Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Power and Possibilities: Balancing All Of Our Selves

Last week, I was fortunate to attend the Power and Possibilities Leadership Conference at St. Catherine University as a representative of the Minnesota Women's Consortium. In its third year, Power and Possibilities is a leadership conference for women of color and features a keynote speaker as well as the opportunity to engage with other participants in intimate table conversations.

This year's keynote speaker was Elizabeth B. Kautz, the current President of United States Conference of Mayors who is now serving her sixth term as the Mayor of Burnsville, having first gained office in 1994. Mayor Kautz is Chairperson of the Suburban Transit Association, as well as being co-Chairperson and co-founder of the Minnesota Regional Council of Mayors and representing Burnsville on numerous local, regional, state, and national boards.

Throughout her speech, she highlighted her expansive spiritual, community, and professional background. She spoke of the influence of her father on her life, her commitment to her faith tradition and its teachings, and her struggle with self-confidence when tapped to run for Mayor as the then-rookie on the City Council. The key takeaways from her words, as echoing the sentiment of those in the room, were:
  • Don't let others define you. They can have their definitions but you do not have to be held down by what they think. Similarly, don't let others' problems become yours. You only have so much energy and it should be invested in and focused on your work, rather than on the naysayers.

  • Don't take things personal. There will always be critics, regardless of the person, policy, situation. Taking things in stride is part of the work and can be used to strengthen your efforts if used constructively.

  • Mayor Kautz reserves her Sundays for herself and her family, leaving work and other matters aside in order to spend time with those most important to her.
Following the keynote speech, we turned to our table discussions for further insights and conversation. At table #13, our topic was, "Balancing All of Your Selfs," and was moderated by Kazoua Kong Thao, the first Hmong American to serve on the Saint Paul School Board of Education. She teed it up for us by sharing a number of her personal tips for life balance and wellness and others joined in. Check out the list of tips we compiled for balancing all of our selves:
  • Schedule walks in your day to clear the mind and engage the body

  • Spirituality, or whatever helps center your core, needs to be prioritized and addressed first

  • "I'm not your mom all the time." Setting aside time to simply be gives moms a chance to remember that their primary roles do not have to define their being at every given moment.

  • Yesaholics, "no" is a powerful tool in the fight against being overcommitted. Make sure to dole out your yes'es wisely and with complete certainty.

  • As you focus on what you want to commit to more and saying no to things you want less of in your life, make sure to also get together with friends on a regular basis so you aren't unintentionally blocking them out of your life.

  • Communicate your schedule needs and when you are "on" or "off." If others know that you shut your phone off at a certain time or don't respond to email immediately, they will be less likely to presume they can come to you at any old time. Your role is to help communicate boundaries and guidelines so you are ready and able to tackle the work when you are at your best.

  • Choose. Some of the things that we have to do in life, we do begrudgingly. If you are able to step back and to take a look at an activity or task as though you chose it (an attitude shift), it may offer you a different vantage point and help you to release grudges and be more content about something you'll have to do anyway.

  • For all you perfectionists: remember the phrase, "I care, but not that much." There is too much to be done for anyone to care about every little detail about every little thing every single time. It's important to care and to do as good a job as you can, but it's also important to be okay with that fact that you do what you can and that, ultimately, that's enough.
As one of my tablemates commented, this list is composed of things that we all intuitively know we should do, but the true challenge lies in the implementation. What do you think? Have you been able to implement any of the above tricks with any success? What about other life balance tips or ideas we left out?

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