Having What Matters

Solutions & Simplicity in the Workplace

Demands on a professional woman can be intense; with a career in law, I understand completely. We may all have different work circumstances, but whatever your position is, I’m guessing that like mine, it isn’t easy.

But just as I’m creating systems and processes at home to help me simplify, streamline, and manage everything better, I’m doing the same thing at work. In correlating the home and the workplace, a few of these quick tips will help relieve some of the pressure.

Ask yourself good questions

In creating systems at work, I start out by asking myself high-quality questions. It sounds trite, but I strongly believe in the whole “Ask a better question, get a better answer” mantra. When I approach work, I try to ask myself good questions to help me prioritize my work and create the best possible outcomes for myself and my organization.

Here are a few starter questions when facing an avalanche on your desk: (Note from Miranda – these should be bullets)

What has to be done now?

  • What can wait?
  • What can I delegate and to whom?
  • Who can help me with this?
  • Should this be done by me or someone else?
  • Why are we doing it this way?
  • What other ways could we approach this?
  • What paper/process/red tape could we eliminate to make things simpler and more streamlined? (Can I get an “amen” on that one!?)

Create radically simple solutions.

Right now, I am amassing resources on creating radically simple solutions for workplace problems. First, I need to learn as much as I can about the challenge I’m facing — again, applying the “ask good questions rule.”(Note from Miranda – these should be bullets)

  • What is the history?
  • What has been tried before?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their concerns?

Next, I need to figure out how to provide better service or outcomes with leveraged energies. I want to strip down each challenge to its core and construct a solution that uses less money and energy. The solution should also improve outcomes and generally make life better and easier for myself and others. That’s a winning solution! It does, of course, take an initial investment of time when creating solutions this way because the most elegant and radically simple solution is rarely obvious. Keep excavating, digging deep until you can get to the very core of what needs to happen and the simplest way to make it happen. Then, garnish support from key people who will be impacted by the change or whom you need to help you champion the change. Make your case for why you believe this is the best solution, based on your research and strategic thought. Be prepared to course-correct as you go, but don’t wait for a perfect solution before you start making things simpler.

Build healthy boundaries

This is a hard one for me! I always want to help everyone, all the time. However, if I do that, I won’t get the big work or the big tasks done. I’m working on time blocking within my schedule so that I am intentionally creating time for the projects that require more deep thinking. I try to schedule meetings only on two days of the week and then block three days for projects. This is far, far from absolute. Meetings always sneak in on my non-meeting days; it’s just the nature of my work. I will also schedule a lunch meeting on any day because I need to eat and so does the person who needs to meet with me, so we might as well eat together. I’ll keep you posted on my progress on this, but I know that I can’t move forward on any big ideas and projects in 15-minute increments between meetings. So while my schedule is sometimes at the mercy of others, for the large part, it isn’t. If I’m really honest, I am responsible for creating the chaos in my calendar by not being more thoughtful and purposeful with my own time. I am the one who has allowed or scheduled back-to-back meetings, rather than simply saying “Could we meet later this week? I’m already booked up on Tuesday.” Even though there are sometimes situations you need to deal with immediately, for the most part people are very understanding and flexible if you need to wait a few days. It is as simple as asking yourself what you need and what time you need. We don’t need to be at everyone’s “beck and call” all the time. This is a potential area for growth (and a concept that I need to remind myself of daily) so be grace-filled with yourself as you make changes in boundaries.

Leave work at work (as much as possible)

This is a hard one and I know it’s not possible for many people to do this 100%. In fact, I think it works better for some people to bring some work home to do after the kids go to bed or first thing in the morning when your mind is most sharp. This provides a little bit of relief because you can be more flexible with other commitments (like being at a kid’s after-school event). That being said, the idea that I also try to calm the mental clutter spinning in my head and allow myself to focus on work at work and home at home is proving to be very helpful. It’s hard to stayed tuned in to everything all the time, almost as if your mind is a web browser that has far, far too many windows open. Focusing and being present is actually much more efficient. (We will unpack the myth of multitasking another time.) It’s been said that tasks expand to fill the time allotted. So, to the extent I can, I allot time during the day for tasks and give myself hard-stops at the end of the work day and consequently, I find myself to be more efficient. If my whole 24-hour day feels like a possible work day, I will let projects and tasks linger because there is always a “later.” If I tell myself I must turn off the computer by a certain time (end of work day, like 5:00 or 5:30 p.m.), then I push myself a little harder to get through the workday to-do list.

