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Category: Goals

Why Reflection is critical to creating goals for the New Year

Grüezi!  I just returned from a family Christmas holiday in lovely Scuol, Switzerland. Scuol is a picturesque Alpine village that borders both Austria and Italy. The mountains are even more spectacular when covered in fresh snow. I shared a few of the pinch-me photos on Instagram. I returned feeling very grateful and relaxed.

I love this time of year. Winter solstice arrives in late December and we begin the transition from the year behind us to the one ahead. Ancient cultures viewed winter solstice as a time of death and rebirthSo, it makes sense that it’s a time for reflection, introspection, and, when ready, taking action. Much of the talk around the new year is about goals and resolutions. I have a bias for action, so slowing down and reflecting on the past is a muscle that I’ve had to develop. And, let’s face it, if we’ve had a tough year, we most often just want to move on. But, some of my greatest teachers have been the most challenging of times. So, I encourage us all to roll-up our sleeves and take a keen look at 2019.

Here are some insights to develop your reflection skills and get your New Year goals started right.

Go Deep

Reflecting is the act of self-observation and self-evaluation. It requires self-awareness which is the cornerstone to a high EQ. We have to be honest about our strengths, limitations, and how we reacted to the events of the year. When asked a simple reflection question like, “What was the highlight of my year?” It’s easy to accept an answer that immediately comes to mind. But, in practice, reflection isn’t about the first thing that comes to mind. It’s about evaluating our observations.  We need to evaluate our responses and say, “Is that really true for me?” Critical thinking skills are also required. For example, Why do I think that event was the highlight of my year?”  

Go Solo

Because we all have a bit of people-pleaser or concern for how we are being perceived, it’s best to practice reflection alone. Extroverts often process their thoughts by saying them aloud. So, if you are an extrovert, you can talk through your answers, but do it alone. Give yourself the gift of intimacy with Self. Introverts won’t have any trouble with this one. Go it alone so you can be completely unencumbered to show up with whatever comes up. 

Pen to Paper

Writing down your answers will serve as a record for you to refer to and use for action-taking later. And, it can also keep you honest. In crafting this very post, when sharing something personal, I ask, “Is this really true?” The physical act of writing something down can literally reduce stress. So, if you did have a really tough challenge to overcome during the year, it is a great way to relieve any latent stress you may hold and clear your mind.  Studies have shown that even writing for 15–20 minutes on a stressful topic leads to significantly better physical and psychological outcomes. 

Avoid Recency Bias

Recency bias sounds fancy, but it really means our brains are wired to remember the most recent events. If you are trying to memorize a long to-do list, studies show the majority of people will remember the items they looked at last, more accurately. That’s recency effect. It becomes a bias when we use it to take action with the information. Corporations cautioned their managers to be mindful of recency bias when conducting year-end evaluations for their direct reports so they would take into account the entire year’s performance, not just the most recent months. So, when reflecting on 2019, make sure to scan all the way back to January. 

The ability to create our own happiness is central to our well-being. We need reflection to understand what really makes us really fulfilled. For if we don’t fully understand our experiences, we can’t make changes or continue to do what is working for us based on what we learned from reflection. Think of it this way – we have to slow down to move forward. 

7 Reflection Questions for 2019

Let’s put these tips into practice! Get your pen ready! Here’s a list of 7 reflection questions for 2019. We just ended a decade, so you can view from the perspective as well. These questions can also be asked from work, family, or relationship perspective, as well. I have shared those frames, too. Enjoy!

  1. How would I describe 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were my biggest achievements for 2019?
  3. What were my biggest challenges for 2019?
  4. How have I developed as a person?
  5. What surprised me most about 2019?
  6. What can I leave behind in 2019?
  7. What can I bring from 2019 to 2020?

Relationship perspective (Each person reflect and record independently, Then, share completed answers for discussion and learning.)

  1. How would I describe our relationship in 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were our biggest achievements as a couple for 2019?
  3. What were our biggest challenges as a couple for 2019?
  4. How have I developed as a partner?
  5. What surprised me most about our relationship 2019?
  6. What can we leave behind that didn’t serve our relationship in 2019?
  7. What can we bring from 2019 that worked well in our relationship to 2020?

Family perspective (Each person reflect and record independently, Then, share completed answers for discussion and learning.)

  1. How would I describe our family in 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were our biggest achievements as a family for 2019?
  3. What were our biggest challenges as a family for 2019?
  4. How have I developed as a (mother, father, daughter, son)
  5. What surprised me most about our family in 2019?
  6. What can we leave behind that didn’t serve our family in 2019?
  7. What can we bring from 2019 that worked well for our family to 2020?

Work perspective 

  1. How would I describe my work in 2019 in just 3 words?
  2. What were my biggest professional achievements for 2019?
  3. What were my biggest professional challenges for 2019?
  4. How have I developed this year in my profession?
  5. What surprised me most about my work in 2019?
  6. What can I leave behind that didn’t serve my work in 2019?
  7. What can I bring from 2019 that went well at work to 2020?

Once you’ve taken the time to reflect, then you can decide if there’s any action that needs to occur. In my next post, we’ll talk goal-setting! Best of luck and may your light shine bright in 2020!

