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!

 

Sidelined By Scarcity

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I have not been my best-self at work these past few weeks. I’ve been reactive, blaming and cynical, and have even had (I’m embarrassed to say this) my inner-belligerent-child emerge during a few interactions with my manager. Yes, there’s a lot of drama and stress and uncertainty in my work environment these days, but this is exactly the time when I want all of the personal growth work I’ve done around authenticity, courage and values-based living to help me to rise above the drama, so that I can still be my best-self and not succumb to the things that trigger my grumpy “it’s not fair” gremlin.

Then, a few days ago, I was doing my morning meditation with Deepak Chopra (via his Infinite Abundance app), listening to his wise and soothing voice say to me:

“There are those who live day to day concerned about not having enough of whatever they feel is necessary for their happiness and security. Their bodies most likely echo those feeling by sending messages of discomfort in the forms of anxiety, discomfort, worry or stress.”

The second statement hit me first. I zeroed in on his words: anxiety, discomfort, worry and stress. Yup, that sums up how I’ve been feeling lately. Then I considered his first statement: what I am concerned about not having enough of? Then all the Brené Brown wisdom kicked in. Whenever I hear “not enough” I know scarcity is at play. So, I sat with this for a while: What feels like “not enough” right now? The answers came at me fast and furious:

I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time to do my job, to organize and offer workshops, to be with my kids, to exercise, to relax, to get the house clean, to pull weeds, to read all the books I keep buying, to call my friends, to reconnect with my husband, to get a good night of sleep, to register my kids for swimming, to buy birthday presents, to pack a healthy lunch for myself, to listen to the backlog of podcasts on my iPhone, to create a vision for my business, to meditate…  

Obviously, I could go on and on and on.

This is nothing new, of course. Most of us feel the pressure-cooker of not-enough-time. But what has taken me off guard was how this was impacting my mood, outlook and behaviour. A sense of scarcity is so settled into our subconscious that it can so easily throw us off our game, and in ways that are unexpected. Take my behaviour at work, for example. Here I was, feeling grumpy and acting out like a toddler in the workplace. I’m not sure I would have connected that back to a sense of time scarcity had I not sat with my anxiety around “not enough”. But there it was.

It makes me think of all those times I’m short and agitated around my children only to realize what I’m feeling is anxiety and fear that has nothing to do with them or their behaviour. This happened recently, after the photo of the drown Syrian boy on the beach was everywhere. You would think that the sorrowful image would make me go home and hug my children. Instead I went home and was uber-stern with them. Again, when I checked in with myself, I realized how much fear and anxiety I had around what happened to that child. And I was acting out that fear and anxiety by being agitated with my children (it doesn’t make sense, but our sense of vulnerability can be overwhelming and trigger some strange behaviour, folks).

So making the connection between my sense of scarcity and my fear/anxiety and my less-than-ideal behaviour at work was the necessary first step to making better choices. I have to say that time-scarcity is a big trigger for me and I try to be very aware of how this manifests in my thoughts and behaviour. I don’t always catch it, but this is all a practice after all. I remind myself that it is all enough; that everything I do and don’t do is enough. There is no race, there is no finish line, and the only thing I need to do is stay 100% in the moment in order to be my best-self.

 

 

It’s All Invented

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The rough time I was having in May has now spilled over into June. It’s mostly related to a critical deadline I have to meet in my job as Learning Consultant with the federal government. My time is consumed with work relating to this deadline and all the things I’ve had to move to the back burner – which is almost everything – loom over me. This includes my regular responsibilities at work, things I’d like to be doing for my coaching practice as well as all the regular stresses and frustrations that come with everyday living. Add to this, the beautiful, sunny spring days are reminding me that I should be outside, getting more exercise, more sun and more connected to nature.

I just want there to be a giant pause button that I can press to stop the world, for just 24 hrs, so that I can be all by myself, lying in bed, reading books and eating Oreos. Who’s with me?

These ebbs and flows are all part of living, I know. And just writing a statement like makes me want to roll my eyes. Because in this moment it feels shitty and platitudes like these just make me want to punch a side of cold storage beef.

