A program to foster leadership and provide women in agriculture with the opportunity to network with each other drew over 350 women to Wisconsin Dells April 27-28, for a second annual "Ag Women's Summit."
Breakout sessions on farm financial statements, fitness, time management and keeping children safe on the farm were popular with the women, who came from all over Wisconsin and even from other states.
Last year was the first such gathering and it attracted 300 women, so organizers from Wisconsin Farm Bureau, University Extension and Badgerland Financial were pleased with the increased attendance at only the second event.
Keynote speaker Paul Wesselmann proved to be popular with the women on Friday. His breakout sessions were so packed that many women had to sit on the floor.
Wesselmann - also known as The Ripples Guy, for the inspirational emails he sends out weekly - talked about several areas that women can work on to get more out of work, family and life.
Goal setting was one of those areas. "Goal setting works like a giant funnel," he said encouraging his listeners to "dream big, huge, wild imaginative dreams" and tell that little negative voice inside to shut up.
Dreaming big and setting lofty goals "expands the top of the funnel" and allows people to imagine themselves achieving the success they want.
People believe negative self talk when they hear it and everyone should try to silence that kind of internal conversation, he said, instead striving to make those conversations positive.
Wesselmann encouraged the women to find role models - people they admire and look up to and want to emulate.
Often people have such a role model - a sports figure or celebrity - and they discover those people have faults like any human. "We throw them away, which does a disservice to them and to ourselves."
He encourages people to choose different parts of different people and create a kind of composite role model that allows us to still have admiration for parts of someone's character even if they have problems in other areas.
Esteem building is another area Wesselmann pointed to where people can make a difference in their lives. How much trust, respect and love we have for ourselves comes from a lifetime of how we get treated, he said.
When asked, 80 percent of five-year-old kids like themselves. Only a few years later in life, that number plummets and many people find it difficult to recover that self-like as they go through life.
In order to build self-esteem in ourselves or in others we may be sharing our life with, Wesselmann suggested remaining flexible and gentle. It's also important to avoid comparisons with other people.
"We need to suspend our need to say we're better or worse than others."
FOCUS ON DONUT
Wesselmann said that it is possible for people to decide to be happy each day, to like what they have in life and "focus on the donut rather than the hole." He encouraged his audience to notice the donuts in their lives and ignore the holes - the things that might be missing.
"Your life might be more delicious than you think."
Studies have shown that people can adjust their attitudes, choose their mood and focus on what's important. Serious peer-reviewed studies have proven that even if people didn't feel happy, smiling for two minutes helped reduce pain. These smiling subjects not only felt better, but they could solve math problems more easily - indicating better brain function, he said.
He encouraged his listeners to spend a few more minutes in the coming week with people who make them feel better - who "feed your soul."
Feeding the soul is something Wesselmann tries to do with the thousands of friends who get his weekly email, called "Ripples" for the ripple effect that good thoughts and kind words can have among people.
It got started in 1999 with 75 people who wanted him to send them some of his best inspirational thoughts. People began submitting quotes they thought might fit and within a few weeks he had 500 people getting his messages. Today it's about 30,000.
TIME MANAGEMENT IMPORTANT
Time management and stress reduction are areas that everyone can benefit from.
He had his audience imagine what they would do with $1,440 if it was set at their bedside each morning. "You can't give it away. You have to plan how you will spend it and it will disappear at midnight. And the next day another pile of cash will appear."
In his metaphor, the cash was a stand-in for the number of minutes we get each day. "You choose how to spend it and you can't save it up. If you don't make plans for it, a lot of time gets wasted."
Action creates motivation, which creates more action, he said. "Time management is not a personality trait. It's a skill and as with any skill you can get better with practice."
He advised getting rid of the desire to "get it done" whenever the task is very large or unpleasant, but rather look at ways to "get it started."
Making that mental change in the way we look at things is a real game changer, he said. Breaking down big or unpleasant tasks or obligations into smaller steps can be a way to motivate ourselves to start something, which leads to finishing it.
The same is true of organizing, he said. "How many minutes do you spend each day looking for thing?" he asked his audience.
Efficiency studies have tallied the amount of time spent by average office workers looking for things and it amounts to four weeks, he said.
Some people approach organizing their work space or their home as an event, requiring a large block of time and that may be an effective way to get started. "But if you think of it as an event rather than a process you are going to fail."
People need to map out a time and then commit to 10 minutes a day or a day each week to organize. Mapping out that time and finding systems that work will go a long way toward keeping life organized, which helps reduce stress, he said.
Just like organizing our homes or office space is important, Wesselmann said it's important to prioritize our time.
"You cannot do everything you want to do, but you can do anything if you set priorities and make time for what's important."
He talked about a friend who he ran into often at conferences. They always talked about getting together for lunch and a chat, but it never happened and she always said she was too busy.
Finally, he says he told her not to use that as a reason but to frame it like this "other things are given more importance."
She really thought about that and mapped out a date when they could get together. Now, more than four years later they've had a series of six or seven lunches each year - 30 altogether - and have cemented a great friendship.
"There's not enough time to get everything done but you have to figure out what's important and what's not important. You need to change how you think about your time - it's finite."
People get the whole idea about budgeting and planning what they will do with money, but in many cases people "are not that frugal" with their time.
Most stress in people's lives comes from incongruence between their priorities and their schedule. "You need to change your priorities or your calendar," he said. "We make time for what's important.
"I'm not suggesting that this stuff is easy. I'm saying it's important."
To learn more about Wesselmann, go to www.TheRipplesGuy.com