How To View Change Through a New Lens

How To View Change Through a New Lens

What if we all viewed change as a creative process that opened us up to new possibilities? Do you think our relationships, workplaces, communities and the world would be different?

Let’s explore this perspective a bit further. Imagine if you were laid off. Instead of feeling angry, anxious and unsure of what to do next, what if you viewed the change as an opportunity to do something new, perhaps launch a new business you’d been thinking about for a few a few years, but had been afraid to start?

What if after a partner left you, you took the time to reflect on the relationship; what worked well and what didn’t? And, you took the time to write down all the lessons learned from the relationship as well as the qualities you wanted in a significant other and in a relationship? For example: someone who makes me laugh, who is a great communicator, someone who is physically active, and who loves being in nature? I did this a number of years ago and within 5 months of doing so my life partner and soul mate showed up who had all of the qualities I had written on my list!

Imagine if you were working in an organization that had a change in leadership, and instead of feeling uncertain and fearful, you viewed the change as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I invite you to “try on” this new perspective of viewing change over the next week and notice what you observe. It could be something as small as changing the way you usually respond to a person or situation. I welcome your comments and experiences below. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might benefit.

 

The Power and Importance of Connection

The Power and Importance of Connection

I recently visited the Okanagan for a conference and to reconnect with old friends. It felt so good to spend time in the presence of folks I had gotten to know over the 8 years I had lived near Kelowna. You know how you feel when you haven’t seen or spoken to someone in a while and it seems like only yesterday since you’ve chatted? You pick up easily and effortlessly and feel relaxed, accepted and valued in their presence. Having moved from a place I had lived longer than anywhere since I left home at 18, I realize that I had started to put down roots. Do you relate? Moving to a new city within the past year, I so miss the deep connections I have with old friends.

So what is connection and why is it so important?

Brene Brown defines connection as “… the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

A growing body of research shows that our learning, health and wellbeing are profoundly shaped by our social environments and connections with others.

Matthew Lieberman in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect makes a strong case that the human need to connect with others is as basic as our need for food, shelter and water. Lieberman draws on findings from his own research and others to demonstrate that “being socially connected is our brain’s life long passion; … (and) “he argues that the need to reach out and connect with others is a primary driver behind our behavior.” We are wired to try to understand others and connect with them.

A strong body of research shows that social support, which includes emotional connection with “… a trusted group or valued individual, has been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological consequences of stress, and may enhance immune function. Social networks, whether formal (such as a church or social club) or informal (meeting with friends) provide a sense of belonging, security, and community.”[1]

Rita Pierson, an educator for 40 years, makes the case in a humorous and brilliant TED Talk[2], that a positive relationship and connection between teacher and student is important for learning to occur. It’s not just about “pouring information into children’s heads”.

Knowing these facts about the value and importance of human connection has amazing implications on the way we facilitate learning in schools, collaboration and productivity in workplaces, and a sense of harmony, security and belonging in communities.

Reflecting on your life so far, can you identify educators, peers, bosses and friends who have strongly influenced your life in positive ways? What characteristics did they possess, and what positive impacts did they have on you, your health and wellbeing, learning, and/or sense of security and belonging?

I welcome your shares and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.

[1] https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/social-support

 

[2] https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion

 

What will be Your Legacy & Why should You Care?

What will be Your Legacy & Why should You Care?

The passing of someone close to us reminds us of our own mortality and provides the opportunity to reflect on our lives and how we want to be remembered. Are you living the life you love? Are you using your gifts and talents to make the world a better place? Do you typically awaken with a smile on your face and a song in your heart? Are there some changes you would like to make to live a life more aligned with your core values? [1]

These are some questions that came up for me on the recent passing of my dear father, George Edsol Robert Thompson, affectionately known as Bob. Despite losing both parents by the time he was 21 and his only brother at 29, he was a compassionate man who touched the lives of many, and achieved most if not all the goals he set. A devoted husband and father, he and my Mom raised 3 daughters who all get along well and love each other.

As a tribute to my Dad I would like to share the open letter I spoke from my heart at his recent “celebration of life”.

