The Importance of Play and Laughter for Leaders & Changemakers: How to Connect with Your Inner Child

The Importance of Play and Laughter for Leaders & Changemakers: How to Connect with Your Inner Child

Due to the uncertain and stressful times we are currently living in, and also because of research I’ve recently read on the importance of a “playful frame of mind” as we evolve as authentic leaders[1], I decided to resurrect and share an article I wrote three years ago[2]. …

Many of us learn that after a certain age, it is not appropriate to play. We get messages that we need to become serious and act like an adult. More and more research has shown how important play and laughter are for health and wellness throughout our lives.

You may have heard that laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, we release endorphins and encourage energy to move throughout our body. In the words of Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and pharmacologist who has spent much of her scientific life studying the mind-body link:

Play and laughter are vital to feeling good. Recreation isn’t merely a frivolous addition to life or a hard-earned reward for work…I believe that in a society driven by a strong work ethic, with so many individuals burdened with workaholism, people aren’t getting enough endorphinergic surges through the bodymind on a regular basis. For you to not be laughing and playing during some part of every day is unnatural and goes against your fundamental biochemistry.

Everything You Need to Feel Go(o)d), 2006

Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, has conducted research that shows play is not only energizing and fun, but also important for human physical, emotional and cognitive development, and intelligence. Addictions, depression, stress-related illnesses and interpersonal violence have been linked to the prolonged deprivation of play –http://www.nifplay.org . Brown’s TED talk outlines different types of play and provides evidence of the importance of play throughout our lives –http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Based on research by Brown, Pert and others, it is recommended for the health of our minds and bodies that we engage in play and laughter every day.

Types of Play

Research on animals and humans has identified a number of different types of play including:

  • Body Play – when we move our bodies in different ways; for example, jumping, running, skipping or moving our bodies to real or imagined music.
  • Object Play – when we make an object (e.g. a snowball) and play with it, or play with an object such as a soccer ball.
  • Imaginative Play – creating an imaginary friend you interact with (you may have had an imaginary friend when you were a child); creating and sharing a fantasy story with a child; playing “dress up”.
  • Social Play  – playing tag or playing house with others
  • Transformative Play – through digital and other types of “structured” play we learn creative problem-solving.

 Strategies for Incorporating more play and laughter

  1. Travel back in time and identify and write down types of play activities you enjoyed and engaged in as a child.
  2. Reflect on how many of these activities you currently engage in as an adult and how often you engage in them.
  3. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how energized each of the above activities makes you feel – 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “full of energy”.
  4. Identify several play activities you would like to begin integrating into your life. Experiment and notice how they make you feel.
  5. Commit to engaging in some form of play and/or laughter on a daily basis. Ask friends and family for support (perhaps make it a family project to laugh and play at least once a day), and encourage play and laughter in their lives as well.

Your Inner Child

Another way to incorporate more play and laughter into your life is to connect with your inner child. According to Wikipedia “our inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty.” Others say that your inner child is your “true self” … the small child within you that never grew up. Your inner child is naturally fun, playful, and creative. It is also fragile and vulnerable.

Many of us have buried or rejected our inner child, and it takes some time to reconnect with and nurture it. The process may be challenging and scary for some, especially if you’ve experienced trauma. Connecting with our inner child helps us love, accept and nurture ourselves.

Strategies for Connecting with Your Inner Child[3] [4]

  1. Write a letter to your inner child saying that you want to reconnect. It can be a letter of apology or one expressing that you want to strengthen the relationship with her.
  1. Notice and acknowledge the feelings that come up when you connect with your inner child. Rather than “pushing them down” or rejecting them, allow any fears, sadness or insecurities to surface. Notice what you notice.
  1. Express those feelings by writing them down in a personal journal or through painting, finger painting or drawing.
  1. Picture yourself as a 3, 4 or 5 year old and reassure your younger self that they are safe, secure and loved.
  1. Reorganize your living space. Make it more fun. Bring out joyful childhood pictures, stuffed animals and trinkets and put them on your mantle. Paint one or several of your rooms with guidance from your inner child.
  1. Buy a coloring book and color several times a week.
  1. Spend time with children playing children’s games. These could be “hide and seek”, or imaginary games, and creating and telling your own stories.
  1. On awakening everyday ask your inner child what fun activity they would like to engage in today.

