Friday, 30 December 2011

Six Simple Resilience Practices - Week Six:  Commit Explicitly to Your Resilience

Below you will find Doug Silsbee's 6th and final installment of his resilience practices writings.  We hope you have enjoyed learning about resilience from a coaching professional and are able to find ways to apply it to your own life.

Commit Explicitly to Your Resilience
Most of us, at least most of the people that are reading this, are very willing to invest in learning particular competencies and capabilities that allow us to produce what we want in our lives. Too, most of us understand the importance of eating well, exercising, and taking care of ourselves.
However, for many, it is a new and revelatory way of thinking to recognize that resilience itself is a capacity that we can invest in, that we can build. Resilience is essential and pre-requisite for maintaining our focus, energy, and persistence in life. And, at the core, resilience is virtually synonymous with the self-generativity that produces aliveness, fulfillment and joy.
Thus, I differentiate resilience from a mere coping strategy, or a set of tools that allows us to endure more for longer. Rather, a commitment to resilience is in fact the entry point to a life-long pathway towards your own integrated development, including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual components.
In saying this, I'm not assuming that's what you were looking for when you decided to read this. Many people discover a need for resilience simply through a felt need to better manage what is on their plates. Yet, when we really move into it, and we commit to our resilience as an on-going project, we slowly wake up into all the possibilities that a committed practice of self-cultivation reveals.
So, now, you get to choose. Presumably, you've read the first five installments of this series. (If not, subscribe below for access.) Review them again. Remind yourself of which really spoke to you and opened something up. Choose perhaps two of these five strategies to really work with, and that complement each other.Then, create a plan. Be specific and concrete. In your plan, address:
·       What, specifically, will you do on a daily basis to work with that particular tool or practice? Weekly?
·       What structure will you build into your already busy life so that this keeps your attention?
·       For the sake of what are you doing this? How will you remind yourself of this?
·       Who will you make a request of in order to support you and hold you accountable?
·       What additional reading, coaching, or other resources will help you deepen your understanding of this and keep it fresh and evolving?
Notice your commitment. Is it firm and clear? Or, soft and gushy? If the latter, how can you mobilize your energy for this by re-orienting to your purpose for doing it? By being present with the real choice that it represents? By choosing a resilient perspective? By engaging someone else as a partner through making a request? By recognizing that, in a sea of commitments where you sometimes feel out of control, this is a place where you do have control?
Now, make it happen!

Doug Silsbee, PCC
Presence-Based Leadership Development
• Presence-Based Coaching for Leaders
• Training and Mentoring for Coaches
• Author, The Mindful Coach and Presence-Based Coaching

3717 Bend of Ivy Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753

Friday, 23 December 2011

Six Simple Resilience Practices - Week Five: Choose Your Perspective

Another word from Doug Silsbee:
Choose Your Perspective
Our perspectives are notoriously malleable and subjective, and what we consider to be truth is, upon investigation, rather elusive. Consider what a Fox News viewer and an NPR listener might say when asked about how we might best address the Iran issue! Or how you and a loved one can sometimes experience friction, each knowing that your interpretation of a difficult interaction is the inarguable truth!
Consider how your experience of a sculpture changes as you walk around it and view it from different angles. The sculpture itself is just there. Yet, our experience of it is shaped by our perspective. Two kids, each viewing a sign painted green on one side and red on the other, might have real trouble agreeing about what color it is, when both are actually right.
We can expand this notion to address non-physical things. On one given day, we might think "They can't pay me enough to do this job!" The next day, we're on a roll, and we think to ourselves "I can't believe I actually get paid to do this!" Same job. Same us. Different perspective. And, different experience of self within the situation.
Resilient people recognize the power of perspective, and understand that they can actually choose a generative perspective on any situation. Viktor Frankl famously said, after spending years in a Nazi concentration camp, "The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitudes." Frankl's resilience, derived from the internal locus of control that this wisdom represents, was instrumental in his inspiring survival of one of the most traumatic experiences that anyone could have.
Choose a situation that feels difficult, or energy-sapping. Now, list at least four or five different perspectives on this situation. (e.g., "It's not fair." "This is challenging me so that I have to develop new skills." "It will be over soon." "I have dealt with more difficult situations in the past." "I have other resources that I can access in this...." You get the idea.)
Now, for each perspective, step into it as you would try on a new dress or shirt in the store. Try each perspective on and see what it feels like. Find specific, grounded evidence that this particular perspective is actually true. See that you can, by doing this, make any perspective the Truth about the situation, just as one kid saw red and the other green. See how grounding your perspective in solid evidence changes your experience of yourself in the situation.
Now, choose the most resilient, generative and liberating perspective and reside firmly in it, so that it becomes your felt experience, rather than simply an intellectual construct. Make it yours.

