Investing in Yourself

Regardless of the size or structure of your business or organization the inner condition of the key decision-maker determines the vitality and effectiveness of the venture. Simply stated, every organization is the lengthened shadow of the leader.

You are the goose that is tasked with laying the golden eggs. The difference between you and Aesop’s fabled goose is that you live in choice. The way you invest in your emotional and relational well-being will determine your production and even more importantly your production capability.

It starts inside you. Are you in right relationship with yourself? Are you taking time to renew and refresh your heart and mind? Are you curious and enthusiastic or tired and discouraged? Your inner condition will affect your health, effectiveness, and outer relationships. The cold dark days of winter can be a time of inertia and discouragement, or inspiration and renewal.

Here are nine things you can do this year to make a difference in how you show up:

1. Watch what you ‘feed’ yourself. Avoid negative news, gossip, and despairing attitudes.

2. Make inspiration, wisdom, optimism, and laughing a big part of your ‘diet.’

3. Rest. Get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night.

4. Reduce the time and energy you invest in people and projects that de-energize you.

5. Increase the time spent with people and projects that inspire and enliven you.

6. Identify, celebrate, and invest in the key people in your life.

7. Discover your areas of creative genius, e.g. painting, mechanics, carpentry, sculpting, cooking, music, etc.…, and bring more of ‘that’ into your life.

8. Go to trade shows, conferences and discover what’s new and exciting.

9. Begin and end each day with gratitude and positive thoughts.

The world is changing rapidly. There are many serious issues in politics, religion, business, and the environment. Anger, fear, aggression, and despair will continue to confront you every day. Life can be difficult at times and that isn’t about to change; however, you can change how you show up and how you handle life in the good and not so good times. You are a candle in the wind.

Invest in yourself and your ongoing growth and development. You do make a difference.

By Doug Lester

Gifting Your Self

Gifting Your Self

It’s that time of year when the act of gift giving takes on a heightened sense of meaning.

This year explore what it would mean if you were to give the ‘gift of your Self.’ What exactly does that mean?

The Meriam Webster dictionary says that a ‘gift’ is:
1. a notable capacity, talent, or endowment
2. something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.

To give of yourself without expecting anything in return can be challenging. To be aware of your notable capacities, talents, and endowments and give from those rich inner resources can be even more of a challenge for people who have never engaged in the deep dive of self-discovery.

Most of us live on the surface of our lives. Our small ‘s’ social self — the one most people see and interact with—buys gifts, attends seasonal functions and celebrations with family and friends, yet seldom shares from the deep inner treasury of its big ‘S’ Self.

To truly give the best of your Self, it’s first necessary to understand who you are at your core and what you uniquely can offer. Unfortunately, for many of us (particularly women), that deep knowing and awareness is not something that we are typically in touch with. Taking a proactive approach to defining who you are and what you want, has often been discouraged. We’re told and taught that thinking of yourself is selfish and self-centred—something we should avoid. Instead of digging deep and embracing Self, we push our ‘stuff’ aside in service of everyone else. Over time, the knowing and recognition we may have had about who we are and what we want at one time gets lost, hidden, or shrouded.

Decide to start shifting how you see yourself. Begin to view yourself as CEO of Self, Inc.—the key decision-maker in directing the development of your ‘Self, Inc.’ entity. Take your capacity to make a positive difference for Self and others to new levels. [Hint: it helps to replace the word ‘Self’ with your first name. For instance, I’m CEO of Cheryl, Inc. You would be CEO of ______, Inc.]

Start to get curious about what you uniquely have to offer. Begin to explore the rich resources of your unique FISC (Facts, Influences, SoulDNA, and inner Characters.) Take charge, and learn how you can use your FISC to improve your Difference Making Quotient—personally and professionally.

Here’s the bottom line. You cannot give to others, what you have not yet given to yourself. Start with giving the gift of your Self to yourself. Learn how to embrace and appreciate all the diverse parts and dimensions of yourself and your FISC. Commit to the life-long journey of Self-development. Then, in a healthier, transformative, and renewing way, engage in the act of ‘gifting your best and most authentic Self’ to yourself and others you meet along the path of life, work, and relationships.

