Be Your Best

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Have you ever thought about what being your best truly means for you?

The Four Agreements is one of the most eye-opening, influential books I have read. Although the four statements in the book sound easy to follow, they are not. The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions and
  4. Always Do Your Best.

I want to focus on “Always Do Your Best.” It’s the agreement that helps to integrate the other three. Always Do Your Best is about letting go of judgment and recognizing that life is constantly changing. My “best” in the morning differs from my “best” in the afternoon. Don Miguel describes emotional intelligence and agility in this agreement.

Emotional intelligence, a crucial skill in today’s world, equips us with the tools to navigate life’s challenges with self-awareness and agility. As researcher Susan David explains, emotional agility empowers us to manage complex emotions, make choices aligned with our values, and lead a more authentic and fulfilling life. The benefits of emotional intelligence extend beyond personal well-being, positively influencing our professional success and the work environment.

Burnout and stress in the workplace are at a high level. In 2023, 65% of all employees reported feeling burned out. Healthcare, emergency services, social work, and education professionals have some of the highest burnout rates. I am not surprised. The daily stresses and workload on people in the helping professions doesn’t provide a healthy or safe environment for the youth, children, and clients being served by the organization.

Emotional intelligence skills are not just a nice-to-have; they are a necessity for 21st-century workplaces and the key to creating a healthier, more supportive work environment. Adults need to develop the skills of recognizing and embracing strong emotions, feelings, thoughts, and needs. This will allow employees to gain insights into handling situations beyond their control and develop a mindset that will empower them. We need leaders who model emotional intelligence from a place of compassion and self-awareness, fostering a culture of understanding and support.

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

When someone leads an organization with emotional intelligence, people recognize the shift in being their best. Being their best doesn’t translate to doing more! Being your best translates to recognizing your emotional and physical state in the moment, creating a pause, and then choosing to serve you and the others around you the best you can in that moment. An emotionally intelligent leader understands themselves and then passes that understanding to their staff. The staff then serves their clients or students, being their best and recognizing that the people they serve are also being their best. We are all just being our best selves with the skills and strategies available to us.

Emotional intelligence training can make a real difference in your organization. A social service agency director wanted to support her staff in growing their emotional intelligence. We worked together to develop training that helped the staff recognize their strengths and the strengths of their co-workers, gain a better understanding of trauma-informed communities, and implement small, doable practices to increase optimism within the organization. These trainings have not only supported the staff in collaboration across departments but also helped them better serve their clients with compassion. The results speak for themselves. 

I am trained in emotional agility through Susan David’s organization. If you are interested in bringing the skills and strategies of emotional agility to your organization, reach out to collaborate with me on bringing these skills to your organization. You can connect with me here:

Co-Regulation on the Road

What is the hardest thing for you to give over control to another person?

Mine is driving. I am an anxious passenger, especially with my young adult children. This anxiety comes from the years of driver training I had to endure with all four of them. I was in the passenger seat without control over the situation, grabbing the armrest or the handle above my head at the abrupt stops and sharp turns taken at too fast of a speed.

A car ride with my daughter usually started with me saying in a low, calm voice, “Slow down.” Each time I said the command, my voice raised several decibels, until by the sixth time I said “slow down,” my voice was louder than the rap music playing on the car speakers. She would get angry and start yelling back, not making the situation safe for either of us.

This past month, my daughter and I took a 1600-mile road trip from Austin, TX (where she attends college) to our home on the northern border of Minnesota. Our mode of transportation was a 2009 Toyota van with 192,000 miles that had not been driven since last June. The first step in our road trip adventure was to get the van moving, which required a new battery. Step two was to fix the air conditioning and the rattling noise emulated from the engine. 

Once those two steps were completed, we were speeding north on I-35. My daughter was taking the first driving shift, and I was anxiously sitting in the passenger seat. I kept my mouth shut as she pushed the van to faster speeds. I knew we had many miles to go before reaching our destination, and I knew that telling her to slow down didn’t make the situation better. 

Then the van started to shutter. She didn’t know what to do, so I calmly took a deep breath and told her to let off the gas pedal and take the next exit. As the van gradually regained its stability, a sense of relief washed over us. I continued to take deep breaths and calmly directed her to pull over at a gas station along the road, where we could finally feel safe and secure.

She felt scared by the van’s shuttering noise and wanted me to drive. I breathed deeply as we discussed the “avoid freeways” route we would take going north. Our route was a blessing as we drove through quiet rural towns and kept the speed under 65 mph to avoid another mishap with the van. That day, we travelled the Texas European route, stopping to eat in Athens (TX) and spending the night in Paris (TX). 

What does our road trip have to do with co-regulation?

Co-regulation occurs when one person lends their calmer nervous system to another person who is not calm. In my case, as my daughter was driving at faster speeds, I could feel my anxiety rising. To regulate my emotions, I practiced deep breathing, chewing gum, and positive self-talk. These techniques helped me stay calm and reassured me that we would be okay. 

When my daughter was anxious due to the freeway traffic and the noisy van, I kept talking to her in a calm, even voice. I may not have felt calm, but I kept calm. I knew from the past that raising my voice didn’t work. Once we pulled over at the gas station, I created a safe space for my daughter to calm down and talk about her anxiety and continuing to drive that day.

