Why Feminine Leadership Holds the Key to Creating a World that Works for Everyone

Why Feminine Leadership Holds the Key to Creating a World that Works for Everyone

Many of the critical issues we are facing in the world today are due to holding on to old paradigms and belief systems that no longer serve us. These include: valuing logic over intuition, leading from our heads and egos rather than from our hearts, rewarding individuals over teams and undervaluing collaboration and teamwork, believing that we are different from others based on religion, race, country of origin …,  and acting and believing that our planet’s natural resources are infinite.

I believe that “authentic” feminine leadership holds the key to addressing these critical challenges and to creating a world that works for everyone.

What do I mean by a world that works for everyone? In a nutshell I mean a more equitable, humane, just, sustainable and peaceful world.

Why feminine leadership and Why Now? Why the time is right for women’s leadership and active participation in creating a world that works for everyone:

  • Lessons from history; when women are involved in decision-making and politics, outcomes are more inclusive and positive
  • Lessons from COVID-19 and women political leaders’ rapid and effective responses using their feminine energy and feminine values; (e.g. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, British Columbia’s provincial Medical Officer of Health) 
  • Recent demonstrations against the police and anti-black racism around the world and the acknowledgement of systemic racism in our societies and institutions by leaders worldwide.

The world is ripe for change. We are at a point to examine lessons from the past, let go of old beliefs and structures that are no longer working, explore new paradigms and focus on creating a better world: a more equitable, humane, just, sustainable and peaceful world.

The difference between masculine and feminine energy – Female Energy (Yin) is associated with BEING and GIVING whereas Male Energy (Yang) is associated with DOING and RECEIVING.

Our organizations and societies have been focused on DOING and RECEIVING and it is time to create a balance between Female and Male Energy. When people feel pressure to continually drive and strive (be in their masculine energy), it creates chronic stress and negatively impacts their bodies, their minds, their relationships, their productivity and their bottom lines.

It is time for more women to step into leadership positions and for feminine leadership qualities to replace the dominantly masculine ones that our systems and organizations have been built upon.

What are Authentic Feminine Leadership Qualities and Why are they Important to Creating a world that works for everyone?[1]

An authentic feminine leader is:

  • Compassionate – “feeling and showing sympathy and concern for others” (Oxford dictionary). “Compassionate people often have other positive traits like generosity, kindness, and understanding. People who are compassionate feel the need to impact the world around them in positive ways.”[2]

In order to create a world that works for everyone this quality is essential. To better understand and deal with critical issues such as systemic racism and gender-based violence, we need to learn and model compassion. To be compassionate has been perceived as weak and not what leaders typically do; however, as Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, so thoughtfully commented recently:

“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

  • Intuitive – uses their body as well as their mind to make decisions e.g. heart and gut.

When I reflect on my life, all the decisions I have made by “going inside” and listening for the answers, have always been the right decisions for me; whereas those made solely from making the ‘pros and cons’ list and only using left-brain logic have not always been the ‘right’ ones. Did you know that our heart and our gut have nerve endings that send signals to our brains, and that our hearts and intestines contain neural tissue? The HeartMath Institute[3] has done research to show the powerful influence our hearts and guts have on decision-making and strategic thinking. I encourage you to think about how you typically make decisions and the impacts of those decisions.

To remind us of the importance and power of intuition I offer this insightful quotation from a brilliant man:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” (Albert Einstein)

  • Creative – As a leader is important to create a shared vision to lead and inspire others. I’ve experienced first-hand the power of creating a shared vision among various levels of an organization while doing strategic planning and also when designing and implementing international projects that involve different disciplines, cultures and religions. A well-designed and facilitated process has the power to create understanding and ownership and to change attitudes and beliefs. To encourage creativity and innovation it is also important to foster a culture that encourages experimentation and learns from its mistakes (e.g. annual Failure Report from Engineers without Borders).