Take mini-breaks during the day

This is also a productivity hack that takes intention and discipline. Studies have shown that we are much more productive when we take mini-breaks throughout the day to let our mind rest and reset a bit. While taking too much time away during the day can be challenging, mini-breaks will ultimately make you more productive. I don’t know about you, but there are days where I’m so laser-focused on my email inbox, crossing things off my to-do list, or running from meeting to meeting that I barely take time to use the restroom much less take a five-minute breathing break. I’m working on actually calendaring small breaks into my day or setting the timer on my phone to remind me to walk to get a glass of water, stop and say hello to a colleague, or do anything to let my mind take a breather. These mini-breaks make us more efficient in the bigger scheme of things by not asking more of our brains than they can provide. Some people build in time ratios like, working for 50 minutes and then taking a 10 minute break. Do what works best for you, but let your brain reset a bit throughout the day. This may also look different for extroverts than it does for introverts. Extroverts get their energy from interactions with others, so a trip to the water cooler or a coffee run with a colleague will recharge them. Introverts, on the other hand, recharge by having time alone, so a mini-break is more likely to be shutting the door and having a bit of alone time or taking a walk around the block alone. It’s important to honor your own style because the mini-break should fill you up, not deplete you.

There are lots of ways we can improve our work habits that ultimately support us in creating better outcomes in our jobs while also fostering more clarity, focus, intention, and simplicity in our minds and lives. I’ll be sharing more of these hacks as I find them, but these are five that are foundational and a great place to start bringing simplicity into the professional side of life.

4 Reasons to Remodel Rather than Move

Have you ever wanted to press “reset” on your home and start over? You’ve watched all the flipper and rehab shows and perhaps you look around knowing your home is a diamond in the rough. Then, maybe you sigh (like I did) at all the work and money that that would take. And perhaps you’ve wondered, is it better to move or rehab? Excellent question! Here’s our story.

We are just wrapping up a significant home remodeling project. And by significant, I mean we gutted and remodeled our whole kitchen and three of our four bathrooms. We also added a transom window in one room and replaced the picture windows in our living room. We put down new flooring in our laundry room and built new cubbies to hold the kids’ school stuff. By the mountain of mess and sawdust, I consider that yes, it was a significant remodeling job!

And we did all that pounding and sawing and mess-making in November and December this year, because why wouldn’t we do it during the holidays? Crazy, I know.

Of course, I had also started a new job in October, so I was “drinking from the firehose” learning a new position, being in a new team, and holding a new role.

Why not bring on all the crazy at once and just get it out of the way? That’s what we intentionally decided to do.

Now that we are on the other side of it, I get questions as to why we chose to remodel instead of move. This is a fair question and we had asked ourselves the same– whether we should remodel or move — for about a year prior to engaging a contractor to help us knock out almost all our walls.

I read an article recently about how Americans are obsessed with remodeling right now and are spending unwisely on superficial changes to their homes. While this may be true for some, that doesn’t represent everyone. We were living in a home built in 1982 that was designed for a middle-aged couple with no children. It was a great home for them, and it worked for us when we moved in in 2006 with our toddler and newly-adopted infant. Fast forward to today, with three middle-schoolers, we were bumping into each other left and right, fighting over who got access to the sink and shower upstairs, and elbowing each other out of the way to open the fridge.

Now, I’m an over-thinker, so this decision to basically gut our beloved but well-worn home was not reached lightly. We knew it had big implications for us financially, and we try to be conservative in our financial decisions.

However, at the end of the day, I needed our home to work for us. I needed it to support the kind of family life I wanted to build. I needed our home to be a haven for us: a safe, comfortable place that worked with the family structure we have right now and for the future.

Full disclosure, we talked about doing nothing, just living in the space as it was. That would certainly have been the cheapest route. Yet, we knew the kids were only getting bigger — and more social. We wanted to be “the” house where they could bring their friends to hang out. And let’s be honest, we also couldn’t handle six more years of listening to quibbling over the sink upstairs. Personally, as a woman with high-intensity career, I needed a tub/shower set up that I could use at the end of a long day. The pre-remodel layout had a soaker tub and retrofitted shower, which meant we had two shower curtains surrounding the shower. This awkward design resulted in a wet, sticky mess both inside and outside the shower. We decided we had to do something, so the discussion became a long one about whether to move or remodel.

