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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
Speaking Information at (727) 467-0202 or e-mail info@fawngermer.com

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Take Risks

Don’t be afraid to take risks. If there was ever a point in time that I said, “No, I don’t know enough, I’m not ready, I can’t,” I would have missed out on the next experience. It is all about the chain of experiences. Each one has enabled the next one. In totality, they have given me such a rich grouping of skills that I draw from every day. You can learn whatever it is you have to learn. You find the experts and the people who are going to support you.

Never give up. In those times I’ve had where I think, “There is no way that I can do this,” I step back and find the people who have lived through valuable experiences and I get the answers.

You can get past whatever barrier you have in your mind. Just step back and get the big picture to find the answers. The answers always come.

I have always had to know how to adapt to change. It starts with you. You can’t find the answers on the outside. You have to know yourself, take care of yourself and find ways to validate what you do. When you start looking for validation of who you are or of your accomplishments from people on the outside, you will always be searching for something you will never find.

I have a lot of humility in my life. A lot of things have brought me to my knees. When those things happen, I realize how much I should give back to those who have given me so much. I think how much I owe to the ones who are coming up behind me. There is accountability and responsibility with what I have today. There is a purpose, and that purpose is to give back.

Set Boundaries

I learned to set boundaries. Boundaries are really about making it clear to people that there are things that are really important to you personally—and not being afraid to say it. It is not about the quantity of hours you work, but the quality of hours you put in. It is okay to say, “I can’t do this unless we trade this out or move the deadline on this.” I used to take it all on. I used to work really late and start really early, but I
don’t think that was the most effective use of my time. I would have gotten a lot more done by setting boundaries and limits. An example is that I play tennis on Monday and Wednesday nights, and I have to be gone from the office by six-thirty—period. That is a simple example of setting limits that define a capacity for doing quality work. I am open to others doing that because of my own experience with it.

Another thing I learned is, the last 3 percent is not worth it. I used to believe that, unless something was perfect, it was flawed. That is not true. What is important is sifting through the garbage, identifying the most important elements and delivering those. Anyone who operates as if the last 3 percent matters will 100 percent fail today. The speed of decision-making and the quantity of decisions that have to be made are so vast now. There is no room for overdeliberation. Identify the most relevant actions and do them very well. Have the ability to triage a business problem. Forget about the wasteful 20 percent and go after that core 80 percent that matters the most.

As women, we are gatherers. Men are hunters. But we gather it all, we pull it all together. We spot every detail and men go for the kill. Frankly, I think we can all go for the kill instead of doing too much gathering. We can get lost looking for the herbs when we don’t have a steak to put them on.

I read somewhere that the happiest people are those who can appreciate things around them. I now appreciate my health and my friends and family and getting up every day. I have a heightened sense of why those things are important in my life. I still work hard. I thrive on working hard. But I am working a whole lot smarter and am really balancing it with a lot of fun.

Forgiveness

It all comes down to forgiveness — forgiving others and forgiving yourself. That’s where a true reset occurs. Because once you let go, you grow.

“Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.” I heard that quote years ago, and now everyone from Suzanne Somers to Tony Robbins is claiming it. Since everyone is claiming the words, you might as well do it, too. Hang onto them, because they so succinctly sum up the “why” of forgiveness. It isn’t about the other person. It’s about you. Every anger, misgiving, or resentment you cling to hurts you, not the person who wronged you.

Once you let go of it for yourself, you can often take the step of forgiving in total. You can then forgive the other person for his or her sake.

My ex-husband and I talk almost every week, and we’ve been divorced for more than twenty years. There were some deep hurts that led to our split, but if I’d hung onto them, I would have completely lost someone I loved. My life would be emptier without him. So he has my complete forgiveness — and believe me, I’m sure he has had to do some forgiving, too.

Why choose animosity and resentment when you can let go, move on, and rebuild something new and different?

You can forgive someone that you never want to see again. I’ve done that. It comes down to a question of how much you want to let that person re-victimize you in absentia. Do you think that client’s former boss would have felt bad about having scarred that woman for so many years? Pretty doubtful. So who was she punishing?

Have you been punishing yourself by getting stuck in the past? Let go. Move on.

C. S. Lewis summed it up best: “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

 

My Reset

It was pretty clear I was desperate for something, and looking back on that time, I see that the weeks preceding my reset were filled with an almost frantic search for some miracle cure.

Right after the January 4 anniversary of my mom’s death, I jetted off for Dallas, where I would keynote for Deloitte at its 800-bed hotel and state-of-the-art meeting center. Sadly, it was the same hotel where I’d keynoted a year earlier — the day after my mom died. There I was, a year later, in the same place with the same people, my heart and soul in an even darker place because I now knew the crippling dimensions of grief.

It was my darkest moment. I was lost — truly lost.

Hot coals weren’t enough. Nothing was enough. I had hit my emotional rock bottom.

I contemplated getting antidepressants, but it was there in Dallas, in my deepest moments of despair, that it hit me.

I suddenly knew exactly what I had to do.

I’d pull a Forrest Gump. On the beach.

I would put myself back together.

I made the decision at 2 a.m. that Sunday morning, and I came up with a plan. I flew home that afternoon, and I started walking the next day. I was ready for my reset.

It was the most significant thing I have ever done in my life. It was my greatest gift to myself.

Pack Up and Go to Reset

There comes a time when you pack up and go. You apply for a new job, you get it, and you start a new adventure.

But do you always have to move on in order to reset?

What if you aren’t ready?

What if you don’t know what you want to do next?

What if there are financial considerations that can’t be ignored? Or if there is so much going on at home that a job change is out of the question?

Is there any way to salvage a job or career that may be dragging you down? Maybe it’s because the company is in turmoil, or because a new boss isn’t all that great or your coworkers are nasty or negative, or because you’ve gotten bored.

