What Mattered Most… Today.

It seems every day I have the same fight with myself. What will I get done today? How much can I complete? Will there be enough time to finish a project, run this errand, make dinner, write, call a friend, do laundry… the list in my head is perpetual. I cross two things off and I add four more. It’s like a bad reoccurring dream that haunts me day in and day out.

My “to-do” list is paralyzing. I scan and scour it daily, but it never seems to budge. What’s worse, it’s how much attention I give it. I wish it would just cut me a break sometimes.

I finally realize that it isn’t my endless list of to do’s that are so troubling, but the attention I’ve been placing on it. I put so much emphasis and significance into my list that I haven’t been able to focus on what matters most each and every day.

You see, my life B.C. (Before Children), I had (it seemed) endless hours in every day. I could work out, complete projects, make dinner, meditate, take a phone call, cross multiple things off my list, and still have a bit of energy left over at the end of the day. With my previous (superpowers) ability, I mistook doing for meaning.

Now, without the ability to get a fraction (80%, no 60%, more like 40%) of the stuff done I could have B.C., I find myself struggling for even MORE MEANING in my life. Yet, since I’ve made this attachment and association in mind that equates to, “getting things done = more significance” I’m in a bit of a quandary.

Then, today, as I’ve been feeding myself different thoughts in my mind about how to shift this (icky) feeling, I realized that I could begin to measure my life in a new way. Instead of feeling success by how many check marks I could etch on my paper to do list, to instead, stop and measure the day by what mattered most.

It would look something like this.

Old List

Things to do

-       Call client about logistics for event

-       Book travel

-       Update programs and offerings on website

-       Update LinkedIn Account

New List

What Mattered Most

-       Woke up early (5:10 a.m. to be exact) to be with Rawley who couldn’t get himself back to sleep

-       Spent an hour meeting with a refugee (and her three children) from Myanmar who have been here for four months and are trying to figure out the system and learn English

-       Enjoyed an hour with a friend, her baby, and Rawley at Book Babies—singing to the kids and talking mom-talk (remember this shit ain’t easy and I’m not alone!)

-       Dinner with my husband to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary

When I look back on the day and review it from a “what mattered most” perspective instead of the typical “what I could have, should have or wished to have done” for the day, I can remember that what I am doing is important. It may not be deemed significant in the most traditional sense, but it is what essentially matters most.

It is these precious moments in life that matter most to me now, but I sometimes get blindsided, coerced, or persuaded to believe that my own personal value should look more like a conquered to do list with career advancement, rather than relishing in the present moment of each and every day. Yet, every time I go back to my old habits of doing and hyper, crazy, super-productivity mode I find myself missing out on what really mattered that day, on moments I can never take back or change.

What matters most to you today?  Can you measure your own life by these milestones instead of the ones our society often values?

P.S. And… just to show you how super, un-productive I’ve been lately, I wrote this blog on Monday and it took me until Thursday to post it!

Sitting in the Seat of Judgment

I was sitting in my first class seat coming back from travels in Sioux Falls. I had the pleasure of getting upgraded due to my recent status on the airline. I’ve walked past the first class passengers many times, sometimes questioning and curious “who these people were” sitting up here–where the service is constant and the bathroom is private!

I sat down in my seat of 1D, which quickly became a seat of judgment for me. The woman next to me was chatting on the phone with a work colleague. Her tone was contempt, direct, bossy, and not at all what I’d consider compassionate. I couldn’t help but wonder, is this woman getting any results at all from this person she’s speaking to this way? Sheesh! 

The conversation seemed to drag on. Since we were the first on the plane, I sat through quite a bit of the conversation while everyone passed us to get back to the economy seats. Now, I’m sure the judgment turned on me as people walked by. What’s this pregnant lady, dressed in super-casual clothing doing up here? I bet she’s a snob! 

I saw with my face down reading Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me – But It Isn’t book. As much as I wanted to read it and comprehend the words on the page, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to the conversation that was taking place next to me.

