Family Dinner Table

I remember sitting at the dinner table as a little girl listening to my father talk about his workday, childhood, current events, and sports. You name the topic and he spoke about it as if he was the expert. This was my normal.

A few decades and a lot of self-discovery later, I acknowledge the value that many of my dinnertime lessons offered – like the simple importance of saying please and thank you. However, others provided little to no personal value and have been deemed by me as lessons worthy of unlearning. It’s not easy to change decades-old communication patterns, but the effort is nothing short of motivating and desirable when the outcome yields authenticity and accountability. Here are my lessons:

Lesson 1: Communicating doesn’t equal conversation

I spent many family dinners mistaking my father’s combination of storytelling and lecturing for conversation. I learned not to interject when he spoke (and say excuse me) and talk only when it was my turn. Don’t get me wrong, my dad was interested in his family, but for me, when his caring inquiries were received like that of an interrogation, I’m pretty sure my communication was more of a question and answer exchange than conversation.

Today, as a parent, family dinners are not as consistent as when I was a kid, but what remains consistent is that everyone at the table is encouraged to talk – thus, conversations ensue. I’m happy to pass along the lessons about saying please and thank you, and while I agree that it’s not acceptable to interrupt others when speaking, we’ve rectified that challenge by sitting around the table long enough for everyone to finish what they want to say.

Lesson 2: You are not guaranteed “airtime”

It’s not that I wasn’t allowed to speak at the dinner table and I certainly didn’t sit silently either. However, before I spoke, I went through an internal exercise, assessing whether sharing my thoughts would be a worthwhile effort (yes, effort). If I wanted to comment on what my father said, share a story about my day, or ask others about theirs, I wouldn’t assume that I’d be able to. I’m pretty sure my being a fast talker started at this table because when I had something to say, I said it as quickly as possible to ensure that my airtime would not be cut-off.

Nowadays, I sometimes find it challenging not to revert to old ways, mostly when I’m in situations that evoke similar feelings. Instead of fighting them, I’ve chosen to use them as opportunities for getting out of my comfort zone by doing what I know I’m allowed and entitled to do – say what’s on my mind.

Lesson 3: Opinions are sometimes presented as facts

My father was an intelligent man who spoke with a conviction that led me to believe that his words were always accurate, his beliefs were the right beliefs, and his directives were the best ways to do things. Therefore, when my thoughts, ideas, and actions fell outside the scope of his words, I often felt that my ways were the wrong ways.

Years later, my long-standing belief (not feeling) that I wasn’t wrong for being my own thinker was confirmed. As it turns out, my father expressed his opinions as facts, a realization that prompted my relearning the importance of communicating clearly and accurately. Facts can be stated incorrectly, but opinions are subjective and therefore aren’t right or wrong. I learned to speak for myself and about myself without imposing my subjectivity onto others.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time learning, unlearning, and relearning these three childhood communication lessons. Today I proudly participate in dinner conversations with my family where we each get the airtime we want and deserve. Topics of discussion are virtually limitless, and we promote the sharing of our thoughts and feelings without pressuring others to agree or conform. These are far different dinners than I had growing up.

I  know the day may come when my kids want to unlearn some of the lessons I taught them. I’m OK with that, providing they relearn them in a manner that is reflective of their authentic selves. When it comes to recalling their lessons about communicating, I hope they have fun and loving memories of our many meals together, sitting around our family dinner table.

Family Dinner Table

Family Dinner Table

I remember sitting at the dinner table as a little girl listening to my father talk about his workday, childhood, current events, and sports. You name the topic and he spoke about it as if he was the expert. This was my normal.

A few decades and a lot of self-discovery later, I acknowledge the value that many of my dinnertime lessons offered – like the simple importance of saying please and thank you. However, others provided little to no personal value and have been deemed by me as lessons worthy of unlearning. It’s not easy to change decades-old communication patterns, but the effort is nothing short of motivating and desirable when the outcome yields authenticity and accountability. Here are my lessons:

Lesson 1: Communicating doesn’t equal conversation

I spent many family dinners mistaking my father’s combination of storytelling and lecturing for conversation. I learned not to interject when he spoke (and say “excuse me” too) and talk only when it was my turn. Don’t get me wrong, my dad was interested in his family, but for me, when his caring inquiries were received like that of an interrogation, I’m pretty sure my communication was more of a question and answer exchange than conversation.

