do_not_disturbThere is a common misconception that all introverts like to, and want to, be alone most of the time, and all extroverts like to, and want to, be with other people almost all of the time. In my experience, I haven’t found this generalization to be true.

Take me, for example. I am categorized as an extrovert on almost every personality type test that I take. On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, I come up as an ENTJ, which stands for Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinker, and Judger (which by the way, refers to someone that prefers structure, is decisive and wants things completed, not to someone that is judgmental of others).

working_outsideBecause of my “extrovert” label, it often comes as a huge surprise when people learn that I really like to be alone. No, actually, I love to be alone. I love to be with others also, but I very much crave and need my alone time. I actually spend enormous amounts of time alone these days. Since relocating from New York to California, my husband maintains a grueling residency schedule which means he is not home as often as he used to be when we lived in NY. As a self-employed entrepreneur who does a lot of virtual work with my clients by phone and video conference, many of my work days are spent here at my home office… alone.

I think there is a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. When I’m alone, I enjoy passing the time by being productive through working or maintaining my life and home, or engaging in some of the many hobbies and passions that I enjoy doing. Do I ever get lonely? Not really. I do miss certain people a lot. I think missing people and feeling lonely are two different things though.

I know some introverts that do enjoy being around other people very much. Some introverts can be extremely outgoing and crave social interaction, as long as they then have time to be alone to rejuvenate and re-energize. And then there are extroverts like me, that can be jazzed about standing up in front of 500 people to do a speaking engagement, but really enjoy being alone before and after that speaking engagement so that I can regroup, reflect, and re-energize.

In her well-researched and fascinating book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” author Susan Cain discusses the concept of a Restorative Niche. Restorative Niche is the term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self. Even if you sometimes adapt to the situation and force yourself to take on more extroverted or introverted traits, you need a safe place to return to where your true traits are able to shine through. It can be a physical place, like the woods on a hike, an office with a closed door, etc., or a temporal one, like taking a break between phone calls. It can mean staying alone in the hotel room at a big conference instead of with a colleague, being alone before or after you go on stage as a speaker, saying no to social plans many nights in a row, etc. I love this concept, and have seen it at work in my own life, and that of my family, friends, colleagues, and clients.

When choosing a work environment, give consideration to whether there is an opportunity to engage in Restorative Niches for yourself.

Introverts may want to ask themselves:

  • timid_boldWill the work allow me to spend time doing in-character activities like reading, strategizing, writing, and researching?
  • Will I have a private workspace or be subject to the constant demands of an open office plan?
  • If the work itself doesn’t provide enough restorative niches, will I have enough free time on evenings and weekends to grant them to myself?

Extroverts will want to look for restorative niches too.

  • Does the work involve talking, traveling and meeting new people?
  • Is the environment stimulating enough?
  • Will I be stuck sitting at a desk behind a computer screen all day with no human interaction?
  • If the job isn’t a perfect fit, are the hours flexible enough that I can blow off steam after work?

Sometimes people find Restorative Niches in professions where you’d least expect them. An attorney that is able to spend time alone researching and writing all day. An actress that has a career as a voice over artist recording audio books alone in a studio. It’s not important what your job title is, or whether you own your own business, etc. What’s important is whether your work matches your personality type, or if you can find Restorative Niches when you need them. For me, being a self-employed entrepreneur does mean a lot of time at home, but it also means having the opportunity to connect with people at networking events, when I’m on stage as a speaker, and through doing my private and group coaching and consulting. It also means that if I have been sitting at my desk too long with no human interaction, that I can go out and join a group for a bike ride, or meet a friend or colleague for coffee. In other words, my work has built in opportunities for Restorative Niches.

be_yourselfWhat about you? Are you an extrovert that surprisingly loves being alone? Or are you an introvert that does enjoy a lot of social interaction? Let’s not limit ourselves to labels. Using Restorative Niches can help us go back to our true self when we need to, but sometimes we may not even need them in the first place. Sometimes we are who we are, and it’s just right — no matter what the labels say.

