March 2023

Move over emotional intelligence, self awareness is the new buzzword!

Reading the majority of websites promoting staff/ personal advancement its clear that awareness is the new trend. The reason – whereas emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman) is actually quite complex to navigate, with lots of loopholes, on the face of it self awareness is pretty obvious. Not so!? Actually, it isn’t as easy as it looks, which reminds me of my mother’s words: “…anything that looks easy is probably not worth it!” I think understanding the concept of self awareness is really important, mostly because once you do it properly it makes a host of difference. I have seen this in my own life.

So what is it? According to Eurich there are two dimensions to self awareness: an internal and external element. Internal self-awareness represents how clearly you see your own values, passions and your impact on others. A person with strong internal self-awareness has an understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, motivations and emotions. This first type of self-awareness is linked with increased job and relationship satisfaction. I believe it is also a strong motivator for people to want to develop action plans for the future and to work towards this vision. The second type, external self-awareness, is defined as the ability to understand how others see you and to incorporate these views into your own evaluation of yourself. External self-awareness is associated with greater levels of empathy and understanding others’ perspectives. 

As I write this newsletter I am mindful of so much going on around me. We have politicians promising things they almost certainly cannot deliver; discussions with our family as to where we should live and what we should do to enjoy our retirement. How does this relate to self awareness? I believe that politicians who are not self aware are ticking time bombs! They don’t know what people around them think about them; and they don’t have the empathy to understand how to relate to the normal person. As I relate to the questions about my future, I need to be self aware to the point of knowing what decisions will be right for me and my wife.

So where do you stand? Are you struggling to find meaning in your life? Have you lost sense of purpose? I ask you these questions because it seems that those of us who have spent 40 years in a career, often place “meaning” in our jobs, struggle to find life satisfaction once we retire. We need to consider who we are and what we stand for, since we are much more than simply a career. For those of you who remain in a career, and who have found significance in this, make sure you know who you are broadly so that you can enrich the elements of life that are outside work. It will be those elements that make you who you are when you eventually retire! But it is also those aspects that will broaden your life and make living worthwhile.

Let me finish with the question I think is the trigger for digging deeper: what gives your life meaning? I hope that you can delve deeply into life’s experience and come up with answers to this question. Living satisfied life’s depend on it.

May this month see better weather, and the start of spring!

Blessings to all of you, Peter Craighead

February 2023

February is usually a hectic SAD month (seasonal affective disorder) for many of my friends. Not surprisingly it is the month that encourages many Calgarians to spend a few weeks away at an all inclusive resort in a warm location! If we measure the emotional temperature of North Americans at the beginning of 2023 (Leger poll), there are four dominant issues that we are concerned about:

  • Rampant inflation and its impact on living costs/ retirement
  • The fear of an economic recession
  • The impact of climate change on weather patterns and our environment
  • The impact of uncontrolled gun violence

If we add those suffering through the winter blues to those depressed about the above issues we get a clear impression of a society that is in despair. Despair is rampant, especially in our younger generation, who have little hope that things will change. As I have described in previous newsletters, a society that is living without hope cannot be expected to face the challenges facing it with creativity or innovation.

So, I’d like to spend the rest of this month’s newsletter dissecting our response to where we find ourselves in February 2023. As I speak to those from younger generations I am impressed with their mistrust in most politicians and leaders. Their frustration is that they feel that current leaders do not have a handle on how angry and dismayed young people are. The reason: younger generations cannot seem to be able to get ahead! They cant afford a mortgage, they’re up to their necks in debt, and are angry at what they see in our older generations. Older generations are living comfortably (some in retirement), have paid off debt and mortgages, and many are still in cushy jobs blocking someone young from getting that promotion. That is what our young people see! They also see how the wealthy don’t get taxed at anything near to what they deserve, which results in younger families being handed the undeserved burden of taxation. So the truth is always somewhere near the middle! I don’t think all in the older generation are living so comfortably as perceived, and many of them are also challenged by the status quo of current politics. But it behoves our current leaders to engage with young people, and to listen to what they are saying.  

