On your "Mark...ers"

The process of getting my passions down on paper was a great experience!  I remember feeling elated after reading Attwood’s “The Passion Test” – The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose.  At first, I wasn’t sure I could settle for just five passions after all that “dreaming” as the book instructed. Upon consolidating my long list of those things that bring me joy, passion & fulfillment, and then following the prioritization process, I did indeed manage to commit to my top five passions.  Equally important was having these passions printed and then placed in strategic places, so they are a constant reminder of what’s most important to me.

“Markers” are simply milestones to ensuring I’m on the right path towards keeping these passions a reality.  To me, that which gets measured - gets done!  When these passions / markers are aligned, it becomes almost effortless and that really energizes me!

For example, one of my passions is:  “Coaching enthusiastic clients in reaching their full potential both professionally and personally”.  At first, I always had to seek out potential clients.  Now, I enjoy the “pull” vs. the “push” of my coaching efforts given that these folks are on a journey to better realizing their full potential.  This is further marked by my enthusiasm and their receptivity to what we’re working towards … it’s a win-win!

Another marker is my making a difference in the lives I touch.  There is no better validation of this than when a client “graduates” from our leadership development program and a mention is made that they couldn’t have gotten there without the ongoing coaching and support in staying the course with them.  It takes time, energy, creativity and lots of patience to coach towards leadership excellence.  It reminds me of the saying:  “When the student is ready, the coach will appear”, and this is often the case in the work we do and with the people we serve!  No two coaching clients are ever the same, and that’s what makes our work so enjoyable!

My final marker is helping our children “find their way” in the business world!  As previously mentioned, each of our three children has been through our leadership development process during their senior year in college.  Each of them has managed to draw upon their own “Inner Guidance System”, which was clearly defined during their week-long leadership development retreat with us, in making their career moves.  While they are young and just starting out, we are blessed that they are grounded with their own values, unique abilities, missions and passions!  After all, our children are the future, and it’s up to them to pay-it-forward all that they have learned to the next generation!

Intention, Attention, No Tension!

If you’re suspicious that simply writing down your passions is going to make your wildest dreams come true, your skepticism is justified.  While it is essential to determine your passions, simply stating them is not enough.  You have stated your “intention,” but to live a passionate life, you must now put “attention” toward those passions.  That’s where markers come into play. First, creating markers helps you to crystalize the meaning of your passions.  A passion for living a healthy life or enjoying time with family could mean wildly different things to different people.  For me, “enjoying freedom” was a passion that could be ambiguous if I didn’t take the time to define exactly what freedom meant to me.  In my life, freedom means “defining my work by the outputs rather than the inputs.”  I already mentioned that the average American does 22 hours of productive work in a typical 40-hour work week, so why bother sitting at a desk trying to look busy for the other 18 hours?  For those of you familiar with DISC, this is where my low C shines through.  I feel that if I want to work for 4 hours one day and 12 hours the next, why should it matter to anyone else if I didn’t work the typical 8 hours each day?  Or what if I found a way to get my 8 hours of work done in 6 hours instead?  What can I do with my 2-hour windfall?  Maybe I would take on more work, or maybe I would go read a book…but if I’m going to have to spend those 2 hours at my computer looking busy anyways, then I don’t have much motivation to be more efficient.

Another important aspect of freedom is “working on what I’m passionate about.”  Like most people, trying to stay motivated doing something I don’t have a passion for drains me.  I can buckle down and do it if I have to, but over time my willpower will begin to dwindle.  In my new role at The XLR8 Team, I am fortunate that I am able to explore new business ideas or possible additions to our leadership development processes when I find something that inspires me.

Finally, it is difficult to enjoy freedom without “having enough money to cover the basics and travel.”  I don’t care to buy anything extravagant and don’t need much money.  However, to enjoy freedom it is important to me that I have enough money that it isn’t constantly on my mind.  The only time I like to splurge is on travel.  To live a life of adventure (my top passion) can sometimes be expensive, but by being frugal elsewhere I am able to spend on what is important to me.