It’s officially 2014! It’s time to hit the reset button and make this your best year in business yet.

nextlevelHow, you ask? Join my PowerUp Your Business Group Coaching & Mastermind Program. 6 months of solid business coaching, accountability, and the power of a group to support you — and at an affordable price tag (with convenient 3 pay installment plan option too). We start next week — January 7. This is your year to PowerUp! Only a few spots left. Join us!

I’m actually writing this to you while taking a break from implementing some fabulous ideas in my business that I gleaned from attending a live event with one of my high level coaches, and doing private work with her. Yes, I get coached and trained too! Sometimes this surprises people beca use, hey, I run a very successful business… why would I need to have a coach? Well, because I run a very successful business! 🙂 I’m not trying to be a smart aleck when I say that either. Every good coach has a coach, and believes in the model of getting coached and trained in order to reach higher levels of success.

The truth is that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Which means I would never be able to live my passion and serve my peeps without focused high-level support, consistent realignment with my vision, and guidance on how to grow my company and serve my clients.

I hope you have a support system in place for the work you are doing! If not, when are you going to make that happen?

Well, how about join in as I launch the new PowerUp Your Business Group Coaching & Mastermind Program! Check out all of the details and fill out an applicat ion here.

Not sure if this PowerUp is a match for you? Take an inside peak at what I have planned for this program in this short video:

powerupvideo
But don’t wait too long as we start next week … so take fast action if you know this is right for you! (And if this is not a good match for you, please share with someone it would be. Thanks! https://www.lisamontanaro.com/powerup/)

Every business owner has that next “big” goal constantly on his or her mind.

I know I do – and I’m sure you do too.

Maybe it’s writing a book, hiring an employee, raising your rates, re-branding your business or expanding your service offerings.

think_bigOr maybe your big goal is a bit more personal — taking more time off, adding your personal passions or interests to your business, or facing your fear of delegation.

I want to help you reach your next big goal by combining the power of a mastermind group with my 11+ years of business experience and coaching/consulting/training.

The PowerUp Your Business Group Coaching & Mastermind Program will be held over a 6-month period, giving you time to make things happen and get things done. Our group will meet twice per month via teleclass on Tuesday afternoon/evenings (4pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern), starting January 7th. All calls are recorded so you can listen in if you miss one.

Each time we meet as a group, we will define manageable actions steps, share challenges and provide feedback. Our time together will be laser focused – we will work together to help you overcome whatever issues may be holding you back so that you can achieve your next big goal.

PowerUpThe number of participants will be limited to a small select group chosen by application only.

The price to participate is $2,295 (there’s even a 3-pay option for those of you that need to spread out your payments). However, if you enroll before December 12th, you will receive the Early Bird Rate of $1,995!

If you have the vision and passion to attain your next big goal, then this group is for you.

Click here for details and to fill out the application.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at Lisa@lisamontanaro.com if you have any questions.

I am looking forward to working with you next year!

If you are ready to receive techniques, coaching, inspiration and direction on how to get LOTS of writing completed this fall, then the aptly-named event, *30Articles in Just 30 Days,* is for you! Take a look at the website where you can get the details and register for this special upcoming program

I have learned myriad ideas from Meggin McIntosh over the years and I know from experience that this class is one that will more than deliver on her promises!

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use_technology_wiselyWith all of the technology devices at our fingertips these days, it is easier than ever to stay connected 24-7. But, how do we balance the need and desire to stay connected with the danger of technology taking over? By continuing to be the master of technology, not the servant!

I travel a lot for business in my role as a productivity consultant and professional speaker. Indeed, I am writing this column on my IPad at an airport, and will then email it to my online business manager (how’s that for 21st century technology?). When on the road, it is vital for me to be able to stay connected. But it is a constant balance between using technology to stay connected and get my work done, save time and be more productive, while not letting technology take over my life. To that end, here are some tips to help you stay connected, but maybe not exactly 24-7. Just because you can b e glued to your device doesn’t mean you should be!

Protect Yourself – Consider allowing only select people to break through to the inner sanctum. Just because you can be reached 24-7 doesn’t mean everyone needs to have access to you. Don’t share your itinerary and contact information with everyone. Use voice mail and email wisely to protect yourself by choosing when and how to reply back to people (see next point!).

