“Make the right choices now. Don’t choose out of negativity,” said Marion Jones, former five-time Olympic medalist and the morning’s keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 8, 2011.
Our choices – for me anyway – were the critical theme of the conference. Few speakers brought it to bear as simply as Ms. Jones. She spoke in a very personal way about her choices – and the realities of being too ashamed, too proud or too exhausted to make a choice, let alone the right choice. Prior to the event I wasn’t familiar with her story. It seems she was on the forefront of high-performing athletes who took performance enhancing drugs but chose not to be truthful about it.
To illustrate choice as the conference’s underlying theme I wanted to share a very thought-provoking session entitled “How to Impact Change: Real World Advice for How You Can Influence and Make a Difference,” moderated by Moira Forbes. Ms. Forbes was accompanied in the discussion by four weighty ladies; including the former governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift and a representative to the UN General Assembly, a Obama political appointment, Carol Fulp. Ms. Forbes drew out a few themes that I thought Novofemina’s readers might enjoy:
- Do you have a clear mission? The panelists all shared personal stories about their work and their personal mission – some integrated a strong spiritual or social justice element. In essence, I heard them ask over and over again of themselves, ‘what am I called to do?’
- Do you own your narrative? Do you remember our Voices of Transition interview with the food industry executive? She put it so beautifully. “Our story is an engaging narrative that illustrates the unique value we bring — to the situations we care most deeply about.” What is your unique story? Even if your choices involve trade offs that you’d never before considered — can you still speak about it from the heart?
- What impact do you hope to have? Governor Swift stole that stage on this one. She said, “look if I’m working I am choosing to be away from my kids. That a big commitment so it has to be meaningful” She is currently running Middlebury Interactive Languages, LLC whose services she cares deeply about.
- Can you see ways to integrate your passions across multiple spheres? What tools do you have to leverage? Carol Fulp told an excellent story of leveraging her personal passions for social justice and politics. Because of these interests she chose to join the Massachusetts Obama for President campaign early in Obama’s trek for the White House. Her excellent, spirited volunteerism allowed her to be seen by President Obama and his staffers. After his win she was asked to represent the U.S. at the U.N. General Assembly.
We’ve heard these questions over and over again in the Summer Book Reviews and the Voices of Transition posts. Maybe we’re closer to defining a process for women’s transition than I thought. I wonder what I’ll do with my Wednesday nights from now on….
As I wade through the holiday season I plan to sit with Marion Jones’ remarks a while. I want to think about my past choices through her framework — too proud, too exhausted, or too ashamed? I wonder if I can learn anything from those choices now given her lens? I also plan to write down the choices that I need to make in the New Year. I’m not a resolution sort of gal — not a planner – but I have a suspicion that this exercise will be valuable for me.
So instead of answers I will write down the questions. What are those choices that I need to make to bring forward the value I want to create? Truth be told about a week ago I finally wrote down the answer to the question, “what will you consider an unqualified success?” The answer came quickly one afternoon. Here’s the surprise – I’ve returned to it many times – already.
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