Markers tend to be grand goals that may seem daunting.  To make them more manageable, I have found it helpful to include a few daily markers for each passion (that will eventually become part of a happiness list as briefly described in the previous post).  That way, if you follow these smaller markers each day, you will be making progress towards passionately pursuing your goals.  At the end of each day, I ask myself “Did I look forward to getting to work when I woke up this morning?”  Lately, the answer has been a resounding “yes!”  But when I realize that I’m having trouble jumping out of bed and starting my day or I’m dreading what I “have to” do that day (rather than “want to”), it’s a quick reminder that I need to step back and take a look at why I’m not making decisions in line with my passions.  Another daily marker is “Did I waste time trying to look busy?”  It’s a bad habit we all fall into trying to make ourselves look busier than we are.  I try to be grateful for every moment of my day by not wasting a second of it trying to look busy.  Even though I am an entrepreneur and don’t have a “boss” looking over my shoulder, I still find myself sometimes falling into the habit of doing work for the sake of being busy and when I reflect on the day, that’s another red flag for me.

Markers are an essential piece of the puzzle to live a passionate life.  In this instance, “enjoying freedom” was a new addition to my top passions, so creating markers helped me to illustrate exactly what a life of freedom means to me.  In other cases, markers can serve the purpose of getting you to dream bigger than you may have otherwise had the courage to do.  For example, “living a life of adventure” is my top passion.  In the two years since I returned from a three-week adventure backpacking through Europe I have struggled to find that same sense of exhilaration and wonder.  I set a marker “to travel to a new place every year.”  It’s an intimidating commitment to make given the inherent financial costs, but it is fiercely important to me and I know I will regret a life that isn’t filled with adventure.  Markers can also serve to reconnect you to passions you may have abandoned amid the stress of a hectic time in your life.  I enjoy spending time with family and friends and “surrounding myself with those that I love” is my second passion.  However, when I thought back to a recent family gathering, I found myself distracted…falling into the trap of zoning-out watching television or idly checking scores on my phone.  I created markers “to be fully present at all family functions” and “to have meaningful conversations with the people I care about.”  In the month since I set this passion, I had a great conversation with my uncle and learned more about him in an hour than I feel like I had learned my whole life.  I also realized that I had lost touch with many of my friends since graduating from college and set a goal for myself to reach out to a friend every day.  In time I hope that these small reminders will help me to more fully "surround myself with those that I love."  The markers you choose could serve any or all of these purposes.  The important thing is that the markers focus your “attention” on the “intentions” that you clarified.  When you live a life according to the passions that are most important to you, it will truly lead you to “no tension” and a fulfilling life.

Manifesting Your Passions

Over the last several blog entries we have all talked about the process for discovering our top 5 passions.  Now what?  There are a couple of immediate options.

  • Discover where you have been putting your attention up to now by rating each one on a scale of 0 – 10.  Zero means you are not living that passion in your life at all.  Pick at least one to focus on.
  • Make passion cards. (E-mail us and we’ll send you our template).  Simply put, list your passions on a card from 1 – 5; make 4 – 6 copies and post them in place you’ll see them several times a day.  I would suggest reading them to yourself at least twice a day at first.  Here are some typical places:
  1. Your bathroom mirror
  2. Your car dashboard or visor
  3. In your purse or wallet
  4. On your computer screen
  5. On the refrigerator
  • Create markers that will give you milestones or guideposts so that you will know if you are on the right path.  For some it’s an action or goal or feeling they may have when they are fully living their passion.

For me personally back in October 2006, I scored lowest on “being at peace with myself and those I love.”  I actually had one of my cards in the bathroom where I could see it when I brushed my teeth.  While brushing my teeth, I couldn’t help but look in the mirror and what I saw did not bring me peace!