Choose Times to Check In – Instead of constantly checking your email and voice mail messages, choose times of the day to check in. That way, you do not interrupt the flow of work (or play). This will help you be more proactive and less reactive. Studies show that email is a huge time bandit. It also creates an unnecessary need to continuously check it, which is a major interrupter in most people’s day. Plan your check-ins so that you are not reacting like Pavlov’s dog, salivating whenever you get an email.

appsThere’s an App for That – Choose which applications you will use on a regular basis and download only those apps to your smart phone or tablet. Yes, there are a multitude of apps available today, but the average person only uses 5 on a regular basis. Choose wisely, as apps can become electronic clutter and use an enormous amount of memory space on your device.

Use “the Cloud” – With today’s cloud-based technology, it is so easy to maintain information in a safe and easily accessible location so that you can access it when you need it on-the-go. From your contacts and client database, to your calendar and documents, everything can be stored in the cloud. Take a good, hard look at Google. It offers a lot more than people realize and can be your best friend when you need to stay connected away from home or the office. I also personally love Dropbox and Evernote, both great cloud-based tools for accessing notes, documents, and other data.

Be Courteous – You may be a technology junkie and love the idea of not only being accessible 24-7, but using your devices constantly to make phone calls, dictate reports, etc. If you are in a business setting, this is perfectly acceptable in this day and age. In fact, many commuter trains look like a technology explosion took place! But if you are in a quiet setting, or perhaps one that is not focused on business (some restaurants for example), be courteous to others and do not over-use your tech tools to the dismay of everyone around you. There is a time and place for using our technology to stay connected, and sometimes abstaining is the polite thing to do!

Coaching Challenge: Try to use the above tips to practice staying connected in a way that allows you to be more productive without feeling like you are addicted to technology. Let technology be the servant, not the master!

Want to become a speaker or hone your speaking skills? Have to give a presentation and need help writing and organizing it, or coaching on how to present it?

Lisa-speakingMany of my clients come to me because they want to add revenue to their business and find ways to increase their visibility. Speaking – and getting paid to do it – is one of the top strategies I recommend when working with my business/entrepreneur clients.

Even my clients that work for a corporation or organization often come to me for speaking training and coaching, as they too need to hone those ever-important speaking skills.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting Creating and Delivering Killer Presentations at the NAPO Conference, which was a fabulous event. It inspired me to offer you a special package to help you get on the stage more often, or perhaps for the first time. Whether you’re an emerging speaker just starting out, or an established speaker in need of a refresh or that wants to try out new material, the power of an intensive one-on-one coaching session, solely focused on your speaking, is hard to match.

We can laser focus on your speaking — from creating content to delivery.

Here’s what we can focus on:

Speech Writing/Preparation

Why stare at a blank screen paralyzed by fear when you can have me on your writing team? We can co-create a presentation that you will not only be proud of, but will come across as if you wrote it yourself — only better! I can draft speeches from scratch, or wordsmith and polish your rough draft.

Speaker Training/Coaching

Have you been asked to give a presentation and are scared to death, don’t know where to start, or are overwhelmed with how to pull it off? Fear no more! I offer coaching and training for aspiring speakers, as well as speakers with experience that want to “up their game” and knock it out of the park! Drawing upon my background as a performer and professional speaker, I will coach the speaker out of you so that you can ace your speaking engagement with confidence.

Marketing Yourself as a Speaker

I can help you get clear on what you need to say and do to market and position your speaking services effectively. It makes the difference between a disjointed image and scattered to-do list – with the income and cash flow roller coaster to match – and being a speaker who has it all together and is booked solid, commanding top rates and turning down opportunities that don’t fit.

BONUS!

get_free_bonus

To kick start your speaking, when you sign up for one of the options below by August 31st, you’ll get my Stand & Deliver: Dynamic Presentation audio program. Get a head start on our session by discovering tips to improve your oral and nonverbal communication styles, inspire and motivate participants, and exude confidence and enthusiasm, while establishing credibility.

Take Action

If you want to work on your speaking skills, there are several options.

strategy_session1) You can book a Strategy Session, which gives us 75 solid targeted minutes to work on your speaking. If you are ready to dive in, click here to book a session.

