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President's Message

Lee Chaix McDonough

It's Complicated ...

I have a complicated relationship with the month of August. I love its long days and the relaxing pace of its first few weeks, a call to take it easy and enjoy life. Early August means days at the beach or by the pool, enjoying time with my kids and being outside.

Yet somewhere around the third week, an abrupt shift occurs and I’m forced to go from laid-back to full steam ahead. My kids head back to school and the pace picks up almost overnight. It may still feel like summer outside, but those lazy days are done.

In years past, I haven’t managed this August transition very smoothly. I feel agitated, overwhelmed, and stressed out as my family and I develop new routines and readjust to real life.

Eventually, we figure it out and those routines become our “new normal.” But that back-to-school transition is tough, and it takes a toll.

This August, however, I plan to approach it from an entirely different perspective – one that’s inspired by this year’s theme of Building Bridges.

Building Bridges is all about creating and maintaining connections. Initially, I had thought about it in terms of bridges between people and organizations, and creating opportunities for outreach and growth.

But it’s also about Building Bridges from where we are now to where we want to be. It’s about forging new paths and new connections – with others, yes, but also within ourselves.

Viewed through the lens of Building Bridges, my annual August transition looks less like a dreaded event and more like an opportunity. Where do I want to be, and how can I build that bridge? What would it look like to approach this time with awareness and ease, rather than anxiety and exhaustion?

There’s an acronym I learned from my training in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy that sums it up nicely – if you want to move forward, you have to ACT:

  • Accept your current situation as your starting point
  • Choose a value-driven solution
  • Take action!

First, you have to take objective stock of where you are and coming to terms with it. It doesn’t mean you have to like it or want it, but you do have to acknowledge it. For me, like it or not, summer is ending and school is coming. That’s my starting point.

Then, you have to look at your options and determine which one(s) align best with your values, or what matters most to you. My four core values are service, connection, joy, and love, so what could I do that honors these values?

For example, I can spend quality time with my family during the last week before school, express gratitude for all we’ve been able to do during the summer, and do some advance school preparation (buying supplies, planning lunches, etc.). Those three steps feel completely aligned with my values.

Finally, you’re ready to take action and put your solutions in place. In my case, that means sitting down with my calendar to schedule family time and prep time (and then following through on both!), and journaling about my favorite summer memories from a place of gratitude.

As the year goes on, we’ll have numerous opportunities for Building Bridges, individually and as an organization. I challenge you – and myself – to view each one as a chance to ACT. And let’s see what new bridges we can build together.



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