1. Quiet mornings
Nothing feels quite as good to me or as fulfilling and energizing as waking up before anyone else in the house and reveling in the pure peacefulness of the place. No voices. No television. Even the dog sleeps which is nice because I cannot ignore those adorable milk-chocolatey brown eyes calling me away to hug, play, feed or walk him. This is my only moment alone in the home I love to feel the energy, let the silence wrap itself around me like a blanket, and give in to the promptings of my mind. My laptop screen glows. Hot coffee steams beside me. Papers clutter across the table. My thoughts pour out. Honestly, it is like therapy.
2. Dedicated time to think
This world pulls our attention away constantly. It’s designed to do so. Flashing lights. Honking horns. Buy this. Try that. Listen to me. Look here. Every once in a while it is empowering to symbolically yell “STOP” and embrace the silence to think - think about life and family and the universe and God and our calling and whatever else comes to mind. My husband is a carpenter and I’m inspired when I see him furiously sketching out drawings of remodels; when he’s lost in his own mind. I think we would all be better people if we just took some regular time to think.
3. Grappling with big ideas
Big ideas. Big life-changing ideas. Transformational ideas. The kind that evolve you as a person. Those are my favorite! When the riots started in Baltimore and everyone was freaking out, it was a perfect opportunity to not react but rather grapple with big ideas. While people were making all kinds of startlingly inappropriate comments on Facebook and sweeping generalizations on both sides of the issue, I stopped to grapple. I listened and thought and thought and thought. What came out of it? Understanding. Empathy. Compassion. I had conversations with white people, black people, and brown people and each one was astoundingly awesome. Discovering ways to bring healing, closeness, peace, and real solutions can be the result of grappling with big ideas. My reward came when an old friend and I of difference races had a long and beautiful, respectful, eye opening conversation in which we both walked away feeling like we had grown love in the world.
4. Seeing the results of hard work
We need to know our efforts have results. I’m a writer. I get to see the results immediately. When I put pen to paper, I create something. Writing is my art form, my expression, my creative outlet. Some see those results through building or gardening or launching a company or simply paying the bills. Results feel good. They show us our power and our value.
5. Sending ideas into the world
As a journalism student at St. Bonaventure University, one of my all-time favorite classes was opinion or editorial writing with Dr. Denny Wilkins. The editorial page, I learned, is like a forum for community conversations. It is a place where people can exercise public discourse or dialogue. How exciting to take a well-developed idea and send it out like a paper ship on a pond and see if it withstands the test or wanes in the waves; to see if it makes it back to shore intact or disappears. Then, we take those results and rework our ship and try again!
6. Prompting great conversations
When a great and strong idea is born and sent out into the world, it inevitably draws others in and starts a ripple of conversation that can lead to real social change or civic engagement. All good things start with a word. If you’re a person of the Christian persuasion you know that the best human on earth was called “the word.” If you are not a person of faith, you know words can be like a physical presence that exists, because you have felt them as if they reached right out and touched you. Just because they are invisible doesn’t mean they don’t have intense and powerful implications on everything around them. Responsible people know the power of words and prompt goodness out of great conversation.
7. Building a long-term legacy
For me, my writing is like a lifetime of work stored up in volumes like encyclopedias showcasing my transitions and capturing my story to leave behind. I do not want my life to be meaningless. I often talk about my theory that this earth (as well as every individual on it) contains an inner scale – a simple line that measures from good to evil or love to hate. Every day we chose, individually and collectively, where we fall on that scale. My writing, my life’s work, and your life’s work (whatever that might be) should leave a legacy that tips the scales toward love and toward good.
8. Standing for something: reading still matters!
I grew up a block and a half from the library. I can still smell it if I close my eyes. Crisp pages. Tall shelves. Perfect silence. The library was my escape and my oasis. Not everyone loves to read in general, but everyone loves a story that connects with their heart and soul. My daughter hates reading. Her ADHD makes it very difficult. But boy does she love to read Manga! Some people have the same experience by watching. A great movie can be like reading a book. Reading matters. It’s a beautiful skill and it is our history; our proof as a people that we were here on this earth. I love contributing to the world through my writing.
9. Working out of my gifting
For me, it’s writing. For you, it may be something else; but everyone on earth should know what their unique gifts and abilities are and work out of those instead of toiling from a place of weakness. When we work out of our gifting, we can accomplish the GREAT things – the things that make people stand in awe with their mouths hanging open. We can accomplish things that bring a tear to the eye and a stirring in the heart when we operate out of our gifting.
10. Drawing on family history
God bless my mother and father. They are thinkers. They taught me to think for myself. When I write, I am calling on their very spirits because I would not be able to do what I do without their influence. I’ll never forget sitting for hours listening to “The Great Pretender” by the Platters or Fat’s Domino’s “Blueberry Hill,” with my dad in the living room. I’ll never forget watching the Battle of Britain with him. I will forever remember seeing my mom stand at the kitchen counter with flour all over her tattered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook making the most delicious apple pie. They were learners and my writing is a continuation of them. Any work can either be a continuation of family or the beginning of your own legacy, which you will leave behind for those looking to you for guidance and direction.
As a college Vice President and successful entrepreneur, I have received and conducted my fair share of evaluations. Early in my career, as the recipient, I remember sweaty palms, unasked questions, elation over good marks, and deflation over low ones. Most years, we never discussed the evaluation again, after it was given.
Giving an evaluation can be equally stressful. No one ever taught me how to give a good evaluation in a behavioral sense. I’ve been trained on the tool, but not the rich and powerful philosophy behind it or how to use it to coach, motivate, inspire, and LEAD!
Most recently, my organization underwent a significant design process for evaluations and realigning job grades. Simultaneously, I hired several key positions and conducted evaluations of my direct reports. In the midst of it, the team debated the value of merit pay versus other rewards.
After long and bountiful conversations with my employees, colleagues, and HR professionals, I am convinced more than ever that evaluation processes harness transformative power for the individual, team, and organization. Monetary rewards pale in comparison as a motivating factor.
Done correctly, evaluations lay the ground work for:
I propose a simple process.
When it’s finished, take a look at the evaluation prior to your one-on-one’s with direct reports and be ready to talk through the plans you made. Give performance updates throughout the year and solicit feedback from the employee. As a result of processes like this, I’ve worked through very difficult conversations. I’ve also watched some team members blossom into their best selves. As a result, their careers took off! What a fulfilling and exciting experience for a leader.
Pamela Witter is a published author, fundraiser, and life-long student of leadership. Browse Pam's blog entries for possible conference session or keynote topics. Pam customizes training opportunities for her clients.
Email me at BeASeedPlanter@outlook.com.