Lydia Fernandes & MotivMode
MAJOR CATEGORY WINNER: Ultimate Self-Awareness and Being Present in the Moment


Lydia Fernandes, mother of three girls and founder of MotivMode, knows that being self-aware is a critical tool for self-empowerment. A recent event pointed at how true this is, even for the littlest ones. Early in the school year, Lydia's second daughter – almost 7 years old– started becoming literally sick to her stomach at the thought of going to school in the mornings. After a lot of probing, she figured out that her daughter was exhibiting an anxiety disorder over the school bussing procedures,

 "My daughter began crying in the mornings about not wanting to take the bus to school. My initial reaction was to get mad at her because the mornings were so stressful as it was, and she indicated that no one was bothering her on the bus (confirmed by her 8-year old sister). She started saying that she felt like throwing up and I could see the panic in her eyes - so I knew it was serious. We talked about it for two days, even had her teacher involved, trying to get a better understanding of the problem. On the third day we were all getting ready in the morning when she came to me and said, 'Mommy, I am having the feelings again and I don't know why I'm feeling like this. What should I do?' I couldn't believe that a child so young could draw such a distinction between what she was feeling and the situation at hand. I thought I'd better work with this opportunity to help her move herself into a better place for coping". 

Helping her daughter use that self-awareness to work through her feelings and the situation at hand was this child's first taste of self-empowerment.


Had the planets aligned themselves any differently, you probably would have seen Lydia on the 6 o'clock news. Well, not quite on the news – delivering the news! She knew from an early age that she loved to communicate and that her voice needed to be heard.

Lydia first realized her gift for communicating in elementary school. With encouragement from her parents and teachers, she successfully competed in several regional public speaking competitions. By the time university rolled around, she knew she wanted to study something that involved public speaking and enrolled in Ryerson University's renowned Radio and Television Arts Program in Toronto. But after one semester, Lydia realized that aspiring to be a "news anchor" would not provide her with a real platform in which to best demonstrate her passion for communicating. After all, one-way communication is really only half the fun!

Aha Moment

Does everything really happen for a reason? Lydia surely believes so. Although it may not be apparent on the surface, if you take the time to extract the deeper meanings you may very well be surprised at what life is telling you.

About 3 years ago, Lydia worked full-time in the field of career services. She and her husband have three young girls that they raise and life was a series of harried moments – from home to work and back again. One day, Lydia received word that her childcare arrangements would be coming to a fast close, and the panic started,

 "We had loving and affordable childcare for our children, but circumstances dictated that the arrangement would have to end…….quickly. We were really panicking because childcare costs for that many children are out-of-this world".

Just prior to this, Lydia had attended a professional development conference that made a huge impact on the direction of her career…..and life. Of the three different workshops she attended, there was one that stood out the most. Led by the Canadian guru of personal branding, this workshop planted a seed in her head,

 "I listened to Paul Copcutt that day and I just connected with everything he was saying. It was very exciting to hear an expert talk about something that I practiced in my own, small way at work. But this time he gave it a name: personal branding. Ahhh, this now validates my beliefs".

Here sit two, seemingly disparate and random life events. Was there a common message hidden within? What Lydia realized is that everything really does happen for a reason, both the good and not-so-good events. Meeting the personal branding expert was no chance meeting. Having her daycare arrangements fall through was telling her something powerful. By paying close attention to the clues life was dropping her, Lydia made some life-changing decisions. How could she use these two sets of circumstances to further her personal and professional growth? Things that are seemingly random and unrelated are not so random at all.

It is easy enough to acknowledge and accept the positive things that happen in our lives. Things become very different when we face adversity. Lydia's childcare dilemma was a relatively mild challenge compared to some of the other life hurdles she has had to overcome in her lifetime. Everyday is still a challenge, but we are all equipped with the power of choice,

 "I remember watching an episode of Oprah where a woman was talking about how her husband lost his job. Rather than dwell in despair, this couple decided to celebrate with a glass of wine! It seemed as though adopting this positive mind-set set the stage for attracting goodness into their lives".

Lydia believed this to be true in her own life. As she reflects on all events in her life stemming right from childhood, - the good, the bad and the ugly – she has drawn connections that have helped shape the person she is today, both personally and professionally. 

Professional Challenge

Doing work that provides meaning, fulfillment and balance

A lot of people would probably say that they "fell into their present career choice", but that it probably wasn't the best choice in the end. When Lydia finished her undergraduate degree, she really struggled with choosing a career path. She knew that there were a few things that she did well: communicate, teach and coach. Before starting her own business – a span of about 10 years or so – she touched on all these skill sets at some level. The problem is that there was still a feeling of emptiness despite loving her colleagues and using her strengths.

 "I think being able to see my ideas and creativity through without all the red tape is what I love most about running my own business. It's very draining and busy on a whole different level, yet at the same time I feel a sense of peace at the end of the day that I never felt before".

Making the decision to start her own business was difficult in itself. But her business, MotivMode, has taken on a fresh new angle that not only utilizes her skill set, but is also aligned with what she values, what she is passionate about, and the needs of her target audience. A business that provides career moms with an opportunity to engage in some "healthy selfishness" to get their careers on track is the happy result of a great deal of personal introspection.

Personal Challenge

Making time for self-care and being a positive role-model

Mothers are notorious for putting other's needs ahead of their own. The results of this can be catastrophic because, as they say, you cannot take care of someone else unless you take care of yourself. But who has time? With all the things that need to be done to nurture a family that are physically, emotionally and mentally draining, there seems little time left to spend on your own needs. However, Lydia has come to learn that when children observe their mothers engaging in self-care, it teaches them a positive lesson in self-love and self-respect.

 "I have watched over the last eight years how my girls watch me – observing intently, the wheels of their minds turning - and have become increasingly aware of how they absorb everything I do, and everything I say. When mommy neglects herself, a lot of people suffer in the process".

 Only within the last year has Lydia started making a conscious effort to partake in some "healthy selfishness", although she still feels she has a long way to go to remove the residual guilt she can still sometimes feel when she is doing something that does not involve the children.

 "I'm getting a little bit better at living in and enjoying the moment rather than being pre-occupied with the million things that need to get done. I find I can really enjoy myself if I make a conscious effort to do that"

There's that self-awareness thing again! Looks like personal branding has far-reaching effects beyond just career development.