The Napkin Test

I checked out Author Daniel Pink’s recent PINKCAST , where Daniel Pink asks Life Coach Richard Leider for some quick tips on how to answer one of the toughest questions out there.

What should I do with the rest of my life?

I’ve asked this question of myself many times in the past and I think everyone probably has at one time or another.

During the brief interview, Leider explains a simple equation that is the basis for The Napkin Test.

G (Gifts) + P (Passion) + V (Values) = C (Calling)

The Napkin Test (2)Gifts are your natural and most enjoyed talents. I really appreciated that Leider emphasized you don’t necessarily need to have formal education and/or training culminating in a degree, diploma, or certificate to validate your Gifts status at something. Your talents can be innate or honed through your life experiences as well.

Passions are what you’re really interested in and that’s what makes it so easy for you to lose yourself in when you’re immersed in them.

The Values that make up this equation also take into account where you want to do what you love to do and who you want to do it for or with.

Add these three components together and they point to your Calling. A Calling isn’t necessarily the same as your ideal job/career.  A Calling is more about how you can combine those gifts, passions and values to discover a specific purpose for yourself. By following a Calling, you can bring meaning to your life which in turn can lead to increased liveliness, happiness, fulfillment and health for yourself.

My curiosity got the better of me so I decided to give The Napkin Test equation a try  to see how it works and if it really worked. Here’s what I came up with.

What are some of my Gifts?

  • Instructing, coaching, facilitating, teaching
  • Motivating and inspiring others
  • Listening to others so that they feel heard
  • Creativity

What am I Passionate about?

  • Following a healthy, work-life balanced approach to life
  • Training and helping others to be kinder to themselves so they are better equipped to help themselves, others and to reach their true potential
  • Learning
  • Exploring new ways to exercise creativity

What do I Value?

  • Self-respect, personal well-being, freedom, independence, creativity, compassion, diversity and inclusiveness
  • Partnering with individuals and organizations whose focus it is too to help themselves and others part of a community to improve their situation and reach their potential
  • Being able to make a direct impact

My Calling is not just one thing. I have come to realize I have at least several.

  • First, to lead a simple life that begins with acknowledging that I have much to be grateful for, the present is what matters most and I’m only human therefore it’s wise to embrace imperfection.
  • Second, to practice self-care, self-compassion and the freedom to make mistakes on a regular and ongoing basis. It’s just simple logic because in order for me to do the things I love most and am good at, I have to be operating from a place of balance…mentally, physically, socially, spiritually and unrestrained by shame.
  • Through conscious awareness and pursuit of the above, I have the energy and personal resources to pursue my other Callings like helping others discover their own full potential too and creating beautiful art.

My conclusion? The Napkin Test really is a useful self-awareness and self-discovery exercise to get you engaged and thinking about what kind of things really motivate you to get out of bed in the morning and one step closer to feeling like you’re living a life with purpose.

Self-Esteem through Self-Care

Daily Self-Care

Self-Esteem is an important part of a person’s well-being. It comes from within ourselves and helps to determine what we project of ourselves outward for others to see and hear. Having positive self-esteem implies you accept, respect, trust and believe in yourself.

When you accept yourself as you are, you can live comfortably with both your personal strengths and weakness without self-criticism.

When you respect yourself, you are acknowledging your value as a unique human being.

Trusting yourself comes from consistency and coherence in your feelings and behaviours despite changes and challenges before you.

Believing in yourself means believing that you deserve to have good things in your life and that you can achieve your personal needs and goals.

Where would you place yourself on the following scale? (0 being very low self-esteem and 10 being very high self-esteem)

0 - 10 Self-Estem Scale

Growing in self-esteem means developing confidence and strength from within. Self-esteem is built gradually over time in your life through a willingness to work on a number of areas in it like taking care of yourself.


Without developing a basic willingness to care for, love and nurture yourself, it’s difficult to achieve a deep or lasting sense of self-worth. Two important ways to take better care of yourself include

  • Acknowledging and meeting your own basic needs.
  • Making time for small acts of self-nurturing on a regular basis.

How many of your basic needs are you actually getting fulfilled at this time?

I’m talking about basic needs like:

  • Physical safety and security
  • Financial security
  • Friendship
  • Being listened to
  • Respect
  • Expressing and sharing your feelings
  • Sense of belonging
  • Physically touching and being touched
  • A sense of accomplishment and progress towards your goals
  • Feeling competent or masterful in some area
  • Fun and play
  • Creativity
  • Spiritual awareness
  • Unconditional love

In what areas do you come up short?

To help me ensure my basic needs are met on a daily basis I came up with the idea of creating a Self-Care Menu for myself.

How does it work?

Well just as a menu in a restaurant separates items by grouping them (appetizers, main courses, desserts), I grouped possible self-care activities for myself by morning, throughout the day and evening periods. The goal was to complete at least one self-care activity from each of the categories on a daily basis providing opportunity for me to be present and enjoy being in the moment.

