Why I Decided to go Back to School

 

Wgraduationhen I graduated from college in 2009 with my bachelor’s degree, I was so happy to be done with school and start my career. I began working as an event manager for a country club, where I stayed and grew to oversee many departments over my 5 years as a manager. In 2013 my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby, and although we couldn’t have been happier, I wondered about my career and what I would want as a mom.  I grew up with my mom staying home with me and my three siblings. I always loved having my mom there for us all the time, but I had planned to have a career and a family, and hopefully find a good balance.

 

I continued working once my son was born, and leaving him each day was heartbreaking. I came to a point in my career where there was no growth opportunities within the company. I wasn’t challenged anymore and working late nights and weekends made it hard for me to stay engaged. I decided to leave my job and take some time to figure out my next step while staying home with my son in the meantime.  The longer I wasn’t working, the more I felt like I was losing out on potential jobs in the future because of my gap in employment. I thought about going back to school; I always wanted to get my MBA, but it was one of those things I always said I wanted to do but for some reason knew that I probably would never actually do it.

I went through a period where I started calling myself out on making plans and not following through on them. I started writing things down, keeping a journal of ideas, goals and gratitude. Writing it down made it more real for me and I felt more accountable to myself as I could see all the things I was wanting to do, but wasn’t following through with.  I decided to take the GMAT, and once I was accepted to the MBA program at the University of Nevada, Reno, it felt like a weight had been lifted from me.  Actually following through on something I had been thinking about for so long felt like a relief. I wondered what else I could accomplish by holding myself accountable to my goals.

Going back to school felt strange to me. I was a non-traditional student, married with two kids and would be graduating when I was 30 years old. It was scary at first because it was new and different, but as I continued through the program I was learning so much valuable information, making many new friends, and became part of a network of resources that I never would have had access to otherwise.

Here are 5 reasons I went back to school:

  1. To acquire skills for a better job in the future. I value my time with my kids while they are babies and toddlers, but I want to provide a good life and financial start for them in the future as well. When I return to work, I want it to be something I am proud to be investing my time in.
  1. Personal fulfillment. Learning is exciting, especially when you are making the choice to be there for yourself. Challenging myself to develop new skills and perspectives has opened so many doors for me, and is the reason why I am so focused on personal development. It is an endless endeavor that builds confidence, character and gives a feeling of accomplishment that can’t be beat.
  1. Setting an example. Although my kids are very young now, it is important for them to see me studying and excited to learn and go to class each week. I want them to see from a young age that education is important, and as they grow older I hope they are encouraged to continue learning and engaging in personal development.
  1. Self-reliance and security. I have no doubts about the future of my marriage, but at a young age my grandfather encouraged me as a woman to be self-reliant and to create my own safety net so that I would not have to rely on anyone to take care of my family and myself. If something were to happen to my husband and he was unable to work, I know that I could provide for our family, and that is very valuable to me.  I am in charge of my own future and my own happiness, and continuing to develop myself gives me the ability to ensure that I am creating the life that I want.
  1. Keeping the balance. I love kids. I love the chaos and the funny things they say, their sweet innocence and unconditional love. I have to admit though, being with them all day every day makes me crave intellectual conversations, adult interactions, and challenges that don’t involve toddler tantrums. It is important to have your own time doing something you are passionate about, and school gives me that. It is the bridge between me as a mom and as a professional, which creates a balance that gives me the satisfaction of both worlds.

Being a graduate student has changed my life in many positive ways, I can’t even imagine where I would be if I hadn’t chose this path. As we get older and have more responsibilities it gets harder to find the time to go back to school or to start anything new for that matter, but it is never too late! The American Council on Education report, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows more older adults are starting to return to college, pursue new career directions, start new businesses, and realize lifelong dreams. Over a lifetime, the gap in earning potential between the high school graduate and those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher exceeds $1 million, according to the College Board.

If anything, I encourage people to start a journal and begin writing down their goals, ideas and gratitude. What are you grateful for? How can you build on that to create and realize your own goals? Start small or go big, you don’t have to get a master’s degree, but hold yourself accountable to your ideas and plans, I promise that great things can happen!