That said, the words we tell ourselves DO matter. I know it  and I believe it on a core level. So telling myself, “these are the ebbs and flows of life” makes me want to barf but, on the other hand, telling myself “it’s all invented” moves me out of suffering. So let’s go with the latter.

It’s All Invented is the first practice spelled out in Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander‘s book, The Art of Possibility (a must-read, by the way). And these words continually bring me to a very basic, simple understanding of why we (choose to) suffer. Each of us has our own perception of the world and we somehow think that’s the perception everyone has. Likewise, we often let ourselves see the world as (we believe) others see it. And against these perceptions and assumptions, we judge ourselves: I’m not smart enough. I’m not kind enough. I should be better at this. I should have my act together by now. I should be happier. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I should know my next step. What’s wrong with me?

But as Zander and Zander put it, “We see a map of the world, not the world itself.” Our mind constructs the meaning of what happens in our lives; there really isn’t an objective view of the world at all. And, once again, in the words of the Zanders, “It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”

In all the messiness I’ve been feeling lately, my go-to mantra has been It’s All Invented and when I say these words, I instantly move to this thought: “Ok, if it’s all invented, then let go of judgement and comparison and what I think others think and everything else that’s making me feel shitty right now. What meaning can I invent about this that makes me feel better and at ease?”

For some, this may seem like a reckless thought. If it’s all invented and I can invent my own meaning of things, then what will stop me from, well, lying in bed all day, reading books and eating Oreos? What keeps any of us from lying in bed all day, reading books and eating Oreos?

Hmmm, that sounds like the start of a very deep, layered and existential discussion. But the simple answer is, I wouldn’t. And most of us wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even worry about that. I have a deep trust in all of us that we want to get up every day and contribute to the world in some way.

The trick is, of course, to get up every day and contribute to the world in some way with a whole lot less suffering around what we think we should or should not be doing. The trick is not hanging our sense of worth on those comparisons and judgements that keep us from feeling peace. The trick is to figure out what meaning you’re going to give your life – a different and fresh perception, explanation or assumption – that puts your experience of life at ease. One way to do this is reminding yourself that It’s All Invented.

 

P.S. My next Dose of Daring call is on Friday June 19 at 12pm (Eastern). I hope you’ll take a break at lunch to join the conversation! Here are the details:

Topic: Joy Is Hard Work

We all want it, but it turns out that joy is one of the most difficult emotions to really feel. Especially in our culture of scarcity, where we are meant to feel like nothing is ever enough, joy can seem just as fantastical as a unicorn and as fleeting as a fairy. Let’s discuss our cravings for joy, why it’s so difficult to let ourselves feel it, and look at the practices that can help us truly “let go and be filled up” by joy.

12:00pm Eastern Time

Dial: 647-558-0588

Access Code: 693 929 1438

 

 

The Year Behind The Work/Life Lab

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Circle Back: I updated this post on Jan 30, 2015, changing a word I used to more accurately reflect my actual experience. When listing out the stressful events of 2014, I mentioned an “addiction” to sleeping pills. It’s been bothering me that I used that word, because I would not qualify what I went through as an addiction at all. What I experience was a dependence on sleeping pills to help me deal with the insomnia I was experiencing. It was careless of me to use a word like addiction, and certainly doesn’t honour the true struggle that those dealing with addiction have to endure. My apologies.

 

I promised myself to take a break from blogging for the month of January, and I almost kept my promise. We’re close to the end of the month, and there is nothing like a self-imposed hiatus from writing to make me burst at the seams wanting to express myself.

I spent some time in late December and early January planning for the year ahead. And in doing so, I couldn’t help but look back at the year just passed. And specifically, I couldn’t help but look back at The Work/Life Lab and the weekly posts I wrote in an effort to inspire readers to shake up their world a little bit and see if a little shift here or there could make a positive difference in their work and personal lives. I loved my year of writing under this construct, as it forced encouraged me on a weekly basis to think up different experiments and to write stuff that felt fun, challenging and meaningful to me.

But as much as I loved writing The Work/Life Lab, looking back I realize that the content of my writing was certainly an arms-length from what my year was really like, “behind the curtain” so to speak. The Work/Life Lab was structured and instructive; my life, meantime, was just plain messy. It was a damn challenging year, but – as all challenging times tend to do – I learned so much along the way about how I want to be in this world.

In many ways, 2014 was my year of “trying to keep my shit together.”

Don’t get me wrong; lots of great and wonderful things happened. I met my hero (and secret BFF) Brené Brown in San Antonio, and learned all about The Daring Way™. I cultivated new and meaningful friendships with some awesomely strong, creative and trailblazing women. I travelled to BC with my family and was completely filled up with the beauty of the west coast. And, we moved to a new home which provided a fresh, new chapter in our family’s life.

But, all the while I was writing those daring, upbeat posts for The Work/Life Lab, I was coming head-to-head with some of life’s biggest stressors:

  • My 6-year old son was diagnosed with ADHD
  • My marriage was seemingly on the brink of kaput
  • I started medication for anxiety and depression (for the third time)
  • I suffered with insomnia for 6 months straight (with a corollary dependence on sleeping pills to deal with said insomnia)
  • We got totally scammed by the movers on our moving day, and not only suffered the financial damages, but the humiliation alone seemed to tarnish any sense of a fresh start in our new place
  • I learned the hard lessons about starting my own business which included:
    • this is damn hard!
    • it takes a long time and a lot of work to see the fruits of your labour
    • you will get your ass kicked, a lot
    • not making money sucks
    • it’s hard to know what to work on first
    • it’s hard to know what to work on second
    • it’s really easy to feel like you’re the only one having a hard time

I’m not sure how I managed to keep my shit together this year, but I did. I didn’t do it all gracefully, mind you. There were definitely ugly moments throughout. But, as I said above, I did learn a lot about myself and the world along the way that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And so, from a deep place of gratitude, I share with you just three key things I learned in 2014:

Never Underestimate The Law of Least Effort

This continues to surprise me. After all, I spent most of my life digging in my heels whenever life’s challenges came up at me. Struggle. Worry. Lament. Ruminate. Repeat.

I wrote about The Law of Least Effort in The Work/Life Lab, because when this lesson hit me, it hit me hard. The lesson? When I feel my body tense up against whatever is happening in a given moment, chose ease over struggle, calm over conflict. Make peace with reality and what is, and start living from that place of acceptance. I have to practice this, over and over. But I slowly feel it’s becoming my default. In fact, I chose the word “EASE” as my theme for 2015.

Whenever I feel opposition, discord or dissonance with anything or anyone, I ask myself, “how can I have ease with this?” Just asking the question relaxes my body and brain. And usually a sense of peace and alignment filter in, and I can make a choice at that moment that, at the very least, doesn’t go against my authentic self. At best, my next move is one that is life-affirming for both me and those around me. I cannot tell you how much this perspective has changed my life. And it certainly helped me get through My Year of Trying To Keep My Shit Together.

I Get To Define Success and Failure

I scheduled – and subsequently cancelled – quite a few programs and events I was offering this year through Sabrina Guerin Coaching. It’s a good thing – and also a tad ironic – that my major offering is The Daring Way™, a program that teaches people the importance of being vulnerable and showing up in your “arena” even when there are no guarantees of success. I live this every day, especially in wanting to share this program with the world. There were times when I sat there thinking, “I am getting my ass kicked with this coaching thing and trying to bring The Daring Way™ to my little corner of the world.” This sense of failure is hard, hard, hard. And sometimes made me fantasize about how easy my life would be if I would just give it all up.

Then I read The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, and I got it. I got schooled, big time. And here’s the lesson:

It’s all invented.

That’s it. So simple. It’s all invented. And, if it’s all invented, then “we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us,” say Zander and Zander. So, I promptly sat down and invented my definitions of success and failure. So…. According to moi, success is:

  • serving the world while also being authentic
  • having the guts to put myself out there, again and again
  • honouring the commitments I make to my clients
  • helping and inspiring others
  • showing up
  • doing my best with what I know and what I have at the moment
  • honouring my intuition

And, according to moi, failure is:

  • not trying at all
  • dumping all over myself
  • hustling for worthiness
  • buying into other people’s definitions of how things should be
  • giving up
  • making it all about the money

I like these definitions. They work for me, and they are posted on my wall as my gentle reminders that I get to invent what it all means.

It’s The Ordinary Moments That Count

There are a lot of Brené Brown quotes that I love, and I post them a lot on my website and Facebook Page. But there is one that has been steadily creeping into my consciousness. It’s not one of my go-to quotes; it has never really landed for me… until the last few months. And now it’s almost becoming a mantra:

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

This is the essence of mindfulness, which I wrote about a lot last year in The Work/Life Lab. It says to me, forget about the next big thing you are waiting to have happen. Forget the next special event, the next vacation, the next day off… whatever you think is somehow going to be more joyful than the moment you have right now. And stop comparing. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing and thinking that somehow they have arrived in the Land of Extraordinary while you’re stuck waiting on stand-by. And stop thinking about the way your kids “should” be, or the way your marriage “should” be, or the way you “should” look. If you get too busy chasing down the extraordinary, you will miss out on the joy of what is here, now.

Last year was a lesson on Stop, Breathe and Be In This Ordinary Moment. Ahhh…joy. I found how joyful it was to simply to be alive, to be breathing and doing whatever I was doing with whomever I was with.  I released any expectations I had of how things “should” be and stopped squandering the joy that was right in front of me.

 

So who knows what 2015 will be, but it’s off to a pretty good start.

My son is still a whirling dervish, and practicing the Law of Least Effort is helping me deal. My husband and I are in a stronger place now and our marriage feels like a place of warmth and comfort again. I’m sleeping normally (whew!) and I stay present in my moments of anxiety and depression. Our new home is, in fact, a new, fresh chapter and we are blessed to be surrounded by the best neighbours, ever. And, I’m busily making plans for delivering The Daring Way™ in new and different ways in 2015, all of which you will be hearing about very soon!

What were your lessons from 2014? Or, did the lessons I describe above resonate with you at all? Tell me, tell me, tell me! I’m setting an intention to open up more about myself in this blog, and I invite you to do the same. Let’s have a conversation about it! I hereby declare that my blog will be renamed, Daring Matters. This year, I will explore all things vulnerable (like opening up more about myself in this blog), courageous and self-compassionate!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #51: A Look Back

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #51: A Look Back

I will wholeheartedly admit that I’m a bit of a sentimental fool, especially at this time of year. Years ago, when we were still sans kids, I would make my husband do a “year in review” with me sometime between Christmas and the New Year. Together, we’d go month-by-month over the year that just passed, remembering what we did, who we saw and what was important to us. Much to their chagrin, I’d also make my extended family take turns at Christmas dinner sharing the best thing that happened to them in the past year and the one thing they were hoping for in the year to come. Now that we have children, we collect memories all year long by writing down fun and important days on small pieces of paper and adding them to our memory jar. On New Year’s Eve, we take turns reading out the memories to each other.

I love it. For me, I revel in the memories and appreciate looking back at what we accomplished over the year, especially when they were things that were completely not on our radar at the start of the year. I also like the fact that it helps build and strengthen our family culture. These shared memories create the story of who we are as a family. They point to our values (or, in some cases, point out when we’re not honouring our values) and give us a sense of shared history together. Plus, the sharing and honouring of memories has, in itself, become part of our family culture.

So in this week’s Work/Life Lab, I invite you to take some time and space to do your own version of a year-in-review. I highly recommend you do this with your partner, family and/or friends, because sharing the memories of a 12-month period will strengthen your bonds and your sense of shared history. That said, it is equally powerful to do this review on your own, especially if you want to start becoming more deliberate about your choices in the year to come. Here’s a good template: Hits/Misses/Lessons Learned

  1. The Hits: What were the highlights of the past year? What did you accomplish? What are you proud of? What delighted you? Who came into your life? Big and small, list all those things from 2014 that you remember fondly and made you feel the warm and fuzzies.
  2. The Misses: What were your disappointments of the past year? What did you set out to do, but didn’t get around to accomplishing? What were your mistakes? Your regrets? What caused you sadness, anger, disappointment or the blues? Big and small, list all those things from 2014 that you remember some sadness or regret.
  3. The Lessons Learned: What were some big things you learned about yourself, about others and about the world this past year? In what areas of your life did you grow? What did you experience for the first time? What helped make you the person you are today? Big and small, list all the things that were lessons for you in 2014.

Now, give yourself a moment to take it all in. What a year! Look at all the gifts you received in 2014!

Say thank you for all these gifts… for your accomplishments (yay you!), for the pain and sadness (you’re stronger for it) and for the things you learned (you are a much richer person today than a year ago). In whatever way is meaningful for you, express your gratitude for the year you just experienced.

Now consider this: what did the past year prepare you for? Meditate on this for several moments. Jot down any thoughts that come to mind about what this past year has done to set you up for a phenomenal year ahead!

Finally, it’s time to say a proper good-bye to 2014. What authentic and meaningful act can you do to let go of the year that just passed? What ritual will honour all the hits, misses and lessons learned? Take the time to do this too, because letting go will be the best way for you to move forward and be present in the year to come.

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #49: Celebrating The Holidays, Wholeheartedly

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #49: Celebrating The Holidays, Wholeheartedly

I will totally own the fact that this week’s Work/Life Lab experiment is inspired (well, borrowed really) from a recent blog post by the lovely Brené Brown. In her post, Brené recounts a Christmas when she let the “show” of the holiday season hijack her and her family’s enjoyment of it. She recognized that in her determined effort to ensure that “the show must go on”, she paid a very high price: choosing to please, perfect, and perform (in this case, finishing over 200 Christmas cards by herself) over honouring her values of courage, connection and compassion (courage to let go of the need for the cards to be perfect, connection to her children, and compassion to understand her kids’ immediate desires to celebrate the season in their own ways).

She has changed her tune since then, and I love her decision to choose the holiday over the show. So, this week’s experiment is going to ask you to do the same: Make the daring choice to give up the show in favour of the holiday. This means that as you prepare your list of all the things you need to do for the upcoming holiday season, answer the two questions Brené poses in her blog post:

  • Is this thing –  this activity, this gathering, this spending – is this a part of me/us, or just a part of the show?
  • And, does this show really need to go on?

As you look at all you have put on your to-do list, consider whether you are doing these things just to please others, so that you will feel more accepted by them or so that they will be happy at the expense of your own enjoyment. Or, whether you are doing it to achieve some sort of perfection, so that you can avoid any hint of painful criticism from family or friends. Or, whether you are just performing in the role of “She who makes all holiday things just so,” or “She who will not have the only house on the block without lights and decorations,” or “She who unselfishly bakes every delicious holiday treat from scratch,” or “She who will do everything and ask for nothing”. If any of these ring true, it’s time to choose the holiday over the show.

Scratch it off your list. Or modify it. Let go of your need to be perfect. Do something because it pleases you, not others. And give up the performance, because everyone wants to see the real you anyway (trust me).

Why do this? Because if you’re caught up in the show, you’ll miss  out on the true spirit of the season: giving, gratitude, connection, peace on earth and goodwill toward humankind. You’ll miss out on being and feeling authentic among those you love. You’ll “get through the season” living from your head, instead of savouring every moment living from your heart.

It takes courage to give up the show. Start slow, and maybe give up (or modify) just one thing on that list. And as you do it, let it truly go (that is, don’t give it up and then feel guilty about it). You’ll be giving yourself the gift of a more wholehearted holiday season!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #45: Surprise and Delight

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #45 – Surprise and Delight

This week’s Work/Life Lab experiment is all about super-charging kindness within your circle of family, friends and colleagues. Your goal is to “surprise and delight” everyone with whom you come into contact. Think of “surprise and delight” as the karmic bookend to “shock and awe”.

The guideline for this week’s experiment is easy: simply go out of your way to make every interaction be one in which you surprise and delight the people in your life. Show deliberate acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, gratitude and authenticity. Make the Golden Rule your number one objective for the week. Focus your energy on consciously creating blissful experiences for others around you, in both small and large ways. Do this for everyone you meet, not just those whom you think are worthy of receiving your kindness.

This is an experiment of the Universal Law of Cause and Effect: what you cause another to experience, you will experience also. The trick here is to not become attached to seeing the karmic response when and in the way you want or expect. If you attach expectations to the way you want to see the “effect” of your “cause”, you will likely be disappointed. Instead, just notice what happens for you when you surprise and delight others. How does it feel? What is the response you get from the other person? What impact did your act of kindness have? And isn’t that, in itself, worth the effort of surprising and delighting?

Gary Zukav, in his book The Seat of the Soul, writes that “Creating authentic power requires that you become responsible for everything you create.” Once you understand that you are responsible for what you create, you can make healthy choices about how you want to be and what you want to do in the world. And letting go of judgement or attachment of how this “good karma” is supposed to come back releases you from any suffering related to the sense of entitlement or fairness your ego or personality might have you believe.

Get creative with how you can surprise and delight the people in your life. Have some fun with thinking up all the new and different ways you can express your love and appreciation for your family, friends and coworkers. And pay close attention to what shows up for you in return. Ride the karmic wave!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #40: Armour Down

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #40 – Armour Down

Thanksgiving is almost here and for some of us that means lots of family drama. Sometimes the drama begins once the door opens to the first guest; for others, it’s a slow build to a climatic outburst that happens anytime between the turkey course and pumpkin pie. And still for others, the drama simmers low and slow, never quite bubbling over but providing an equal amount discomfort, pain and exhaustion.

This is a holiday where a lot of people “armour up” to stave off any feelings of vulnerability among family and friends. Let’s see… there’s the armour of perfection: running around like a mad person to make everything “just so” in an impossible attempt to avoid any utterance of criticism. Then there’s the armour of numbing: eat, drink, eat, eat, drink, drink, watch tv, watch tv, drink, drink, eat, eat… anything to take the edge off the tense feelings. And then there is the armour of “the best defence is a good offence”: I’m going to zing you first with criticism, judgement, sarcasm and passive aggression before you can do it to me! And last, but not least, is the armour of catastrophizing so much that you actually squander whatever joyful moments might actually be happening in the moment. That armour goes something like, “Ya, everyone is getting along now, but just wait. The other shoe is about to drop and I’ll be ready.”

Yikes, I have an ache in my stomach just writing about it. You might think all of this armour keeps you safe, but in the world of Daring Greatly, it’s really just keeping you small, unseen, disconnected and inauthentic.

The experiment for the Work/Life Lab this week and upcoming weekend is to… you guessed it… armour down. This is going to look different for each of you but the basic premise is this: figure out your biggest “go to” armour when you’re feeling vulnerable with your family or friends and make a choice to take that piece of armour off. It’s not forever. And it’s not all your armour. Just pick something and try taking it off for an hour. Or for the evening. If you’re feeling especially courageous, maybe for the entire weekend. You might experiment with taking different pieces of armour off at different times.

So in real terms this might mean letting a part of Thanksgiving weekend be imperfect and just letting go of your need for approval. Just one thing. Or maybe just for one hour.

It could look like less numbing – one or two fewer drinks or one less serving of pumpkin pie – and choosing instead to lean in to the discomfort, knowing that it won’t be forever and you might be present-enough to learn something new about someone else or yourself.

Or it could be making the choice to be kind and authentic and gracious with the other people, and not on the offensive (or defensive). What would one hour of no judgement or harsh words feel like?

Finally, it might look like staying in the present moment long enough to fully embrace the joy and happiness that could be found there.  Mindfulness will always be the thread running through an attempt to Dare Greatly.

If the armour is stuck on tight and you’re having a hard time taking it off, then just bring your attention to the fact that you are wearing and using the armour to protect yourself from vulnerability, and then at least the choice to wear it becomes a conscious one.

Good luck. This is not an easy experiment. It is for those who want more connection, love, meaning and joy in their life, and this is always a risky affair. The trick is to know – whether the experience is a good one or bad one – that at least you tried. At least you were Daring Greatly.

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #29: Be A Better Customer

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #29:  Be A Better Customer

“Everyone wants to know why customer service has gone to hell in a handbasket. I want to know why customer behavior has gone to hell in a handbasket.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

 

My challenge for you this week is to bring some humanity back to the everyday, simple and brief interactions you have with the service people in your life. I’m talking about the cashier at the grocery store, the barista who whips up your latte, the McDonald’s employee handing over your Big Mac at the drive-through, the convenience store owner where you buy your gum. In your workplace, this might be the administrative assistant, human resource advisor or the mail clerk.

More and more, I am noticing how very insincere and unappreciative the interaction can be between customer and cashier/server/attendant/assistant/clerk when transactions are taking place. We are, in general, a hurried, scattered and anxious bunch. But what seems to be making customer behaviour go “to hell in a hand basket” is how distracted we are by our little electronic BFFs: our smartphones.

The positive and negative impacts smartphones have in our lives are obvious, but one of the saddest is how our overuse of portable technology has highjacked the simplest of courteous exchanges in our daily lives. Think about the last time you were in a store, cafe or restaurant and you barely looked up from your smartphone while talking to the person serving you.

Some might argue that these quick “service interactions” aren’t important enough to sweat about, but I would disagree. Small acts of kindness matter. Eye contact, smiling and sincerely wishing someone a good day are like little deposits of positive energy that each of us could really use in our lives, especially those who are standing on their feet all day dealing with these interactions one after another.

So in this week’s Work/Life Lab, I challenge you to be a better customer. Pick a day this week when you are going to make a conscious effort to be the perfect customer in every interaction you have. What might this look like? Begin by getting the interaction off to a good start: before you ask for whatever it is you are there for, make eye contact with the service person and ask with all sincerity, “how are you today?” or some version of this.

While the service person is doing their thing, stay off your handheld device. Watch what they do, think about the skill set they have developed in serving you and the training they’ve had. Send them some silent appreciation for whatever it is they are doing to serve you (e.g. scanning your groceries quickly, whipping up your coffee order, bringing your food to you, etc). Give some thought to who they are, what their life experience might be and how they are living in the world.

If the moment allows, ask them something. “Are you at the start of your shift or near the end of your shift?” “How has your day been so far?” “What is your favourite drink to make?” “What’s your most favourite item on the menu?” When you are finalizing your transaction, maintain that eye contact and express true gratitude for their service to you.

It is so easy to overlook the people in our daily lives who serve us in these small and not-so-small ways. And we are all connected. So why not spend at least one day (and hopefully every day thereafter) experiencing what it is like to bring some humanity and common courtesy back to customer behaviour?

 

 

 

The Work Life Lab, Week 11 – Your Arena

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Welcome to The Work Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work

Experiment #11 – Your Arena

This week’s Work Life Lab is a reflective one, so get ready to dig deep. Consider this a little like a pre-spring cleaning of your work-soul.

I want you to answer this one simple question: where in your job or career do you really want to show up and be seen this year? 

In the Daring Way™ work that I facilitate, we begin by identifying a part of our life where we know we are holding ourselves back; an area where we know we want to live more fully, bring our whole selves to the table and reap the rewards of being “all in”. This is our Arena. 

The metaphor of the Arena is a poignant one: choosing a part of our life where we really want to show up and be seen usually means that there is considerable risk and exposure, just like it would be to stand there in the centre of the arena floor. Looking up into the stands, you are sure to come across critics, non-believers, and social constructs created to keep you small. It’s not comfortable to walk into that arena. In fact, it takes a great deal of courage and heart to do it. So why do it? Because, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

So, what’s the Arena for you in your work life? Is it speaking up at meetings? Is it your relationship with your boss or co-workers? Is it taking the lead on a project? Is it trying for that next level? Is it landing a new client or account? Is it stretching into an area of work that’s unfamiliar to you? Is it quitting your job to start your own business? Is it trying to stay authentic in a job where your values are constantly jeopardized? Is it setting boundaries so that you can leave at a decent hour every day?

I have a two Arenas in which I’m trying to show up this year. The first is in marketing my business. This is a huge Arena for me, because it’s unfamiliar to me and it means putting myself “out there” in a big way. Deep breath.

The second is this blog, and wanting to bring more of myself into what I write about each week. I want to find that sweet spot where I am sharing more of me in my blog while keeping the content relevant for you, dear reader. So… in sharing my Arenas with you, I have actually taken my first step into this second Arena!

I would love to hear a declaration from you about your work-related Arena. Where do you want to show up, be seen and live more bravely this year? Please share below, on my Facebook Page or by sending me a private email (sabrina@sabrinaguerin.com). Your declaration will be like standing at the Arena door, with your hand on the door, ready to push your way in. It may be scary…but, trust me, it’s also thrilling and totally worth it!