Category: Work-Life Balance

Honor the “In-Between”


Sommerville Johnston is the founder of Aspen Roots Collective.  She is a Licensed Professional Counselor as well as Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, and wilderness instructor. She is passionate about creating opportunities for women to connect with the natural world, to explore their inner-landscapes, and to discover within themselves a strength and beauty more powerful than they previously knew. 



I recently came across the following quote by Edward Abbey that seemed appropriate for our fall season:

“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.”

— Edward Abbey

It strikes me that life happens “in-between.” We set a goal; the achievement is just a moment in time, but the process of getting there, that is life. To move slowly enough to notice the changes… how often do we do this?

We want to hop the plane, skim the cliff notes, scroll to the highlights. But when we are only present for the destination, we lose sight of the pulsing nature of life, the fact that it has rhythm, that nothing is permanent, that it moves in cycles that are never exactly the same.

If we can learn to be present in the cycles, perhaps we will resist them less, and open ourselves to trusting that life will keep moving and we will not be abandoned to the moment of pain, or have to cling to the joyful times out of fear of never having them again.

Now, as the days shorten and we move between seasons, what would it take for you to appreciate the in-between? Perhaps a new practice, or a renewal and recommitment to an existing practice… A practice that provides the structure needed to appreciate the in-between.

If this sounds too theoretical, here are some more specific invitations:

  • Delay the morning screen time in order to stretch your body, even if only for five minutes.
  • Bike to work (or the store, or your friend’s house, or anywhere!) instead of driving.
  • Walk the dog instead of going to the dog park and taking work calls (look for ways to cut out the “multi-tasking”).
  • Notice the colors in the produce section.
  • Try 5 minutes of meditation with Insight Timer first thing in the morning.
  • Take a walk after dinner.
  • Ask your partner/friend/family member a question about their day, and then listen to the silence as they formulate an answer…
  • Practice allowing space for your own silence when answering a question.


Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.


Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

Surviving Holiday Stress

At year-end, life is getting pretty hectic for the working woman right about now. Many companies are closing out a fiscal year, budgeting for next year, conducting annual reviews, analyzing inventories, and making year-end purchasing decisions. While this type of work is equally dispersed between women and men, that’s not always the case.

On the home front, the majority of  holiday preparation is done by women. From shopping, to meal prep, to sending greeting cards, to decorating the home and wrapping gifts, women are far more likely to take on additional tasks at home. At work, many women are “asked” to “volunteer” for tasks that have nothing to do with their job description, such as helping with holiday party planning, decorating the office, or sending client gifts.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Many women feel both pressure and desire to make the holidays special for their families. In families where only the man worked, it makes more sense for the majority of the home care to fall to the woman. But with couples who both work, open communication is key to defining what you want from the holidays and who will do which tasks. How important is the holiday card? Do all of the decorations your mom gave you have to be put out? Can the family opt to draw names for gifts, or make contributions to a charity in lieu of gifts this year? Can you agree on lights around the front door rather than the whole house? Perhaps you limit the number of social invitations you will accept. Ask the question: if I don’t enjoy it, why am I doing it? Find ways to include your partner, kids, and outsourcing services to help in holiday preparations.



In the workplace, women can suggest a team approach to “office housework.” When asked to plan the office party, recommend a more representative approach with men and women to take on the tasks. Office cards, decorations and client gifts can usually be outsourced. Clean-up after holiday festivities should likewise be everybody’s job. Depending on the size and environment at your office, it may make sense too rally a few allies (especially executives) to support taking a new approach to holiday planning.


On January 16th, we will host the second workshop in our Momentum Leadership Series. Our speaker is Dr. Sharon Melnick, the author of “Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident and Productive with the Pressure is On.” During the month of December we will feature some of Dr. Melnick’s advice on this blog to help out with managing the holiday crunch!




