Eight cities in 6 provinces over the three months of May, June and September. Seventy workshop attendees and 70 one-on-one conversations. Hundreds of e-mail communications and over 100 Zoom calls required to facilitate the success of the programs in each city. Today, with all of this behind me, I am catching my breath and feeling a little untethered as delivering this program, Ignite Your Inner Leader, had been my focus for the past nine months. While certain elements of the program remain, the travel and face to face delivery has come to an end for this year.
Imagine receiving an offer to develop and deliver a leadership program designed specifically for women on your 71st birthday and knowing that this is absolutely an important YES. As I approached retirement, reluctantly, I decided to set an intention to mitigate the effects of what I assumed would be days of nothingness and boredom. The intention read as follows, “I am engaged and inspired”. I had no understanding as to what would happen as a result nor did I know how.
And yes, I am well practiced in the land of intentionality, especially when I am feeling somewhat at a loss or at odds with what the world thinks someone of my age ’should’ be doing. I simply do not buy in. I have chosen to be a leader of my own life and to breaks the rules or at least the expectations society might have.
When I heard Serena Williams discuss her ‘retirement from tennis recently with the press, and state simply that she is not retiring but evolving, I immediately thought, “now that is something I can embrace”. Evolution is a far more appropriate description of life in transition than retirement. So here I am, 72 years old, working in what I love, coaching women in leadership in ways I had never imagined, all because of an intention.
I share this journey with you for several reasons:
1.The Power of Intention
2.The importance of Self-Leadership
3.Evolution versus Retirement
The Power of Intention
I think there is an assumption that people of a certain age will retire, whether that is Freedom 55, the recommended age of retirement at 65, or simply the belief that retirement is a natural and desired phase of life. For many it is a desired state and I say great. And then there are many of us who simply cannot imagine what that looks like. Fortunately for me, as an entrepreneur for the last 25 years, I really have nothing to retire from as I am my business. And, if like me, you cannot see yourself retiring, if you see yourself embracing this phase of life differently, take the time to declare what it is you want. (Of course, this same principle applies regardless of what age you are or phase of life you find yourself).
Back to intentions. The essence of intentionality is to declare what it is you want without a focus on a specific outcome. My declaration, ‘I am engaged and inspired’ describes for me the feeling I want to have on a daily basis. Note it does not specify what exactly I am engaged in nor how it might actually happen. Intentions are open ended allowing a spectrum of possibilities to appear. And as a result of this intention, the ‘Universe’ is aware that I remain open for opportunities that will feed me emotionally and spiritually and presents options to me.
Of course, once intentions are set, one must then pay attention to what is being offered to you, the many different ways and means by which your intention can be answered. Being engaged and inspired, an intention first stated 4-5 years ago as I considered my ‘evolution’ has led me down many pathways including finding a studio locally where I can pursue my painting, teaching on-line courses through the pandemic, purchasing an e-bike and returning to cycling and designing/developing the leadership program I described above. It is a powerful force which I encourage everyone to embrace.
Leadership is one of those words that we throw around, a concept often mis-understood. Many people think of leadership as a role one assumes. I see leadership as a way of being.
Self-leadership is defined as “Leading your life, setting your course, following it and correcting it as you go.” (Amy Franco, 2021). It is an inside-out journey, a self-reflection and knowing of your beliefs, values and strengths and what you bring to the table. This is particularly relevant for women as we step into new fields and positions of responsibility, believing in ourselves and what we have to offer, without apology.
Intentionality is one of the significant underpinnings of self-leadership, helping you to discern and define how it is you want to play/work in the world. And if at this point in your life you want to step into leadership roles, remember this, do your own work first. Step within. Take time to self-reflect and examine what makes you tick. Realize that you are unique and that you are enough. Seize opportunities to develop and learn. Be curious. Most importantly be compassionate with yourself and begin re-programming your self-critic into your self-coach.
It serves no one for women to play small in the world. Look at where this has gotten us. It is time for women to find their voice, to know and celebrate themselves, to step into their power, and to assume the many different roles awaiting us. And it is time for the men in our lives to offer their support of us and to celebrate women stepping into leadership roles.
Admittedly the concept of evolution may be more relevant o folks of a certain age although Serena, evolving out of tennis and into new ventures, leaves the concept open for all of us. Isn’t evolution versus retiring from anything a much more positive intention to set. By my definition it implies ongoing growth, new directions, learning, curiosity and more versus the ‘R’ word which feels like stasis. I am sure there are a few folks who will disagree with me and that is perfectly fine. you need to choose the vocabulary that works for you. For now, I will simply set my intentions, and continue to evolve, trusting the Universe to offer some SIGNS and show me the way!
The leadership journey I have had the good fortune to facilitate for women across the country, has been a privilege for me, an enormous gift. It has certainly kept me engaged and inspired and facilitated my self-leadership, a journey which never ends, simply evolves.
Until next time…. Betty
Your thoughts and strategies are always welcome and if you care to share you can reach me at: [email protected]