10 Questions to Debrief the Year

Rainbow colored post-it notes forming a question markWhat are questions that are helpful to you when concluding your goals, events and projects? Do you ever find yourself asking the same questions in the reflective process that eventually become a mainstay of your own personal debriefs? Or, perhaps you’re new to the self-reflective process and not sure where to start, what do you wonder most about when you are wrapping up a project?

As 2015 wraps up, I’m sharing 10 questions I’ve applied to reflect upon the year. Call it a debrief if you will. These questions can be adapted. It comes in handy in concluding events and in setting the following year’s goals, for example thinking about what to do differently. Here are questions I’m posing to myself to debrief 2015.

  1. What are you grateful for?
  2. What’s one memorable thing that you did to make a difference this year? Can you repeat the same thing to make a difference next year, or would you do it differently?
  3. Are there other things you did to make a difference this year, what are they?
  4. Did you live to your potential this year? What can you do to ensure you’re living to it next year?
  5. What were the top five life lessons you learned?
  6. What was the most important goal to you at the beginning of 2015, does it still hold true now? Will it hold true in 2016?
  7. What was the most courageous act you undertook this year? Why was it courageous?
  8. Did you find purpose and/or meaning to your year, how so?
  9. What brought you the most joy this year? Why?
  10. What would you do differently moving forward, knowing what you know from what happened in 2015?

Working It Out

pink Everlast boxing gloves laid out on a benchPosting a little less regularly as of late as I have taken time for care giving to family members, self-development and inspiration research so that I may be able to share more here. It has been somewhat of a transformative period, taking new approaches to both professional and personal life. What I have come to see is that where there is adversity there is light. I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences that I have had to continue to learn and to feel the warmth and support of those closest to me.

That being said, where does this illumination come from? The precise response may be different for everyone and I don’t claim to have the answer. What I can say for myself and my observations is it seems tied to constant curiosity and connection with others and the world around each of us. More profoundly, I think it has to do with cultivating a deeper understanding and appreciation for life. For me where there is curiosity, connection and appreciation, usually creativity isn’t that far away. It seems to me that creativity catalyzes research methods, however informal or formal, to feed curiosity and connection, and only when there is appreciation for the results does one come full circle and finds meaning. Here are six ways that inspire me to rise to challenges and adapt to change.

  1. Yoga and meditation – The ultimate self-management tools, being able to experience “now” and paying attention to the life force of breathing for a moment helps with clarity of mind. When the is mind clear, don’t you find making decisions easier?
  2. Reading and reflection – Active reading also seems to help being in the “now.” Not only is it a great source of entertainment and brain stimulation, is a great way to inspire creativity. According to Creativity Expert, Tanner Christensen, there is a correlation with problem solving, reasoning ability and creativity.
  3. Making it a point to connect with trusted connections – I’m so appreciative to have precious friends and family I can rely upon to be in non-judgemental place where I can share life’s ups and downs. More importantly, it is such an honor that so many more of my friends and relatives find a confidante in me.
  4. Making new connections to share a common goal by joining a social group or cause – self-fulfillment gives me the warm fuzzies, plain and simple. Having received such gifts in life, it’s important to give back. Recently, I had been contributing to program development and blog content for Change Catalyst, an online platform for women entrepreneurs and investors.
  5. Making a meal with loved ones who have had a historical impact on my life. This activity for me is about spending quality time together. It’s also about creating and passing down a relevant legacy.
  6. Staying fit – Boost those endorphins! My favorite workout is a good kickboxing class. I’m committed now that I have my own gloves. It really challenges my core physical strength and endurance. Digging deep to overcome the physical demands of the class is my goal each session, it’s truly an active metaphor for life. I always feel better after a class.

These are my tried and true methods of metamorphosis. What helps inspire you in dynamic times? How do you work through life’s transformative experiences of adversity? What activities or interests inspire you to move forward? Work it out.

Love & Inspiration From the Geriatric Wing

Corridor aspect, sign above denotes Geriatric Ward at Mount St. Joseph's HospitalWhile at the ER tonight with my elderly godparents, I couldn’t help but admire their zest for life, love (of the unspoken kind, actions not words) and principals, despite my godfather experiencing heart failure, fluid in his lungs and swelling from torso to toes. His role was ever the traditional protector and provider and he wouldn’t admit to being ill, completely denied all his symptoms. Luckily, god-mom is just as stubborn (never one to be a damsel in distress, she is fiercely independent, seniors ping pong and badminton champion) as he is and took him into the ER sooner rather than later, and was able to undergo treatment just in time.

At the hospital I observed many a tender moment. These moments had nothing to do with the obvious signs of affection however. Love knows no boundaries, knows no shame. This is what I saw and learned.

Bedpans and wipes, my godmother is there. She can’t eat until she sees him eating well. She sleeps only after he falls into slumber. She diligently watches over him and tends to his personal needs, only leaving after visiting hours to sleep at home and rising early in the morning to take her post by his bedside. And yet, my godfather will ask her how she is doing and attempts to distract her from worries with trivial conversation.

Anyone who knows them knows how much my godmother is normally spoiled by my godfather. Responsible to a fault, respected and stoic in character, he doted on her in his own strong and unspoken manner, reading her mind mostly. He drove her everywhere and took her up on every whim, consulted her for most domestic decisions. They never had children, not because they didn’t want to, but because they unfortunately couldn’t.

Enter me. Blessed from the womb, I became their goddaughter even before I could see the world. And I’m glad to bear witness to their old-fashioned love story; one that has survived Cultural Revolution, immigration, long distances apart, and family crises that seemed to only happen around them, but never affect them because of their strength and true consideration for one another. To my gratitude journal I write how grateful I am to be a part of their journey and to be inspired by their devotion to one another.

Summer Reading List 2015: Game-Changing Inspiration

Theressa reading the store map, to locate book sections on the shelves of Powell's Books. On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I not-so-accidentally landed in my favorite book shop (more like a department store for bookworms like myself). Most of you are probably thinking, why am I still reading the paper stuff? Though I’ve attempted to read from e-readers and my tablet, a book, to me, just has a different feel to it. I’m neither for, nor against, digital book forms, I can see the necessity for it at times. Personally, I like the substance, the physical volume reminds me to pick it up and not be distracted by the multiple other options surrounding it. My eyes feel less tired reading from paper and my battery is always drained from the use of other applications. I’m not here to preach about books and technology (and by now you may have discovered how much I love tech if you’ve read other posts, but I feel there is a time and place for everything). To each their own.

Sharing some (more to come soon) of my diverse finds from my recent haul, thanks to my beloved Powell’s City of Books and Costco (see Women Studies below), I have added the following to my Summer Reading List. Some are new releases, while others are just worth reading again and again.

  1. Business – Richard Branson’s,”Like a Virgin, Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School (2012),” is an eye opening read about his bumpy road to operating successful multi-billion dollar companies.  Branson reveals his unconventional entrepreneurial wisdom in tight to-the-point chapters, ideal for those with short attention spans, or others needing a high-value read while commuting. He also tackles the start-up process (in not so many words) and leadership skills.
  2. Personal Finance – For motivation, simplified tips and plans to reach financial responsibility and success, check out Nicole Lapin’s, “Rich Bitch (2015).”
  3. Spiritual – Seeking further direction for future volunteer contributions, I turned to Deepak Chopra’s collaboration with his son Gotham Chopra, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes, Harnessing Our Power to Change the World (2007).” This is a fun and easy read, great gift for comic book buffs. There are examples and illustrations of comic superheroes to facilitate the discovery of a road map to your inner superhero.
  4. Life-Hack – If you have been like me, living under a rock, you may not have had the pleasure of reading Tim Ferriss’, The 4-Hour Work week.’ Highly recommended by so many friends and the New York Times Bestseller List over the years, I finally caved this trip and bought the expanded and updated edition (2009). Ferriss delivers many life hacks for starting up a business and ideas to overhauling routines to optimize time.
  5. Women’s Studies Mika Brzezinkski’s, ” Grow Your Value, Living and Working to Your Full Potential (2015),” is a easily digestible read about women in the work place.

