What Would You Do if You Had No Fear?

What Would You Do if You Had No Fear?

I invite you to ask yourself the question, What would I do if I had no fear? Notice what comes up. You may get a message “Leave my job.” “Leave my marriage.” “Start that business I’ve been wanting to for awhile.” If you get a message, then notice how your body feels when you receive it. Do you feel tension, or excitement about new possibilities? You may then ask yourself, What’s the worst thing that could happen if … I leave my job, leave my marriage, start that new business? Notice again what messages and feelings come up for you.

The Importance of Listening to Your Body’s Wisdom

What I know to be true from my own journey and work with clients around the world is that our body always knows the truth. When we stay in a job or relationship that no longer serves us, it takes a lot of energy. We are living out of alignment with what Buddha calls our “true self” wants; what we intuitively know is the best choice for us. I’ve made a number of “pros” and “cons” lists over the years based on my rational left-brain. However, the decisions I’ve made solely from using my logical left-brain, have not always been the right ones for me. The ones I’ve made by going inside and listening to my body have always been the “right” ones.

What happens when We Don’t Listen

One of the keys to Creative Living[1] in my book Learning to Dance with Life is “Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom”. There is increasing evidence of the negative impacts on our body of NOT listening to the messages it sends us. Dr. Gabor Mate, in his book When the Body Says No, provides case studies and research evidence linking stress with cancer and auto-immune disorders. Ruth Buczynski, licensed psychologist and President of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), wrote that the high stress of our complicated lives “can wreak havoc on our brain’s ability to control emotions, maintain focus and perform tasks”- http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/the-brain-under-stress-using-mindfulness-to-regain-focus/). When we stay in jobs or relationships that are stressing us out, over time this leads to negative impacts on our health and also negatively affects our performance at work.

Tools to Enhance Body Awareness

In my work with clients I teach a number of tools and techniques to assist them to listen to and trust in their body’s wisdom. It takes some time and practice, however the benefits are amazing! Imagine being able to ask yourself about a decision you are challenged to make, and being able to go inside your body and “know” the truth/the best choice for you? Imagine being able to trust that the decision you are making will bring positive results to you, instead of deliberating for days and a number of sleepless nights over what to do?

A good place to start is with Body Scanning, a mindfulness technique from Eastern psychology. This practice cultivates the ability within you to live “in the present moment”. When you do a body scan, you take the time to notice and feel your body’s sensations. A good time to do this is in the morning on awakening. Rather than leaping out of bed and “hitting the ground running” make a conscious effort to quiet your mind and scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any tension or discomfort; breathe into these areas and consciously release and let of the tension. – See more at: http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-you-can-find-peace-amidst-the-chaos-of-daily-life-work/

Another tool that I’ve found really helpful to “get out of my head” and “into my body” is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. When you do a mindfulness walking meditation outdoors, you feel the ground beneath your feet, the breeze against your face, and the cool air flowing through your nostrils down into your lungs. You smell the salt sea air or the aroma of lilacs, and you observe the scenery around you. Rather than spending your time constantly thinking about and processing all the things you have to do, you stay present and experience all of nature’s beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.

My challenge to you

I encourage you to try one or both of the tools above. Begin with one and start incorporating it into your life on a daily basis. Notice how you feel in the moment and over time. I’d love to hear your experiences below with trying these tools. I invite you to share your own tools and techniques for listening to and trusting in your body’s wisdom and the results you’ve achieved from doing so. Feel free to share this post with others.

[1] http://creativelivingcommunity.com/what-is-creative-living/

 

Are You Making Conscious Choices?

Are You Making Conscious Choices?

What is conscious choice?

Sen defines it as when you are making choices with the full understanding of reality, from a place of inner freedom, rather than making choices from a place of delusion/ignorance or fear-based motivations.”[1]

Brady views conscious choice as (making) “choices that are conscious, free from knee-jerk reactivity, and (being) mindful of the impact they have on (y)our own well-being, as well as the impact they have on others and the larger environment. “ [2]

What do our lives look and feel like when we don’t make conscious choices?