In the words of Ashley Good in Engineer’s without Borders 2017 Annual Failure Report:

“We hope this report serves as an acknowledgement that systems change is complex and therefore some degree of failure is inevitable. … we need to create room for ourselves to try new things and experiment in pursuit of figuring out what might work to shift the system towards our vision. Therefore, the best thing we can do is be willing to take the risk of trying something new, and at the same time, get really good at detecting where our efforts are failing early, analyzing effectively, and applying our learning to continuously improve [4]

  • Collaborative – believes in and models collaboration. This is important when dealing with complex situations and issues. Barbara Gray[5], an organizational theorist and veteran mediator, has written extensively on the importance of involving multiple disciplines and sectors to solve complex problems. 
  • Inclusive – recognizes the importance of different races, religions and ethnic groups being represented “at the table” so their voices are heard, understood and included in the process and outcome.
  • Emotionally Intelligent  (EI) – capable of recognizing their own emotions and those of others, discerning between different feelings and labelling them appropriately, using emotional information to guide their thinking and behavior, and managing and/or adjusting their emotions to adapt to environments or achieve their goals … Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater job performance, mental health and leadership skills. [6] Leaders who are not emotionally intelligent often surround themselves with people similar in thoughts, beliefs and actions to themselves, do not see their blind spots and also are challenged with differing points of view and in being creative.
  • Authentic – “walks their talk”; clear on their own values and beliefs and lives and leads aligned with these.[7] As a leader it is important to consistently “walk your talk” so people feel safe, trust you and are aware of what is expected of them

What can you do to help create a world that works for everyone?

  1. Get clear on and live life in alignment with your core values.  (For more info on values see https://pamela-thompson.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/)
  2. Practice Regular Self-care. Do yoga, go for regular walks in nature, have a bubble bath.
  3. Listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom.

Some tools to help you connect with your body’s wisdom are Mindfulness practices. Such practices help us get out of our heads and into our bodies. They help us to live “in the present moment”.

Think about someone you’ve hired in the past, who on paper looked great, but you had an uneasy feeling about during the interview process. You let your left-brain logic rule your decision-making, and within a few months had evidence that this person was NOT a good fit for your organization. For tools to assist you to learn to make decisions using your body’s wisdom check out chapter 4 in “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” available atwww.amazon.com/dp/B0145ZGDO2

  • Tap into and express your creative side (right brain) on a regular basis.  

Is there something you enjoy doing that when you do it you become immersed in it and lose track of time? It could be film editing, painting, writing, gardening, cooking … . Chances are when you have this experience, it is one of your passions, and when you tune into it you are tapping into your creative right brain. Usually you feel energized and positive while engaging in a passion. When you are filled with childlike wonder you also get out of your head and into your body. Regularly taking time to do something you enjoy that is creative helps reduce the stress in your body and takes your mind off work.

  • Choose an area of focus that you’re passionate about; e.g. climate change, women’s health, gender equality … and get involved with a group that is advocating in that area of focus; a group that you feel aligned with.

Here’s to You and to working together to create a world that works for us all!

Do you agree or disagree with the statement: Feminine Leadership holds the key to creating a world that works for everyone? I welcome your comments below.


[1] Note that men can also have and learn these qualities

[2] https://blog.mindvalley.com/compassion-vs-empathy/

[3] https://www.heartmath.org/

[4] https://www.ewb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/EWB_FAILURE-REPORT_EN_03-08-2018-pages.pdf

[5] Gray, B. 1989 Collaborating: Finding Common Ground for Multiparty Problems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence

[7] For more info on values see https://pamela-thompson.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/

Dealing with Uncertainty: Insights and Lessons Learned

Dealing with Uncertainty: Insights and Lessons Learned

COVID-19 has certainly put us all in touch with what it’s like to live with uncertainty. It has given us the opportunity to reflect on what uncertainty means to us, how we typically respond to it, and to unearth lessons from the past to support us during such challenging times.

What is uncertainty? To me uncertainty arises when change comes to us “out of the blue” or is imposed on us by someone or something that is outside of our control.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines uncertainty as: “a situation in which something is not known, or something that is not known for certain” and “the feeling of not being sure what will happen in the future” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org).

Uncertainty means different things to different people. I invite you to take a few minutes to think about your responses to the following questions. You may wish to journal about them.

How do you define uncertainty?

When you think about uncertainty what words or feelings come up for you?

I invite you to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 in relation to how you typically respond to uncertainty; 1 being “scares me to death” and 10 being “I thrive on it.”

