I’ve been thinking about purpose a lot lately, maybe because I was able to witness an example of a life well-lived during the Honor Flight. Or maybe because I’ve been working on manifesting (making real) some big dreams, like writing a book! I’ve had several reminders lately to keep my focus on my purpose that were worth sharing.

My purpose is to educate and empower others to take positive action. I get to do that through my career coaching, where I help clients get unstuck, move forward, tell their best story, and find meaningful work. I get to do that when I’m speaking to a group. I also get to do that through my volunteer work with the Climate Reality Project. Interestingly, I also get to do that as a parent, friend, child, co-worker… really any relationship I have with another human is a chance to live into my purpose.

The challenge comes when life starts to happen all around. It’s easy to focus on all the tasks that need doing, without remembering the why (purpose) behind those tasks. Lately, I’ve been struggling with a few administrative-type tasks and finding ways to get them done sooner and better. When I think about the task itself, it makes me want to cringe or run away! But when I think about how it enables me to live out my purpose, the burdensome administrative task becomes easier. 

As another example, I have been enjoying a period of growth in my business and it’s been awesome, but it’s also made everything feel a lot more busy. That rushed, overwhelmed feeling likes to sneak in at times like that. I had mentioned how busy I was to a good friend and he immediately asked me, “Are you so busy that you can’t help one more person this month who is struggling in their job?” Hmm. Good question. When I listen to the busy, my brain wants to freak out and turn down opportunities. When I listen to my purpose, I can say with confidence, “Yes! I can help.”

I made a deliberate choice to start living life on purpose and it’s a change that’s been transformational for me. However, making the choice once doesn’t make it real. I have to consistently choose to be on purpose in order to live into it. I’m grateful for the reminders that keep bringing me back to that fact.

#PositiveAction Do one thing that brings you closer to working on purpose today. It could be defining your purpose, course correcting, or saying yes to an opportunity.  

 

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Last week, I shared a little bit about the awesome Honor Flight that I was lucky to be a part of and what a great experience we had. It was literally a day of kindness… which was cool since that is one of the attributes that my great uncle is known for. He is also known for his compassion. 

Kindness and compassion aren’t necessarily celebrated as top leadership traits in the world of work and yet any one of us knows that working for or with someone kind and compassionate is a pretty great experience. 

What can we learn from this? 

  1. Live into your strengths, whatever they are
  2. Don’t worry if you lack the “traditional” qualities
  3. Actions leave a lasting impact, even seemingly ordinary ones

First and foremost, you need to identify and accept  your wonderful, weird strengths. Then use them wherever and whenever you can! If it’s compassion and kindness, like my great uncle, do that! If it’s strategy and planning, do that!

Second, the narrow definitions we see on what makes a great employee or leader often fail to take into account the first point. When we’re using our strengths, we will be most successful. That will look different for each of us, of course, but the fact remains. In the case of my great uncle, his approach was different than many educators of that time. Instead of focusing on discipline, he leaned into his strengths of kindness and compassion.

Third, our ordinary actions in our ordinary moments in any given ordinary day are often the things that are most vividly remembered later. I love the irony of this! My kids are frequent reminders to me because we always talk about our favorite part of the day before bedtime. 9 times out of 10, it’s the everyday activity that stands out for them: reading books together or playing a game or watching our favorite show as a family. No fancy trip to a theme park or over-the-top gift required! Just hanging out doing the stuff we were going to do anyway. Basically extra ordinary is all that’s required.

That brings me back to my great uncle. He’s spent his life displaying kindness and compassion, regardless of if it was in style or what “successful” leaders did. It wasn’t noteworthy or award-winning. It was weaved into his ordinary every day. And it was so memorable that many of his former 6th grade students felt the need to thank him for it nearly 50 years later. That’s pretty extraordinary to me!

#PositiveAction Think about the legacy you’re creating by using your strengths. How are you making your ordinary days extraordinary?

Photo created by me. 

 

Throw kindness around like confetti
The lesson: You can never have too much kindness

I had the privilege to fly with my great uncle, a WWII Navy veteran, on the Honor Flight last weekend. It was an action-packed, whirlwind of a day (starting at 3am and ending around 11pm!) and it took me a several days to collect my thoughts around it. 

For those that don’t know, the Honor Flight takes veterans on a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the monuments and memorials and creates a day that is all about thanking them for their service to our country. 

As part of the flight, families collect letters from friends and family members to give to the veteran to show our love and appreciation for them. Several of the letters we collected were from former students that my uncle taught in the 1960’s. Back then, he was teaching 6th grade and it was interesting to see multiple letters come from students in those classes.

One of his former students happens to live in the Washington D.C. area and asked if she could meet up with us during the day. We had the opportunity to meet at the National Mall at the WWII memorial. She showed up with a welcome sign and greeted our bus.

After my uncle’s surprise of seeing a student and some catching up, along with many photos taken, I asked her the question that had been on my mind since the letters had arrived weeks before. What was it that was so memorable about her 6th grade teacher that she would be willing to go out of her way on a gorgeous fall Saturday and meet up with us?

Her answer: Kindness.

She remembered the kindness he showed her in 6th grade, whether teaching or helping her with a problem, like the time she forgot her swimming suit for Friday swim. It was the kindness she remembered vividly all these years later.

And she wasn’t the only one! So many of the 30+ letters we got mentioned kindness and how much of a difference that made in people’s lives. 

What’s interesting is that I had noticed kindness from others all day as we participated in the Honor Flight. Flight team members, bus captains, volunteers, even total strangers all showered us with kindness throughout the day and that huge amount of kindness made it  truly memorable. I’ve never been part of a day-long celebration of kindness before and it was remarkable! 

I know that I’ll remember the kindness that surrounded us for a long time (maybe as long as those 6th grade students have!). It was a great reminder for me on how I want to show up in life and at work.

#PositiveAction How can you throw kindness around like confetti today? 

Photo by me, of my starting-to-get-worn notebook that is on pace to run out of empty pages by year’s end. 

 

I have a friend whose superpower is to state the obvious in a way that makes people suddenly realize the truth that has been staring them in the face and they take action. It’s truly a magical thing to watch unfold. So I’m going to do my best to channel that power for this post.

There was a wonderful article published in Fast Company this week about relationship currency. The idea is basically that doing good work is not enough in the work world; you also need to cultivate productive relationships.

My knee-jerk reaction to the article was, “Duh.” But in the same way that common sense isn’t all that common these days, common courtesy is arguably on the decline as well. There are many reasons for this. The corporate world has changed from a 9-5 to a 24/7 always-on environment. Workers are stressed and that stress often causes people to behave badly. My advice is to inject some kindness into whatever you do at work – people need it more than you know!

More times than I can count over the past 20 years, the best things happened at work because I took the time to build productive relationships. Not because I hoped to one day get something out of it, but simply because I believe in treating everyone as a human who deserves kindness. Interestingly, whenever I needed help with something at work, help appeared in the form of the many relationships I had developed. 

Even now, as I work to grow my own business, my relationships are here with me, helping me and cheering me on. I honestly can’t imagine how anyone could expect to be truly successful without having the advantage of relationship currency.

So in the age of automation, don’t let someone’s interaction with a chatbot be the nicest thing they hear today. Instead, be the uncommon courtesy your workplace is missing. People will respond in kind.