Now I couldn’t do anything about the old guy staring back at me – I know there is a young guy trapped inside there!  But I was 30 pounds overweight AGAIN!!!  I had lost 40 pounds in 1999 - 2000, kept it off for a couple of years, a new record for me, but gained most of it back by 2006.  This has been a pattern since I was 20 years old!  I’ve probably lost the equivalent of 3 - 4 of me over my lifetime.

Well, if I wanted peace, I had to be able to feel good about how I looked in the mirror.  I made a marker of maintaining my weight at 165 – 169 pounds.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to break my pattern, but I knew it was important to me.

I started with the usual things I do to lose weight – that I know how to do.  But this time I did a couple of other things.  I started a vision board by finding a picture of how I wanted to be.  If you have ever flown on a plane there is a picture of a shirtless Dr. Jeff Life in the airline magazine.  Now over 70, he looks great.  So he became my after picture, I have my own now by the way – on my vision board too.

However one of the other new things I began came from a book entitled Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.  The basis of the book is that there are 3 – 4 critical behaviors that can be discovered in any successful change initiative.  For successful weight loss it was weigh yourself every day (I know weight watchers disagrees); eat a healthy breakfast (don’t skip meals); and do some exercise at home every day (even if you have a gym membership).

Now that I am clear about my intention, I need to be vigilant about paying attention to those critical behaviors as part of a comprehensive follow-up process.  For me this included telling people, asking for their ideas and ongoing feedback, my vision board, and creating a list of daily reminders which I call my happiness list.  My happiness list consists of 10 – 12 daily behaviors that focus on three general areas that I am focusing on.  By definition, these behaviors are totally up to me to perform, not dependent on anyone else’s actions or behaviors, and they create positive energy.  I actually write this list on the back of my passion cards and look at them at least twice a day.

It has been 5 years now that I have weighed below 170 pounds, blowing away my previous best.  Now that those behaviors have become habits I have replaced them with a couple of others on my happiness list.  Given my history, I might always have something on it related to maintaining my weight.

So as the Attwoods, authors of The Passion Test, would say, Intention (passions) – Attention (markers, vision board, happiness list) – No Tension (success!)

Reveal what drives you

I have always been a big dreamer and have set high expectations for myself. In this life filled with uncertainty, the one thing that I’m sure of is that I want to live an exceptional life, a special life. In order to do that, it’s time to evaluate; what drives me? What are my true passions? How do I get on the direct track to my life goals? At 30 years of age, it was time to find clarity and to commit to what was going to give me that sense of fulfillment that I craved. It was as though the stars were aligned when my Brother, Andrew, was going through the same self discovery process. With the help of our family dinner meetings and reading the “The Passion Test,” I reexamined my own passions. Although I always felt in touch with myself, I have to admit that, at first, it was difficult for me to put all my priorities on paper without being redundant. After several rough drafts, I was finally able to reveal and then simplify what drives me in my life.

“Enjoying my ideal life with my husband”

Marrying my husband Brian this past September has been the best day of my life so far. I know that sounds corny and cliché but it wasn’t just the fantastic wedding celebration that we had, it’s what our marriage stands for that is so important. It’s a promise of commitment and dedication to a partnership that supersedes our individual wants. I look forward to sharing my life with this wonderful man.

“Developing an unstoppable team”

Becoming an entrepreneur and developing a team that’s driven, empowered and successful has always been a dream of mine. I become energized when I’m working with other individuals from whom I can learn and tackle challenges which at first may appear unobtainable.

“Impacting and motivating others towards their dreams and passions”

Throughout my career there is one aspect of my job that has always been most fulfilling and that is, helping others. I have always prided myself on my ability to assist and support friends, family and clients. Inspiring people to identify their own passions and attain their greater goals would be the best reward.

“Changing and improving organizations”

I have worked in many different companies in a variety of roles. Working for someone you respect and admire can make or break job satisfaction. Introducing new and innovative ways to run a successful business while encouraging development all while keeping the bottom line in mind, that’s my goal.

