I laced up my worn out running shoes. Yes, these Nikes have seen better days, but don’t mistake their condition as a sign of my avid running. I just started challenging myself to run. I popped in my ear buds and tuned in to the first chapter of “Fear is My Homeboy” by Judi Holler. First chapter title: “Love Yo’ Self.”

Audible is the App you can download books to listen to them. It’s totally my JAM and a GAME CHANGER in my life of reading….I hate reading, but totally can listen.

I headed out for what I thought was going to be a goal of one mile, but two miles later I hit cancel on my Apple Watch running app. Why? Because I couldn’t stop listening to this book.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, I was also on a family vacation! Yep, you heard that right. I took a morning run, while listening to a professional development “growth” book on vacation!

And it was exactly what I needed.

Let me remind you family vacation was supposed to be in Disney this year, during a scheduled yearly closure for the organization I run. However, that all went to hell in a handbasket with Covid-19. Our Disney trip was replaced with a camping trip to Nashville Shores (which ended up being perfect). Not to mention this scheduled vacation came a week before my organization was given the green light (with many restrictions and guidelines) to reopen after a nearly four-month closure.

In just a short week, I felt tremendous professional and personal growth… during a family vacation. I want to share my vulnerability in hopes that it will provide other leaders the permission and encouragement to take what you need without guilt. 

Most of my vacations are spent eating what I want, spending money freely on souvenirs that will soon be at the bottom of a drawer, while also drinking way too many White Claws. I try to escape my responsibilities, I forget my roles, and get lost in the fantasy of living carelessly. However, this vacation was different. This vacation was intentional. This vacation I had a different mindset. This vacation would change all other future vacations. 

What did I do differently? What was I intentional about? What did I learn? Here are five things I did and learned that changed everything. 

  1. 60 minutes for me. Every morning I took an hour for myself to reflect and commit to something positive for myself. In that hour I drank my coffee outside, listened to a book, wrote down important thoughts, and went on a run.
Coffee with a view and my inspiring coffee mug. This mug reminds me of my purpose, my passion, and my why! Never drink coffee out of a boring mug!
  1. Intentionally intentional. I made an effort to be intentional with my children. I rode water rides with them (before I would have spent time laying in the sun), and I had conversations with them. Real ones with no distractions — no cell phone. My favorite moment was holding hands with my boys while walking to and from rides.
Did I mention that the yellow “body” slide gave me bruises??
  1. Schedule your work check-ins. I scheduled calls, emails, and Slack communication with staff during a certain period of time. Normally if I was sitting around or found time between activities I would check my phone, scan my emails, etc. I set boundaries for myself. In doing this, I knew I could only prioritize what was important and what could wait.
  1. Let go of guilt. On this trip, I let go of the guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t there to help my team. Guilt that was having fun rather than working. Guilt that someone else would have to rise up in my place. Guilt that I was taking time for myself. During that morning run while listening to “Love Yo Self,” I was able to find peace. First time ever.
  1. Reflect. Take time to reflect the big picture and your entire journey, not just the immediate events and obstacles in your current path. I realized I don’t take time to think about the growth and lessons learned and most importantly the accomplishments over the past eight years of founding my organization, Puzzle Pieces. Instead, I am daily reflecting on how to be better or what I could have done better with each task I complete along the way.

Covid has changed so much for many businesses over the last four months and will continue in the future. Leaders have been faced with challenges they never thought possible and made decisions every day that affect not just the health of others, but their culture. It’s been damn hard. It will continue to be hard. However, after this week of taking time to reset, regroup, and reflect while listening to “Fear is my Homeboy” has been exactly what I needed. I will use the fear I have in the future to channel momentum for action and a positive mindset. Fear will become the tool I use to become better and challenge me to fail forward. As the anxiety creeps back in as uncertainties seem to pile high, I will pop in my ear buds, lace up my shoes, and change my mindset on a run to know that “I can do this.”

I had to get me a new set of running kicks during vacation!

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