Five lessons learned from five teachers


Executive coach uses mantra with clients "just for today I am"

“Just for today, I am…”

Insert your chosen word there.

That mantra is a crucial part of my morning routine. It’s a tool I took with me from my Reiki training—one of five life lessons that I try to live out each and every day.

Each of these lessons stems from a different teacher or mentor in my life, and they all help to keep me centered, focused and content. Maybe there’s something helpful here for you in the New Year, so I’ll share each and how it found me:

Just for today, I am…

I started receiving Reiki in 2009, during a transitional period in my life. I needed something to quiet my mind and relax my body, and Reiki—an ancient therapy used to reduce stress and promote relaxation—did the trick. But it was my teacher, Cynthia Stamps, who had the most lasting impact.

Cynthia was a beautiful soul. She passed away a few years ago, but her presence stays with me. She had an incredible healing ability, and it was with her that I learned Reiki’s Five Precepts:

Just for today I release all anger. Just for today I release all worry. Today I am grateful. Today I live each moment in the present and do my work honestly. Today I show kindness to all that has life.

I’ve since adapted this to fit any of my daily challenges or opportunities, and I suggest my clients do the same. Facing a big presentation? Say to yourself, “Just for today, I am confident.” If you mess up before lunch, adjust the mantra and try again. “Just for this afternoon, I am…”

Pay attention

My first boss out of college, Colleen Mohan, gifted this to me. Colleen’s ability to make the people around her feel important and special is unparalleled, and I saw that from the start, so I observed her religiously.

I remember sitting at an event that we had thrown to thank a production crew for their hard work. Colleen took the stage, recognizing each member with incredible specificity. I stood in the corner and watched in amazement. I could see how much her words meant to them.

Colleen’s trick? She pays attention. The woman remembers everything, and as she gets to know you, she’ll surprise you with how intentionally thoughtful (and detailed) she can be.

I try to pay attention like Colleen because I’ve seen the kind of impact it can make. I tuck away weird facts—stories, favorite songs, etc.—in the hopes that we can chat about them again, and you’ll know I listened and cared. This ability to remember details can make all the difference to coworkers, bosses, friends and family.

Find space for everyone at the table

This lesson came to me from Cindy Lazarus, who was the CEO of Flying Horse Farms during my time there.

Working with her was like getting an MBA in management. She made it her mission to include everyone, to make them feel involved and heard, no matter their rank.

I still think about my first Flying Horse Farms meeting with Cindy. She had gathered a group of 30 community leaders to provide input on our annual gala. She catered the event (picking up the tab herself) and listened to ideas from everyone in the room. To her, hearing diverse perspectives resulted in the best outcome.

Even if you had an idea that, for whatever reason, just wasn’t going to work, Cindy would of course hear you out and then find the best possible way to say “no.” She showed that kind of respect to every person she interacted with. I’m better for it.

What did you learn today?

I’d be remiss not to mention my husband, Nick, here. When we were dating, Nick would call me at night and ask me two questions: What did you learn today? What are you excited about?

In the beginning, I dreaded the first question. I often felt like I just didn’t have a good answer. But his prompting made me intentionally seek to learn something each and every day. What a gift he gave me.

I didn’t so much mind the question about excitement. I’m of the mind that if you don’t have a good answer to that question, you’re missing out. Think about what it is that would energize you (planning a vacation, starting a business), and go after it.

Go back to the start

I end my day by going back to how it began. I’m taking a cue from Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach I’ve long admired, here. Marshall has a list of questions that he’s actually hired someone to call and ask him. Did you do your best to set clear goals? Find meaning? Be happy?

I don’t take it to that level, but I do keep a set of questions handy, often related to whatever intention I set for the day. This is my way of holding myself accountable. My current questions are:

Did I do my best to set clear goals?

Did I do my best to be present for my family?

Did I do my best to invest in my health?

Did I do my best to learn something new?

Did I do my best to lead with kindness?

I encourage clients to end their day like this and to perhaps designate a person—a spouse or a close friend—to ask them those questions. It’ll help you stay on track.

If you’re in need of additional ways to set intentions and stay on track, I’m an executive coach who helps clients nationwide with personal and professional development. You can reach me at

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