Skip to content

What Is Your Top Ten?

April 11, 2017

David Letterman had a top ten. I have a top ten. Do you?

To me, the top ten is the list of activities you need to incorporate into your life on a regular basis that lead to a feeling of greater fulfillment and overall well being.

My Top Ten includes:

1. Have a massage or spa treatment at least once a month.
2. Go on a date night with my hubby every two weeks
3. Plan a few moments every day to do something enjoyable by myself. This could be reading or going to a Starbucks and indulging in a latte while people watching.
4. Exercise every day for at least 45 minutes
5. Eat nutritious food, but have one night a week (usually Saturday nights!) that is my cheat night.
6. Spend time with others I love.
7. Do something kind for someone else every day. That could be sending a note to someone or taking the time to hold the door for a stranger while smiling.
8.Plan a fun vacation several times a year.
9. Meditate 5 times a week or more.
10. Listen to uplifting music. I have quite an eclectic taste in music. I am a country girl by birth so I like country music. I also like AC/DC and my kids keep me up-to-date on all the latest pop music that I must admit, I really like too!

Think about what activities make you feel alive. Many of them may even feel like a luxury. But when you stop to think about it, you really should be pampering yourself. We invest in our education, our homes, but we tend to overlook investing in our most valuable asset. Take care of your well-being and happiness. Trust me, the payoff will be worth it! Now, go ahead, and create your own Top 10!


My Partnership With Forbes!

February 15, 2017
I am excited to share with you that I have recently become a part of the invite-only Forbes Coaches Council as a representative from Canada to this global group.  As part of this, I have signed on as a regular contributor to the Forbes publication in the area of leadership and entrepreneurial development. I would like to share my first Forbes article with you now!

How To Master Strategic Thinking

One of the top skills that the leaders we work with want to develop is their ability to think strategically. The world we live in has become so fast-paced that there is a lot of pressure on leaders to think more holistically about how they can streamline processes and leverage opportunities in order to be the very best in their sector.

An executive coach’s role is to be a sounding board for his or her clients. To ask the powerful questions that lead the client to the best solutions. Through the one-on-one coaching process, I have learned that a lot of really smart people doubt their ability to be strategic thinkers. Some clients have even asked me, “What does the word ‘strategy’ really mean anyway?”

Where I find people struggle with strategy is mostly on two fronts. First, the term “strategic thinking” has become a business buzz phrase, so it can mean different things to different people. The concept of strategy is vague. The second challenge around being strategic is that once you really understand what it means, it can be difficult to understand how to apply it practically to what you do in your job.

So let’s start with defining it. Continue reading the article on the Forbes Web site.

What It Was Like To Participate in a Brain Injury Clinical Trial

February 14, 2017

For those of you who have been following my story for a while, you know I suffered a brain injury almost five years ago when I went into a medical clinic to get an x-ray of my neck and ended up fainting and hitting my head on the concrete floor. Life has not been the same for me since.

Although my brain has done a tremendous amount of healing since my accident, I still get headaches each day and I am sensitive to light and also to noise. I was told three years ago by neurologists that my healing has plateaued and I would need to get use to all of these symptoms.

I was willing to accept where I was in that moment, but I refused to give up on my continued healing. I kept moving ahead, treating myself with kindness, and I am happy to say that I have proven the experts wrong. I continued to heal greatly past the two-year post-injury mark. But, I still have further to go.

When I heard about the medical clinical trial to test the PoNS device, I was all in. It was a big sacrifice for my family to have me spend so much time away, but if it could help me, I wanted to try it. My supportive husband was completely on board to do whatever it took to help me continue to heal. So, I applied to the program.

At the start of December, I received word that I was accepted into the trial. This meant I had to pack my bags at a moment’s notice and was gone from mid December until the end of January, only returning home for a few days a week in January.

This intensive program tested an amazing gadget called the PoNS device that was featured in the bestselling book The Brain’s Way of Healing by Dr. Norman Doidge. The company that holds the patent for this device is owned by the talk show host, Montel Williams. After Montel experienced life-changing improvements from his MS symptoms when using the PoNS, he set up a company to get this device to market. The clinical trials held on it are a big part of this process. The inventors of this device claim it will have a profound impact on helping those with Parkinson’s, brain injuries, MS, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. I knew I wanted to be a part of trying out this piece of equipment and helping bring it to market as soon as possible for those in need.