Share my knowledge with the world by being a published author”

Writing has always been something that I have enjoyed. Sharing my experiences and personal journey with the world would be a dream come true. Inspiring and motivating others through my own personal experiences would be a major accomplishment.

My journey is far from over and I will strive to bring each of my passions to life. I encourage you to do the same; you may be surprised what you discover. I may not know exactly what my future holds but now that I have revealed my goals and passions I look forward to all that’s ahead!

Re-Igniting Our Passions

When I joined The XLR8 Team, Inc. back in 2002, I, too, benefited by participating in our week-long “Leadership Excellence” retreat.  I’m a firm believer in “walking the talk” and experiencing our program first-hand was essential to my own development and subsequent coaching of others!  While the markers have changed over the years (and a few of the passions have been re-aligned as well), here is the most recent “compass” which guides me both personally and professionally: Passion #1:  Having peace and harmony present daily!

Quite honestly, this has always been a work-in-progress for me.  Using DISC as a reference point, imagine an “I” living with two “D’s” most of her life ~ you need to pick your battles and not sweat the small stuff.  It’s also given me great insight and perspective as I coach many “D’s” on a daily basis.  I still feel best when I end my day with peace-and-quiet ~ letting the drama and noise slip away!  It re-energizes me for the day that lies ahead . . .

Passion #2:  Appreciating the health/well-being of those I love!

It’s no secret that I always enjoy great conversation, but combining great conversation with exercise (a three-mile daily power walk with my girlfriend) is THE best!  Since we all enjoying cooking in our household, exercise is a must along with creating healthy and well-balanced meals in order to stay fit!  I’m also blessed to have a close-knit family and two loving parents (84 and 77) who are still active in their kids (5) / grandkids (9) / great grandson’s lives.  Even though we don’t all live in the same home town, we enjoy meeting regularly to celebrate special occasions.  I’m not a “camper”, but we’ve been enjoying more of that with extended family as well as a way to stay connected with all the nieces & nephews (19 participated over Memorial Day)!  Who could ask for more? . . .

Passion #3:  Enjoying the “landscape” that surrounds me!

I always try to make the most of the environment I’m in at any given time!  Whether it is gardening (my “think time”), golfing, power walking, reading, movies, biking or entertaining, it always brings me great joy when I’m sharing it with others!

Passion #4:  Enjoying newfound freedom with Tom as empty-nesters!

While Tom & I lead very active lives, we still adhere to our “date night” rituals and often encourage others to do the same.  I’ve coached several people over the years, whereby simply suggesting this very philosophy, they often report back that their relationships have become better for it!  We’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this Fall in Aruba ~ can’t beat that!!!

Passion #5:  Coaching enthusiastic clients in reaching their full potential both professionally and personally!

I’ve been so blessed to have two very fulfilling careers:  the first half was as a Human Resource Manager at Xerox Corporation and for the past 10 years as Executive Coach to so many through my work with The XLR8 Team, Inc.!  We’ve included each of our three children in our “Leadership Excellence” retreats during their senior year in college!  We are very proud of our “Teacher” @ Victor High School (Laura) / “Healthcare Coordinator” @ BOND Financial (Molly) / “Director of Business Development” @ The XLR8 Team, Inc. (Andrew) in helping them reach their full potential in the business world!

My business card holder says it all:  “Doing what I love in the service of people who love what I do.”

When rewriting your passions, start back at the beginning...

It had been nearly three years since I had written down my passions for the first time after my junior year of college.  As we embarked on our family journey to live more passionate lives, it seemed obvious that this was the best place to start.  I glanced over my previous list, thinking that not much had changed, but nevertheless began re-reading The Passion Test and started back at square one, with the question "When my life is ideal, I am ______."  It can be difficult to dream big without the inspiration of Janet Attwood's story as guidance and I would highly recommend taking the time to revisit the book when you revise your passions. Lo and behold, when I revised my passions I was blown away that three of my top five passions had disappeared from my list!  My top passion is now "Living a Life of Adventure."  After a post-graduation trip to Europe, I became fixated on seeing the world and found a blog by Chris Guillebeau, ( a man who set the goal of visiting every country in the world by his 35th birthday.  He's just a few countries and a few months away, and has written several books along the way!  While I originally started reading for the travel inspiration, it was his message of challenging the status quo and living the life of your dreams that really got me hooked.  In retrospect, this quest for adventure and new experiences was the impetus for me to quit my stable job for the uncertainty of joining The XLR8 Team.  If I had realigned myself with my passions sooner, maybe it wouldn't have been as agonizing of a decision to make.