Attitude is Everything

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In my previous post, I talked about stepping out of my comfort zone by traveling with UNR classmates to Australia, along with the benefits of travel for personal growth and self-reliance. I learned a lot about myself and others on this trip, and the most significant take away was the importance of attitude.

The travel group was split into two flights, with ten of us flying from Reno to Los Angeles and then to Sydney. Some of us had never traveled “alone”, some had never traveled internationally, and most of us had never met each other before. As our flight was further and further delayed, our chances of making it to our Sydney flight became slimmer. We all seemed a little frustrated and anxious, but once we got on the first flight we had hopes that we could still make it. As we arrived at LAX close to 10:45 pm we were told we missed our connecting flight by two minutes. TWO minutes! The next flight out wasn’t until the following day at 10pm and United Airlines gave us four hotel rooms for the 10 of us strangers for the night. This was the time when everyone was going to have a melt down for sure.

Luckily, at orientation for the program, we all talked about the importance of “going with the flow”. This could have been a time where we became divided, uncomfortable, angry, and sad because we would miss the first day of class in the Blue Mountains National Park, where we all were looking forward to visiting the most. Surprisingly, a few people had a positive attitude and a calm sense of what to do next, which became contagious, and instead of pouting about a bad situation, we all remained positive and made the best of it because we were all in this together.

Since we were all stranded for a day in Los Angeles until our flight at 10:45pm, some of us went shopping, visited the Santa Monica Pier, and genuinely made the best out of a whole day that we were supposed to be in Sydney. We all had shared an experience that allowed us to get to know each other and connect on a level that we may not have otherwise.

When we finally arrived in Sydney, dubbed the “Terrible Ten”, we met up with the rest of our classmates, and all stuck together and laughed about the unfortunate luck of our travels. We all went in together as somewhat strangers, and came out of it as friends. Everyone’s relentless dedication to staying positive and going with the flow turned a situation that could have been a horrible experience, into a fun adventure that led to friendships that I hope to have for a long time. Attitude is everything, and although sometimes it feels out of our control, we have all of the power to determine how a situation or a person will affect us. Attitude directs our thoughts, energy and the actions we take, and once we realize the power we have to control our attitudes, we are more in control of our lives.

Where before I was uncomfortable flying alone, or traveling with strangers, I now feel confident in my ability to do it again and to have a level head and good attitude when things go wrong. I encourage everyone to be conscious of your attitude, especially in tough situations, and think about how you can make the best out of your situation. It may change your outlook, your experiences and might even help someone else get through a difficult situation.

Running for Resilience

My mom running the RTO

It seems like every week there is a different running event going on in Reno. In April, there are going to be at least 9 different races, each with different themes and charities to benefit, and that is not even including the Tahoe area.  The running community in Reno has exploded in the last 10 years. Participate in one 5k and it will all make sense why.

I grew up running in sports, but after high school it was harder to find the motivation without a coach telling you what to do and a team who you would let down if you slacked in your practice. I decided to run my first 5k when I was about 3 months pregnant with my first son. It was the Leprechaun Chase in downtown Reno and I felt confident because I had the best excuse ever if I needed to walk or was taking it slow. I was pretty intimidated and had no idea what to expect.  What I found was that there were a lot of really fast runners, but also slow runners, walkers, parents pushing strollers, kids, and grandparents all running together. Families and friends cheered on strangers from the sidelines with motivational signs and chants. When I finished, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I felt like part of this incredibly supportive community of people who were all doing this thing together.

Reno Tahoe Odyssey

Since then I have ran numerous races in Reno and Tahoe, and this will be my 5th year running the Reno Tahoe Odyssey, a 178 mile, 12 person relay race around the Reno/Tahoe area. Running has given me a sense of empowerment over my health, happiness and my ability to meet goals. I have learned to accept failures and to praise myself for my efforts. Overall I have become much more resilient, and that has given me confidence to take on other goals that I might have otherwise felt were out of my reach.