Doug Silsbee, PCC
Presence-Based Leadership Development

3717 Bend of Ivy Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753

Friday, 16 December 2011

Six Simple Resilience Practices - Week Four:  Choose and Act from Purpose

Doug Silsbee, a coach who focuses on leadership development says:
Choose and Act from Purpose
The essence of resilience is making choices, in the moment, about what we focus our attention on and what we organize ourselves towards. This can, of course, be hugely challenging. At the same time, it is fundamental to building agency in our lives: the capacity for action, no matter the circumstance.
President Obama, in a fascinating 2004 interview, said that he frequently asks, "How does this connect with a larger sense of purpose?" He explained, "The most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever."
We can access a different feeling about a particular activity by connecting it to a larger sense of purpose. We can ask ourselves "For the sake of what am I doing this?"
For example, I generally don't get excited about marketing. The message that you are reading has a marketing intention; hopefully readers like you will become interested in my work and we will develop a deeper relationship. Yet, my motivation and passion gets ignited by writing these little pieces for people that I know and care about, and who I believe will derive something of value that they can use in their lives. The real purpose for this is to support people in waking up, in the fullest sense, in their lives. If it generates business, of course, that's great. However, first and foremost, I orient towards the purpose of accelerating the development of people in my network. Connecting the writing to that purpose is much more energizing for me, and is what allows me to produce this message (and coach leaders and even write whole books!)
Ask yourself this: For the sake of what are you doing what you're doing? Find the purpose, deeper and more meaningful than the immediate goal, that a given activity serves. Connect the dots:
·       "I am hiring a professional video producer in order to deliver this message in the most powerful possible way and make a tangible difference for viewers." (That's different from "keep me on track in the project.")
·       "I am exercising for the sake of feeling fully alive, energized and creative for my clients." (Different from "losing weight.")
·       "I am letting my assistant go because she will be more fulfilled in a different job and I need a different level of support in order to do mine." (Different from "she's incompetent.")
Experiment with this. Consider a current task or project with which you are struggling for motivation and focus. Describe, on paper if you wish, why you are doing it. Note the reasons... which reasons feel like "should's?" Which reasons feel mobilizing and inspiring?
Now, organize your attention around the latter. Center yourself in those purposes, connecting, in your awareness, the activity to the purpose it serves. Note how your relationship to the activity changes as you connect it to purpose.

Doug Silsbee, PCC
Presence-Based Leadership Development
3717 Bend of Ivy Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753

Friday, 9 December 2011

Six Simple Resilience Practices - Week Three: Make Requests

Doug Silsbee continues to shed light on what resilience really means and how we can achieve it.
Make Requests
I have coached many successful entrepreneurs and executives who struggle with their tendency to over-commit. These are people with rewarding jobs who love what they do, but who get exhausted and lose touch with themselves and their non-professional relationships, sometimes at tremendous personal cost.
Often, people like this (and I include myself!) don't see the places where others could help. We have built strong identities as Doers or Problem-solvers that perpetuate our tendency to over-commit.
A key resilience strategy is to be in the business of making requests. I often work in depth with coaching clients around this important competency, which many successful people do poorly!
Requesting includes, but is much larger than, simply delegating tasks to others. When we make a request, it can be a request for a specific action, for a hamburger at a restaurant, for information, for someone else to take on part of what we're doing, or a move into a different kind of relationship. We make the request by identifying what we need and when we need it. Then, we engage in a conversation with someone else about the request, such that this person can understand and deliver what we need.As a resilience strategy, making requests is fundamental.
·       In order to formulate a request we have to look at ourselves in our situation and discern what we need within it. That's a significant move, and untangles us from the sometimes overwhelming nature of complex situations in which we can't find any suitable course of action.
·       Staying in action is central to resilience; making a request is a form of action. Whether or not the other person commits to delivering on our request, the act of requesting engages us with others and mobilizes energy, the antidotes to stuckness and overwhelm.
·       Third, the result of a request, made clearly and fulfilled by the person we asked, is that we now have support, a hamburger, a service, or something else that we have identified as a need.
Work with this for a week. Note, during the course of the day, when you make requests. Bring more intentionality into this process, recognizing that the request itself is a powerful act. Several times a day, take the time to clarify what you need in a situation, and formulate a specific request that you can make of someone, which, if fulfilled, will be helpful to you. Then, make the request and see what happens.


Doug Silsbee, PCC
Presence-Based Leadership Development
3717 Bend of Ivy Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753

Friday, 2 December 2011

Six Simple Resilience Practices - Week Two: Discern Where You Have Control, and Where You Don't

 Please enjoy the following ideas from Doug Silsbee, a coach focusing on Presence-Based Leadership Development.
Discern Where You Have Control, and Where You Don't
I, like many of you, get paid to solve problems. It is easy for me to move quickly into a complicated situation, and to see all the challenges and constraints that are inherent in the situation.
Here's the problem. When we organize our attention around constraints, constraints are all we will see. We become immobilized when every course of action seems to lead to other problems. And, often, there is much in any given situation over which we don't have control. The sum total of seemingly immutable facts can seem paralyzing.
So, it is critical to learn to differentiate what we have control over and what we don't. In a given situation, it can be very helpful to actually list out, in two columns, what we don't control and what we have some level of influence over. In the first column, we might list the sorry state of the economy, a boss's attitude or behavior, institutional constraints, budget realities. In the latter column, we list things like our own attitude, the priorities that we set for the day, the particulars that we delegate to a team member, or an exploratory conversation with a possible ally.
When we discern the difference, we begin to relax around the givens that we have no control over. And, we begin to see that there are real actions that we can take that are, in fact, empowering. They are unlikely to solve the entire problem. Yet, they get us in motion and provide us with a sense of agency. We become more resourceful.
Practice this. Consider some situation that you face that seems intractable. Prepare a piece of paper with two columns titled "Out of My Control" and "Under My Influence." Then, simply list as many factors as you can in both columns. See what possibilities are revealed through this discernment.

