursts, followed by 10-20 seconds of recovery:

  • Let’s do push-ups, modified push ups or maybe get into a plank and hold that position. Hands can be under the shoulders with the elbows pointing back and slightly to the sides (close stance push-up).  This position is good for the plank and the push up.  Perform 3,5, or 10 push-ups, or a 20 second plank.
  • Stand and start squatting again. 20 squats, get low and feel those quads, glutes and hamstrings working! 
  • Go right into arm circles again (hold  2lb weights or two water bottles for resistance) 20 seconds each direction.
  • 15 jumping jacks or marching in place for 20 seconds
  • Stairs for 30 seconds…
  • Repeat two more times…or more! Give it YOUR all! Finish with a good cool down and some stretching. Drink plenty of water and enjoy your next healthy meal!

You might want to check out helpful videos and tips from online resources like Fitness Blender,  Workout Nirvana, Fun And Fit and Thrive Fit for more in-home exercise moves too. Have you ever been stuck in your home by a weather event and if so, how did you handle it? What are some of your favorite exercise moves that can be done at home or anywhere?

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?

 

The Power of Choosing Your Attitude

Mike Thompson kona Ironman world championship finish 2012No matter what obstacles appear, you still have the power to choose your attitude. Just ask Mike Thompson, a four-time cancer survivor in Austin, Texas who now competes in grueling Ironman triathlons and speaks frequently to inspire others. He offers a great perspective for how anything is possible as long as you are alive.

In 1995 at age 10, Mike was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, an adult form of the disease rarely found in kids. Over the next five and a half years, he dealt with relapses, 75 surgeries, two bone marrow transplants, numerous complications and a 12-hour complete jaw reconstruction.  When an infection from the jaw surgery left him in constant pain, Mike fell under the spell of prescription pain meds for four years until a 2007 stint in detox broke that addiction.

“You are in charge of your destiny,” notes Mike. “I still battle with jaw pain, depression and fear, but I’ve chosen to adopt an outlook that I’m better off now than I’ve ever been. Life is worth fighting for and every day should be celebrated.”

Active living with an eye towards helping others became his driving passion. After helping to raise over $6 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with his Team in Training Group, Mike started competing in triathlons. He completed a half Ironman in 2010 and a full Ironman race the following year with a cancer-fighting platform. Then Mike entered this 90 second video into an Ironman contest seeking inspired athletes who have used triathlons to overcome obstacles.

Mike Thompson’s Inspirational Video for 2012 Ironman World Championships

He won, and got to compete in the prestigious 2012 Ironman World Championships in Kona. Today Mike inspires countless numbers of people to choose a positive attitude through his speaking engagements, writing and personal conversations.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to the amazing women at the http://triwivesclub.com/ website, where Mike is a guest blogger. Check out their great info for people like me who love a triathlete and Mike’s posts for additional inspiration.

How has choosing your attitude helped you overcome an obstacle or difficult situation?  What person in your life has inspired you to achieve what once seemed impossible?