It's that time again. When we welcome the new year, enthusiastic about setting new goals and developing new habits. The problem is, we don’t always follow through. So to gain perspective, we invited Ahniwake Rose, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, to the VEST Her Podcast, to talk about her approach to goal settings and to keeping herself accountable. We also talk about the barriers affecting women in the workplace today and how she maneuvered some of these same challenges in order to get to where she is today.
Ahniwake Rose is a VEST Founding Member and the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute where she works to advance equitable and fiscally responsible policies in her home state. Prior to this role, Ahniwake served as the Deputy Director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), a national organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities, where she worked with a diverse coalition of civil and human rights organizations to address economic inequality and systemic injustice. Ahniwake is a Rockwood Leadership Institute Fellow and currently she serves on multiple education and youth related boards. Ahniwake is a mother of two daughters, Waleah and Tahna, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and is of Muscogee (Creek) descent.
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It's that time of year when we're all planning, whether it's resolution plans, goals, habits, it's that time of year to do it. And you know, different people have different philosophies, right? I mean, you have Oprah that has like the word of the year and that's what she focuses on. And then you have other people that instead of adding new goals or habits, they deduct things from their life in the future year.
So I'm just curious. What do you do to get your year started?
Ahniwake Rose 00:27
So I've been thinking about this a lot and thinking about it, not just personally, but for my team as well. One, I don't do resolutions. I think. The concept of a resolution automatically starts us off from a deficit perspective, right.
That we're not already our best selves or we're not already accomplishing everything. Right. And so it automatically makes us feel like there's more that we need to be doing. And I think over the last two years, I've learned that I don't want to frame my life in that way. So instead I'm thinking about kind of quarterly grills, half-year goals about happiness fulfillment work-life balance, if there is one, and I know that's kind of a tricky term too, but mostly centered around family and how I can continue to bring joy in my life.
And what does that mean? And look like. So it's. Long three-day weekends with my girls, right. To really make sure that we're a building community. It's making sure that we're taking the time to do the things that we really enjoy and not putting things off. So to not sound too hippy, a little bit of manifestation.
Right. And, and I think a lot about that and not specifically where I'm at in a deficit, but how can I enhance my life focused around joy.
Absolutely. And I think it's a true on like, not focusing so much on the resolution because we all know that 90 plus percent of people drop resolutions by February.
Right, right. Yeah. It's incremental changes is the habits is it's how you choose to live every single day that ultimately gets you to those goals. But has that always been your philosophy?
Ahniwake Rose 02:13
I am very goal oriented and most of what I do. So I've always had probably longer term goals that I have also learned over the past two years.
My need to be more flexible with, right? So what succeeded for me in the past could not succeed now in the way that life is continuing to evolve. I think at such a rapid pace. So I've had to change the way that I approach that. So goal setting has always been very important to me. It's just finding the flexibility in that and being gentle with myself as maybe they don't come out looking exactly the way that I want them to do or they, or I thought that I wanted them to and really recognizing the purpose behind what ends up being fulfilled in my life.
And I love how everything that you're focusing on. It's not necessarily about. You know, achieving goals, but the person you're becoming as a result of how you're deciding to live every day and kind of like you said, prioritizing time with their girls and building community with them. I love that.
Tell me your rake up of the year. What were your biggest accomplishments this past year?
Ahniwake Rose 03:23
Can I just say surviving, right? It was a difficult year, absolutely on time. So I'm a single mom two girls and a homeschool. One of them doing virtual, actually both doing virtual last year. So we survived us doing that, doing it well.
I was so excited to when my third grader got her math assessment back and she was still scoring right above grade level. And I was like, okay, we won. Right? Like that's, that's our win. So to me, the accomplishment was coming out of a year. That was incredibly challenging, still loving each other, still holding each other tightly.
Mostly. And both physically and mentally and emotionally, and being able to really look at life, as I said before more gently and being more gentle with myself. I'm I am just like, everyone else is my own worst critic. And I'm really harsh on myself when I can't meet the goals that I've set. So learning to be flexible in what that looks like in all aspects of my relationships.
And so when I come out of last year, I hope that I can say that I've become a better mom, a better friend, a better daughter as the T from the time I've been able to spend with them and then really reflect about how I want my relationships to look at the end of that. Yeah.
