Create Change With Simple Gestures!

We live in a time of social expression, but very little personal interaction.  We reach out through texts and social media platforms, but it almost becomes alien to reach out a hand to someone who needs us.  As we experience an explosion of technology that transforms from moment to moment, we work so hard to keep up.  Unfortunately, in the process, we lose a bit of our humanity as well.

As we tune out the world around us to embrace the one in our phones and tablets, it becomes easier to look past the homeless person on the side of the road.  We find it easier to judge people online, and that judgement can become bullying.  We see tears as cute emojis, and we begin to lose the compassion that made us human.

People struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, and so many other mental illnesses, but do we see them as a person, or a label?  When will we finally realize that we need to come together to remove the stigma around mental illness, and open our hearts to the person who is diagnosed.  In fact, we are more willing to rally behind individuals with cancer than those with mental illness.  Why can’t we just support those who need us, whether they are physically or mentally ill?

It is time to put down the phone, even if it is just for a moment, each day.  Take that time to make a difference.  You can inspire someone who is struggling, listen to someone, smile at others and make eye contact, volunteer, donate time or money, let someone know you care, or any gesture, large or small.  Just one small act of kindness can create a ripple effect.  If you have time to send a text, you have time to make an impact.

 

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From Victim To Victor: Be an Initiator of Change!

We live in a volatile world, an ever evolving landscape of humanity, and we work in environments where the masses merge to create a common goal.  There are problems that exist everywhere and incorporate major issues like gaps in treatment and pay stemming from differences in gender, generation, race, education, economic status, and so much more.  These conflicts create hostility, and this bleeds into the fabric of corporate, personal, and social relations.  Is this how we wish to live?  Do we want people in 100 years to view us as a century of turbulence?

While it may be impossible to escape victimization at times, it is possible to choose to be a victor.  You see, victimization happens to us, but we do not have to become a victim.  We can take our unique perspective of our experience, and utilize it to initiate change in the world.  We can choose to grieve over the loss of who we were before we were victimized and channel this into empowerment.  We can choose to accept what we deserve and nothing less.  We can choose to stand up to victimization and say it is wrong.  We can choose to not victimize others in the process.  This is what makes us victors.

There are statistics that clearly show discrepancies in pay for people of different races and between men and women.  Is this acceptable to us as a society in 2015?  Have we not learned from a past riddled with the oppression of others to rise above?  I know of people who have suffered from age discrimination, but it would be nearly impossible to prove.  What has happened to our values and morals?  Business ethics is still taught in college, yet it is conveniently dismissed when it goes against the bottom line.

Now is the time for our collective generations to come together and to make change that is positive for our personal and professional lives.  If we can learn to stop victimizing, and to stop accepting the acts of victimization that occur each day, we all win.  We can all be victors in a society that moves to build a brighter future.

Does this sound impossible?  Absolutely!  With so many people unwilling to change, it is not realistic.  However, you have the choice to be a victim to ignorance, or to become the victor.  Each person can make a difference, even if it is a small one, and many small ones may be what sparks the bigger changes. You have the choice, and by recognizing this, you take accountability for your actions.  Choose wisely!

10 Steps to Becoming Extraordinary and Empowering Others!

One thing that I have noticed is that people are always seeking out that mentor, that powerful person who will lead them to accomplish great things.  This is what we do because the world is a scary place, and having someone by your side, offering advice and encouragement, can go a long way.  There comes a time when a transition must take place.  Success is measured differently by everyone, and while you may still need guidance to rise to the top, there are always ways to inspire those left behind.  By taking the world by storm and embracing your inner strength and passion, you are enabling others to do the same.  It is like a domino effect.  While not everyone will jump on the plane to soar to new heights, there are a few who will, and you can be an inspiration to help them to do this.

Plenty of people follow their dreams and become successful without a thought to how they can help others, but this can change.  Every person who chooses to empower others automatically encourages those individuals to do the same as they rise in the ranks.  It is crucial to recognize that there is potential in everyone, but not everyone has the drive and determination to channel their potential.  This is why only a select few will listen and follow your lead.  Perhaps only one or two out of a room of 100 will take initiative.  This does not mean you have failed, it means those who have excelled, were ready to, and the others are still finding their way.