Our thought process went something like this:

  1. It made financial sense.

We spent a lot of time working on our financial numbers as we debated whether we should remodel or move. Ryan and I are very careful with our money and financial resources – with three growing kiddos, we have to be creative and strategic! We looked at our budget, our monthly expenses and charitable contributions (both of which were non-negotiable). We looked at what we had in reserves and what we thought we could pay off. We looked at the impact of moving. Moving to a new home that would meet all our needs would have doubled our mortgage (we locked in a beautiful rate a couple of years ago when rates were crazy-low.) We calculated how much we would lose on realtor fees, which was money right off the top. We knew we had money we had been socking away methodically for either a remodel or down payment, and we calculated what we could put toward a remodeling project home equity loan or increased mortgage rate. In the end, we crunched the numbers and it became glaringly clear to us that it made more sense to stay put and renovate. We were determined to pay off the remodel as quickly as possible, and by using our reserves and tightening our belts, we were able to pay for about ⅔ of the remodel from money we saved and pay off the remaining ⅓ (that we used a home equity line to finance) within nine months of completing the project. A move would have doubled our mortgage rate for the life of the loan, so keeping our current mortgage rate and having no debt from the remodel within one year of completing it was the best financial choice for us.

  1. We liked our location.

We have a great neighborhood. Our property backs up to a nature preserve, so no one can build behind us. We live on a cul-de-sac with lovely neighbors that we have known for ten years. Our kids can bike or walk to the community center or library. I have a reasonable commute to work (about 20 minutes on a good day.) We have easy shopping nearby (Target and Trader Joe’s). Our daughter’s dance school is a 3-minute drive. We have a good spot here. When I looked at other homes, there wasn’t anything that had all of the benefits of our location. There were some lovely, secluded, wooded lots (which I appreciate), but it meant I would be adding at least 30 minutes a day to my commuting times. I wasn’t willing to give up that extra 2.5 hours per week. Our school district is fantastic so leaving the district was a non-starter. We determined that there really wasn’t a location we liked better than where we were.

  1. There wasn’t anything we liked better in our price range.

I went to a lot of open houses. I did tons of research. For about a year, I visited at least one open house a weekend (if not more, depending on what was open) and spent countless hours scouring real estate websites. Granted, there were some very interesting and lovely properties, but they were listed at prices more than we were willing to spend. We knew approximately what the remodel would cost, and even when we added that onto the market value of our current home, we couldn’t get into a new house in a similar, comfortable price range. We didn’t want to be “house poor.” We needed to be sure we were saving for college (since we will have three kids in there at the same time!) and retirement. We wanted to have options should something change with our jobs or cash flow. Keeping a low mortgage rate was important to us, and we couldn’t do that with any of the homes we were visiting.

  1. Our unique family circumstances.

Money was not the only consideration. We needed to do what was right for our kids, too. We could crunch numbers all day and analyze pros and cons, but there were also three other members of the family who had their own perspectives on moving. While their opinions weren’t deal-breakers, we wanted to take them into account. Our girls had known their current house as “home” for over ten years. Our youngest came home from Colombia and spent just one night in our previous home before we moved here. (Yes, we moved from our old home to our current home 48 hours after returning from a six-week adoption trip to Colombia. Another story for another post.) Our girls loved our current home and location. Our son had just arrived in our home about two years before we were deciding whether to move or remodel. Since he came into our family at age 10, he was just settling into his new home, new country (he is from China), and new culture. It didn’t feel right to uproot him from his new home and move him to another house. Was it possible? Yes, of course. But for a 12-year-old boy who is just getting his sea legs in a new family, new house, and new — well — everything, keeping our location steady was a priority. Packing up our home and moving to another would have been infinitely more disruptive than two months of construction. Everyone has their own family circumstances that make what could be a purely financial and objective decision a little more complicated, and the unique circumstances of our family composition influenced our housing decision.

So, in the end, those four big reasons kept us in our current home. We lived through a remodel (more on that in the future). We cooked on a hot plate in the basement and ate around a folding table for two months. We all took showers and brushed our teeth in our teenage daughter’s basement bathroom. It was an adventure, but we all made it through alive!

The remodel was money well-spent. I initially resisted spending it because I don’t really like to spend down our reserves or write big checks. But as soon as we moved back into our kitchen and all five of us could be in the space together without ramming into each other like bumper cars, I knew we had made the right choice. Listening to the two younger kids banter while they both brush their teeth in the same bathroom since we ripped out the stand-up shower and put in dual sinks — that banter is priceless. Ryan and I lay in our bed down the hall and eavesdrop on their brother/sister conversations over face washing and teeth brushing. All the mess and sawdust was worth it.

And I can sit here at the kitchen table, looking out over the our own familiar woods in a peaceful, intentionally designed home, and write to you.