Well, that was actually my next question.
What were the biggest lessons learned? And that's a great one, right? What else, what else? What did you learn big or small?
Ahniwake Rose 04:50
I learned, I love to bake. Oh, really. And then I learned to eat everything that I baked. So like, the COVID-19 for me was, was real. It was like the freshmen 15. So I've learned to do that and, and baking for me is really it's very measured, right?
So it's not a lot, it's not like cooking where you can throw in bits and pieces. You have to measure exactly. Do everything. Right. So that works very well for my I'm very anal, retentive personality that I have. Yeah. So I learned that I learned to color again right with, so my nine-year-old is, well, she's gonna be nine she's super creative.
And she loves arts and crafts. So I just learned to color outside the lines again. Right. And to be comfortable with that and to let go of some of that again, structure, right? Yeah. For me. And you can tell that that was a big lesson for me. It was trying to find the. And all of my solid lines. Yeah.
Really enjoyed it. It was peaceful. I could plug in a podcast. I could listen to the best podcast rate while I was baking in it. It's just it's it was my little escape, but I also read a lot. I love to read. So I read a lot over Over the last year. And I'm trying to keep that as a habit.
Do you read, or do you listen to audio books?
Ahniwake Rose 06:04
I like to read and I don't even want to read them on a, on a tablet. I want to hold the book. Right. And I want to flip the pages.
I do both. I do the audio books just because it's easy and I'm always moving. So it's nice to, I can actually finish a book that way, but I also, like, if I really liked the book, then I order the hard cover because then I like to highlight.
And then, you know, what do you want to take out and, and key takeaways, especially for best. Okay. Well, I know you're not into goal setting or that's not that you're not, but not the focus as you move forward, but what are you setting out to accomplish? Whether we call them goals or focused or whatever in the new year?
Ahniwake Rose 06:42
That's a great question. So I'm trying really hard to diversify my, my work goals from my personal goals and. In years past, I might not have done that. Right. And if we had had this conversation, maybe three, five years ago, all of my goals would have been work oriented goals, right. Professional development, oriented goals.
I still love that. Right. I mean, that's still very much what I want to do, but when I think about personal goals, now I want to learn how to play the guitar. Yeah. Lake that's I've purchased one and it's sitting there and I need to just do the lessons. Right. So that's it for me, like what were the things that were on my bucket list that I can start actively thinking about?
I can't wait to travel again. You know, I really want to do that. So my goals are, how do I create? And I, God, this is such an overused term. I just read an article about like things that we shouldn't say anymore. A new normal is one of them. How do I create an environment in which we can. Start loving and living again.
And I'll give you a really good example. My daughter's eighth birthday last year, we were supposed to go to Disney world or universal studios actually is what she decided. And we had to cancel it and we had to reschedule it twice because of the pandemic. But we're going in two weeks to Florida and I'm getting lots of pushback from some of my family and friends about really, you know, it's not very safe.
What my response is, is now my nine-year-old is going to be growing up in this world. We're never not going to have some type of universal right. Worldwide, hopefully not pandemic bright, but something that we're dealing with. I can either help her learn to live with that healthy, you know, which means vaccinations and boosters and masks and social distancing, or I can teach her to learn, to live being afraid, right.
And we're not going to do that. So I think that's one of my biggest goals is how can I help to live again and step back into the world in a way that's meaningful for all of us and not just hibernating in our home offices and doing things virtually,
you know, something that you said, I think really resonates with a lot of us women.
And we can talk about this later on in the podcast, but I think that women are, I think not just women. Everyone. Maybe one of the good things that happened during this pandemic was that we actually started looking at mental health and a little bit different differently. We also started looking at time a little bit differently and how we spend our time.
And I used to be the same way I used to be so driven that, you know, what's next for goals. What's next for what we want to achieve with the company revenues. All of that. And now it's like, you know, I still have growth goals. Like how do I, my two core values are growth and contribution. And so I always have to feel like I'm constantly growing, but I don't have to grow in the same areas all the time.
There's. Plenty of areas I need to grow on and, and just focusing and given me permission to do that right. To not just be all about revenue, all about coming. I mean, when you're an entrepreneur is like even more emphasized.