By Cheryl Lester

Aha Moments

Aha Moments

The ‘Universe’ is teaming with serendipities and learning opportunities—let’s call them aha moments.

As the days grow shorter and another annual cycle moves toward completion, the pace can seem frenetic as you try to balance all the plates related to yourself, your work, family, community, and friends. Early mornings, late nights, deadlines, and personal and professional opportunities and challenges cause weeks to slip by and life to be a blur.

Since this may seem chaotic, the thought of adding yet another thing to your to-do list may not appeal to you; but, hear me out.

While these ‘aha’ moments may be pleasant, gentle, or funny, they can also be painful, harsh, or sobering. They may come as fleeting thoughts as you travel to work, or they may jump off the page or screen of an advertisement. Aha moments can be stirred by a colleague’s comment, or show up after an angry outburst, or as you struggle to recover after a night of over indulging. They may manifest through a beautiful sunset, or a walk through the woods. They may bubble up during a family meal or through a warm hug with someone you care about.

In these brief lucid moments, embrace the invitation to be more fully present and engaged in your own life and the choices you make.

These numinous, illuminating moments cannot be summoned by silence or activity. They are gifts, and whispers of possibility, emotional fireflies, inviting you to live with more awareness, fulfilment, and intentionality.

Serendipitous ‘aha’ moments can inform your choices—choices that shape who you are or want to become. Use them as affirmations about the difference you can make in the world for your Self and for others.

Each ‘aha’ moment, and the choice it may inform, is part of the great unfolding of your life. The Universe is constantly expanding, evolving, and transforming, and invites you to participate. You are invited to show up fully and experience your own expansion, evolution, and transformation.  First of all, notice, then take steps to respond to ‘aha’ moments.

Make your experience even more meaningful by preserving those special ‘aha’ moments. Take note of the them through doodling, journaling, or by drawing something that represents the ‘aha’ moment. Take time to celebrate the ‘gift’. Reflect on how the ‘aha’ can help direct your attitudes and actions in life, work, and relationships.

Next time a serendipity or fleeting thought gives you a nudge to be more or do more, don’t ignore it. Accept it as a gift and pause and ponder as you say to yourself, “Aha!”

By Doug & Cheryl Lester

Learn more about Difference Makers Circle.

Shifting My Perspective

As I expressed my gratitudes on Thanksgiving Day, I realized that for the past year I had been focusing too much time and energy on my Circle of Concern rather than my Circle of Influence. I have shifted my perspective and reduced the noise so that I can make a more positive difference.


A Discovery Approach to Addiction

Discovery Approach to Addiction

We think it is time for a very different way of looking at addiction.

If you are struggling you do not have to stay stuck.

We invite you to explore a different way of taking action on your addictions, trauma, coping, grief, potential, and relationships. No matter how many books you read, meetings you attend, conversations you have, or intentions you set, nothing will change until you do something more, different, or better than you’ve been doing.

We are not experts in substance abuse. Our expertise is in Self-leadership.

Over the last 50 years we have had many personal experiences with addiction in its many forms. We’ve sat down to Christmas dinners wondering if, and when, a family member would arrive. We have watched loved ones be consumed by a never-ending need for more of their drug of choice. We’ve attended too many funerals where addiction and isolation led to despair and tragedy. We are writing because we know it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Through our coaching and learning we have developed a set of Steps that will help you. They will help you become more aware and more effective in life, work, and relationships. Ultimately the goal of our work is to help you live with increased awareness and effectiveness, making a positive difference for self and others.

The medical model states that addiction is a brain disease. We disagree. We believe addiction is primarily a soul dis-ease — a shrouding of your SoulDNA™ by the facts, influences, and inner characters of your life.

The irony is that the more successful you become the less sustainable a surface approach to life, work and relationships becomes. Rigid routines and constant distractions feud over your attention. Neither of these choices create any inner peace.

The Self-Leadership Discovery Approach is not quick or easy. It takes time to explore the underlying experiences and influences that have led you into the danger zone.