Parting Thoughts

Research shows that bringing our inner child out to play and incorporating laughter and play into our days is essential to be healthy and happy throughout our lives. I encourage you to try some of the strategies and to notice what you notice.

I’d love to hear how you connect with your inner child and what you’ve noticed from that experience. Please share your experiences below so we can all learn and grow from each other.


[1] https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox

[2] Originally published in the February 2017 issue of Eydis Authentic Living Magazine

[3] http://www.wikihow.com/Embrace-Your-Inner-Child

[4] http://www.creativecounseling101.com/find-your-inner-child.html

What does Belonging and Forgiveness have to do with Anti-Black Racism?

What does Belonging and Forgiveness have to do with Anti-Black Racism?

With all of the recent events, protests and discussion around anti-black racism, it is has made me reflect on some valuable lessons I learned from Dr. Vern Redekop[1] while studying at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution in the early 1990s. At that time, Vern was working on his PhD and I was honored to be part of a social experiment he was conducting as part of his dissertation. Vern was researching what would make people who had been discriminated against and harmed on many levels forgive their perpetrators and move forward, as well as increase understanding between the “victim” and the “perpetrator”. 

To that end, Vern researched a number of different disciplines and conducted seminars that he invited a mix of people from various backgrounds, cultures, religions and ethnicities to participate in. At the beginning of each seminar he would share the research related to some aspect of the conflict process. Then we were divided into small groups to work on questions Vern provided. Following that we debriefed with the larger group.

There were many participants who shared horrific experiences based on religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. I recall a black man from Rwanda who had seen his family cut up in front of him as part of the genocide that took place in that country. There was an ex-policeman from Northern Ireland who had left the country due to death threats. There was a Sri Lankan woman who had been held hostage by the Khmer Rouge. So many stories and heart-breaking experiences were shared. As well, many of those who shared the horrific acts that had been perpetrated against them, also shared that they had learned to forgive their perpetrators.

There are several things that stand out for me from that experience that I believe can increase our understanding of anti-black racism and other prejudices and horrific acts. One was that in order for “victims” (those who had experienced atrocities and discrimination) to forgive their “perpetrators” (those who had committed the atrocities), the perpetrators had to acknowledge what they had done and issue a formal apology to that person or group. What also was useful in terms of process was for the “victim” or “victims” to sit in a circle with the “perpetrator” or “perpetrators” and for each to share how they were impacted by what had happened. This created increased understanding on both sides and also enabled the “victim(s)” to decide what type of punishment they felt was due to their “perpetrator”. This is how restorative justice is practised (for example among some indigenous communities in Canada) and it is interesting to note that the punishments that are decided upon by the “victim(s)” in a restorative justice process are usually much less harsh than typical sentences arrived at in court.[2]  

The other learning that stands out for me was some research Vern shared that demonstrated that the need to belong outweighs many other human needs, and historical events have borne this out. This is important when we think about racism and other forms of prejudice and acts of violence, because it helps us to better understand why people do what they do. It also helps us recognize that it takes a strong and courageous person to step away from a group he/she belongs to and take a stand that is in opposition to that group as they run the risk of being criticized, punished and ostracized.

These two “lessons” from conflict studies and from research on history, human nature and culture I believe are important, particularly at this time when the light is being shone on anti-black racism and other forms of racism worldwide.

Understanding and awareness are important for change to begin. It is also important to understand that there are many layers of belief and cultural conditioning that we need to “peel away” in order to truly forgive, heal and create a better world.