2) If you want or need more intense speaking training/coaching, we can book a half day VIP Intensive, which gives us 3 hours to work on your speaking and really make significant progress. Or we can really go for it, and devote a full solid 6 hours (with a break of course!) to your speaking with a full day VIP Intensive. We can do our VIP Intensive in person in my area (or in your area if I am traveling near you soon), or virtually by Skype. Click here to book a VIP Intensive.

3) If you think you want to spend several months working on your speaking, consider a long-term Platinum Coaching package of 3, 6 or 12 months. If you are interested in this option, let’s set up a Discovery Call to see what is the best match to improve your speaking skills, draft or improve your presentations, and/or market you as speaker.

Recently, I posted the following series of questions on my Facebook business page: How do you define being “productive”? Do you think of it as literally producing more? Or is it about helping you feel more in control or “balanced”? Do you tie it into impacting your bottom line and making more money? Or is that less important to you than its affect on your peace of mind?

checklist_completeWhat was fascinating to me was not only the answers themselves, but the way the answers diverged so much. It appears that productivity is a very personal matter. When it comes to productivity, it’s different strokes for different folks. From my years of experience researching, writing about, and working with clients to improve productivity, I have noticed that there are many approaches to productivity. And the answers that I received to my questions above confirmed this.

In order to be more productive, some people need to literally do more. Others need to do less. Then there is doing the right things at the right time in the most effective way possible. Using the qualifier “right” (as defined by you), helps to really home in on what makes the most impact to help one be productive, as opposed to just being busy. So there are many layers and levels to productivity.

Some people do, in fact, think of being productive as producing more, or getting more done. And that’s not a big surprise as to be productive literally means to produce. Therefore, many of us tend to translate being productive to mean that we need to keep doing and going and producing, and all at the same time. However, this can cause a ton of stress in our lives and make the quality of what we are producing decrease. I am just as guilty of that as others. So it takes a brave person to realize that you can have it all, but just not at the same time! This is a perfect example of why multi-tasking is not always the best course of action.

In fact, many people are busy for no reason, or for the wrong reason. They think it makes them more productive. Or they feel more productive because of all of the activity, but yet they aren’t truly more productive. Busy does not equal productive at all. That is one of the biggest fallacies of our society these days.

prof_womanWhat about using productivity to feel (and be) more at peace, happy, and successful? For many people, this is a better measurement of productivity. My personal definition of productivity falls more into this category. To me, being productive is accomplishing what I set out to do. That makes me feel personally productive as I have identified particular items as important and prioritized them, so they are the ones I should be focusing on. But it is less about having more, or even doing more, but feeling balanced, in control, and at peace. In fact, I have realized over the years that I am a productive as a means to living a successful and passionate life. If I were just productive for the sake of productivity, I would not be as happy or feel as balanced.

Why are differences in the definition of productivity important to recognize? For one, productivity consultants need to keep this in mind and can’t try to give a “one size fits all” solution to clients. From my perspective, most productivity consultants are quite aware of this, but it still bears mentioning. And all of us need to give this some thought and determine what our personal definition of productivity is. That is the best way to measure whether we feel (and are) productive. We first have to know what being productive truly means to us.

So I encourage you to determine what YOUR personal definition of productivity is. Don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing or thinking. Yes, it is great to read, research, model and learn all about productivity (trust me, I am obsessed with it!) But it is also important to march to the beat of your own drum, and measure your success in the area of productivity against your own personal standard.

“How committed are you?” This is the question I asked the participants of Speak Up: Crafting and Delivering Killer Presentations that I co-presented with my colleague and friend, Monica Ricci, as a pre-conference session at the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) 2013 Conference held in New Orleans from April 17-20. We were entering the 4th hour of our half-day workshop, and I was introducing the last module of our program, called Expect the Unexpected. But to fully grasp the meaning behind my question, I must back up and fill you in on what I am now calling my Planes, Trains and Automobiles experience (okay, sans the trains if we are being technical!).

Lisa_at_NAPO_table

All of the materials for my Expo table were in my carry on bag.

