Practicing What I Preach: Year in Review

Late 2018, when the idea of Blooms to Blossoms was starting to take shape, I saw Vora’s blog post Share To Learn.  His brief narrative and sketchnote were instrumental in visualizing my plan.  His sketchnote clearly depicts the goals for my blog. 

Since I published my first blog (May 2019) I have been promoting integration of wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.  As I consider my plans for 2020, I thought it might be a good idea to share my year in review.  

**What have I done in 2019 to practice what I preach?
**How can I build momentum into the new year?

So, it is time to look back, remember, learn, and plan.  

Personal Growth – Health & Wellbeing – Relationships
Year in Review

Writing Blooms to Blossoms

Writing the blog has been rewarding and challenging.  When I think about it, those are two outcomes that I had hoped for when I was developing the blog idea.  I wanted to express myself and share ideas about topics I find interesting.  After writing 30+ blogs I feel I am on a good path toward making a difference/adding value to my readers living and learning. I am sharing knowledge about a topic passionate to me. My blog work provides an academic/critical thinking outlet for me, enhances skill development through writing, expands my network of friends and colleagues, and broadens my scope of reading.

Hobbies

This summer I wrote a series of blogs on music.  The last post, titled Music Matters: Music for Me!! Music for You??, I shared that I started taking asynchronous piano lessons.  Coming from a background of teaching online for 15 years, it would seem a logical choice.  While the structure was fine and the teacher excellent, I was not satisfied with the overall experience and progress.  I found that I needed more structure, wanted a more personal connection with my teacher, and most important I wanted to choose the music I was playing.  In October I found the perfect teacher and now take weekly lessons (face-to-face).  Piano, as my primary hobby, provides a learning opportunity by being able to physically put the written music into action on the piano keys, enhances my social network through engagement with my teacher, and provides cognitive development as we discuss music theory.

Health & Fitness

I have been active all my life. In fact, sometimes I wonder if my first steps might have been at a running pace.  I have written about the influence of sports/activity in my life in prior blogs titled, Run for My Body, Run for My Soul and Mentoring is Enduring.  You could expect that being active and eating healthy continue to be key aspects of my life.  Transition from being an “athlete” for over 20 years (high school through post college competition) to just being “athletic” has been a challenge.   Recently I changed gym memberships.  I joined F45…a 45-minute functional high intensity interval training workout.  Their tagline is “team training, life changing”, and I would agree 100%.  In October, after watching Game Changers, a movie about plant-based eating and strength along with doing some of my own research, I started eating a plant-based diet. My exercise and my diet provide a lifestyle that fits my personal goals, enhances my social, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional wellness.  I continue to learn about myself and how to live a healthy life as I actively engage in workouts and learn more about diet, exercise, and aging.

Relationships

We all have various relationships in our lives, acquaintances, colleagues, friends, pets, family, that are important.

**My blog has opened doors to relationship building.  I have reconnected with friends and colleagues from the past and am expanding my network. 

**Over the past few years my family has sacrificed location and convenience to move nearby.  I am grateful for what they have given up so we can share life more fully.

**Reggie, my first girl cat, passed away in February.  She was with us for over 18 years and is now with her brother.  During Reggie’s last few months she helped welcome our boy DJ to the family.  

**Every year is better because of my husband.  Life is good.

Personal Growth – Health & Wellbeing – Relationships
What’s Next

In the coming year I plan/hope to:

**combine my blog writing with my desire to sketch by including sketchnotes in my posts.

**continue to expand the scope and breadth of my reading.

**continue my piano lessons and strive to be more comfortable playing for others.

**complete at least the first five books in the Fundamentals of Piano Theory by Snell and Ashleigh.

**improve my ability to draw/sketch.

**continue an active lifestyle keeping in mind my motto (as I get older) that “something is better than nothing.”

**increase readership of my blog/social media presence as outreach to achieve the purpose that together we will create a community of scholars, practitioners, and pupils.

