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In May, eight women joined me for the inaugural meeting of the LeanIn Circle, Reinvent Your Life, that I created. It was among my 2017 goals to form this group with these amazing women. We are women who have been in leadership roles throughout our careers and who still strive for more out of work and out of life. We seek to inspire one another, to be purposeful and deliberate in how we how set goals, take on challenges and pursue what fulfills us.

In wanting more there is the undeniable undercurrent of needing less. Less stress. Less busyness. Less meetings that eat up time and sink initiative. Less must-do lists that we don’t control. The conundrum is that we want more out of life but we can’t get there while being overwhelmed by the endless tasks that steal time and energy. Who has not ended a day wondering what was actually accomplished by rushing from meeting to meeting? Our time can be a blur of preoccupation with low level results and little to no connection with what we are capable of doing.

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There has to be more to life than the daily grind. There is within us the urge to live productively, joyfully and abundantly. When a person admits their true desire it is often an emotional release for them followed by instant recognition from others that they “get it” and that they feel the same way. We carry within us who we are and what we want. Denying that, or not fully living that, harms us in a fundamental way. What we desire can be pushed down inside us for so long that we consider it defunct or no longer essential. Yet, it’s still there hidden in our quiet space waiting to be revived.

I named the Circle “Reinvent Your Life” because that is the call that beckoned me when I resigned from my career to be a full time writer, speaker and mentor/consultant. It takes guts to walk away from a job. But it takes more guts to reinvent yourself. I am a work-in-progress. I have my days of “what the hell was I thinking” and my moments of “who am I to think I am a writer worth reading.” It’s a solo act most days but I have my sight set on the future with each day being a consistent, deliberate step towards that future.

Truth be told, I was ill at ease in my career. Something nagged at me, a little voice that said “this is not really you.” I enjoyed my work immensely and found satisfaction in making change happen. I absolutely adored working with people who gave willingly and tirelessly and who inspired me. But I felt inauthentic. It was my job but not my heart and those two should be in sync. I spent years becoming a good leader and doing my work to the very best of my abilities. Yet at the end of any week I would find myself daydreaming about “what if…” That was my inner self, that pushed down part of me, that would not leave me alone.

Reinventing your life does not have to be a radical choice like quitting your job and starting over as I have done. (But it can be.) It can be changes within your current position or finding a new opportunity in your career that excites and reignites you and aligns with your talents. It can be adding activities to connect to your creative side. It can be standing up for what you deserve in your work or your personal life. It can be admitting that you are tired and stressed and you need to talk about it with someone who understands. It can also be, and must be, acknowledgement of who you are and what you most want.

That is the power of the women in my Circle. We have come together to support and lift one another. We are strong individuals but we need one another to ensure that we don’t forget that strength or lose sight of our intrinsic values. We have modeled our Circle on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Sandberg’s book has given rise to a revolution for women. There are more than 33,000 LeanIn Circles in over 150 countries around the world with the “mission to empower women to achieve their ambitions.” The need was always there. In the Circles, women are building the means to address that need through concerted, linked efforts.

I owe much to women who mentored me throughout my career. Women who took time over countless lunch, dinner and coffee gatherings to encourage me with their wisdom and experience. They were my inspiration to keep going during the times when I doubted myself. They prepared the way for me and I have always considered it my privilege to do the same for others. Establishing the Reinvent Your Life Circle is an important measure of my practice to be kind and considerate in my care of women around me. We need not be alone or afraid to be great.

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As a mentor, my responsibility is not to give answers but more importantly to ask questions so that mentees realize for themselves what matters to them. Having the right answer can be an exercise of memorization soon forgotten.

Seeking questions and exploring ideas opens us up to deeper learning and life-long retention. It fosters curiosity and interaction with others. The right answer can be the wrong answer if it is a dead-end to learning. I encourage you to stay open and willing to take not knowing something as an opportunity to grow.

~ Life ~

Life should not be divided into born, school, work, retirement, the end. Life is best lived as continuous reinvention. We should not worry that one day, before long, we will be lined up in wheel chairs at the end of a lawn at an old folks’ home waiting for bingo. Rail against that darkness! We were born to live and thrive. It is largely keeping our hearts in tune with what we love (and doing that) that predicts and ensures our happiness and longevity. It is never too late. The only regret will be in not having done so.

I have long loved the following life-affirming poem by Dylan Thomas. It speaks to the heart of my message today.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.