Friday, November 7, 2008

The Quest for Balance

The Quest for Balance in personal and professional lives
Personal Balance
The idea of balance is sometimes an elusive one. Everyone strives for it. Much has been written on it.... but working for it and attaining it is another level of commitment and awareness -- but oh so worth it!

In my own efforts to navigate the ocean of work/life balance, I find that this is a constantly fluid negotiation -- sometimes smooth sailing and sometimes choppy waves. Over the years, I've been challenged with the task of balancing various roles and responsibilities: work, study, single parenting, hobbies, and time with and attention to friends and family. Historically, I've been pretty good with finding this balance, and other times not so successful.

However, one of the most challenging and out of balance times in my life was probably when my plate was overflowing at one time with part time work, distance ed study, parenting, divorce proceedings, and very few resources. (I'm sure many other people have had variations on this theme, and more!). For me, care for my son took top priority, and the other important items were prioritized to support us and further take us to that next level of accomplishment and life quality (oh the beauty of distance education!). By being aware of what I was trying to accomplish and the reasons why, prioritizing and attending to those goals went along way towards finding better balance. As always, something eventually shifts and changes, and new balance is found.

Some of the big lessons I learned through that period was to budget carefully, clarify goals, implement action plans, be mindful of priorities, and find time to give to myself, even if it is a small thing like a cup of favorite tea. I also discovered the magic of journaling, and being grateful everyday for those things - small and big, subtle and obvious, and re-visiting my goals and accomplishments regularly.

I'm sure everyone has had similar experiences with all the pushes and pulls, challenges and surprises in day to day events and relationships, both at work and at home. If others have found challenges and ways to help move maintain that elusive work/life balance, please feel free to add a comment to this blog entry! Sharing tid bits that work for you just might help someone else who happens to read it. You never know!

Life Strategies is also well aware of this ongoing search for Work/Life Balance, and offers a CMPP course for people interested in learning more about it, and further implementing it in their own lives.

More information on personal Work/Life balance can be found here:

Organizational Balance
Workplace environments are similarly needing to attend to work/life balance for collective and individual employee health, which often results in increased productivity and fewer sick days. Assessing the particular needs of an organization is a start. provides some comprehensive guidelines and steps on how to approach this task, as can

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Picture Book of Goals: Happenstance

When creating a picture book of goals, it is infused with very personal goals and emotions. Sometimes, we have precise ideas about what it is that we want, which will reduce the number of possibilities that could be considered as resolutions, or solutions, to the desired goal. By putting images and words on a visualization board, or picture book of goals, the goal is acknowledged, perhaps sub-goals and baby steps are put into place towards the goal, but the rest may be left up to opportunity and chance. Happenstance is a great way to understand those elements that we simply don't have control over as we strive forward.

Krumbholtz's Planned Happenstance Theory, which accepts serendipity as an important factor in career planning, fits very well with picture books of goals/visualization boards. He believed that people, to varying extents, can contribute towards making their own luck. "Lucky" people have certain qualities: goal oriented, planful, curious, actively searching for opportunities, persistent, flexible, optimistic, and prepared to take risk.

As Roberta wrote in Thriving in a New Millennium: Some people transfer serendipity into opportunity. How do they do this?

In part, they have, or develop, the above listed qualities. They also engage in lifelong learning, personal and financial planning, goal setting, work/life balance. I will explore these more in later blogs.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Picture Book of Goals: Lifelong Learning

When putting together a picture book of goals, planning and deciding on sub-goals are important steps towards making those goals happen. Sometimes, the steps and sub-goals can mean more education or skills upgrading. This is all part of Lifelong Learning.

Learning - not just for kids anymore!
Adult education, or student-centred education, is a growing area for self-development. No longer are the days of early education in youth followed by one career in adulthood. People have the opportunities to re-invent themselves several times over through the course of their lives; lives now with multiple careers. Sometimes, however, it is not a choice; rather it is a necessity. New skills need to be developed, more training and education, improve qualifications, and new life goals to figure out.

