Culling Again … Yet another Learning Experience!

Culling Again … Yet another Learning Experience!

I’m culling yet again! Less than two years ago my husband and I did a big downsize and moved from our dream home in the Okanagan Valley to a 2-bedroom rental apartment in Victoria. At that time I sold and gave away a lot of furniture, books, clothes …. When we moved from the rental apartment to our new townhome in late November, I culled yet again. Several months ago I committed to clearing out our Seacan (Big Steel Box) of remaining “bits and pieces” by the end of June this year. Now the pressure is on!

When I go through my boxes it feels like a life review. Recently I found a number of photos of my kids, friends, other members of my family and myself and had to make the tough decision about which ones to keep and which ones to throw away. I know that I could scan them all, but at this point in my life I don’t have the patience for that! Do your relate?

I’ve done a number of things throughout my life and have been going through courses I designed and taught; articles and documents I’ve written. On the one hand it’s felt good to realize what I’ve done, on the other I wonder how I used to accomplish what I did in a day. It’s a far cry from my current level of productivity!

I love books and have again gone through them and made decisions about which ones to give away. Some of them are in a “holding pattern” as I feel like I “should” read them again, but I question Is this a good reason to reread a book? Am I just afraid of letting go of more of my stuff?

So what am I learning from this experience? It’s teaching me to let go of things that no longer are of interest or bring me joy. It’s made me realize things that used to stir my passion, no longer do. My life has gradually switched from an almost total focus on activities involving my logical left-brain to a focus on my creative right brain and listening to my body; from a focus on achievement, to connection and creativity. It’s an interesting and yet at the same time, strange place to be. In the past I’ve always pretty well known the next step to take. Now I’m being asked to be patient, to create space and to notice what comes up. Have you ever been here? I also realize that when I let go, it opens the door for new people and possibilities to show up in my life. So I need to trust that I will be “shown the way”; all in good time.

Have you ever been in a “holding pattern” and wondered what your next step should be? What was that experience like for you? Have you culled your possessions recently or in the past? If so, what was that like for you?

I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences below, as that’s how we learn from each other. Until next time!

 

 

Creating Space: The How and Why

Creating Space: The How and Why

Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on my yoga mat or spending time in nature by myself. How about you? What have you noticed when you create space in your life; e.g. when you sit still, stop doing and get out of your head and into your body? Feel free to add to the list below.

What happens when we create space? 

We feel:

  • Calm and relaxed
  • Playful
  • Free
  • More Joy
  • Connected to our “true” selves

We:

  • are open to new people and opportunities coming into our lives
  • allow negative thoughts and emotions to surface and be released
  • provide space for creative ideas to emerge
  • experience improved health
  • get clear on what is really important to us.

How can we create space? Here are a few ways I’ve found helpful. 

  • Spending time in nature
  • Meditating daily
  • Leaving my calendar “open”
  • Doing yoga 3 times a week
  • Painting
  • Journaling regularly

How can you start “Creating Space” in Your Life?

I – A good place to begin is by answering the following questions:

  • What fills me up? and 2) What drains me?

Here are a few examples to get you started

What fills me up?

  • Spending time in nature
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Regular Yoga practice
  • Spending time with my grandbabies

What drains me?

  • So many emails
  • Feeling responsible for others
  • A totally planned and structured life
  • The “shoulds” in my life
  • Old programming that says in order for me to be loved and valued I need to achieve and perform.

II – Review your two lists/ answers to what fills you up and what drains you. Commit to integrating two or more items from “what fills you up” into your life starting tomorrow and start to reduce and eliminate two or more items that “drain you”. Over time, continue adding and eliminating things from your lists and notice how you feel and what your days look like.

It is important to do this in your own time, listening to your body. Remember this is not a race or an opportunity to say to yourself “look at all the new things I’m doing”. Rather, it is to assist you in getting out of your head and into your body; to becoming more consciously aware of what you do, how you feel, and what things bring you joy.

I’m doing an experiment this summer and have committed to “creating more space in my life” and to noticing what my life looks and feels like when I do this. How about you? Does this idea intrigue you? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and strategies you use to create space in your life. Feel free to comment below and to share this post with others.

