Sunday, May 3, 2009

April 2009

Go Back to Nature to Find the Answer......

In my early career as a scientist, I once attended an international conference and learned something from one of the speakers that made a lasting impression on me, because it resonated so well with who I am. He said that while he was developing a theory in his field of sport psychology, he reached a point where he got stuck. His mentor gave him sound advice that he followed: “Go back to nature and you will find the answer.” He did, and he was able to find the answer that he applied to his scholarly work. I grew up between the mountains and the ocean with a strong sense of being surrounded, or even a feeling of being embraced, by the natural beauty of the environment. On several occasions since that conference, I have applied those wise words to my own life.

During the past month I learned another important lesson from nature. At the beginning of April when the recession was tough and everyone around here was ready for Spring, we had unexpected inclement weather. The weather forecast predicted up to 6 inches of snow. The Canadian geese were already settled back into the area, celebrating the slightly warmer weather in the pond outside our place when the blizzard arrived. Earlier my son David announced that he was walking close by and noticed that one of the geese was breeding on a nest, on the little island in the middle of the pond. I was concerned what will happen to her eggs once the blizzard started. With the first fall of enormous snowflakes, Mother Goose was probably initially somewhat confused about what was happening, but at the same time ready to guarding her nest. The blizzard started early morning and continued throughout the day. The pond was covered with a blanket of snow and ice, but Mother Goose was dutifully protecting her eggs. Every so often she would shake her head to get rid of the snow, while her body would be covered with snow until only her head was visible, but she was clearly on a mission. Her whole demeanor suggested a strong vision: to protect her unborn. I didn’t ever notice her leaving her nest during that time. If she would do so, her eggs would be in danger, because it was freezing cold. As the days passed the snow eventually melted and early one morning about a week ago, my husband called me to share the most beautiful and touching view from our living room window: Mother Goose was taking the eight goslings for their first swimming lesson in the pond, escorted by a very proud Father Goose protecting his precious family.

Mother Goose taught me that even in tough times like an economic crisis, it is important to stay positive and think growth and possibility, instead of being overwhelmed by collapsing markets or frozen credit in a struggle for survival. Instead, we need to shake these limiting and ‘freezing’ thoughts off our heads and think innovation and growth. It is possible to survive and even thrive in turbulent times. This is a time for opportunity to rethink business processes, markets, strategies – how to improve them to achieve growth. We need to be leaders who are committed to a cause, with a strong vision for the possibility of growth and willing to take an active approach. Leaders who can communicate and bring employees, customers and other stakeholders together in deciding what we need to do to succeed. We need to find new opportunities and reposition ourselves. Eventually the frozen pond will soon melt and let us take our eight new goslings for a first swim across the pond.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 2009

Did anyone take the Strengths Finder 2.0 yet? As part of a leadership training program I did one and was surprised to find the descriptions of my top five themes pretty accurate.

Do you know what your strengths are? Your strength will be something you feel passionate about. Something that makes you think: “I can't wait to start!” Something you are eager to learn more about. One of the world's leading researchers on positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from Claremont Graduate University in California calls it flow when we are so deeply immersed in our 'strength’activity, involving a task for which we have a powerful inquisitiveness, that we lose sense of time and space, feel invigorated by our challenge with a heightened ability to focus.

Was there any time during the past week that you got into your ‘zone’? How did you feel during the activity? Was it easy to concentrate? My Strengths Finder stated that one of my passions is that I enjoy focusing on the strengths of others as a way to help them develop personal and group excellence. It also confirmed that I seek to transform something strong into something superb. Now you know why I love my job!

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 2009

It is Valentine's Day today (the 14th). A good day to share with loved ones and tell them that you care. My mother-in-law, Mom Burdene, baked some cookies and I put it in little red bags with a card for each family member. My husband and I went out for delightful Italian cuisine for lunch. While other couples were eating their Valentine's dinner, we thought it will be more fun to work out in the local gym. We had almost the whole place for ourselves! Sometimes I just like to do things differently!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 2009

In early January our family returned from a wonderful vacation in South Africa where we spent most of the time in the Cape Town area. I attended my undergraduate studies at the nearby University of Stellenbosch. I have many pleasant memories from that time, as those were very formative years of my life. My roommate from college visited and we enjoyed our own reunion. Below is a picture taken in front of the dormitory, Minerva where I lived as a student. In the front are four of the current residents of Minerva with my sister Lydia who works for the University of Stellenbosch. I am the one in the back.

This is a picture I have taken of a beautiful sunset behind Table Mountain, viewed from the Strand area. We enjoyed our time in South Africa with all the wonderful people and took long walks in the beautiful nature!