Fortunately, there are many options to meet the needs of lifelong learning and ongoing professional competency: workshops, conferences, night classes, in-house training sessions, and online course work (e-learning, distance education), for example.

Less Formal: More conversation and life experience
Part of what makes student-centred education appeal to adults is that it takes advantage of the fact that adults have life experiences that can be shared, and used to integrate new ideas and skills. Adults want practicality; to know that something being done is worthwhile; and they want to have an active voice in the process. This style of learning accentuates the student's needs, interests, and learning styles. As such, each student has a very active role in their learning experience, and in the process of making meaning out of what they know (experience) and what they are learning (new course work, skills training).

Lifelong learning and transitions between jobs and even into retirement
Creating new goals and paths for oneself, learning new skills, receiving up to date training, and even taking courses for one's own interest --- these are all part of visioning and re-visioning one's direction and goals in life. It is never too late to learn. Once thought to be the fixed sum of our traits and early learning experiences, people are clearly more than that. At any age in life, and in as many different circumstances, people choose to improve their skills and qualifications, to invest in a hobby or dream, and to be curious and learn more.

What's in your picture book of goals? And how will you get there?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Picture Book of Goals & Visualization Boards

Just to shift gears for a moment here, I was inspired once again by the idea of visualization boards, or picture books of goals. Choosing carefully pictures, images, and words that represent important goals and dreams is a lovely, reflective process. It takes a bit of time to think through what you want, where you want to go, and then how to represent it. It might help to have a particular question in mind, to focus your thoughts around, and then flip through magazines (travel, sports, architecture, business, whatever your interests and hobbies are, and so on), and use intuition to guide the selections of your images. Using head and heart, a visualization board emerges -- images and words pasted onto a poster board, or pasted into a journal or scrapbook. Looking back on those images, some of them might have come true, maybe in ways unexpected! Some might need updating, some re-visioning.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sustainability: Green Jobs

Sustainability (n): the property of being sustainable

Sustainable (adj.):
  1. Capable of being sustained.
  2. Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.

This word has so many layers to it in today's world. Many people wish to sustain their jobs, to sustain their family relationships, to sustain in ecological and economical ways that provide a better future for their children. It can be a tall order!

Fortunately there are increasing ways to address all of these in small or large ways. For example, there are websites that promote green jobs. and (many great business resources on that site).

and even reliable websites about building a sustainable economy, for example: and

Of course, this is just one of the many aspect of sustainability. Considering an eco-friendly or proactive company might be an ultimate goal, but perhaps the other layers of sustainability, such as job and family sustainability come first, with an eye to the larger picture.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Recipe for Sustainability: An Employee Perspective

Recipe for Sustainability: An Employee Perspective

1 Cup of Flexibility
2 Cups of Work-Life Balance
1 Teaspoon of Lifelong Learning
1 Dash of Employee Incentives and Appreciation

It’s almost hard to believe that I have been working at Life Strategies for over 2 years now…looking back it still feels like it was just yesterday that I completed my practicum, with Life Strategies, in my final step to earn my Bachelors of Applied Arts in Psychology at Kwantlen University College.

Roberta discusses the concept of sustainability in a couple of her entries. The variety, flexibility, maintenance of work-life balance, opportunities for lifelong learning, and ongoing incentives and appreciation within my job definitely lends itself to creating a sustainable workforce. In my role as Project Coordinator this is my recipe for sustainability.

1 Cup of Flexibility

One of the things I love most about my job is the variety of work that I do and the flexibility within that work. When I first began at Life Strategies I remember being surprised. I had expected to walk in the first day and be told my job duties. Instead, quite the opposite happened. I was asked what my interests were, given an outline of current projects, and asked to select those projects that interested me the most! I couldn’t believe that as an employee I wasn’t being told what to do, but was instead given the freedom to create a role that suited me. This in turn, enabled me to create a job for myself based on my interests and skills. Two + years later, I am still given that flexibility. My employers recognize that to keep me engaged in the work I am doing, I need to be interested and working to my strengths.