Doug Silsbee, PCC
Presence-Based Leadership Development
3717 Bend of Ivy Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753

Friday, 25 November 2011

Six Simple Resilience Practices - Week One: Become Present

One of our strongest values at mygapyear is sharing.  We have come across some great authors that have produces some very valuable works that we would like to share with you.  For the next 6 weeks we will be sharing the works of Doug Silsbee, a coach from North Carolina who focuses on Presence-Based Leadership Development.  Please note that the below text is WRITTEN BY DOUG SILSBEE and simply being shared by mygapyear in the hopes that it will benefit those following our blog.  Please check out Doug's website for more information on his practice.
Become Present
This is the foundation of all the rest of the moves. It is simply the recognition of choice.
When I was angry (I had a bit of a temper as a kid!) my mother would tell me to stop and count to ten before doing anything rash. The primary power of this doesn't lie in the counting or even in the period of time that allows us to choose a wiser course of action. The major benefit of this little trick is that, in the very moment of choosing to count to ten, we are exercising choice, rather than acting out of the force of instinctual habit.
Many of us have had such experiences: we have an emotional reaction to a situation, we respond automatically and our response makes the situation worse than it was.
The fundamental principle underpinning all of our work on resilience is that, lacking the inner state of presence, we are much more likely to constrict our field of view and react to events in ineffective and habitual ways. When we are fully present and relaxed, we are able to see and choose a full range of alternatives.
One of the quickest and most reliable means to bring ourselves into the present is to do a quick body check, bringing our attention from the abstract and chaotic world around us into a quiet awareness of our own internal state. Do these steps, one at a time:
·       Let go of whatever problem you're wrestling with for a minute.
·       Notice how you are sitting, or standing; notice your shape. Straighten your back, letting your shoulders drop, and bringing your gaze up horizontally.
·       Breathe, taking a couple of deep breaths and noticing how your chest rises and falls with each breath.
·       Sense the pressure on the bottoms of your feet where the floor is pressing up, and, if you're sitting, the pressure on your back and buttocks where the chair is holding you. Take a moment to feel this.
·       Notice any places where your body is particularly tense, and simply let those places relax.
So, what happened? How is your inner state different? From this present state, what alternatives are revealed?
With even a little practice, this series of shifts in attention can take almost no time. Like counting to ten when you're angry, it's making the choice that is important. The simple act of choosing, in the middle of the urgency of your day, to stop and become present, is itself an act of resilience. (Another centering practice can be found here.)
While this can be used as a simple stress management technique, I've never been an advocate of increasing our ability to endure fundamentally unhealthy situations. Rather, my claim is that coming into the present is the foundational first step in any process of self-mastery.
Practice this often during the coming week. Repetitions will build, over time, your capacity to manage your inner state and to be at choice in any circumstance.

Doug Silsbee, PCC
Presence-Based Leadership Development
3717 Bend of Ivy Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753

Friday, 21 October 2011

Life Apps - what are they? Why are we running them?

mygapyear recently held the first in a series of  Life Apps .  Sounds cool doesn’t it?  It is, - and we're going to do more! This one took the form of a webinar- part seminar part web based demos.

Our goal is to create opportunities for our Gappers to hang out together - to build a community of Gappers and at the same time enhance emotional intelligence skills or share some coaching tools.

We used Skype to connect and chat and used an interactive media to show a short youtube clip and provide a place to interact through text chats. We were able to connect Gappers in Victoria BC, Banff, Alberta , Toronto and Mississauga, Ontario.

Our first topic was goal setting - an important part of a gap year plan and a great life App! Our Gappers were able to share some thoughts about their own goal setting, and  we demonstrated some goal setting techniques and tips.   Gappers walked away with some tools and resources to use in their gap year planning and in their lives. What do you know about SMART goals? Our Gappers will be able to tell you!

Stay tuned as we present more LifeApps! Future topics include Leadership and Time Management.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Conferences -what do you walk away with? What do you do when you "get back” to keep it alive?

I attended the International Coaching Federation (ICF) conference in Las Vegas this week. A first time for me at this conference. The Las Vegas venue made it an easy decision! The theme of "playing to the edge" created the back drop for the conference held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel .  Key note speakers Michael GelbSir Ken Robinson, Steve Farber who have played on the edge of their fields of endeavour provided the hook and curiosity for me to sign up. Oh and my husband wanted to come along too! 

 I walked away with some new ideas, some books to check out, an appreciation of laughter and wit and a sense of gratitude for skillful engaging speakers. I also found my own sense of play –I took some time before the conference started in the spa ( the quick fix treatment of a 25 minute Swedish Massage and a hydro facial did just that) and rebooted my energy.