It’s All in the Attitude

One of the exercises we do at the Momentum opening retreat is called Emotional Contagion. Participants are asked to stand and walk around the room. One person is asked to frown deeply, look concerned, stressed or sad. In less than a few minutes the bad vibe is picked up and reflected by everyone in the room. Then another person is asked to change that frown to a hopeful happy face. Like the sun after a storm, the good mood fills the room in no time.

Our attitudes are contagious, and great leaders know how to cultivate a positive outlook, even in the face of great adversity. Most of the time, we cannot change the situations we are in. We can’t change the deadline or the difficult customers we are serving, but at the end of every day we can control our attitude. We control how we approach and react to every situation. Momentum facilitator Dr. Sharon Melnick explores the idea of focusing our energies on the 50% of things we can control in her book “Success Under Stress.” (Tip: you can download an excerpt from her book on her website for free!)

Here are a few more tips on how to maintain a positive attitude, even when the going gets tough.

  • Know that you are resilient. Celebrate failure as a learning opportunity and bounce back with vigor.
  • Set time-bound, measurable goals. Getting clarity about what we want to achieve and by when leads to intentional living, a sense of purpose, and satisfaction.
  • Celebrate victories, even small ones. Big wins are made from little steps that take us to the end goal. Rejoice at the milestones along the way and invite others celebrate with you!
  • See the bigger picture. What feels like an impossible situation “on the ground” can have a simple solution when viewed from 10,000 feet. Get a new perspective to help you shift your attitude.
  • Take action. Put yourself out there and take some risks. Let your passion guide you and refuse to be defined by fear.
  • Practice random acts of kindness. Giving back or helping someone will not only brighten someone else’s day, it brings joy to our own.
  • Finally, be grateful. An attitude of gratitude can affect how successful and content we are. Even on our worst days, we have so much to say thanks for.

The way we view challenges and approach others says a lot about ourselves. It also says a lot about how far we will go. Let’s be willing to train our brain to see the positives in every situation and encourage others to do the same.

Contributing writer Holly Moore. 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Holly Moore, Contributing Writer

Mental Health does not discriminate, and it’s a real issue in the workplace. According to a recent article, mental health costs employers $17 billion and 217 million lost days of work in one year, which are no small numbers. Addressing mental health issues creates more a productive and effective workforce

Work life balance can be quite the struggle, exacerbating mental health issues. Too many people, particularly women, are juggling too much between work and home. The affects are bleeding into every part of their lives. Most of us seek meaningful careers. In order for our work to reach its full potential, we need to have healthy relationships with work.

Photo: Rob Bye

If high-impact, high-quality work is expected on a day-to-day basis from employers, then employers should also be paying attention to holistic health and wellness. We’re only humans; our bodies and our brains need a break sometimes in order to function at full capacity, especially when there is great pressure from a society that defines us by our work.  Employers need to take care of their employees so that employees can turn around and do the best they can for their respective companies. We want employees to thrive, not just survive.

The benefits of addressing mental health in the workplace are extensive. Most employees spend the majority of their days at work, and if they’re more content at work then they’ll be more content overall in their lives. If they’re stressed at work, then it will be seep into other areas of their lives as well.

Photo: Pim Chu

It’s common knowledge that one in five people deal with an easily-diagnosed mental illness. Think about how many people in your office that would include. Maybe it’s the guy in the cubicle next to you. Maybe it’s you. Most employees don’t feel that they can be honest about this reality. While many employees feel as if their illness doesn’t affect their work, they are also afraid that speaking up about it could mean that they will lose their job altogether. In addition, they may have seen how the stigma affected other coworkers who came forward and they are not willing to repeat it.



Photo: rawpixel

David Butlein said it best in a recent Forbes article , “stress inhibits creativity.” He explained that if our bodies are in fight or flight mode then we’re focused on “just trying to reduce the pain of stress and overwhelm” rather than finding new, innovative ways to accomplish the same goals and objectives. Our culture thrives on creativity, and in order for creativity to flourish, there needs to be room for rest and mistakes. If employees are buzzing with eighteen million different thoughts about work, life, social calendars, stress, family, illnesses then how will they create the next big idea, a safe environment, an equality focused space? Many work places are adopting meditative rooms, offering yoga classes, and including wellness programs in their employee benefits packages. There are countless ways to go about supporting staff well.

