To make a life change, moving from one way of being and living to another, requires letting go. What do I mean? And why does it matter?
An example is when we are let go from a corporate position and are faced with the decision of whether to seek a new employer or start our own business. If we consciously choose to become an entrepreneur, our beliefs and emotions around the transition are quite different than if we are given a “pink slip” and are forced to leave a position. In either scenario, we need to let go of; for example, a regular paycheck, status (perhaps), “perks” such as a company car, an expense account …. If we consciously choose to leave, we may have some fear of the unknown and must deal with feelings of uncertainty. However, the emotions we have around the experience are different. In the case of being fired or “right-sized” we may feel anger, sadness, grief, as well as fear of the unknown.
I recall in the early 1990s when I started my first business. I had initially been lured away from a good government job to work with a management consulting group on a handshake. My father thought I was crazy to leave a good job with benefits, but the idea of consulting and being an entrepreneur was exciting. I recall my husband at the time had been encouraging me to strike out on my own for a few years. I noticed fear coming up in me and it took an offer from a consulting group to be the “carrot” that lured me away from a more stable position. That said, I was excited and energized about the new opportunity. In contrast, people I know who’ve been let go and forced to leave their jobs sometimes feel angry, victimized and low in energy. This can over time negatively impact their health, self-confidence, and their relationships with others.
So why is important for us to learn to let go when faced with a life transition be it chosen or imposed on us?
If we don’t learn to let go of certain emotions and beliefs, we may continue to repeat the same patterns in our lives and remain unhappy and unfulfilled. An example is if we keep choosing positions for the money rather than getting in touch with our passions and purpose and choosing positions in alignment with those passions and purpose.
Here are some proven strategies for “letting go”.
Identify and surface the emotions you have around a current or previous transition; for example, anger at a boss, a previous partner, a friend. The Feeling Wheel by Dr. Gloria Wilcox is a useful tool to help you get in touch with and name your emotions.
Release those emotions from your body. When you think about a particular emotion notice any tension in your body and where it is located. It is often felt in your gut or your heart. Think of emotions associated with past hurts and transitions as “rocks in a backpack” and visualize and experience releasing them all from that backpack.
Forgive yourself and others. This is powerful and often keeps us stuck and holds us back from moving forward. A mindfulness tool that facilitates forgiveness (of self and others) is “Forgiveness Meditation”. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbHKCy4f6Dk for a process developed by Jack Kornfield, a psychologist trained in Eastern and Western Psychology.
Write a letter to your previous boss, partner, friend from a balanced and empathic perspective. There are always two sides to every story. Reflect on the lessons learned from that experience.
If you still have anger and strong emotions associated with a past relationship, it is therapeutic to write a letter to that person sharing how they wounded you and what the experience was like from your perspective and then to either burn it ceremoniously or tear it up into small pieces and at the same time commit to releasing the negative emotions associated with the relationship.
We all face a number of transitions throughout our lives. Learning how to let go is the key to moving forward and living a life of health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace.
I welcome your thoughts below on your experiences with “letting go” and strategies you have found helpful to “let go” of beliefs, emotions, feelings that are no longer serving you.
“We all have masculine and feminine within us, and when it’s all balanced it’s like accessing a super power.” (Alicia Keys)
What do we mean by “masculine” and “feminine” and why is balancing them important?
Much has been written about the sacred feminine (yin) and the sacred masculine (yang). Although each person possesses both masculine and feminine energies, usually one type is more developed or dominant. This dominant energy affects how you perceive yourself, others, your environments and how you interact with the world.
The qualities of each type of energy are outlined in the table below. *
Feminine Energy (Yin) BEING & GIVING
Masculine Energy (Yang) DOING & RECEIVING
Linear & Logical
Allow for “flow”
Excerpted from “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” (2015) by Pamela Thompson, p. 84
When you live life feeling like you are on a hamster wheel and can’t get off, you are exhibiting many of the characteristics of masculine energy. It’s important to be aware of the qualities of each type of energy because being out of balance negatively impacts our bodies, our minds, our relationships and our work. For example, if we are constantly in our masculine energy, over time it leads to illness, lack of fulfillment, unhappiness, and restlessness. Whereas if we are dominated by our feminine energy, we become ill, resentful, needy and insecure.
How can you find and create your own unique balance between your feminine and masculine energies? A good place to start is with an assessment.
Here’s an illuminating exercise:
At the end of the day, take some time to pause and reflect on your day. Create 2 lists. Put at the top of one list “Doing” and the other list “Being”. Without thinking too much, do a brain dump of all the things you’ve done in that day. This could include: planning with your team, chairing a meeting, doing a performance review … . Then write down all the things you would categorize as “being” such as: walking mindfully in nature, meditating, spending time focusing attentively on someone or something.
If it’s been an unusual day, take the time to also reflect on the previous day.
Then create 2 other lists. Think about all your “Giving” behaviors that day. Examples include: making a meal for a sick friend, volunteering your time to assist others, listening to a friend’s tale of woe. .
Now think about all your “Receiving” behaviors for that day. Receiving behaviors include: treating yourself to a yoga class and being present during it, meditating for at least 10 minutes, reaching out for support when you needed it; such as “Sweetie, do you mind driving the kids to school today? I’ve got a lot on my plate.”, treating yourself to a bubble bath or massage.
Now look at your lists. What do you notice?Are you giving more than receiving and doing more than being?
Then take a few moments to go into your body and notice how you are feeling. Are you low in energy? Are you feeling resentful? Are you finding you have a “short fuse” and that you are reacting rather than taking some thoughtful time to respond to people at home and/or at work?
I invite you to do this exercise for a few days and notice what you notice. I welcome your reflections and insights below.
Stay tuned for the next installment to discover some tips and tools for balancing your masculine and feminine energy.
For centuries, people from different cultures around the world have shared their lessons and knowledge through the oral tradition of storytelling. With the introduction of the printing press, the possibility of writing stories down and sharing them far and wide become a reality. Now with the internet and social media, we can share our stories, blogs, insights and ideas with people from around the globe from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
So why is storytelling so important?
Stories connect us
When we read Bridget Jones’s Diary or Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, we realize we are not alone and are not the only ones who have certain personality quirks and are dealing with life challenges.
Stories promote understanding
When we read someone’s biography such as “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, we gain insight into what it was like to grow up as a black woman in the US during her time, in a family without a lot of financial resources and also what it’s like to move into the White House and become the First Lady after living a relatively private existence. When we read “Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree” it helps us understand what it could be like to be kidnapped as a young woman and enslaved by members of the Boko Haram, a radical Muslim group in Nigeria.
Stories help us heal
Many of us have stories of our past that we have locked away and not shared with anyone. An example is stories of childhood sexual abuse which need to be acknowledged and shared in order for us to heal and move on in our lives.
Stories give us hope
When we think of Martin Luther’s historic speech “I had a dream”, that dream and story laid the foundation for a different America.
Stories inspire us
When we read about someone who has faced tremendous odds and rose above them to be an amazing leader and changemaker, we are inspired by how resilient we can be as humans. Women or men who have come from poverty and risen above it to make the world a better place serve as role models for others in similar situations. They help us believe that anything is possible.
What story are you longing to tell?
A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to share a story as part of Female Wave of Change’s storytelling project. We were invited to submit a story that we thought would be helpful for others; one of 1000 words or less.
I’m excited to share that the “Stories Matter” E-book was launched at Female Wave of Change’s (FWoC) Global Conference on September 26th. This is a collection of stories contributed by women and men from all over the world: “stories of hope, of resilience, of courage, vulnerability and wisdom.”
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 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.
The other learning that stands out for me was some research Vern shared that demonstrated that the need to belongoutweighs 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.:”
Based on these learnings what actions can we take to move forward and create a better world? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions below.
 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
 “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)
 Excerpted and slightly modified from Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women by Pamela Thompson, pp. 153 & 154
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.