The conference connected me to the larger community of coaches -over 18,000 credentialed coaches in over 100 countries. The profession is growing and with that growth comes the need for regulation, training standards and brand development, all of which were addressed during the conference.
I'm amazed at the places and specialities where coaching shows up - executive, leadership, conflict management, transition and career, life/personal, teen, youth with ADHD and so on. Coaches are in HR departments, boardrooms, yoga studios, working with small business teams, in public sector organizations and with individual clients.

 For me, - taking time to reconnect with the wider coaching community was one of my biggest take a ways. We get so busy with our daily activities, so it’s great to check back in and reconnect with what made me choose this profession. Coaches are an extremely friendly group - you never feel alone - whoever sits beside you will be curious and interested and have something to share -even when I was sitting in Starbucks on a break! 

Great tools and coaching demos were provided – I was reminded how important it is to have a coaching presence – how body language influences the coaching conversation.  I learned some new tools, including a technique to help clients use a fairy tale format to tell their stories (once upon a time) ,and how to use the power of intuition to  tap into what is already working for you.

So I walked away with lots of goodies.

The trick will be to keep that sense of curiosity and motivation alive for when I get back -I want to research some of the new stuff I learned and connect with some of the people I met. I’m writing this on the plane headed home -so I'll let you know how I did on follow up.

A week later, - I have sorted through the bag of info I brought back, have sent follow up emails to the coaches I wanted to connect with , and ordered some of the books I was introduced to, - so I’m getting there! I’m going to try out some of my new found tools as well – so it’s still alive for me and well worth it. What about you? Have you kept your resolutions from the last conference you attended? If not – what’s getting in the way?

Friday, 7 October 2011

From Vision to Reality: Setting goals to create the life you really want

“Whatever we focus on becomes our idea of reality”  - Anthony  Robbins

So why should we set goals?  I think the answer to that question is offered in the following quote by Lewis Caroll  “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there”
In other words, setting goals is critical on a journey to personal success because much like any other journey, if you set out without having a destination in mind it becomes very easy to feel adrift and lost in the world.

Goals provide us with a clear sense of direction, and create both a long term vision, and the short term motivation to get us to where we want to go.  By giving us clarity, goals also help us to focus in on what is really important, without getting derailed by fears and/or side tracked by all the distractions we face on a daily basis.

A few things to remember about goals and goal setting….

The first step is to think big…think of goals that will inspire!!! When we visualize our dreams as possible, we create a powerful energy and momentum to get us moving and start to take action.

Achieving a compelling goal is not an easy process.  Once we have a list of “wants” for different areas in our life, it is useful to remember the acronym SMART which offers a proven formula for setting the right kind of goals. SMART stands for: 
M –measurable
A –Attainable
R –realistic
T- time bound

SMART goal setting helps to set targets and breakdown those big picture goals into realistic chunks with a step by step action plan to get there. 

It is also important to list the reasons we want to accomplish a goal and put it in writing.  The more reasons we have, the more motivated we will be to do something about it.  And when we put things in writing we take the first step in turning a simple wish into an attainable goal.
Lastly, when we with surround ourselves with reminders (such as posters, symbols, inspirational statements, etc.,) that represent our actual goal, we are most likely to stick with our goal even when feeling discouraged or distracted because our attention will be pulled back to what matters most.

In the end, when we finally do achieve a goal, it is important that we recognize and reward our accomplishment. Achieving goals can be a huge boost to self confidence.  We can take pride in our achievement and recognize the ability and effort it took to get there.

A Gap Year provides the perfect opportunity to begin the process of goal setting for young men and women who may be feeling burnt out, or are unsure of their interests and want some time to explore who they are.  Or maybe they want to carve a path that’s different from the traditional model of success.  It is a time when they can start asking themselves those critical questions… the questions that will help them make better decisions and more authentic choices throughout their lives.  Questions such as … What do I truly want out of life?  What do I want to achieve?  What do I want to learn? What do I need to be fulfilled?  In a sense goals define our “possible selves” and as these young adults begin to discover the answers to these questions, and start to identify and achieve specific goals to help them turn their vision into reality, they will find greater sense of meaning, increased motivation, more confidence and ultimately enjoy greater happiness.  

Want to learn more about goal setting or how a gap year can help your son or daughter start to set the compelling goals that will maximize his or her potential?  Contact mygapyear at

Friday, 30 September 2011

So what are your inner gifts?

Take ten minutes out of your day to think about unique gifts and talents that lie within you.

Jot down what you bring to the table of life. Write as many examples as you can think of. Then. Really think about these wonderful qualities that once developed, will have the ability to move mountains and change your world. Then consider: you spent time identifying all of the positive qualities you possess and probably came up with many, but you have barely scratched the surface of the infinite and dynamic you! Each time you do this exercise you will discover new things that you contribute to this world.

