World Mental Health Day and the Power of Play

Today is a great day to celebrate the importance of mental health. While I was hosting the Rural Futures Podcast, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Howard Liu about mental health. Dr. Liu serves as the Vice Chancellor for Faculty Development at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is also the Director of Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. Even better than his training, experience and titles? Howard is a dedicated husband, father and all around super-cool human being!

Part of the interview focused on mental health disparities and shortages in rural areas; however, we also talked about the importance of fun and play for both children and adults.

I included a portion of the transcript that focuses on the importance of play and taking risks below. You can hear the entire episode by visiting the Rural Futures Podcast web site:

Rural Futures Podcast Episode 14: Psychiatrist Howard Liu intersects mental health, workforce, access

Dr. Connie:  I do a lot of work, of course on strategic foresight and futuring, but part of that is creativity, part of that is innovation. And it’s really hard for people to be creative when they’re just focusing on a to-do list and a massive amount of activity, rather than being very intentional and using discernment on what’s really important, what can you say no to, what’s maybe not in your wheelhouse, how do you engage a team around these things and create different systems that really support the ability to be creative? So many organizations say, yes, we want to be innovative, we want to really be competitive in the future. But they really aren’t designing the lives of their employees to be that way because innovation does start with the individual.

Dr. Liu: It really does. I think it does start with the individual, but I think it’s fed by the culture, or stifled by the culture.

(laughing)

Dr. Connie: No, that’s true! That is absolutely right.

Dr. Liu: And I know you’re someone that’s a futurist, and so you really think ahead, and I have no doubt that you found ways to really carve out that time. I believe in two things. As a child psychiatrist, and also as a parent of four kids myself, I think that adults often don’t take the time to play in the same way that kids do. And there’s something that, I don’t know if you grew up watching Mr. Rogers, but Mr. Rogers actually was quite a profound thinker, as it turns out, and then one thing he said is sort of like, play is the work of childhood. You really are trying things out, you’re processing things. We notice in kids who have been through traumas, well, often you’ll see in the play some of the terrible things they’re trying to work out, and what happened, and reenact, and so on.

I believe that for all adults, you have to have some time to play, but that entails two things. One is, it takes some risk, right? Because if you’re going to play, you might mess up, because you’re probably not the world’s expert in that thing, you’re sort of processing in the back of your mind, or balancing off a couple other people.

And then, second thing is then, if it’s going to be risky, you have to be ready to fail, and that’s have to be okay, right, with the organization, with your unit, with your boss, whatever, or your colleagues. And I think for a lot of people, those two things are hard, because it’s a little bit of a risk, and you don’t want to put yourself out there.

I recently read a book. It’s about the founding of Pixar, and written by Ed Catmull, the president, I believe, and it really said the manager’s job is not to prevent risks, is to make it safe to take them, and I really like that, because it makes you really think about, well, as a leader, am I stifling creativity by saying, oh, you messed up here, do better next week, or do I say something different, wow, it looks like you really put yourself out there. Maybe it didn’t work this time, but I’d love to see you keep trying new things. I think there’s different ways we can approach it, and kind of buffer that risk for our employees and our colleagues.

Dr. Connie: So the culture norm is to be so serious, and really stiff.

Dr. Liu: Right.

Dr. Connie: It’s nice to see some of that changing that, but, a lot of the high level leaders I’ve coached, that’s the thing that is missing from their lives so often, and part of coaching them is to encourage them and help them create some time, and make that time to actually play. I mean, there’s nothing more refreshing than a snowball fight with your kids, even. Go sledding, go do these things.

Dr. Liu: Yes.

Dr. Connie: They’re actually fun, or if you were a musician and you haven’t picked up your instrument, like you had mentioned earlier, for years, reengage that part of your health because it really brings out the best in you. And when I used to say that, people would look at me like, oh my gosh, she’s talking about having fun, and we’re talking about leadership and futuring and all these things, but then, it’s like it clicked, and people are like, okay, now how do I do that? Because it was really lacking from their life, but I always say fun is the fountain of creativity, but it’s also the fountain of youth.

