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How to Reach Your Potential: An Interview with Lauren Bates

· Interview

Lauren Bates (Executive Director at Smart Commute North Toronto, Vaughan) took part in the "How to Reach Your Potential" initiative, a series of interviews with leaders who inspire Alex Rascanu and whose insights can help you reach your potential.

Lauren Bates speaking at the York Region Bike Summit 2014

About Lauren

Lauren Bates is the Executive Director for Smart Commute – North Toronto, Vaughan, a non-profit that dedicates its work to improving sustainable transportation choices for individuals, and reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Lauren holds a BSc. in Psychology specializing in environmental behaviour change research and a Master’s in Environment and Sustainability from Western University with a focus on sustainability consulting. She has worked with Smart Commute – North Toronto, Vaughan since 2013. She gets to work with incredible, passionate people everyday, and commute to work by subway. In her downtime, Lauren loves hiking, spending time with her family and dog, making up new recipes on the fly and promptly forgetting them, and spending too much time in Wikipedia black holes. Connect with Laurent on LinkedIn.

Lauren Bates climbing mountains in Ecuador

Alex: What is your life’s purpose?

Lauren: Life's purpose... that's a big question that I think will change over time, but for most of my life it has been related to creating a positive impact on the environmental issues we are seeing right now, primarily through reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I think the common thread I will always find purpose in is continuous growth and learning. I feel that if I can do that while focusing on the right things, I can at least do something that has purpose in the world.

Alex: What are the three things you’re most passionate about?

Lauren: My family – they are my home. Travel and adventures great and small (especially hiking!) – anything to expand my understanding of the world. Cooking – it’s a creative outlet for me.

Alex: How do you stay healthy? What’s your main health-related goal?

Lauren: My main health related goal is balance and consistent energy. My health is the foundation of everything I might want to do in my life. It sounds so obvious, but I have a tendency to forgo my healthy habits in favour of external obligations. I have done a lot of work on myself in this regard over the past few years, and am passionate about ensuring that the people I work with can find balance too. That means prioritizing sleep, good nutrition, working smart, and having fun. Our organizational culture is set up to help people work with their energy. I’m getting better at it, too!

Alex: How do you build wealth? What’s your main financial goal?

Lauren: My biggest asset is having married someone who shares my financial outlook! We live well below our means and early on identified our financial priorities. I have a dorky love of budgeting - we use a software we both share to help us reach our goals. Budgeting what we spend is about prioritizing what matters most to us day to day (spending time with loved ones, travel and new experiences, our dog, healthy food). Long term, budgeting what we save is about building financial freedom to pursue interesting projects and have the security to take them on.

Alex: How do you balance work and family life?

Lauren: This is one of those things I’m working on, and ties in with your question on health. I’m not always fantastic at this on a day-to-day level, but it evens out. I am getting better at making the effort to shut down work when I leave the office and on weekends, and to really be focused on work when I am working. That way, there’s good separation and satisfaction that I’m present at each. It’s definitely not perfect, but I do strive for that balance.

Alex: How do you enjoy spending time with family and friends?

Lauren: I think having adventures together is an important way to connect, no matter how big or small. We’ll often gather with family around a meal, and with friends it might be board games, hiking, or walking dogs together. We recently teamed up with friends to do trivia once a month. My husband and I go for walks with the dog, picnics, or hikes in the evenings or on weekends. We are actually taking a trip to Italy with my parents and his mother in the spring; it will be interesting to travel with them, and is a “bucket list” idea we had a few years ago. I can’t wait!

Lauren Bates, rapelling for Easter Seals

Alex: What has been the most fulfilling role you’ve ever had, or the most fulfilling project you’ve been involved with so far?

Lauren: I am currently in my most fulfilling role to date! Right now I am Executive Director of a really incredible non-profit called Smart Commute - North Toronto, Vaughan. We work to improve people’s commutes by introducing choices and flexibility in how people get around, and we seek to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions while we’re at it. Not only do I get to help this organization make an impact, but I get to be surrounded by people that inspire me every day: the staff, board directors, advisors, funders, businesses that work with us, and transportation stakeholders are so passionate about the mission. I’m very lucky to get to do what I do.

Alex: What’s one career planning lesson that has made a significant difference in your life?

Lauren: That I shouldn't wait to know everything before trying something, and maybe plan a little less. Some of the best discoveries I have made in terms of my talents and interests are from just coming across something new or that I don't quite understand, but trying it because it seemed interesting. Staying (a little bit) uncomfortable helps me discover my limits and push past them. That doesn’t mean saying yes to everything or being indiscriminate, but rather being open to lots of options even if it isn’t quite what the “plan” is. I've spoken with a number of new grads in recent years who want to figure out exactly what they want or what they are passionate about before pursuing it, and it can be daunting to feel you have to know everything before actually gaining experience in it. There is some need to be interested in what you pursue, but I think you can actually reverse engineer that discovery of what you love and instill yourself with passion through learning, doing, and becoming proficient at something.

Alex: What would you like your legacy to be?

Lauren: I always want to leave everything I touch and everyone I meet better than I found them, in whatever small way that might be.

Alex: Lauren, thank you for sharing your story and insights, and for taking part in this interview!

Did you find one or more of Lauren's thoughts helpful? Are there any ideas or resources that came to mind as you read the interview?

Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below, and consider sharing the interview with a friend via social media or email.

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