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

IMG_1230

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!

 

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

IMG_1230

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

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

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

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

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

I begin with…

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

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

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

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

 

“Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that

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

guiding you to self-love and acceptance.”

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

wholeheartedbadge

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.

 

 

 

Connection Matters (and introducing… A Dose of Daring)

page-border-kids

I am absolutely craving connection these days. And this, from a self-professed introvert!

Last year I set an intention to get more deeply connected to others, especially like-minded women who were embracing their vulnerability (and awesomeness). I wanted to share and learn from them. Well, as you might have guessed, the universe delivered wholeheartedly. I met and forged connections to some amazing women (you know who you are!) and I know those connections will continue to deepen in 2015. And now I’m inspired for more. Let me explain…

Each time I connect with my peeps, I am reminded that you can never underestimate the power of a good conversation.

After connecting with any one of my friends, colleagues or clients – whether it be a quick check-in via text or a long, lingering conversation over coffee – I feel a buzz and a spring in my step as I walk away with a renewed sense of self, sense of gratitude and sense of alignment with the world. Brené Brown is right: we are hard-wired for connection and I am really beginning to understand the force of this truth. This is the kicker: for connection to work its magic, both you and the other person have to be willing to show up as you really are… imperfect, messy, flawed. You have to let go of any need to appear perfect, or to pretend to be someone you’re not, or to say things just to please the other. When you both show up authentically and come together with a sense of curiosity and empathy, you walk away with a connector’s equivalent of a runner’s high.

Interestingly, the critical role of connection in our lives seems to be popping up a lot lately in my newsfeed. Take a recent post by Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, where he points to the role that connection (or rather, disconnection) plays in addiction. In the post, Hari makes reference to the fact that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. “It’s how we get our satisfaction,” and he argues that an addict, in the absence of being connected with other human beings, becomes “bonded” (rather than addicted) to a substance or habit. That is a powerful statement about how deeply we are wired for connection.

And, not surprisingly, it seems that almost every how-to article and Top 10 List for living a fulfilling or happy life these days rank building stronger social connections at the top, like in this article or this one or this one, to name just a few.

So, you want some of that?

Good! Because I have this idea to help quell my craving for more connection, and I hope you will be as excited to try it out as me! I’m going to start hosting a regular “tele-chat” called A Dose of Daring, and YOU are invited! Here’s the gist:

About once a month, I will host a gathering via teleconference where interested people – like you! – can dial-in to join a lunchtime discussion of all things daring, vulnerable, courageous and awesome. Our jumping off point for every discussion will be (of course) something  à la Brené Brown’s The Daring Way™. I’ll introduce a theme or topic via my blog, Daring Matters, and then we will chat more about it at A Dose of Daring.

This regular tele-chat is perfect for you if:

  • You have or are just about to make a big change in your life, whether it be in career, family, health or personal endeavour – you’ll get some great insights on how to build a courage practice for those times when you question or doubt yourself.
  • You’re struggling to feel good enough in your role as a parent, spouse, employee, entrepreneur or leader – you’ll see how we all struggle with feeling “not enough” and how a good dose of self-compassion and empathy can help.
  • You’re a fan of Brené Brown and want to explore some key themes of her work – you’ll be a part of lively discussion that will reinforce the things you’ve read or heard from Brené.

My goal is to build conversation, connection and community around The Daring Way™.

If you haven’t had the chance to join one of my workshops, THIS will be a great way to get introduced to the work and to meet some other lovely, like-minded people! And don’t worry if you haven’t read any of Brené Brown’s books… this is just all about conversation and connection about how you want to show up, be seen and live bravely in the world (and you don’t need to read a book to start talking about that – just an openness to sharing and a curious mind!)

Mark Your Calendar!!

Our First Dose of DaringFriday February 27th at 12:00pm, Eastern Time  (call will last approx 30 min)

Dial-in Instructions: 1-647-558-0588, Access Code: 693 929 1438

Topic:  Why, connection of course!  How Connection Is An Act Of Courage

I would LOVE for you to join the discussion! Put it in your calendar now and make a commitment to YOURSELF to connect with others and learn more about wholehearted living.

P.S. Would love to hear from you on some of the topics you’d like to discuss in the coming months. Which parts of Brené Brown’s work interest you? Anything you need clarity on? Curious about how others feel about the work? What is the hardest thing about daring greatly in your life?  Let me know by replying below, posting on my FB Page or emailing me at sabrina@sabrinaguerin.com.

 

 

 

 

The Year Behind The Work/Life Lab

look_telescope

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 #40: Armour Down

file9061283123562

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 #36: Dare Not To Compare

photo

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 #36: Dare Not To Compare

I was watching one of the Daring Way™ videos in which Brené Brown talks about comparison. In the video, she quotes a friend who calls comparison “the thief of happiness.” I couldn’t agree more.