What have you learned from past experiences with uncertainty that you can apply to your experience during these challenging times? What life experiences have prepared you to be less anxious and less stressed during this pandemic?

What I’ve noticed about myself, friends, colleagues and clients is that those of us who have had previous experiences with uncertainty and processed them positively, have coped better with the current situation than those who have not.

Here are a few examples:

Living and working in conflict zones and environments with restricted movement:

I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. In Afghanistan I was driven to work every day in a bullet proof vehicle by an armed Afghan driver. We were followed by a “soft skin” vehicle with 3 Afghans holding AK- 47s. The first week I was rather “taken aback” by all of the military presence, but soon I relaxed and realized that “came with the territory”. Each day I didn’t know whether our vehicle would be pulled over by the police and be questioned about our papers and then taken to a nearby police station, or not. I lived in a state of constant uncertainty.

One day I was sitting in the rose garden of the Ministry of Public Health where I was working and having lunch with one of my female team members. All of sudden there was a huge explosion. A number of suicide bombers had attacked the military hospital across the road from the Ministry and killed numerous Afghan medical students, patients and their families. Immediately I received a text from my Head of Security advising me to stay where I was and that a vehicle would come for me soon/when it was safe to do so.

I lived in a small compound with 2 large houses and a small building that housed our guards and drivers. The compound was surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. There were 3 men with AK-47s guarding the inside our walls at all times. I had to sign a waiver and commit to not walking in the street or outside of the compound due the security situation. Sometimes after work I would walk in circles inside the small compound as I so craved exercise and being in nature. Thankfully, we did have a small rose garden on the property.

How did I deal with the uncertainty of living and working in a conflict zone? Here are some strategies I found helpful:

  • Did yoga every morning before heading out to work (sometimes with a colleague and sometimes on my own)
  • Skyped with my Sweetie almost every morning; connected with someone I cared about who also cared about me
  • Grounded myself every morning before heading to work
  • Worked out in the on-site gym on a regular basis
  • Often listened to music
  • Surrounded myself with beauty; e.g. created a bedroom that had some beautiful local art including several small carpets and a water-color painting I purchased locally
  • Started a gratitude journal and wrote down at least 3 things I was grateful for at the end of every day; Also journaled regularly about my feelings and experiences
  • When I noticed some anxiety coming up, I took three deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth (releasing oxytocin, the hormone that relaxes your body and helps you feel at peace)
  • Almost every Thursday night, I connected with my colleagues; other technical advisors and consultants who were working on various projects with the Afghan government. We considered this our weekend as Friday was prayer day and the only day we had off every week. We sometimes had a bonfire, roasted marshmallows; often we sang to the guitar music played by one of my colleagues. Sometimes we danced. We laughed and shared experiences together. Sometimes we drank a bit too much!

What I learned from these experiences was that I could live with uncertainty. I found that rarely was I anxious. I learned that I could live in a contained environment and still be happy, focused and do good work. I also learned some coping strategies that I can now apply to future times of uncertainty.

Over to you. What past experiences with uncertainty can support you during this challenging time? It may be that you were laid off from a job you loved “out of the blue”. It could be that a partner one day told you they no longer loved you and had found someone else.

If you have chosen to move and lived in many places or changed your work or career a number of times, this may also have made you more flexible and able to cope with uncertainty and change. Whereas, if you’ve worked for the same company for 30 years or lived in the same town you were born in, you may have more challenges dealing with uncertainty.

What I know to be true is that it is not enough to have had challenging and uncertain life and work experiences. We need to have processed them in a positive way. A helpful framework and tool to do this is my 5-step “Art of Change” Framework. Using this tool, you identify a change or uncertain situation you want to work on and where you are on your “transition journey”. You then do the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are in; such as letting go of negative emotions, beliefs or behaviors that are no longer serving you, envisioning how you would like your life or work to look and feel like and then taking action to make it happen. This framework is underpinned by the belief that “embracing change (and uncertainty) is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”. To learn more, you may access “The Art of Change Framework” at: https://pamela-thompson.com/.

I believe that times of intense change and uncertainty provide us with the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to dream big dreams and create new possibilities.

What previous experiences with uncertainty have helped you cope during this time? What tools or strategies have you found helpful to deal with uncertainty? I invite your comments below.

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.

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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