2 Cups of Work-Life Balance

As much of our work is done online, we are able to work from our home offices. This has been a great benefit to me since I am able to set aside more time for hobbies and activities outside of work. We are also permitted to create our own schedules. Starting early in the morning helps me to balance my life by finishing my work day at an earlier hour – leaving me free time for most of the afternoon.

1 Teaspoon of Lifelong Learning

Developing my skills is another area of importance as this has enabled me to get involved in different aspects of the company – again expanding the variety in my job. In 2007, I became a Personality Dimensions® Level 1 Facilitator. I also earned a certificate in Psychometric Assessments: Selection, Administration, and Interpretation of “B” Level Tools.

1 Dash of Employee Incentives and Appreciation

During my work with Life Strategies there has never been a shortage of incentives and appreciation. Frequently, after completing larger projects we are given movie tickets or gift cards to coffee shops, and lunch out as a team happens almost on a weekly basis. In addition to extrinsic rewards, my employers and colleagues constantly give verbal appreciation. Both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards make me feel respected, appreciated, and motivated to continue to work hard and be a team player.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sustainability: Building Individuals and Organizations to Last for the Long Term

There’s a lot of talk about sustainable environments, economies, and resources. However, what about people and the places where they work? At least a dozen times each day I hear people say how busy they are…in many cases, they wear their busyness as a badge of honour.

The Context
I juggle many professional roles – as a counsellor, counsellor-educator, editor of an academic journal, co-executive coordinator of a professional association, and president of a consulting and training organization. In each arena of my professional life, I see the results of chronic busyness – clients, students, colleagues, board members, and corporate clients are scrambling to integrate their complex life roles, meet impossible deadlines, and do more with less.

Skilled worker shortages have resulted in worldwide recruitment, retention, and employee engagement challenges. Absenteeism is an epidemic within some organizations; within others, presenteeism (i.e., showing up for work but not doing much) is on the rise. Supervisory and management time is a precious commodity – they’re busy, too. That leaves an odd mix of workers – some bored with little access to mentors or development opportunities; others burned out from the chronic, relentless stress.

In future posts, I’ll further reflect on sustainability. I’ll be presenting on the topic at a conference in Buenos Aires next week (for more on our travels, click on “Where in the World…?”
September 20, 2008 IAEVG Conference, Buenos Aires
My presentation on Sustainability resonated with many…although the issues are different in some of the Latin American countries represented (just as they are in other regions of the world).

However, in Uruguay, for example, the literacy rate is 98% and free access to university is available to many. The sustainability issue is jobs – not enough of them! Unlike in Canada, there are no visible Help Wanted signs…and there are lots of employees in every restaurant, hotel, and shop.
This was similar to our experience in China this summer. A presenter from Mexico spoke of a similar pattern – highly educated people but not enough jobs.
As we know in Canada, many well educated immigrants and migrant workers are underemployed – but earning more than they could “at home.” The sustainability issue, however, is the impact on families when parents leave children behind to take on temporary employment to pay the bills at home.
Also, as I learned from an Indian colleague at the International Symposium in Sydney, Australia in 2006, some of the off shoring solutions (e.g., international call centres in India) or lucrative opportunities abroad (e.g., Filipino nannies who were doctors at home) are leaving countries with damaged professional infrastructures (i.e., why train to be a doctor or lawyer if you can earn more in a call centre or as a nanny?).
Sustainability…of people and organizations…is a global concern. It is a complex issue, with a tangled web of interconnections. Finding a solution for one group seems to be creating new challenges for another…where do you see yourself fitting in?

In Canada, and other countries impacted by retiring baby-boomers and low birth rates, we are currently facing shortages of skilled workers and individuals/organizations scrambling to do more with less. It’s increasingly more difficult to encourage teens to stay in school, when work (and money) are readily available. Recruitment and retention issues are a crisis for many organizations and individuals are burning out or facing stress-related health challenges.