We make choices based on what we think someone in our position should make, or based on wanting to belong to a particular group, and thinking there is a particular way we need to speak and act to be accepted by that group.

We study and become; for example, a physician, because that’s what our parents want us to be; instead of following our heart and studying something we are passionate about.

We get into relationships based on the type of partner we’ve been socialized to choose, or to satisfy a need we have. For example, believing that we need to marry someone who will provide us with financial security above all else, or becoming a rescuer and getting involved with needy people to help them, rather than choosing a true partner who will support us to learn and grow in positive ways, and us them.

We respond to family members, friends or colleagues reactively based on previous conditioning or fears that we have. We jump to conclusions, become angry and lose control saying and doing things we later regret. This distances us from people and makes us feel alone and misunderstood.

Making unconscious choices can cause a lot of unhappiness, conflict, stress, disengagement, lack of fulfillment, and negatively impacts our relationships, careers and our health. When we don’t make conscious choices, we aren’t being true to ourselves.

So how can we learn to make more conscious choices? It’s a process and a journey that requires commitment and a desire to learn and grow. The first step is learning to become more self-aware.

Proven Strategies to Increase Self-Awareness:

  • Spend time on your own walking in nature, swimming, kayaking… and notice what you notice. Is your mind constantly active? What do you think about? Notice how you feel while in nature and while being physically active. Journal about your thoughts and feelings.
  • Become aware of your emotions. Start noticing how you react to certain people and situations, and get curious around why that is. Is it due to past experiences? Does that person remind you of someone in your past who treated you badly? Does that person’s behavior make you feel unsafe?
  • Clarify your values (refer to http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/), and live your life in alignment with them
  • Work with a coach
  • Participate in personal growth workshops and/or group coaching programs
  • Study and practice mindfulness. A good place to start is doing mindfulness walking meditations. [3]

What happens when you become self-aware and get in touch with your core values, passions, and who you really are? You are able to make conscious choices; ones that are aligned with your values, needs and passions, and that lead to connection, good health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner calm; instead of conflict, disengagement, stress, compromised health, unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. Which would you rather have in your life?

I invite you to try some of the strategies listed above and notice how they impact your life and your decision-making. I’d love to hear your strategies for becoming more self-aware and how you make conscious decisions. Share your comments below and feel free to share this post with others.

[1] Sen, Conscious Choice – http://www.calmdownmind.com/conscious-choice/ – posted on November 12, 2012

[2] Brady, Reaction Management: How to Make Conscious Choices –  http://www.chopra.com/articles/reaction-management-how-to-make-conscious-choices

[3] A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices focus on the senses and feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we do a mindfulness walking meditation, we feel the ground beneath our feet, we feel the breeze against our face, we feel the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the scent of salt or the aroma of lavender in the air and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience our senses. Rather than spend a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.

You Can Become an Entrepreneur at Any Age!

You Can Become an Entrepreneur at Any Age!

I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit for almost as long as I can remember. I recall catching minnows and selling them to local fisherman at about age 8, making bracelets out of seashells and selling them at the roadside with a girlfriend at about the same age. Having a greeting card and small gifts business from age 9 to 14. Perhaps you relate. However, once I graduated from university I got into the mindset that I had to have a “real” job and work for someone else in order to have security and benefits. When our kids were growing up, my husband was an international consulting engineer who travelled about 6 months of the year, so even though I yearned to be an international consultant I felt I needed to have a “real” job with benefits, and be the stable one in the family. Throughout my career I held a number of well-paying positions that were stimulating and allowed me much independence.