“(A) world free of war and violence;

One where all cultures, (races) and religions are accepted;

Where all people are respected and treated with respect;

Where people live together in communities that model

The values of contribution, collaboration, caring and connection …

One that believes in the power of groups and synergy,

That the whole is greater than the sum of the parts;

A world where women and men stand together as partners.:”[3]

Based on these learnings what actions can we take to move forward and create a better world? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions below.


[1] Professor Emeritus, Conflict Studies, Saint Paul’s University, Founder of the Social Reconciliation, Just Peace and Development Research Group and author of From Violence to Blessing: How an Understanding of Deep-Rooted Conflict Can Open Paths to Reconciliation

[2] “Restorative justice is commonly defined as an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime while holding the offender responsible for their actions, by providing an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the crime – victims, offenders and communities – to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime. Restorative justice is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships. The principles of restorative justice are based on respect, compassion and inclusivity. Restorative justice encourages meaningful engagement and accountability and provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration. Restorative justice processes take various forms and may take place at all stages of the criminal justice system.” (Source: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/rj-jr/index.html)

[3] Excerpted and slightly modified from Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women by Pamela Thompson, pp. 153 & 154

The “New Normal”: Creating Workplaces that Embody and Support Work-Life Balance

The “New Normal”: Creating Workplaces that Embody and Support Work-Life Balance

Many people are talking about the “new normal” and what our lives will look like after COVID-19. Rather than returning to old beliefs, systems and ways of working, I view this time as an opportunity to internalize new beliefs, create new systems and ways of working, building on the lessons learned so far and based on the vision of a world that works for everyone.

One area that I feel strongly about is Work-Life Balance. Having almost burnt out several times in my life I know what it is like to feel SOoo tired and to push through fatigue to finish that one last “thing”, instead of listening to my body and taking a break. I’ve also witnessed younger and younger women clients losing their passion and burning out. Perhaps you relate.

Did you know that burnout is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide?

In May of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its classification of burnout from a medical condition to an occupational phenomenon. Their definition:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.” [1]

The importance of this change in the WHO classification is that it acknowledges that organizations and their leaders have a role to play in reducing workplace stress; rather than burnout being perceived as a personal medical issue, a sign of weakness and something to be hidden and ashamed of.

To learn more about how to know if you’re burning out and what to do about it see: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/

Work-Life Balance

When you think about work-life balance what thoughts or feelings come up for you? You may have negative feelings about the term and believe it isn’t possible OR you may dream of living a life where you no longer are feeling there is so much to do and so little time but instead are feeling healthy, happy and fulfilled.

For me, work-life balance is both personal and elusive. Personal, because what work-life balance looks and feels like for me is different from what work-life balance looks and feels like for you.  Elusive because many people speak about work-life balance and yet few are able to achieve or maintain it.

How can you as a leader integrate work-life balance into your own life and model it for others in the workplace? Here are some “tried and true” strategies:

Personally:

  • Count up the number of hours you typically work in a week. Is it more than 50? (Obviously sometimes)
  • Make a commitment to reduce the number of hours you typically work weekly (choose a realistic number to begin with)
  • Experiment with a work week when you reduce your hours. Then notice how you feel. You may wish to journal about it
  • Make a clear differentiation between work and home time. For example, before leaving work say to yourself, I am now leaving work behind, or pick a point on your drive or walk home where you make a conscious choice to release work and step into “your” time
  • Begin incorporating mindfulness practices into your personal life; e.g.
    • on awakening while lying in bed do a body scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet noticing any tension, discomfort, heaviness. Breathe into those areas of tension, discomfort or heaviness and set the intention to release and let go of them.
    • Start doing mindfulness walking meditations 3 times/week for 30 minutes each time.[2] Some of my clients do this at lunch hour. Others after work. Notice how you feel before, during and after. Is there a cumulative effect?
  • Schedule blocks of time in your calendar for you (e.g. work out at the gym, yoga class, lunch with a friend, concert with your partner)
  • Unplug at least 90 minutes before retiring and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Organizationally:

  • At work, encourage people to take breaks
  • Set clear expectations with your direct reports and colleagues related to NOT checking emails and answering texts on evenings and weekends. Share with them the importance of them taking time for themselves and their families
  • Have short meetings (up to 60 minutes max) with clearly defined agendas, and expectations so people know why they’re there, how to prepare and the expected results
  • Encourage people to take lunch breaks
  • Support people to take regular vacations and to NOT check their emails while on vacation (set up a buddy system so staff and managers can feel that the key aspects of their positions are being covered while they are away)
  • Have yoga classes and/or a gym on site and participate in the classes/use the facilities yourself.