I posted my Self-Care Menu in a visible place  in the kitchen beside my fridge so I could look at it throughout the day and be reminded that self-care was a priority. After 30 days, I found myself completing not just one but often two or three activities under each category with ease. As a result, I felt calmer, healthier physically, mentally and spiritually and have experienced improved self-esteem.

So what type of things can you include for self-care items? That’s the beauty of it…anything that nurtures, re-energizes, and re-balances you. It can be anything physical, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, social or emotional. To get you inspired, here’s some of the things that were listed on my Self-Care Menu.

  • Take a warm bath
  • Go for a walk on a scenic path in a park
  • Stop and admire the ocean
  • Wake up early and give myself time to do some mediation and/or yoga before work
  • Sleep in at least once a week without an alarm to wake me
  • Watch the sunset
  • Relax with a good book and/or soothing music
  • Watch a funny Netflix show
  • Play my favorite music and dance to it by myself or with someone else
  • Go to bed early
  • Go out on a date
  • Get inspired by connecting with my garden
  • Take the time to gaze up at the stars
  • Take a “mental health” day off
  • Fix a special dinner just for myself and eat by candlelight
  • Go for a walk in the neighbourhood
  • Call a good friend and have a good intimate conversation
  • Spend quality time with my family
  • Go for a swim at the community pool
  • Create a piece of art
  • Develop a goal and then visualize achieving it
  • Read an inspirational book
  • Write and send a letter to an old friend
  • Bake something healthy and special for myself like some “Cliff” cookies
  • Explore new music on iTunes and purchase a song that grabs me
  • Write in my daily journal about what I have accomplished

Not it’s your turn to start ensuring you are giving yourself adequate time for self-care. What steps can you take over the next 30 days to better satisfy your needs that are going unmet? What can you do for yourself to start building stronger self-esteem?


stress“Stress” can be defined as a physical, mental or emotional response to events that cause bodily or mental tension. It comes from a situation or a thought that makes you feel frustrated, nervous, anxious or angry. Stress can be a good thing and it can also be harmful.

Ideally, you want to limit your exposure to harmful stress and when it is present, learn to manage in a healthy way.

Common sources of stress include:

  • Having too much to do and no time to keep up
  • Having no time for yourself
  • Having few/no opportunities for personal development
  • Feeling like you have little control over your decisions
  • Personal concerns – family, financial, health, etc.
  • Environmental issues – noise, lack of space, disorganization

Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Cognitive (memory problems, inability to concentrate, continuous worry, racing thoughts)
  • Emotional (feeling down, overwhelmed, irritable, inability to relax)
  • Physical (excessive perspiration, chest pains/elevated heart rate, frequent colds/illness, nausea, dizziness or headaches)
  • Behavioral (increase /decrease in appetite, nervous habits, difficulty/irregular sleeping, excessive use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs)

I’ve recently finished reading In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts (Close Encounters with Addiction) by Dr. Gabor Maté.

In the book, Dr. Maté states that a major factor in addiction that medical and social policies must take into account is stress. His argument is that if we want to support the addictive person’s potential for healthy transformation, we must stop imposing debilitating stress on their already burdened existence.

Dr. Maté identifies the following examples of stress that are triggers for the development of addictive behaviours and the most predictable trigger for relapse.

  • conflict, loss of control and uncertainty in important areas of life, whether personal or professional, economic or psychological
  • emotional isolation or the sense that we are dominated by others changes our brains in ways that increase the need for external sources of dopamine, increasing the risk of addiction

A key determining factor for triggering the stress response is the way a person perceives a situation. We ourselves give events their meaning, depending on our personal histories, temperament, physical condition and state of mind at the moment we experience them. Therefore the degree to which we’re stressed may depend less on external circumstances than on how well we are able to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally.

How can we help ourselves and others to manage stress?

We can begin by becoming more self-aware of what our individual stressors are and how they take form within us. In other words where in our body are we feeling them? Asking ourselves:

  • What are my sources of stress?
  • How do I know when I am experiencing stress?
  • What are my stress reactions?

Remember, our thoughts impact our behavior and emotions. Stress comes from our perception of the situation. Technically, a situation is not stressful, it’s our perceptions that MAKE IT stressful. Sometimes our perceptions are right, but sometimes we are wrong! When we are wrong, these are unhelpful patterns of thinking.

Unhelpful patterns of thinking include:

  • All or nothing thinking
  • Over-generalization
  • Should statements
  • Personalization
  • Catastrophizing
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Filtering out the positive

The role of control in stress reduction includes focusing on what is in your control like:

  • Your ability to prioritize work & personal obligations
  • Your reactions to events and people
  • Your thoughts

Through focusing on areas under our control we can feel empowered and relief from stress.

What we don’t want to focus upon are areas outside of our control like:

  • How people respond to you
  • Other people’s feelings

Focusing on these areas outside of our control can leave us feeling hopeless, anxious and feeling STRESSED.