When I attended a course on Project Management in a Government Environment my life began to change. The course instructor was a partner in a management consulting company. He spotted my facilitation skills and before long we met and he offered me to be a contractor with his consulting group. About 6 months following the course, I left my “secure” and well-paying government position to become a contractor/independent consultant on a handshake. I worked with the consulting group for about 6 months learning a lot of processes and gaining experience designing and facilitating everything from town hall meetings, to national consultation processes, to strategic plans, to multi-stakeholder partnership-building activities. After 6 months, the partner who had brought me in had a philosophical split with the other two, and invited me to join him in his new company. I thought about it, and decided I didn’t want to “take sides” so then I began working in my own process/management consulting business. Before long my business took off and within two years I was thoroughly enjoying working for myself and was making 6 figures. I haven’t look back since having launched two successful management consulting businesses and a life and business coaching company.

Recently I was connected with an amazing woman, Pat Duckworth, through the Evolutionary Business Council/Institute of which I am a member. She invited me to be part of a book she was writing on “midlife women entrepreneurs”. It was an extremely positive experience, and I’m happy to announce that today Pat is launching Hot Women Rock, a book that chronicles the journeys and wisdom of Pat herself and 21 other midlife women entrepreneurs including myself. You may obtain your complimentary copy on launch day October 4 at https://www.amazon.com/Hot-Women-Rock-discover-entrepreneurial-ebook/dp/B01JEV9T6Q

I’d love to hear from you about your entrepreneurial journey and lessons, and welcome your comments below. Please share with others who you think might find this of interest.

How You Can Find Peace Amidst the Chaos of Daily Life & Work

How You Can Find Peace Amidst the Chaos of Daily Life & Work

In this high-paced, “plugged-in” world we live in, now more than ever it’s important to have tools to find peace amidst the chaos of daily life and work. I believe that we all have a role to play in helping build peace in the world. When we find inner peace and model it for others, we then help build peace in our families, our communities, our workplaces … the world. So how can you find peace? Here are some proven practices I use and teach my clients.

Starting the day off right:

  • Rather than leaping out of bed and “hitting the ground running” make a conscious effort to quiet your mind and scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any tension or discomfort; breathe into these areas and consciously release and let of the tension.
  • Do some conscious stretching. I incorporate some yoga stretches with crunches to awaken my body before I do anything else. Mindfully massaging different joints of your body from head to toe is also meditative.
  • Meditate for 10 to 20 minutes. There are a number of digital products available to help you do this. I have found Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditation experiences helpful as they focus on a key theme, and each day break down the theme. In addition, beautiful nature sounds and music play in the background to assist you in relaxing and staying focused.
  • Ground yourself. Being centered and grounded helps you to be more responsive rather than reactive when interacting with others. “For example, with our family members, when we are centered, grounded and at peace we truly focus on each individual and connect with them at the heart level. They then feel listened to, understood, accepted, and loved. Likewise in the workplace if a colleague gets upset or angry we can show empathy and understanding rather than reacting to them with frustration or as if they are a threat.”[1]

Here is a tool I have found extremely useful in helping me to get centered and grounded. I do this exercise at the start of every day and also before I head into an important meeting or go “on stage” for a speaking event. I go somewhere quiet (depending on the venue it may be a washroom stall), then close my eyes and take several deep breaths to get into my body. I imagine I have roots growing out of the bottom of my feet going deep down into the earth. Then I imagine drawing the earth’s energy coming up through my feet, legs and into my heart. I then imagine I have branches reaching up to the sky to access the universal or source energy (or whatever you wish to call it) and feel that energy coming down through my head and neck and into my heart. I imagine that I am grounded to the earth and to the sky. This enables me to be much more powerful in the work I do and to be less reactive and more responsive in my interactions with others at work or at home.

I’d love to hear what tools you use to start your days off right, and to find peace amidst the chaos. I invite you to try out any of the tools above and to share your thoughts and experiences below. Here’s to helping build peace in the world one person at a time!

[1] Thompson, Pamela, Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women, p. 144

Do You Want to have More Fun?

