Living a Life With Intention, Reflection, and Focus
April 9, 2020
In 2017, after 20 years of navigating a carefully planned career, I faced a personal crisis that turned my life upside down. I quickly found myself in a world where strategy, planning, and order were useless and intuition, instinct, and experience ruled. At the time, I had been the primary caretaker for my mother who was battling Alzheimer’s and was also a Type 1 diabetic. My life had become 100% consumed with how to keep her safe and well cared for.
Six months after she succumbed to complications from dementia, I took a risk and quit my job of nearly nine years as CMO for a firm I loved dearly to embark on a one-year sabbatical. I set out to discover myself, the world, and what “next” would look like. I used the term “Off Track/On Purpose” to define my new journey and shared my story publicly through Facebook and with SMPS during a MAX Talk at 2018 Build Business.
I find it fascinating how that time in my life – filled with risk, fear, uncertainty, and self-imposed disorder – prepared me for the world we live in today. At the start of my sabbatical, after a few unscheduled weeks (hard for a self-proclaimed Type A control freak), I calmed down and set goals for my journey. I committed to four principles that literally ruled my life for the next year: say “yes” to opportunity; be present in the moment; embrace the uncomfortable; and love the journey. These are ideals I strive to live by today and how I’m coping with a world affected by COVID-19.
Never in our lives has so much been out of control or unpredictable. In 2008, we knew a recession was coming – or at least knew it was a possibility. Today, I find myself once again battling feelings of fear, helplessness, frustration, and disorder despite my commitment to pivot and shift to keep things moving forward—as our world changes so radically, so quickly. Those aren’t feelings I want in my life—and it made me think back to 2017 again but in a different way.
In October of that year, I attended The Pinnacle Experience where Jeff Hurt, a specialist in adult learning, led a presentation titled “The Neuroscience of Innovation.” During his discussion, he shared an idea about brain health that hit home with me: He explained how taking time at the end of the day to evaluate and record two things learned as key takeaways is a beneficial exercise to stimulate the brain. Following Pinnacle, I started writing my personal “Daily Takeaways” and posting them to Facebook as a way to stay accountable.
By recording two important things each day, I have become much more present in the moment and aware of things as they happen. Even now, working from home with a life transported to a virtual reality and uncertainty if my recently launched business will thrive or even survive, I see examples show up all the time. Here are the principles I use to keep me grounded. I hope they will help you as we strive for normalcy through uncertainty.
- I’ve work hard to stay present in the moment and deal with what I can control or influence and then let the rest go. Recently, my new company had several clients call to put projects on hold. As I picked up the phone in a panic to call my business partner, I stopped and thought it through. These client decisions were 100% out of my control or influence. Panicking did nothing to resolve the problem. Instead, I took a walk around the block to breathe and relax and then let it go. Ten days later, two of the clients called and are moving forward with virtual programs so we are back on track. And I wasted very little energy for me – or my partner.
- I embrace the uncomfortable as a way to stay challenged and sharp. I despise video and hate to be on camera. It’s emotionally crippling for me. For over a year, Josh Miles, SMPS CMO, has been asking me to record an SMPS video. Well, throw a pandemic into the mix and a life constantly on Zoom and my aversion is rapidly changing. I have become a Zoom expert, am on video calls almost every day, and have started practicing recording myself in anticipation of Josh’s next request. It’s still uncomfortable, but I’m finally embracing it.
- Saying yes to opportunity has always been easy; it’s my nature (unless a video is involved). But today, those “yeses” include new teaming arrangements to solve client problems, leading a project effort when I’m already tapped out, and working overtime++ to meet a client deadline. Right now, I’m thankful for every opportunity and 100% of the time I’m giving an enthusiastic “yes”!
- Loving the journey is the hardest principle when the journey consists of life that’s turned upside down. But I work hard to find at least one thing every day that brings joy or comfort. Recently, I was filling a water glass when I looked up and noticed a new bloom on an orchid in my kitchen window. I remembered that orchid was a gift from my previous boss when my mother died just months before I began my life Off Track/On Purpose. It felt full circle—and came at a time when it was needed the most.
In your personal and work lives, I hope you’ll take time to reflect on the things in your day that bring a smile or are a lesson learned. Our world is uncertain right now and a little off track. But, with intention, reflection, and focus on what’s important to “takeaway” each day, we’ll get through this. I wish you health and happiness, and that you find your purpose every day. And, mostly, that my story as a caretaker, risk taker, and fellow marketer trying to make my way brings you comfort and a little inspiration.
Article written by SMPS President-Elect Doug Parker, FSMPS, CPSM, principal of Elevate Marketing Advisors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.