I set out to travel to the NAPO conference early morning on April 16th to ensure that I would arrive the day before my workshop, which was to start at 8:00 am on April 17th. Ah… the best laid plans. I packed a large suitcase as I was to be on business traveling for 10 days in the Southeast, first to New Orleans to speak at the NAPO Conference, and then to Tampa to speak at a law placement conference. I dutifully paid my $25 checked baggage fee on American Airlines and was on my way. Usually, I would put my presentation outfit in my carry on bag, but that was filled with materials for the table I purchased as an Exhibitor at the NAPO Expo & Marketplace. (This was my first lesson learned… always pack your presentation outfit in your carry on no matter what!)

At first, things seemed great. I sat next to two very friendly and interesting people for the first leg from Sacramento to Dallas, where I was to connect to a flight to New Orleans, putting me in the Big Easy by late afternoon. But when we landed in Dallas, the pilot announced that we could not “park” the plane as American Airlines’ computer system had gone down and they had no directions as to how to proceed. We then sat on the tarmac for an hour waiting further direction. Eventually, we found out that it was system wide, and not just in Dallas. Apparently, there is no back up plan for when the computers go down, except to wait for them to come back up. As a productivity expert, this incensed me as I started going through in my mind the procedure that should have been in place for this type of scenario. After an hour, they started taking people off the 7 planes stuck out on the tarmac and brought us to the terminal via buses.

As soon as I arrived in the terminal and saw what a mess it was, in terms of how many people were stuck there and how many flights were delayed and canceled, my first reaction was to rent a car to get to New Orleans. I checked Google Maps on my iPhone and learned that it was an 8.5 hour drive. Ouch! I had woken really early to get to the airport so was a bit sleep deprived and worried about making that drive alone. It was now about 2:00 pm on Tuesday, April 16th and I calculated that I wouldn’t arrive in New Orleans until 11:00 pm at the earliest, as there was no way I could drive that long without stopping.

Twiiter-travelSo, I waited. And waited. And waited. And I tweeted on Twitter, and posted on Facebook to keep my friends, family, clients and followers apprised of the situation. A reporter from NBC News emailed me and asked if she could interview me about the situation. She had seen one of my tweets. I complied and the next thing I knew, I was on the phone filling her in. Her story went to print a few hours later, unfortunately before the “real” story unfolded. When her story went to print, it ended with me getting ready to board a 7:00 pm flight to New Orleans. Ah, timing is everything. That’s not what happened. No indeed!

At 7:00 pm, we were advised that our crew had gone “illegal,” which we found out meant they had left the airport. Okay… so when will the next crew arrive, we asked. Not until tomorrow morning at 10:00 am. What? Excuse me? It is only 7:00 pm, we have been here for 6 hours waiting, almost all other flights have taken off or been rescheduled, but for New Orleans, there were no flights going out that evening. That was the harsh reality. In that split second, I had to make a choice. I went up to the desk and very clearly and loudly, but politely asked if they would re-route us onto other airlines. The American Airlines agent said that it was not their responsibility to do that and the next flight was the one the next morning. That was our only choice. I mentioned that I had to present at 8:00 am the next day, so that was unacceptable. I was told to go out to the customer care desk and wait on line with others. I saw the writing on the wall. There was no hope with getting a flight that night. So I turned around, looked at my fellow passengers and said “Who wants to drive with me to New Orleans? I have to be there in time to present at 8:00 am?” A woman stepped forward, and we started planning out the trip. Then two more women (a couple that had just been married in the state of Washington after being together for 25 years — this was the first day of their honeymoon!), and a man.

View of sun rising over Mississippi River from my hotel room in New Orleans after my "all nighter."

View of sun rising over Mississippi River from my hotel room in New Orleans after my “all nighter.”