Where in the World...?

My online students, clients, and colleagues have often remarked on a similarity between my life and the old computer game, “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” They’ve mentioned posting on a course site or sending me an email, wondering where I’ll be responding from.

I’ll use this blog to periodically check in and let you know where in the world I am and what I’m doing there…usually my travel involves a mix of business and personal. This fits with the notion of “sustainability” which I’ll also chat about, in another section of our blog. It also links to my ongoing interest in international/global careers.

September 11, 2008 Leg 1 of the Journey...I'm finishing up my "to do" list and packing my bags for a flight this afternoon to Buenos Aires. The business link is the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG) conference - I'll be presenting a paper on sustainability. However, I'm also excited about getting back to BA - wonderful food and wine...and also custom-made leather coats! The people I met last time were amazing - warm, friendly, and welcoming. I'm looking forward to learning more about their country and culture.

September 12, 2008 Enroute to South America...Elite Athletes and International/Global Careers

End of summer in Canada is a strange time to see mounds of ski gear in the boarding lounge of Pearson International Airport in Toronto. However, end of summer in the northern hemisphere means it's the end of winter in the southern coaches were taking their skiers to Chile to kickstart their training season.

In preparation for the Summer Olympics, a similar phenomenon occurred - elite athletes were training abroad. Weeks before the Olympics were to begin, we watched local news in China covering various equestrian teams trainiing in Hong Kong, rowers training in Macau, and other Olympic competitors training throughout Asia, acclimatizing to the heat, humidity, and air quality they anticipated in Beijing.

Several small communities in Canada have become international meccas for young hockey players. Local families billet the players and schools accommodate their training and travel schedules. Similarly, communities across Canada provide homestay immersion experiences for international youth learning Engish or French.

Often, in discussions of global careers, the focus is on multinational corporations, expatriates, or outsourcing. However, many elite athletes and other young people are already engaged in global careers - integrating work with learning, all over the world!

As we left the plane in Santiago, Chile...what do you imagine was the first retail outlet we saw? Starbuck's Coffee! Followed by a store selling Tommy Hilfiger, with the LGS Sky Chef truck just outside the window, restocking our plane for the flight to Buenos Aires. It's definitely a much smaller world than it once was!

September 14, 2008...just off the boat in Montevideo, Uruguay. Continuing the global career theme, as our taxi pulled away from the terminal, we passed shipping containers. These, too, provided evidence of our interconnected world - with containers from China (COSCO), Germany (Hamburg Sud), and countless other places. Although we typically stay in locally owned hotels, we happen to be in a Holiday Inn this time...same logo but different breakfast buffet! Also, interestingly, as I entered our blogspot address from the Internet access in my room, the login instructions came up in Spanish! (Who knew my high school Spanish lessons would prove to be so useful?). Yet another example of our interconnected world - just as we're using blogs to communicate from Canada, others are doing the same in various languages and locations around the globe!

September 22, Santiago, Chile. The interesting mix of multinational corporations and local artesans and vendors continues...from Nike, Starbucks, Air Canada, and National Car Rental to shoe shine stands on almost every block and table-cloth size "shops" on the street, displaying such merchandise as sunglasses, incense, and jewellry (quite typical for kiosks anywhere in the world) to fruits and vegetables, socks and underwear, and even flower seeds and bulbs (it's early spring here!). Many of the TV shows advertised on billboards are the same we get at home (e.g., Desperate Housewives and CSI, shown in English but with Spanish subtitles; National Geographic and Discovery shows are generally translated).

It's clear that we're in a very small world - sharing many common influences but with distinct regional differences. What's challenging is to even try to untangle what's global and what's not...many of the things we've come to think of as local (e.g., Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and Versace) are, of course, not local at all. Other things we take for granted (e.g., decaf coffee and peanut butter) are rare commodities when travelling abroad.