Let’s Do This

I didn’t have a watershed moment that made me change everything. Perhaps others experience those defining, line-in-the-sand moments when inspiration creates massive changes in their lives but I don’t have that kind of a story. And maybe you don’t have that story either.
My story is that I’m a working mom of three who deeply needed change. I wanted to change the life/work “thing.” While I did the best I could with the knowledge I had, it led me to a life of overwhelm, stress, regret, and frustration. As I looked around at dear friends pulling the same long hours and running to the same kids’ activities with the same results, I realized I needed to chart a different path. Maybe that’s why you’re here – searching for a better path.
From my place of frustration and stress several years ago, this blog was born. I trademarked “Having What Matters” long before the simplicity and minimalism movements were really chugging along in earnest (and certainly before I knew it existed, though there were some trailblazers out there!) “Having What Matters” was a phrase that came to me when I was mulling over the implications of the proverbial question of “Having It All.” I wondered, “Maybe it’s not about having it all, but about Having What Matters.”
I began reading, experimenting, decluttering, simplifying, streamlining, and trying to align what mattered to me as a professional working mom with my personal life experience.
And it’s still messy some days. And hard. (Okay, let’s be real, darn near impossible.)
That’s why I couldn’t find resources and thought-leaders geared toward working moms of older kids with dual-income families, messy teenage rooms, an overfull calendar, and children who were about as compliant as they were as toddlers.
When I would talk with other women — mothers or those without children alike — about their lives, their careers, and what really mattered to them, it gave me so much joy to share a bit about my journey! In my continuing process, I had found tips, decisions, life hacks that worked for me (and plenty that didn’t) and how to find hope when you feel like you are digging out of a deep, dark pit of your own creation.
If you are familiar with the dark pit of overwhelm, you are in the right space. I’ve been there too and have found a hard-earned pathway out.
You see, you and I live in a society where we’re told that the only way to be happy is to do more, have more, and be more. That’s a recipe for disaster, but it’s all we know. And it’s what we feel we need to do to be “successful.”
But it simply isn’t true.
I believe simplicity is possible for women who want both a fulfilling career and a meaningful personal life – to intentionally “own” their lives and focus on what really matters to them.
So this marks my line in the sand, although I started dragging my toe on the beach a long time ago.
I have two main goals for this blog:

  1. To curate and share what I’ve learned so far. I’ve been researching, following, experimenting, and fumbling around with simplicity, minimalism, work/life balance, and all sorts of personal and professional development material for a long time. I want to share it with you, so you can skip some of the bumps I’ve had along the way.
  2. To show you what the process of simplifying looks like in a dual-income, busy household of five people with two working parents, three middle-schoolers, and a slew of extracurriculars and commitments for all five of us. We have a long way to go, but we’ve started and can look back at the important changes that have come already. As a professional, ambitious woman, I want to enjoy and build a home that is a haven for those myself and those I love; I’ll share my joys and challenges, my ups and downs, what has worked and what has failed.

Let’s walk this walk together. It won’t feel easy at times. It will bring up some big questions about who we are deep down and what kind of life we want and why. There will be tough conversations with our loved ones and co-workers. It may feel like two steps forward, one step back some days, but in the end, it will be worth it. An intentionally crafted life is always worth it. I want you to know that your journey matters!
So feel free to dive right into the blog and watch for more valuable resources coming soon. We are hiking through rugged territory, but we can hike together. Who’s bringing the snacks?

The golden moments

SunsetOnMadelineIsland-300x224“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.” – George Eliot


As we move from trying to get and do more, more, and more and toward having and doing what matters, we need to focus on also thinking more about quality instead of quantity.

This past weekend was very, very full around our home. We had family in town for four days, a memorial service for a beloved family member, a birthday party on Saturday and a dance recital on Sunday for our eight-year-old (and twelve of her closest friends!), and much more. There was lots of quantity and quality.

But I also felt throughout the weekend that I was just trying to “get through” each event and onto the next without dropping any plates that I was desperately and frantically spinning.

I wasn’t savoring all of the wonderful things going on around me. My parents who I don’t get to see as often as I would like. My daughter’s party and recital — those precious moments of her beautiful youth that I know are flying by much more quickly than I would like.

Too soon, my daughters won’t want to bounce with their mom in the inflatable bounce house in the front yard.

Too soon, my daughter won’t be up on the stage, smiling and laughing in her dance costume and basking in the glory of the lights and make-up and applause.

Too soon, I won’t have weekends where my parents come to town and we enjoy shopping and eating out and watching them spend time with their grandchildren.