As you increase your awareness of the stress in your life and the ways you seek excitement or relief, you will begin to realize that many addictions are clean and sparkly but just as deadly as opioids. By looking inside, you will discover the many ways that addiction tricks all of us, and you, into trading pleasure for happiness.

First, let’s start with a simple definition of addiction. An addiction is any habit-forming behaviour that releases energy, relieves pain, and provides distraction, thereby reducing your awareness, effectiveness, and relationship with self and others.

Every addiction diminishes a person’s awareness and freedom. Some addictions are just a waste of time and money. Many have damaging effects on your health, wealth, and your personal and professional relationships.

The work of Self-leadership is to discover your essence and allow your inner light to shine. The goal is not to control your addiction, but to free your potential. That will lead you on a very different journey.

We invite you to begin a discovery quest so you can increase your capacity to be a positive difference maker for self and others.

By Doug Lester

Purposeful Pause


Life has a way of getting our attention – an illness, a storm, a traffic accident, a delay with a project, staff changes, developments in the marketplace, relationship dynamics, new regulations. Each time that your life and plans are re-arranged you have choices.

·       You can push ahead as if nothing has changed;

·       You can become angry, frustrated and defeated; OR,

·       You can accept the pause as an opportunity.

People who make a difference choose a positive point of view. They see interruptions as part of the natural flow of life and instead of fighting ‘what is’ they pause, breathe deep, and explore ‘what is trying to happen’ in life, work, and relationships.

Over time, masters of self-leadership don’t wait for the imposed pause. They create their own spaces for increasing awareness.


The Pause is both a skill and a practice. As a skill, it involves specific behaviours that shift awareness, release impediments, increase energy flow, activate deep knowing, and allow Self to lead. As a practice, it is a commitment to pausing each morning and evening and several times during the day. There also much to be gained by having longer purposeful pauses several times during the year.

Summer holidays, long weekends, travel, production changes, off-peak times, are not just delays. These are opportunities to take a purposeful pause.

With practice, pauses can be so integrated that they take very little time and can be accommodated into any environment or life circumstance. Whether you are headed for the boardroom or the battlefield, on the beach with family, or on a gurney headed for the operating room, a deep breath, letting go of judgement, cynicism, and fear, affirming your connection with the Energy of Life, and connecting to the emerging future with optimism and curiosity will allow life to flow for you and positively impact all those in your immediate Circle of Influence.

Go for a walk. Sit in a boat and drift with the waves. Lay on a beach. Daydream about who you are and what you hope to be as a person, in relationships, in your life. Explore your wake.

Whether it seems the pause has been imposed or chosen, you can use life’s interruptions as springboards to being more aware and more effective.

As you experience life this summer look for the gaps. Between the stimulus and the response there is space. Pause, breathe, and use that pause to live on purpose.

Doug Lester

Dream Big

Dream Big

Dreaming is not some idle activity for the slothful soul.

Dreams are the engines that power meaningful action.

Langston Hughes wrote:

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

When relationships with self or others break down the corrective measure is not trying harder.

Making a difference begins with dreaming of a different or better tomorrow.

As Canada and the USA celebrate another anniversary of their founding, it is the dream of freedom, dignity, respect, and opportunity that will move individuals and communities forward.

Dream big.

The Habit of The Pause

Pause Cheryl Lester Doug Lester

As you may have noticed, we’ve been a bit quiet over the past weeks. We’ve been taking a Pause. Step 7 of our book ’12 Steps of Self-Leadership’ emphasizes the importance of doing just that, pausing.

At the time of writing this, we are about half-way through a 45-day road trip exploring, enjoying, and celebrating Canada. It has been wonderful. Besides the amazing scenery, and various wild-life sightings, our ‘pause’ has also included meaningful conversation with each other, friends and people along the way.

This is an important part of both our individual and collective journeys. Our desire to be positive difference makers for self and others—starting from the inside out—benefits from the time and space to talk, reflect, and experience life from different perspectives.

We encourage you to work a time of Pause into your life, work,  or relationships. It doesn’t necessarily need to involve a 45-day road trip. An hour Pause, a day-long Pause, a few days away, or even a micro Pause where you focus on a few deep breaths can reap benefits, including remembering who you have been/are at your best,  a deeper awareness about what is most important to you, clarity about what you want in life, work, or relationships, and/or a simple yet important recalibration of your (perhaps) fragmented energies.

