Five Things I Learned on My Family Vacation

Recently, my family was together for a summer vacation and get-together in my hometown. Some of my family live here. My oldest daughter and her husband and two children came to visit. Additionally, four of our other children who live here got together in some form with the group nearly every day over a 10-day timeframe. There was much laughter, deep conversations, some drama and a lot of love.   

I was a little sad when everyone left to go home to their daily lives. I was a little surprised by some things that occurred last week and questioned why some things are the way they are. Mostly, I felt full - full of being loved and giving love. I will share how I got to this pace despite drama and how I stay there. Even if I wander off the path, I know how to get back on it to get home.  

A long time ago I read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and the advice always serves me well.

#1) Be impeccable with your word.

#2) Don't take anything personally.

#3) Don't make assumptions.

#4) Always do your best.

In my coaching practice I see that #2 and #3 bring people that most sorrow, confusion and discord.   

Notwithstanding these stellar pillars, here are some other things I learned over the last week that will accompany the Four Agreements as the lens through which I view my family and my life.   

Five Things I Learned on My Family Vacation

#1. Everyone has good intent. Anytime you put together a lot of people with big personalities and deep opinions there is likely to be some drama. Our family indeed has its own drama. Oddly enough, none of it has anything to do with the fact that my husband and I have a combined family of six children all within a 7 year age range. They get along beautifully. They value and enjoy being together. If Arnie and I had never found each other and walked down the aisle of happily-ever-after we’d still be searching for our forever loves amidst our own forever drama. 

My oldest daughter and her husband were celebrating their anniversary this week and my second daughter and I were involved in the babysit-pick-up-from-camp-overnight responsibility. This drew in my son and husband and her boyfriend. The drama around this would have put War and Peace to shame. Honestly, it truly was so ridiculous you’d have to laugh. Then when we’d finally get a plan nailed down it changed – again – several times. Sadly, this gave my oldest daughter the impression that nobody wanted to watch her children. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, though, I can understand the assumption - still noting Ruiz's third law.

We were all so concerned about getting everything right so she wouldn’t be disappointed, that we lost sight of the intent. Everyone’s intention was that the children would be safe and happy while their parents enjoyed a lovely night away. Fortunately, after having been lost in our own expectations, we got back on track with acknowledging that everyone has good intent. When it all came together it was really fun for everyone involved. Good intentions edge out drama. 

#2. Draw boundaries around what you will and will not allow. The easiest way to do this is to know what you want – what you will and won’t do before you speak. When you think out loud the conversation usually goes in circles. My husband is German and will repeatedly say to me, “Mary Lee, you don’t have to explain everything.” I hear Ruiz’s first agreement about being impeccable with your word ringing in my ears. I get it. “No” is a complete sentence.

There is something clean and simple about being concise. It leaves no room for interpretation. I also do tend to want to discuss situations longer than necessary and make nice a lot. Arnie says he would never pick me for a jury. Simplicity has worked well for me in my work, except I do tend to be late sometimes which doesn’t always go over well with my “The trains run on time in Germany” husband.

#3. If someone is disappointed, communications were likely unclear. When communications are unclear assumptions and expectations evolve. I have a phrase I use at work that goes well in these situations too – “So what I hear you saying is (inset the plan as you understand it, denoting who is responsible for what and when.) Are we in agreement on this plan?”

When you summarize for everyone it helps people understand what they've committed to. Then if you have to change plans, state the change you propose and how you will remedy any fallout from it. If you need others to change their plans to suit your change, pose it as a question. “I would like to propose a change if everyone is in agreement.” This lets everyone know you acknowledge the plan and that you are change it.

#4. Own your stuff. If you change your role in the plan, understand how that will affect other people and compensate for that. If you make a mistake, state so quickly, not after more drama. If things are going nowhere, ask that everyone pause and then state what they are willing to own in the situation. Ownership makes for progress. 

In the babysitting situation I stated that I owned my part in the drama of not committing upfront to what I was willing to do and when. I stated how I could see that doing so created room for suppositions.

#5. Be vulnerable and put love first. If everyone is posturing around what they believe and want, there isn’t room for connection. Fear is present. Fear that your opinion won't matter. Fear that you’ll be shamed. Fear that you’ll let someone down. Fear that you won’t be accepted. When you expose these fears to other people you are seen as human. Clarity around what the real issue is and how to prioritize around this emerges. You immediately open the door for growth, not posturing and personal agendas to avoid discomfort. 

Wishing you a summer full of connections, intimacy and love.

If this resonates with you here is my Get Valued, Hired and Promoted Checklist Regardless of Your Title, Age or Situation that gives you a unique way to evaluate how you show up in your career and what traits are sought-after in today's executives so you can have the heart-centered career you want.

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The Latest Still Space Podcast #49 Are Your Values Derailing Your Leadership and Your Life? Values are the guiding principles that shape our lives and dictate how we treat others in our personal and professional circles. They help us determine the decisions we make, the actions we take, and the relationships we form. Values can be defined as beliefs, attitudes, or opinions that someone has about something. They can also be defined as the things that are important to someone and guide their behavior. Values are important because they provide a sense of direction and purpose in life. They help us to know what is right and wrong. Without values, we get lost and without direction. This happens when we are stuck. In this episode we explore how to get back to your values to feel fulfilled and position yourself at you best. When we have a clear set of values, we can more easily decide what is the right thing to do in any given situation. Values help us to know ourselves better and to live a more authentic life. If you are ready to move forward, apply to work with Mary Lee and set up a consultation call to answer any questions that you have. Go to

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Your coach,  

Mary Lee 

P.S. Feel free to forward this email to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in life looking for a hand to hold. Sometimes we must be the hand that reaches out.  

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and 19-year corporate CEO who helps leaders have more effective careers, happier lives and better relationships. Apply to work with Mary Lee.

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