What strategies have you found helpful to create more balance in your life on a personal level and if you have a team, on an organizational level? I welcome your comments and suggestions below. Feel free to share this post with others.

*updated from May 2, 2016 blog post


[1] https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

[2]  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.

A Gift and a Special Offer

A Gift and a Special Offer

During these times of intense change you may be having difficulty focusing, feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster; one day energized and feeling those creative juices flowing and the next feeling sad, low in energy and like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are not alone.

Researching and working with clients on change and transition for the past decade or more, what I know is that this is all part of the impact change has on us. Increasing your understanding of change and how you respond to it, and having tools and strategies to support you to move through it more easily can enhance your change experience.

The Gift

As my gift to you, I’m sharing the video of a recent virtual participatory workshop I facilitated through Female Wave of Change. If you would like some support to better understand and move through a personal change you are experiencing, this gift may be just “what the doctor ordered”. 

Here’s what you’ll receive. You will:

  • Learn what happens when we resist change
  • Discover a practical 5-step framework you can use to embrace change and generate creative solutions
  • Apply that framework to a major personal change you are currently facing.

Based on evidence from neuroscience, the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts, eastern psychology, and my own journey and work with clients around the world, the “Art of Change” Framework and Process can be your lifesaver during this time.

Here you go! 

Special Offer

I am currently offering the one-hour workshop Embracing Change: Moving from Fear and Resistance Toward Clarity and Confidence as a stand-alone virtual workshop to groups and organizations at a special rate.  It can be delivered as a “Lunch and Learn” or be the first part of a 2-part process for Leadership Teams, Project Teams, Boards, Community Groups … . This workshop focuses on personal change as change starts with each of us. Understanding how you and others on your team respond to change is invaluable.

Part 2 in the process is a 2-hour virtual workshop How to Move from Fear and Resistance Toward Creative Solutions during Times of Intense Change that focuses on organizational change.

The workshop helps to:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve understanding
  • Increase morale
  • Promote engagement
  • Improve focus and productivity
  • Support collaboration

Leadership teams, project teams, boards, search committees have the opportunity to focus on a key change they are facing (e.g. new leadership, new culture, a change scenario to address something that is not working in their organization), apply the 5-step Art of Change Framework to a key organizational change they are facing, and through this process generate creative solutions to address it.

Each workshop includes handouts. In Workshop 2 as part of the process, ideas and potential solutions generated during the workshop will be typed up and sent later to participants in a short report.

Both workshops are being delivered via zoom.

Contact me at pam@creativelivingcommunity.com to set up a time for us to chat so I can learn more about you, your group and your needs.

How to Find Your Focus during Challenging Times

How to Find Your Focus during Challenging Times

During this time of immense change and uncertainty have you felt distracted, anxious, had difficulty sleeping? If so you are not alone. It’s happened to me and a number of my friends, colleagues and clients I’ve recently spoken with.

Many people are noticing that old patterns or beliefs they thought they had dealt with and/or cleared years ago, are surfacing. Others feel like they’re on an emotional teeter-totter; one day feeling upbeat and positive and the next feeling sad, anxious and overwhelmed.

What has helped me to get focused and stay positive is a decision I made several weeks ago to accept a new position and project in my life. Since that day (March 20), I have felt energized, creative, and focused.