" when you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then , for that is just the place that the tide will turn "
Harriet Beecher Stowe Socializing the Tech-Generation

Friday, 23 September 2011

Making a gap year affordable

As with most things, taking a gap year often get put aside due to financial limitations.  The cost of traveling, participating in programs and taking courses can add up quickly but your gap year doesn’t necessarily have to cost you more than a brand new car!  Here are a few tips to make your gap year a possibility:
  1. Save up!  Start saving your money now.  You never want to miss out on an opportunity that might change the course of your life because you bought yourself a latte every day for the past 4 years.  A little will go a long way - some banks will “round up” each of your purchases and put the extra in a savings account for you, put all of your change into a jar and roll it once every couple of months and put that towards your gap year fund or collect liquor bottles or printer cartridges that you can exchange for cash.
  2. Ask others!  Why not forgo the ugly sweater from Aunt Francis and ask for her to add to your gap year fun instead.  If all of your relatives combine your birthday and holiday gift money, you could be well on your way to celebrating with a gap year.
  3. Plan to work!  Your gap year doesn’t have to be all travel or course work - try to plan in some work terms into your year.  You can find jobs that will help you achieve your goals AND bring in some money to fund your other adventures.
  4. Host a fundraiser.  There are plenty of fundraising organizations out there that could help you to raise money for your gap year.  Why not sell chocolates or wrapping paper?  Why not host a barbeque to raise money?  Every little bit helps and showing initiative will help you develop your leadership skills, financial skills and show others just how much this gap year means to you.
  5. Look for free or low-cost alternatives.  Want to work with dolphins?  Going to Cozumel to do so might be out of your price range but maybe the local aquarium would take you on as a volunteer - this would cut down on the cost of airfare and hotels and give you a similar experience.  Look for local experiences or experiences that are funded through the government, private organizations or local community groups.

If you want to live like a rock star for a year - win the lottery.  If you want to develop your sense of self, become more independent and grow to meet your potential - save up, consider local opportunities, and turn to others for financial support.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Youth Engagement - Not Rocket Science

In March of 2009, the Canadian Heritage, Citizen Participation Branch in partnership with the Atlantic Evaluation Group, Inc. published a report entitled “Youth Participation in Arts, Heritage, Culture and Community” that explored the topic of engaging youth in our communities.  They talked with community organizations that work with youth as well as to the youth directly for their study.

The findings are not extreme, nor are they surprising but they shine a bright light onto the values of our youth.  Here are a few of the ideas that stood out for me while reading the article:
  1. Youth want to have positive relationships with adults, they seek to be treated with respect and to be heard.
  2. They want to be engaged as a whole person - in their feeling of belonging, in acknowledging their contributions and by providing them with opportunities to contribute to society.
  3. Young people feel that they do not know how to become involved in their communities - they need the encouragement of their mentors, teachers, parents or older youth to present them with opportunities to get involved.
  4. Youth want to be involved in all stages of projects - from planning, through implimentation and then be kept in the loop with the after-effects of their contributions.  A thank you note or an honorarium are also appreciated!
  5. “FACEBOOK DOES NOT REPLACE FACE-TO-FACE” (Fuller, 2009, pg, 16, emphasis added).  Youth still value interacting with each other in person - the internet is for communicating but does not override getting together.

How can you engage the youth in your community? How can you remove barriers to their involvement?   How can you help them find their voice and contribute in a meaningful way?

Read the full article here: 

Friday, 9 September 2011

What If...?

When we were children, we daydreamed all the time. The older we got, the less time we had to imagine things other than what we had to deal with in our daily lives.

Today, it's time to let your imagination run wild. Create a list with the top 10 things you want to do , see or experience in your life. Dream big, dream small, it's up to you.

If there were no limitations placed on yourself and your life , what would you do?

Start with 10 and by all means, keep going. This is a good way to begin to develop a clear perception of the potential of the world around you. And, years from now It will be fun to go back and see that you indeed did do many of the things you could only once imagine.

Perhaps one of those dreams was to take a gap year, maybe after high school or university. What would be your top three places to visit or top three cool things to do? What if you had the time to take a gap year? Would you? We can help those dreams come true.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Pigeonholing - A reason for a Gap Year

Once a jock, always a jock.  Once a nerd, always a nerd.  Once a shy guy, always a shy guy.  Once a ditz, always a ditz.  Ever feel like your are stuck in a rut, limited in what you can do, being held there by your peer’s perception of who you are?

We all know that standing up to peer pressure is hard.  What is even harder is realizing that you are not really what people perceive you as.  As you experience new things, you discover so much more about yourselves and who you truly are at your core.  If you discover your core is different from how you are perceived based on your past, how can you become your true self?

Being true to yourself at your core requires a deep understanding of who you are and the confidence to go against the grain and redefine your true self. 

A gap year provides a great time to step away from the external pressures placed on you by your peers, your family and your community to be who you always have been and to explore and understand who you have grown to be.  Through challenging yourself in new situations, you can present as your authentic self, learn about your true self and gain confidence in who you are.

These experiences can help you to return back to your communities, families and peers with a greater understanding of who you want to be and not what your past has defined you as.  This deeper understanding will give you the confidence to break out of that pigeonhole and show the world the true you!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Harnessing the Power of EQ in Youth!