This moment supported her nervous system and helped her calm down. The next day, after a restful night in Paris, she was ready to take the next shift driving on the trip. We agreed that keeping the van speed at 65 mph or under would be best and staying on our rural highways. 

I couldn’t always keep my calm outlook as we travelled; however, when I felt myself start to tell her to “slow down” and raise my voice, I caught it sooner. My practice of “being calm” on the trip, despite the challenges, helped her anxiety and ultimately helped us both have a fun trip. This experience was a testament to our growth and resilience as we travelled the road home together.

Reflect on your situations with students, clients, or colleagues:

  1. How can you be the calm in the storm for others? 
  2. What are your strategies to calm your nervous system?
  3. What are the daily practices that you do that you can call upon in stressful situations?

Three Questions to Discover What Engages You(th)

When I talk with educators and staff from the helping professions, they are often so busy and caught up in work and life that they lose the brilliant part of themselves. The part that comes alive lets them live in the flow, and they know what truly excites them. 

Do you want to explore that part of who you are?

Embrace the power of self-reflection. Find a serene spot, armed with a journal, pen, and your favorite beverage. Set aside 10 minutes of uninterrupted time. Engage with the questions below, penning or doodling your responses. This process of self-discovery is a crucial step toward understanding your passions and strengths.

  • Imagine waking up one morning with the freedom to engage in any activity or activities for as long as you desire. What would these activities be? 
  • When in your life do you feel happiest? What are you doing at those times?
  • Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that you completely lost track of time? This state of ‘flow’, where you are fully immersed and enjoying what you’re doing, is a powerful indicator of an activity that brings you joy and fulfilment. Can you recall those moments of ‘flow ‘and what you were doing?

Your time is up! Read what you wrote. 

What is your Spark? 

According to Peter Benson, past CEO and president of the Search Institute, Sparks are skills, talents, or interests that a young person (or you) finds deeply motivating. They are hidden flames in youth (and adults) that light their provable fire, excite them, and tap into their true passions. Strength is a term that may also describe Sparks.

When paired with core values, Sparks can give you a firm direction for what you want from life and how you want to engage in it. When you share your core values and Sparks with someone close to you, and they listen, the experience can help you define what matters to you and who you are.

Connection between Sparks and Engagement

Focusing on our strengths and innate talents can significantly improve our lives. According to a Gallup survey, only 23% of employees worldwide feel engaged in their work. Disengagement in the workplace decreases employee productivity and well-being. However, when employees know and use their talents and strengths at work, workplace engagement increases to 50%. 

When leadership intentionally focuses on strengths by acknowledging best practices, engagement in the workplace grows to 72%. When we can tap into strengths in our jobs and daily lives, we ‘show up’ at our best and can more easily connect with and identify the strengths of the youth in our schools and programs. Your engagement grows when you are convicted of your strengths (sparks) and values. 

Try This!

  • Ask the youth in the classroom or program the questions above and find their answers. Then, give the youth time to express their Sparks within the program or learning environment.
  • Play “Would You Rather” with Sparks and make participants choose. Examples are:
    • Play music or listen to music
    • Read a book or write a book
    • Work inside or work outside
    • Eat a meal or cook a meal
  • Journal about Kathryn Lasky’s quote, “A spark can become a flame, a flame a fire.” How can you fan the flames to help your Spark become a fire?

Tapping into your sparks daily can help you and the youth you work with identify and tap into their Sparks. When you support youth in developing their Sparks, you increase engagement, strengthen relationships, and create a community where everyone thrives!

Wellbeing in the Classroom Video Series

This is a video series on developing well-being for educators and students. In this course, you will dive into the world of wellness, learning how to tackle stress head-on and adopt a mindset geared towards well-being. You will explore ways to bring activities promoting wellness into your life and classrooms, creating a positive atmosphere where everyone can thrive. It’s all about finding balance and building resilience for yourselves and your students.

The video series is focused on educators in the classroom; however, the concepts and resources can be used by anyone in the helping profession working with youth. This series is for helping the helpers that are in the world doing good work! This is for you, my dear friend.

Check the show notes of each video. Many have resources and free downloads below to support you in bringing well-being into the classroom, school, program, organization, and your life! 

Also, remember to subscribe to the Wildewood Learning YouTube Channel so that you can keep up with upcoming videos and resources.

Increasing Compassion in Your Life

Over the next few weeks, I will share a video series that looks at situations through a trauma-informed lens. 

In this video, you will:

  • Understand we are all carrying the stressors of life in our “invisible backpacks.”
  • Learn grace and compassion needs to balance setting expectations.
  • Reflect on increasing compassion and grace in your life.

You can find out more about including compassion and grace in your life on the Wildewood Learning blog:

Four Resources for Exploring Culture

Culture is described in the dictionary as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.”
In May 2020, the murder of George Floyd occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota—my home state—the state of Minnesota Nice. Minnesotans are white Scandinavian folks that eat lefsa and bring hotdishes to potlucks at the church. The event did not fit my perceived image of Minnesota culture. There was something I needed to explore and get curious about that was not within my worldview.

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