Immediately, my thoughts turned to judgment. This woman, I had determined, was one of those “high-power-leader-types-that-uses-force-to-get-what-she-wants.” She probably bought her first class seat too! I doubt she’ll even look at me the entire flight. How did I get stuck next to this person? I contemplated changing seats. There was still an open first class seat in 2B. Should I switch??

Then, something inside of me told me to stay put. I was seated here for a reason. Okay, what lesson should I be learning today? 

The boarding was almost complete and this woman’s conversation progressed. I quickly began to see that what she was talking about was making her very uncomfortable. I could see she was troubled. Her hands were a bit shaky, and they hadn’t been before. Her voice had a tremble.

The door to the plane closed. The flight attendant announced that all electronic devices needed to be turned off.

“Okay, I’ve got to go, my plane is taking off,” said the woman. She hung up her phone and powered done. Then, she grabbed the InFlight magazine and started turning the pages at a rapid pace. I knew it wasn’t a normal way to look at a magazine, and then she stopped. I knew that feeling– looking like you are reading something, but what’s really happening is a full on conversation in your head. Words on the page are there to take up space so you aren’t staring into the ether.

I struggled internally for quite a few moments about what to do. Do I say something or do I let this be? She could totally snub me? What if she tells me to mind my own business? What if I’ve then got 90 minutes next to someone who is pissed off at me? Ugh…Andrea you are about connection–get it together. 

And then it came out, “Is everything okay?” I asked.

She looked at me and in the moment we just connected. Our eyes locked and tears swelled in her eyes. At first she said, “Yeah, it’s okay.” But, I reached out to her rubbing her shoulder and patting her, and there she poured open her heart, tears flowing, and the words too. It was her boss. He had it out for her. She felt she was on her way out. A job she loved and had worked hard to create. I cried with her. I saw her pain. Felt her distress.

It was in that moment I got the lesson for myself.

Judgments are rarely, if ever true. They are simply made up stories we tell ourselves about other people, especially the people who are exhibiting behavior that we’ve deemed as bad, inappropriate, mean or otherwise. We separate ourselves from others by assessing people’s behaviors and words without really knowing what’s going on behind them.

Come to find out, this woman did get an upgrade to first class, was a total connector herself, and was simply having a conversation from a place of fear where she was using her defenses to save her job.

We talked the whole 90 minute flight. We held hands for at least 30 minutes of that time.

If I had never said anything or risked opening up myself, I would have sat there sitting in the seat of judgment that entire time, completely missing an opportunity to create a human connection. I would have left in my world of assumptions about a person I didn’t know, but instead I got insight into my own thinking and a reiterated lesson that things aren’t always what they seem.

Have you ever made judgments or assumptions about someone only to be proved wrong? Share your stories below. 

CommUnity Talk TV: Episode 10 – You Belong

CoThis week’s episode is on “belonging!” It’s another one of my main soap-boxes that I’m out there spreading the message about.

Take a look at this week’s video here:

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Leave a comment on the blog about this week’s episode – what do you think about belonging? How has belonging impacted your life, community and work?

CommUnity Talk TV: Dolls for Daughters (Episode 9)

CoHere’s the latest CommUnity Talk TV episode with a Movers, Shakers & Difference Makers spotlight featuring Jessica Bachus, the Founder of Dolls for Daughters.


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We’d love to hear your thoughts on what Jessica has created with Dolls for Daughters. She’s someone who took a tragedy and turned it into a legacy.

Leave your comments below.

We Have Much to Learn From People Around the World

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by cultural differences. Everything from what people believe to how we behave in public is influenced by our culture.

I volunteer regularly with refugees from Burma, and they encourage us to just walk in the house, don’t knock, roam around the house as we need–even help ourselves to stuff in the kitchen. For an American, this is tough. They jokingly commented on our need for knocking at the front door. I love the behavior though, that everyone is welcome, even though that’s not the standard here in the U.S. and something many of us would be frightened of… We’d whisper “Did they just WALK in!!???”

As you likely know, I’m just over six months pregnant now. We will be expecting our little arrival in early October. The pressures of what to do and not do has been a pervasive thought over these last several months. Even parenting styles, breastfeeding and having a “natural” birth have all been conversations I’d never thought I’d have, but here I am. Because I know we can easily slide down the slippery slope of consuming thoughts and buy into group-think on topics like these, I haven’t read any pregnancy  books. I’ve been boycotting them in a way, wanting to trust my intuition and go with what I know feels right.

