It’s interesting when I reflect on how I used to act and feel in the workplace. I learned from a young age that it was important to separate my work life from my personal life. In doing so I could protect myself, as in the workplace I would only share the parts of myself that I felt were valued. For example, my ability to write, to facilitate, to work collaboratively with others.
I recall when launching my coaching business in 2009, after 10.5 years of doing management consulting, how I felt like I could only share my new business with certain clients. Others I thought would think I was going “woo woo”. After researching and writing program and policy documents in the health field, designing and facilitating multistakeholder and consultative processes, and doing qualitative studies, I launched the Creative Healing Center, a virtual center, where we coached people through various life transitions and integrated this with creativity, eastern psychology, the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts, and alternative modalities. At that time, I felt like I was trying to balance on two Swiss balls and was being challenged to do so. I felt that my logical left brain that I had been operating from for so long, (or so I thought), was now being challenged by my creative and empathic right brain.
Recently in chatting with a Diversity and Inclusion consultant, biracial friend and colleague, she spoke about “code-switching” and how women of color typically show up differently at work compared to with friends and at home. They do this because they feel and understand, based on experience, that if they bring their whole selves to work, they will not be valued, respected or promoted.
It made me reflect on which environments I felt most comfortable bringing my whole self to work in. Curiously it was in cross-cultural situations where I was working internationally with teams from countries such as Pakistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan; with people from cultures other than my own, that I brought my whole self to work. Curious isn’t it? Perhaps I had internalized from a young age that it was better to only share parts of myself in the North American work environment; and not to acknowledge my intuition and creativity?
How about you? Do you bring your whole self to work? What environments facilitate that? Which ones prevent you from sharing your whole self and why? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
I encourage you to take a moment to sit down, close your eyes and reflect on the leaders you have experienced in your life. Think about your first boss at your first “real” job. How was she or he? Were they kind, open, approachable, understanding?What were the dominant traits they possessed that you recall?
Now reflect on other leaders you have had in your life. Were they people you looked up to, who made you feel good about yourself, and provided opportunities for you to stretch yourself?
I’ve spoken and worked with a number of women who have accomplished much in their lives and yet did not regard themselves as leaders. Part of the reason why, was because the leaders they had experienced to date had not been people they wanted to emulate. They did not have positive memories associated with many of them. Perhaps you relate?
I’d like to share an example from my own life. Years ago, I worked in government at the federal level. One of my colleagues who worked on the same floor but in a different division was an articulate, creative and intelligent black woman. She had a vision to create a Unit to serve an under served group she cared much about. Her boss asked her to write down her vision, mission, the number of Full Time Equivalents required for the Unit and submit it to her. The boss then shared the document with “higher ups” as if it was her own, without acknowledging my friend as the creator. The Unit was approved with a budget attached and rather than offering my colleague the position, she interviewed and brought in a Unit Head from outside of our Division and totally excluded my friend from the process.
That experience had a really negative impact on me. I felt so bad for my colleague. I started to notice what I perceived as a cancer growing in the organization. In team meetings, my Division Head would call down a younger male team member in front of us all because she perceived him as a threat. I realized I could no longer work in this toxic environment even though I enjoyed my work and believed I was making a difference. Soon after, I met the partner in a consulting firm and was invited to join them which I did. I left my government job with the benefits and supposed stability and lost the matched contributions to my pension plan.
Perhaps you have experienced something similar. The impact this and other negative experiences I had with other leaders, was to associate the negative qualities I had seen and felt with leadership. When asked to join a Women’s Leadership Network a number of years into my career and to speak at their monthly meeting, I felt anxiety and fear rise up. Was I really a leader? For many years I denied that fact and I believe it was largely due to the negative experiences I had had with female leaders in my various positions.
In order to be an effective leader, it is obviously helpful to have experienced and been mentored by one or a several “good” leaders. Those who you respect and view as positive role models. That said, if you’ve not been that fortunate, it is important to reflect on your experience with leaders in your life and notice how that has affected your perception of leadership and interest in being a leader.
Are you telling yourself a leadership story that is no longer serving you? Is it time to change the narrative?
I would love to hear whether you have experienced something similar and how your experience with leaders has affected your interest in and comfort with being a leader. I invite your comments below.
What are you doing to contribute toward building peace in your family, community, workplace, the world?
Today is International Day of Peace (“Peace Day“) a day that is observed around the world on September 21st. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 “as a shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.”
You may be thinking “how can I contribute to building peace in the world?” How can I really make a difference?
I believe that we all have a role to play in helping build peace in the world, and that each and every one of us CAN make a difference.
Building peace starts from the inside out. When we find inner peace and model it for others, we then help build peace in our families, our communities, our workplaces … the world.
What do I mean by peace?
I’d like to share a poem that for me describes inner peace (source unknown).
It does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble
or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of
these things and still be calm
in your heart.”
What do you do to find inner peace?
Here are a few proven strategies and powerful practices that I use to help stay calm, focused and grounded.
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.”
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.
Throughout the Day:
Spend regular time in nature – Being in nature is therapeutic. Walking among trees (e.g. in parks and forests) releases stress in our bodies. After several decades of research, the Japanese have demonstrated that walking among trees decreases our heart rate, our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces. Being in on or by water clears our energy field and helps ground us.