So let’s work together. Let’s make this whole employment thing a relationship again, a give and take, a trust system built on relationships, hard work, and communication. Let’s agree to keep the conversation going about mental health. It takes bravery, but it is worth it.





Battling Slow Burn

I recently visited with a woman I mentor from time to time. She has been in the same department within the same industry for more than ten years now, but only three of those with her current employer. While she still likes her job, and her employer, the current job market is tempting her to make a change. In the end I believe she is experiencing the “slow burn”–the kind of burnout that happens when you fall into a rut and just grind away there for weeks, then months, then years. In many cases the slow burn can be rekindled into a fire in the belly, or at least a vibrant flame, without leaving your employer. Here are a few suggestions I gave my mentee:

  1. Learn a new skill. If you work in the IT department on the database side, maybe you want to try your hand at training end users or designing web interfaces. You are very likely to pick up new ideas and meet new people along the way. Trying something new that enhances your skill set can give you new enthusiasm and make you more valuable at work.
  2. Change up your work environment and daily routine. Think through the changes first and make a plan. Share your plan with your colleagues. Then set a date for the big “change day” and make it all happen at once, like the big reveal. Move your furniture, buy new accessories, get a stand up desk shelf, bring in art you like, invest in a set of herbal teas, come in an hour early and leave an hour early, commit to a walk outside every day at 3:05 pm and take a picture of something interesting you see…these are all just examples of easy changes we can make to our every day environment to give our biorhythms a little shuffle-ball-change.
  3. Rally for a cause. When you have reached a level of comfort and security in your job, reinvigorating our sense of accomplishment may come from outside the workplace. Maybe you believe strongly in workplace diversity, but your job has nothing to do with HR. Think about finding a local nonprofit that advocates for diversity and find out how you can get involved. Once you have some experience and some connections to the cause, you can bring it back to HR and executive leadership and pitch a few changes for the organization. Maybe they get implemented and maybe they don’t, but you are still making a difference through your advocacy outside the workplace, and earn respect from within your organization for going the extra mile for something you believe in.

Burnout can come in many forms, and there are many ways to combat it. HR Consultant Dawn Burke will share her top tips to fight burnout at the Health and Wellness session during the upcoming Momentum conference. We’ll invite her to share those thoughts on this blog soon after the conference, so watch for it!

(photo iStock)

Power of Professional Networks

Having a strong professional network is important for every professional, and especially important for women. Because of unconscious bias in the workplace, women often have to work longer or harder than their male peers to get the same level of recognition. Since women still carry more of the burden of household management than men, including childcare, there is precious little time leftover for networking or career-related events that happen after hours. Yet women really benefit from sharing ideas and experiences with professionals inside and outside of their office walls.

There are plenty of tips and articles on where to find people, how and when to connect to them and even what you need to say to attract and maintain your network. With limited time to spend networking, we encourage women to really be intentional about who is in their professional network. When you only have a few hours a month to spend with your network, quality over quantity is the name of the game. Here are three good places to look.

  1. Industry groups – find out who the leaders in your industry are and add them to your network. If they are local, ask for a meeting to discuss a certain topic or current event. If they are out of town, connect on LinkedIn, invite them to be on a webcast/contribute to a blog, or set up a phone call. Examples of industry: healthcare, manufacturing, interior design, restaurant management.
  2. Peer groups – identify a few people you admire who share your role, but are in a different industry. Sharing experiences and approaches across industries sparks innovation. It can also save time when you can reuse someone else’s approach to a marketing campaign or business practice in your own industry. Examples of peer groups: finance executives, B2B marketing, customer service management, advertising executives.
  3. Adjacent groups – similar to industry groups, adjacent groups are industry groups that are closely aligned with your own. Connecting with leaders in adjacent groups can help identify trends that may affect your own industry. Examples of adjacent group: civic group and nonprofit charity, private and commercial real estate, private and public education, banking and finance, software development and product manufacturing.