Dear Dad,

Thank you for:

  • Believing in me and making me believe that I can “be” or “do” anything I choose to “be” or “do”.
  • Instilling in me the value of education and a thirst for learning.
  • Encouraging and exposing me to try a wide variety of sports. I remember and so appreciate all those rides from the cottage to Iroquois and back for swimming lessons, and the basketball games and track and field events you faithfully attended.
  • Modelling for me with Mom what a loving family looks, acts and feels like, and for instilling in me strong family values.
  • Exposing me to nature. I have such fond memories of those camping trips to the west and east coast, and in particular the six-week adventure we took with a tent trailer when I was 13 and my sisters were 3 and 5. Who does that? YOU did Dad with Mom’s amazing support. Thank you Dad for …
  • Inspiring me to be the best I can be.

You will be dearly missed and never forgotten, not only by me, my sisters, and our families, but by the many lives you touched throughout your teaching career and life.

I love you.

My Dad lived an extremely full, and fulfilling life. He accomplished pretty well everything he wanted to do. How many of us can say that?

What legacy do you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.

 

 

[1] For more info on core values see http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/

Leading in Uncertain Times: The Power of Perception

Leading in Uncertain Times: The Power of Perception

It is an understatement to say that we live in uncertain times. In this challenging period, characterized by worldwide conflict, sharp political divisions, and racism, you may feel uncertain about your future, the future of your family, your organization, and the planet. You may think there is little you can do in your day-to-day life and work to make a significant difference. You are a natural leader, yet in the current climate you may be wondering how you can lead with greater compassion, understanding, clarity and confidence.

What I know to be true is that HOW you perceive uncertainty has a powerful influence on your effectiveness and your ability to lead.

A number of years ago I read in Freedom to Love, Freedom to Heal[1], a phrase that stuck with me, and that I pondered for some time:

“Uncertainty is the path to freedom”

When we are in a sea of change or chaos, and much of what we know is being questioned, disassembled or is foreign, it is difficult to believe this is true. How CAN uncertainty be the path to freedom?

When I’ve worked in conflict zones and foreign countries where I didn’t speak the language, every day was uncertain. In Afghanistan on the way to work, my vehicle with its armed Afghan driver could be pulled over by police at any time, and we could be questioned at length or commanded to drive to the nearest police station for further questioning. At any moment, a suicide bomb attack could occur nearby.

To work effectively in these environments, I couldn’t be fearful and focus on the negative possibilities. To do so would result in stress hormones constantly pumping through my body, and an inability to function effectively. I had to focus on the positive difference I was making on the people and within the organizations whose capacity I was building. Many times I had to be creative about the processes and solutions I chose, and trust that they would work. One example was when I met with the Minister of the Department who I was working with to develop their first strategic plan. Within that first meeting she asked me for a report based on what I thought of the policy development and planning processes within her Ministry. She wanted this report within a month, and I had just arrived in a country that I’d never before worked in whose language I did not speak! The first thing I did was ask an Afghan colleague if he had or knew where to obtain an organizational chart in English. He said he didn’t think one existed so I asked him for one in local language. Then I pointed to the 15 highest-level “boxes” on the org chart and asked what departments they were and the names of each Director. Shortly after, I approached my colleague to take me in person and introduce me to each Director. At each introduction, I would ask for an hour or so of their time to be interviewed and stated that I would follow up with some questions prior to each interview. All those approached were happy to accommodate me. The result was, I met the top 15 key decision-makers in the Ministry within the first month. I asked them how they developed policy and did planning, what was working, what wasn’t and what suggestions they would offer to improve policy development and planning processes within their Ministry. I “rolled up” their data, teasing out the key strengths, weaknesses and their suggestions for improvement, and added my own observations and recommendations. In about a month I submitted my report to the Minister. Months later when I was in meetings with many of those I’d interviewed and they asked why a certain action had been taken, I was able to refer to those interviews and the fact that a particular action had been taken to address an issue they had raised with me months before.