The second matter that comes with this despair is how we deal with it in our personal lives. How do we remain resilient, and how do we encourage our younger family/ friends to do the same? The objective of being resilient is simple – it helps us be more objective about the future; and it gives us something practical to work towards. Becoming resilient is a very practical exercise, and it is really vital that those of us in older generations stand with our younger family members/ colleagues or friends so they learn some of the essential steps in building resilience. Some suggestions include – encourage daily exercise, limit your thoughts to today, read encouraging books (and avoid bad TV), do something creative like painting or writing. My pet peeve would be to encourage people away from using negative social media. Try and stay away from this for a few weeks to see how your mood lifts immediately!

In conclusion, many of my SAD friends know how to manage their disorder (use lights, get away to the sun, develop good sleep patterns, etc); but many of us are struggling to keep our heads above water, with one stressor heaped on top of another. My advice – find at least one person whom you can talk to and take the time to have a coffee with him/ her. Try to regain some hope so you can open yourself up to dreaming again.

I remain your grateful servant,    Peter Craighead

January 2023 Newsletter

The reasons for retiring are numerous, but the major one that drove my decision was my desire to be relevant wherever I was in my life phase. I didnt think I could continue being relevant clinically for much longer! Having now been out of the clinical world for two years, and it being a New Year, I thought it important for me to ask myself a few questions. I recommend you do something similar as you set up goals for 2023:

  1. Where am I relevant these days, and does this give my life meaning?
  2. How can I help others around me to feel relevant?
  3. What challenges will likely face me in 2023? How will I deal with them?

Where am I relevant?

I am blessed to know that my life matters to many. Because of my wife; my kids; my friends, and many mentees whom I have helped through the years I feel special. They fill me with joy and meaning! I make myself relevant these days by attempting to be who I am when I am connecting with them. It gives me joy to help others to develop a sense of purpose, and to focus on goals that will give satisfaction to them; and I feel relevant because I make an effort to help people grow and thrive. This all sounds like I have an inflated view of myself! The point that I am actually making here is that I get more from being a husband/ father/friend or mentor than those on the other side of the equation. I feel relevant because people allow me to love them and care for them. A second area of relevance is in my ability to take on projects and get them finished. I recently completed a laundry renovation project that worked out well. This, plus my ability to express myself creatively gives me a special sense of relevance.

How can I help others around me to feel relevant?

We are who we are because of how we impact others. I need to make more effort to regularly connect with my family members, friends and mentees. I need to be prepared to help them face the struggles of life, and to let them show love towards me. I truly believe that it is in the act of giving/ loving that the butterfly in all of us is set free. I don’t know how I will let others care for me this year, but I will make a conscious effort to receive love as well as give it! Making others feeling relevant also requires that we listen to each other, and that we respond in a transparent manner to questions that are asked of us. I commit to listening better. It also requires that I treat others as I would have them treat me.

What are the challenges in 2023 and how will I face them?

  1. Travel will stretch me thin. Its likely that we will have to do several trips to Vancouver, as well as show some of our family round BC. This is not only financially straining, but also takes a lot out of the old bones of a 68 years old! I intend to get myself fit, lose some weight, and sleep better – all of which will help me accommodate this challenge better.
  2. I think the time is coming for me to accept that my contribution to leadership development probably will be in the form of written material rather than workshops or coaching. Even though I will be conducting several workshops in the New Year, I have not had no new coaching opportunities for over 2 months. I am okay with this development, even though I have decided to maintain my website during 2023.
  3. An exciting challenge will be my daughter’s wedding to Thom Coombes in the summer. This, plus her move to Newfoundland will be both exciting and daunting. I am going to give her all my love both in a practical and emotional sense, so that she knows just how special she is to me.
  4. Finances – we will have to prepare for budgets and taxes, so that we can afford some of these trips and other commitments. I’ll let my accountant and financial planner help with these important areas. We’ll be okay!
  5. Health – I don’t know what to predict! Whatever happens, I know I need to be more healthy than I currently am.

I am so thankful for God’s care over me during 2022; and for the love of so many. It has made retirement meaningful, as I seem to have continued being relevant in many life’s around me- who can ask for anything more than that?

As you look into your 2023, may you find meaning and joy in life.

Peter Craighead

December 2022

For many this season brings with it a mix-match of emotions. The happiness of being together is tainted with memories of loss and loneliness. Its not surprising then that this isn’t always a time of joy for individuals or families. This year emotions are running deep for me. I miss my kids; I am sad about the death of several friends, and I sometimes dwell on just how empty my life has become since retirement. As an executive coach it is critical that you are in touch with your feelings, and your thought processes. Otherwise, you cannot help others around you. So let me be clear, I am so thankful for all of you and for my family. The following reflections are written to help those of you who are struggling with your own thoughts….

  1. This time last year we had just sold our family home and had made our way to BC for 3 months that was intended to sort out in our minds where we should locate for retirement. The house sale was both a sad and uplifting experience. On the one hand we were moving away from the place where had raised our two kids; but the maintenance for such a large house and yard was extensive – and it’s a relief that we no longer have that worry. We are happy in the condo that we now own; as it allows us far more flexibility.
  2. We are very appreciative of our friends and family (f and f). It has been sad to see some of them struggle during the year and others have died. However, we are the richer for having people like them in our lives, and any sadness is overwhelmed by the love we feel coming from f and f.
  3. I am blessed by the clients that have allowed me to touch their lives. I am uplifted by the many stories of endurance/ resilience and courage. Thank you for letting me share some of your journey.

Where does this leave us as we come to the end of the year?

I’d like to put an emphasis on how planning has helped me and my wife deal with some of our challenges, and remind you to integrate a planning activity in your life as you start a new year. For example, its improper to complain about being lonely during the Holiday season if we haven’t tried to reach out to others around us (i.e. arrange a dinner/ coffee/ walk together/ etc). Such activities usually take pre-planning because they don’t come naturally. My wife and I have become obsessive about doing this! When you do this most decisions become measured and consistent. Your calendar becomes the marker of such planning, making it easier to answer the question as to whether to do something or not!

What are the broader implications about using a planning tool? Using our example above, by planning our visit we were able to stay in BC for three months, which has allowed us to make a decision to stay in Calgary. The finances from selling our family home have been used to purchase a condo, and to shore up our investments. All of this was made possible by doing the hard work of planning ahead of time. What is the comparison between planning for the future versus living randomly? Planning allows thinking about the future, and forces uncomfortable conversations to happen before the crisis hits. Planning expands our horizons, because they force conversations about the bucket list, investments, and other pragmatic items. Living randomly sounds very romantic, but in my experience the glitter soon wears off when you haven’t planned appropriately.

I let my values and purpose drive the conversations about the future, and what we should do. Doing this together with a loved one allows you to put emphasis on the important things – you cant do everything so its important to be able to choose wisely; done more efficiently when you’ve been able to think through the issues ahead of time. So this rambling newsletter is intended to encourage you to seek out your friends and family this holiday season, and to plan when you can see them. It is also intended to remind you of the importance of planning activities for 2023. Just as the ad tells us “to let your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages”, so I encourage you to let your mind do the walking through potential markers of happiness and meaning in 2023. I wish you and yours a fantastic holiday season,

Peter Craighead

November 2022

This month heralds a number of new developments. Those of you who read last month’s newsletter may have been dismayed at the announcement that I had decided to not market for further referrals through the academy. As you recall, I suggested that I would continue to help those already referred but would move more of my attention within the academy to writing. (It was always my intention to use the academy to communicate academic developments in the health leadership arena, but I hadn’t made the time to do this in my first 18 months of retirement).

So, the first new development is that I am now working on two book manuscripts: one will be a non fiction story of my journey as a human being; the other is specifically focused on the challenges of strategic leadership in publicly funded cancer care. I am currently paying more attention to the book of my own journey, as I am concerned that my memory will not hold the details of my 67 years of life if I don’t do this now!

The second new development is very exciting. I am happy to announce that after a few months of negotiation, I now am formally associated with the Tall Trees Leadership (TTL) organization. ( This association came about after re-connecting with Carol Gray a few years ago. She and her daughter Leah co-founded this organization; and have run the organization for more than 5 years. During this time, they have grown significantly and have an impressive client list. Why associate with them? This collaboration addresses at least three of the objectives I had in establishing an academy: it allows me to do group work with TTL, it provides a referral base for me to do more than physician leadership coaching, and it gives me an expanded base of data that allows me to produce peer reviewed manuscripts. It also provides me a home base where marketing and other organizational issues are covered.

The final new development should be considered as potential! It arose from me attending the Department of Oncology Annual Recognition Awards dinner last week, to which I had been invited for them to say goodbye to me on my retirement. As I shared my journey of retirement with members, it was clear that many wanted to make use of my consulting services now that some COVID alarms have stopped ringing. I am therefore going to have to consider opening up opportunities for them to access my coaching services. I will do this through the academy initially, but if numbers are excessive then I will refer cases through to TTL. We’ll see what happens!

November brings with it a clear transition into winter, and as I speak we are expecting snow tonight. Hope all of you have a great month; enjoy winter!

Peter Craighead

October 2022

As I watch the seasons change this fall, I am impressed by the way our environment seems to take it all in its stride. Although there is a little bit of groaning there is also a sense of expectation for what is to come. Is there a lesson there for us to grasp and take hold of? I think several ideas run through my brain!

The first is an obvious one- the earth around us is willing to teach us important truths as long as we are prepared to listen and see. It seems that the plants, birds, animals and waterways have adapted to the seasons in a dynamic way, perhaps the product of refined evolution. The genetic imprint within our earth has enabled it to thrive despite the seasonal onslaught and the challenges we throw at it. Earth would remind us that within us is a similar genetic imprint; one that is programmed to absorb change. Change is an ever constant, and our bodies are able to accommodate this if we let them.

The second idea that springs to mind relates to how we see the elements around us changing as the year progresses. These elements have become as predictable as the sun going up or going down! Fall sees our animals growing thick fur, the leaves becoming yellow and dropping, and the grasses changing to brown. This speaks to me of how earth prepares itself for winter. It conserves energy and water, goes into hibernation, and allows water to turn to ice. As we prepare for predictable life change in ourselves do we do the same necessary preparation? Whether this involves promotion, retirement, or even death, preparation is an important ingredient to moving through change.

The third observation is maybe the most relevant to this newsletter. The cycle of life involves birth, growth, maturation, plateau, senescence, and death. As we have moved through such a cycle Journeys academy has experienced many blessings. We have had our hand on many who needed help. We have written significant articles that demonstrated how coaching can help individuals move towards greater self confidence. During COVID we grew to a point where 3 to 4 individuals were being coached on a monthly basis. However, it is time to ask the question of whether the academy has maintained its relevance to those it purports to help. Referrals have dwindled to a trickle over the summer, and my feeling is that I am not prepared to put energy into marketing the product to make it sustainable.

I am therefore making those who subscribe to these posts aware that my focus is going to move to writing rather than coaching. With 300 individuals having received coaching from me, and a plethora of experiences during my 15 years in leadership I believe that I can contribute more by dedicating myself to sharing these experiences through the written word. I will continue to coach those who approach me, and help any colleagues who reach out to me. However, I will not extend my license for a web presence beyond 2022, so it means this newsletter will eventually “fizzle” out and its possible that that will mean I dont get approached to do coaching in any form whatsoever. The earth would say that this was predictable; with which I would concur.

Thank you for your interest in the academy over the past three years.


Peter Craighead

September 2022

It’s a new academic year and there are new beginnings for almost everyone! For my wife and I this fall will see our continued commitment to visit our kids and their families in Vancouver and Victoria, with our new beginning being ownership of a new condo in Calgary. On a more sombre note, this fall also sees huge changes in leadership. Two overarching changes include being ruled by a new monarch since September 9th 2022; and a new dean of Medicine started his job at the Cummings School of Medicine (CSM) in July 2022. If you expanded your scanning horizon, you would also see a new prime minister in Great Britain, new heads of several political parties in Canada, and great social change in Eastern Europe.

New beginnings are so exciting! Although it would be so easy to simply move into these new beginnings and give little thought to what has gone before, I’d like to spend a little time focussing on a few of the leadership changes we have seen recently. I’d like to focus more specifically on two of the individuals who have “ended” their careers and whose leadership many of us have admired. I am referring to the late Queen Elizabeth II and Dr Jon Meddings. For those outside of Calgary, Jon just completed his second term as dean at CSM.

Rather than wax eloquent separately about each of these individuals, let me try and distill how I experienced their magnificent leadership with a few general comments:

  1. They both played pivotal roles in my life, providing stability and consistency in my maturation as a leader and human being. To think they are no longer in their roles saddens me.
  2. They both knew how to communicate, when to do this, and when to apply the personal touch. I know little of the inner conversations between the royal family, but the outward persona of QEII was always that people mattered more than the moral failures that her family have had to deal with.
  3. They cared deeply about their constituents, and demonstrated this regularly.
  4. They made brave, bold decisions that enabled the organizations/ countries they led to enjoy prosperity and success.
  5. They both knew how to deal with conflict, often using the soft word or light touch to reassure and direct attention to the real problems.

So it is with these reminders that I wish all of us a great new academic year, one where success is proudly celebrated, and one where the above values continue to be seen. I salute two absolutely splendid human beings; one who recently left this earth with grace and dignity. The other will enjoy the fruits of his labour after countless years in senior healthcare leadership; where he made an indelible mark on the success of our medical school in Calgary.

Hats off to you both,

Peter Craighead

July August 2022

Moving on, one day at a time.

My creative juices just weren’t flowing during my newsletters in March to June, for which I apologize greatly to those who took the time to read them! The first 6 months of the year are somewhat of a blur, with significant periods away from home; and quite different challenges to the ones I thought I would experience. No one warned me that it takes about a year to transition fully into retirement (or a different phase of life). So where is life now, and what has this taught me? In other words, are my challenges ones that are common to others, and will my observations from them help you to move on?

I’ll use William Bridges’ theories on transition to show just how relevant my experience is to most of us. What has happened? The process of retiring from clinical practice, selling our family home, claiming pensions, and all the other sundry items that came to me in January 2021 arent for the faint hearted. The only mind picture that describes what happens when you do something like retire is to think of how it felt when you graduated from high school and moved to college/ or into a career. It is both terrifying and exhilarating! Too much of the literature out there talks of retirement as if death were just around the corner, and that we should prepare ourselves for it (estates, wills, reducing home size, etc). My experience has been far more basic than that. It doesnt bother me that I am now one year older, and getting more forgetful. My decisions have been about where to live and what to do with my life. I now have the time to do the things I need to – paint the house/ fix up the property, coach young people, hang out with friends, travel.

Bridges’ transition theories tell of change having an ending, beginning and transition. During the latter it is pretty common to feel disjointed, disappointed and depressed. With healthy transition comes new feelings eventually – excitement, acceptance, anticipation, etc. Once you have made the hard decisions, this new phase brings about the new beginning that you expected.  I now catch myself thinking (and occasionally saying) that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff! This new phase frees me from bitterness about the last phase, and challenges me to want to contribute in this new one.

So, the application of this message is the follows: are you stuck in the memories of an old phase, or you cannot get out of that phase mentally? You’ve moved along to a “new” phase in physical terms, but your mind still hasn’t moved into the new place! So many of us get stuck in a rut, and need to get kicked into a new way of thinking. That’s what it takes for new energy to come about! The signs of being stuck are the same as those that Bridges talks about – disappointment, feeling devalued, depression, disownment. COVID has paralyzed many of us.

May this new academic year be a time for new beginnings that are meaningful and make life worth living.

My best wishes,  Peter Craighead

June 2022 Newsletter

Retirement has taken on its own pace, and I think this is a lesson for all who read this. Whereas the retirement experts warn that this new phase will bring about challenges to our relationships; and will need re-orientation of our thinking, I have found that strategic focus has allowed me to find meaning in this new phase of life.

Relevance? As some of you go through changes in location, career, relationships, or otherwise it would be easy to get despondent as you contemplate this change. Some of the ways to find meaning in this new reality for you include:

  • Remind yourself of the areas of purpose in your life. Purpose should transcend change! For example, moving into retirement didn’t change my three areas of purpose: developing people; nurturing family and responding to God. It will take some focus for you to re-engage with your areas of purpose in your new situation, but once your focus has been resolved you will be able to move ahead wherever you are.
  • Connect with people. During this change it will be old and new relationships that will bolster your confidence. Allow others whom you respect to talk into your life, and care for you.
  • Maintain a healthy exercise program. Wherever you are, it is pivotal to your health that you are getting out of a busy work schedule to conduct regular exercise. This frees up endorphins into your bloodstream and opens cerebral blood flow. Those who exercise regularly also are the ones who enjoy life and who can think laterally.
  • Ensure you are eating a healthy diet. Cut down on the caffeine; increase the vegetables and modulate the amount of fats you eat. Additionally, make sure you are eating fresh food that provides proteins and vitamins. Fast food isn’t a healthy alternative and you should only eat this when you are in a rush.

COVID has left us all with a vacuum – there are almost 48 months of continuous threat to our well being; and risk to those around us. There has been stridor in our families and within our local communities; and this has left many of us bruised. Moving out into a new phase therefore comes with both challenge and reassurance. The challenge is related to the environment around us, and we wont know how healthy this is until we get there! The reassurance is related to the phenomenon of leaving our wretched lives during the pandemic behind us, and taking on new opportunities.

Whether or not you are facing a major or minor change this summer, make sure you are rooted in some of the basics described above. I wont be writing a newsletter in July as I am taking off that month for vacation. Keep well, and keep on trucking!

Peter Craighead

May 2022 newsletter

New Beginnings…

“The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”
― Arnold Bennett

With the dawning of post COVID living, many of us are venturing out again, enjoying the environment around us and the people who have been distant from us for more than two years. It is also very clear that spring has eventually arrived in Calgary, although those of you living on the west coast probably have had this for 6 weeks! So new beginnings are all around us.

I want to reflect on Arnold Bennett’s words. Many of my clients are experiencing a new beginning of another kind, and some of them are sad or confused. Without breaking confidence I am aware of some in my circle of friends who have decided to move away, some of you have been separated from friends or family because of COVID; and others are just trying to think of what the next few years will bring. My wife and I have been in “new beginning” mode ever since we retired in January 2021 and I can very much align with some of the confusion you may be feeling. So I want to reassure you by emphasizing the importance of Bennetts reminder to us.

“The next hour (is) lying ready for you, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life”. My emotional tank needs those words today! Who cares about whatever it is we messed up last year/ month/ etc! Unless I have misunderstood Bennett, he is saying that all of us have the hope of the future. None of us should believe (or feel) that the die is cast. New beginnings open opportunities for you (and I) to grasp change and thrive with it.

There are a few caveats to the future being different. They include:

  1. If you don’t change the way you think/ react, then most of us will continue with the same behaviour patterns that we have used for eons. If we want to see better outcomes in the future, we have to be prepared to change how we think or react.
  2. To be able to change our thought processes or reactions takes looking deeply at ourselves, and working on the things that motivate us.

I’ll leave you with the thought that May has ushered in spring and is ready to let you dream about the future. Don’t repress these dreams. Enjoy the summer that is about to open up, and let yourself grow again.

Peter Craighead