Here are just a few of the ways that running adds value to your personal development journey:

Community

Our RTO team crossing the finish line together.

There are a lot of factors (technology, careers, families, busy lifestyles) that contribute to making it harder for us to find the time and confidence to connect with others. We naturally crave connections with others, and it is so important to invest your time into something where you feel a sense of belonging; where you are part of a tribe. They push you to be your best and elp lift you back up when you are at your worst. In a running community, everyone is at a different level and no one judges your speed or your process, but rather they praise you for just being there and giving your best. It is a great discipline to teach yourself strength, not only physically to push through when you feel weak, but also mentally to talk yourself through it and believe that you can succeed. Belonging to a group lets you see that people are not judging you, and that they value your presence, and helps you work on accepting others and letting go of your own judgments.


Accountability

There are a lot of curve balls that life throws at us, but with running, you are in complete control. You set your goals, find motivation from within, and tell yourself when it is time to push harder, take it easy, or call it a day. Your performance is the outcome that comes solely from the motivation you give yourself and the actions you take. There’s no one else to blame if the outcome isn’t what you expected, and there is a lot of personal accountability that comes from that. There’s also a lot of personal gratification and there’s nothing like the feeling of running that last stretch to the finish line and knowing that all of your hard work has paid off. The best part; the only way to fail is to give up. You ran 5 miles yesterday and only a half mile today? Awesome! You got out there and did it. Small efforts still make a contribution to your goals; don’t give up.

Resilience and Confidence

My sister and I after running up to Virginia City on the RTO

Running isn’t easy, especially if you are just getting started. Every season when I start to train for the Odyssey, I am dying trying to run a few miles. It is something that you work on day after day and you can definitely set yourself up for failure if your goals aren’t realistic or if your negative self-talk is overpowering you. When you come across something that is physically and mentally difficult and you are able to push through that and keep going, that resiliency that you build up spreads to other aspects of your life. You start to see that you are strong and what you are capable of if you really apply yourself, and that is a powerful feeling.

If you live in Reno, check out a list of upcoming races here, and even more are listed at www.race178.com. Regardless of the level you are at now, I encourage you to sign up for a 5k in your city, even if you want to walk it. You might surprise yourself how much fun you have while setting goals for yourself, building strong transferrable skills and most likely benefitting some local charities too.

Connecting Hobbies With Career Success

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Finding hobbies that you like to do outside of work is an important part of keeping work-life balance and nurturing the interests you have that you don’t necessarily deal with in a normal job. In our busy lives where we sometimes feel that we have just enough energy to make it through the day, hobbies may seem like more of a treat when you have spare time, rather than a necessity for balancing what you have to do with what you love to do. Hobbies are the things that we choose to do, that we are good at or enjoy learning about, and play an important role in many aspects of our lives including stress relief, allowing us to connect with people who share the same interests, and engaging us in activities that we choose to be doing that are purposeful and important to us. They give us the ability to develop new skills while balancing out what we need to do on a daily or weekly basis with what we love to do.

Many people have a hard time making hobbies a priority because they seemingly do not have a direct impact on our career development or financial success, but studies have shown that participating in hobbies outside of work that you are passionate about can actually have a measurable impact on your performance at work. “Maintaining such hobbies can make individuals seem more appealing to potential employers, improve their mood, increase their confidence, reduce stress, provide networking opportunities and help them work better with others.”

photographyThere is a reason, after all, why so many employers ask about hobbies in an interview. They are looking to see if you are well-rounded and if you may have skills such as leadership, and the ability to set goals and see them through. “It’s assumed that if you engage in a diverse assortment of hobbies, you may be better equipped to manage a broader array of experiences and people on the job.”

When you challenge yourself to do something new that you enjoy, and then you continually build upon those skills, you develop a sense of mastery. By breaking up routine in our daily lives we are challenged in a positive way without the stress of a work related challenge. Skills that you build through your hobbies can transfer to all aspects of your life including work and may include skills like time management, patience, decision making, networking, grit, creativity and confidence. Since our hobbies reflect our personal tastes, values and interests, they can also be important clues to direct us towards meaningful and successful career choices.