Perhaps the reason I enjoy working in foreign countries and cultures is because many processes I’ve used have never before been tested in a particular culture or language, OR I am challenged to come up with creative solutions for situations I’ve never before encountered.

So how can we lead effectively in times of uncertainty?

Key Beliefs for Effective Leadership in Uncertain Times

1) It is important to believe that uncertain times provide opportunities for creativity, and new and innovative approaches versus playing it safe and doing things “like we’ve always done”. Belief and what we believe is powerful! Did you know that you CAN change your life by changing your beliefs? Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognized stem cell biologist, demonstrated in his research that “the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life.”[2] Epigenetics “… the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off”[3] further supports Lipton’s work, as it reveals that our perceptions influence our biology.

As leaders we have an incredible opportunity to influence the beliefs of those around us. What if we truly believed that uncertain times provide opportunities for creativity and new and innovative approaches? Imagine leading from a place of hope, rather than fear and uncertainty.

2) You have the power to change the world.

The butterfly effect[4] demonstrates that powerful outcomes are extremely sensitive to initial conditions; such that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can result in a tornado over Kansas 2 years later. Another example is how the black woman, Rosa Parks, refusing to go to the back of the bus, resulted in the birth of the civil rights movement in the United States. If you believe that you have the power to change the world, the values you emanate and the courageous actions you take influence those around you.

3) The Power of Collaboration and Synergy – When I was young, I believed that I could get things done better if I did them all myself, based on my experiences working with groups in elementary and high school. You may relate. It wasn’t until I was chairing a national strategy in my 30s with representatives from a number of organizations, facilitated by a skilled facilitator, when I realized that a group of diverse individuals when focused around a common and powerful vision CAN make an incredible difference. It was then that I understood the power of synergy; the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

4) Understanding and Compassion is the way forward – One of the lessons I’ve learned from living and working in a number of diverse cultures, is that if we seek to understand why someone does or says something, rather than judge them based on our own perspective, our life and work is much more interesting and fulfilling. Rather than becoming angry, judgmental and imposing our beliefs on others, coming from a place of curiosity and compassion builds connection and enables people to do their best work. … What I’ve learned is that people always do things for a reason that makes sense to them.

Our perceptions have a powerful influence on our effectiveness as leaders in uncertain times. I welcome your comments and invite you to share your experiences below. Feel free to share this post with others.

Together we CAN change the world!

[1] A book by Dr. David Simon, neurologist, and internationally renowned expert in mind-body medicine.

[2] The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, xiv

[3] http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/

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

 

How to Finally “Let Go”

How to Finally “Let Go”

Two nights ago we pulled out of our driveway leaving the home where we had shared many happy moments over the past 8 years. I had felt overwhelming sadness when I returned to ready our house for the new owners. I let the sadness wash over me rather than pushing it away, and realized this was part of the process of letting go of the home and life I had enjoyed.

Over the past week, we had sold and given away furniture and belongings, keeping in mind what would fit into the two-bedroom apartment we had rented. The last night in our home, my Sweetie and I shared our last romantic dinner on the deck, our last hot tub, the last night together in our home. We celebrated the ending of special times in this place and also the beginning of our new simpler and “down-sized” life.

When we left our home, bereft of all our furniture and belongings, I realized it was no longer our home, but rather a house for the new owners to make their own. I noticed that I had no sadness as we left, but rather a new sense of freedom and adventure. I also realized that I can make a home wherever I choose. By surrounding myself with a few possessions that bring me joy, choosing to connect with new people and places, and creating positive experiences with people I care about, that is what home is truly all about.

If you’ve experienced a similar situation I invite you to reflect on and share your thoughts and feelings below. Perhaps there is a relationship, a position, a place you haven’t completely let go of. Reflect on this. Here are some strategies to help you to finally let go.

1) Reflect on the end of a job, relationship, place you’ve lived in the past. Notice if any sadness or strong feelings come up for you. If they do, let them wash over you rather than resisting or pushing them away. You may also wish to journal about the situation or experience.