Today: I will try to remember that I want to savor what really matters the most in my life. Every moment, focusing on building and adding quality moments to my life, not just more, more, more quantity. Quantity adds nothing but stress and anxiety and it takes away from my life.

Quality — really having the moments, events, people, and possessions that matter most — adds to my life, gives me meaning and pleasure, and gives me a feeling of peace and contentment that sheer quantity never, ever could.

Invitation: when you feel like you are just trying to “get through” things because there is so much to do and worry about, take a step back and remember that these moments are the moments of your life. Savor them.

Remember to hold the golden moments in your hand and visit with the angels in your midst. They may not come again.


Why You Hate Work

CleanDeskI just ran across this article this afternoon, and I thought it was very interesting:

Why You Hate Work by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath published in the New York Times.

The article describes how workers are happiest when four core values are met:

Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform. What our study revealed is just how much impact companies can have when they meet each of the four core needs of their employees.

Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

What do you think?

Do you have time for renewal at work?

Do you feel valued by your supervisor?

Are you able to focus on one task at a time?

Do you feel like your work has meaning and significance?

These questions matter to both employers and employees.

If you are an employer concerned about attracting and retaining your top people, consider whether your organization is giving your people what they really need in these four areas.

And if you are working in an organization and not experiencing these four important values, what can you change? How can you increase your levels of renewal, focus, meaning, and feeling valued so that you can experience more “love” in your work?

Live Your Legacy: Be Known, Not Just Remembered

Canoe“We were meant to give our lives away. Spend more time living your legacy instead of worrying about leaving it.” ~ Lee J. Colan

It was difficult losing my grandfather, the patriarch of my mother’s large family and my extended family. As my family prepared for his funeral, I started thinking about the word “legacy” and how our legacy lives on long after we are gone.

According to the dictionary, a legacy is “something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” Many people think of a legacy as purely financial or material, items or money bequeathed from one generation to another. But I believe it is so much more.

When we think about what is actually handed down from person to person, generation to generation, it is about so much more than money. We are influenced by so many other people in our lives. Certainly we are influenced by our family and friends, and when those people leave our lives, they leave us a very personal legacy given our close relationship with them.

Celebrities and other famous people leave legacies. Think about wildly famous people who have passed away and consider what they have left behind. When the world sat riveted by the passing of Michael Jackson, many commentators considered what his legacy would be. What did we learn from Michael Jackson? What will Michael be remembered for? Certainly that varies from person to person, just as our memories of any individual will be our own and will differ from others around us.

I considered the life of my grandfather, whose influence was great. While I don’t want to dwell on his passing, he left a legacy for me, my family, and others that he touched. As I think about some of the lessons I learned from him, three come to mind immediately.

  1. Keep a sense of humor. My grandfather had a wicked, wry sense of humor that never failed to make me laugh. Even in the midst of incredibly difficult times, he would have a quip or a little comment that would at first make you wonder if he actually just said what he said, and then, when you realized he did say what you thought he said, you burst out laughing. Sometimes you can only laugh or cry at a situation. Why not find something to laugh about? Oftentimes we can’t change what is happening around us, but we can shift our outlook by finding a bit of humor or levity.
  2. Persist. Never give up. My grandfather grew an incredibly successful business out of nothing. He never gave up, even in the face of challenges and uphill struggles. He had such incredible drive and determination to create what he had envisioned and build a business that provided for his family. When it seems like we are going to fail, we need to evaluate the situation, change the course if necessary, but never give up in the face of adversity.
  3. Remember your family. In the end, the greatest legacy of mygrandfather is found in my family, my aunts and uncles, my many cousins, and the memories of holidays and times together. I remember riding with my grandfather out to the quarries to weigh semi-trucks full of rocks for the summer when I was 14-years-old. It was my first job. But I got to ride with my grandpa each day every day all summer, and I am grateful for that time together much more than I am grateful for any paycheck I received.

As we consider the legacy of those who have gone before us, I challenge you to live your own legacy. Don’t wait until the end of your life to discover what others learned from you or will attribute to you. Decide NOW what you want your legacy to be, and then live it. Every moment of every day decide what kind of person you want to be known as, what you want your children and grandchildren to remember about you, what you want others to say about you when you are gone. And live it now.

TODAY: Write out what you want to be known as at the end of your life. Write what you want those you love to say about you when your time on earth is complete. Reflect on this, and start creating that legacy today, this minute. If you find yourself out of congruence with this vision of your own legacy, gently correct yourself and remind yourself what you want your legacy to be. It will be a gift to those you love and to the world, and it will give you incredible peace of mind, congruence, and integrity as you become a real success – the living embodiment of your highest ideals and values. 