There is a good chance that you have come across the term Emotional Intelligence, or EQ as it is often referred to, some point during the past decade. In fact, the last book I was reading on EQ starts off simply stating that “By now, Emotional Intelligence needs little introduction – it’s no secret that it’s critical to your success”. And yes on the one hand I have to agree, ever since Daniel Goleman published his ground breaking book on Emotional Intelligence in 1995, it has certainly become a hot topic in business and academia with countless articles published and books written on the subject.

Yet, as I sit here, I’m left to wonder if people have fully embraced EQ in their everyday lives? Or could we perhaps inject some vibrancy into this field by making it more accessible outside of business circles? I am specifically referring to the “future generation” of young men and women who would clearly benefit from EQ development, but unfortunately, most have not been exposed to it.

When I ask my young clients (mainly highschool and university students) if they have ever heard of EQ, I am surprised at how many have not. And it seems even the ones who have heard of emotionalintelligence are unsure of how to apply to their own lives.Of course, when I ask them if they think they might benefit from being more confident, improving their interpersonal relationships, or being able to better cope with stress and/or change …..The resounding answer is yes!

And research has shown that these are precisely the personal qualities and skills required for a successful transition to university from high school. Research has also shown that many students who don’t possess these skills when entering university or collage have a much higher dropout rate than their peers. So how can we help youth build these skills before embarking on higher education….?

One option to consider is encouraging high school students to take a gap year!At the very heart of a gap year is the idea that young men and women can choose to take some time away from the accepted, and often “expected” path carved out from kindergarten all the way through to university and opt for personal growth outside the classroom. A gap year is a year away from formal education, and a time dedicated to self discovery. It is a time for self reflection where individuals can gain self awareness and insight into what is important to them through travel, volunteering and other life experiences. And it is a time when they can build those fundamental EQ skills that everyone agrees is so critical for success. It has been said that life experience itself is the best classroom when it comes to learning and developing the emotional and social skills associated with emotional intelligence so why not urge students to take a journey of self discovery and build the very skills that will empower them in university and beyond.

Emotional Intelligence can help youth to
  • Identify strengths and personal goals
  • Adapt to environmental demands and pressures
  • Increase and build self confidence
  • Gain self awareness and insight
  • Instill leadership qualities
  • Foster emotional health
  • Facilitate career development and career planning

It can also affect the ability to:

  • make friends
  • get along with a roommate
  • decide how to spend free time
  • manage money
  • work well in groups
  • deal with feeling down

Friday, 19 August 2011

Learning Languages Opens Doors

We are very lucky as English-speakers that our native language is widely understood in business and travel. So if you can “get by” with one language why should you learn a second? Check out the following list of why you should learn a second (or third) language.(taken from

10 Resons to Learn A Second Language

1. To increase global understanding
2. To improve employment potential
3. To increase native language ability
4. To sharpen cognitive and life skills
5. To improve chances of entry into college or graduate school
6. To appreciate international literature, music, and film
7. To make travel more feasible and enjoyable
8. To expand study abroad options
9. To increase understanding of oneself and one's own culture
10. To make lifelong friends

One of the many reasons I love to have French as a second language:

Language is more than words, it is a culture, a relationship and an identity. I had always struggled with the notion of Quebec proposing separation from the rest of Canada – I could not understand why they would make such a radical proposition. In learning French, I was able to begin to understand the Quebecois struggle with maintaining their language and culture and their place in the francophone world community.


We call dried grapes raisins. Explorers actually brought grapes from France back to their home countries by boat, but because it took so long to get home, the grapes dried up. When the dried grapes were presented to the home country, they were presented as “raisins,” the French word for grapes. Cool, eh?

 Why not study a second language as part of your gap year?

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Millennials - Generation Me, Google Generation, Gen-Y, the Gap Year Generation (?)

We all know the Baby Boomers and Generation X, they have been around for a while and have been studied intensely.  Who are the new kids on the block?  They are the Millennials - born between 1977 and 1993(varies depending on your source), this is the generation that is making its way through high school, university and into the work force.

This new generation has been given a bad reputation already by those that preceded them.  They are perceived as self absorbed, entitled and unfocused (Espinoza et al., 2010).  These perceptions are made by people who, as a whole, have a different set of values than the Millennials.

As parents, educators and employers, we need to make ourselves aware of what the trends in values are in order to better support our youth.  Espinoza et al,  have identified 9 Intrinsic Values of the Millennial Generation but we will focus on 4 and how they relate to taking a gap year.

Work-Life Balance: More than previous generations, Millennials aren’t prepared to sacrifice their personal life for the sake of work.  They are prepared to be paid less in order to be able to do the things that they find most satisfying outside of the work place.  A gap year is an excellent way for youth to find the things that are most inspiring for them and expose them to a new set of activities that they can engage in to balance their work.

Attention:  Millennials can be seen as self-absorbed but it is actually the individual attention that they crave.  This generation was raised with a softer touch where most of their needs were preempted or quickly met by their parents and they have come to expect individualized attention.  This could be why the higher education system is not as appealing to many of this new generation - learning broad topics in large classrooms does not appeal to this value.  A gap year through mygapyear allows for individualized coaching and the creation of a plan that is specific to the goals of that individual.  This learning experience will appeal to the value of attention while encouraging learning and development.