2) Forgive yourself or a person for a way you or they acted in the past. One way to do this is Suze Casey’s forgiveness process: Say the following aloud …

  • “I forgive myself for believing that I have to beat myself up what I said. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.
  • I give myself permission to be kinder to myself – beating myself up doesn’t make it better.
  • I choose to kind to myself by learning what I can from the situation and focus on the positive opposite.
  • I can beat myself up, or I can learn and move forward. I choose to learn and move forward.
  • I’m free to learn to be more in the positive vibration – it feels like me.
  • The kinder I am to myself, the easier it is to learn and move forward.
  • I use every situation as an opportunity to learn and move forward.” (http://suzecasey.com/)

3) Celebrate the ending and new beginning.

4) Surround yourself with people and possessions that bring you joy.

 

I look forward to reading your thoughts below. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might enjoy it.

The Art of “Letting Go”

The Art of “Letting Go”

Have you ever been at a place in your life when you needed to “let go” in order to move forward? It’s interesting how we cling to jobs, relationships, possessions, memories, and the way our lives used to be. Certainty and sameness are indeed safe, yet they can lead to staleness and disengagement in our work, relationships, and with life in general. What if when a change or new opportunity presented itself, you could approach it with passion and excitement instead of focusing on your fears, doubts and the way things used to be!

Right now I’m in a place where “letting go” is huge in my life. I’m soon moving from a beautiful home and location that my partner and I chose to move to for lifestyle 8 years ago; from special friends, colleagues, and a home we thought we would live in forever. Now due to an employment opportunity for my partner, we’re putting our house on the market and moving to a new place and home that we hadn’t planned on. We’re also downsizing from a 5-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment, which has its challenges.

How can you approach life changes with an open heart, excited about a new future, and let go of negative emotions and “stuff” that no longer serves you?

William Bridges in his book Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes differentiates between “change” and “transition”. He views change as situational and external, such as moving to a new city or becoming a grandparent. Transition, he emphasizes, is psychological and internal. Transition is the internal “work” we do to help redefine and reorient ourselves and incorporate external changes into our lives.

Based on over 30 years of research and work with a variety of individuals and organizations, Bridges identified 3 phases that are common to all life transitions. The 3 phases are: 1) Ending; 2) Neutral Zone; and 3) New Beginning. In each phase there are opportunities to learn and grow, and work to be done in order to move forward. This post will focus on endings and the “work” associated with the first phase. See http://creativelivingcommunity.com/life-transitions-turning-challenges-into-opportunities-2/ for details on the other phases.

According to Bridges, the “work” associated with the initial transition phase/the ending is “letting go”. Here are some strategies I, and others have found useful in “letting go” and embracing an ending.

Strategies for “Letting Go”

  1. Write a letter to the person (partner, employer) or location you are leaving, outlining a number of positive things that you have learned from that particular job, relationship, place. Then burn the letter ceremoniously. At the same time, feel the positive things about the experience and release any resistance you may have to moving forward.
  1. Go back over your life and think about your experiences with endings (the death of a pet, the loss of a loved one, a move or a friend moving away). Reflect on these experiences and notice if there is a pattern in how you deal with endings: Do you avoid saying goodbye? Do you quickly move on and try not to think about the experience or the feelings associated with it? Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the pattern. Has it been serving you well or would you like to change it?
  1. Take a moment to think about one particular ending or loss you have experienced in your life. Feel it. What did it feel like for you? How has it affected how you have dealt with other endings or losses in your life? Write down your thoughts and feelings.
  1. If you’re downsizing, moving or decluttering, a helpful strategy is to pull out all of your clothes (for example), hold each one, and notice if it brings you joy.[1] If it no longer does, thank it and then let it go and give it to someone you think may enjoy it or to someone you don’t know (e.g. women’s shelter). If it is particularly challenging to let go of something that has been gifted to you by someone special in your life, imagine someone else wearing the piece and feeling so good and special in it.

Letting go is truly an art; the more we practice it in our lives, the easier it becomes.

What strategies have you found helpful to “let go” of possessions, relationships, jobs … . I welcome your experiences and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.

[1] Condo, Marie. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying up. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016.