Julying with Intention — Reflect | Refresh | Renew


I started a tradition years ago to take a portion of the summer off. My intention at the time with three young children was to plan daily adventures and make amazing memories. At the end of our time off I would find myself so sad. Likely because our fun had come to an end and I poured all of my energy into making their summer incredible with no energy left for me.

But as moms we are supposed to do that right, put our children before ourselves?  As leaders I find we do the same thing, pouring all of our energy into our teams and executing our plans only to find at the end of the day our gas tanks empty.  

I remember one of my mentors sharing with me years ago “Nicole, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others,” easy in principle but difficult in practice for me.  Fast forward to this year, three teenage kids who have very active lives which include days filled with sport of the season practices, jobs and friends. I wasn’t about to give up on the concept and tradition we had created years ago while recognizing it needs to look different. I chose for it be an entire month for the first time. I blocked my calendar and even decided to name it… “Julying”, oh it was about to go down!    

It takes time to slow down

I personally find it takes several days to actually slow down and create a new rhythm of less busyness, so I thought why not kick of “Julying” at the lake? The first four days were filled with sunrise, sunburn, sunset repeat as Luke Bryan sings! We loved every moment.

Day 5 the strangest thing happened, everyone except me needed to go home for at least two days for work or mandatory practice/training. I had to make a choice, head home with the family or stay at the lake and bask in the quietness. My youngest tried to convince me to stay back so mom wouldn’t be alone. Stay strong, he needed to head back to finish his driver’s ed program and I needed this time. This sweet precious time to reflect.    

Day 10 the emails began to come in, asking for my time. I had watched a colleague declare the same intention of time off only to allow others to hijack his time. I told myself, stay strong, Nicole, you have to do this!

We are all surrounded by well-intentioned people, those same people will hijack your time if your boundaries aren’t strong. The reality is the inertia of work will always be there pushing at us. As leaders, how well do we communication our intentions, our boundaries, whatever is most important to us? In my coaching I often hear leaders share one of their biggest challenges is protecting their boundaries. It’s just hard to say no. My negotiation was to respond and reassure, moving the work to August.

Day 18, here is what I have learned so far; there is so much more inside of me than I dare think.   

And, these three practices are essential for us as leaders:

Reflect…to think deeply or carefully about

This can be tough, being alone with your thoughts, but it is essential to our growth. It’s important to take inventory of what is working and what is not. What do I need to move on? Take on? Let go? There isn’t a distinct beginning and end to this phase, I find myself using it for minutes or even a few hours each day.     

Refresh…give new strength or energy to reinvigorate

I love this phase, for me it’s all about possibilities and envisioning. If you have ever taken the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), a psychometric assessment, which measures thinking preferences. I am a very strong yellow which prefers to think more future based, ideas and conceptual. For us yellows, getting time to design what’s possible fuels us in amazing ways.  

My focus during this phase has also been on self-care, what will it take for me to be at my very best. I have started a new routine to do just that. I am nervous, excited… ok really just freaking out a little bit. More to come on this! And last, revisiting and refining my purpose, ethos and one thing to give me a strong roadmap to support these changes.  

Renew…to do something again after a pause, usually with more energy or emphasis than before

As I enter into August I already see a much more focused and energized version of myself. Taking this pause positons me well for the 2nd half of the year. August for me will be leaping back into work, launching the boys back into high school and taking our first born, Moe to start college, celebrating my 21st anniversary with my best friend and husband and celebrating six years of being a business owner. So much to look forward to. 

Making lasting changes are important and holding this new mindset is contagious for others too! The concept of Reflect |Refresh |Renew can be applied over the course of hours, days, a week or even longer. I chose to invest 30 days because for the past five years I have been going 100 mph. You might be thinking “oh isn’t it nice Nicole had the luxury of taking 30 days off” nope, no luxury, it was an investment. An overdue investment. An investment I am willing to make more often because of the outcome. It’s all about choices.    

What choices will you make to be the best version of YOU?

When I let go of what I am I become what I might be.
— John Heider
Nicole Bianchi