We’ll be talking about how to build meaningful relationships for effective networking within these groups during our networking breakout session at the upcoming Momentum conference. Check back for more blog posts on this topic in the spring.


Momentum for the New Year

The new year is a great time to set your personal development goals for the year. To add some momentum to your efforts, incorporate these four ideas into your plans for 2018:

  1. Take Time to Reflect 

Set aside the time you need for self reflection and to get feedback from others: what are the things you want to work on most in 2018? While most of us have a tendency to focus on faults we want to correct, we’re better served to explore new ways to leverage our strengths. What have you learned about yourself last year? What were your top achievements? Where were you able to make the most progress? Actually take the time to write down a few strengths you know will serve you well in 2018. Next, take stock of the downers. What are the things that drained you and left you feeling depleted in 2017? Finally, solicit feedback from family, friends, and coworkers. What do they think you are really good at? What is one thing they think you could do to raise your game? When we take the time to self-assess and ask for feedback from others, we develop a clearer image of who we are and what we want.

2. Visualize the Possibilities

Sometimes the responsibilities that we’ve worked ourselves into (current job, family, community obligations) become the fences that define the space in which we live. After reflecting on what gives us strength and what depletes us, it’s time to visualize your next phase of growth and start moving fences to make room. For example, maybe you’ve fallen into a rut in your current role at work and would welcome a new challenge and more pay, but you feel you could not possibly take on anything more for lack of sheer time and energy. To create the new space, imagine the tasks you can delegate. Make note of the unimportant activities that steal your time and eliminate them. Assess your community obligations and decide where you need to make adjustments. Talk through your ideas with people you trust and ask them to help you consider all possibilities. When you are able to visualize where you want to grow, uncovering ways to move the fences gets easier.

3. Make Your Personal Plan

Write down between one to four reasonable goals for the next 90 days. For each one, write down the following: What actions will you take?  In what time-frame? How will you measure progress? Who will hold you accountable?What resources do you need?

Making your personal plan doesn’t need to be complicated! Maybe you want to polish your presentation skills, so in the next two weeks you will find a friend who shares your goal. As a learning tool you watch a video on delivering a successful TED talk and discuss it. Over the next six weeks you agree to create, deliver and critique three presentations. At the end of your 90 days, decide if you want to add a new action or goal, such as join Toastmasters or work with a professional coach.

4. Enlarge Your Circle 

When working on personal goals, it’s easy to neglect how we can use our strengths to help others. Share your growth experience…you might inspire someone close to you. Put the “new you”  to work for a community cause you believe in. Let your personal network know what you’ve been up to, and see if there are new connections to be made based on your growth. Connecting with others about how we’ve grown reinforces our strengths and helps others at the same time.

Learn more about how to create more personal momentum in 2018 at the Momentum Leadership Conference in February. Don’t wait to register, space is going fast!


Happiness in Two Words

If I told you I have two words for you that will make you very happy, you might guess:

“You’re rich!” or “You Won!” or “Let’s Eat!”

No, the two words I have for you are thank you.

My godfather shared a wise lesson with me before he passed. He said his mama raised him to live in gratitude. He said that if you approach every day with gratitude, you cannot help but derive strength, truth and love from your life. From that point on, I started noticing people who actively practice gratitude and those who rarely do. I have to say, I know he was right.

Thank you. These were my daughter’s first words. She’s developed into a pretty happy person, and I notice that she often thanks those around her for who they are and what they do, and that came through at a very young age. As a teen, she isn’t broody or moody, she’s generally happy and frequently grateful . When you start paying attention to it, you notice that people who often  express gratitude are generally happy people.