Look At Your Watch: The Time is NOW!

ClockHands“I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday, or some previous day.” ~ James Joyce

It is easy to talk about living fully in the present, but most people are unwilling or unable to actually do it. We get so caught up in the future, that we forget to enjoy the here and now. We think about upcoming work deadlines while on vacation. We worry about dessert instead of enjoying dinner.
We allow the present moment to be wasted because we are mentally in another place, missing out on the beauty to be found in the here and now.

Don’t squander your present by allowing it to be smothered by guilt about the past or worries about the future. The “now” is all you will ever have, this moment, this second. Mentally drifting away from the now moves you from the present into the past or the future, and ironically uses up your present by focusing on times that already passed or times that may come. There are dangers of dwelling in the past, and worrying about the future will rob you of the peace of mind and real success you could be experiencing right now. If you practice truly living in the present moment, you can stubbornly refuse to allow past problems or future worries to define you.

Look around you. Everything you need is here, right now. The air you are breathing. The clothes you are wearing. Your mind and your senses to take in this information and transform yourself. You are taken care of. Breathe it in, accept this gift. Be grateful.

Once you are truly appreciating your present and taking responsibility for your part in creating it, you can then begin to create a picture of your future. Don’t worry about the future—that is not the answer. But picture the future you wish to experience, take actions aligned with that image while being content in your present circumstance.

Remember to first be unattached and unencumbered by the past. Hanging on will hang you up.

Next, be content with what you have and who you are now, in the present. This is your reality.

Finally, be passionate and definite in your purpose as you move toward becoming your ideal self and living your ideal life. Don’t worry about what has happened before, and don’t worry about what could possibly happen in the future. Know what you want and who you want to be and live each day as that “you”.

Don’t label yourself, and don’t allow others to label you. You are not a label—the map is not the territory. You are so much more than words, adjectives, and descriptions. Labels will only serve to stifle and negate who you really are. Instead of living up to a label, become the very best version of yourself you can be, whatever that looks like.

As you bless and release your past and become content in your present, you are ready to confidently move into the future, a future you are creating moment by moment, with every decision and action you take. You are not your past, what you have done or been or how others have treated you. You are capable of incredible things—believe that now, in this moment. You have the power to become the person you want to be—don’t let anyone, especially yourself, tell you otherwise.

Everything that happened in your past is no longer here. It is finished. Think of your life as a play that has several different acts. You are the main character—do it boldly! And many other characters come into the play for maybe just one scene or maybe several scenes. Their characters are vital to the overall play, or they would not have been written into the script. Some characters will treat you well, some will not, but the play is not about them. Let them say their lines and walk off the stage. The play is yours. You are the writer. You hold the pencil that writes the script, the future. What will your character become, experience, and achieve?

The decision is all yours.

TODAY: Reflect on your gift: the present. Enjoy your everyday moments. Make a promise to yourself to live fully in the moment, not wasting your precious life energy worry about the past you cannot change or the future that you are in the process of creating. What will come, will come. By actively and consciously living in the present, you can control and determine the future! Be grateful, intentional, and alive in this beautiful moment, and you will become much more efficient, effective, and at peace.

Being Happy in an Unhappy World

GirlInWater“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” ~ Andrew Carnegie

I’ve started watching much less news because of its doom-and-gloom coverage. You have to look long and hard to find anything positive covered by the newscasters, and it really doesn’t serve me to get depressed by learning about all of the terrible things happening around the world that I can do absolutely nothing about. So I generally pulled the plug. (Though I certainly try to stay abreast of news situations that could affect my family.)

But it is so hard to do, and very few people seem to be able to go very long without reading an online newspaper or news website. Every time something negative, discomforting, disconcerting, terrifying, or horrible comes across the news wires, they ingest it. It becomes part of their psyche for the day. They dwell on it, they devour it, and they allow it to transmute any positive energy they had into something that feels depressed, scared, or life-sucking.

In addition, when we see terrible things happening around the world, we feel almost guilty being happy in our own lives. How can I feel happiness when people are getting sick and dying? How can I experience bliss when there are wars taking place? How can I feel pleasure eating a lovely meal when people are starving somewhere else in the world?

A better question is, how can you not? What does your feeling sad, helpless, upset, and hopeless do for all of those suffering? Do not misunderstand me—my heart goes out to all of those suffering in any way. I am incredibly tender-hearted, almost to a fault. The tears flow freely when I hear of others suffering.