The 5 of us quickly rallied. We rented a car, decided who would drive the first leg, navigated out of the airport (it felt so good to be out of that airport after 6+ hours!), stopped for provisions for the long drive and to charge cell phones quickly, and introduced ourselves and shared why we were heading to New Orleans. All of them were from the Seattle area, and two of them even had a mutual acquaintance back home. Yes, they were total strangers and I was taking a big chance, but they seemed pretty normal, and “stranger antenna” wasn’t beeping, so I had a suspicion it would be okay. I sent a text to my husband, who was of course, nervous and asked me if the man seemed normal (I realized later he never went to sleep until I was at the hotel in New Orleans to make sure I arrived safely and to call and text me every few hours to stay in touch!). Winds up that he and I spent the most time driving and talking in the front seat, and he spends his life helping people that need organ transplants. Talk about a nice guy. (Please refrain from jokes about how he was planning to kill us and steal our organs — I’ve heard it many times already since I told this story!)

The ride was long, but thankfully flat and with perfect weather conditions. It was dark and desolate, but that also meant hardly any traffic. After my turn at the wheel, I was forced to sit on the hump in the middle of the back seat because I was the smallest. Between that uncomfortable position, and the fact that one of the drivers was, let’s say, not the smoothest of drivers (she had many cans of Red Bull to keep herself awake, but that also made her a bit jumpy!), sleep was out of the question. Not a wink. I wound up being in charge of the music, which we accessed from my iPad because every station between Texas and Louisiana is either religious or honky-tonk country, and none of us had a taste for either. Pandora’s Motown station fit the bill, kept us awake, had something all of us knew and could bee-bop along to, and seemed appropriate as this was sort of a Big Chill experience in some ways.

Lisa_and_Monica3We drove by Baton Rouge, which I had visited last year with my husband when he interviewed for a veterinary residency position at Louisiana State University (we wound up in Davis, CA, a lovely town, but I digress). I had never been so happy to see a familiar place!  A little after 4:30 am, we arrived in New Orleans. I was dropped off first based on my hotel location and the fact that I was presenting in a few hours. Bless their hearts! (This, I learned, is a pretty typical Southern phrase, and one that you say in earnest, but often times, out of sarcasm too!).

By the time I checked in and got upstairs to my hotel room, it was just about 5:00 am. I was to be standing in front of a room full of people that paid to attend the pre-conference workshop I was co-presenting in 3 hours. I had no luggage (it arrived at 7:30 am the next day), which meant no clothes or toiletries. Thankfully, my amazing colleagues came through for me, and I was brought a dress and shoes to wear, which fit perfectly I might add (I posted my clothes and shoe sizes on Facebook, with a plea for clothes back at the airport hours earlier when I saw the writing on the wall!). The hotel gave me a toothbrush and I borrowed other toiletries from my very understanding roommate that I woke up when I arrived. What about my undergarments you ask? Nothing is open at 5:00 am, and even if they were, I was not about to roam the streets of New Orleans looking for underwear. So, after I showered, I not only dried my hair with the blow dryer, I also dried my underwear! (I kid you not.)

Lisa_and_Monica

Ready to present in my borrowed dress and shoes with Monica Ricci.

My co-presenter had a plate of breakfast food waiting for me in the room when I came down to present, which I gobbled up, along with a mug of hot tea. Then it was 8:00 am and time to begin. Despite having left my home in California more than 24 hours before, having no sleep, and dealing with the stressful travel events that unfolded, the show had to go on. Adrenaline kicked in, and I was ready to go. I stood before the group in someone else’s dress, another person’s shoes, my own (now clean and almost fully dry!) underwear, and thankfully, my own jewelry that I wore on the plane and happened to match my new outfit perfectly. I had my notes for the presentation in my carry on (and in my head as we had prepared for this for months), and my co-presenter had the slides ready to go on her Mac already hooked up to the projector.

We decided not to share my ordeal with the audience up front as we didn’t want it to pull focus. We thought it would have much more impact if we brought it up during the last section, Expect the Unexpected. Which brings me full circle to the question I asked the participants: “How committed are you?”