I’m excited to share that I recently was named Ambassador for Canada of Female Wave of Change, a global movement that unites women who are changing the world into a better place. Female Wave of Change offers women from all walks of life a safe space where they can be their authentic selves, be economically empowered and grow into leaders and changemakers who shape the world for their own futures and for future generations. “I join(ed) FWoC because I feel so aligned with their Purpose, Vision, Mission and Core Values and I want to be part of this amazing group of women (and some men) and contribute to expanding and strengthening this incredible wave of change.”

To learn more about the Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values of the group visit: https://femalewaveofchange.com.

Ingun Bol, the founder, from the Netherlands, started the movement only 3 years ago and currently has Ambassadors in more than 40 countries. Achievements to date include: 1) designing and rolling out Women Leading in Change; a 12 module group online leadership program for women who want to make impactful changes. The program prepares women to be authentic leaders drawing on their feminine qualities and values; 2) designing Reshape the Future a modular online program aimed at empowering and teaching participants to become agents of change by building on their inner strengths, talents and capabilities. This leadership program was initially to roll out in April 2020 and has been postponed till September 2020; 3) Hosting their first global conference in Johannesburg in September 2019 where a Call to Action on Human Rights was developed.

In addition, Ambassadors with the support of their “Wavemakers” from different parts of the world, have been designing and implementing impactful projects such as one that taught poor African women financial literacy and supports them to secure mortgages they eventually pay off so they can own their own homes.

Areas of focus for various months in 2020 were identified last year and due to COVID-19, the leadership team recently revisited their priorities and decided to offer free virtual webinars, workshops, coaching and dialogue sessions related to the Corona Virus and situations we are all currently facing, and open these up to everyone.  I was honored to have the opportunity to moderate a recent Panel of Older Wise Women where they shared their Purpose, their Visions of the World after COVID-19 and their views on Feminine Leaders of the Future.

You may access recordings of recent virtual webinars/workshops, etc. on the Female Wave of Change YouTube Channel and learn about upcoming workshops and events on Facebook at Female Wave of Change Global . We’d love to have you join us!

What new “thing(s)” are you creating or focusing on during this time when we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect? Perhaps it’s your garden. Perhaps you’re cooking more and trying new recipes. Perhaps you’re drawing and painting. What is energizing you and keeping you focused? I’d love to hear from you below.

Change and Creativity: Creating Possibilities out of Chaos and Uncertainty

Change and Creativity: Creating Possibilities out of Chaos and Uncertainty

I believe that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.

During these uncertain and challenging times it may seem counterintuitive to think about change and creativity together in the same sound bite. That said, believe it or not, this is the opportune time for you to tap into and express your creative side.

I encourage you to sit down, close your eyes and take a few moments to pause and reflect. Ask yourself, what positive changes have come out of this pandemic for you, your relationships, your community, your business, your work?

For many, it is the opportunity for the first time to work from home. If this is you, it may be an enjoyable and productive experience; or it may make you realize that being on your own, you miss the camaraderie of colleagues, easily get distracted, and find it challenging to get work done. This is a gift, as now you know that working on your own at home is not a preferred option for you.

For others who own their own businesses, initially you may have experienced fear and have had to “let go” of some of your employees, and yet when you “go inside”, you realize that your business is not exciting you anymore and hasn’t for some time. You may have been feeling uninspired but didn’t know how you could exist and earn a living without your “tried and true” business or job. This is a time to experiment with different ways of running your existing business. It is a time ripe for innovation.

Now you have the opportunity to explore what “lights you up” (see https://pamela-thompson.com/believe-that-you-are-here-to-make-a-difference/ for an exercise on how to identify your passions), and to clarify your core values (refer to https://pamela-thompson.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/ for more details), so that when you return to a “new normal” , whatever that looks like, you will be in a position to reinvent yourself , whether it be to find that job of your dreams or start that new business you’ve been putting off for some time, perhaps years.