But let’s also be realistic. You have a life to lead. You have a family and friends and circle of influence to be present for. If you can’t do anything about the situations that are bringing you grief, then do not engage. This holds true not only for news from around the globe, but also for any other situation in your life. If you can’t improve the situation, exit it. Don’t engage. Slowly walk away mentally and emotionally, or run, depending on the situation. But don’t just sit there at the kitchen table or your work desk getting progressively more depressed and resigned. That is not a place from which real positive work or progress can come.

Better yet, take some positive action. Instead of sitting there bemoaning the starving children in Africa, get out your checkbook or go online and send a contribution to a humanitarian organization. Don’t just sit there and do nothing. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You can make a difference. Even when you think to yourself, “Oh, my $25 won’t change anything,” you are wrong. That $25 will feed a child for almost a month. And you can bet your bottom dollar that it makes a difference to that child. Taken together with the contributions of thousands of others who refuse to sit and wallow when they could be doing something to change the situation, that $25 might just start a wave of change and positive impact around the world. Don’t just sit there and complain—do something to make a change! You’ll feel better, and you never know what could come from your action.

>Regardless, give yourself permission to be happy, to be joyful, to have bliss in your life. You will begin a ripple effect that will be endless. Share joy and love with others, they will share it with their circle of influence, and so on. With every bit of brilliance you share from your strong, positive center, you will empower and equip someone else to do the same. You do not have to be negative and sullen just because there are tough things going on in the world around you. There will always be sad and terrible things going on. That does not mean that your life happiness has to be put on hold indefinitely.

You can choose in every moment where you put your focus. Focus on the things that bring you joy, fulfillment, happiness, peace, and that make the world around you a better place. These are the things that you want to expand in your life, and these are the things—your own emotions, reactions, and behaviors—that you have the power to choose and change in every moment.

TODAY: Give yourself permission to have life, and have it abundantly! Don’t get sucked into the world’s tragedies. Do something positive on issues you care about, pray for those involved, and then live your life the best you can, experiencing all the bliss you can in the wonderful moments that you have in this lifetime. Choose bliss and lead a life based on that decision. It will make all the difference!

Put on Your Own Air Mask First

HeartHandsSunset“When you can lovingly be present to yourself, your presence to others takes on a deeper quality also.” ~ MacRina Wiederkehr

Every time I get on an airplane, I listen to the flight attendant’s instructions. Put on your seat belt, make sure your tray and seat back are in the upright position. If there is an emergency landing in the water, the seat cushion doubles as a flotation device. And the all-important rule: if the air masks drop down from the ceiling, pull the line tight then put on your own air mask first before assisting others…

Though it is very, very hard to say “good-bye” to my two sweet daughters when my husband and I leave town together, I believe that time spent alone with my husband and the deepening and maintenance of our relationship is actually something that we do both for ourselves and for the benefit of our children. So even though I shed some tears when I kiss my little ones bye-bye, I know we’ll be back, small trinket gifts in hand for them, and we will give them an even greater gift—the gift of a strong relationship between their parents.

This also goes for taking care of yourself and your relationships if yoare a single parent or don’t have children. The people around you who care about you and whom you care about will benefit from the time you take to maintain yourself and your key relationships, be that caring for yourself physically through exercise and healthy eating, spiritually through meditation and quiet time, or emotionally through journaling or fun time with friends or by yourself. All parts of your life are interconnected, and giving positive attention and care to one area always benefits the other areas as well.

Life is synergistic. The better the functioning and fulfillment you experience in one area of life, the better you will feel about the other areas of life and the better you will function in those areas. I wanted to share this with you because it reminded me of this important lesson:

“Unplug” from work every once in a while. Nurture yourself with your own self-care—exercise, time in the sauna, quiet time in the sun with some good books, whatever it is that gives you that precious “me” time. And don’t feel guilty for doing it either. Make a rule around it if you have to by telling the significant people in your life that on Saturday from two until three o’clock, you aren’t to be bothered unless it’s a crisis. They’ll soon figure out that losing their favorite pair of shoes is not an emergency that requires your immediate attention!

I know that my time of self-care will improve my peace of mind, my ability to be fully present with my spouse and children, and my efficiency and creativity in my work, along with many other benefits. I am reminded of the vital importance of taking this time to rejuvenate and reinvigorate myself. Without “me time” we only operate at 75-90% of our capacity. We give up too much energy in anxiety, overwhelm, and exhaustion. And that can lead to irritability, instability, resentment, and anger. Why put anyone through that when a few minutes of downtime will put gas back in our tank?