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We are able to find what we are passionate about by exploring many different things and finding something that speaks to us on a personal level. Taking a class is one of the best ways to explore a new interest and expose yourself to something new without any commitment, and it is a great way to network with people who share the same interests. The more you explore, the more your interest in something meaningful to you will come naturally. I encourage everyone to try something new this week. Maybe it is a new yoga class you have been wanting to try, or taking a fun painting class with wine, or even going for a run. You might just find your passion and you won’t know if you love it or hate it until you try!

 

 

 

5 Ways to Explore Your Hometown: Reno Redevelopment

Photo Credit: http://www.ralphandersen.com/jobs/city-manager-reno-nv/
Photo Credit: http://www.ralphandersen.com/jobs/city-manager-reno-nv/

I grew up and live in Reno, Nevada and to most people who have lived here, it is one of the friendliest and supportive communities to live. Somehow everyone is connected by two degrees of separation and when you meet someone new, it doesn’t take long to find out how you are connected in the community. Reno has been a constantly evolving city and offers a completely different feel than it did even a few years ago, especially in the downtown and Midtown areas. A $1.2 billion downtown reinvestment plan along with the development of Tesla’s giant gigafactory are just a few of the changes that are sure to host and inspire an array of new people and businesses to come to the area.

Reno has become a prime example of how reinvestment and change can bring new opportunities for the city, surrounding areas, and for the people and families who live here. New businesses and services have popped up all around town providing opportunities to discover self-investment opportunities in fitness and wellness, outdoor adventure, social interaction, community involvement, intellectual and career development, and creative exploration.

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http://www.history.com/topics/us-states/nevada/pictures/nevada/neon-arch-sign-in-reno-2

A substantial part of investing in yourself comes from seeking out new experiences, and what better place to start than in your hometown? (Especially when businesses give discounts to locals!) Whether it is signing up for a class or trying out a new running trail, stepping out of your normal routine can open doors that may lead you to find new interests and passions that you didn’t know you had. I find that even when I take my kids to a new playground or on a new trail around town, I am much more comfortable seeking out other new places to check out and experiences we can enjoy. In future posts I plan to highlight several local attractions, experiences and businesses in the Reno/Tahoe area in hopes of helping people in our city and others in their own towns to find ways to develop themselves through experiences close to home.

Here are 4 ways to explore your own hometown to discover how it can help your personal growth journey.

1. Visit local attractions

Reno and Tahoe are incredibly good about the amount of events that go on in the area, and many of them are free. Going to new places in town, especially with a friend, helps you to become more comfortable with areas you may not be familiar with. The more you can conquer around town, the more comfortable you will be to seek out and enjoy all that it has to offer. Cheer on your hometown team, find the best lake or river to spend the day, and take advantage of seasonal activities such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin patches and snowshoeing.

Great Reno Balloon Races
Great Reno Balloon Races

2. Check off your city bucket list

Try out some of the places that you have always wanted to but never got around to. I’ve lived in Reno almost my whole life, and the more I explore this city, the more amazed I am at the businesses and people that I find. Make a list of new things to do whenever you go out and try not to go to the same places or restaurants twice until you have made it through your list. Free community events such as concerts, movie nights, sports events, and arts are a great way to experience the culture of your town on a budget. Find a local charity that you are interested in and go to one of their fundraising events. This is a great way to step out of your comfort zone if you want to develop yourself in social situations.  You might be surprised at who you meet and the role they play in your community.

 

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Ferrari Farms Pumpkin Patch

3. Take a class

Whether you’re interested in painting, sports or computer programing, take advantage of the classes that your community might offer. Reno has some great options for learning new hobbies like cooking, gardening, and art classes. Community colleges and universities usually offer a variety of vocational courses that are also great ways to explore an interest you may have. Even Home Depot and Lowes offer DIY classes for adults and kids. You might find something you are passionate about.