When I first arrived at Concordia University, the Montreal testing site for this trial, I felt a real mix of emotions. The butterflies in my stomach came alive as I began to think about the possibility of being ‘normal’ again and also a bit of fear about the symptoms I could face through participating in this intensive trial. I had no doubt it was going to be exhausting. Could I actually stay the course and be able to physically do this?

My physiotherapist, Laura, a woman in her late twenties with brown, long hair who was born in Columbia and had made her way to Canada as a child, put my fears at ease. She told me that everything we did would be within my symptom range and she continually checked in with me throughout our time together.

The goal of the study was to see if using the PoNS device while having physiotherapy for the brain several times a day for an hour and a half each segment plus a meditation session each evening for six days a week, for a period of at least 5 weeks could improve the brain’s ability to heal over just doing the physio itself. This meant there was a real PoNS device used by some participants and a placebo PoNS device used by others. No one, not even the physiotherapists, know who has which device and we don’t find out until the study is fully wrapped up later this year.

I spent 5 weeks standing on foam pads with my eyes closed for twenty minutes, twice a day. As well as walking on a treadmill while looking different directions and then walking forwards and backwards along hallways with my eyes closed. I also trained my core like I never have before in my life. This was part of helping create greater stability and balance. I swear I must have a six-pack in there somewhere that seems to be not quite popping out thanks to all of those great French pastries!

I also found the experience of being away from my family for that long was really eye-opening for me. I was previously such an independent woman, but since the brain injury I have come to rely on my husband A LOT!

When I sat in the empty hotel room, looking out the window and seeing the Christmas lights and people walking by laughing, I realized I had lost more than just my healthy brain in the accident. I had lost a big piece of myself. In this hotel room by myself, I felt felt bored. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I actually felt helpless without my husband. I was scared to venture outside in case I fell on the ice and got hurt and no one I knew would be around to help me.

After an hour of this fretting, I pulled myself together and suited up to head out into the cold Montreal night. I walked around, looking into the store windows and ended up going to a movie. I must admit, I felt a great sense of pride sitting in that movie theatre by myself and really enjoying the show. Being okay to be with me again.

I still don’t know if I got the ‘real’ PoNS device. I did make some improvements in terms of my vestibular functioning and my vision issues have improved slightly, but I still have a way to go in terms of my healing. This trial was an important piece of the puzzle that led me to meet some amazing people I would have never had the chance to otherwise.

Would I do it again, knowing that I wouldn’t be completely healed after sacrificing this much time away from my family and business? Foresure. Not only did I walk away a little stronger due to better balance, I walked away with a piece of myself that could only come from being forced to stand on my own two feet again in the world. I may not be completely healed. But, I am very proud of myself and I know that I am a survivor.

If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion/traumatic brain injury, there is still time to participate in the study. Reasonable expenses are covered as part of this study by the U.S. Department of Defense-funded trial. Clinical trial information.  Please check with your doctor before participating.

This blog is based on an individual experience and Potential Unlimited or Carey-Ann Oestreicher will not be held liable for others experiences.

Suffering from the Impacts of a Concussion? A Clinical Trial That Might Be For You

February 9, 2017

If you have been following my story, you know that I suffered a brain injury or concussion almost 5 years ago when I fainted during an X-ray and hit my head off a concrete floor.  Freak accident that left me with daily headaches and visual sensitivity among other symptoms.

I have finished the 6.5 week clinical trial (including pre-assessment to qualify) in Montreal. I still don’t know if I had the PoNS device they are testing or the sham one for a focused control group. But, I had an amazing brain physiotherapist there who worked with me within my brain injury symptoms. The goal was to help strengthen my vestibular system and stability. I didn’t realize I had any issue here as I was more focused on the light sensitivity, headaches and symptoms that come with many different forms of stimulation. But turns out, I did have some issues here too. I do see some benefits from this study,but I also still have a way to go in my healing. It was another piece to the puzzle in help putting me back together again. It was a big sacrifice, but I am so glad I did it. If you know anyone suffering from the impacts of a concussion, check this out to see if they qualify.

Carving Out Your Own Leadership Style Within Your Organization!

November 3, 2016

Have you ever wished you were a more inspiring leader, but feel you are too busy in the execution of the job that you really haven’t spent much time reflecting on how you want to carve out your own, authentic leadership style? I encourage you to take 5 minutes now to read this article and begin thinking about some simple steps you can put in place to set you on the right course!