Ahniwake Rose 09:52
I'm a nonprofit. Yes. I'm always fundraising.
But anyway, I love that you say that because I think that we, as women need to think a little bit more about growth in different ways. It's not always tied to, even though vest is about putting women in more positions of power and influence power doesn't necessarily mean a title. That's a position.
You know, it could be just the power of making decisions for yourself without listening to other people's expectations of what success looks like.
And you know, we have a lot to learn from the generation that's coming up too about this, right. I was. For me, success was the title. It was the office with the door and the desk and the, you know, all of those things for the generation that's coming up, they find success and fulfilling their personal mission in whatever that looks like.
And if they don't find fulfillment at work through that, they're doing it in their personal lives or they're changing their employment, right. To make sure that they are aligned. And it's, you know, as I figured out and, and have worked with my team to help, how do we. Assist our younger staff and finding and making sure that we're living our vision and mission statement every day, internally and externally at the office, it's had me really reflect on my life too.
And I can say a hundred percent, I would not be doing the work that I do if I didn't deeply believe in the mission of vision, because I just, I spend way too much time doing it. Right. If I can't say at the end of the day these 15 hours I've spent have really made a difference for my children or my children's children or my children's children's children that I'm doing the wrong work.
But it's given me this pause right. To turn around and really reflect on living my personal vision.
Yeah, for sure. So, well for, I'm just going to add something because sometimes I do need validation, even though I say I don't, but you know, when we started vest we got a lot of questions as to.
You know, are you helping women in the C-suite or are you helping women in the VP get to the C-suite and or are you helping emerging leaders? Why all mixed together, maybe you should do tracks where the C-suites get different content and, you know, but I find so much value and the cross-learning because you're absolutely right.
I'm learning so much, you know, like this digital nomads and the future of work and how, you know, new generations are thinking about what they want to do and they're unapologetic about it. And they're looking for ways to do it. I mean, I get excited about that and then we learn how to operate and how to serve, you know, and also like that's a new customer segments that we need to be tapping and how do you do it?
And anyway, so. Thank you for giving me that validation. Yeah. Okay. So, so you're going to learn how to play the guitar.
Hold me accountable. I will, I've got to find someone that's actually give me lessons.
Well, that's actually my next question. What, how do you build the processes or
accountability measures to keep yourself okay.
Ahniwake Rose 12:57
I'm a huge calendar person, right? So I'm somebody that will, and my 16 year old can attest to this. Cause she's so angry at me signing a contract for a tutor. Right. So she's got tutor sessions for, you know, 12, 12 weeks out. And mom, I don't need this. And I'm like, well, but you do right. So I will find somebody and I will schedule it.
And you know, it's just like going to the gym. I won't go to the gym unless I have a trainer. And that trainer is on the calendar that I've already paid for. Right. That's that holds me accountable. Cause I don't want my money to go to waste. And that you're right. I mean, you find the tools that work for you and for me, it's.
If it's on my calendar, if I'm setting time aside for it, if I'm making a deliberate attempt to do that, then that holds me and I'm going to see it right. It's going to pop up. And, and I do that, not just for my personal goals away, but I, I, I do that for work as well. It gets important for me to set a time side, just to do strategic planning work, right.
Or just to do visioning work. If you do. Set that time specifically and purposely aside then it's so easy to let it roll and, and to not let it happen. So, yeah, I mean, I've got my next year essentially planned out for when I want to go travel and when I'm going to take my vacations and, and blocking that time out and holding that time as sacred, and I would not have done that, you know, five years ago, I would have been fearful that something would come up.
That's more important. Yeah. And I have learned now that nothing's more important, right? The work is always sadly the work is always going to be there. And me taking a one week vacation to go hang out, you know, in, at universal studios and ride Hoggard rides is not going to make any lick of difference honestly about whether I can take that vacation or not.
Right. Yeah. So yeah, no, I love it. I mean, you know, what did they say to create habits? You have to be. Obvious easy. Yes. And then hold yourself accountable. So scheduling, I think it's definitely a hack for accountability. And yeah, so we'll, we'll be talking about that in our best, next best session for sure.