How can you empower others?

1.  Believe in yourself and be confident, not cocky.  If you can be a strong leader, you will automatically encourage others to be the same.

2.  Recognize that other people are not you.  No one will take the exact same path you did, and if you expect others to do what you did, you will always be disappointed.

3.  One of the greatest skills a leader can have is the ability to listen.  If you become a mentor or have people working under you, you need to truly understand who they are, how they work, and what they believe.  You will be amazed at what you learn about others and how this can improve your approach.

4.  Take the extra time to teach others.  You can be a leader, but if you do not teach others so they too can be successful, you are not a very good leader.  You should always find a way to help others to grow.

5.  Be likeable.  Charisma is a powerful force in a great leader.  If people do not like you, they will not follow you.  You should relay anecdotes and show others your humanity.

6.  Realize who your audience is and how they learn.  If you show you truly care, they will also care about you and what you have to teach them.

7.  Be a good influence.  Make decisions based on your integrity and values.  Be someone others can rely on, and you will empower others to do the same, even when the decisions are difficult.

8.  Be willing to accept criticism.  A great leader knows they have faults, and accepts responsibility for them.  If you know what your faults are, you can change them.  This instills a higher level of respect for you as well.

9.  Help others to see their strengths and improve their faults.  If you focus only on the faults, you will not empower others, you will make them less confident.  Also, have a plan to help others improve their faults, and maintain positivity about them.

10.  Realize that you cannot change everyone or empower everyone, but when you truly care about others, and do the best you can in your leadership roles, you can change at least one life, and that is truly extraordinary.

5 Steps to Forging a Fantastic Future!

At some point in their lives, everyone hits a dead end, finds themselves in a rut, or feels trapped in a life they did not plan for themselves.  This is just one aspect of life.  It can be easy to let these periods in life stifle the potential you have, and this is why it is crucial to pull yourself out of the past.  Whatever it is that is holding you down can be managed, and there is always a way to make your life better.  It will not be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Here are 5 steps you can take to forge a fantastic future:

1.  Let go of the past.  If you hold on to mistakes, regret, or long for something or someone that is already gone, you will never see the road that is right in front of you.  If you are plagued by regret, realize that every decision you made had led to you become a stronger individual.  You have learned lessons from your mistakes and you need to forgive yourself so you can move on.  If you missed incredible opportunities because you were afraid, you are still missing them because you are spending time thinking about the ones that are long gone.  The only way to have a great future is to let go of the past.  The good, the bad, and ugly.  Learn from it, and move on.

2.  Determine where you are in your life right now, and why it is not working for you.  You cannot possibly know where to go next if you won’t accept your current position and what is wrong with it.  If you are not happy, something is wrong.  It could be your career, your family, your health, or your dreams.  You are the only person that knows what you truly want in your life, and you need to evaluate it thoroughly before you can make changes.

3.  Determine what your dreams and goals are.  Odds are that if you are not happy, you have at least one thing wrong in your life that needs to be fixed.  Most likely, there is more than one.  The only way to start initiating change is to understand what you really want in life, and to make a list of your goals and dreams.  These are very different.  I dream of being a successful writer, making enough money to live comfortably on, and speaking to people about social issues.  However, I need short-term and long-term goals to get me there.

4.  Prioritize your dreams and set dates to accomplish them.  You cannot commit until you put a timeline to something.  I can dream all I want, but my dream will never come true if I do not make it a priority and hold myself accountable enough to reach each goal along the way.  This is one of the most difficult parts because it requires a great deal of work and dedication.  You cannot expect the world to hand you success on a platter, and you must put everything you have into making your dreams happen.

5.  Reevaluate and remind yourself of your dreams regularly.  You need to check in every week, every two weeks, or at least monthly.  Look at your progress, make sure you are on track, and if not, remind yourself of why it is important to you.  If you change your mind along the way, that is fine, you can change your list if necessary.  If you run into complications, you may want to remind yourself each day.  Write it down, get a picture that represents your dreams or make a chart that you can look at each day.  Some people will need more encouragement than others.