I did not intend to ask that question. But, as I stood in front of them, all of a sudden it seemed quite clear that this was the crux of the matter. Whether it is making a speaking engagement, or anything else in life that matters, the issue becomes how committed are we. There are many challenges we face, some bigger than others. We are constantly forced to make decisions. We often think of giving up. I certainly thought of it many times during my harried travel experience. I could have stayed overnight in Dallas and taken that flight the next morning, and told NAPO, my co-presenter, and the participants that I just couldn’t make it. Luckily, my co-presenter could have presented the entire workshop without me. But I did not want to let her down. I also did not want to let NAPO down who had chosen me for this role. I definitely did not want to let the participants down who had paid good money, and taken time out of their busy schedules to attend this workshop and expected it to have not one, but two, presenters. And I also did not want to let myself down. I was looking forward to this, and had the power to make it work. I was committed in every sense of the word.

Monica and I a few days later when I moderated the Ask the Organizer Panel - in my own clothes and shoes!

Monica and I a few days later when I moderated the Ask the Organizer Panel – in my own clothes and shoes!

And in the long run, that commitment not only affected me, but so many people around me. They rose to the occasion, helping me arrive safely, dressing me, feeding me, supporting me, and letting me know that I could do it, and they were there to help. That meant a lot to me and proved that when we are committed, it not only helps us, but has an amazing domino effect too. Word spread about what I went through to get there and how many people helped me in so many ways. It became bigger than just one person experiencing a Planes, Trains and Automobiles ordeal, and overcoming it. We felt like we were all in it together. And the participants of the workshop felt that they were important and mattered.

In the end, that may have been the most important lesson for all of us. Commitment is contagious.  It is much bigger than just the one experience or person. It creates a commitment wave that spreads wide and goes deep. And for that, I am grateful. I will gladly learn that lesson again, even if it means no sleep, driving overnight with strangers… and yes, blow drying my underwear!

“Silence was the cure, if only temporarily, silence and geography. But of what was I being cured? I do not know, have never known. I only know the cure. Silence, and no connections except to landscape.” ~ Mary Cantwell

bike-break

Enjoying bike riding in my new town.

In looking at my life the last few years while still living in NY before I relocated to California last summer, I realize how full it had become. In some ways, that was very very good. But in other ways, I now realize that it was a little too full… one may even say, over brimming! I have always been a full throttle, live-out-loud kind of person. I have an huge appetite for life, have many passions, interests, and hobbies, and consider myself a life-long learner. I was running a successful business that I love, serving on quite a few boards of directors for organizations, enjoying my marriage, seeing friends and family, and partaking in hobbies. And I loved each piece of that life-work puzzle.

But sometimes no matter how great everything is in isolation, when you put it together, it is … well, too much! I don’t think I realized how hard I was driving myself until I had the chance to take a prolonged break this past summer. During my break, I looked back and realized that it had been years since I had truly taken a “break.” Yes, I had taken many vacations over the past 4+ years, but something about this extended break was different.

In 2008, my business took a huge leap and many wonderful things started happening for me — more speaking engagements, coaching, consulting, and exciting opportunities to mix business and pleasure. But then, in December 2008, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the next 16 months battling that horrid disease. She passed away in February 2010 (I can’t believe it is three years since I lost her). I took some time off to mourn, but also was writing my book at that time, which was a positive “escape” from grief. My book was then published in 2011. That year, my husband and I visited 13 locations across the United States to decide where to relocate to for his residency in veterinary internal medicine. We then relocated 3,000 miles from NY to CA in summer 2012.

Stopping to smell the roses... literally!

Stopping to smell the roses… literally!

I took off almost 2 months last summer for an extended break — 2 weeks for us to road trip across country and have an amazing time doing so, and then the rest of the time to set up our new rental home, get to know our new area, and enjoy some rest, relaxation, and reflection. I had the chance to experience real quiet, to go inward, read some great books, write in my journal, and spend time in nature. And what I realized is that… boy did I need it!

Now that I am here in California, I’m choosing to focus more on fun and recreation, and being there to support my husband through his very busy veterinary residency. I am enjoying hiking, biking, swimming, learning Italian, taking dance classes, and walking my dogs in my new neighborhood. Yes, I am working a lot too (I love my business and the work I get to do, so it never feels like “work” for me thankfully), but am also enjoying more non-work activities than I have in awhile. I was operating at a high level for years, and can take my foot off the gas for awhile and still have plenty of forward momentum. That’s what I’m consciously choosing to do.