How we moved to Switzerland

Our move abroad wasn’t a fluke…

Our idea to move to Switzerland was put in motion in 2009, when my husband and I were deciding where to raise our sons.

Our first big move was intentional. Like most new parents (we had two boys under two), deciding where our sons would spend their formative years felt both weighty and exciting. Between two careers, two babies with colic, and two dogs in a 1200 square foot rental, Rob and I created our vision for what was next. We chose Pleasanton, CA — 30 miles east of Berkeley, CA — where we made our start as a couple. In retrospect, a winning factor for Pleasanton was its many lovely outdoor pools and parks with water features. After our first visit, I told Rob it felt like Club Med, or what I thought Club Med to be based on the New York Times Travel section ads. In the end, our fate was sealed with a lethal combo of new parent conscientiousness and all-inclusive vacation fantasy. 2009 was a very intentional year for our young family.

Switzerland wasn’t on the agenda at this point. In fact, it never really was, but I’ll get to that in a bit. At the same time we were moving our family to Pleasanton, Rob and I had the foresight to commit to creating the next 10 years. THE NEXT TEN. I am not much of a planner by nature, but I am a possibility person. Plus, I facilitated business meetings for a living, so I’m no stranger to visioning exercises. Luckily, Rob is always game. So, as we settled into our suburban environs — a pact was born. It looked like this, “No matter where we are in the next 10 years, we will be as intentional about creating those ensuing 10 years, as we are the current 10. Why 10? Our boys would be transitioning from primary school to middle school at that point. Plus, it makes for easy counting.

Our family thrived in Pleasanton. It more than delivered on providing the community and educational experience we desired for our boys. At the 8-year mark, when our sons were entering grades 4 and 5, our task to consciously envision the next 10 years was upon us. Rob and I checked-in while hiking one Sunday morning. We both agreed that our family was thriving, but the frenetic pace of the Bay Area, while stimulating for our work life, put unnecessary strain on our family life. And, even more importantly, we agreed there was so much more “out there” and felt pulled to be “open” to something new. We didn’t have a solid plan or any answers. My work could take me almost anywhere; Rob’s work was not flexible. Being in technology, the Silicon Valley seemed hard to beat. We agreed to start small — pursue possibility with clear intention and minimal effort. We then took two very small but intentional steps:

Take these two simple steps to manifest what you want in your life…

  1. PUT INTENTION INTO ACTION: We began our intention of moving by looking at things differently. We committed to look at each place we visited for work or pleasure, with open minds and ask, “Could we live here?” We visited ten different cities in next two years. We took notes and discussed our findings so we could agree (or not) on the ingredients for our new vision. Through this process, we also created an option to stay in the Bay Area and make a few small, but powerful changes to the way we lived, so we could, in fact, slow our pace have more family-time. And, we also did something else….
  2. LET THE UNIVERSE DO THE WORK: I created a quick visioning exercise with a small process (or ritual) where each of us wrote the vision for our family for the next 10 years. The only instruction I gave was to put consideration into how it would “feel” and not worry about specific details. Our boys were 9 and 10 years old at the time, and I was amazed at what they wrote. I then read each of our visions aloud and circled the similar themes. Our themes were: more time together as a family, less time in the car, more time in nature, somewhere less crowded but still interesting, mountains, water, and somewhere that had a lot to offer, good schools and a sense of community. There were a few outliers like, more X-Box time or unlimited ice cream, but for the most part, I was amazed at how aligned we all were. And, then, I folded up the pieces of paper and put them on my office book shelf under a paperweight. And, left them there for the universe to do the rest. Tips:
    • The ACT of writing our ideas pen to paper is critical because it puts energy into the universe.
    • Reading intentions to another or in our case, sharing our visions was a critical step for our family because it symbolized what we together, wanted to create. Even if this is not empirically true – if you are reading this and want to create more possibility in your life – it can’t hurt to WRITE IT DOWN or SAY IT OUT LOUD in the presence of others. It’s powerful – try it.

There was a knock on the door…

Almost eighteen months later, we were on a family vacation in Williamsburg, VA. And, Rob stepped out of our hotel room for a work call. When he was done, he knocked on the door to our hotel room and as I opened it he said, “You aren’t going to believe it, but I got a job offer for a new role that’s very exciting and they want me to move to Europe.”

When I put our vision papers on that makeshift altar on the bookshelf in my home-office, I never considered Europe. Rob and I never discussed Switzerland. Not because it wouldn’t be desirable, but because it never occurred to us to dream that big. We jumped at the chance to move to realizing that we would never squander what the Universe offered. Tip: If the universe creates something bigger than you dreamed, don’t debate it. Just go for it.

I have a series of stories like this from my life. The story I just shared is very similar to how I met Rob, I wrote out a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner and put it in my underwear drawer! When we bought our first house in Pleasanton, there were a myriad of things that had to happen which we had no control over in critical window of time in the very competitive Bay Area. In both these instances, too, I had to let go to before anything “happened”.

