On Being a Change Agent and More. A conversation with Elizabeth Paulson

I would like to thank my amazing friend, Elizabeth Paulson, for being a recent guest on our show. You can listen to our show here or read on!

Welcome to Courageously Go where we will venture into places we’ve been afraid to go. Women of the world, we are going to start a movement. A movement toward courage. I am Debbie DiPietro. I am the creator of my award- winning blog The Warm Milk Journal where our mission is to live the life of our dreams by day and sleep restfully at night. For many years I was challenged with anxiety and issues of insomnia. I decided when I turned 50, about a year and a half ago, that enough was enough. It’s time to live more courageously. And, hence, this new podcast, which I am very excited about.
The aim here at Courageously Go is to facilitate a global conversation about courage. I believe when we live from our hearts by choosing courage, the life of our dreams and a better world for all are possible. No matter our age or circumstances, we never need to feel stuck or alone. I am very excited to introduce today’s guest, Elizabeth Paulson. Elizabeth is currently the customer assistance programs manager for JEA. Where she builds partnerships and collaborations with 45-60 non-profit agencies that provide 2.7 million dollars annually and utility bill assistance for low income customers. She possesses 30 plus years of advocating for girls and young women, and has earned a MBA Master’s of Business Administration along with a Bachelor degree in women’s studies and recreation. In December of last year, she was presented a powerful achievement for the creation of an international award winning program, JaGirls that teaches girls about money, careers, and how to start a business. She’s a Jacksonville Journal Business Woman of Influence. Elizabeth, welcome to Courageously Go.

Elizabeth: Thanks, Deb.

Debbie: I’m excited to have you, how are you?

Elizabeth: I’m good and I’m so honored to have been selected as one of your guests.

Debbie: Oh you’re someone, … I’ve known you for quite a while now and as a friend and professionally, you inspire me. I will say that. You do such good work out there, especially for girls and women and you’re just someone who I really admire so thank you for being with us here today.

Elizabeth: Thanks, Deb. You’re one of my heroes. And having me on your show right now and seeing this dream of yours coming true and seeing the next chapter in it all is fascinating to me.

Debbie: It’s exciting, right? Yeah.

Elizabeth: It is. We’re on a ride aren’t we?

Debbie: We are. Life is good. Right, this has definitely been an interesting journey and we’ve known each other honestly, ten plus years now, it’s crazy how fast time goes and we both have known each other during a lot of challenges, a lot of ups and downs in life but, I think that people can relate to and not quite knowing where we are at but I think it’s safe to say we’re both at a really exciting place for 2018. And I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for both of us.

Elizabeth: I agree and don’t you think it had everything to do with where we turn our vision? Because I think that you and I have both had good components in our lives throughout all of it but when we focus on the good, it just seems to replicate.

Debbie: I agree. It’s interesting you brought that up, last week’s guest, we were talking about that very thing, once we get clear on our vision it’s amazing how things get into it, our values, and into alignment and doors open and then wow. So …

Elizabeth: That’s right.

Debbie: So let’s begin with something I know you’re interested in. You lately are calling yourself a change agent and I am so intrigued. Change agent, so what is that all about, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth: I picked that up a long time ago and I think it has everything to do with who I am. And what I’ve walked into as far as employment goes and then it bleeds over into the rest of my life, it’s exactly what you just said, Deb. It’s about getting clear about why we’re here. Most recently I worked for a utility company that has 455,000 electric customers. We also serve water and sewage, sewer. So, the company I work for is very different from having worked in the non-profit world. I’ve been here about, I’m on my fourth year. I love my job. Primarily because of all the opportunities that keep presenting themselves. Recently we participated in Tom Roth’s Strength Finders. Have you heard of that?

Debbie: I have, I did that about ten years ago. Yes.

Elizabeth: Yes, well it confirmed what I’ve always known about myself that my gifts include being a strategist, a futurist, I’m a connector, I have communication skills and I’m an achiever so, change agent. I picked that a long time ago, Deb. I like ’cause it’s so short. In this day and age we don’t have a long at tension span, so to be a change agent, and those two words I want to be catchy. Connects to my being on this earth, being clear about why I’m here, having no fear going forward and saying yes when it matches who I am. I believe in synchronicity. And I believe in the universal call to opportunities that present themselves that sit on my lap. For instance, how did I get into the utility field? I would have never picked working for utility. It is the most rewarding job for me right now. It matches who I am. Change agent is one of the reasons I’m her on this earth. And that’s what that means.

Debbie: Thank you for sharing that, I think the concept of change is highly relevant for a show about courage because I know that just being a human being, change is scary for most of us, isn’t it? We tend to creatures of comfort and we can get kind of stuck in our routines and life will throw us some curve balls. If there’s some things we can count on, it’s certainly death, taxes and change. And so, I really believe Elizabeth the more we can master, at least embrace and have a positive perspective on change, that will help us live a more courageous and heart filled life. That’s what I believe anyway. What do you think?

Elizabeth: I agree. I think it goes back to what you said though in the very beginning of this when you said it’s important for us to get clear. We have to be clear about who we are to be able to first of all, have no fear in moving forward when something new presents itself to us because I would be a lot more afraid and less courageous if what I was doing didn’t match who I was. Let me tell you, I’ve done that, I’ve been there. I remember numerous jobs as I made my way in life that just did not work. I was not able to be who I am.

Debbie: That vision, we need to alignment with our values, and who we are and you found that through the strength finder exercise? Is there anything else, what would you recommend? Maybe … I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that have struggled like you and I have for many years and how do we get that clarity and that vision?

Elizabeth: Don’t you think it’s about just knowing … I think we have to practice everyday something. Some people do yoga, I journal, occasionally, not everyday. I read, I’ve got books, I’ve got the best group of friends who, let me tell you, like you will tell me the truth about what I’m considering. And I seek a lot of counsel. My mom is still with us right now and let me tell you if there’s anybody who will tell you exactly what’s going on it’s someone from your family. And that’s when I’m seeking something. When I’m moving forward. As far as a career goes, I’m the only one in my family that has an MBA and has moved in this direction and I’m the only one that’s left Minnesota. Which, people don’t leave Minnesota, I don’t think they’re ever told that you can, that’s my inside joke about Minnesota. I think every single risk I’ve ever taken has profited me in some way. And moved me forward and each one has been a big risk so I check in with a lot of different people in a lot of different apps or mediums or, I just make sure it matches. More important is you make sure it’s right in your gut. You can usually feel it, especially women.

Debbie: I agree with that on both counts. As you know I have my time in the morning when I write in my journal and my short morning prayers, I’m really enjoying meditation lately but, I think having that time really helps us stay centered and I have found too, Elizabeth, I know that you know this, 11 and a half years ago I did a huge tremendous leap when I left Seattle Washington and came down here to Jacksonville Florida without looking back, I pretty much just got a one way plane ticket and packed up my life of 15 years and came on down to Florida and really didn’t think too much about it. I just went for it and I think I just knew and felt in my gut, in my heart that this was the right for me.

Elizabeth: It was.

Debbie: And I find when we do that, you benefit. And I’ve done this a few times now in my adult years, is when I’ve literally jumped off a cliff almost.

Elizabeth: You do, you do.

Debbie: I land in a better place, right?

Elizabeth: Yes.

Debbie: I always land well and I really believe that that we don’t ever have to feel stuck. This is one of my main things that I really feel so strongly about, and want to get the message out to the world about. Like you say, you probably have people you went to school with up there in Minnesota and they don’t feel like they can leave Minnesota. But, we can, we’re free we can move across the country if we want, we can change careers if we want which, both of us have done, more than once. So I truly agree with you on that.

Elizabeth: There’s a common thread that’s run through all of it. There’s a common thread and it has to do with us and our special … What we bring to that place. Gina Delapa is known as a coach and I met her through Twitter and I’ve met her through some of her work. She wrote an article for Ink Magazine called personal growth doesn’t tickle. And she had a lot of recommendations for women that matched what I know from having been in the field of women’s work for the last 30 years. That is, that we have to trust our inside gut. Women are very sensitive and we are more intuitive than what men are. So a lot of what we hear and what we feel is what we need to follow. We also have a hard time disguising how we feel about things. The other thing she said that matches what you said is sometimes we have to let people go in our lives to be able to take the next step. Which can be very painful but even as I look back on who am I still connected to back in Minneapolis, it’s changed and it’s been hard but it’s good ’cause new people will come into your world once you step into the next lens.

Debbie: That’s true. Being selective about the people in our life and the commitments and activities that we take on as well and that’s been a huge challenge of mine in the last year and a half I think because I had this epiphany, I turned 50 September of 2016 and just had all this creative energy, right? And I’m just so excited and I’m saying yes to so many things and I’m almost, put so much on my plate and also perhaps taking a step back and really being selective and clear about what we spend our valuable time and energy resources on as well. You’re right, it’s hard sometimes, isn’t it, you have to … Life is full of choices and sometimes it’s hard to choose and … But you’re right, I think when we do let something go that is no longer serving us … The universe life opens up either more other people or more important things are going to come into our lives, that’s true.

Elizabeth: Exactly, exactly. I agree.

Debbie: I know you love your job, so presently, Elizabeth what are you currently working to change right now, we know you’re in a good place right now so why don’t you share a little about that.

Elizabeth: Right, well I love that you’ve asked me that. Thank you, Deb, I’m actually right now in the middle … I chose a word of the year, Christine Kane, she used to be a folk artist and now she has something, she created this a while ago, she’s a coach, word of the year. So my word this year is equanimity. I picked that because equanimity means mental calmness, composure. And so the way I’m applying that to my life is I’m working to hold back and wait for a neutral place rather than jumping off the deep end when something difficult approaches me, difficult situations are going to come but I have a choice in how I handle them and it’s taking courage for me to back off right now and wait. I’m looking for what I already know I have, which is an inner groundedness. And I need to listen so it’s basically walking into a room and taking a litmus test.

Debbie: Go ahead I just want to clarify this, so I and our listeners understand. That’s quite a word I just want to clarify, so does it mean being, … Just giving yourself a little time … Is it being less reactive perhaps and giving yourself a little bit of a pause before you react to a situation or something? Just clarify a little bit for us Elizabeth, what you mean by that.

Elizabeth: I’ve done a lot of looking at it because I picked the word on purpose because of what it means and what is next for me, so word of the year means you pick a word that you’re going to use this year to become that word. So, equanimity means composure, mental calm, serenity, tranquility, cool headedness, I work in the business world and I have one foot in another place ’cause I have a life outside of my job. So I want to be all of those things and I want to transform into something more, right?
So, I’m also looking for how I can apply that, my presence of mind, my poise, my assurance, my self confidence, my nerve, it’s equanimity for me is my word of the year and I just am so thankful to Christine Kane she has an entire journal that you can pick up, I don’t have enough attention to go into every single detail but, I’m going to keep grabbing on and seeing what’s next and applying that. And it’s kind of like a little touch point for me. As I go though the day and I walk in to rooms where there is a very deep level of positions in the company that I respect, and who do I want to be when I walk in the room? Well, I want to be my authentic self. But I also want to listen for who’s around me so equanimity is my word this year, I’m so excited about it.

Debbie: I’m excited for you and I can’t wait to hear … That’s really a great word and concept you’re … Focus this year on so I can’t wait to hear how that will work out for you. Because I’m sure that is going to effect in a positive way many different avenues and different areas in your life. I’m excited for you.

Elizabeth: I’m excited yes, excitement is a good … Excitement is one level of it all but being mentally calm … I tend to sparkle up … I love the word effervescent. And that’s a part of who I am, it’s an inner light in me that sometimes goes off like fireworks so contain that childlike enthusiasm and remember the adult is in the room at a regular time … Moments when it’s really important. Because I want to be change here, I want to help in a positive way so I have to bring myself forward.

Debbie: And just for the record between you and me and the world who’s listening, I love that effervescent child like playful quality of yours so don’t completely extinguish her, she’s beautiful and marvelous, I just want you to know that.