I think we’ve all had the experience – whether it be in our work or personal lives – of happily chugging along with things and feeling pretty good about it. You’re moving things along, all is going tickety-boo and you’re feeling pretty good about your progress. And then you take a moment to look up and around at what everyone else is doing and you have that moment of, “Oh man. Look at where they are. They are so much better/ahead/together than I am. What’s wrong with me? Why do I even bother?.”

Yup. Happiness, thieved.

So much of our society’s thinking is built upon competition, constantly looking over your shoulder to keep tabs on what others are doing. Even if you outwardly reject the culture of competition, it’s easy to fall into unconsciously comparing yourself to the person next to you, sizing him/her up to make sure you’re not too off track.

This all comes out of a culture of scarcity; the sense that there is not enough and that we are not enough. I’m not sure how it is that we all bought into this notion that there is some line to cross, some standard to keep up or some appearance to maintain. But rest assured, the line, standard and appearance are illusions, not reality. It’s our own mental construct and it’s stressing us out!

So here’s this week’s experiment: Dare NOT to compare yourself to others. Here’s how:

Begin by noticing when you are making those mental checklists, and ticking them off:  “She’s already a senior director at 30 years old?” “Her kids are always so well dressed.” “How come the couple next door don’t ever seem to fight?” “Toby got that promotion over me, but he doesn’t have the same family responsibilities I do.” All these are examples of how we compare our lives to others, and it’s all nonsense. There is no right way to live YOUR life. There is no right way to live any life. Who you are, where you are and what you have – right now – are all enough.

So once you’ve caught yourself in comparison-mode, take a breath and make a choice to draw on your self-compassion. Begin with some words of self-kindess (“I put so much care and attention into my work.”) Remind yourself that everyone – including the people you are comparing yourself – have their own struggles, frustrations and self-doubt. Feel the comfort in that shared humanity. And bring yourself to the present moment, reminding yourself that right now you are alive and enough.

To deepen this experiment for yourself, repeat the following mantra – another goody from Dr. Brown – to yourself every morning before you start your day,

“No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

Don’t let comparison steal your happiness for another moment!

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #35: In Praise Of Early Deadlines

Calendar

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 #35: In Praise of Early Deadlines

Duke Ellington said, “I don’t need time, I need a deadline.”

This past summer I realized that I, too, need a deadline. I don’t like to be pressured or panicked. I don’t like the feeling of out-of-control chaos. But I realized that I can get a lot of stuff done… even the stuff I didn’t think I was ready to get done… when I have a deadline. Over the summer, as I tackled packing and moving to a new house, planning a surprise party for my husband, and planning for my fall  Daring Way™ workshops, I kept reminding myself, “Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Don’t wait to be more prepared. Just pick a deadline and get it done.”

Then I read this superb post on Fizzle.co (which, by the way, you should subscribe to if you are starting a small business or just enjoy being informed and entertained by three funny, interesting and insightful guys who like to just give, give, give resources and ideas to aspiring entrepreneurs) about lessons learned from working with Seth Godin.  In the post, the author explained that Seth Godin’s mentality is not “what’s the latest possible date I can get this done?” but instead is, “when is the soonest possible date I could complete this project?”

Why bother asking yourself this question? Because you want to have impact on the world NOW, not later. Because you are losing out on opportunities waiting for all the conditions to be perfect. Or, at the very least, you want to get it off your plate and free up your time to start the other thing you really want to do.

So here’s this week experiment, which you can easily do with a project at work or at home:

  1. Pick something you’ve been meaning to do and haven’t yet done. Something that is hanging out on the side of your desk, so to speak, AND hanging over your head.
  2. Set the earliest possible deadline to get that project done.
  3. Then cut that deadline in half. If you’ve set a deadline of two weeks from now, the new deadline is one week from now.
  4. Get it done.

That’s it. Imagine having that project – the one that’s been nagging at you – checked off your list and out the door! Just do this for one project and see what the experience brings. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions. Don’t wait for you to be more ready. Ask yourself, do you really need to wait for someone else’s input? Do you really need to read one more book? Do you really need to wait until fall or winter?

Just see what it’s like to get a project done and off your plate without the conditions being “just so”. Does moving that deadline earlier spark your creativity? Do new opportunities present themselves? Do you feel a new sense of freedom? I would love to hear your experiences with this experiment, so leave me a message below or on my Facebook Page!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #34 – Month-end Mindfulness: A New BFF In 7 Days

cora and katie 335

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 #34 – Month-end Mindfulness: A New BFF In 7 Days

The more I facilitate The Daring Way™ program with those brave women and men looking to live more wholeheartedly in their lives, the more I understand how much this one thing seems to be so lacking for each of us: self-kindness.