Every time one of these inexplicable major events have happened in my life, it’s brought me to my knees. Literally. I’m humbled and reminded that I’m always being taken care of by something bigger than myself. I try to return the gifts I have received from the Universe to others; sometimes, by sharing my stories and inspiration, or listening to others pain and joys, or providing solid support and guidance when others need it. I try to remind others that living a life of intention isn’t easy, but the Universe (insert your word here) is always there to help us.

My intention is to spend more time now on Live Your Jam. I’ve let go of my consulting practice and will focus solely on coaching and helping others Live their Jam. I have some ideas. I’m not really sure where the Universe will take me, but I know from experience, I’ll be humbled. I invite you to follow me and also share your inexplicable stories and Jam lessons with me.

Love and light,

Ellen

8 Keys to Finding Your Life Purpose

Everyone has their own unique gifts to offer the world. We all want our lives to matter and leave the world better because we were in it. The 8 keys to finding your life purpose are listed below. But, there are two tricky aspects of Life Purpose that we should all be aware of.

1. Life Purpose isn’t singular; it’s collective.

Thinking we have one singular purpose is a fallacy. We can have many paths that we fully enjoy, give us meaning, fulfill us, and then, that path may lead to another. We have to be awake to what we are being called to next and have the courage to follow it. It’s the collective that embodies our purpose.

For the first part of my career, I was in Finance. My oldest brother lost his life to cancer and my parents and family were shattered. When I graduated from college, as a healing homage to my parents, I decided to work really hard and succeed at whatever I put my mind to. Subconsciously, I thought if I were successful, it would bring my folks joy and perhaps alleviate some of their pain. No one asked me to do this, but, with the drive to heal them – I began a very successful career in Finance — something I had no deep interest in. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I realized that I was going down a path that felt empty inside.

I was able to take time after my Fiance career to discover that what I really wanted was quite simple- to help people lead more fulfilling lives. My soul’s destiny is to be an inspirer, mentor, teacher, and someone who helps others shine their own light.

I am now on my third big career shift helping others lead more fulfilling lives. I am now an expert at teaching others to shine their own lights. But, if I hadn’t had the Finance and Business background, I couldn’t have easily transitioned to my second shift as an Organization Development Consultant and Executive Coach. So, I see life purpose as our collective experience. All roads lead to the other and are intertwined and in each shift or stage, we are sharing and honing our unique gifts.

2. Life Purpose is not out there somewhere. It’s in the present moment.

This is such a hard CONCEPT! Eckhart Tolle helped me understand this fully for myself. He says that our outer purpose changes with circumstances and necessarily involves time. Which is what I’m describing above. We have more than one life purpose. It shifts, changes, grows as we grow. We need to stay open and listen to our deep desires in order to follow them to greater fulfillment and alignment with our true Self. Whereas our inner purpose always remains the same. Our inner purpose requires us to be absolutely present in whatever we do and so let our actions be guided and empowered by awareness, the awakened consciousness, rather than controlled by the egoic mind. We fulfill our destiny and realize our purpose when we awaken to who we are: conscious Presence. I highly recommend anyone who has not read Awakening to a New Earth by Eckhart Tolle to read it immediately.

How do you view your Life Purpose? Do you see it as something out in front of you? Or do you see it in your ability to stay present – truly present with what comes from inside of you. Not what your mind says, but that voice that we all have that represents our soul’s desire. Here are 8 Inspirational Truths to help you have the courage to design a life that can keep you aligned with your Soul’s calling.

8 Inspirational Truths to Help you Find Your Life Purpose

  1. You were born for a purpose.
  2. You have innate gifts that are meant to be share with the world.
  3. Your purpose is an energetic field just like you; it shifts. changes, and grows.
  4. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.
  5. Spend your time with people who inspire you and have done thing you aspire to.
  6. Participate more in your life and plan less.
  7. Place your attention on what you want; not what you don’t want.
  8. Know what gives you energy and fulfills you – when faced with decisions in your day, choose those things

VIKTOR FRANKL, LIFE PURPOSE and JAM

The notion that humans are intended for a certain purpose goes back many centuries. Rumi, a beloved 13th century Sufi poet, wrote extensively about life purpose. He wrote, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart”.  The Christian tradition is rich with proverbs and passages from the Bible that discuss God’s calling people to a purpose. Apostle Paul says, “We are God’s handi­work, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

What To Do When Your Jam Won’t Spread

My Jam is to help people lead more fulfilling lives by finding their own Jam. Jam is a euphemism for applying our passions to our skills. I launched my site, liveyourjam.com, which is dedicated to helping others Live their Jam in August of this year. I set out with a business plan, key milestones, and heaps of enthusiasm.

Discover Your Jam

Discover Your Jam

How the Solar Eclipse Spread its Jam

The solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st, was a much-needed surprise for many of us. That morning, I facilitated a meeting with an executive team. We planned a morning break to view the eclipse. Our group walked nearby to the local library and stood among necks of all ages and colors, craned toward the sky. We shared protective glasses and helpful photography tips to capture one of nature’s most epic events.

How to find your Dream Job! – Interview with TOM MCGINNIS VOICE OF THE PHILADELPHIA 76ers

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