Today, as a parent, family dinners are not as consistent as when I was a kid, but what remains consistent is that everyone at the table is encouraged to talk – thus, conversations ensue. I’m happy to pass along the lessons about saying please and thank you, and while I agree that it’s not acceptable to interrupt others when speaking, we’ve rectified that challenge by sitting around the table long enough for everyone to finish what they want to say.

Lesson 2: You are not guaranteed “airtime”

It’s not that I wasn’t allowed to speak at the dinner table and I certainly didn’t sit silently either. However, before I spoke, I went through an internal exercise, assessing whether sharing my thoughts would be a worthwhile effort (yes, effort). If I wanted to comment on what my father said, share a story about my day, or ask others about theirs, I wouldn’t assume that I’d be able to. I’m pretty sure my being a fast talker started at this table because when I had something to say, I said it as quickly as possible to ensure that my airtime would not be cut-off.

Nowadays I sometimes find it challenging not to revert to old ways, mostly when I’m in situations that evoke similar feelings. Instead of fighting them, I’ve chosen to use them as opportunities for getting out of my comfort zone by doing what I know I’m allowed and entitled to do – say what’s on my mind.

Lesson 3: Opinions are sometimes presented as facts

My father was an intelligent man who spoke with a conviction that led me to believe that his words were always accurate, his beliefs were the right beliefs, and his directives were the best ways to do things. Therefore, when my thoughts, ideas, and actions fell outside the scope of his words, I often felt that my ways were the wrong ways.

Years later, my long-standing belief (not feeling) that I wasn’t wrong for being my own thinker was confirmed. As it turns out, my father expressed his opinions as facts, a realization that prompted my relearning the importance of communicating clearly and accurately. Facts can be stated incorrectly, but opinions are subjective and therefore aren’t right or wrong. I learned to speak for myself and about myself without imposing my subjectivity onto others.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time learning, unlearning, and relearning these three childhood communication lessons. Today I proudly participate in dinner conversations with my family where we each get the airtime we want and deserve. Topics of discussion are virtually limitless, and we promote the sharing of our thoughts and feelings without pressuring others to agree or conform. These are far different dinners than I had growing up.

I  know the day may come when my kids want to unlearn some of the lessons I taught them. I’m OK with that, providing they relearn them in a manner that is reflective of their authentic selves. When it comes to recalling their lessons about communicating, I hope they have fun and loving memories of our many meals together, sitting around our family dinner table.

Change Is Necessary

People talk about being busy – busy tending to personal and professional tasks that extend outside their responsibilities or interests. This is especially true for many of my clients during the pandemic. If you can relate, then you may need something to change, and that something just might be you.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you say yes when asked to do something, even if you want to say no?
  • Do you have more responsibilities than available time to complete them?
  • Do you skip family activities because you are busy with other commitments?
  • Do you prefer doing things yourself rather than asking others for assistance?

Answering yes to any of the above can lead to feelings of resentment, frustration, burn-out, and exhaustion. These yesses are your wake up call to facing the reality that something needs to change.

Figuring out these changes requires you to look at your life as a whole. Start by identifying how you spend your time (i.e., attending meetings, working on projects, attending socially distanced events, spending time with your family). Then figure out which of these activities are expected of you and which you have willingly agreed to.

The things required of you are your must-dos. These are the responsibilities expected of you, such as providing shelter and food for your kids, paying taxes, and meeting the duties outlined in your job description. Even if you don’t like or want to do these things, you understand that they are your non-negotiables.

Next, take the list of things that you willingly agreed to do and divide them into two categories:

  1. Things you value and want to be doing (i.e., getting together with relatives on weekly video calls, mentoring rising leaders)
  2. Things you agree to do to but don’t like or enjoy yet recognize the value in doing them anyway (i.e., cleaning your garage, revising client presentation for the fifth time)

The latter part of the second category (the things you agree to do but don’t want to do) is where proactive change can begin. You may perceive these tasks as must-dos, or perhaps feel uncomfortable declining, and, therefore, treat them as things you cannot decline.