**build my network of friends and colleagues.

“Life’s not about expecting, hoping and wishing,
it’s about doing, being and becoming.”
unknown

I felt it was important to share with you that my actions are consistent with the thoughts and ideas I share in my blog.  My purpose is to live an integrated life that focuses on wellness, learning, and personal development.  My actions are louder than my words.  Wellstone, academic and author, states, “Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.” 

You may be reflecting on 2019 and planning for 2020 to be your best self.  Be true to self as you plan and align your words with your actions.

We will open the book.
Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called opportunity and
its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Spiritual Wellness: Our Beliefs & Our Values

Everyone celebrates the holiday season differently.   We can express our belief in the principles of Christmas in many ways.  No matter how you celebrate you deserve to share happiness of the season.  I wish everyone health and happiness as you wrap up 2019 and move forward to 2020. For my holiday blog, I share some thoughts on spiritual wellness.

We commonly define spiritual wellness as obtaining meaning and purpose in life.  Zippo (2010) provides a framework for a wellness journey by stating: 

Wellness encompasses a balance of the multidimensional journey
that each of us takes at one time or another.

Each of our journeys is unique and different.  
We all strive to succeed as individuals
who create our own paths in life.

Overall wellness, integration of body, mind, and spirit, is an intricate personal journey leading to an enhanced quality of life.  Spiritual wellness depends on our beliefs and values.  How each of us answer questions such as those below will guide this journey.

**Is my life purposeful?
**Is my spiritual growth defined and expanding?
**Do I show trust with others and am I able to forgive?
**Are my values and actions consistently presented?
**Am I grateful and open to others’ beliefs & values?

A willingness to be inquisitive and curious as you explore your spiritual essence contributes to overall wellness, personal growth, and development.  The goal is harmony between self, others, and the world. Finding ways to “practice” or apply your spiritual beliefs and values may contribute to your overall wellness; it may also improve the lives of those around you.  The National Wellness Institute describes the spiritual connection of self and others.  It is better to:

ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.

live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.

Putting your spiritual growth into practice may include:

**volunteering
**making social contributions
**fellowship experiences with others lead to optimism and belonging
**expressing compassion and forgiveness

So what is spirituality?  American Nurse Today 2018 blog answers this question.

It’s about what inspires you, what gives you hope, and what you feel strongly about.

Your spirit is the seat of your deepest values and character. Whether or not you practice a religion, you can recognize that a part of you exists beyond the analytical thinking of your intellect; it’s the part of you that feels, makes value judgments, and ponders your connection to others, to your moral values, and to the world.

For this reason, spirituality frequently is discussed in terms of a search. Spiritual wellness is a continuing journey of seeking out answers and connections and seeing things in new ways. It also means finding your purpose in life and staying aligned with it.

How do you define spiritual wellness?

How can that definition find expression in a meaningful practice?

How can you incorporate that practice into your life?

How can you use that practice to help you with the everyday stresses and anxieties?

Listen with your heart and
live by your principles.

Become the Best Version of Yourself

This is the time of the year when contemplation about the past and anticipation about the future is in the minds of many.  The year 2019 is about to end and 2020 is on the horizon. Consideration of how to be a better version of you is a common notion.  Resolutions for the upcoming year are planned and promised.  The first of a new year is a good reflection and planning milestone. I am not a person to make New Year’s resolutions, but I often take time to think about how I can be a better me.  Every action I take and every thought I have combine to define who I am.  

I believe taking care of and understanding integration of body, mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships is the path toward “being the greatest version of you that you can be.”  

In the mid-1990s I bought a pair of running shoes and received a calendar for the upcoming year.  The images and narrative in this calendar has been inspirational and motivational ever since.  I kept most of the images, framed the group, and have hung it in my office or home ever since.  Twenty-five years later I still have this compilation of pictures hung in our workout room.  

I share the individual pictures and quotes below and encourage you to refer to a wellness checklist I posted in Blooms to Blossoms resources. You might use these as aids for your thoughts and planning for the upcoming year.