The beautiful Pacific Coast during a recent hike.

The beautiful Pacific Coast during a recent hike.

I often recommend this to my own coaching clients and audiences when I speak. Now the coach is taking her own prescription and trusting that this is exactly what I need to do right now. There’s a lot of trust involved in letting go to this extent, but I’m crystal clear that it’s what I need to do.

Do you need to take a much-needed break? Is your life overflowing with so much abundance that it is spilling over the brim? Remember, too much of a good thing is still, well, too much!

Check out this collaborative blog post all about extreme self care (with a contribution from yours truly about journaling).

With February being the month of Valentine’s Day, I was excited about the opportunity there to open up the conversation about Extreme Self-Care and loving yourself first.

Have you ever run around like a mad dog on this holiday trying to find just the right gift to prove to someone that you really love them?

valentineI think we all have. I also think many of us have run around ragged on many occasions, not just Valentine’s Day, doing everything for everyone as we watch ourselves slowly melt away or fade into the background.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

Ahh, the Golden Rule we all want to live by, but first we ought to know what that really means.

There is an assumption in the Golden Rule, which is that you already love yourself. You cannot love anyone from a place of truth unless you love yourself first, otherwise it is not real, honest, aligned and authentic love.

It is time we take back ourselves, so the work we do each and everyday comes from a place of meaning.

Extreme Self-Care is not about doing radical things to overly pamper yourself. NO! Extreme Self-Care is about you being radical about your decision to take care of you and put yourself first so that you are healthy and awake as you connect with others. It involves not thinking of yourself more highly than you ought to, sure, but that doesn’t mean you place yourself on the bottom either. You cannot be any good for others if you are weak, sick, underpowered, used-up, stuck, unhappy, overworked, or walking in daily discouragement.

As a rational, loving human being you would never consider abusing another person, or an animal, or anything really. Yet so many great people abuse themselves. Somehow we think that’s OK, that it is not abuse if you do it to yourself, and it is not abuse if it’s the result of simply not paying attention.

If you wouldn’t do it to someone else, don’t do it to yourself.

Extreme Self-Care is simple. Extreme Self-Care means being extreme about embracing your responsibility to care for the only one you have total control over, and the only one you have been charged with caring for every minute of every day.

Extreme Self-Care is really about gentleness and simplicity, and loving yourself first.

I asked 25 experts (including myself) at the top of their game to share their thoughts on Extreme Self-Care, or on one aspect of it as a tribute to you on Valentine’s day and as a impetus and motivating charge to you to take care of you so you will be there on may more occasions to love and encourage others!

So now let’s take a look at what these inspirational mentors, coaches, success experts, and thought-leaders want you to know to about Extreme Self-Care!

Warmly,
by Margo DeGange

Here’s my article:

Journal Writing as a Form of Self-Care

To me, journal writing is one of the best forms of self-care. My journal has always been a safe haven to work through my desires, dreams, problems, obstacles, challenges, and goals. Journaling is a great way to dialogue with yourself, and often leads to powerful breakthroughs. There is something magical that happens when you put words down on paper. Words are powerful in and of themselves. But writing down words is even more powerful! I received my first journal as a gift when I was eight years old. I have filled countless journals since then, and the act of journaling remains an important one to me up until this day. So think of a journal as a gift to yourself.

For years, I wrote daily. But now I write whenever I want, for however long I want, and in whichever format I want (see a pattern here?). Julia Cameron advocates writing “morning pages” in her book The Artists Way. I did morning pages for years, and liked how it seemed to help me look forward in my writing, as opposed to when I wrote in the evenings, which felt more like I was looking backward and reporting on past events. But you should write whenever it is convenient for you to carve out the time.

In fact, as you have probably surmised by now, everything about my journal writing experience is positive. There is no Must or Should – no rules to follow. I give myself permission to let it flow when I want and how I want. In this regard, my journal writing has always been a release for me. If you keep a journal, I hope you continue to enjoy the process. If you haven’t tried journal writing yet, give it a chance. You may love it. I know I do. And it is a wonderful gift of self-care to give to yourself. You deserve it.

Read the other articles on Self-Care here