4. Join a group

Since some of these recommendations are likely to lead you to meet new people and probably ones with similar interests as you, try and join a group that meets every week or month. Ask around at classes or search Facebook for local groups that might spark your interest. Running groups, mom’s groups, outdoor adventure groups, you name it, people want to find others that like what they like. It is nice to have a place to belong to, and sharing experiences with others is a great way to feel good about your journey.

 5. Go on a date night

It is almost always easier to try new things if you have a partner or a friend join you. Arrange some time with your significant other or a friend to do new things that you wouldn’t normally do on your own, like going on a new hike or taking a class. If you decide to do it again, you might feel more comfortable on your own knowing what to expect, and if it is a good place to bring kids or pets next time.

I hope some of these tips encourage you to go out and see the people, places and businesses that make your home town great! What is your favorite experience around Reno and Tahoe that has helped you grow? Share in the comments I will make sure to go experience it too!

Breaking the Negativity Habit

positive-emotions

Investing in yourself can take many forms, and it does not have to be a tangible skill that develops you. Everyone is motivated by something different, but almost everyone has something that they are uncomfortable with or afraid to do because they have negative emotions tied to it. It is easy to tell people to say, “Yes” to everything and to pursue their dreams without fear, but it is no simple task to overcome negative emotions that we have associated with obstacles, change and the potential to fail.

Sometimes it seems like it is so much easier to remember the negative things that have happened to us during our days than the positive. Our brains have a natural tendency to spot the negatives, while it takes more effort to see the positives. Unfortunately, we carry negative emotions in our minds much longer than we do the positives, and it takes longer to build ourselves up than it does to tear us town.

Research shows that positive emotions contribute to essential downstream life outcomes, including social development, satisfaction in your relationships, higher incomes, and better physical health.  “Positive emotions temporarily broaden our attention and thinking, allowing us to draw on higher-level connections and a wider range of ideas. These broadened outlooks help us find and build important personal resources which can be cognitive, psychological, social or physical.” (Fredrickson, 2017). People with these resources are more likely to effectively seek out and meet life’s challenges and take advantages of its opportunities.

So how can we rewire our brains to focus on the good things? We can practice actively looking for the positives and over time build a habit of thinking in a different way. Here are seven tips to help us escape the negatives and focus on the positives so that we can overcome whatever it is that is holding us back from becoming the best version of ourselves.

1. Focus on learning.

Don’t get stuck on a negative event or emotion. We are all human and everyone of us has a bad day or makes a mistake. Failing does not make you a failure. Turn your mistakes in to lessons and praise your process for getting it right next time.

2.  Listen for and identify negative self-talk.

Try to recognize when you are beating yourself up over something. We are our own biggest critics and our thoughts are very powerful. Put a positive spin on a negative outcome or even try and laugh at yourself. Shrink the problem because it is probably a bigger issue in your mind than it is in reality. Self-image is made by self and not by people.

3. Rehearse the good news. 

How common is it to come home from work and vent about the annoying things that happened in your day. Negativity feeds on negativity and your story will likely lead to someone else venting about their bad day. Instead, try and play up the good things that happened, no matter how small they were, and ask about the good in other people’s day.

4. Forgive people for negativity.

We can’t all be positive all the time, but dwelling on someone else’s negativity or holding a grudge can weigh you down. A lot of negativity stems from misinformation or miscommunication. You never know what someone is going through in their personal life, so forgive them and move on. Someone has probably forgiven you along the way too.

5. Surround yourself with a positive community.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Surround yourself with people who you respect, share your values and inspire you to do great things.

6. Emphasize the Positives.

Spend a few minutes each day writing about what you are grateful for, whether it was a great day with your family, a good meal, or even a funny joke you heard. Even Oprah does it! She says, “I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb.” Be grateful for the mountain.

7. Spread the good.

Words can empower or debilitate someone. We all have the power to spread kindness and positivity, and you never know when someone might really need it to get through their own negativity.

Start today! Be conscious of how you can bring positivity into your day or into someone else’s in a small or big way and make it happen.

 

 

 

Sources and Citations:

  1. Fredrickson, Barbara L. et al. “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources.” Journal of personality and social psychology 95.5 (2008): 1045–1062. PMC. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

2.  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal