Pull up a chair, grab a warm mug of tea or coffee, and let me introduce myself.
My full name is Maria Kathleen Legault. My parents named me based on their Roman Catholic faith, and a distant family relative. Growing up, I knew a lot about our faith but very little about our family heritage. As I understand it, I am descended from a mix of French-Canadian and German ancestry. Today, I identify as white, female, middle class, and able bodied.
I have been very lucky in my life. I live in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, where I can enjoy plenty of time outdoors. I love to be active and believe in the power of active play for our mental and emotional well-being.
I also believe in the power of showing up. The simple act of attending workshops, being in person with different groups of people, and being present in the moment has had a powerful force on shaping my career. The value of doing so was not obvious at the beginning of my career but I see it much more looking back and reflecting.
Let me share with you a few specific moments and key learnings in my career journey:
The people in your life provide clues to your happiness, but ultimately, you are in control.
My parents wanted me to go to college for practical, job-ready learning. Instead, I spent six years in university studying. During this time, I found my deep love of research, writing, and reflection.
Be open to reinventing yourself.
When I graduated from my Master’s degree in Tourism Policy and Planning, I applied to be a park warden with Parks Canada. It was one of the most exciting, and different, job applications I had ever made.
Failing the physical exam to become a park warden was an important moment in my early career. It pushed me to find other ways to incorporate my love of nature into my daily life, outside of my career. Currently I work from home and recognize the importance of not being in an office to my work-life balance.
Mental health is complex, and essential to your career.
I perceive myself as a calm, resilient, and loving person. This view of the world helps to boost my mental health. I embrace challenges and setbacks, because I know that those are opportunities for me to further build on this perspective.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am in this regard. I see that mental health can have a very large impact on our careers. It’s hard to grow, learn, and step into the space of being a leader if you do not take care of yourself and your mental health first. Alternatively, nurturing your mental health can be a powerful accelerant to your career success.
I read a lot about social psychology and a few of the books I’ve read recently include The Stoic Challenge by William Irvine and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Yes, these books have influenced some of the thoughts I’ve shared with you today!
It’s been a pleasure to have this time with you listening to my story. If your coffee or tea is all gone now, I will share one final insight: love and empathy have helped to accelerate my career journey a surprising amount. With these values in mind, I am able to show up to my work and colleagues as a better human being every day.