Regardless if you are just starting at a new company or have been there for 25 years, there is an opportunity to look within yourself and bring more to your job. I am not talking about giving more hours or even energy, it is about giving more of who you are to the role and your people. How do you do that?

  1. Identify what is important to you in terms of leadership characteristics. List three to five characteristics.
  2. Where are you acting inconsistently with these characteristics now?
  3. Assess the development gap.
  4. Write down a quick action plan for yourself to progress on leading in a way that feels right for you.

Challenges you may face:

What if the organization’s culture doesn’t align with the values you hold or if you are working for an extremely different leader? How do you operate authentically within those environments?

1.Spend some time assessing your leader’s style. Avoid being judgemental of him or her and saying things like, “they are a stress case.” Simply list characteristics such as: procrastinator, charismatic or introverted, etc.

2. Ask your leader how they prefer to communicate with you. Is it once a week, email, open door anytime policy. Really understand their needs – what they want and how they want it. The best way to know is to ask!

3. Now, assess your culture (both departmental and organizational). List characteristics of these cultures. Are they consistent with each other? No need to judge them. I am just asking you to understand them.

4. It is time to review your own aspirational leadership characteristics and compare them to that of your leader, department and organization. Consider where can you be of service while working to be a stronger leader in your own right. Where can you fill a gap that others in your area do not have the skills to do?  How can you work with your leader, department and organization as a partner, considering ways to bring even more of your true self out in the work place?

Often we don’t spend the time to make these more formalized assessments of ourselves and our working culture. Then we find ourselves morphing into the culture around us – whether we realize it or not. I am encouraging you to bring more awareness to who you want to be that feels authentic for you and understand that there is a need for the real you in the workplace, not just for someone who acts the part.  This is the path to greater work and life satisfaction.  And if people don’t like the person you are, there are always other opportunities with people who will appreciate the special qualities you bring to a leadership role.

Learn more about Potential Unlimited’s Executive Coaching programs.

Enough with the Mommy Guilt!

November 3, 2016

Once a week, my husband picks up our girls at school instead of them taking the bus home. On these afternoons, my family likes to linger longer at the school playground with some of their friends who walk home or get picked up right at the school.  During one of these occasions, my eldest daughter was playing with a friend when this little girl asked her, “Did your Mommy die?” My daughter told her I was still alive. “Well, she never picks you up from school. I thought because I never see her, she is dead!” said the friend.

Later that evening, my daughter told me what was said by her friend. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. After that comment sat with me for a moment, I felt this sharp pang of guilt in my stomach. Yes, the dreaded Mommy guilt that most working Moms experience at some point or another.

I felt like a bad Mom. I ‘should’ be picking up my daughters more often. But notice whenever we use the word ‘should’ in a sentence the action becomes more about what we think other people expect of us versus what is right for us and our families. No one knows what life is like for each family.

My second thought was ‘this girl has a stay-at-home Mom and she isn’t recovering from a brain injury.’  I asked my daughter if her friend’s Dad ever picks her up at the school and she said no. It was interesting that at this early age there is already a gender bias for that girl who thinks that Moms do the child duty and Dads do the work. But, as we know that is a problematic theory for most of us working women, many of which had stay-at-home Moms ourselves. Our strongest role models in life were those ladies who baked home-cooked meals, spent the most time with us and kept the house clean.

Fast forward the clock to our generation where we were told as little girls we could do anything we wanted in our careers and we have aspired to be our best. But, we still haven’t been able to let go of the beliefs deeply ingrained within us that we should be the ones taking our kids to school and being the primary caregiver, too.

How do we deal with this nagging feeling of ‘Mommy Guilt?’