Integration of body, mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships
is the path toward “being the greatest version of you that you can be.”  

You must do the thing
you think you cannot do. 
Eleanor Roosevelt
So many moments, all so simple.
God, do I love it here on earth. 
Fannie Gaynes

One can never consent to creep
when one feels an impulse to soar. 
Helen Keller
It isn’t the big pleasures that count the most, it’s making a big deal out of the little ones. 
Jean Webster

The body is shaped, disciplined, honored, and in time trusted. 
Martha Graham

Athlete is a fine, strong word…there’s nothing female or male about it.  Mariah Burton Nelson
Grace fills empty spaces. 
Simone Weil

Energy creates energy. 
Sarah Bernhardt
It is never too late to be
what you might have been. 
George Eliot

There are multiple meanings to each picture. Think beyond the physical presented. Probe your thoughts about how the picture, the quote, and your personal appraisal of each wellness component can help you design how can you be your best?

Embrace self-improvement.
Become the best version of yourself.
Create, Contribute, Share.

With Freedom Comes Responsibility: Reflections on Retirement

December 2017, after 35 years in higher education I retired.  I was lucky, every job I had from graduate assistant during my doctoral program to my last I felt challenged, fulfilled, and appreciated.  Midway through 2017 I decided it was time to move on to whatever would be my “after work life”. I spent the first 12-18 months of retirement relaxing and enjoying my hobbies but there was a gap to filled.  To me, retirement sounded a bit like an end rather than a beginning.  “After work life” was a way to express the idea that other doors would be opening and there was more to do.

Retirement is a blank sheet of paper.  It is a chance to redesign your life into something new and different.  Patrick Foley

Hmmmm, so what was I going to do?  What did I want to do?

I had to have a plan. I did not want to get bored AND I sure did not want to become boring.  I had a responsibility to myself to use my time wisely.  It was time for some reflection and creativity.  My life and my work brought me wisdom.  I now had the freedom to do what I wanted to do.  I needed to take responsibility to ensure my “after work life” was challenging, fulfilling, and in some way giving back to others.  The key to my plan was based on the concept of “know yourself”.  

**What do I want out of my “after work life?”
**What do I enjoy in my personal life?
**What do I enjoy in my work life?
**What new opportunities would appeal to me?

After considering the questions above, I discovered that the elements of a successful retirement and the elements of a successful life were the same.

**I needed to have a purpose.
**I needed to challenge my mind.
**I needed ongoing personal development.
**I needed to have fun.
**I needed a social network.

Retirement is a time to experience a fulfilling life derived from many enjoyable and rewarding activities.  Ernie J. Zelinski

Those who know me will say “yep, that sounds like Elaine” in the next couple paragraphs. Those who do not personally know me will gain some insight.  

Two factors were the guides toward my post work path.  First, the idea of an integrated life has always been important to me.  We have one life…how the pieces of life fit together has always intrigued me.  With this concept in mind I pursued work in higher education that allowed me to develop programs, conduct and guide research, design and teach academic courses to further the knowledge base that links life and learning. My About page and my prior blogs help tell this story.   

Second, I am inquisitive, I am an information gatherer. I welcome credible evidence to support ideas and plans.  What “data” did I have on myself that would provide a vision to my future.  In the past I completed two commonly used self-assessments.

**I completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  
**I read the book Strengths Finder 2.0 (2007), a follow up to the 2001 Now, Discover Your Strengths.  I completed the online assessment…just because I was curious what the outcomes would be.

Earlier this year I completed the short version of Myer-Briggs because again I was curious about what the outcomes would reveal. I also wondered if I had “changed over time”.  