The reality is, you have a choice and do not have to do what others are asking of you. This may lead to other challenges or complexities, but if it’s important enough to you (while still meeting your must-dos), you will hopefully be willing to turn your yesses into nos.

If saying yes gets in the way of living your life as you desire, it’s time to figure out what you can be doing differently – and start doing it! Change is not always easy, especially now, when there has been so much imposed upon us during the pandemic.

Whether you realize it or not, putting people’s needs before your own is being unkind to yourself. You may instinctually want to please others and therefore be inclined to say yes when no is really your answer. Keep reminding yourself that it’s ok to do things differently than you once had because, like everything else in life, there comes a time when change is necessary.

Successfully Living Alongside this Pandemic

“When will this end?” “I miss my life.” “I can’t take this anymore.”

 

When the pandemic made its way into our lives back in March, you quickly scrambled to figure out how to keep moving forward. You did it again in late May as reality set in that your job, kids’ summer activities, vacations, and social plans were not going to happen as scheduled. You resistantly did what you had to do, but what other realistic options did you have?

 

The weeks have since turned into months, and two seasons have come and gone. With Fall around the corner, the feeling of a fresh start that some people experience – perhaps inspired by the beginning of a new school year – has been replaced with mourning the loss of predictability and routine. You are once again in the position of figuring out how to manage life in this new normal.

 

With no immediate end in sight, it’s time to shift from a reactive mindset and living in what feels like a holding pattern to that of a proactive focus that includes living your life alongside this pandemic. It’s time to figure out how you can shift your focus to include personal and professional needs, wants, and goals while simultaneously taking precautions for staying safe and healthy.

 

Fall is around the corner, and if you want to enter the new season ready for the new normal, then now is time to start preparing. Here is a three-step framework you can use for refocusing, setting goals, and getting started.

 

Step 1: Refocusing entails looking at your life through the lens of this new normal. Rediscover your proactive and productive mindset and acknowledge that your perspectives and priorities may have shifted over the past several months. When you look back on your life before the pandemic, are there things that you are no longer doing that you would like to resume or prefer leaving in the past? Are there new things that you want to continue in the new normal or leave behind with the pandemic?

 

Step 2: Setting Goals begins by comparing your pre-pandemic personal and professional goals with the goals you have today. This step is critical because it’s acknowledging that many things in your life may have changed, which may have altered what you personally and professionally want and need for yourself in the future.

 

Step 3: Getting Started now is preparing you for the Fall. Turn your motivation into an actionable plan that will lead to achieving your goals. This is not an overnight process, so the more preparation you do now, the more productive and successful you will be later.

 

This 3-step framework encourages you to redirect time and energy onto yourself, which you might not have been doing during the pandemic. Now is the time for you to make yourself a priority so that you can focus on your personal and professional needs while living alongside this virus.

 

Remind yourself of what you already know – you can only go so long without taking care of yourself. The last thing you need is to run out of steam – physically and emotionally. If you want to be helpful to others, then be sure to take care of yourself first. However, right now is your time to gear up for Fall and the new normal so that you can successfully live alongside this pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

I Look Forward To

I look forward to the day when my skin does not afford me more of a privilege than those of other colors and shades. We are part of the same human race, each unique, like our fingerprints, yet the same because we have hearts and brains that want and deserve to live with calm, peace, and love.

I look forward to the day when I am not defined by my gender but by my being a member of the human race. We should not be graced with privilege or limited in freedoms based on our gender, preferred pronoun, or sexual preference.

I look forward to the day when my religion is not held against me, and all can worship freely and safely. Your choice to pray is just that, your choice. To whom you pray and where or how you pray is never a justification for others to impose hatred or violence upon me, you or anyone.

I look forward to the day when respect is an assumed behavior, kindness is a given, and uniqueness is celebrated.

I look forward to the day when people are granted the same opportunities as others. It should never matter who anyone wants to marry or if they have a disability, or what their socioeconomic status, religion, or color of their skin is.

I look forward to the day when people cast their ballot and make their voices heard peacefully, both in person and by mail.

I look forward to the day when the news is filled with positive stories and not overshadowed by reports of violence, hatred, fighting, and killing.

I look forward to the day when I live in a land guided by the written words about equality and justice for all; when honor, authenticity, and the spoken words are not filled with hypocrisy, contradiction and lies.