What about key relationships in your life? What realizations has this time of social distancing “brought up” for you? It could be the conscious awareness that connection and regularly speaking with friends and family is really important for you. I’ve found that I want to call and FaceTime or Skype with close friends, rather than text or email them. I feel a strong need to be in community. Fortunately, I am part of a Women’s Circle that meets face-to-face every 2 weeks. We met via Zoom for the first time this past week, were creative with our process, and it worked really well. A fun and creative activity my husband and I have planned for this evening is a virtual birthday party for one of our young granddaughters.

A tool I’ve found helpful during these times is journalling using writing prompts such as: What is the silver lining in this experience? Have my priorities changed? What is most important to me? How can I change my life so each day I focus on those things and people that are most important to me?

I invite you to begin meditating daily if this is a new experience for you and/or something you’ve been “putting off” and meaning to do for a while. I find Deepak and Oprah’s free 21-day Meditation Experiences (e.g. Finding Hope in Uncertain Times – https://chopracentermeditation.com/store/product/156/hope_in_uncertain_times_streaming); extremely helpful to ground me and keep me focussed on the positive during these times of massive change and uncertainty.

It is important to express your feelings during challenging times. Drawing and/or painting may be helpful for you to release negative feelings and to create positive “pieces”; paintings or drawings that remind you of hope, connection, and people and activities that bring you joy and connect you with your inner child.

Visioning is another tool to create possibilities out of the current chaos and uncertainty. Ask yourself, What do I want the world to look like after this pandemic? Do I see more people aware of climate change and the actions we all can take to protect animals and improve the environment? What is my role in this? What actions can I take toward making this world a better place for my family, community, workplace …?

Do you envision a community where you are connected to your neighbors and have mechanisms in place to enable you to be kept aware of and able to respond to those closeby who are in need?

“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 toward 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.”

 (excerpt from “Learning to Dance with Life” my #1 best selling book, p. 6)

What do you believe? …

What opportunities have presented themselves/are appearing for you in these uncertain and chaotic times?

How are you tapping into and expressing your creative side?

I invite and welcome your thoughts and comments below.

“Being the Change” in Your Home, Your Community, Your Work …

“Being the Change” in Your Home, Your Community, Your Work …

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about women “being the change” we want to see in the world. Yet how do you “be the change” in your day-to-day life? Here are a few thoughts that I hope will stimulate some of your own.

How can we be the change we want to see in our homes?

  • By choosing to share household responsibilities with our partners such as cooking, cleaning, yard work … and modelling these choices for our children
  • Teaching our boys as well as our girls to cook, clean, do the dishes …
  • Teaching our girls as well as our boys to mow lawns, shovel snow …
  • Becoming financially literate. By this I mean “ … the possession of the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources” (Source – Wikipedia; ) and ” … the ability to understand and effectively apply various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing. Financial literacy helps individuals become self-sufficient so that they can achieve financial stability.” (Source – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/financial-literacy.asp)
  • Teaching our children financial literacy.

How can we be the change we want to see in our communities?

  • By identifying an issue we are passionate about and initiating a project/program to make a difference in this issue (e.g. nutritious school meal programs; animal welfare; homelessness)
  • By identifying an existing group or organization that is championing an issue we feel passionate about and contributing our relevant knowledge, skills and/or our financial resources to that organization or group.

How can we be the change we want to see in our work?

  • If we see issues we feel strongly about that are not being handled effectively in our workplaces (e.g. gender inequality, need for diversity training … ), we may observe and collect data to support our case and identify others within the setting to support us to make a case to management.
  • If we own our own businesses we may choose to donate our time and/or money to an organization whose work we value (such as a group that is pro zero waste, sustainability, women’s rights … )
  • If we own our own businesses we may choose to develop and offer workshops and keynotes to public and private sector organizations on topics of interest and expertise such as: diversity and inclusion training, change management, feminine leadership.

Now, over to you. What suggestions do you have for how you and others can “be the change” you want to see in your households, communities, workplaces …?

I welcome your comments below.

How to Change from Driving and Striving to Thriving

How to Change from Driving and Striving to Thriving

Did you end 2019 feeling exhausted and burnt out? Did you set the intention that this year would be different, that you would take more time for you and to spend with friends and family? Are you finding that already you are slipping back into old patterns of taking work home in the evenings and working on weekends?