Do You Want to have More Fun?

Many of my coaching clients when they start to work with me say that they want to have more fun. They realize their lives are all about work, and they have little or no time for themselves, and to spend with others, to play and have fun. So What does fun look and feel like?

What does having fun look life for me?

It includes:

  • Spending time in nature by myself or with people I care about
  • Engaging in physical activity; e.g. swimming, cycling, hiking, kayaking, walking on the beach or by water
  • Sharing time truly connecting with others; e.g. over coffee, meals or at an event/experience
  • Laughing with others I feel close to; e.g. partner, family, friends
  • Creating something new that will make a difference; e.g. writing a book, article, designing a program or project
  • Exploring a new place (includes travel)
  • Appreciating beauty; e.g. in nature, music, art, dance …
  • Living life being open to possibility.

How do I feel when I’m having fun?

  • Light
  • Joyful
  • Free
  • in the flow
  • Present (in the moment)
  • Connected
  • Energized
  • Truly alive!

How does having fun relate to my top 5 core values? (For more details on values see http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/). Very well indeed! My top 5 core values are:

  • Connection
  • Adventure
  • Making a difference
  • Love of learning
  • Creativity

I invite you to ask yourself the following 3 questions and to share your responses and thoughts below:

  1. What does having fun look life for you?
  2. How do you feel when you’re having fun?
  3. How does having fun relate to your top 5 core values?

Here’s to having more fun in our lives!

 

Are You a Chameleon? … And is it Serving You?

Are You a Chameleon? … And is it Serving You?

A chameleon is a salamander that is able to change the color of its skin so it blends into an environment it enters. It does this to camouflage itself, and also to display aggressiveness toward other chameleons in certain situations.

For many years I was a chameleon. I entered environments and based on the signals I was picking up, initially unconsciously and later consciously, would change my behavior and way of reacting based on those signals. I’m not certain how I learned to do this. One thought is when I was younger and entered a new organization I would quickly notice all of the things that weren’t working within it, and would soon question why certain things were being done the way they were. Often I was told “Because we’ve always done it this way.” Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. I wasn’t as diplomatic in my younger years as I am today, and after getting some negative reactions from my remarks, I learned to keep my thoughts to myself or to express them in a certain manner and to certain individuals based on the environment. However, that changed when I became a management consultant and was paid good money to go into environments, share my observations, and make recommendations for positive change.

For many years being a chameleon served me well. I can’t pinpoint exactly when my behavior changed, but I do recall a situation that stands out. While managing a large project in Pakistan a number of years ago, I recall meeting with the two Muslim women on my team, and a number of other Muslim women who were assisting in planning an upcoming workshop. One woman in particular was strong, assertive and articulate in expressing her thoughts. I was quite taken aback several days later during the workshop with a mixed group of men and women, how the strong, assertive, articulate woman was demure, unassertive and only expressed her thoughts when asked. It was like she was a different person! Over time, I’ve surmised that she behaved differently in a group of women compared to a mixed group, because that is how she had learned to survive. That was what she perceived was the appropriate and acceptable way to interact in the company of men.

Having had the opportunity to live and work in a number of countries and cultures around the world, I now have found that regardless of whom I’m speaking with, whether it is the Minister of a government department or a cleaner; a man or a woman, I am myself. I no longer react as a chameleon. I try in all situations to speak from my heart while at the same time respecting the dominant religious and cultural norms (e.g. wearing a headscarf in Afghanistan and wearing looser clothing that covers much of my body in Muslim countries). At this time in my life, being myself seems to be serving me well. I think it is interesting to notice how we react in new situations, and if our behavior changes, to explore what might be causing it to do so. It’s also interesting to notice whether our way of reacting has changed over time.

Are you a chameleon? Do you change your behavior in different situations? How is it serving you? If you haven’t thought about this, I invite you to reflect on and to notice how you react in a new social or environmental situation. I welcome your comments and reflections below.