I look forward to the day when my wish for peace does not sound like a naive impossibility, and my hope for equality is a reality.

I look forward to the day when disagreements are just that and not a gateway for violence, hatred, inequality, and aggression.

I look forward to the day when being upset is welcomed, but violence is not, when demonstrations are peaceful, and destruction is condemned.

I look forward to the day when food, shelter, healthcare, and education is available to all. And with ease.

I look forward to the day when a badge and uniform is treated by those who wear them with the utmost respect for the system they are representing and not as a false justification to act as judge and jury.

I look forward to the day when people can mourn the loss of their loved ones after a long-lived life and not because of a life cut short due to the ignorance and insanity of others.

I look forward to the day when my dreams and hopes become a reality. Maybe one day we will live peacefully in a land where similarities and differences are valued, celebrated, and welcomed, and also the norm.

Defeating the Coronavirus War

The days are so strange. There is an eeriness in the air. Few cars on the street. More people walking around – many in the middle of the road for social distancing purposes. I haven’t been in my car more than two times in nearly three weeks. And when I was, it was upsetting to drive around and see the empty train station parking lot, barren quaint downtown closed to foot traffic, playgrounds off-limits and wrapped with police-tape, and of course, all of the empty schools.

Work has transitioned from in-person meetings to video calls, and my client calls are overtaken by pretty much all things Coronavirus. Stress and anxiety are high, concerns are significant, and fear is rising. Our new boss, COVID-19, is bringing out one of two mindsets – the glass is half-full or half-empty. With either perspective, however, almost every client conversation focuses on how they can successfully make it through this unknown period of uncertainty without breaking. Some are dealing with quarantine, fear about getting medical help if needed, a partner’s positive test results, and making sure their elderly parents have food. Others are worried about staying financially afloat and doing whatever is necessary to keep their employees employed. Question marks are hovering over every thought – when will this end? What if I lose my job? What if I run out of toilet paper? How do I get groceries safely? When can I see my friends again? Can I survive another four weeks (at minimum) being around my spouse and kids all day?

Every time I learn of friends and acquaintances, strangers, too, testing positive for COVID-19, I am saddened, scared, and concerned. To the best of my ability, I understand the severity of this battle, but yesterday was the first day that I truly felt the magnitude of COVID-19’s power. My body felt heavy, and my head heavier. The news seems to be getting bleaker as regions of the country are preparing for what’s currently happening here in NJ and so many other states.

Last night while sitting on my couch I watched videos on my phone of military men and women coming home from overseas. With tears rolling down my face, I couldn’t get enough of them. There was the son who surprised his mother on her lunch break, the sister who set up her brother to think he was getting in trouble by the school principal before surprising him at school, and then there was the father who showed up at his son’s elementary school assembly.

I typically watch these videos when they pop up in my social media feed, but last night, I sought them out. It had to be an unconscious linking of our military and medical personnel. Just like you, I want every soldier to return home safely. And just like you again, I want every nurse and doctor to return home to their families safe and healthy after this war ends too.

I’m pretty sure that the deep sadness I felt last night was a reminder that we are at war. The military videos represented my hope for an ending to this COVID-19 war – an end I hope is not all doom and gloom but one filled with relief, gratitude, and joy!

Today’s a new day, and I’m feeling grateful for the opportunity to be sheltering in place. I’m following the rules and keeping my social distance from the many I would love to see and hug. I’m remaining connected with friends, family, and clients by Zoom calls. And my sadness, while real, pales in comparison to what’s going out there on the battlefields.

For all those fighting their own battle to get better, keep fighting the fight! I’m cheering you on and wish you nothing short of a speedy and healthy recovery. To the doctors and nurses on the front lines, thank you for your commitment to saving people’s lives! Stay healthy and strong and never forget that you too will have your day of returning home when this war is over! And when that happens, after you get some sleep and reunite with your family, I want to be there alongside everyone in our country to celebrate you and your contribution to defeating the Coronavirus War.

 

Work-Life Balance While Working From Home During The Coronavirus Pandemic

March 23, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in the blink of an eye. We are scrambling to figure out how we can continue being productive now that everything has gone virtual – everything but our kids, that is. We still have meetings, projects, emails, and calls, and yes, we now have our kids, who want and need us, at home all day, every day too.

