If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
– John Quincy Adams

The word inspiration can be defined as: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation, the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions, or the act of influencing or suggesting opinions.

InnerWill’s newest series, Inspired By, is dedicated to honoring the people and practices that have uplifted and influenced us into who we are and what we do every single day.

While in Florida on vacation, I was thrilled to reconnect with a woman who inspired me when we first met 11 years ago. Toni is upbeat, warm, more than competent in providing outstanding customer service, and full of life! She’s truly remarkable and memorable.

We got to know her 11 years ago when we were visiting that same resort. She was so friendly that we found ourselves wandering into her area just to chat. When we asked how she came to live in Florida, she told us that she and her husband, who had vacationed there for many years, decided to retire early and move to Florida permanently. Life was good – they both worked part time and enjoyed their beautiful place on the water… for about 10 months. That’s when her husband passed away unexpectedly.

All of the sudden Toni’s life changed… but she did not. She found two full time jobs and worked 80 hours a week but it did not change her optimistic, warm, customer service orientation. When I asked her how she kept moving forward with positivity, she said that when she got up in the morning, she repeated to herself, “I can do this.” She shared a quote,

“Being happy does not mean everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.”

She chooses to see beyond the imperfections of life and chooses to move forward with optimism and positivity. And that’s how she lives each day, happily.

I was curious. I asked Toni to let me in on her secret – what fueled her energy and attitude everyday? She shared three practices that enable her to show up as the best version of herself:

1. Preparation

She sets her intentions for the day by spending time every morning taking care of her body, mind and spirit. She gets up early to have several hours for herself so that she may exercise, read, meditate, pray, and head into work with a positive attitude. She makes a powerful choice when she decides what she will focus on as she prepares for the day. Ronni Hendel-Giller speaks about the benefits of how our choices impact neuroplasticity in Your Brain At Work: Manage Change By Managing Your Brain:

“Our brains change all the time and we can influence the way our brains change by choosing what we attend to. While there are some real challenges – our brains really want to keep doing the things they are used to doing – if we redirect our attention and make different choices, we can make lasting change in our wiring.”

Toni is one of those people who makes the choice to attend to those things that cultivate cheerfulness, optimism and positivity… and it’s not fake; she’s the real deal!

What would help you to start your day with intention? What action could you take to begin each day grounded and positive, with a full tank?

2. Restoration

Sleep is an important priority in her life. She gets up early, therefore she goes to bed early to ensure enough sleep. She allows her body proper rest so it will support her activities throughout the day. It also supports her health, well-being and quality of life. Sleep impacts many facets of our lives, including decreasing anxiety.

How much sleep to you get each night? What do you do to provide yourself with rest and restoration?

3. Activation

Toni activates many of her gifts, passions and strengths as she fulfills her role at the resort. She is alert and proactive, looking for ways to meet and exceed customer expectations. She is a creative problem solver who listens to the customer then parlays her relational skills to achieve the desired outcome. She has never met a stranger and loves to be outdoors; in her role, she has plenty of time with people (staff and guests) and spends most of her time working outdoors. Because she is using her gifts and talents in an environment where she thrives, she is an outstanding ambassador for her employer.

How are you activating your strengths, your interests, and your passions? What kind of brand do you have; what are you known for?

After so many years since our last trip to Florida, we were delighted to see Toni again. She has only one full time job now, but she is still a busy woman. She is upbeat, cheerful and funny and continues to have a reputation for excellent customer service, creative problem solving and keeping a cool head in a crisis.

When we asked her to go to dinner with us one evening, she was booked. In fact, several of the resort guests took her to dinner throughout the week, and we had to wait a few days to spend some time with her. Toni draws people to her like moths to a flame because of the way she chooses to live her life, whether navigating change, persevering through hardship, or just taking care of her daily responsibilities at work. She is a leader, positively influencing all those with whom she comes in contact – a true inspiration.

Preparation, restoration, and activation are three practices that allow Toni to lead well. What are the leadership practices of those who inspire you? Let’s continue the conversation!



Carla Ruiz

Carla Ruiz

Carla’s mission is to fuel growth and development by affirming strengths, challenging beliefs, and igniting potential through Values Based Leadership. She presents, facilitates, and coaches in a variety of leadership programs and with companies intentional about strengthening their culture. In her role as a Leadership Development Coach, she is passionate about increasing emotional intelligence, which she believes is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

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