The important thing to remember is that as you move along your journey, you are learning and evolving.  Your thoughts, ideas, and goals may evolve as well.  Do not hold onto something if you lose the passion for it, let it go.  But, when you do reach a goal and eventually behold a dream, enjoy it.  Be proud of each accomplishment along the way because they represent a person moving forward in their life, not someone letting life pass them by.

Determining Your Own Fate!

It is common to fall into the hands of statistics, becoming a martyr, and following a predetermined destiny.  Many individuals look to see how likely those from the lower-income class are to go to college, what the statistic is for women to move from middle management into the executive level, or what the differences are of various cultures, races, and backgrounds when it comes to success later in life.  We can use these numbers to place ourselves into distinct categories.  We can play the game, calculating our likelihood of success at only 20%, therefore, a waste of time to go to college.  Or, we can determine our own fate.

I do not deny that those in lower classes have less access to the same tools and benefits that middle or upper class individuals may have.  This can cause a greater struggle, but I also believe there are those who will fight to rise above. Just as someone in a higher income family may turn to addictions or crime and lose everything.  The determining factor in the end, is choice.  While statistics can provide a great deal of data to help us understand the world better and to figure out what changes to make, there is something deeper that comes from within an individual that determines if they will follow the statistics, or become an outlier.  An outlier stands outside of the norms, and in many cases, this can be a great thing.  For those who are condemned to a life of poverty by statistics, being an outlier changes their life for the better, and can perhaps lead to a better life for their children.

I have been faced with numerous challenges, and I am still struggling through them, but I have pushed hard to get to where I am, and I now hold two degrees.  Degrees that ten years ago, I would have never believed possible for me to attain.  Yet, I have them, and I am now determined to keep moving toward my dreams and to be successful.  I know I will be, and I am an outlier.  I am proud to be an outlier.  I fully believe that people choose their fate.  I see more people complaining about where they are at in their lives on Facebook each day, and I wonder why they are not taking steps to change their life.

A degree can only take someone so far, it is the graduate’s responsibility to prove they have retained the knowledge and can use it in a career.  Someone who wants to write should write each day.  They may not be published, but they are growing by writing regularly.  Writing a blog can be beneficial to someone who needs to stand out for their writing, business, or to showcase photography, travel, food, or art.  There are so many steps people can take to shine, but these opportunities must be grasped, or they slip away.

I challenge everyone to stop letting statistics define their lives and futures.  Each life is an opportunity to make change, to give back, to contribute, and to become something.  Determine what you want your life to be, and go for it.  Confining yourself to the limit of averages does more harm than good.  Be an outlier.  Be the woman who is an executive.  Be the person in poverty that rises above.  Live the life you dream about, then give back.  Encourage someone else to be an outlier too.  It has to begin somewhere. And the glorious ripple that stems from positive change can make all the difference.

Taking on the World Post-Graduation!

The past six years of my life have been dedicated to academics and growth based on education combined with leadership.  I have found my self-confidence grow as I became more knowledgeable about the world and my place within it.  I have led student organizations, attended conferences, found success with my writing, and discovered my strength in public speaking.  I became passionate about advocacy, and learned ways in which I could use my skills to make a difference.  This is what I gained with my education because it was a strong liberal arts education with a focus on creating women leaders.

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Now, I am a graduate.  I was proud to be the 2015 commencement student speaker at Cedar Crest College, and when I walked across the stage, I knew it was symbolic for walking into a new phase in my life.  Graduation is exhilarating, but also an emotional time.  One journey is ending, and this is bittersweet because while endings lead to beginnings, life will never be the same.  A few days later, the realization of that loss is prevalent, and fellow graduates begin new phases of their life, or post panicked comments on Facebook because they do not know where they are going.

I am in the job search mode as many of my friends are, but I know my college provided me with the skills I need to be successful.  That, combined with my confidence and determination, will lead me to a rewarding life.  I know I may start in a position that is not what I hoped, but I also know I may very well find the position that will be rewarding and lead to a career I will be happy with.  This is the roller coaster of post-graduation.  It is the next phase, which requires just as much work and dedication as the previous educational phase, if not more.  It is the time for graduates to prove themselves.