In the past, when you daydreamed about spending less time at work so you could have more time with your family to laugh, play games and go for walks, I’m pretty sure you didn’t think that the Coronavirus was the way this would happen. After a week of togetherness, a little less time with your family and more time at work may be what you need. After all, you are still expected to be productive and effective at your job.  

I have previously talked about strategies for creating a healthier work-life balance, but that was when our routines were our routine. Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak, things are different, and new routines are emerging. For this reason, I modified these 4-steps to help you have some semblance of a healthy work-life balance during this challenging time.

1.    Set Boundaries: Your boundaries will vary depending upon the demands of your job and the ages of your kids. The overarching goal, however, is to be clear and direct with your employer and family about what they can expect from you and what you expect from them.  

  • Make sure your family knows when you cannot be interrupted (excluding emergencies, of course) and when you’ll be available to help with schoolwork and hang out. 
  • To the extent that it’s appropriate, let your boss and colleagues know that you are balancing work and being home with your kids and that you may have unexpected interruptions.
  • If you typically spend significant amounts of time in meetings and helping others with projects that are not your responsibilities, this is an ideal time to transition your focus, time and energy to do that which is your responsibility.

2.    To-Do Lists: Even if you have always worked from home, there is no denying that things are different now. Be kind to yourself and accept that during this time, your productivity may temporarily decline.

  • Set realistic expectations for yourself. 
  • Create a Today To-Do List with the things that must be done today (personally and professionally) and add other to-dos a Master To-Do list.
  • Don’t forget to include time for yourself. Self-care is essential, especially now!

3.    Delegate: Now is a great time to delegate tasks that could or should have previously been completed by others. Doing so not only helps you; it allows others to learn new skills, take on more responsibility, and become more independent.

  • Assign age-appropriate chores to your kids (i.e., make their bed, do their laundry, prepare dinner for the family). 
  • Stop holding on to work responsibilities that others can or should be doing. 
  • Communicate openly (at home and work) when you need help or support by asking someone else to take over a task, either temporarily or permanently.

4.    Meeting For One: During the Coronavirus pandemic, this strategy is less about blocking time for yourself so that you can get work done (though still necessary) and focuses more on ensuring that you are tending to your self-care.

  • Self-care is not selfish. It’s essential that you give yourself time to write, walk, meditate, exercise, or whatever you need to take care of yourself.
  • Hopefully, you are enjoying the added family time but know that 24/7 togetherness can take an emotional toll on you, so regularly give yourself some space from others and when necessary (if possible). 
  • On the work front, allocate time for yourself so that you can be productive and meet your responsibilities. 

Additional suggestions:

  • When possible, stagger meeting times with your partner so that one of you can be more accessible to the kids.
  • Get out of the house every day! Fresh air, the sun, and moving your body are all necessary for your physical and emotional health.
  • Remain connected with your friends and family. We are emotionally healthier when in contact with others, so pick up the phone or have video calls. 
  • Binge-watch TV shows, watch movies, play games, and read books.
  • Thank the medical doctors and nurses who are putting their lives on the line for all of us right now. 
  • Thank everyone else who is also working hard to help us have some sense of normalcy in our lives. This includes postal workers, local restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacists, delivery services, and all the employees making this possible!
  • Support your local merchants now, if possible, and as soon as they reopen.
  • With every challenge comes growth. Identify yours and realize that there is always a silver lining, even when it seems like an impossibility.

These are not carefree days, but we will get through them. In the meantime, stay healthy by practicing social distancing and do your best to maintain a healthy work-life balance while at working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Get your go-to guide that’s chock full of reminders on maintaining balance. It’s perfect to pin up in your workspace. Get it here.

*If you have not yet received your free copy of the “Effectively Managing Your Workday: a 4-step system proven to help you manage your workload,” guidebook, you can download it here.

COVID-19 meets Time, Distance, and Shielding

March 17, 2020

One of the things I love about my brother-in-law, Lee, a Ph.D. Nuclear Physicist, is his ability to enthusiastically and skillfully explain complex scientific facts, theories, and challenges in ways that I, a non-scientifically knowledgeable person, can understand. I’m always intrigued by his research, experiments, and findings that range from, for example, deactivating nuclear bombs, global warming, and curing cancer.