However, one book did catch my eye and I couldn’t help but speed through it. It’s called Bringing Up BeBe, written by Pamela Drucker. In this book, Drucker compares the differences between American parenting (mostly mother’s) and French parenting. What I read had me laughing out loud about our cultural nuances. All the while reading it, I kept thinking to myself…

“I’m not crazy, I’m just American!”

It made me realize just how much of what we do, say, think, and believe is impacted by our cultural surroundings. And, it’s put me on a quest to understand the cultures of other countries EVEN MORE. Imagine if we all had a clear understanding of all the differences from so many countries from around the world. I’d like to think that people would feel a whole lot less crazy if they realized that much of what they are thinking and believing has been influenced by their environment. Simply having this awareness allows us the freedom to choose different ways of believing and behaving.

So, now I know more about French parenting, but I’d love to know even more about countries from all over the world. In my grandest vision, I see a “SuperCountry” coming together, much like today’s pop SuperGroups with great artist collaborating, where we take the best of many things and bring them together.

Here are some of my quick takeaways about French parenting (just so you know, but I do recommend reading the book – pregnant or not!):

  • French kids eat four-course meals for dinner and can sit at a restaurant for that long with no problems
  • French kids don’t snack (their mom’s purses aren’t filled with Cheerios and Cheetos to tie them over)
  • Most babies in France “do their nights” by six weeks old – meaning they are sleeping a solid 8 hours every night
  • Breastfeeding isn’t forced and you aren’t looked down upon if you don’t do it
  • Most moms still keep their careers and don’t feel guilty about it, putting your kid in daycare isn’t a bad thing, it’s  part of life
  • The families life doesn’t revolve around the child, the child gets integrated into the family
  • They don’t call a birth without an epidural natural, they call it “without drugs” (Hence, no pressure to do it “without drugs”)
  • They have, what the author called, the “pause” – where parents don’t respond to their children right away, giving them time to solve problems on their own
  • Children are strongly encouraged to play on their own and explore, so they can generate more self-awareness

There are many more, but these are just the things I can think of now that really stood out. This list may not even seem that different until you really look at the comparisons of what parenting has become here in the U.S. Neither is right or wrong or good or bad, it’s just different. It’s in that difference that we get to choose what works best for us, if we know there is another way, we can explore that for ourselves.

Just like when I was in Thailand this year, I learned there that:

  • People eat together and share food from the same bowls
  • Spiritual and religious practice is a dominant part of the culture
  • Shoes are not allowed to be worn in any home or sacred building
  • You bow to greet people, with your hands in a prayer position

Those are just a few of the things I learned about Thai culture. There were many, many more!

Tell me, what have you learned in your travels and interactions with people from other cultures?

CommUnity Talk TV: Episode 8 – You Matter!

CoThis week’s episode is a tip on building community by believing that each and every person matters. It’s a simple message, but it has a profound impact if you can implement in your life and with the people around you.

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Here’s what one person said after hearing my talk where I shared the importance of ensuring that everyone knows they matter:

“I wanted to send you a quick note to let you know your message is working! Don’t stop spreading your message that people matter. It’s been my new mantra. Here is my little story. the next day after your talk at PFL CN, I went into the new salon I’m working in now, and I’ve become friends with the other massage therapist, she was there and had a gap in her day. I ask if she could work on  my neck for a little bit. During this session she told me that the other day was her birthday and it was awful, her family and friends didn’t do anything for her. ( very dysfunctional family)She seemed very sad. I gave her some encouraging words. But it didn’t hit me until I was at the grocery store shopping for my own “survival” kit of snack for my massage room, that she needed a “survival kit”. So I put together a little bag and wrote in her card about how I love birthdays and I loved my session with her. At the end I wrote  ” Thank you for sharing your gifts to the world you matter.” She started crying and told me she had had thoughts of suicide lately. I gave her a hotline information and she is doing better. I felt like your conduit for your message that is SO important. I am smiling at all the homeless people now! And I am not so “ho-hum”.Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” - Dawn Cochlan

What do you think about this week’s topic? Are you implementing this in your network? Can you see how it makes a difference when it comes to bringing people together and creating connection?