Simplicity: Many of the Millennials have learned to be focused on the “small picture” and how they are personally affected.  This is a wonderful trait to have because Millennials are acutely aware of their personal state and how they manifest themselves.  Where a gap year could benefit this value is in teaching the Millennials how to see the “bigger picture” and help them relate their personal state or actions with the world around them.  Traveling can teach youth about stewardship, cooperation, diversity and how they fit into the global perspective.  Broadening their understanding of the world will help them integrate into the demanding world of globalization.

Meaning: In general, the Millennials need to feel that they have a purpose, that their contribution is valuable and going to be contributing to something great.  Taking a gap year exposes Millennials to a wide variety of experiences.  Youth my find new passions, be fulfilled by working towards an existing passion or discover ways of combining their passions with work.  There are so many jobs out there that we don’t know exist unless we actively search for them - we are not confined to being a teacher, firefighter or banker anymore (although these are equally valuable jobs!).

Espinoza, C, Ukleja, M. & Rusch, C. (2010). Managing the Millennials: Discover the core competencies for managing today's youth. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Leadership: More than a Buzz Word

If you Google the word “Leadership” you come back with 439 million Hits.  WOW! 
We hear all about corporate leadership, youth leadership, personal leadership, leadership this, leadership that - What does leadership really mean?

That is a loaded question!  Leadership has come to take on so many different meanings over the past decade that its true meaning has been defined, redefined and maybe even diluted.  I have studied leadership, taught leadership and engaged in leadership but pinpointing a definition is still very difficult for me.  The definition that I have found that works best for me was referenced by Stephen R. Covey in “The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time.”

“Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” (Covey, 2008, p. 41)

Along with the above definition, my view of leadership is grounded in Inspiration, Empowerment, Awareness and Action.  Let me explain.

Inspiration:  How does a good leader/boss/teacher/parent/friend encourage someone to accomplish a task?  How does someone see how they can contribute to the greater good?  How does one feel connected with a task or project?  Great leaders are able to relate to people and knows how to tap into the passions of individuals to ignite a fire within each individual.  What motivates or inspires one does not motivate or inspire everyone, good leaders know how to illustrate meaning in multiple ways.

Empowerment: Leadership should not be something that can be held onto.  It should not be synonymous with power or titles.  True leadership is something that allows others the opportunity to grow, thrive and achieve with help and support from others.  A leader’s job is to give others the tools, skills and processes they need in order to be successful.

Awareness and Action:  A true leader is someone who sees an opportunity and steps up to meet a need.  Leaders are aware of their surroundings, the physical and the human, and are able to see potential.  Leaders will identify the possibility and take steps towards making it a reality by tapping into the talents and skills of those around them.

What does leadership look like to you?  What attributes to you value in a leader?  What are you doing that makes you a leader?  How will you lead yourself?

Friday, 29 July 2011

What’s holding you back?

Have you ever been held back by a limiting belief?  Have you ever acted in a way that was driven by an assumption and not a truth? Probably - I know I have. We all come to our daily lives with beliefs and assumptions that we have built up from the day we were born. It's a good idea to check in on those beliefs and assumptions from time to time to see if they are still serving us well. Perhaps a limiting belief or assumption might be something like “I’m too old to learn a new sport”, or “if I take a gap year I will be behind everyone else”.

Here’s  an exercise that might help you to move beyond those beliefs that are holding you back and create new ones to move you forward. So grab a pen and paper or your tablet/ notebook. Write down 5 limiting beliefs that you hold. Think about things you don't do, or people you don't talk to because you believe something about them or the situation. Be honest! Cross off each one and as you do this write a new belief that is empowering and true to your values and strengths. 

After you have crossed out all five old beliefs, re-read your new beliefs slowly, and imagine yourself living them. By doing this, these new beliefs have already begun to manifest in your life! Keep these new beliefs close to you! 
Is a belief or assumption holding you back from taking a gap year? What would it take for you to reexamine those beliefs and assumptions?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Remembering Life Lessons

Remember when you were little and you got in trouble for following along with your friends?  "But Mom, Jenny did it too!" We would protest.  Without missing a beat, Mom or Dad would always say "If Jenny jumped off a cliff, would you?"  The moral of the story is that you should not go along with something just because everyone else is doing it - think for yourself and act in your best interest.

Its a lesson we often learn very early in our lives but something happens to that lesson when we become older.  In many cases as parents, teachers, guidance councilors our message changes from "think for your self and act in your best interest" to "why aren't you doing what everyone else is doing?"  As a good parent/teacher/guidance councilor we would never say that, or would we? 

One great example is when high school graduation rolls around - thoughts automatically jump to college, university or the work place.  "What do you mean you want to take a year off? Why in the world would you want to do that? What a waste of time! No one does that!" Woah, there it is and it is not that far-fetched!  Just because "everyone" is seemingly going off to school or work does that devalue taking a gap year? Absolutely not! 

We need to remember the lessons that we learned so young and that we probably taught our own kids or students - do what is right for you not what is the status quo.

Think about this in your own lives, what expectations have you put on yourself, your family, your colleagues because it is the norm? 

How can we change our thinking and not follow or let our kids follow Jenny off that cliff?