Dr. Liu: I have this philosophy about workforce, future workforce, future people in any field, and it’s that, kinda like what you were saying, you can’t just do the routine things if you’re going to flip something, there’s not enough people in any field, right? So otherwise, in 25 years, guess what? Exact same thing, if we’re going to use this same approach. But there’s some science, and I do believe there’s some art to it as well. So my first job in this department was, the only formal title I had was to help build a psychiatry interest group, which was medical students, and there was only one in the interest group, so it wasn’t very successful.

(laughing)

Dr. Liu: But I had in my fellowship, encountered a really outstanding mentor. Her name was Dr. Paula Rauch, who’s a child psychiatrist. And when were trying to learn development, normal childhood development, she would invite all the fellows over, there were nine of us, to her house for breakfast for I think six or nine weeks. And we’d go sit around the table, and she’d serve us a very simple breakfast —just bread and peanut butter, and whatever, and we’d talk about development. And one of the things that we then did was go to see a preschool where her kids had gone to school, and then  just see what they did in their sort of all day recess. And that experience always stuck with me for two things because one is that it takes a little courage to open up your home to trainees, or to colleagues, whatever. It’s an extra step, but two was I never have forgotten it, and I think others have never forgotten it either. Many of us remember it fondly as one of the best parts of our training. And I realized that when I started here, and there’s one person going into psychiatry, and that we needed to do better than that. And so I started hosting things in my home, and we’d invite students and faculty, and you really see outside of the work environment, people really let their hair down. It’s best if they can show up in their shorts or something, and it’s casual, and they can just relax and get to know each other, and I think as the students get to know the faculty, then I think that we’re also sort of unconsciously sort of auditioning them as future colleagues. They’re looking at their lives, and sort of auditioning their lives. Is this the kind of person I want to be? Is this the kind of balance I want to pursue? And as it turns out, the latest study on why students choose psychiatry, work life integration and balance is one of the top three factors. So the only way you could show that is definitely not in your office, but by showing them that thing. Maybe it’s piano, maybe it’s something different. It needs to be something that gives them some sense of who you are outside of work.

Dr. Connie: Oh, absolutely, you get to see the real person. I mean, in so many ways, when we go to work, it’s not really a facade. I mean, I think for some people it is, but you don’t see the family that they’re raising. You don’t see who they are, or the hobbies they have. You don’t see them as a whole person. My previous position before coming to the Rural Futures Institute, I did a lot of team building at the Kimmel Education and Research Center, which is on Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City, Nebraska. We’d have companies come and we’d do things like Iron Chef cook-offs.

Dr. Liu: That’s great.

Dr. Connie: Real active, very fun, but also very purposeful types of activities. It’s the same thing you’re saying, I mean, so often, a lot of team conflict is because people just really don’t know or understand each other outside of the meetings they sit in. So how can we break down those barriers, really understand people as people, and build that camaraderie, but also that compassion, and real like for other people. And we’re more apt to do that if we know them and appreciate who they are rather than judging who they are.

Dr. Liu: That’s really well said.

Dr. Connie: You are a leader in your space. I’d love to know more about your leadership philosophy, your style. There’s a psychologist that said, with any organization, it’s always good to be half in and half out, and what he meant by that was that if you have six different jobs, no one really feels like you’re part of that organization because you’re running around, and you’re not really present, right? And people understand that, right?

Dr. Liu: So you have to be at least half-time in, doing that thing, where people see you, they recognize what you do in that work and that kind of thing. But this goes back to your earlier point about creativity. You have to find that thing, you have passion area, and you have to carve it out. And it may not be there right away, but however you get there, that’s what’s going to create vitality for you in the workplace, is having that thing and for some people, that’s research. For some people, that’s community engagement. I really enjoy that piece, for example. For some people, it’s something different, right. It might be building infrastructure, or could be anything, publishing. But having that space to really carve that out, is so important. And then not being too committed to too many things is very important as well. So that was one principle. Another one that someone told me was, think about your portable skill set, because in a career, you may wear six, ten, many different hats, but what do you take away from each, and have you grown? And as I’ve thought about my career, I came in, again, really just as a clinician, which is a great thing, but I didn’t really know anything about leadership, and so a lot of what I’ve learned has been on the job. But I do try to be intentional about it, and try to write some things down. At some point I realized, there’s some major gaps of what I do and don’t know. I know a little bit on managing budgets, but I really don’t know about healthcare economics in the same way as someone who’s running a hospital does, and if I’m going to ever do clinical leadership, I should probably learn something about that. So for example, last year, I enrolled in an executive MBA program that’s sponsored through our hospital. Having those relationships, what Gallup would say, is the “friend at work” is so important. It’s so easy to neglect, but if you don’t have it, I really feel it So it’s the people that you can go and really debrief with, that aren’t doing it because of your role, but really, they genuinely, you like each other, that you can share your woes, and they can share theirs, that kind of thing. You can’t just create it, you have to find it. You have to carve that time out, and then you have to nurture it once you have those people. I’ve been lucky to have those people here, and it’s so important just for attention and for your own vitality as a leader.


Howard and I had a great time during the interview (I left the “laughing” element of the show notes in tact so you could literally read about the fun we had while talking).

Play and laughter need to be a bigger part of our human experience. We have forgotten not only that it feels good but that it is also good for us, our families, our communities and even our businesses!

This whole idea was the basis of creating a futuring school (F * School) for women in midlife. This creation has come from my many years of coaching clients and working with businesses who have all lost their ability to create their desired futures and engage with their world because fun is typically a distant memory. It may sound a little wild, which you all know that I am totally fine with being. The first module is going to focus on…FUN! Yes, you read that right…the first module is going to focus on the power of play and fun as the foundation for creating your future (while enjoying the present). We will explore a bit about of the science associated with the importance of fun. Then, we will get into into practical steps designed transform life through fun and fulfillment.

If you have any interest in learning to have more fun, please add your email to our list and you will be one of the first to receive the enrollment information. The fun lessons will be absolutely free! The more fun we can get out there into the world, the better!

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Enjoy yourself today and everyday, and remember to…

Go Wild & Have Fun!

-Dr. Connie

Freedom in Your 40’s: Is It Time for A Change?

My new favorite book is, “The Freedom Journal:  Accomplish Your #1 Goal in 100 Days,” by John Lee Dumas (aka JLD).  John Lee Dumas hosts the EO Fire business podcast.  I listen to EO Fire every week, and I really enjoy how JLD continuously points out the importance of focusing on specific goals and taking action.  He wrote the Freedom Journal to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals.  I had to get a Freedom Journal to experience the 100 day transformation for myself.

If you have been following my posts on AskDrConnie.com, you know that I prefer the word “Intention” instead of goal.  Here’s why:

Intentions influence our actions and behaviors. If intentions are established with awareness, truth, and meaning, they help us experience a life filled with passion and personal fulfillment. Lack of understanding around our true intentions (what many people call goals) often causes frustration and confusion, which is one reason people do not achieve their goals. Many goals are written; however, they are not established with honest intent. It’s time to get brutally honest about your true intentions so you can achieve authentic goals.

Intentions have the power to strengthen your “Inner Leader” and help you move forward in a meaningful way as long as they represent what you truly want to accomplish and experience. Honest intentions, based on personal fulfillment and purpose, can also keep you motivated and focused while measuring progress and celebrating success.

Life in our 40’s can be a fascinating time of change.  Oftentimes, it is important for women over the age of 40 to reassess their goals, dreams and true intentions.  A few questions I encourage women to ask themselves:

  1. How do you define success?
  2. How are you using your intuition to guide your decisions?  Has it kicked into overdrive because it is trying to lead you into a new direction?
  3. What do you want to experience?

Sometimes, it is time for a change.  The great thing is that you have the freedom to decide to make the changes and adjustments that best suit you.  You just need to make sure you are headed for the right change!

The Freedom Journal is my new favorite book.  It is a tool I can use to clarify my intentions and help keep my busy life focused.  I will keep you posted on my 100-day journey and a few other adventures (my trip to Wyoming, etc.) as well!

Go Wild with Your Freedom!

-Dr. Connie

SMARTER Intentions and Authentic Goals: A Coaching Guide from AskDrConnie.com

All true intent is realized.  This simple yet profound truth is usually overlooked when people set goals.  If you really don’t intend to lose 15 pounds (you just want to lose weight without really trying), then don’t set a goal around weight loss.  New Year’s resolutions are often short-lived because they are not true intentions.  I am a believer in setting intentions, so I developed a coaching tool to help people set SMARTER Intentions rather than soulless goals.

What we truly intend will happen. Actions support honest intentions; therefore, all true intent is realized. Intentions become our outcomes. Intentions influence our actions and behaviors. If intentions are established with awareness, truth, and meaning, they help us experience a life filled with passion and personal fulfillment. Lack of understanding around our true intentions often causes frustration and confusion, which is one reason people oftentimes do not achieve their goals. Many goals are written; however, they are not established with honest intent. It’s time to get brutally honest about your true intentions so you can achieve authentic goals.

Intentions have the power to strengthen your Inner Leader and help you move forward in a meaningful way as long as they represent what you truly want to accomplish and experience. Honest intentions, based on personal fulfillment and purpose, can also keep you motivated and focused while measuring progress and celebrating success.

What we truly intend will happen, so I encourage my coaching clients to create SMARTER Intention Statements that support their personal vision. So, what exactly are SMARTER Intentions? They are statements designed to help you achieve your vision while holding your accountable and having some fun along the way because they are Super Cool, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound, Evolved, and Rewarded.  If you are looking to start the new year with authenticity, download my free SMARTER Intentions Coaching Guide to set your true resolutions for 2016:

AskDrConnie.com 2016 SMARTER Intentions Coaching Guide 12.31.15

Looking to kick-start 2016 with a supportive network of women?  Join me and a group of amazing female leaders at Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast for New You and [Re]New You:  A Women’s Retreat.  This amazing immersion experience is designed to help women who are looking to reinvent themselves in 2016.  We will work together to uncover your true intentions and chart a course for an amazing 2016 and beyond.  The weekend will be full of great activities ranging from painting and yoga to cooking classes, visioning and coaching.  Join us for a fabulous weekend focused on the future of you!  Contact Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast to register today!  Click on the image below to learn more and register for the retreat.  Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast

Go Wild with Your True Intentions and Have a Happy New Year!!

-Dr. Connie

Can You Be Happier in 21 Days? Yes, You Can!

Do you believe that you can become persistently happier in just 21 days?  Research by Shawn Achor and others studying the power of positive psychology shows that you can!

My interest in what I call, The Happiness Trend, continues to grow for good reason.  Happiness makes a difference!

I am really excited to be delivering a keynote, Go Wild:  Be Happy! on Friday, November 21st at the Ag-ceptional Women Conference in Norfolk, NE (Register today at:  northeast.edu/Agceptional) that combines the science of happiness with practical application people can use personally, with their families and within their organizations and communities.

My prediction:  The Happiness Trend will continue to gain steam as people look for more fulfillment and fun in their lives.  I challenge all of you to take part in the pursuit of happiness for good reasons, such as:

  • Happy employees are 31% more productive
  • Happy people have stronger immune systems
  • Happy people have stronger social connections
  • Happiness increases self-esteem. self-confidence and creativity

Researchers continue to link the power of brain science to better lives, including performance in business and in school. Happiness also impacts our family and social lives.  Check out Shawn Achor’s TED Talk, The Happiness Advantage:  Linking Positive Brains to Performance, to learn more!

Be You and Do Something Cool by Going Wild with Happiness!

-Dr. Connie

Easter is Awesome!

My family is winding down our fantastic Easter weekend. We found lots of eggs, and had fun spending time outside in the sun. The lovely rain made everything seem clean again, which is such a great reminder of the true purpose of Easter.

My daughter’s favorite part of Easter was the candy! Jim’s favorite moment was taking a nature walk, and my son’s favorite moment was finding an Easter Egg in his room. My favorite part was remembering that all is forgiven because of a special sacrifice that was made many years ago. Easter is a great time to reflect on the past but also let go to make room for a new and even brighter future.

Thank you Lord for all our blessings and for a fresh start!

Go Wild with Easter!
-Dr. Connie

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Megatrend 1: The Rise of the #GigEconomy

The rise of the entrepreneurial individual, and what is currently referred to as the Gig Economy, will create new challenges and opportunities for distance learning administrators.  How can institutions of education help learners create value for traditional employers and for their individual brands?   If not as many people are investing in education to land a full-time job, what does this mean for higher education?

An emerging trend, the rise of global joblessness (International Labour Office, 2014), is supporting the growth of the Gig Economy while creating a need for the marketing of talents and skills in new and meaningful ways.   The number of large employers is predicted to shrink in the future causing people to find new and inventive ways to make a living.  The ability to sell, purchase and promote goods and services as well as individual brands on the Web has created a need for education to add value to the lives of learners in innovative ways.  People are increasingly defining success for themselves, which does not always include a college degree and a 9-5 job.  In many ways, it is now much cooler to be a successful start-up entrepreneur, famous blogger or YouTube sensation than a person working in a full-time job.

One common denominator will remain the same:  People need to be found on the already crowded World Wide Web.  They have to build their brands and levels of influence to strengthen both credibility and success.  Educational institutions should keep a close eye on the rise of businesses like Fiverr.com and the use of Twesumes (Twitter + Resume = Twesume = a resume in 140 characters or less) to land jobs or gigs (thus, the #GigEconomy).

Leaders should also consider building their brands, as well as those of students, faculty and alumni.  The rise of social networks and technology has enabled people to both learn and teach at anytime from any place.  These same tools have helped people create their own businesses and design their lives in ways that best suit them, which supports the Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend.  Life purpose is shaping everything from healthcare to education.

Starting the New Year with True Intentions!

 

It’s the perfect day for writing.  The snow is falling and the new year is full of positive energy and gratitude!

If you are contemplating your resolutions or goals for 2014, my updated SMARTER Intentions and Authentic Goals Coaching Guide may be of use.  It is designed to help get you started or to help you refine what you may have already established.

Intentions influence our actions and behaviors.  If intentions are established with awareness, truth, and meaning, they help us experience a life filled with passion and personal fulfillment. Lack of understanding around our true intentions often causes frustration and confusion, which is one reason people oftentimes do not achieve their goals.  Many goals are written; however, they are not established with honest intent.  It’s time to get brutally honest about your true intentions so you can achieve authentic goals.

Intentions have the power to strengthen your Inner Leader and help you move forward in a meaningful way as long as they represent what you truly want to accomplish and experience.  Honest intentions, based on personal fulfillment and purpose, can also keep you motivated and focused while measuring progress and celebrating success.

What we truly intend will happen, so I use this coaching guide to encourage my clients to create SMARTER Intention Statements that support their personal vision.  So, what exactly are SMARTER Intentions?  They are statements designed to help you achieve your vision while holding your accountable and having some fun along the way because they are Super Cool, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound, Evolved, and Rewarded.