I understand. I’ve been there. Early in my childhood I internalized the belief that in order to be loved and valued I needed to perform and achieve. And so I kept doing that. Setting one goal, reaching it; then raising the bar and striving for the next one. Taking very little, if any time, between my accomplishments to celebrate; until I became exhausted and burned out.

What happens when we are driving and striving?

  • Our agendas are packed
  • We have little or no time for ourselves
  • When we are speaking with someone, often half of our brain is focused on them and the other half is focused on the next thing on our to-do list
  • We feel like there is so much to do and so little time
  • We focus on our goals and become so fixated on achieving them that we may miss out on other opportunities that come our way
  • We often feel tired on awakening
  • We may start to feel resentful, as we seem to be giving to everyone else, yet no one seems to be there to support us when we need it.

Do you relate? Living this way, constantly driving and striving, leads to adrenal fatigue, burnout, various types of cancer, and auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (for more details on burnout and what to do about it – https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/). When we work night and day, our bodies don’t have time to return to homeostasis where we relax and rejuvenate ourselves. As stress hormones constantly surge through us, our organs eventually burn out.

What does thriving look and feel like?

  • We feel happy, healthy and grounded with a balance between “giving” and “receiving” and “doing” and “being”
  • We feel open to possibilities
  • We awaken feeling energized and excited about the day ahead
  • We spend time with people we care about
  • We feel connected to something greater than ourselves
  • We spend regular time in nature
  • We exercise regularly
  • We are grateful for the life we have
  • We are clear on our core values and live life in alignment with them.

Feel free to add your own descriptions to the lists above.

How do we move from driving and striving to thriving?

  • We learn to Listen to and trust in our body’s wisdom – The first step in getting out of our heads and into our bodies is a mindfulness technique called body scanning. On awakening, you begin scanning your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and noticing where there is any tension or discomfort. Then you breathe into these areas and set the intention to release any discomfort. Another mindfulness practice is mindfulness walking meditations. I encourage my clients to begin doing this 15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week. It can be done at noon or during a break. Instead of taking a walk and thinking about the next thing on your plate or reflecting on a stressful conversation you had with a partner or team member, you focus on your senses. You feel the wind on your cheeks, you smell the salt sea air, you hear the birds singing, you see the beautiful vistas surrounding you. When thoughts come into your mind you view them as clouds floating by and let them pass, returning to focusing on one of your senses. When you do this, notice what you notice during the exercise, after and the cumulative effects.
  • When you are feeling stressed, Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth; making a sound as you breathe out. When you do this 3 or 4 times you release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes you.
  • Each week block off in your calendar all of the things you commit to doing for yourself (that you enjoy). For me one of these is yoga 3 times a week at noon. It may be going to the gym 3 of 4 times a week after work. It may be meeting a friend or partner for lunch once a week.
  • Set firm boundaries. Learn to say no. This is important at work, and with family and friends.
  • Notice your energy levels and schedule your activities to capitalize on these. For example, if possible, do your creative work when you are naturally more creative. Schedule meetings after 10 am.
  • Spend regular time in nature; walking, hiking, cycling, kayaking … . Nature is therapeutic. Based on several decades of research, the Japanese have evidence to show that forest bathing/walking among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces. For more on the benefits of being in nature check out: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-you-can-benefit-from-nature-why-its-important/
  • Unplug from technology for at least 24 hours one day a week (e.g. on weekends) if possible
  • Celebrate your achievements, big and small.

It’s important to reach out for support to friends, family or a coach, as moving from driving and striving to thriving, IS a journey and it requires support from others.

For more practical tools and techniques to support you to be healthy, happy and grounded, I invite you to check out my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women – www.amazon.com/dp/B0145ZGDO2 that is backed up by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts. There is also a series of coaching questions woven throughout the book to support you to move from driving and striving to thriving.

I welcome strategies that you’ve found helpful in the comments below.

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