A Commitment to Developing the Potential of Women


potentialWe all found our way to the League for different reasons. Some of us were motivated to find and interact with like-minded women. Others were drawn to the League with the a strong desire to eradicate human trafficking. Still others wanted to work on combating childhood obesity. And some found their way to the League because a friend of a friend simply asked them to attend.

And while we all found our way to the League for different reasons, we are all bound together by a common goal to help each other find our way.

As League members, we have already adopted the notion that we are here in part, to help other women succeed. After all, part of our mission statement includes a commitment to developing the potential of women. But what does that mean exactly and what kind of obstacles can stand in our way from helping other women grow?

Empowerment refers to “increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered (persons) developing confidence in their own capacities.”

So where do we begin?

Try to keep an open mind. We all bring our own prejudices and preconceived notions to the table. We might think we know the contents of someone else’s heart.

We may believe that we already understand why someone behaves the way they do.   But until we set our assumptions aside and truly investigate another’s life story, we could be totally off the mark. Make a sincere effort to get to know the women with which you serve. You may surprised to learn that everyone is fighting a hard battle; that we all deal with successes, joy, insecurities and doubt. And all of us have some gift or talent we can share. Ultimately, we are all here because we had the courage to step outside our comfort zones and take a leap of faith.

Be a leader. Although not every League member holds a formal leadership position, every member of the League can lead others by the example they set. During the first League General Membership Meeting, President Julie Gheen asked all of us to simply say “hello.” She asked us to seek out someone with whom we hadn’t met before and reach out. A seemingly simple act of courtesy helps others feel that they belong. And that feeling of good will spread each time someone reaches out to another.

Set an example. How many of us, in or outside the League, have come upon a situation where we are confronted with gossip? Maybe a coworker is talking about your boss. Or an acquaintance is ranting about a friend of yours. This is an opportunity for you to set an example by which you refuse to engage in the negativity that surrounds you. You may take this opportunity to help others grow too. You could suggest that instead of engaging in a fruitless dialogue, that they might want to respectfully discuss their concerns directly with the person(s) with whom they have the issue. No one wins when gossip enters the room. It’s toxic and accomplishes nothing.

Teach. In the world we live in today, it’s important to be a life long learner. Everything moves so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Just when we have a handle on the world around us, things change again! When we see someone struggling to keep up, we can make an effort to help.

Maybe you can assist someone in learning how to speak in public effectively. Maybe your knowledge in the tech industry could be useful to someone who is struggling to learn how to create a website. Whatever it is, give someone the gift of your knowledge. Pay it forward. They won’t forget you and chances are they will do the same for someone else. Helping others is contagious.

Provide encouragement. We’ve all been there. We lose a job. We launch a new career. Someone in our family gets sick. A divorce happens. We get engaged. Or we are blessed with having a child. Life is messy and exciting. It’s inevitable.

So when a major change occurs we can all use a little support along the way. Maybe you’ve walked in the shoes of someone who is now struggling. It’s OK to reach out and to empathize. It’s OK to celebrate too! Most of us are not in the position to solve other people’s problems nor should we, but a kind word or an offer to get together for a coffee goes a long way.

We are all privileged to be a part of a community of women. We have the power to make it in to whatever vision we hold for ourselves. We are in the unique position to actually change the world by empowering the women around us. Each time a woman has the courage to step out into the world and achieve her goals, she is shining a light for other women to do the same.

Now that the League year is in full swing, please take a moment and think about how you can empower the ladies around you. We’d love to hear what you’ve gained from being in the League. How have you become more empowered or how are you empowering others? Leave a comment below!

Take The Covey Challenge

The Seven Habits

With the start of fall and the League gearing up for another frenzied year of parties, community projects, fund raisers and get-togethers, it seems like a good time to set new goals. It’s time to be proactive and get organized. We’ve all clearly got a lot to do. The kids are all back in school and September often marks a time of growth and change at our places of employment. Summer is officially over. Very few of us are strangers to the “to do” lists that come along with a new season.

As we start fresh, it might be wise to consider what it means to truly be proactive and look beyond to the end game or finished product. Why should we begin any process with the end in mind? And what does it really mean to be proactive anyway?

Research suggestions that by setting very clear targets, we are actually training our brains to believe that we’ve already accomplished our desires. When we do the hard work to envision what our job or home life looks like with clarity and precision, we are actually setting up an environment by which our brains look for ways to fulfill the images we have created.

The internal persistence we feel or that anxious feeling that we get when we have not yet synched up our desires with our objectives is our brains way of nudging us toward success. The trick is to harness that uncomfortable feeling by creating and executing small and manageable steps to achieve our goals.

When President, Junior League of Birmingham, Julie Gheen started her tenure, she asked the board to take “The Covey Challenge” and delve into famed author Stephen R. Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. President Gheen also asked the collective League membership to read along and consider implementing Covey’s seven habits as well.

Covey’s first two habits can be described as the ability to be proactive and the ability to begin any activity or process with the end in mind. In today’s fast paced and goal-oriented word, most of us are familiar with what it is to be proactive. We take action and we expect results.

But according to Covey, being proactive isn’t just the act of doing; more over it is the notion that we always have the ability to choose. At any given time, we have the power to flip the switch and challenge our assumptions about ourselves and the world around us. In the end, we get to decide what we think about the things we cannot change. We also get to choose how we will respond to the world around us. Will that loss of a job or relationship be an event that turns us bitter or cynical? Or will it be an opportunity for us to learn, grow and strengthen our optimistic resolve? The beauty is, we get to choose!

And then there’s the process of goal setting; charting our own course if you will.

But in a world where we are bombarded with a variety of choices, setting goals isn’t as easy as one might imagine. In the modern age, we have seemingly unlimited choice. And while variety might be the spice of life, our brains are only capable of processing so much information. You may be wondering why it’s so difficult for you to decide what it is that you actually want.

The fact is, the more choices we have, the more likely it is that we will make no choice at all. Or worse, we’ll make a hurried and negative choice just to get the process over with. In the end, the more choices we have the less satisfied we are.

So where do we begin? How do we ask and answer the question, “what are my goals?” Although the science continues to evolve on the matter, there seems to be some emergent themes, which includes the ability to simultaneously create simplicity and find meaning in the choices we make. In other words, keep it simple and make sure it matters. While what matters to one person, is irrelevant to another, that’s not the point. Dreams are as unique as the dreamers.

There is power in knowing what we want. Human beings naturally strive to find purpose. Without purpose, our society would not move forward. Without the angst of creation or the struggle to grow, we might all be alive but we certainly wouldn’t be living.

If you haven’t done so, take the time to think about what it is that you really want. Cast off any preconceived notions about what you think you cannot do and get crystal clear on what it is that you really want out of life! Write it down. Tape it on the fridge or bathroom mirror and visualize the end game. It’s not exactly half the battle, but it will certainly help get you there. And if it doesn’t work out right away, please remember that you have the ability to decide how you will let your perceived failures define your life.

Take the Covey Challenge. Read along. Do the work. Be on the look out for assigned chapter reading(s) and timelines via the League’s email blasts and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jlbham or follow us on Instagram at JLBMICH.

Read On:sevenhabits

For September please read The Seven Habits of High Effective People – Paradigms & Principles pages 15-62. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or on Amazon. Or run down to your local library and check out a copy today!   And please feel free to leave a comment or question below.