While this can be a time of anxiety and fear, it can also be an exciting adventure and another learning experience in life.  For those fellow graduates out there, those who are searching for their place in the career world, do not forget your worth.  Remember that you worked hard for your degree/s and you should embrace this new challenge just as you embraced the challenges of college.  Be proud of your accomplishments, and bravely put yourself out there.  Be confident and explore what this new path has to offer!

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Follow Your Passions!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I learned a great deal from the PLEN seminar in Washington D.C.  One of the greatest lessons I took away, that was echoed by many of the speakers, was that if you follow your passions, it doesn’t matter what path you take, you will accomplish great things.  Every speaker found their way into careers that were challenging, rewarding, and personally fulfilling.  They may have started on very different career paths from degrees in English, political science, history, and so much more, but they found their way to nonprofit, advocacy, or policy work.

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When I look at my path through education, knowing I am about to embark on an even greater adventure, I realize that the more I follow my passions, the more I will be fulfilled.  I have found that stifling passion merely leads to a life of monotony, and an existence plagued by regret.  I choose to never regret again.  I choose to take opportunities to make a difference in the world when I find them.  I choose to make opportunities where they do not currently exist.  I choose to initiate social change for the betterment of caregivers, even if it requires small steps to reap small rewards.  I choose to be an advocate for those who need one.  I choose to empower other women to lead, as these women have empowered me.  Most of all, I choose to be myself and represent my values and morals in the career decisions I make.

You have this power as well.  You can choose the person you wish to be and you can empower yourself to follow the passions that make up your spirit.  Be strong, be willing to make changes when necessary, and be open to the advice of others.  In the words of Caryl M. Stern, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get to where you want to be tomorrow.”

PLEN Seminar Experience Taught Me How To Better Advocate, Lead, and Pursue My Passions!

I have not posted a blog entry recently, but I have a good excuse.  I was attending the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) seminar, Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers!  For anyone who is not familiar with PLEN, I highly recommend you check out their site.  http://plen.org/

Cedar Crest College regularly sends a handful of students to PLEN seminars, and I was lucky to be one of the ones chosen this year.  While I will be covering some of the information I feel I received from this truly enlightening seminar throughout the week, I want to offer an overview.  PLEN is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women as leaders.  They seek to connect women in top level roles throughout various areas of health, science, nonprofit, advocacy, government, and other agencies with high-achiever undergraduate and graduate students wishing to make their mark on the world.  PLEN provides multiple sessions with a panel of women, who not only detail their own experiences navigating their career path to reach their current positions, but who also inspire students to seek out their passion, to work hard, and to never give up.  This was one of the most inspirational experiences I have had.

These sessions were broken up by practical workshops to help students build better resumes, to enhance their LinkedIn profiles, and to gain necessary networking and interviewing skills.  Overall, I feel I walked away from this seminar with more than I could have expected.  From the pages of notes that are filled with detailed information from each speaker, to exceptional quotes, and a feeling of enhanced self-confidence, I believe PLEN went beyond the experiential, into something life-changing.

The seminar was off to a rocky start initially, because of the snowstorm that hit the east coast.  Below is a picture of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. where PLEN headquarters is located.

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That was just the beginning, but PLEN was able to continue the seminar despite a few speakers who were unable to make it.  We also had to miss a planned field trip, but they filled that time with an activity that was also rewarding, and gave us a chance to think about the use of social media marketing as a tool in nonprofits.

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Our keynote speaker, Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO of UNICEF was one of the most incredible women I have listened to.  She spoke about her own family, and how she made decisions about her career, that while unusual, were exactly what she needed to get to a place where she was satisfied.  One quote that really stuck out to me was, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get where you want to be tomorrow” (Stern).  While we tend to think of how we can move up the career ladder, sometimes we need to stay on the same tier while moving to a different career or organization.  We should in fact, follow our passions because that is what will make us feel complete at the end of the day.

Caryl Stern was just one of the many speakers who left me with great ideas, plans, and thoughts to mull over.  The women who dedicated their time, helped to make a change in the lives of the students who attended.  Based on the wonderful group of women who attended with me, I believe they will take this knowledge and use it to make a difference in the world.  This is one thing I can say I have take away from PLEN, every person who spoke fanned the flames of passion I have for advocacy, and this passion will lead me to initiate necessary social changes.  This goes to show that as I move into a career in advocacy and leadership, I can do the same for others, and if we all did this, our world would become a much better place.  This is just one of the many bits of information I took away from PLEN.

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I will carry this experience with me, and continually look back at what I learned so I can apply these lessons to my life as my path shifts.  I will also build upon the networks that were started and hope they lead to valuable connections.  And, I will continue to work towards my goals to make a difference in the world one step at a time.

Below is a picture of the great group of women who attended this seminar, it came from the PLEN Facebook page which I have linked below.

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https://www.facebook.com/plennetwork?ref=br_tf

Thank you Cedar Crest College for your support and for sending me to this seminar, and thank you PLEN for all of the hard work that went into planning.  I was also chosen to receive a PLEN scholarship, and for this, I am truly grateful!

Moving From Victim to Victor!

Just about everyone becomes a victim at some point in their life.  In fact, many of us will use the victim role to avoid life, tasks, projects, or work.  There are various reasons for this, depending on the type of victim you have become.  If you were seriously hurt or injured, obviously, it will take a toll on you, but there are too many situations where something trivial occurs and victimhood seems eternal as it is drawn out for weeks.

Examples:

– A co-worker got a promotion that you feel you should have had.

– A paper that you put months of research into has been rejected or received a bad grade.

– Perhaps you have had a rocky road with relationships, and you let this become a failure that seeps into every other aspect of your life.

– You are broke and can’t afford the same things your co-workers have.

– Your car continues to break down and you can’t afford the repairs.

Not that these situations are good, but there is a point where one must move from being the victim to becoming a victor in their life. Everyone has bad moments, we are all wronged, and we all struggle at some point.  The difference is that those people who come out on top do not allow these moments to rule their life.  They deal with it, struggle, and find a way to fix the problem.  It may take years to fix the problem, but dwelling on it without trying to solve it will not get anyone anywhere.

Everyone has the choice of which direction their life will go.  Each challenge can make or break you.  You can choose to be strong, fight the situation, and overcome it, or you can wallow in self-pity.  Be the victor.  Do not let situations keep you from solutions.

Servant Leadership and Success!

One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to focus on the growth and success of others.  When you follow leadership principles that allow you to focus on giving to those around you, you will find that success follows.  This type of leadership style can be beneficial in many ways.

1.  We all want to succeed.  However, we also need to be able to have a strong group of people around us who can also succeed.  It is like the phrase, “a team is only as strong as its weakest link.”  If there is someone who needs more skills to grow in the workplace or to be successful, by mentoring this person, you are essentially strengthening the outcomes of your team.

2.  To be a strong leader, you must command respect from others, but the respect that is earned is worth so much more.  When your employees or team knows you will be there to help and guide them, and that they can trust you, you will earn more respect.  This will bring about positive, professional relationships that lead to more communication and better team dynamics.

3.  Giving time and attention to the team you work with can help you to grow and learn as well.  Even the best leader can take lessons from those who work with them.  Each team will be different and the learning possibilities are endless.  In fact, teams can change drastically just by replacing one person, or from project to project.  This focus on the team will also help with observation skills and enable a more intuitive approach with others in the future.

4.  When a leader spends more time focusing on themselves, the bottom line, or success, they miss the details, and while they may be able make strides and find success in the short-term, they may lose out in the long-term.  There are so many elements that make up the whole picture of success, and a good leader will focus on how they can give to the team and enhance the growth of the team as a whole.

5.  Servant leadership is the best way to help the team participate and it will enforce the growth of individual and group skills, as well as help the team reach their full potential.  There is less limitation, therefore, more growth.

While there are many leadership styles, and every leader has a specific way in which they operate, in many situations, servant leadership should stand out as a highly productive way for a leader to guide and encourage a team.