Practicing self-compassion is a key path to living wholeheartedly. Brené Brown’s definition of wholehearted living is to engage in life from a place of worthiness, knowing that while we are imperfect and vulnerable and afraid, we are at the same time courageous beings who are worthy of love and belonging. Kristen Neff, a leading researcher on the topic of self-compassion, identifies three components of self compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Of these three components, it is self-kindness that seems to stump most people. When people try to show themselves gestures and thoughts of genuine, life-affirming kindness (as opposed to superficial affirmations or self-comforting actions that spill over into numbing behaviours), there is a real struggle. It’s amazing that we can’t treat ourselves with the same tenderness, warmth and love that we so easily give to our spouses, children, family members or friends. When it comes time to give ourselves a little kindness, it feels fake. It feels indulgent or egotistical. Mostly, it feels undeserved.

This week’s Work/Life Lab, in celebration of Month-end Mindfulness, is all about giving yourself a nice, healthy daily dose of self-kindness. This is a mindfulness practice because it requires some self-centering and some real attention to your being. Neff explains that self-kindness involves “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.”

So here’s what I want you to do: this week, pay attention to those times you fall into the default of self-criticism. Notice when thoughts of “How could I be so stupid?” or “What was I thinking?” or “Why am I so tired?” or “Why can’t I just get over this?”… anything that’s harsh and adds another layer of blame, frustration or stress to an already painful situation. When you notice you are going there, take a breath and soften. Soften, soften, soften. And then tell yourself something that is absolutely comforting and kind. My stand-by is, naturally, from Brené Brown’s work: “I am enough.” Or maybe try, “All is well, and so am I.”

This is a practice; not something you just do once and assume you’re good to go. You may not even be aware of just how many negative “mental tapes” you have playing day-to-day. So take notice, take a breath, and then give yourself some kindness. Keep it up, and by the end of seven days, you might even find that you are your own new BFF.

P.S. Curious to know just how self-compassionate you are? Take Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion Test to find out!

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #30 – Month-end Mindfulness: Watch The Urges

IMG_2240

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 #30, Month-end Mindfulness:  Watch The Urges

In The Daring Way™ work that I do with clients, we often talk about the things we do to avoid feeling shame and vulnerability. One of the biggies and one of the things I think most of us can identify with is the urge to numb. We numb in a lot of different ways: food, alcohol, drugs, television, internet, work, shopping, gossip… any behaviour that take us out of our present moment experience and help us escape the strong emotions that come with the fear of disconnection, being stuck and generally feeling not good enough.

Numbing is not self-care. I am a big believer in self-care and engaging in behaviours that give us comfort and self-compassion when we’re feeling overwhelmed with vulnerability. Indeed, upping their doses of self-care is a prescription I give out to most of my clients. And while we all need to embrace things that give us comfort and self-compassion, there is a danger when these choices become chronic and compulsive, moving us to a place where we completely avoid feeling the discomfort of strong emotions. Brené Brown quotes Jennifer Louden in trying to describe the difference between numbing and true comfort when we need some self-care: “A piece of dark chocolate can be a holy wafer of comfort, and three bars of it can be numbing.”

In honour of Month-end Mindfulness in the Work/Life Lab, let’s take this week to really pay attention to our urges to numb. Often, the decision to numb is unconscious and instantaneous. We are pouring the glass of wine at the sound of our kids starting to fight. We are dropping coins into the vending machine after every meeting with the boss. We are turning on Facebook the moment our spouse walks in the door. They are the default behaviours we don’t even seem to be choosing for ourselves; instead, it’s as if the behaviour is choosing us.

So, to be clear, this week’s experiment is not about changing those behaviours. I’m asking you only to pay attention to the urges. I’m asking you to create some space between the moment your strong emotions and thoughts are triggered and the choice you make to engage in whatever numbing behaviour is your go-to.

When the urge comes to do that thing – eating the chocolate, watching endless hours of television, staying at work longer than necessary – take a mental step back, take a few deep breaths and try to stay with the urge and the discomfort for just three minutes. That’s all. Three minutes. Then go ahead and do whatever feels right to you at that moment, which may mean engaging in the numbing behaviour anyway. You may choose not to numb, and that’s fine too. Again, at this point, the goal is not to manage your choice to numb or not; the idea here is to increase your mindfulness around triggers and responses, and to learn to “be with” strong emotions before going to your default numbing behaviour.

In that three-minute mindful pause, pay attention to what’s going on for you. Really get in touch with the physical sensations you feel as a result of your thoughts and emotions. Where is the discomfort living in your body? Your stomach? Your shoulders? Your lower back? Your chest? Do the three minutes feel like three hours, or do the moments pass quickly? Breathe in the moment, be with the discomfort, and when you come out of the three minutes, let it go. As you practice this during the week, pay attention to how your choices around numbing behaviours change. Just being more conscious of what’s happening to you in that moment of discomfort and the numbing response you choose is turning up the dial of your mindfulness. And when we are more mindful and can increase the space between trigger and response, we are more likely to choose comfort over numbing.

I would love to hear how this experiment goes for you this week! Please let me know by leaving a reply below or posting a message on my Facebook Page!