  1. Extinguish your superwoman beliefs – We really can’t do it all. We know in business that it is not a smart strategy to try to be all things to all people so remind yourself, this is not smart to do at home either.  If you are working out of the house, outsource your cleaning, shopping, whatever you can. Most Moms I know have two major priorities, which is their family and doing fulfilling work. Try to eliminate all of the little stuff from your life so you can spend more quality time doing the things you love.
  2. Focus on quality moments when you are with your family – When was the last time you looked deeply into your children or partner’s eyes when they spoke to you? This allows them to feel like they have your full attention and it also keeps your brain present versus thinking about your to do’s for work or the little things at home that don’t really matter in the long run.
  3. Speak up – If you are feeling your schedule is unmanageable, consider if it is time for you to share this with your leader. There may be options you can explore around working from home a few days a week, reducing travel, getting a coach to help you deal with the feelings of overwhelm or even working part-time. Like my Grandfather would always say, “Where there is a will, there is a way!”
  4. Working is not a bad thing – Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed by life’s demands, it can feel like work is the devil. You may begin to feel resentful towards your job and the time it is taking away from your family. In these cases, you have to be responsible for finding a way to set boundaries for yourself and the job, knowing you will burnout if you don’t. But also, work can be a positive thing from the perspective of your children. It teaches them independence, the value of work and that you are a strong woman who is willing to put yourself out there and do a job that has a big impact on others.  We need more women leaders in the world to show the younger generations what is possible for girls!
  5. Mommy Guilt could be a sign of a bigger problem – If you feel like you are going off the rails in your life with high demands at work and home, Mommy guilt might actually just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The real issue may be around working in a career that isn’t fulfilling or having an over-scheduled life outside of work.  In this case, the Mommy Guilt may be a gift in that it makes you feel uncomfortable so you begin to reflect on what you really want out of life and work. This reflection may lead you to make some changes in your life that feel more in tune with what you really want.  Remember, feeling discomfort is not a bad thing. It often prompts us to make some of the biggest changes towards a deeper level of growth in our lives.
  6. Cut yourself some slack – Remember you can’t do it all. Tell yourself you are doing the best you can. When you go home from work tonight, look into your child’s eyes. Hug and kiss them, tell them you love them. Laugh with them. Forget about the details and organization in life for a while. Just be you. A woman who loves her child, and for that time, all the rest of the world will slip away.

Find out more about my After-the-Baby Coaching Programs for Moms balancing demands of busy career and home lives.

Setting Work-Life Boundaries That Stick!

September 26, 2016

One of the greatest challenges I see for the people I work with as an Executive and Career Coach is wanting to work in a fulfilling high-level career while still enjoying quality time with family and friends. This issue is often referred to as work-life balance, but the idea of perfect balance is rarely true. What I want clients to build for themselves is career-life integration, where components of their lives are managed in a way of their planning based on given priorities at the time.

I am going to walk you through a great exercise to help you with your priority setting. Take out a piece of paper and pen. Write down your top 4 or 5 non-negotiables. For me, it is – #1 Spending time with my family and helping support them the best I can #2 Taking time for myself to practice daily meditation and exercise #3 My work – I feel completely energized by helping others be their best in their careers and in their lives outside of work #4 Fun – This includes time with friends or doing some fun activity by myself or with family.

Now get specific. What is it about each of those priorities that is important to you. For instance, for my family piece, it is important to us that we go out for a nice dinner as a family once a week, including going for a yummy kid-friendly dessert somewhere after. Also, it is important to my husband and I that we are outside with our children 3-5 times a week doing something active, such as biking, walking, running at the park or playing with neighbours on the street.

Complete this exercise for each of your above priorities. The more specific and measurable you can be, the more successful you will be in setting priorities and establishing boundaries.

Now, build these priorities into your online work calendar. Use this calendar for your evening and weekend commitments, too. Mark them in a way so others do not see what you are doing. Your downtime belongs to you. Think of blocking off this time as making appointments with your family and yourself.

By completing this exercise, you have just established your boundaries. So, how do you stick to them? Well, first off having them in your calendar shows others you are already booked. It also reminds you of your family and personal time.

The second point to making boundaries stick is about modeling your priorities. This means not sneaking out of the office when it is time to go home, but just leaving and saying good-bye to those along the way. You don’t owe everyone an explanation on the way out if you are heading to the gym at lunch or leaving work on time in the evening, just leave. Place family pictures on your desk to remind you of your family if you are tempted to keep staying late and missing dinner with them, if that is one of your priorities.

The more you can model a leader who is doing a great job while still enjoying life, the more you will show others it can be done. These behaviours have the power to change the culture to be a more productive one where people are motivated not by fear and face time, but by results and quality of life.  You are in control of your life and time. Make sure you use it in a way of your choosing.

Visit Potential Unlimited’s website to find out more about the coaching program that is right for you!