Inspired by Chris Guillebeau's writing on the Art of Non-Conformity (

Friday, 15 July 2011

Where are Gappers going?

If you were taking a gap year and wanted to travel - where would you go?

For our Gappers, South America is a popular destination, as well as Spain and France. Other areas of interest are Costa Rica and India, Vietnam and Thailand. Favourite cool things to do are learn a language by living in the country with a homestay family or in your own apartment ( French or Spanish top the bill), volunteer teach, work in an orphanage, or save endangered animals like sea turtles.

At  a recent gathering of Gappers, some returning Gappers shared these travel tips:

Money :
• budget well, research costs of things ahead of time, then add extra for unexpected events
• don’t carry wads of money with you - just what you need for the day plus a bit extra - leave rest safe in your room
• contact your bank before you go to find out if you can use debit and/ or credit cards , and to let them know you are travelling ( so they don’t cancel the card thinking it might be stolen!)
• note down and take with you all your bank contact information - so you have it when needed

• know your surroundings, know who you’re with
• safety in numbers, don’t let your guard down even when you have been in a place for a while
• trust your gut instincts, including being open to unexpected possibilities or adventures

Language barriers:
• you can get by with gestures and hand movements and a few words. 
• Once you are there for a while - you get better at the language, 
• try preparing cue cards with pictures and words of common things to show people what you need!
Other tips:
Have fun! Always expected the unexpected

So where did you go on your gap year? What did you do? Can you tell us about your experiences or share any words of wisdom?

Jules at mygapyear

Friday, 8 July 2011

So what's a gap year anyway?

Are you curious about a gap year?
Here's a definition:
A time away from a normal routine for youth to experience personal growth through volunteerism, travel and work.

Here's the advantage of working with mygapyear.
" We partner with youth to create a meaningful year. Through

  • coaching, building emotional intelligence and leadership development
  • a researched and personalized gap year plan
  • ongoing support and encouragement through the gap year experience

our unique approach develops confident, empowered young adults ready for the challenges that lie ahead."

So if you could take the time, how would you spend it?

Visit now

Friday, 1 July 2011

Happy Canada Day to all Canadian oyster lovers!

After reviewing several youtube clips about Canada, I realized that the internet had a challenging time capturing the feeling that swells from deep within the heart when you see the Canadian flag waving.

It is sometimes easier to define Canadians as "not being Americans".  However,we are more than that, although, we would humbly keep that to ourselves. As I was surfing the net for visual inspiration, my daughter asked me to describe the taste of an oyster. I paused, looked at her blankly, stumbled for words to describe the experience. I connected the difficulty with describing the taste of an oyster with the difficulty of articulating the feeling of being Canadian. I googled and found:

The Taste of an Oyster
The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark:
“It is briny first of all, and not in the sense of brine in a barrel, for the preservation of something; there is a shock of refreshment to it.” … “You are eating the sea, that’s it, only the sensation of a gulp of sea water has been wafted out of it by some sorcery, and are on the verge of remembering you don’t know what, mermaids or the sudden smell of kelp on the ebb tide or a poem you read once, something connected with the flavor of life itself…”
For me, describing the taste of an oyster is as challenging as explaining how lucky we are to live in this great country. We are honoured to live in a country that is as connected with the flavor of life. Canada is inspiring, fresh, open like an oyster to the experience of being Canadian. We have freedom; we have peace; we have purity.

Being Canadian is a feeling and although this youtube link is from the Winter Olympics; it captures a vital preservation of something as to what it is to be Canadian-proud, connected, unified.

So, like the taste of an oyster, describing Canada and what it is to be Canadian is somewhat indescribable. Being Canadian is an experience; it is a feeling that swells from deep within the heart.
Could someone out there in this great country help articulate the feeling?

Canadianly yours,

Friday, 24 June 2011

Healthy Lifestyle - often on a wish list for Gappers. Try out one our tips this week-end?

A popular value among Gappers is having a healthy life style. Part of our  gap year experience includes taking an inward journey, creating self awareness through coaching and paying attention to balancing mind body and soul. Taking care of ourselves is an important part of that journey.

Here are some healthy life style tips to help you take some "self care" steps.

  • Do Yoga.  Not only is it great for the body, yoga can help you to relax.  All you need is a place to close your eyes and quiet your mind. 
  • Moderation is the key to healthy eating.  Enjoy whole grains, lean meats, fruits and veggies more often and save treats for special occasions. 
  • Exercise is cumulative.  Short on time?  Remember that all your exercise adds up.  If you can’t get in a full workout, try to be active several times throughout the day. 
  • Check out for pilates, strength training and everything in between.  The programs run anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes and are free! 
  • To achieve better sleep, make sure that you are in total darkness, the room is not to warm and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. 
  • Remember that rest is just important as exercise.  Listen to your body and take time off when you need to. 
  • For a quick and easy breakfast, try this morning smoothie.  Toss ½ cup of milk, ½ cup of yogurt, half a frozen banana, 1 tbsp of peanut butter and 1 tsp of cocoa in a blender and enjoy! 

Healthy Tips for Gappers were supplied by Custom Fit Consulting. See our Blog Love for a link to the site