Here are some everyday Self-Care strategies to reduce stress:

  • eat a well- balanced diet (have healthy snacks)
  • drink water and fluids low in sugar, calories, and caffeine
  • sleep well
  • exercise regularly (find a physical activity that you find enjoyable and stick to doing it)
  • avoid substance misuse
  • allow for “rejuvenation, re-nurturing or downtime” each day for yourself to decompress
  • talk with friends, colleagues and family but be mindful of avoiding gossip and hurtful conversations
  • write in a journal
  • consistently reward yourself for a job well done
  • create positive self-statements by introducing repetitive positive and motivating statements into your day and in reaction to your thoughts
  • practice relaxation techniques like calming visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, slow and deep breathing, listening to soothing music and meditation


Working in the 21st Century

work-in-the-21st-centuryAs I welcome in the beginning of another new year, I reflect upon what has just passed, what’s occurring in the present and what’s to come. I think it’s an important career management strategy for us all.

As a Career Management Professional providing services to clients in the 21st century, I never cease to be amazed at the pace of change taking place in how people work and the type of work that’s being done. Below are some of those notable changes.

“Job Churn”

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau commented that Canadians should get used to what he called “job churn” — short-term employment that may include a number of career changes. The idea of working for the same organization over a single career seems to be a dream of the past.

Working from home

The trend is for workers to work from home in an ever-increasing amount. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement. For the employee it offers flexibility like being able to avoid lengthy commutes into work, being able to access emails from the comfort of one’s home or starting and finishing a workday earlier. Disadvantages include less face-to-face interactions with other staff working at the office that could lead to reduced levels of engagement for team members working from home over the long run.

Companies could help overcome this problem by implementing regular catch-up meetings, Skype, video conferencing or negotiating a schedule where workers work from home only part of every week and come into the office the other days.

The age of the mobile device

The 21st century has certainly started off as the age of the smart mobile device. Workers who spend time outside of work connected to email or working remotely on their “off time” are at risk of experiencing heavier amounts of stress than workers who don’t. Employers more and more expect their employees to remain connected through their mobile devices and as a result workers are emailing during their precious off hours which should be reserved for personal self-care time.

The “Data Scientist”

The types of jobs we are doing are changing. The workforce has become increasingly urban. Technology has reduced the workers needed for manufacturing in the 21st century. Along with this shift, manufacturing jobs have declined while the service industry (particularly healthcare) has picked up the slack. As our population ages, the healthcare industry will continue to grow.

Despite the shift in the kinds of jobs that are now available, not everyone is ready for this 21st century workforce. We hear about a disconnect between the jobs that are in demand and the training that is available.

During the 21st century companies and government have been increasingly collecting data on everything we do. This glut of data means an increasing need for data scientists who can analyze and interpret it. You’ll find data scientists working in start-ups and established businesses but there’s a shortage of them…at least for now.

Rising age of retirement

What’s behind this slow but steady rise in the retirement age? Part of it is due to workers (myself included) who need to stay employed longer out of financial need. It’s also because some baby boomers just don’t want to retire yet and have chosen instead to work longer.

Retirement and work are no longer mutually exclusive. Individuals who work in retirement, seek out jobs that meet their needs and preferences like a work culture of respect, work-fit and learning opportunities. Self-employment is an attractive option for mature workers, particularly for those unable to find a flexible and suitable workplace.

The “Contingent Worker”

Contingent workers are freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or other outsourced and non-permanent workers who are hired on a per-project basis. They can work on site or remotely. Contingent workers are highly skilled experts in their fields. They are workers hired to complete specified projects and tasks. Once the project is over, they leave, but may be called back when another project arises. They are not employees of a company and therefore the business that contracts them has no responsibility to provide continuous work on a permanent basis.

For business owners, the advantages of a contingent workforce are mostly financial. They do not have to collect and pay taxes from the workers’ pay cheques. They don’t have to offer health benefits, provide paid sick days and vacation days or pay for overtime. This not only saves them significant money associated with recruiting and hiring permanent employees, but it also allows them to save on administrative costs associated with payroll and human resources, too.


And then there’s the “uber-ization” of just about anything and everything these days. It’s changing the way we buy products and services.  It all started with the taxi sector when you could tap your Uber app on your smartphone screen and a taxi appears ‘automagically’ – as if by magic.  The Uber app tells you the expected price you’ll pay before you get in, and when you arrive there’s no messing with cash, cards, tips or receipts – the Uber app automatically debits your Uber account and issues a digital receipt.

Uber is the leading example of ‘convenience-tech’’; technology that buys you time and saves you effort. From new on-demand mobile services for a haircut, renting by the hour a parking space, designer handbag or sharing tools, providing small or large-scale home renovation and repair services, home cleaning, grass cutting, driveway shoveling, medical services and even bodyguards. Uber-style businesses have become the new trend for start-up businesses. But are they fully legitimate businesses? Do they need to collect taxes, declare all income earned as self-employment income, register for municipal business licenses and respect municipal bylaws? And are these Uber and AirBnB inspired ventures that make up the sharing economy just further evidence of a rapid transition to a more part-time and freelance focused workforce?

These are just some of the changes afoot in the 21st century of work. How prepared are you to adjust with them so you remain in a position to ride the waves of change?