Inspirational Person: Marilyn Spink, Engineering Advocate

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Marilyn Spink has spent her 30-year career in Engineering (working on projects in mining, pulp and paper industries, steelmaking operations, and consulting engineering). She has led and supported teams of professional engineers and designers to complete projects around the world. She is a licensed professional engineer and a member of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE). In 2014, she was appointed by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor to Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) and is currently Vice President Appointed. Spink is married to Jamie Gerson, also a professional engineer, who is extremely supportive of all her interests and a wonderful father to their three children.


What has been one of the most rewarding parts of your career?

Building stuff and helping people. It is rewarding to see your ideas become real and improve the lives of the people who use whatever you built, or grow from the advice you have provided to them. I am always learning, but the more I learn the more I realize don’t know. My learning is mostly about self-discovery these days. I need to speak less and listen more!

With only 11% of Professional Engineers in Ontario being women, what unique value do you think the female perspective brings to solving Engineering problems?

Women are socialized differently than men. The unique value women bring to solving Engineering problems is simply a different perspective – period. A bunch of similar people (age, race, gender, backgrounds) speaking & working with one another hinders Continue reading

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The simple art of saying no & letting go.

It’s not easy, is it? Letting go of things, even if they aren’t good for us. There is a strange comfort in what we have become used to – whether that be clutter or emotional stresses – despite their toxicity.

I know that a house with less ‘stuff’ is what I ultimately want, but yet I still struggle with letting go of certain items(especially those with sentimental value). Equally so, I know I want a life where I prioritize the most positive and uplifting relationships, but I have struggled with setting boundaries and learning how to say ‘no’ in order to have the freedom to say ‘yes’ where and when it counts.

Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden.  – Lydia Hall

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New Year, New Challenge: Simplify.

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Every year, I take on a challenge. Something that gets me closer to living a life inline with my values. It allows me to focus on one thing – and usually see some significant strides in that area – rather than tackling everything at once.

This past year, I completed a STUFF Project. It included going through all of the things in my condo and storage. Piece by piece. I would be lying if I said that it was easy, took only a couple of weekends, or that I enjoyed the process. It was quite stressful, as I thrive in clean and uncluttered spaces, and the process involved ripping apart well hidden pockets of forgotten items in boxes/bins/drawers and the resulting boxes piled up in the hallways.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de SaintExupery

It made me realize how many things I still have, and how much work could be done to simplify my life. That’s why this year, I want to take an even deeper look at how I got here in the first place. Continue reading

STUFF Project: Purge 5 things a week

As I began to look at where to start in order to change my relationship with what I own, it didn’t take too much investigating to realize something glaringly obvious:

I have too much STUFF.

From a front closet bursting with bins, to a bedroom which boasts in functionality but lacks in peacefulness, to a storage unit which is filled to the brim (and occasionally overflows when some unsuspecting visitor opens it); impressive organizational skills are able to disguise but not truly address my problem.

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My Happiness Project: Stage 4

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This is the final stretch of my Happiness Project – a resolution to explore happiness. I have been attempting  3 new tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me!

After much deliberation, the final three happiness tactics are as follows:

  • Audit & Assess your life – Book an hour or two over the next week. Sit down with a notebook, and be realistic about what a current week looks like for you. Track how much time is spent on different activities. Which of these activities do you enjoy? Which ones do you not? Are there activities which you love or find meaningful which you aren’t currently making time for? Would you rather have more time with family and pay a company to upkeep your home? Could you negotiate a swap with a friend (ie. you fix things up in their home, they cook home made meals for you) to do more of what you love and less of what you don’t? Question long held assumptions. Get creative. Implement changes.
  • Meaningful work – Most people spend the vast majority of their time at work, so it is no surprise that there is a direct correlation with overall happiness. Every year staying in a job that doesn’t inspire you is investing 2,000+ hours in a draining experience. If you aren’t currently doing work you love, start taking steps to make a change.
  • Giving to others –  Research has shown that doing things to help others can bring meaning and increase happiness, the magic number is 100 hours/year (or ~2 hours/week). Organize a regular volunteering session at a local food bank, visit an elderly friend who doesn’t have family in the city, or help a family who doesn’t have a car to pickup a heavy item they need. Look ahead, and schedule it in.