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Mom: Celebrating Moms & Motherhood

An Open Letter to Mom: Celebrating Moms & Motherhood

My Mom was an amazing woman. Sadly she died too young at 62, after living with metastases from breast cancer from age 54. When she passed, I consciously looked at myself, and my life, and realized that I did not want to die young. I reflected on some of the ways I lived my life and decided to take better care of myself; instead of give, give, giving as my dear mother did, to start setting better boundaries. Gabor Mate in his book When the Body Says No cites powerful evidence regarding “cancer personalities”. He shares how many of his clients who die of cancer give to everyone else and tend to put themselves at the bottom of the list; and rarely if ever show anger.

My Mom was one of these people. She never had a negative word to say about anyone. She was the first one to be at someone’s home with a casserole when a friend or relative passed or got sick. She was creative; a poet and writer, and she did many crafts. She was warm, kind and thoughtful.

Thank you Mom for all I learned from you. You were so patient. You encouraged my creativity. You trusted me and let me find my way, even though I was quite adventurous and from a young age loved to climb on play structures and hang upside down on swing sets. You supported me when I backpacked Europe by myself even though I’m sure you had some concerns about it. Thanks for always being there! I appreciate when you advised me to start coming home earlier at night in my teens as Dad was getting upset. Thanks Mom for all the songs you taught me. Now with my own grandchildren, many of those songs “are coming back to me”. I love singing them to my four grandchildren under three. Who knew! …  Thanks Mom for loving me unconditionally.

Mother’s Day is coming up soon. It’s an opportunity to tell your Mother how much you care about and value her. Whether she’s still alive or has already passed, I encourage you to write an open letter to your Mom.

I invite you to share your reflections and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.

 

How to Deal with the Anxiety associated with Change

How to Deal with the Anxiety associated with Change

Often when we’re facing a life change; it could be a job loss, retirement, separation, a health challenge; we feel anxious. Our heart begins to race and we feel like we want to run away from the situation. It is difficult to focus and often times we want to go back to the way things were. We feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead of us, and are uncertain about our future.

When this happens, what can you do to get out of this cycle of anxiety?

Here are some proven strategies:

  • Take slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, keeping your mouth open and releasing sound when you exhale. Repeat this about five times and notice how you feel. This exercise releases oxytocin, the hormone that relaxes and calms us. When you have taken a few slow, deep, conscious breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.

 

  • Do body scanning on awakening and/or before going to sleep. Lie in bed and scan your body slowly from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. While doing this notice any tension or pain. If you do, breathe into that area and set the intention to release the tension or pain.

 

  • Spend regular time in nature. Find a special place you feel connected to. For me there is a place on the rocks by the ocean close to where I live. When I go there and lie on the rocks, I feel so grounded, relaxed and protected. Did you know that the Japanese have done longitudinal studies to show that when we walk among trees it reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our bodies produce?

 

  • Do mindfulness walking meditations starting with three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time. When you do this, instead of going for a walk and thinking about all that has happened or all you have to do, instead focus on your senses. Notice the wind on your face, the smell of the salt sea air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the sound of the birds, the beautiful vistas that surround you. When thoughts come into your head, which they inevitably will do, imagine they are clouds and let them float by or imagine putting them in a bubble and seeing them float away, and refocus on your senses.

 

  • Repeat to yourself several times each day, “I am safe, it’s only change. “ (a favourite of mine from Louise Hay) Post this affirmation where you will see it, e.g. on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door.

 

  • Move your body. Put on some music you enjoy and dance around your kitchen or wherever. Feel the music and let it flow through you.

 

  • Tap into and express your creative side. Do something creative that you enjoy. Perhaps it’s painting, drawing, playing the piano, gardening. It could be something you did as a child that you no longer do or something you’ve always wanted to try. When you tap into and express your creative side, you feel like a child at play, lighter and filled with wonder. This opens you up to exploring the positive side of the change you are experiencing, and to the belief that change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.

I’d love to hear from you some strategies you’ve found helpful to reduce the anxiety associated with change. Feel free to post your comments below and to share this article with others.

Why We Fear Change & How To Overcome It

Why We Fear Change & How To Overcome It

Our world is characterized by rapid change and uncertainty. With new technologies, scientific advances, and rapid access to information, increasing expectations are being placed on us to do more things, faster and better. At times we feel stressed, overwhelmed and struggle with the inevitable fear, anxiety and doubt change brings up. I believe that we all have a choice to consciously embrace change rather than to unconsciously react to it.

Why do we fear change?

We are hard-wired to react to change; to protect ourselves and stay safe. Our primitive brains unconsciously “turn on” when we are in a situation that is different; we prefer sameness. Our amygdala (part of the brain) is constantly scanning our environment and when it senses a threat, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze. We all have seen friends or colleagues become angry or “edgy” when a change is imposed on them (e.g. new management, downsize, separation or divorce). We’ve also observed others or ourselves going into paralysis, and unable to make a decision. You may find when you are forced into changing something in your life, you typically want to run away from it or “hide your head in the sand”. We all have different ways we react to change.

There is strong evidence to show that we can choose how we respond to change. By consciously changing our beliefs and perceptions we have about change, we can physiologically change the structure of our brain (e.g. create new neural pathways). Dr. Norman Doidge’s amazing work on neuroplasticity described in The Brain that Changes Itself provides strong supportive evidence. Dr. Bruce Lipton in The Biology of Belief, shares powerful scientific evidence to show that all the cells in our body are affected by our thoughts.

How can we reduce our fear of change?

We can:

  • Understand how and why we respond to change
  • Become aware of our beliefs about change
  • Try on some new beliefs around change
  • Learn a proven model and tools to help us reduce resistance, and embrace and successfully navigate any change
  • Commit to integrating new change strategies into our lives.

The more you understand change and the more self aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it.

So where can you start?

The 5-step Art of Change Framework I’ve developed based on more than 25 years of living, consulting and coaching on 5 continents, is a practical and accessible process. This framework is a proven model for embracing change whether it involves getting unstuck and moving forward when change is imposed on you, or whether you choose to initiate a change in your beliefs, attitudes and/or behaviors.

The Art of Change Framework is based on the belief that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities. Think of the times in your life when change was thrust upon you; e.g. you were laid off; or when a boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you. At that time, you may have felt caught off guard, angry, fearful and uncertain about the future. On reflection, these changes opened you up to a new and better relationship or a position more aligned with your values and passions.

Embracing change enables you to let go of patterns that are no longer serving you and to move forward with confidence, clarity, improved health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace. For examples of this see: http://pamela-thompson.com/let-go-fly-free/.

The Art of Change Framework is a 5-step process for embracing change that uses the metaphor of life as a dance. The steps are:

  1. Shine the Light – Explore how you respond to change and why
  2. Choose Your Dance Identify the transition you want to work on and where you are on your transition journey
  3. Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps – Commit to embracing change in your body rather than resisting it, and begin doing the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are in
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice! – Do the work that includes letting go, identifying lessons learned, envisioning the work, relationship or life of your dreams, taking action, and viewing change as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities
  5. Consciously Share Your Dance with the World – Observe the positive changes in yourself, how others respond to you, and the positive impact you have on your family, friends, communities and workplaces.

If you’re interested in “diving deeper” into the Art of Change Framework, I encourage you to join me and a group of like-minded women for a fun and interactive one-day workshop “Embrace the Art of Change: From Fear to Freedom” on April 27th in beautiful Victoria, BC. To learn more and to register:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/embrace-the-art-of-change-from-fear-to-freedom-tickets-44230204733

Leading in Uncertain Times: Lessons Learned from Living & Working on 5 Continents

Leading in Uncertain Times: Lessons Learned from Living & Working on 5 Continents

I believe that humanity is essentially good and that we are all interconnected.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

The Universe provides me with what I need and Great Spirit is guiding me towards fulfillment.

Nature connects me with my soul.

I believe that life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest and

that I am here to help build peace in the world.

(Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women, p. 6 –

http://creativelivingcommunity.com/blog/the-book/

What do you believe?

In a previous post (http://creativelivingcommunity.com/leading-in-uncertain-times-the-power-of-perception/), I shared the power of perception and how it affects our ability to lead effectively in uncertain times. In this post, I will share some lessons learned based on my own beliefs and experiences gleaned from leading and managing in a variety of organizations and cultures on 5 continents.

Lessons Learned:

  • We are all the same. We all want to be valued, respected, to feel safe, secure and to belong.

When living and working in Afghanistan six years ago, I was sitting in the rose garden of the Ministry of Public Health eating lunch with one of my female Afghan colleagues when there was a powerful explosion. Within seconds of the huge blast, my Muslim colleague was phoning each of her family members to ensure that they were all safe. I think most of us would have done the same. We all value family and care about those close to us. The explosion was from a number of suicide bombers entering the military hospital across the road. The result was the senseless deaths of a number of Afghan patients and their families, and medical students.

I have enjoyed managing and consulting in a number of culturally diverse and uncertain environments, and believe my effectiveness has been largely due to the belief that we are all the same. When you view everyone through the lens of that belief, you are able to connect with them, and work effectively whether or not you speak their language or have the same cultural background or religion. In Afghanistan using participatory processes, I was able to collaboratively develop/co-create the first strategic plan with the Ministry of Public Health, and have it pass through all the policy layers and be signed off by the Minister within 9 months.

I invite you to experiment tomorrow and try throughout your day to view everyone you see through the lens and belief that “we are all the same”, whether it be a homeless person, a colleague you have a tense relationship with, or a family member you have difficulties relating to. Try this and notice what you notice.

  • We are all interconnected.

You may have heard that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, two years later it can result in a tornado in Kansas. The butterfly effect[1] has demonstrated that a small change in one area can result in powerful future outcomes in another. If you as a leader believe in an organizational culture that focuses on people, understanding and collaboration, you have the power to shape and change the organization based on how you treat and respond to people and challenging situations daily. How you communicate with others has an impact throughout the organization and beyond. We all have heard about the disheartened employee who has gone home and kicked his dog or beaten his wife.

I invite you to “try out” this belief and have it in the forefront of your mind when you interact and communicate with others on a daily basis in your workplace, community, and family. Notice how this affects your interactions, the organizational morale and environment.

  • Nature connects me with my soul.

Did you know that when you walk in forests, it reduces your blood pressure, reduces your heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system)? Based on longitudinal research, the Japanese have institutionalized forest bathing or forest therapy. In their highly competitive culture, they encourage and support people to regularly visit centers in forests throughout Japan to forest bathe, and they continue to collect powerful longitudinal data on its valuable effects.

I encourage you to spend time in nature for 30 minutes or more at least 3 times a week. When I spend time in nature I feel relaxed, energized, happy and free. My stress is reduced (if I’m having a particularly stressful day). If as leaders we are committed to spending regular time in nature, do you think it would positively impact our effectiveness?

  • Life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest.

Based on this belief, I’ve lead an adventurous and full life so far [and hope to continue doing so J ]. I’ve lived and worked in the mountains of northern Colombia with peasant farmers in the late 80s when Pablo Escobar was “running around” and the Medellin Cartel was in full swing. I’ve lived and worked in Kabul, Afghanistan for 13 months from October 2010 to November 2011 (a volatile and uncertain time), and managed large multi-stakeholder projects in Pakistan and Nigeria where corruption is rampant and violence can erupt at any time. When I don’t have adventure in my life I get restless and feel unfulfilled, and I either seek out adventure or it serendipitously comes my way. Similarly, if contribution and making a positive difference in the world is one of your core values[2] and you work in an organization that is “all about the money”, over time you will likely feel unhappy and unfulfilled. This will affect your personal and your work life.

I encourage you to identify your core beliefs and what is most important to you, and then begin living them everyday.

I welcome your comments and experiences below. What lessons have you learned from leading in uncertain times? Which lessons above do you resonate with?  Appreciate you sharing the post with others.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

[2] For more about core values and why they are important: http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/