Summary of StrengthFinders
LearnerYou love to learn. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.
AchieverYou have a need for achievement. Every day is a new day to accomplish goals with tangible results.
StrategicYou are able to sort through the clutter and find the best route forward. This perspective allow you to see patterns.  You play out alternative scenarios, always asking, What if this happened? Okay, well, what if this happened?
InputYou are inquisitive. You collect information, words, facts, books, and quotations.  Yours is the kind of mind that finds a great many things interesting.  You read to add more information to your archives.
ArrangerYou are a juggler.  When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you love to keep all these factors in the air, aligning and realigning them until you are sure that you have arranged them arranged in the most productive order possible.  You are simply trying to figure out the best way to get things done.
Summary of Myers-Briggs #1 – INTJ
Summary of Myers-Briggs #2 – ISTJ
Introversion (I); Intuition (N); Thinking (T); Judging (J)People with an INTJ personality type tend to be confident, analytical, and ambitious in their behavior. They love to pursue knowledge and tend to be very logically minded. They are independent thinkers focused on solving the world’s problems.Introversion (I); Sensing (S); Thinking (T); Judging (J)People with an ISTJ personality type tend to be reserved, orderly, and practical in their behavior. They are self-sufficient and work hard to meet their obligations. They prefer to be alone or in small groups of close friends and may be quiet and reserved in large group settings.
A review of these results informs my
“after work life” decision-making.

May 13, 2019, I published Blooms to Blossoms first blog, Next Steps for Me and What’s the Point for You? A new door opened and my “after work life” provides me freedom to choose my own path and the responsibility to be true to myself and share with others.

Writing my blog (my “hobby-job”), for me, fulfills my list of elements for successful retirement/life.

**I have a purpose.
**I challenge my mind.
**I continue lifelong learning & personal development.
**I have fun.
**I have a social network…that continues to grow.

Cherry (2019) article Reasons to Learn More About Your Personality Type discusses several benefits of knowing your personality type.  In addition, she shares insight on the limitations of personality tests.

Personality tests, including real psychological assessments and the just-for-fun quizzes you find online, can be thought-provoking, insightful, and even fun. The key this is to not get too hung up on your results. Remember that while researchers have found that our overall personalities are surprisingly stable over time, our lives are not static. We grow and change as we learn new things and have new experiences, and researchers have found that our personalities can change too.

You can take a free short Meyers Briggs to find out your “type”.  You might find it, as Cherry states, “informative, fun, and helpful.”  Self-awareness and self-discovery can spark insight and aid in living and learning.

Weaving the Threads of Working, Living, and Learning

Lifelong learning is one of the three prongs of Blooms to Blossoms purpose.  My tagline is “integrating wellness, lifelong learning and personal development.”  The fabric of our being is a result of how these threads of our life intertwine. I find it interesting to…

**read how other educators and bloggers weave these life elements together, and
**see how my day to day living link these concepts. 

“Weaving involves crossing two threads, the warp and the weft, one
vertical and the other horizontal, one stretched taut and the other
undulating and intertwined with the first. To produce the textile it
is necessary for these two threads to be bound, otherwise each will
remain a fragile and fluttering potentiality…if the meeting of
opposites does not take place, nothing is created, for each element
is defined by its opposite and takes its meaning from it.”

–Dario Valcarenghi, Kilim History and Symbols, as quoted in ZATI The Art of Weaving a Life

Recently my work and my life crossed paths.  I came across Tanmay Vora’s blog QAspire.  The intent of Vora’s blog is to provide “insights, resources, and visual notes on leadership, learning and change.”  Vora published a blog, Mental Habits That Support Lifelong Learning. I share his blog below:

No significant learning happens only through consumption of insights. It happens when we act on what we learn, go through the experience, take risks and then develop insights through the lens of that experience.

Just like organizations need to build right mental models for creating a learning organization, individuals need to build mental habits that enable lifelong learning. After all, as Whitney Johnson puts it, the fundamental unit of change is an individual.

What are these habits? I summarized 20 lessons on lifelong learning in my 2011 post where I emphasized on risk taking, developing commitment, being a part of a learning community, stepping out of your comfort zone, learn from failures, reading, listening and seeking feedback from others on what we do.