Beyond the Gold Star Gesture: Recognition & Acknowledgement

Gold Medal On a Maple Leaf LanyardMy experience as a longtime volunteer to a variety of social and non-profit organizations got me thinking about how leaders rewards its teammates to encourage and develop organizational culture. In a recent dual role as volunteer board member and team leader for an industry association, I made it a point to note the interests and reasons why team members were eager to raise their hands for assignments. For volunteer roles, motivation isn’t always necessarily driven by career or monetary factors. For some it may seem obvious, reward them with praise or a blue ribbon. But, sometimes, what is valuable to one person may not be valuable to another.

For some the idea of a blue ribbon is liken to a grade school gold star. It’s nice, but not as fitting as say an opportunity to be the class captain for activities. And while for others, the same idea could be a most coveted situation to behold. Really, it boils down to knowing and understanding an individual’s aspirations. From the leadership perspective, building relationships with volunteers (much like it is with team members at work or on sports teams) is key to understanding personal and professional motivations and supporting a good fit. While from the volunteer perspective, it’s important for individuals to have a platform to share accomplishments. What I’ve come across is that the recipient will appreciate acknowledgement of their priorities with compatible opportunities in a safe development environment, just as much as the gesture of recognition.

Stretching Your Travel Dollar From an Unassuming Wanderluster

View towards tarmac from YVR passener holding areaMany of my friends and colleagues have often asked me about my approach to booking travel, this one is for them, thank you for inspiring me to share this with you here.

Do you prescribe to the myth that the best deals occur on trip bidding sites or on standby status? Reality Check! It’s all about research, research and more research! It can be worth it. It can be the difference between resting in four star luxury for the price of three star accommodation and sometimes the equivalent savings of a return flight. From the vault of my own travel experience, this is how I’ve come to get the best value for my wanderlust. Let me preempt that this isn’t intended for the audience that can take off on a whim. I’m like many of you who need to be considerate of work and other life commitments, in fact some of this knowledge has come from road warrior experience. But, also let me say that only you know what your preferences are. If you’re finding anything helpful from this post, only take what you need and adapt according to your needs and tastes.

Beware of days to book flights and hotels

  • Plan ahead (months ahead where possible), I can’t stress this enough, last minute deals aren’t as good as they used to be
  • Compare the prices for the same hotel and flight booked on a weekend versus a weekday and see if there is a difference*
  • Compare the prices again for the same hotel and flight booked in the morning versus the evening
  • I don’t know about you, but if my gut instinct sees a good deal, I nab it right away and halt further comparison shopping and don’t look back

Take it from Rick Steeves, if you think you’ve got a good deal, you better nab it before it’s gone.

*This may sound silly, but I’ve seen it before and yes I have had my moment also, it helps to remember to clear the cache from the browser to bring up the latest deal possible.

For some accommodations, such as with the larger chain hotels, you can often price match online deals with the chain’s own website offers and still consider options that cover a range of cancellation policies. If you have a AAA membership (CAA in most cases as well) or a partnership benefit, don’t forget to check off the special rate box for this. If you’re like me and happen to like a certain chain hotel experience, collecting rewards points on their member rewards cards can bring free hotel stays pretty quickly. However, watch out for the  credit card registration offers tied to these same establishments. Always consider the associated interest rates and rewards terms before signing up.