It turns out that the correlation between gratitude and happiness is well researched. One psychologist, Dr. Robert Emmons, has been conducting research on gratitude for over ten years. In one of those studies 300 people were divided in three groups. The first was told to make a list every day of the things they were grateful for. The second was told to make a list of things that made them sad or angry. The third was told to write about  anything that happened that day. After a period of time the gratitude group outperformed the other two groups on a wellness index, and by a wide margin. They slept better, exercised more, were sick less, and reported higher levels of satisfaction with their lives. You can read about this experiment and much more on Dr. Emmon’s contributions to Greater Good Magazine here.

So this Thanksgiving, think about making that spirit of gratitude something that you carry forward for the next 364 days, and every day after that. Here’s a simple way to get started:

  1. Every day for one week, write down in a journal the people, places or experiences for which you are grateful that day. Be specific. Instead of I am grateful for my family, try something like “I am grateful my Mom was able to pick up my kids today,” or “I am grateful my son is over his infection.”
  2. Pick something on your list and send a hand-written note to the person responsible for it. Putting your gratitude into the written word will last a long time for you and your recipient.
  3. Choose someone on your list to tell in person how grateful you are for something they have said or done. Sometimes we have difficulty saying thank you face to face, particularly to family because we assume they already know. So go ahead and tell your daughter you are grateful she has learned to tie her own shoes. Tell your co-worker you are grateful she was there to stand behind your idea in the last meeting. Tell your postal worker you are grateful for the way he leaves your packages at the door. Tell your Dad you are grateful he could stop by.

Whatever you do, start making gratitude your way of living in addition to something you do at Thanksgiving.  After a while, you’ll also notice how very good you feel.



Redefining Work-Life “Balance”

Anne Marie Seibel, partner at Bradley

Momentum Alumna Anne Marie Seibel recently published a chapter in the book, “Her Story: Lessons in Success from Lawyers Who Live It.” Anne Marie should know. She is a very successful complex litigation partner in multi-forum, multi-plantiff cases at Bradley law firm. She is active in both professional and local communities, married to a research physician, and mother of two (read her impressive bio here.) How does she balance it all? As she explains in the book, she doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t even try.

Here are three key take-aways from her chapter:

Ban balancing.
As Anne Marie explains in the book, her goal is to manage all aspects of life, not balance them. When you are ambitious, there will always be more things you want to do than you have resources to accomplish. Life is not about striking the perfect balance, it’s about prioritizing goals and making tough decisions with limited resources. Anne Marie advises professionals to “spend time allocating the available resources to cover the responsibilities you have” so that you can focus fully on whatever task is at hand, knowing the other important priorities are covered.

Take the long view.
There are many paths to success, and no particular time-table for achieving them. Time is one of the constraints we all have, and at least that’s a level playing field. Anne Marie advises “managing your own expectations and developing reasonable definitions of success.” One of the most important demands on time comes when you have children. Anne Marie cautions against viewing motherhood on one side and career on the other. Instead, she suggests looking at the role of a working parent as a conductor, “asking the wind section to play more loudly while the strings provide the background,” she writes. “All you are doing is adjusting the mix at any given point in time.”

Choose the right team.
Every good manager knows how important the team is to long term success. Choosing a spouse or partner who genuinely shares your life goals, supports you at work, and does their share at home. Beyond your life partner, you need the right team at work, too. Get to know your colleagues well, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and always lend a hand when they need it. Be transparent about your long-term plan and any changes in priorities, goals, and resources. The more your colleagues understand all of your priorities, the more they can empathize and support you on your journey. Finally, says Anne Marie, “develop genuine networks of support–not comparison.” It’s senseless to spend time comparing isolated aspects of life and career with those of colleagues. It’s far better to seek others of “varied life experience and age” to gain from their perspective, and from their support.

In closing, Anne Marie reminds us: “When others ask how you are balancing it all, be sure to answer, ‘I’m managing just fine, thank you.'”