Elizabeth: You wanna hear something funny then? I’m going to share something with you. So this is what I tell people now, this is a little sneaky trick. I tell people by the way, I’ve never been married and I love the idea of a love relationship, I haven’t found that one right now so I’m still looking for a soul mate so, here’s my latest thing I tell people and they’re always shocked, I said, “Did you know that I was in a very intimate relationship from December 20th, right before Christmas, through just this last weekend through the beginning of January.” And people look at me and they’re shocked and I said, “I had to break up because we didn’t have the same goals.” And everyone’s like, “I didn’t even know you were in a relationship.” And I said, “It was with bad food.” And then they all crack up because I can apply, I have kind of a creative edge sometimes where it hit me that’s just like a relationship. And being able to continue who I am, I’m super quirky, I’m an artist and I have to be able to wrap all of that around being selfish or being confident and it’s a balance on where does that person get to come out and play within the workplace.

Debbie: Yeah. Well, I love it. I think that’s a good perspective. Well, we have a few minutes left. A goal of mine, Elizabeth here with the show is to have an intergenerational conversation if you will. And for women like us, mature women to play the role or work on the roll of mentoring our younger generation, know that’s something you have done a lot over the years. I remember back when I was a school teacher, teaching fifth grade, and you’d show up at my classroom with these wonderful materials you had from Junior Achievement and helping my students, teaching them about financial responsibility and maybe if you could touch on that, what can we do to mentor our girls and young women. I know that’s been a passion of yours.

Elizabeth: Well I think the first thing we have to remember is we are not a child anymore. There’s something that happens … I was a camp director for a long time and they call it the regressive pull, that when you hang out for a long time with someone younger than you, you can tend to slip back into that. And I love when you called it mature. I always forget that. Oh yes, I am mature now. I’m a mature woman and it’s such a sweet way to say that we’ve gotten a little bit older. So, but inside of me is still a little girl and that person still needs everything that we’re doing.
So I’m not as involved with the direct hands on approach for girls anymore, instead I feel like I can give people advice that work with girls. I never had any desire to have any children but, I feel like all of the world’s children are mine. And if an opportunity presented itself for me to have a mentorship opportunity, I would jump right at it. I think the first person we have to heal is the little girl inside of us as women. And then when we do deal with those that are around us, and there are some that are going to be frustrating, and that are going to be difficult, we have to remember that we are not that child. I think listening, which is probably the one thing that I could work on more than anything else, would be the piece that I’d like to bring to that mentorship opportunity, is just listen. We don’t even have to fix it for them, we can’t. They have to fix it for themselves, sometimes they just need us to show up.

Debbie: Be present. I had a very good conversation on this show recently with my 20 year old daughter Aimee, and she pretty much just echoed what you just said just now. I asked her the same question, “What can we do, Amy to mentor girls your age?” And she pretty much told me, “Mom, just be present with us, be present and listen.” So I think that’s something good to keep in mind.

Elizabeth: And it’s so hard because we want to offer … We’re always jumping way ahead with what we can provide to them, tools, I mean, I am the connector. I want to open a door but have they asked for it, do they even want to go through a door? Are they even interested in what we have to say? You have to earn that right and I think listening gives you … You’re putting money in the bank, and it’s a relationship bank.

Debbie: A relationship bank.

Elizabeth: And if you build it up high enough, I think that you can, you’re making an investment.

Debbie: I think that’s awesome. Yeah, I agree. We have about maybe one minute, Elizabeth. Is there any last thoughts about this coming year for change and courage, that you’d like to share with us while we have just about a minute left.

Elizabeth: I guess the one thing I would like to just reemphasize is that if it feels like it’s meant for us, if it matches who we are, then jump into it. We need to continually build up our inner resources, our inner reservoir, and create a tool kit. Those are the people around us and our practices. Build your inner reservoir and develop a tool kit because then you will know what that voice is telling you and where you’re supposed to go because you will have developed yourself.

Debbie: Love it. I think that’s a great point to end on. Elizabeth, thank you, I’m so glad you’re in my life and I’m so glad you were a guest on Courageously Go today, so thank you, I know you’re a busy lady and thank you for taking time today to be with us.

Elizabeth: Thanks, Deb. Good luck with the program, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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