The SMARTER Intentions and Authentic Goals coaching guide can easily be downloaded via the web by going to the University of Nebraska Extension Kimmel Education and Research Center Digital Commons site.  Simply click on: SMARTER Intentions and Authentic Goals.

Go Wild with your SMARTER Intentions and have a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

-Dr. Connie

 Happy New Year

Creating Awareness


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Creating awareness is one of the most important things you can to do achieve your Core Mission and Personal Vision; however, your must first be in a place where you want to be aware.  You must be open to personal change and innovation. 
In order to Decide what you are willing to commit to, you must be in a place where you want to create sustainable change.  This is a challenge for most of us.  Have you ever tried to break a bad habit or take on new habits that are good for you?  How well did trying work? 
In order for sustainable change to occur, we must quit trying and actually get into a place of action.  When we are ready for action, we can help us create clarity around what we truly want to achieve and help us develop structures to accomplish our goals. 
A first step towards creating awareness is realizing what is working in our lives and what is not.  We have to be very honest during this process, which is quite an emotional journey.  I have coached individuals through the awareness process.  Most of the time, deep introspection leads to deep emotion.  Emotions range from excitement and joy to sadness and fear.  The process should be emotional.  If it is not, a new journey of self-awareness is not occurring. 
Great leaders tend to be very self-aware.  They know themselves well and are honest about their strengths, weaknesses and life goals.  A high sense of self-awareness helps leaders focus with passion and confidence. 
Heightened awareness can be achieved by using a variety of techniques and tools, including visualizations, meditations, and powerful questions.  Perhaps one or the most powerful techniques is letting go of the things in life that are no longer working. 
It is essential for everyone to have self-forgiveness along their self-awareness journey.  Letting go helps us make room for the future we truly want create and experience.  Letting go helps us move towards the future.
It is a wonderful process of self-discovery and personal innovation designed to set the stage for new experiences and a more fulfilling life. Let’s begin expanding your awareness.  Be honest with yourself during this process.  It is the only way to create fulfilling and lasting change!

Creating Awareness

Creating awareness is one of the most important things coaches can do for their clients; however, clients have to be in a place where they want to be aware.  They must be open to personal change and innovation.  In my work, I define this as developing a client’s Inner Leader.
What in the world does this mean?  Clients must be in a place where they want to create sustainable change in their lives.  This is a challenge for most of us.  Have you ever tried to break a bad habit or take on new habits that are good for you?  How well did trying work? 
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from one of my peer coaches at International Coach Academy (ICA) is that we must quit trying and actually get into a place of action.  When we are ready for action, coaches can help us create clarity around what we truly want to achieve and help us develop structures to accomplish our goals. 
A first step towards creating awareness is realizing what is working in our lives and what is not.  We have to be very honest during this process, which is quite an emotional journey.  I have coached individuals through the awareness process.  Most of the time, deep introspection leads to deep emotion.  Emotions range from excitement and joy to sadness and fear.  The process should be emotional.  If it is not, a new journey of self-awareness is not occurring. 
While developing my coaching awareness and coaching skills through ICA, I made a number of connections between my research and coaching abilities.  For example, the first of my 10 Pillars of Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation is Know Thyself (self-awareness).  Great leaders tend to be very self-aware.  They know themselves well and are honest about their strengths, weaknesses and life goals.  A high sense of self-awareness helps leaders focus with passion and confidence. 
As a coach, I can heighten the awareness of my clients with a variety of coaching techniques and tools.  Techniques and tools include visualizations, meditations, and powerful questions.  Perhaps one or the most powerful techniques is help clients let go of the things in their life that are no longer working for them.  It is essential for clients to have self-forgiveness along their self-awareness journey.  Letting go helps us make room for the future we truly want create and experience.  Letting go helps us move towards the future.
It is a wonderful process of self-discovery and personal innovation designed to set the stage for new experiences and a more fulfilling life!
Lead Your Live with Passion!
-Dr. Connie