My second passion is to surround myself with those that I love.  Of the top four from my previous list, this theme was the only one to survive.  I also expanded what had been my fifth passion focused on health and physical fitness to become "Investing in my body and my mind."  I really try to take a holistic approach to growth both by challenging myself physically and by relentlessly pursuing knowledge of all kinds.  I had a very tough time dropping "Continuously learning and growing" off my list until I realized that investing in my body and my mind as well as the pursuit of new experiences by living a life of adventure encompassed this passion.

Fourth was "Enjoying Freedom."  Another concept that grew on me influenced both by Chris Guillebeau's inspiration, but also my dad.  In Chris' book The $100 Startup, he talks about defining your work by the outputs rather than the inputs.  The average American spends 40 hours per week at work but only 22 of those hours are productive.  So why constrain myself to the typical paradigm?  My interests are varied and like my dad, I tend to get impatient without new challenges to conquer, so why not set my own challenges and work on what I'm passionate about?

The final passion to make my top five is "Giving all that I am to the world."  I joined The XLR8 Team with the goal of bringing leadership development to a younger generation.  I feel quite lucky to have grown up learning about leadership development around the dinner table.  I wasn't even 10 years old when I took my first DISC.  When I created a leadership development program as the president of my fraternity, it really hit home when many of my peers lacked this experience of examining themselves and how they can make an impact on the world.  Many young professionals are not exposed to leadership development until their first promotions.  At that point, it's simply too late.  Although I am still in the process of determining my path both at The XLR8 Team and in life, the one thing that is clear to me is that I must make an impact on the leaders of tomorrow.  Its an ambitious goal, but why not dream big?

Living a passionate life - a family's journey

This is our first blog post since our son Andrew joined The XLR8 Team as a coach and director of business development.  Our daughter, Molly, while employed with another company, is trying to bring the concepts expressed in this blog to her life and current job. We would like to share our journey as individuals and as a family business to live our vision “for all of us to find the courage to awaken to the magnificence of our limitless possibilities!”  Fundamental to this concept is living a passionate life.  To quote Napoleon Hill, author the seminal book on success in 1937, Think and Grow Rich:  “cherish your visions and dreams, as they are the children of your soul, and the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.”

As we begin this journey together, we are reviewing our top five passions, using The Passion Test by Attwood and Attwood as a guide.  It became clear to me that passions are the source of courage for all of us.  It has guided me through two very important life transitions – starting The XLR8 Team in 1996 and delaying my retirement to help my son and daughter more fully realize their passions.

Andrew reminded me of this in my Father’s Day card.  He called me “the most courageous man he knows”.  The example I set in 1996, quitting my high-paying executive level job (with a family to support and without a safety net) gave him the courage to quit his job and trade a paycheck for the uncertainty of chasing his passion of following in Elaine and my footsteps to create his version of The XLR8 Team.  It was this vision or passion if you will, that fueled this high risk / high reward move in 1996.  I wish I started at 23!

The most recent transition was delaying my retirement due to my strong passion to coach/mentor the next generation of transformational coaches.  I actually re-wrote this passion about two years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that synchronicities occurred making the timing right for Andrew, which included a change in his relationship status, a dynamite new emotional intelligence assessment called DISCflex, and a burgeoning “movement” called Conscious Capitalism.

You will be hearing about all of this from different viewpoints of our family who range from 23, 30, 50 and 65.  It should be a fun journey, so enjoy and please participate!