Recently, I was re-reading John Kotter’s book “Leading Change” from HBR Press and came across a chapter dedicated to leadership and lifelong learning with a short summary of mental habits that support lifelong learning.


My husband is a business executive with 40 years of progressive experience in all aspects of Aerospace / Defense industry leadership. He is approaching a transition to his “encore career” in the next year or so and has shared his thoughts on leading and learning with me.  As with Vora’s blog I find that my husband’s insights also cross boundaries of working, living, and learning.

Who is a leader?

Tony Robbins defines a leader as a person of influence who uses their knowledge and experience to achieve a vision larger than themselves. In this context, all of us qualify. How a practitioner exerts this influence determines if it is successful or not. 

What are some examples of how a practitioner (you) apply the idea of Robbins definition?

Set a Personal Example. Demonstrate the behaviors you want to encourage in subordinates. Display competence, patience, humility, perseverance, emotional intelligence, compassion, and personal discipline before you call for this conduct from the people you lead.

Praise in Public, Reprimand in Private. No teachable moment remains in the memory of someone who has been humiliated. However, tempting it may be, confine your discipline and criticism of personnel to a room with a closed door. Treat every person with respect, dignity and professionalism and those courtesies will be returned to you.

Embrace Bad News: If you aspire to a leadership position and you dislike receiving bad news, consider a different vocation. No concealed problem was ever solved or prevented from reoccurrence. The people who really know what is going on in the organization must feel safe reporting setbacks. The proverb that problems unlike wine and cheese do not improve with age is true. Confront all problems and brainstorm solutions with your team without recriminations. Look for root causes and eliminate them. Permit failure and risk taking to a degree to encourage innovative thinking. Just do the risk analysis beforehand.

Manage Criticism. Abraham Lincoln was subjected to vicious criticism during his administration. He said: “If I were to read, much less answer all of the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for business. I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference”. Listen to your critics. Evaluate their words carefully and determine if they have value. Heed any comments that improve your situation. Disregard all that don’t and persevere. Develop personal courage that acknowledges criticism but doesn’t yield to it without good reason.

It’s Not About You, It’s About Them. The higher you rise in an organization, the easier it is to view everyone under you as sources of information, sustenance, and unquestioned loyalty. Just the opposite is true. Whatever your opinion of your personal attributes and capabilities, your team will determine your success or failure. Find the chinks in their wall and fill them. Share knowledge. Serve first, in order to be served.

Vora’s description of lifelong learning and my husband’s description leadership clearly cross boundaries of working, living, and learning.  Over the years his employees have shared their thoughts with me.  The few comments I share below show a leader who is a risk taker, humble, open to ideas, an information gatherer, and an astute listener.

Eric is the model friend.  In business, when your boss is also your friend, the definition of friend must change.  In this case, a friend is someone that brings out the best in you.  Eric brings out the best in me.  He put me in a job that gets me out front as “point man” where the adventure is.

He is a model of integrity.  To me the definition of integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching… doing the right thing when you do not have to and doing the right thing even when it hurts.

Eric is the model of kindness and grace.  Your friendship, your service and your leadership have made the company and all of us better.

My point is the skills beneficial to success at work and in life are similar.  Creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, leadership, information gathering, curiosity, reflection, etc. are habits of a lifelong learning.  Kindness, grace, integrity, and friendship are characteristics of a life well lived.

Lifelong learning provides opportunities to sustain and improve the quality of your life and your life with others. Continual learning not only promotes personal growth, mental and emotional wellbeing, it allows connections with a broader range of people. 

“Ancora imparo” (“still I am learning”) often attributed to Michelangelo originates much earlier. “The quote is actually from Seneca’s 76th Letter to Lucilius published in 65AD during the last year of the author’s life when he was almost 70 years old.  When one considers the age of the author in this letter advising a younger man it is a startlingly humble and at the same time, a heartening revelation. Learning is both difficult and wonderful.  And the discomfort that comes from learning is less welcome as we age. Yet life’s experiences teach us that to stop learning is to stop creating.”