CommUnity Talk TV: Episode 7

This week’s episode is a little different than what I’ve done in the past. I had a Google+ interview with Diane Conklin about her foundation who serves the GLBT homeless youth population.

Her foundation is just getting started, but this interview touches on some of the things I find to be most important about making a difference and creating community. I hope you enjoy it! 

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8 Ways to Create Connection

Human Connection, Feeling connected to othersWe all crave and desire to be connected to our fellow human beings, but what does it take to really feel that connection? 

Here’s a list of several ways you can increase your connection to others.

  1. Be open and willing to share about yourself and your life. 
  2. Be a trusting person and friend. Stay true to your commitments, honor your word, and follow through with your promises.
  3. Be present with people. Even if you have a million other things you could be doing or thinking about – if someone is in front of you, put them first.
  4. Look for similarities in people, not their differences.
  5. Be curious. Ask a lot of questions and engage people in conversation.
  6. Be patient. Connection takes time.
  7. Be persistent. Just because you didn’t connect with someone the first time you meet them, doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance that relationship can grow into something.
  8. Be connected to yourself, which may seem odd, but the more connected you feel to your authentic/true self the easier it will be to connect to other.

What other ways can you think of that really help to foster a human connection with others? I’d love to know. Please share below.

Our Perspective on Life… is What Defines Who We Are.

What perspective are you viewing life from?

How’s the View From Where You Are Standing? 

Perspective is such a fascinating thing. It’s what defines who we are, what we believe, what we fight for, and ultimately what pushes our buttons–and even how we serve and make a difference.

Ironically though, it doesn’t take much for our perspective on life to be influenced, by our friends, the media, our industry, our neighborhood. There’s a plethora of ways in which we can be influenced or inspired.

Most of the time we don’t check our facts or even question the influence itself. If we believe and trust the person who told us, we buy into their perspective. Therefore, over time, our perspective can be skewed by the people who we associate with the most. Soon, you’ll find yourself believing like your best friends. You’ll vote the same way, buy into what you are told, and could even make over-generalizations and assumptions about the problems your friends are most passionate about.

After many political debates with my sister last year during election year, she encouraged and inspired me to double check my facts before becoming a messenger for a cause in which I’d only gathered information through second-hand sources. Even though her and I disagree about many political issues, we agree that doing our homework is essential.

It taught me to really assess whether I’m looking at something from all angles and points-of-view. That’s why I love when people point out things to me of what I haven’t yet thought about.

We all come to life with our own perspectives based upon our own past experiences and what we value most in life. My thought for you today is to ask you to look at life through a different set of lenses, from a different perspective, angle or another person’s point-of-view. And most importantly, don’t allow other people to convince you of the way something is or to start using over-generalizations in assessing the world, such as: 

  • Everyone on welfare is taking advantage of the system.”
  • All homeless people are lazy and choose not to work.”
  • “(Insert Nationality) are violent and aggressive.”

If you feel this way about any group of people or cause, I HIGHLY encourage you to get to know some of the people within this population so you can find out for yourself that using ALL or EVERYONE is not true. Of course, there are some. There will always be some who do what you believe, but don’t buy into all-or-nothing thinking.

Shift your perspective and shift your life.

When you find that you perspective changes, you’ll find that you have much more compassion, empathy and connection with people who you had once assumed were totally different and opposite of who you are.

What do you think about perspective? How has perspective influenced your life? Was there ever a time when you thought things were one way, but then realized it was something completely different?

CommUnity Talk TV: Episode 6 Law of Gestation

CoThis week’s episode on CommUnity Talk TV is about the Law of Gestation.

The Law of Gestation that all things in the Universe have a gestation period, even when it comes to making a difference and building community.

Watch this week’s episode below:

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What do you think about the law of gestation?

What are you waiting for? What seeds have you planted? 

Leave a comment below.