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.

 

What I’ve Learned About Surrendering

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I wrote about my Surrender Experiment back at the beginning of November, and here’s what I’m learning as I practice letting go of control, embracing what shows up and honouring each moment as sacred:

Surrendering is hard.

At least at the beginning it is. I cannot tell you the number of times (each day) I catch myself with eyebrows furrowed, planning and playing out scenarios, all in an attempt to control the direction of any given thing in my life. Big and small things alike, my mind is kept very busy in future-focused mode.

And, like everything worth doing, surrendering is a practice. So now it’s coming more easily to me to release the worrying, the planning, the playing-out of every possible scenario to find the “best” way forward, and choosing instead to let go and see what happens. I have moments, mind you, where the conversation in my head is something like, “Are you crazy? You can’t just let things go. What if this-and-this happens? Or that-and that?” Anxiety creeps in, and that brings me to my next lesson…

Trust is surrender’s best friend.

Turns out that an experiment in surrendering is also a big experiment in trust. And I don’t mean trust in the sense of “trusting everything will work out just fine”. No, I mean trust in myself. Surrendering control means I must be willing and able to trust in myself, that I will be “enough” – smart enough, strong enough, grounded enough, resourceful enough – to manage, deal and otherwise live with whatever happens, good or bad.

This is a big one for me. A big gremlin message for me is, “are you sure you can handle it?” The thinking behind this is: If I’m not prepared, if I haven’t thought through every possible scenario, if I haven’t set up all my ducks in a row, then when the shit hits the fan, I’m going down. There is so much fear pooled around this thinking that my chest feels heavy just writing about it.

So, letting go of control and surrendering to whatever shows up in my life is really about self-trust. And choosing to trust in myself rather than giving in to the anxiety of not being in control is also huge act of self-compassion. The moment I treat my anxiety with a message like, “trust that you are enough” or “you’re going to be ok” or “you can handle whatever comes”, a huge sense of peace and ease comes over me, and I am brought right into the present moment. Which brings me to my next lesson…

Possibility lives in every moment.

In any moment of surrender, another cool thing happens: it levels the playing field of all my life experiences. There are no moments more important than others. Whatever is here is what life is offering up, and who am I to say that this moment is any more or less valuable than the next?

It’s like this: when you surrender control and choose to embrace whatever shows up, then “whatever” is full of possibility. Surrendering makes me pay attention to everything I’m doing, because there could be magic in this moment (and, turns out, there is magic in every moment if I choose to pay attention to it). So walking the dog isn’t a chore that I have to get through just to get on to more important things. It’s the only thing that needs to be done at that moment, and so why shouldn’t I be fully present and attentive to the magic of it? There is no wasted time, no chasing time, no losing time. Each moment matters.

Nobody knows like the body knows.

One thing I couldn’t make sense of when I started out this experiment was, when does surrender turn into boundary-less, aimless drifting? If I surrender to everything, won’t people walk all over me? Won’t I be overwhelmed or run down by saying yes to everything? Won’t I just be going from one thing to another, saying yes to everything without any sense of direction?

Then, of course, I was reminded by my body that it knows better than my brain when it comes to these matters. It’s pretty simple, actually: When I’m in struggle, when I feel the tension in my gut and my eyebrow furrows and my head tilts forward in serious thought, it’s time to surrender. Feeling tense? Time to let go. Replaying thoughts in my head? Time to let go. Feeling my shoulders hunch up? Time to let go.

On the other hand, when I find a sense of positive energy and aliveness bubble up over something I see, hear or think about, then it’s time to embrace. Feeling peace and ease? Embrace. Feeling tickled pink? Embrace. Feeling hopeful and giddy? Embrace.

And luckily, because my body is always living in the present moment, attuned to what’s here now, I can trust what it tells me (if I just take the time to quiet down and listen, of course).

 

In a nutshell, I will say this: surrendering is an exercise in mindfulness that has the incredible power to bring instant peace and ease to my life. My word for 2015 was ease, and this has been an amazing experiment with which to end my year of choosing ease.

I’m excited for the holidays ahead of us, and will take a break from blogging until the new year. I’ve decided on a new two-fold focus for my blog in 2016: exploring and unpacking the Physics of Vulnerability, which is a foundational piece of Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong AND exploring my own vulnerability through creative expression (inspired by my other BFF, Elizabeth Gilbert and her Big Magic). That’s right: I’m challenging myself to a Year of Creative Expression where I will take on a new artistic medium every month and write about my experiences in pushing boundaries and being vulnerable in the arena of creativity. My first stab at this will be… wait for it… TAP DANCING! Nothing like starting off a year of vulnerability with a bang (and a tap)!

Happy holidays, dear readers. I wish each and every one of you love, light, peace, ease and big magic!

 

 

 

Surrendering Justification

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about taking on my own version of a surrender experiment, inspired by the memoir, The Surrender Experiment, by Michael A Singer. This is what I recall saying:

Practice letting go of my ideas of how things should be. 

Surrender to what shows up and then give it 100% of my attention.

Hold each moment as sacred.

I am practicing all of this, and trust me when I say practice. I notice the crazy number of times my brain goes into planning mode, trying to come up with schemes for this and that, especially when it comes to my work and especially when I look at what others in the coaching world are doing. But I noticed something in particular one day when I caught myself comparing my coaching business to others. My thinking went something like this:

Wow, look at what that other coach is offering to clients. That’s so cool. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, too late now, I guess. Or should I do that too? Wait, no, I don’t have time to do that. Ok, fine. Well, that coach can do it because that’s their full-time gig. Not like me, working a full-time job while also trying build a business on the side. Remember Sabrina, you chose to have this full time job at the same time as building a business. It’s important to you: the security and consistency , especially in terms of the kids. Wait, is it? Hmmm. Yes, it is. Or is it? Maybe I just gave up too soon. Maybe I gave up on myself. Well, no, that’s not true. I’m still doing what I love, just not full time for now. Right. That’s right… I remember deciding that this is a better balance for me, for now. But man I wish I had more time for my business. There are so many things I’d like to do. But I also remember how frightening that could be sometimes. Yes, that’s right. I’m fine to be doing what I’m doing right now…

And I could have gone on and on. Isn’t this how the thought process works for all of us? It’s an incessant back and forth, especially when we’re trying to make sense of something. And that’s when it hit me: I am very invested in justifying my decision to work a full-time “regular” job while also building a business around my life’s work. It’s like my brain NEEDS to know that I made the right decision to work a regular job in addition to having my own business.

There is a reason my brain wants to know I’m making the right decision. Brené Brown talks about this in her new book, Rising Strong. Brown explains that when we go into struggle, our brains automatically make up stories in order to make sense of what’s happening. In fact, our brains reward us with a nice little dose of cortisol and oxytocin when we succeed in connecting the dots and making meaning from a struggle (think of how good it feels when you have an “a-ah” moment).

The problem is, our brains reward us whether the story we make up is true or not. When our brains piece together data to make meaning, there are often gaps in our knowledge. That’s when we start to make up stuff to fill in the blanks. In my example above, I’m making up a bunch of stuff such as a) other coaches can do what they do because it’s their full-time gig, b) I don’t have time to do that, c) I gave up too soon,  d) I need balance, e) there is such a thing as balance, f) there is some kind of strict dichotomy between my day job and my coaching business, just to name a few.

This, I realize, is going to be a huge part of my surrender experiment: Letting go of justification.

I want to let go of all the thinking my brain is doing to justify a decision, since the justification is there only to make me feel like I’m smart enough, hard-working enough, brave enough, thoughtful enough and righteous enough. Reality is, I am enough, with or without the “right” choice. Whether the decision is right or wrong, I’ll never know. When I surrender the need to be right (or smart or hard-working or brave or thoughtful or righteous), I’m free.  And as long as I’m showing up fully and completely as me, with all my values intact, then no decision can be wrong or a waste of time. As I practice surrendering the need to justify my decisions (which, boiled down, looks a lot like justifying my very existence), I embrace my right to be here, just as I am and simply because I am.

 

My Surrender Experiment

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In his book, The Surrender Experiment, Michael A. Singer recounts the events of his life after making the decision as a young man to let go of his personal preferences and ideas of how life “should” be and, instead, to simply surrender to whatever showed up in his life. For the past forty years, he’s basically said yes to whatever has come knocking on his door. He has surrendered to what he calls “life’s perfection” – the natural, amazing and intricate unfolding of life that happens without any conscious acts of will. He’s allowed life to be in the driver’s seat and has kicked worry, anxiety and fear to the curb.

In addition – and, I think, more importantly – Singer also decided to give himself 100% to everything that showed up. He didn’t make one pursuit or event more important than any other. Whatever showed up, he said yes and then gave it is all. He made every task, every action, every moment sacred. He writes,

“…I had thrown myself into the arms of life. From that point forward, all I did was my very best to serve what was put in front of me and let go of what it stirred up within me. Joy and pain, success and failure, praise and blame – they all had pulled at what was so deeply rooted within me. The more I let go, the freer I became.”

His book describes a pretty amazing journey that resulted in abundance in every form. He set out wanting nothing and at every turn was surrounded by wholehearted people, interesting work, meaningful influence, serene environments and a very generous income.

Sounds a little too good to be true. But it’s a memoir, so we’ll have to take Singer’s word for it.

No matter, I still find the premise of his experiment fascinating, perhaps because I spend a decent amount of time thinking and planning and trying to control outcomes in my life. Of course, no amount of thinking or planning or controlling can make things turn out exactly how I think they “should” turn out, so inevitably I also spend a lot of time feeling the unpleasantness of fear, anxiety and worry.

I also rank order my moments, which of course leads to a lot of frustration, blame and judgement. So if I’m sitting in traffic, I tense up because I would rather be at the office. Then, I just want to get through my workday so that I can get home to be with my kids. Then, the kids better not bother me because now I have to make dinner. Then, when I’m making, say, spaghetti again for dinner, it seems like a mediocre moment compared to the roast turkey I made for Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago. This puts me in constant battle with what is and results in me not fully showing up for anything.

So what would it mean to let go of my ideas of how things should be? To give up planning and controlling and worrying and fear?

What would it mean to say yes to whatever shows up in my life?

And, what would it mean to show up fully to whatever I just said yes to?

I’m not sure what it would mean, but I’m curious to find out. I’m going to take the next 60 days or so to try my own surrender experiment. I want to practice letting go of control, surrendering to whatever shows up in my life and holding each moment as sacred, as no less or more important than any other moment.

Where do you need some surrendering in your life? What could you let go of? How could you show up 100% to every moment? We have a couple of months left until the end of the year; let’s experiment together and see what unexpected gifts come with surrender.

P.S.  As these thing tend to happen, the universe decided to test me in my own experiment: After finishing my first draft of this post, it got lost in an internet blackhole. Gone, vanished. All that time writing and re-writing…poof! Gone. In an instant, I had to surrender to what showed up: a blank canvass on which to rewrite my thoughts on undertaking a surrender experience. Perhaps life’s perfection was making sure I was serious about taking this on  😉

 

 

 

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

 

 

Shame Happens (or, How I Survive My Shame Storms)

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If you have ever heard me talk about The Daring Way™, you’ve likely heard me say, “I live this work.” Here’s a story to prove it.

Last Thursday morning, my kids’ caregiver texted me to say she wouldn’t be able to pick up my daughter and son that day after school. No problem. Whenever that happens, I’m lucky enough to be able to pick up the phone and call my parents to meet my kids after school and watch them until I get home.

Fast forward to 5:30pm that day: I’m heading out of my office to leave for the day and it suddenly hits me: I never made that call to my parents. Oh. My. God. No one was there to pick up my kids after school. I repeat: no one was there to pick up my kids after school.

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand the instant shame storm that came down on me at that moment. Not to mention the immediate panic and fear.

I called my house right away to find out what had happened between 3:30pm (when school got out) and 5:30pm (the moment I realized that I hadn’t arranged for my parents to meet my kids). What happened was that my 10-year old daughter, realizing that no one was there to pick them up, took charge of the situation: she walked herself and her little brother home (which is right behind the school) and luckily found the house unlocked (we had two workmen at the house installing some doors). My daughter found my parents’ phone number, called them up and told them that they were supposed to pick them up. My parents came right over and all was good. And I guess everything went so smoothly that no one felt it necessary to call me.

I hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that everything had worked out. In fact, it was wonderful to know that my daughter actually put into action exactly what I had told her to do if ever there was an emergency and they found themselves without a pick-up after school. Whew.

And then I began sobbing uncontrollably. My body took over and the tears just came rolling down my cheeks. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to.

Brené Brown often talks about how shame is a full-contact sport: we feel it intensely, all over our bodies. That’s what happened to me. My body knew it before my brain did. I wanted to roll up into a little ball and hide away. This is what I thought and felt at that moment:

  • I suck.
  • What kind of mother am I to forget something so simple AND so important, to make sure my kids are taken care of after school?
  • I hate my life and how busy I am! If I didn’t have to work at my stupid job, I would have been home and I would have been there to pick them up.
  • This is all my husband’s fault. If he did more at home and with the kids, I wouldn’t have forgotten this.
  • What will my parents think of me? What will those workmen think of me? And worst of all, what will my kids think of me?
  • I NEED a glass of wine, pronto.
  • I suck.

If this was two years ago, before my work in The Daring Way™, these feelings and thoughts would have lasted with me for days. Maybe weeks or even months. I would have blamed my husband. I would have blamed my job. I would have discharged my shame as anger toward my family. I would have numbed myself with wine. And I definitely would have continued to relive those painful feelings through my own negative self-talk.

But here I am, after a lot of Daring Way™ work, and my choice was to practice shame resilience instead. This is what I did:

I got in my car, and let the tears flow. There was no denying how I felt, so I just let myself feel it. I stayed present and mindful.

I then started to unpack what was happening to me:

  • I’m upset because I’ve been triggered. What’s triggering me?
    • Feeling like I’m not enough. I should be able to do it all, and I failed.
    • I am tying my self-worth to an identity I hold for myself as a mother: that is, I want people – especially my children – to think I’m Supermom (an ideal identity for me). I don’t want anyone to think that I am the kind of mom who would forget my children (an unwanted identity for me). The thought of being perceived as a mom who would forget about her kids is extremely painful
  • Deep breath. Ok, so now I know why I’m triggered. What is my truth here?
    • I don’t suck. I don’t hate my life. It’s not my job’s fault. It’s not my husband’s fault. I simply forgot to make a call.
    • I am human and I am having a very human, messy moment. 
    • I am a mom who does a lot of things right and also screws up. I am “every-mom”: I adore my children; I scream at my children; I give, give, give; I laugh and make them laugh; I am strict; I am tired; I forget things (but not as much as I remember); I am grumpy-mom; I am Ninja-mom; I give them vitamins, flax seed and broccoli; I give them pizza, ice cream and chocolate. I love ’em and they drive me crazy. ALL OF IT! 

Then I called my husband. I reached out and shared my story and feelings of shame. He listened, he talked me through it, and he reminded me how great it was that we got to test my daughter’s ability to handle situations like this.

When I got home, my eyes were red from crying, but I was done. I was back to neutral, back to “me”. I drove up to the house, and my kids were having a picnic on the front lawn. They had no sense of anything being wrong or out of the ordinary. When I told my daughter how proud I was of her for the choices she made, she beamed. I told her I was sorry that I had forgotten to call her grandparents to pick them up, and expressed gratitude for her, my parents and that everything had worked out.

Brené Brown explains in her book, Daring Greatly, the four elements of shame resilience:

1. Recognizing shame and understanding its triggers.

This means being able to recognize your physical reactions to shame. I knew when I was sobbing uncontrollably that something had triggered my shame. I stepped back to really look at what I was thinking about at that moment. What did I fear most? What messages was I playing over and over in my head?

2. Practicing critical awareness

This means reality-checking the messages. For me, I looked at what I was telling myself and got real about what I know for sure: I cannot be reduced, defined and measured against a single identity. Forgetting to call my parents does not make me a bad mom. I am much more complex than that.

3. Reaching out

This means owning and sharing your story. My go-to when I’m feeling shame is to call my husband. I know I can tell him, “I’m in a shame storm right now, and I need to talk about it.”

4. Speaking shame

In Brené’s words, shame cannot survive having words wrapped around it. Shame wants us to keep silent so that it can fester. It wasn’t easy, but not only did I tell my husband what happened, I also told him how I was embarrassed and mostly worried about what the kids would think of me. My husband didn’t gloss over it or judge me for having the reactions I was having; he listened and told me he understood why I was feeling the way I did.

Through all of this – every choice I made from the point when my shame was triggered – I had given myself a huge dose of self-compassion. I stayed mindful and didn’t let my emotions get the better of me. I made a choice to examine what I was thinking and to put it in a perspective that was caring and kind. I understood that everyone makes mistakes like this, and that we are all just muddling our way through sometimes. I reached out and asked for what I needed from my husband, which was to let me talk it out. And then, when I got home, I modelled for my kids exactly what I want them to do when they make mistakes: I owned it, but I didn’t beat myself up for it. And I expressed gratitude.

I wanted to share this story with you because it wasn’t until a little later on that evening when I realized I had actually “lived the work” that I so often praise. It’s coming to me a little more easily now, but I’m constantly reminded how much this work is a practice. Building shame resilience does not mean that you’ll never feel the pain of shame again. I don’t walk around in a constant state of zen with nothing affecting me. However, I am much more present to what’s going on for me at these moments, and I know what might have taken me days or months to get over now takes less time, and it’s less intense.

And the impact? Aside from my husband not getting blamed for a mistake I made and my children not feeling the wrath of my shame disguised as anger, I’m actively honouring my values around family, courage, connection and authenticity, and embracing a wholehearted life.

 

 

 

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 #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 #44: Pulling Back The Curtain On Your Saboteur

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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 #44 – Pulling Back The Curtain On Your Saboteur

A friend reminded me this weekend of a fantastic book I read about a year ago called Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine. In a nutshell, the book describes how you can identify the limiting voices or negative mental patterns that seem to take on a life of their own when you are trying to do something new or push your boundaries. These limiting voices – called Saboteurs by Chamine, or Gremlins by some coaches and therapists – work against our best interest. They keep us safe, but they also keep us small.

This week, you’re going to pull back the curtain and name your own Saboteurs. Think you don’t have them? Think again. Saboteurs are universal, and have followed you since childhood. They can be very powerful, often keeping you stuck in shame or fear.

For this experiment, you will take an online assessment to help you identify just which Saboteur voices you have running through your head. There are 10 different Saboteurs, each characterized by certain thoughts and feelings, and each having their unique impact on your life and the lives of others. It is helpful to know what kind of Saboteur you have living inside you because you can then start to pay attention to those default “mental tapes” and make a conscious choice to weaken those voices and tap into healthier “Sage” voices that work to serve your best interest.

After you complete the online assessment, you’ll get a nice comprehensive report on all the Saboteurs (and it’s all free!) Once you’ve taken the assessment and read your report, start to pay attention to the limiting voices when they come up. Notice how often your Saboteurs are talking to you. Pay attention to how you feel when your Saboteurs start up.

Then try to separate yourself from those voices, and see if there are healthier, more self-compassionate voices speaking to you from deeper within. Is there another story you can tell yourself? Is it absolutely true what your Saboteur is saying? (The answer is no.) What is another, kinder truth you can find about yourself?

I hope this experiment raises your critical awareness of the default messages running through your mind, keeping you from daring to do the things you really want to do. Tell me about your experience by leaving a comment below or on my Facebook page!

You can find the online assessment here: Positive Intelligence Assessments.