In early February, when the Coronavirus’s severity and awareness were in its infancy, I had an unrelated conversation with Lee about the protocol physicists follow when ionizing radiation reaches dangerous levels. He explained that everyone should avoid all toxic exposure, which makes sense, but is it’s not always a viable option. In those instances, people should then follow specific sequential steps with the ultimate goal of reducing all levels of exposure to as low as possible.

My initial intrigue about this protocol related to my client work, as I was able to easily swap out radiation with personal and professional relationships. And now, with the rapid worldwide spread of the Coronavirus, I see in bright shiny lights how the efforts for containment align with Lee’s lesson. In all cases, while the risks are different, the goals are the same – mitigate all danger through the “time, distance, and shielding.”

The goal of never being exposed to toxic levels of ionizing radiation is logically accomplished by staying out of the danger zone altogether. In reality, however, this is not always easy to do, so you should, therefore, limit the amount of time you are in that area. If the risk still remains, create distance between you and the toxic zone. In due time, the dangerous levels should subside, and you will be able to return to this area but must always proceed with caution and shield yourself since some degree of radioactivity will forever remain.

As I think about the progression of the COVID-19 virus, it’s easy to see how this protocol could be the framework for the worldwide response. Initially we all contributed to the virus spreading like wildfire by going to work, flying on planes, eating at restaurants, sitting in classrooms and going to grocery stores. When the rate of people getting sick and dying rose so quickly, we responded by limiting the time we spent anywhere. But that too wasn’t enough. So now, here in the United States, businesses and schools are going remote, retail stores and restaurants are shutting down for a few weeks, and we are keeping our distance from one another – a practice we now call social distancing.

When the virus is contained, and the curve flattens, COVID-19 will still exist, which means that we will still need to keep our distance and wash our hands thoroughly. Hopefully, a vaccine will become available soon because that is also a necessary form of shielding that will help prevent this pandemic from rearing its ugly head again.

I’ve known Lee for more than 30 years, and this is by far the most powerful lesson I’ve learned from him. Initially intrigued by its connection to my coaching work, I would never have imagined that just six weeks later, it would also help me understand how this pandemic is being managed. While we need more than hope, I am hopeful that the COVID-19 toxicity curve will flatten by following this framework of “time, distance, and shielding.”

I am sending everyone healthy wishes!

Want to spend more time with your family and less time at work?

Do you want to spend more time with your family and less time at work? Do you want to go on weekend excursions with the kids, have date nights with your partner, and go out for dinner with your friends? Want to exercise regularly, have more time to relax, read books, and binge-watch shows?

These are loaded questions, I know. Perhaps the better questions to ask are, what work tasks are you responsible for that could or should be someone else’s responsibility, and how much of your personal time do you spend working? 

As a working mom, you likely have far more responsibilities than you have time. You are probably also doing more than you should or need to be. Unfortunately, this not only limits the time you have with your family, but it also sets you up for potentially feeling resentful, frustrated, burned-out, and exhausted. 

Before you can make any long-term and impactful changes, you first need to figure out what work tasks you are doing that you should no longer be doing or can be taken over by someone else. Start by asking yourself these three questions:

1.    What am I doing for others that they can or should be doing for themselves?

2.   If I was suddenly out of the office and unavailable for two weeks, which of my responsibilities would others be able to manage with relative ease?

3.    What am I doing that requires a significant amount of my time, but is not my responsibility?

Your answers to these questions identify which responsibilities others can or should be doing instead of you. Relinquishing yourself from them will take some strategic planning, yes, but afterward, you will benefit in (at least) three ways.

First, you will have more time at work to do what you have been doing at night and on the weekends. Second, you will have more time to spend with your family, friends, and even yourself too. And third, you will have a healthier work-life balance and be more likely to experience greater satisfaction, focus, enthusiasm, and motivation at work.

Life as a working mom is busy, and while it is essential that you meet all of your work responsibilities, it is just as important to work at having a healthy work-life balance. Keep asking yourself these three questions and be discerning about how you spend your time, especially when feeling like your work-life balance is becoming imbalanced.

To learn strategies that will help you spend more time with your family and less time at work, click here and get your free 4-step guide, Effectively Managing Your Workday.