Makes Cents to Support Local Business

JJBean Store Front on CambieIt thrills me to see the steady expansion of smart local businesses (not to say that I don’t shop at mega international vendors, that tends to be a given). Smart means local coffee shops like JJ Bean, opening their 16th location in March. These businesses often figured out the region’s market formula. Starting off conservatively, these small businesses take just the right amount of time to brew consistent quality products and service while establishing a following before developing further their footprint.

For anyone who isn’t convinced that supporting local business is worth a second thought, check out Michael Salguero’s (custommade.com) Huffington Post feature on why buying local is worth every cent. BC Stats reveals that small business in BC translates to over 1 million jobs, and almost one third of wages earned in the province. BC also operates the most small businesses per capita in Canada.

Looking to develop your own? Here’s some Canadian inspiration:

http://smallbusinessbc.ca/

http://www.womensenterprise.ca/

http://www.startupcan.ca/

A Word or Two on Gratitude Can Make A Difference

 

William Arthur Ward Quote: Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessingsA tool of positive transformation can be found in gratitude. I used to just reflect, think, react and act on appreciation. However, nothing I find, is as potent as the visual form. It’s been a long while since I’ve kept a diary, this year I’ve returned to writing down my appreciative thoughts in a gratitude journal. People tend to forget so easily, but looking at my meaningful scribbles, it proves to show how much their is to be grateful for in a more tangible concrete sense. It is a most uplifting ritual. From time to time you’ll find my heartfelt messages of thanks from my journal entries this year posted here.

Mapping the Road Ahead

A wall with color coded sticky notes arranged by category cascading down a wall.From 2010, I’ve started each year with a rough personal plan on paper, a starting point if you will. I utilized a tool often used in project planning, some know it as mind mapping others know it as road mapping, but instead of diagrams, I combined it with sticky notes. Sticky notes makes sense for me because it exists in different colors and I use each color to represent categories of goals (pink for personal, green for financial, etc). Also, sticky notes could be moved and changed around on a wall. If I had written it in my notebook or saved it on my laptop I could easily file it away in a corner and forget about it, but with the sticky notes plastered on my walls, I would walk into my home office every day and be reminded of them and it would encourage me to literally stick with it. Now four years later,  what I’ve learned is that this system still works for me today with some customized adjustments for iterative purposes as I learn along the way. For instance, once I have distilled key annual goals, I’ll outline quarterly and daily action items to meet some of these goals and will continue to until, hopefully, a broad range of goals are reached.

Strategies for the Year Ahead

Royal blue pocket sized day planner from Harrods, open to calendar pageAfter reviewing the results of last year’s plans, I’m looking at the New Year as a new chapter, new goals to establish and carrying over some from the previous year. Advising a friend of mine who was searching for a way forward, having suffered a huge loss in 2014, I had this to say about goal setting.

“Goals should be bigger picture ideas for the year that are attainable. Mini targets that you set along the way to the larger end goals makes it a less daunting process. What works in sport and business can sometimes apply to life.“

Really, I didn’t have to tell my friend that, she already knew. In fact she was a devout practitioner in the years I’ve known her. With the vulnerable state she was in, she just needed a little reminder, as we all need every now and then. That’s what friends are for, to hand us the mirror without judgement.

To make planning simpler, I’m streamlining this year’s goal setting with a few key points:

1. Use the litmus test. Ask why the goal is considered in the first place. How is it aligned to who you are? How can it make your life better?

2. Keep it short. I am aiming for 5 to 10 depending on time and breadth.

3. Keep it simple.

4. Keep it iterative. Being agile has helped manage expectations, something I’ve practiced volunteering on a board)

5. Be accountable, set timelines and ways to monitor results.

6. Be social, good friends can encourage or remind you to stay the course, as per my example above.

7. Keep it fun and challenging. It’s a lot easier to reach for a goal when you can feel a sense of fulfillment and positivity.

8. Append a “wish list” to the shorter and simpler goals list. Keeping this separate list removes the distraction of disappointment to “nice-to-have” goals that may or may not be as manageable.

Happy planning and Happy New Year to all!