Be grateful for what you have. On awakening or at the end of the day write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. There is mounting evidence on the benefits of gratitude:
“With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.
In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness
lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also
helps people connect to something larger than themselves
as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
For additional tools to support you to find inner peace and also to help build peace in your family, community, workplace … the world, check out my book “Learning to Dance with Life” that is underpinned by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts.
I’d love to hear what tools you use to start your days off right, and to find peace amidst the chaos of daily life and work. I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences below.
Here’s to helping build peace in the world one person at a time!
 Thompson, Pamela, Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women, p. 144
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
boundaries. Learn to say no. This is important at work, and with family and
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/
from technology for at least 24 hours one day a week (e.g. on weekends) if
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/B0145ZGDO2that 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.
A habit is defined as: “a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior … ; an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary …: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition” (Merriam-Webster dictionary – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit)
When we choose to make
something a habit, we integrate it into our lives and regularly repeat it, so
over time we don’t have to make a decision about whether or not to do it. Becoming
consciously aware of the benefits a positive habit brings to you, such as a feeling of calmness and being grounded that
comes from meditating daily, is beneficial. Such positive results support you
to continue those behaviors.
What habits have served you well in 2019 that you wish
to bring into 2020?
I encourage you to spend some
time reflecting on those habits that have supported your physical, emotional,
social and spiritual health and to writing them down. A personal example is – The habits I commit to continuing in 2020 are:
Daily stretch routine
Regular yoga classes (3 times/week)
Regular walks in nature (3 or more times/week)
Listening to my body and trusting in its wisdom.
What new habits do you wish to embrace in the New
The new habits I commit to embracing are:
Unplugging from technology for 24 hours or more every
Writing on a regular basis (i.e. 4 or more times/week
for 20 minutes or more each time)
Ending my days reflecting on what I am grateful for
and any lessons learned
Having regular massages and/or energy work (every 6
weeks to 8 weeks)
Becoming more conscious of living in the present
moment and practicing mindfulness
Meeting with friends one or more times/week
Increasing the percentage of plants and legumes in my
diet to 50 percent
What habits do I commit to letting go of/releasing in
Judging myself and others
The belief that in order to be loved and valued I need
to perform and achieve each day
Spending so much time on the computer daily.
Writing down what you commit
to, strengthens the possibility of you actually creating new habits and
releasing old ones that no longer serve you.
I’d love to hear what habits you are bringing into
2020, what new ones you are creating and which ones you are choosing to let go
of. I invite you to share your thoughts below.
If you’ve been following previous posts you’ll know that I “pressed the pause button” on my business in late June of this year. What I mean by this is I consciously decided to take some time off even though I was healthy, but was feeling a bit tired and uninspired. You may check out this post – https://pamela-thompson.com/creating-space-the-how-and-why/ – to learn more about how I consciously created more space in my life.
I’m excited to share that within the past 2 weeks, I’ve become inspired, feel re-energized and a new direction for my business has surfaced. I’ve realized that I want to integrate elements of my consulting business with my coaching business and to serve heart-centered leaders and changemakers. Stay tuned for more details to come!
The intention of this post is to share the lessons learned from my creating space “experiment”. This past few months have been one of only a couple of times in my life when I have consciously decided to stop working, to spend more time “being” and to focus on “getting out of my head” and “into my body”. Perhaps you relate?
One of my friends recently referred to the past 4.5 months as a “fallow” period in my life. A time similar to winter (in the northern hemisphere) when crops and perennial plants go underground and it looks like they are dead and nothing is happening. What really is occurring is that they are in hibernation and things are happening but they aren’t evident. I recently heard that grizzly bears give birth while in hibernation. How cool is that! I feel like even though I wasn’t actively reflecting and wondering what to do next during this period, that things were indeed happening. Similar to a new green shoot pushing itself out of the ground, I feel like the new ideas for my work organically emerged.
So what were the key lessons I learned from this conscious “fallow” period?
Spending time in nature (almost daily) was an incredible gift. Now if I don’t go for a walk every day to a nearby park or the ocean for at least 20 to 30 minutes, I feel like I need and haven’t gotten my nature “hit”. I don’t feel as energized, joyful and as calm as when I immerse myself in nature daily.
I now feel more in touch with my body. I’ve changed my diet and have a lot less indigestion than before my “sabbatical”.
I feel more relaxed and that is a state I can access more easily than before.
I am more joyful and playful and feel more connected to my “inner child”.
I feel more present in my conversations with others.
I feel more sensitive to those around me and have to be careful not to take on their stress or negative energy
I feel like I’m letting go of some old patterns that no longer serve me; e.g. trying to change someone I care about when they demonstrate unhealthy practices.
I feel much gratitude for having been able to give myself this gift.
I realize that we can’t all take 4.5 months off every time we’re feeling tired and uninspired. However, I do believe that consciously creating space in our lives is therapeutic, reduces stress and stimulates our creativity, not to mention the positive benefits it has on our relationships.
I’d love to hear from you about strategies you’ve found helpful to create space and if you’ve done something similar to my recent experiment, what you discovered. Feel free to comment below and to share this with others.