Over the past 9 months we have focused on: identifying 5 things we are grateful for (daily), meditating, removing one negative thing from our lives, investing in 5 meaningful relationships, exercising daily, creating a happy music playlist, disconnecting one night a week, making time for what you love, and getting 8 hours of sleep.

As I reflect on the past year, and the initiatives I have attempted, I have come to realize that there is a distinct difference between happiness (feeling based, in the present moment) and meaning (the bigger picture, incorporates our internal narratives around past experience and future projections).

I believe a meaningful life can be achieved through consistent intentional choices – both in terms of personal action as well as (perhaps more importantly) personal perception.  

For those of you who have implemented happiness initiatives – have you felt a change in your perspective? Be sure to share them below! What did you find most rewarding? For those of you who haven’t yet, consider trying your own  Happiness Project as your 2016 New Years resolution! I promise you won’t be disappointed.


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My Happiness Project: Stage 3

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This year, I made a resolution to go on a Happiness Project – a journey to explore if happiness itself can be pursued. My plan is to introduce 3 new tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me!

I’m excited to announce the three new happiness tactics are as follows:

  • Disconnect one night a week – Over the past year, it has become more and more apparent to me how fast and furious I live my life at times. The days whiz by without much notice. I can loose myself in the endless forms of contact, and expectations of timely responses on multiple mediums. I’m exhausted! This quarter, I plan to schedule one night a week to disconnect, to put my phone on plane mode, and not step close to a computer. I plan, instead, to curl up with a good book, go for a walk in nature, meditate, scratch my dog, write. I plan to schedule (yes, in my calendar) a reoccurring mini-vacation, a time to unwind and refocus.
  • Make time for something you love (bi-weekly) – For me, this is art – painting, photography, music, poetry.  Something that gets your mind to soar, that awakens dreams, that you feel nothing but bliss when you do. Maybe for you it’s getting massages, baking bread early in the morning, or fixing up old cars – whatever it is that you really love, make time for it. If you live by your calendar, like I do, with almost every hour scheduled – schedule a reoccurring meeting in advance so you don’t get double booked. It’s ok to prioritize your own health and happiness.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep – Yes, yes, yes. We all know we should be getting enough shut-eye. It’s all well and good to say you’ll do it – but when life plays out it can be a completely different story. So how do we make changes to increase our likelihood of actually sleeping? I plan to try a few tactics: start getting ready for bed an hour before you need to (put away electronics, clean up, slow down), remove ‘noise’ from your sleeping area (light, clutter, etc), and finally track it (from marking it on a calendar to using a sleep tracking app – being accountable is important).

Over the past 6 months we have focused on: identifying 5 things we are grateful for, meditating, removing one negative thing from our lives, investing in 5 meaningful relationships, exercising daily, and creating a happy music playlist.

For me, meditation (Headspace) and a daily gratitude practice have stood out as the most impactful tactics to date. Both have made me increasingly aware of the power of the mind, and our ability to change the way we perceive the world with dedicated work on rewriting our internal narratives. I would highly suggest you check out one or both of these tactics.

 

For those of you who have implemented happiness initiatives – what have been some of your experiences? Be sure to share them below! What did you find most fulfilling about investing in meaningful relationships? How did you include exercise in your schedule? Join the Happiness Project with me!


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Shake the Dust

Shake the Dust – a poem by one of my favorite spoken word poets, Anis Mojgani. I hope you find brilliance and courage in his words, as I did. 


Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you
That your heart, it beats 900 times every single day
Do not settle for letting these waves that settle
And for the dust to collect in your veins

Shake the dust, and take me with you when you do
For none of this has ever been for me
All that pushes and pulls, and pushes and pulls…
It pushes for you

So, grab this world by its clothespins,
And shake it out again and again.
And jump on top and take it for a spin
And when you hop off shake it again.

When the world knocks at your front door
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up
And run forward and far into its widespread, greeting arms
With your hands outstretched before you

Fingertips trembling, though they may be.


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You can find more artistic inspiration (poetic, visual and musical) here.