You may have legitimate reasons for wanting to stay put. You’ve got too much invested. You’re too close to retirement. You like your company, but you’re getting bored with your actual job.

If your situation is not going to get better with the reset solutions in this chapter, open up to the possibility that reset, for you, may mean moving on. Sometimes you need a reset because your workplace is the problem — not your work. You are entitled to enjoy what you do, and when you realize that the bad days are outnumbering the good, you need to take action.

But for many, there is the possibility of a reset at work, where you stay put, but you change what you can change. There are things you can do when your profes­sion fills you with purpose, but your work environment doesn’t.

Workaholic

There is a huge difference between someone who is passionate about work and someone who is a workahol­ic. A workaholic can’t take a time-out because that break makes them uncomfortable. Off duty, they compulsively check their phones for e-mails, texts, or other work prompts. They pride themselves on working through their illnesses and never taking vacations. Control is so important to them that they can’t let go or delegate to others because they are certain that anyone else will screw things up. They do all of this at the expense of liv­ing. Family is supposedly important, but when it comes to choosing a baseball game or recital over more work, they choose work. Or they take work with them so they can be present physically, but they’re definitely not there emotionally.

A Wayne State University study on the personality traits of workaholics found that a lot of workaholics have an unrealistic sense of self-importance regarding who they are and what they are accomplishing. They believe that, without their contribution, everything will fall apart at work. They also have an unrealistic need for perfection that makes them need to achieve it in order to view themselves as valuable or worthwhile.

Working Like you are Working

Are you happy working like you are working? Because your relationship with work is a choice. Most of us have to do something in order to pay the bills. But just how deep we dive in is something we control, with choices about how much we want to work or how much we spend (requiring us to get the right-sized paycheck).

Don’t buy into the whole martyr hierarchy, where the person who works twice as many hours is twice as important. Not true. What does it mean to humanity when one person spends 60 hours scouring purchase orders and another spends only 40? Is the 60-hour person more critical to the fabric of humanity? No.

You can’t assume the person who works fewer hours than you is a slacker any more than that person can assume you’re out of balance and one-dimensional. And vice versa.

For some, work is what provides inner balance.

My father worked as a pharmacist until he was 84. He already had what he wanted and needed, but I know that the final years of his career kept him alive because his work gave his life purpose. He didn’t want to retire.

The Best Way

It is pretty common for people to think that their way is the best way. That you should react and respond as they would. That what motivates them should motivate you. So if you are more motivated to work than your colleagues, don’t judge them, because you don’t want them to judge you, either. Your right to work a 60-hour week is only as valid as the next person’s right to work 40.

I don’t want to show you how to reset your life so yours can be just like mine. You don’t need to be living my life — I do. I don’t need to be living your life — you do.

You don’t need to be living according to anyone else’s definition of purpose and fulfillment. The only thing that matters is what you think and how you set your boundaries to honor what matters to you.

There are always times in life when we are way out of balance. Just ask an air conditioner repairman in the middle of August or the parent of a newborn. That’s how it goes. But over time, if you realize you are living in a single dimension and that is not enough, look inside yourself. Are you deliberately making choices about how you are spending your life? Have you set the necessary boundaries that can give you more control? Are you living by design or by default?

Work

I will often ask my audience members to raise their hands if they check their work e-mail after they go home at night. At least three-fourths of the hands go up. Just as many say they do it at least twice. At least half say they do it three or more times.

Because of technology, it is possible to work 24 hours a day — and still not be done.

Why do we do this?

It’s hard to pull away from something that does not stop pulling at you, and the world is filled with jobs that will not quit pulling. I just moderated a panel and asked my panelists if the number of hours they work has changed much over the years. One woman said she’s kept the same hours throughout her career: from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., then from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Every day. That’s 15 hours a day. She loves her work.

If you love your work and your hours, keep doing what you are doing. No need to reset.

But if it feels like you are missing something by working too hard or too long, a reset may well be in order.

My Purpose

Back when I was struggling so hard to become a published author, I joined a women’s group that would meet and process our lives. At one gathering, we bandied about our ideas for the topic du jour when I blurted, “I don’t know what my purpose is.”

I had quit my job to write a book, yet I could not find a publisher. If I was not going to be Fawn Germer, the author, who was I going to be?

“I don’t know mine, either,” said my friend Teresa.

“Me, either,” said Pam.

“I don’t know,” said Tami.

One by one, every one of us admitted we did not know our purpose in life. As we went around the room, I felt certain that Bette Haase would be able to enlighten us, seeing as how she had ovarian cancer and was taking chemo. Certainly that experience had shown her the meaning of life.

But when her turn came, Bette shrugged.

Over the next year, we all walked our paths. I persevered and found a publisher. Teresa went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Tami went back to school to become a nurse anesthetist. Pam got a new job.

And Bette? She kept living. She hiked, she traveled, she laughed.

She was there for my first book signing, a gift of presence that I know drained her. I visited her in the hospital the day before leaving on my book tour. It was the first time she acknowledged she knew she was dying.

When I finished my tour, Bette was starting her decline. I was so impressed by how her family had closed ranks around her. Each of her seven siblings took a weeklong shift in her caregiving. Her son was by her side the whole time.

I wrote her obituary. And when I wrote it, I thought back to the day when we were all stumped about our purpose in life. Throughout her illness, Bette dove into her life.

I remember going kayaking with her to Caladesi Island State Park on a beautiful December day. She dove into that frigid water.

“Are you crazy?” I shouted. No Floridian in her right mind would ever do that, but she did.

“It’s beautiful!” she shouted back.

The way she lived — really lived — taught me the simple answer to our purpose in life.

Your purpose in life is to live your life.

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