So when that air mask drops down, what are you going to do? Take care of yourself first. It might go against your nature—and some people may think you’re selfish. But remember, you cannot care for others if you aren’t functioning at 100%.

TODAY: Think about these questions: What are you doing to nurture yourself? How have you cared for your body, mind, spirit, and relationships lately? Can you think how caring for one facet of your life can benefit the other areas? This process of evaluation will bring you a clearer picture of how lacking you are in taking care of yourself.

If you don’t put yourself at number one, who else will?


3 Powerful Ways That Forgiveness is Critical to Your Business and Personal Success

“We forgive freely or we do not really forgive at all.”~ Lewis B. Smedes

Who likes to think about all of the things that they have done that they probably should not have done and repent for them?

It’s a little uncomfortable, admitting you screwed up, asking forgiveness.


So I’ve spent some time really thinking about three key lessons that we all can learn about forgiveness.

  • Ask forgiveness.
  • Grant forgiveness.
  • Forgive yourself.

Here are some thoughts about each one of those life-affirming and life-changing tools …

1.  Ask forgiveness.

This one sounds so simple and yet I know it can be very hard. I know people who can hardly utter the words “I’m sorry,” much less “Please forgive me.” Yet those words have such healing power. To the person you have wronged, just hearing you say words of apology may go a long way toward rectifying the situation and putting your relationship back on track. If nothing else, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

But to go deeper—asking forgiveness means accepting responsibility for your actions. This is critical to leading a successful life. You must understand and grasp that you are 100% responsible for your actions, both good and bad. And when the consequences are not positive, you need to take the steps to make amends, even when it is difficult to swallow your pride and do that.

It’s probably clear how this can affect your personal life, but it can also seriously impact your legal practice. What if you accidentally overcharged a client, or didn’t deliver on a promise in a timely manner, or forgot to respond to their e-mail? You must apologize. It’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter who is at fault—it’s your practice. And when you do, not only will you redeem that relationship, but you will have deepened the relationship by showing that you are a person of integrity and a good person to work with.

2.  Forgive others.

There is no need to hold a grudge. It does not serve you—it only hurts you. If someone has asked for your forgiveness, give it to him or her. It was probably hard to ask, so be gracious.

And if someone has not asked for your forgiveness and has hurt you somehow, forgive them anyway. If you don’t forgive them in your own heart, you are giving them control over your emotions and feelings that they should not have. You are allowing them to make you feel angry, hurt, frustrated, and a host of other nasty things. Why are you giving them that power over you, especially if you are unhappy with them in the first place?

Again, it comes back to personal responsibility. Take responsibility for your feelings and actions. By forgiving, you release yourself from the emotional bondage you are in. That is a beautiful feeling—to know that you and you alone are truly in control of your reactions to the world and people around you.

3.  Forgive yourself.

Now this can also be very difficult. We learn from childhood to ask forgiveness and grant forgiveness, but we don’t learn to forgive ourselves.

I am harder on myself than I am on any other person. I am not proud of this, and I am getting much better about it, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I should be as gentle, compassionate, and positive with myself as I am with my children, husband, family or friends. But I’m not. I sometimes shower myself with self-criticism—that I’m not smart enough or good enough to accomplish the big dreams I have. I beat myself up for little mistakes and grant myself no leeway.

We must remember that we are human beings just like everyone else. We make mistakes. We take longer to learn something than we want to. We say or do silly things. We break things. So what? Do we have to keep beating ourselves up for it?

Love yourself, and because you love yourself, forgive yourself. Be gentle and loving and compassionate with yourself, just as you would be with a small child or loved one. The love that you feel for yourself will shine through in your relationships with others and your business. And it will make your life so much more joyful. So give yourself a break. Tell yourself it’s “okay” to make a mistake or head in the wrong direction for a while. If you would forgive someone else for doing the same thing, why not forgive yourself?

TODAY: Think about these questions: Who can you ask for forgiveness? Who can you forgive? What can you forgive yourself for? Start down the path of forgiveness in these three ways and you’ll see great changes in your life!



lisanne-weiszOur law firm hired Kendra to develop a program on goal setting for our partners and associates. She was highly responsive to our suggestions and thoughtful in her approach to structuring the presentation. Kendra took our ideas and concepts and created a custom program to suit our needs. After the program, we received very positive evaluations from the participating attorneys. As a professional development manager, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Kendra to other firms and organizations.

– Lisanne T. Weisz, Director of Legal Recruiting and Professional Development at Lindquist and Vennum PLLP

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