Start Small

Start small by taking just three deep, mindful breaths—what we refer to as a micro pause. Notice the effect it has on you. Then find other ways to work this practice into your life, work, and relationships.

But, a bit of a warning! Once experienced, Pausing can become habitual!

PS: Here’s a great blog from The Gottman Institute, entitled ‘Why It’s Okay to Say You’re Not Okay‘, about some other good reasons  and ways to pause, notice, and listen to your inner knowing.

It’s OK to be Amazing

For many people the admonition to “Let your light shine” has lost its meaning.

It has been said so often that the phrase has no more impact than a quick, “Have a good day.”

“Let your light shine” is much more than a trite phrase. It is a call from the deepest part of life to the deepest part of you. It is a call to show up fully and make a difference.

How do busy people shine in the midst of life’s constant challenges, disappointments, and demands?

Some people seem to have the ability to “light up a room” while for most of us lighting up enough ambition to get out of bed on a cold cloudy morning is a struggle.

Here’s what we know, and here are 8 ways that you can shine:

  1. Think of yourself as pure energy in a vibrational field.
  2. Increase your voltage by connecting with nature, music, movement, art, good food, and rest.
  3. Focus your intention on brightening the world. Energy follows intention.
  4. Breathe deeply, often. Your inner fire needs oxygen.
  5. Choose to find meaning even in the toughest situations. By facing reality you become strong.
  6. Work hard at the tasks you find in front of you. Let your genius lead.
  7. Accept help. You are not alone. Others will assist you and fuel your energy when you least expect it.
  8. Embrace the mystery. Let the light of life shine through you.

When lived well, the light shines differently through each of us.

Mohamad Ali shone as a great boxer by dancing like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Martha Graham transformed modern dance and choreography. Picasso shone through painting. Stravinsky lit up the music world. Bill Gates found his passion in coding all night as a teenager and dropping out of college to found Microsoft. Tama Kieves left a successful law practice to let her light shine through writing and teaching. Nelson Mandela’s leadership light grew brighter during 27 years in prison.

The world needs you now, in your formative process.

Be unique. Be you.

Graham continued to dance into her mid-70s and choreographed until age 96. At age 61 Bill Gates, now one the world’s richest men, still leads Microsoft and is giving billions to charity through the Gates Foundation. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and then remained a champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95.

Martha Graham challenged each of us to shine with these words, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.”

Turn on your light. Trust the universe.

You are made from stardust and you were meant to shine.

You’ve Got a Ticket to Ride

You can run but you can’t hide.

The quest to know and be known is part of how you function as a human being.

It starts as soon as reality pushes you from the safety and security of the womb into a cold and unpredictable world.

You have been on a quest to discover who you are, how you got here, and how you can stay safe and warm, ever since.

The yearning to belong, be accepted, and be part of a group is in your DNA.

In order to connect with others and get the support and mentoring you need to live and work successfully you have been evolving from a whining bundle of constant needs and unending drama into a more functional human being. Even when you are angry, scared, cynical, and depressed, it’s all part of a bigger process.

You see you were programed since birth to learn and grow. It is why you are here.

Everyone’s development process is on its own schedule.

There are times when the demands of relationship and inner turmoil are all consuming.

There are times of truce when life flows along predictably and sometimes quite comfortably.

Then when you least expect it shift happens.

People get sick. People move. Relationships begin. Relationships end. Jobs change. Love. War. Marriage. Divorce. Cancer. Lotteries. New home. Floods. Fire. Family. Work. Politics. Change. Change. Change. You grow older. Life happens.

You evolve. The way you see the world evolves. It’s never quite as simple as it used to be.

That’s not a bad thing or a good thing — it’s just a very human thing.

Change is a constant. We can’t stay in the womb. Life is about being birthed.

Life is designed to be filled with constant change. Over and over you are required to ‘hatch’ into the next stage of responsibility and possibility.

Accept the reality. Life happens.

Be curious. Be open.

Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride.