Taking Pause

Dear Daring Readers,

Over the last five years, while I’ve been earnestly “digging deep” to learn more about who I am at my core and, simultaneously, building my personal resilience to shame and  fear, I’ve always had it at the back of my mind that I must be taking this personal journey for a reason: that at some point, all this personal development work and resiliency-building is going to be put to the test.

Well, that time has come. I’m dealing with a huge personal crisis at the moment and am finding myself in multiple “arenas”, having to show up, been seen and live bravely almost every minute of the day. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. And I’m buoyed by all that I have learned about honouring my values, choosing courage over fear and that connection to others truly is the only thing that matters.

I’ve taken a long pause since writing my last blog post. And the pause will continue. For now, my energy must remain in showing up in these arenas until the “show” is over. My intention is to be back writing by the spring or summer. At that time, I hope to earn your readership again.

Wholeheartedly,

Sabrina

 

Good Exploring, Little One

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I’m well into My Year of Creative Living and, at this point, I’m appreciating (and sometimes begrudging) more and more the crazy, surprising and delightful ride that creativity is taking me on.

For example, what started as a simple goal (Write A Book) back in January spurred me to enrol in an online blogging course in the spring; hire a writing coach in early summer; and, travel 2 1/2 hrs north to Georgian Bay for a five-day writing retreat, from which I’ve just returned.

With all this, I’m definitely still on the path to writing a book, but my “Writing Life” has broken open and here I sit with all these words in me, all these stories to tell, and what seems like not enough time and space to get it all out.

Side note: my two new mantras right now are: “Be Patient And Be Willing To Pass Up Good For Great” and “Progress Is Progress“.

The writing retreat, in particular, cracked me wide open. Something about being in the most beautiful setting imaginable (Georgian Bay, I <heart> you), in two small, quintessentially- Canadian cottages, surrounded by 12 other crazy-freaking-amazing writers has given me a brand new set of lenses through which to see the world.

Everything I look at appears to me as a touching and story-filled photograph now. Words seem delicious and rich enough to eat. On the drive home, I realized that Writing and I are now in a serious, committed relationship (the best kind of relationship too… the one that keeps me both grounded AND sky-bound). Like all good and evolving relationships, I know I’m in for some tumultuous times. But I’m ready for the ride.

One of the most vulnerable stages of the writing process is sharing our work with the world. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice with vulnerability and putting my shit out there! With that in mind, I want to share three things I wrote at the retreat.

The first is a quick ditty, based on the photograph above. And it goes like this:

I want writing to feel just like this little baby who is exploring and looking with fresh eyes at everything around her, with no concept of what being messy even means. This little one has no judgement of herself. And she is loved simply for existing. She follows her heart and her curiosity without any preconceived notions of reward or consequence.

She isn’t scolded for getting dirt on her bottom or tracking mess into the house. Instead she is praised and held and celebrated.

“What a curious little explorer you are,” they say.

“Look at what you uncovered, clever little girl,” they say.

“What have discovered today?” they ask.

With a chuckle and a coo, they brush the dirt and mess off her hands, legs and feet. No harm, no foul.

Good exploring, little one.

 

The second is a poem I wrote:

Sisterhood

precious wind

of sincere love

roots me

and I rise high.

 

Lastly, a Haiku I wrote:

Dandelions

First bouquet for mom

So proud to be the giver

Promptly thrown in trash

 

What kind of creativity are you exploring these days? Are you in a serious, committed relationship with painting, sculpting, knitting, wood carving, square dancing, jewellery making, cake decorating, comedy, poetry or some other lovely creative pursuit? If yes, please share it with me here or on my FB Page so I don’t feel so alone in putting my work out into the world! If you’re not ready to share, tell me where you are in your relationship… just starting, deep in the trenches or perhaps just flirting from afar?

 

 

Walking Bravely and In Great Happiness

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As you may know, I declared this My Year of Creative Living. So far, I’ve taught myself to play the ukulele; took a tap dance class; spent a weekend dabbling in abstract painting; and, participated in a three-week blogging course.

What I’ve learned so far from these activities: creativity is the core of feeling really alive. I’m never so giddy, conflicted, anxious, thrilled or joyful than when I’m in creative mode. It’s a definite high, folks… I highly recommend it.

My current endeavour is… writing a book (ahh!). I’ve hired an amazing writing coach to guide me through this process and keep me accountable to the task (which is worth its weight in gold), and I feel like I’m diving into my most personal, meaningful creative pursuit yet. Its exhilarating and terrifying at once, which is the very definition of entering “the arena” of vulnerability, as Brené Brown calls it.

I was listening to Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey speak about creativity in their latest meditation challenge podcast, and their explanation of creativity hit me on a whole new level:

“Creativity is the root of our biological existence.”

Our bodies – each and every cell – are constantly evolving and responding to brand new conditions. Chopra defines creative living as bringing freshness and renewal to each day, each circumstance. In this light, it’s easy to see that we are all – by our very biology – creative beings and the tired notion of creativity belonging only to artists and writers swiftly abates.

Creativity lives in our divine freedom to choose our response to any given moment.  The ability, however, to bring the freshness and renewal of creativity to each moment is, you guessed it, a practice.

The practices of letting go of comparison, staying present and cultivating your awareness for what’s true for you in this moment (and not what your long-standing, self-limiting stories tell you) nurture your creative life. And it nurtures what you are likely seeking for yourself: to feel alive, to feel worthwhile and to feel so very you as much as possible in your life.

I invite you to rebrand yourself as a creative being, starting today. I mean, you already are a creative being… and now you have the choice to start seeing yourself this way and living your life from this perspective.

What would it be like to approach your job, your marriage, your parenting and your personal growth as a “creative type”. As an artist, even? As someone who walks “bravely and in great happiness”, as so beautifully said by artist Robert Henri?

It is, after all, in your nature – in your very cells – to do it.

 

Kick-ass Author #5 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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As I’ve put together this short list of kick-ass writers over the last several weeks, I know I’m leaving out countless other amazing authors whose books also pick up on the powerful themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. In fact, I could probably make writing about other people’s books a full-time blogging job. I’m an unabashed devotee of books that inspire and nudge people to look inward and move forward. And I love connecting people to books.

But alas, this time around I’m committed to five recommendations only. So here’s the last in my series on Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown):

 

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

This book is for you if: You feel you have something inside you that needs to get “out there” but don’t know where or are too scared to start; you have silenced or hidden your inner artist ever since that elementary school art teacher told you, “you’re not doing it right”; you are trying to solve a problem or express an emotion or amplify your life and think creativity might be the way forward. 

If you are thinking, “I’m not creative, this book is not for me” then you need to read this book. If you’re thinking, “I’m too busy with serious ‘real-life’ stuff to concern myself with creativity” then get yourself to a book store pronto and buy this book.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert takes a stand for all of us to live a creative life: To live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. She explains that creative living is what separates a mundane existence from “an amplified existence” (don’t you love that?) Creative living – in all its manifestations – is for all of us. Do you see how you need to read this book?

Big Magic is a great read, presented in nice, easily-digestable chapter “nuggets” that speak to overcoming the fear of stepping into the creative arena. Her book invites you to find all your “not enough” gremlins, look ’em square in the eye and then promptly kick them to the backseat.

 

She is like the friend who tells you, “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

 

Gilbert challenges you to question all the stories you tell yourself about the way things are, nudging you to find a different, better and more daring story to tell. She speaks to self-care and compassion, giving yourself permission, and the occasional, much-needed smack upside the head (e.g. “Fear is boring.”)

What I love the most is Gilbert’s voice in this book: it feels like you’re sitting down with your best friend over a coffee/glass of wine, and she’s telling you the things you need to hear about expressing your creative self. She is like the friend who tells you,  “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

As an added bonus, Gilbert launched her podcast, Magic Lessons, to continue exploring her ideas from Big Magic. It’s really worth a listen, especially Episode 12 which features an interview with Brené Brown herself!

Now, if you really want to get serious about exploring your creativity, check out my awesome friend and coaching colleague, Allyson Woodrooffe. Allyson helps people find their voice and live their truth through creative expression, and she is definitely someone you want alongside your journey to find your creative self.

To wrap up, let me say that I would love to hear about your favourite reads that touch on the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. Send me your list on my Facebook Page.

And if you end up reading any of the five writers/books I’ve suggested over the past few weeks, please post a comment below or to my Facebook Page to let me know what you thought of it!

 

Kick-ass Author #4 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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My next pick for Kick-ass Author is a bit of an outlier and not necessarily an obvious recommendation for someone interested in reading more on shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living, but it’s a plum!

I’ll start with a confession: I am a woman who, until this year, put her head in the sand when it came to all things financial. I had never once filed my own taxes. I could hardly tell you my bank balance on any given day. Amounts owing on credit cards were always fuzzy. I would be lost to tell you the general comings and goings of money in my life.

Turns out, of course, that my issues with money have little to do with money itself. Yup, you guessed it: it’s deeply rooted in shame, identity, scarcity and vulnerability. And, as I have been learning, this is an area that is deeply linked to personal feminine power. Surprisingly, it’s a shame trigger for so many women, whether they are high-earners or just making ends meet.

So, this is the brilliant book that has helped me face my fears and finally embrace my financial responsibility and personal power:

Barbara Stanny, Sacred Success: A Course In Financial Miracles

This book is for you if: You are looking to step into your personal version of greatness while taking charge of your financial well-being

This beautiful book hits on some pretty strong and universal shame and vulnerability themes that keep women playing small, pleasing others and giving their power (and financial freedom) away.

Barbara Stanny has written several books for women on finances, but Sacred Success is special among them. In Sacred Success, Stanny borrowed from the classic, A Course In Miracles, and wove its powerful lessons throughout, hitting on this critical message: for women, financial success is a Rite of Passage into our personal power. The book cover summarizes it perfectly:

“Instead of pushing women to pursue financial success in the traditional fashion, Sacred Success seeks to redefine power from a feminine perspective…You can be financially successful without sacrificing your soul or compromising your values.”

The links to Brené Brown‘s  work may not be as obvious in this book, but they are there. Stanny speaks about the ideal identities we strive for (by pleasing, perfecting and pretending), our shame triggers around scarcity and money that were planted in childhood, the importance of creating our own rules about money, and the courage it takes to look your financial situation square in the eye and say, “I’m in charge.”

Sacred Success is all about living authentically, claiming our personal power as women, and stepping into our own personal version of greatness. And, of course, getting our financial house in order once and for all!

I’m a big fan of this book, and wanted to include it in this list to show just how far reaching and insidious shame is in controlling our lives, and how the concepts of vulnerability and living authentically fit into the realm of financial success.

I’m making this book required reading for my daughter once she’s launched out into the world and finds herself searching for her own personal version of greatness.

Are you going to add this book to your summer reading list? Tell me! Leave a message below or post to my FB page!

 

Kick-ass Author #3 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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Participants often come to my Daring Way™ and Rising Strong workshops because they have read Brené Brown’s books and get the concepts of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living on an intellectual level, but struggle to deepen that learning and “get it down” into their hearts and souls.

Enter my next recommended author: His poetry and prose take the same messages around shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living and deliver them straight to your heart.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having The Life you Want By Being Present To The Life You Have

This book is for you if: You are a poet or poetry-lover; love to read inspiring text; like to read just a little snippet of something wonderful each day;  are enduring or have survived illness, trauma and life’s other hard-knocks.

Mark Nepo is a poet and his writing is simply gorgeous. The Book of Awakening provides short passages to be read daily, over the course of a year. They are his thoughts and stories on compassion, vulnerability, scarcity, fear, pain, risk, courage, and living fully and authentically.

Here’s how I think about the two authors: Reading Brené Brown’s books are like going to a university class on vulnerability and wholehearted living with one of those professors you love because she’s so good at explaining her work in a real way, with wit and brilliance.

Reading Mark Nepo is like returning home from that university class, pouring yourself a cup of hot tea and sitting with your wise, old neighbour as he tells you lyrical, soulful stories that weave in vulnerability and wholeheartedness in a way that you didn’t even know you were getting schooled. You feel changed just by having listened to him.

Here’s a passage from Nepo on vulnerability that I love:

“No bird can fly without opening its wings,

and no one can love without exposing their heart.

It is perhaps the oldest of inner laws, as inescapable as gravity. There is no chance of lifting into any space larger than yourself without revealing the parts you hold closest to your chest.”

Another of my favourite passages in The Book of Awakening speaks to self-compassion, which I consider to be one of the cornerstones of Brené Brown’s work. In my workshops, the concept of self-compassion is a difficult one for a lot of people to embrace, as they see it as self-indulgent, selfish and being in direct contradiction to how they were brought up (i.e. to put others first).

At these moments in the workshops, I will often read aloud these words from Mark Nepo:

“In deep and lasting ways, when we heal ourselves, we heal the world. For as the body is only as healthy as its individuals cells, the world is only as healthy as its individual souls.”

Sigh. Picture a room full of people nodding their heads, getting the concept of self-compassion in a whole new way, straight to their hearts and souls.

If you’re a Mark Nepo fan, let me know your favourite passage from The Book of Awakening, or let me know which of his books you’d recommend. Post it below or on my Facebook Page.

Happy reading!

 

Kick-ass Author #2 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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While the concepts of shame, vulnerability and living wholeheartedly are central to Dr. Brené Browns research and writing, these themes are actually quite common in books. That’s because we are all drawn to ideas of rising up against the oppression of real or perceived limitations, and finding the courage (vulnerability) to radically live life according to our own rules.

My next pick for Kick-ass Author Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living is a perfect example:

Seth Godin,  What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn)

This book is for you if:  You’re a budding entrepreneur; you’re thinking of quitting your job to pursue a passion; you want to create art and put it out into the world; or, you long to get unstuck in any aspect of your life.

If I were translating this Seth Godin book into “Brené-ese”, I’d say this book is about showing up, being seen and living bravely. It’s about stepping into the arena, without armour or shame shields, ignoring the critics, the cheap seats and the box seats, while holding the value of courage to light the way.

You need to get this book into your library. Then you need to get a copy for your spouse. Another for your best friend. And then anyone you know who is about to graduate from college or university.

Why? Because this book is a trip.

First of all, Seth Godin is a master of witty, concise and inspiring writing. He is also, in his own words, someone who “mostly creates projects, many of which end up failing.” So he speaks from experience AND knows what is possible. Trust me, his writing will get you fired up, and “taking your turn” over and over, in new and different ways.

 

“When was the last time you did 

something for the first time?” Seth Godin

Secondly, this book is basically a piece of artwork in itself. Bright colours, provoking images and photographs, big fonts/little fonts, historical references and pop culture musings, stirring quotes and big questions like, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” and “Are you taking it seriously or are you taking it personally?” and “When did you lose your voice?”  It’s part-coffee table/part-self help book, rolled into one.

But it’s the way Seth Godin made this book happen that I love, as its creation is the very illustration of what he preaches in the book. Godin didn’t go the traditional publishing route with this book, which would have been easy for him as the author of 17 bestsellers. Instead, he asked his online community if they would be interested in pre-purchasing the book, sight-unseen (I was one of thousands who said ‘yes’). He got the capital to publish the book from the pre-orders, then published it and shipped it directly to readers. Now there are over 100,000 copies in print.

Godin wanted to challenge the status quo of the “vertical publishing world” where publishers decide what gets published and how it gets distributed, and instead went for a horizontal approach, getting readers themselves involved in the creation of the book.

You may not find the word shame or wholehearted in this book, but the message and the book itself is ALL the stuff Brené Brown talks about:  feeling the fear of vulnerability and doing it anyway.

Get a taste of Seth Godin’s work by checking out his awesome blog. And you can order What To Do When It’s Your Turn here.

Pick up his book and tell me what you think in the comments below or on my Facebook Page!

 

Five Kick-ass Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown)

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I love me my Brené Brown.

From that first TED talk, I was smitten. My admiration grew deeper as I read each of her groundbreaking books. And of course my commitment was sealed when I flew to San Antonio two years ago to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator.

Can you blame me? The woman has become a leading voice in the growing global conversation about the power of shame and the practice of vulnerability to create a “wholehearted” life.

However, there are definitely other voices out there contributing to the shame-resilience conversation: Remarkable writers who bring their own unique lens, language and practices to the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living.

Looking for a fresh perspective on the topic? Look no further! Over the next five weeks, I’m going to introduce you to five kick-ass authors whose books need to be on your bookshelf. Get ready to build your summer reading list!

I begin with…

Tara Brach, Ph.D.,  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

This book is for you if: You’re into meditation, mindfulness, and the teachings and practices of Buddhism 

To me, Tara Brach is the Buddhist-Buddy of Brené Brown. I absolutely adore the writing of Tara Brach, and feel that her books bring a sacredness and spirituality to shame-resilience work that Brené’s books don’t quite capture.

In Radical Acceptance, Brach calls shame the “trance of unworthiness” and explains that, “trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are.” The book touches on perfectionism, numbing, self-criticism, scarcity and fear… and then beautifully describes the path to freedom from these sufferings.

 

“Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that

you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher

guiding you to self-love and acceptance.”

 

What I especially love about Radical Acceptance are the meditation exercises Brach has sprinkled throughout the book, offering these as practices to build shame-resilience. They are beautifully written and easy to follow, even if you don’t practice meditation.

Tara Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher guiding you to self-love and acceptance. And, if you fall in love with her writing, you can also follow Tara Brach’s work through weekly podcasts that feature her speaking to large groups and leading meditations.

Interesting tid-bit: Radical Acceptance was published in 2003, a full four years before Dr. Brown published her first book on shame (I Thought It Was Just Me)!

 

Have you read Radical Acceptance? Love it or not-so-much? Tell me what you think of it in the comments section below or on my Facebook Page. Or, if you plan to read it, remember to come back to my Facebook Page when you’re done to tell me what you thought of it. Happy reading!

 

 

Sacred Vows

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I’ve been thinking about how, when people get married, they exchange some bighearted and weighty vows with each other. Things like, “I will take you to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.” And when these words are spoken, we really, really mean them. After all, so many of us grow up being taught how special it is to find someone to love for the rest of our lives, and then we spend years trying to find “the one” to whom we can commit so fully.

Without taking one inch of meaning and importance away from the commitments we make to our partners, I’ve been thinking that it’s too bad we don’t take part in a similar ceremony early in our lives, where we get to publicly announce a deliberate and earnest commitment to ourselves.

Imagine standing in front of friends, families and loved ones, stating out loud your undying commitment to have and hold yourself from this day forward. That no matter what happens – when things are good or bad, when you’re doing well or struggling, when you’re in sickness or in health – you will stand by your own side, fully committed to taking care of, loving and being kind to yourself.

If we all took a vow like this, perhaps instead of spending years trying to find “the one”, we’d spend the same amount of time and energy trying to find ourselves, what makes us tick and what gives us the most joy. We’d commit to our personal growth, our health and our mental well-being for our own sake, not for others.

Imagine the amount of trust you would have in yourself to step into the unknown, live big and be seen. You would step into your “arena,” knowing full well that if you fall, you will be there to catch and comfort yourself.

Imagine the friends you would choose for yourself; the boundaries you would set; and, the care with which you would enter into relationships. After all, if your first commitment is to you, then you’d be responsible for choosing only the friendships and relationships that truly serve you.

If your commitment was first to you, imagine the freedom from judgement you would experience. Imagine the forgiveness you would show yourself for making mistakes. Imagine the lightheartedness you’d feel about your own imperfections… all because you’d know that the commitment you made to yourself way back when meant that your self-love and self-compassion were limitless.

Imagine the life you would rely on yourself to build, if your prime commitment was to you. And imagine how deep our connections, compassion and generosity to others would be, because we’d be living in a world where everyone around us had also taken a commitment to have and hold themselves, for better or worse. We’d know what was our business and what was their business, letting go of any need for external affirmation of our worthiness.

And we’d know that by taking care of ourselves, we’d then be complete and resourced and in the very best position to take care of others.

I’ve painted a pretty lofty picture here, but in the spirit of Mother’s Day – a day when I think about the way I’m raising my kids and what I’d like them to learn from me – I’m sticking with it. It’s my wish for them – and the world – that we all declare a sacred vow to self: a commitment to our own well-being, personal growth and self-care for life.

 

It’s All About Andragogy, Baby!

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I took up tap dancing and playing the ukulele at the same time. I had not done either in the past and had not shown any previous affinity or talent for either. I pretty much launched into two different artistic forms from the same starting point.

Three months on, I’m loving one and ready to quit the other.

Why?

Interestingly, I boil it down to the learning process. Not the art form, not my degree of talent, and not my level of effort. It’s andragogy, baby. I chose two different approaches to learning these artistic endeavours and that has made all the difference. Let me explain.

To learn to tap dance, I signed up for lessons at my local recreation centre. It’s a structured class with about a dozen of us middle-aged mommas trying to replicate the fun their tiny tots have in dance class. Our instructor is a young, spritely thing who LOVES tap almost as much as breathing. Important to note (and I’m foreshadowing here), she is the same instructor of all the tap classes for kids at the recreation centre.

To learn to play the ukulele, I decided to teach myself. Without much of an action plan, I bought the ukulele and a beginners instruction book, and then found a bunch of websites and YouTube videos hosted by ukulele junkies who love to show other people how to do it.

At tap class, after a four minute warm-up of tapping our toes and heels in unison, our teacher demonstrates a random step combination and then has our group repeat this combination up and down the length of the room. Then she shows us another random combo. We follow. Then another. We follow. In our hour-long class, we learn about five or six of these combinations. Think of it like doing piano scales for an hour. Except that each week, the combinations are different. One doesn’t build on another. It’s just random combination after random combination. And just as I’m getting the fancy footwork down for one combo, it’s time to stop and learn a new one. Sigh.

With my ukulele playing, I began by learning to tune the thing (a very good place to start) and strumming some of the basic and most-used chords. Then quite quickly – and quite naturally, I might add – I looked for a song I could start playing. One website suggested mastering “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” as a good start. Hmmm… no thanks. I had to jump to something more fun, so I found “Someone To Lava” (If you’ve seen the movie, Inside Out, then you might recognize this song from the short animated film that was shown before the feature).

I found the tablature (fancy name for chord sequence) for this song and also the video on YouTube, and then just started practicing along as best I could. It was a slow start for sure, and I struggled with changing chords and strumming properly. Every so often I would stop and just practice changing from one chord to the next. Or I’d practice a different strumming pattern. But I could always recognize what I was playing and how it fit into the whole song. And almost every time I’d play along to the song, I could see where I was improving and what I needed to work on. I’ve noticed my progress in not having to always look at the ukulele to change chords, and that my strumming has become more natural. I keep my uke in my office and find myself picking it up to quickly practice my song before starting into some other task.

Can you tell which one I love and which one I’m ready to quit? Yup, tap dance class is becoming a bore and I’m missing more classes than I’d like to admit. And every time I see my ukulele, I smile and want to keep going.

The thing is, there is a solid theory behind why this is happening (read: it’s NOT just me and my fickle ways!)

The theory of adult learning basically states that certain conditions need to be met in order for adults to thrive in learning environments. For those lovers of lifelong learning – like me! – out there, it was Malcolm Knowles who identified these conditions or principles for maximizing the learning experience for adults (and, yes, they differ from what children need). The one principle that I think helps explain my experience is this: for grown-ups, learning has to be goal-oriented and relevant. Basically, in order to keep motivated, adults need to know what they are working toward, to see the relevance of what’s being taught and how it relates to the overall learning outcome. If the goal is not clear and if the applicability of each segment of learning to that goal is not evident, then motivation to learn drops.

Put against the context of my tap dance lessons, you can see why my motivation is waning. I have no idea what we are working toward in that class. We are doing isolated combinations and the steps aren’t building on each other. But I do know exactly what would have motivated me in that class: having the instructor show us a fun and level-appropriate choreographed routine to start, saying “THIS is what you are going to learn by the end of our time together.” Then she could have spent time in each class showing us several of the combinations, starting at with the first sequence and getting the chance to master each before we move on. If I knew that each week I’d be practicing combinations that would eventually tie together to a complete routine, I’d be practicing in my sleep!

Instead, each week I go there knowing I’ll learn some random moves that I will easily forget by the next morning and with no motivation for remembering them. What’s the point? We’re doing completely different moves next week.

But my ukulele playing is altogether different. I started really early in choosing a song I was going to learn. I saw the goal up front: I will learn “Someone To Lava”. And every time I sit down to practice, even if it’s just to practice one or two chord changes, I know that it fits into the bigger picture of playing that song. I’m motivated to keep going because I’ve seen my progress and I know that every time I practice, I’m getting close to my goal of playing the whole song.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re putting yourself out there to learn some new artistic endeavour, pay special attention to HOW it’s being taught. When we lack motivation to keep going with something, we are so easy to blame ourselves for lack of will, lack of talent or lack of skill. It’s easier, then, to give up or make excuses and to, worst of all, give up trying anything else because we already assume it’s us, not them. But sometimes it is them. Not everyone knows what it takes to motivate adults to learn. If you’re trying something new and finding your motivation starting to wane, maybe it’s that the goal hasn’t been made clear to you or the relevance of a particular lesson hasn’t been made evident. Then you can {gently} encourage your instructor to make these things clear for you, keeping you motivated to keep going (and in my case, to keep tapping).