This is the second in a series of personal reflections on what has changed and what remains relevant since I wrote “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” ten years ago.
In “Learning to Dance with Life”, I coined the term “Creative Living”. It is defined as “the conscious cultivation of improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace in your life (p. 35).” In today’s world of constant change and much conflict and strife globally, Creative Living is more important than ever. Having tools and strategies to ground us and help us respond from a place of inner peace and understanding rather than conflict and reactivity, is so needed.
I also identified seven keys to Creative Living which I believe continue to be important to help us prevent and heal from burnout, and live a life of radiant health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace. The seven keys are:
- Listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom
- Tap into and express your creative side
- Consciously create right and left brain-body balance
- Live in alignment with your core values
- Believe that you are here to make a difference
- Learn from and embrace life transitions
- Find inner peace, and build peace in your family, friends, community, workplace … the world.
There is also now more documented evidence supporting each of the seven keys.
Based on some feedback I received in the past, I’m not certain that some people understood that Creative Living and the seven keys associated with it, supported me and others to heal from burnout. I know for certain that integrating these seven keys and the proven strategies and powerful practices associated with them, together, have enabled me to heal from the inside out and to live a life of improved health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace.
In the book, I identify seven elements of Creative Living. They are:
- Body wisdom
- Core Values
- Life Transitions
- Inner Peace.
“The elements may be likened to seeds that germinate when nourished with sufficient water, food, and warmth. The “work that we do around each seed, enables us to cultivate a unique garden of health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace (p. 36).” I stand by this statement and am living proof of it.
How about you? Do you relate to all or any of the seven keys and elements above? I welcome your thoughts and experiences below.
I was recently nudged to reread a book I wrote ten years ago. From that experience I’m called to share my reflections and reframe the book through a lens that I hope will make it more valued and understood by more people. This is the first in a series of posts on those reflections.
What has changed? (since I wrote “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” )
In the past ten years, more and more influential women, and some men, are coming out of the woodwork and acknowledging that they have burnt out. An example is Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand who in January 2023, announced “I no longer have enough in the tank to do the job”, and declared that was why she was stepping down.
It is being acknowledged more widely that the traditional ways of doing business and being successful; of driving and striving, valuing competition over collaboration, and leading from our heads and egos rather than from our hearts, are no longer sustainable. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global, has shared her story of collapsing from overwork and why she created Thrive Global. It was as a result of her experience of “working day and night” and the negative impact it had, and her desire to share that there is a healthier way to be “successful”.
Leadership qualities such as collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence, inclusiveness, and intuition (typically associated with the feminine) are being acknowledged as important and needed to solve complex issues of today such as climate change and systemic racism. See https://pamela-thompson.com/why-feminine-leadership-holds-the-key-to-creating-a-world-that-works-for-everyone/ for a more detailed discussion.
The experience of the pandemic caused many people to burn out. Working at home, many parents had to also look after their children which stretched them very thin. Others had difficulty creating boundaries between their work and home life. Still others felt isolated which led to depression and other mental health issues.
In 2014 I said that I “almost” burnt out and I didn’t acknowledge that I had, which I now do.
I now have heightened awareness of the importance for me of being in nature every day, and what happens when I don’t get my nature “hits”.
What remains the same since writing “Learning to Dance with Life”
Some things remain the same. For example, the seven keys in my book are still relevant. Seven keys to consciously cultivating improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace in your life, and the powerful practices associated with each one, supporting us to heal from the inside out.
The proven strategies and powerful practices woven throughout the book are based on evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology, and the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts, and my own journey as well as that of women I have coached, all of which are being recognized more broadly as supporting healing and positive health and well-being.
The link between High Achieving Women and burnout. My work and the growing body of research related to burnout demonstrates that having qualities of a High Achieving Woman increase your risk of burning out.
When I was writing “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” my editor wondered whether a more appropriate title might be “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for Driven Women”. Perhaps that is so, as many women who I would consider “high achieving” do not perceive themselves as such. While writing “Learning to Life” I interviewed women from three continents who I perceived as high achieving and some of them said things like, “I’m not a High Achieving Women or, I don’t have any great accomplishments to my name, or I’m not in the corporate world, or it sounds arrogant to call myself a High Achieving Woman.” I think that is still the case today.
I identified nineteen attributes of High Achieving Women that I validated in my interviews that still hold true today (in chapter 1). The majority of High Achieving Women tend to give more than they receive, and many are challenged to reach out for support. The also spend much more time doing than being.
Why I focused on women.
- More and more women are becoming leaders, managers and entrepreneurs
- Increasing numbers of women are primary breadwinners in their families
- Women in all cultures transmit their values and wisdom to their families
- Women have the power to change the world.
Why I wrote the book including that “I’m called to get the message out about the negative impacts on our bodies, minds and relationships that result from driving ourselves, not listening to our bodies, and living in our left brain (p. 4).”
I welcome your thoughts and comments below on what you believe has changed in the past 10 years related to burnout and how to prevent and heal from it.
 “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Though it’s most often caused by problems at work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.” Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/burnout
When was the last time you truly rewarded yourself for a job well done? In my former life of driving and striving, I would complete something on my list, check it off and get on with the next thing. I didn’t take time to celebrate.
Recently I handed over the leadership of a national non-profit I founded about three years ago to two extremely capable women. I feel so blessed that they said yes to taking over the reins. Founding and running a non-profit is similar, to starting up and running a business. You need to generate revenue, identify who you are serving and provide them with products and services that meet their needs. As a leader, it is important to create a team that works well together and inspire them with your vision and mission.
When I founded Female Wave of Change Canada – https://fwoccanada.com on December 7, 2020, it was part of a commitment to the global body Female Wave of Change – https://femalewaveofchange.com to create a legal entity to build the community and grow the movement across Canada. We believe that feminine leadership holds the key to creating a better world; a more conscious, equitable, just, sustainable, and peaceful one. From the outset when Ingun Bol, the founder, invited me to be Ambassador for Canada of Female Wave of Change, I felt the passion and alignment to their philosophy and values. The fact that Ingun did not provide a model of how the community “should” be grown was another thing that attracted me. The opportunity to create something new and inspire others to believe in our mission and vision and truly model the attributes of a feminine leader appealed to me. Such attributes include: authenticity, inclusiveness, collaborative, emotionally intelligent … (explained in more detail here: https://pamela-thompson.com/why-feminine-leadership-holds-the-key-to-creating-a-world-that-works-for-everyone)
In this constantly changing and uncertain world we live in, how many of us take the time to really listen to what our heart and gut are telling us? Perhaps that is one of the benefits of aging. When we are younger, we may set goals and pursue careers based on what others are telling us we’re good at. As we age and hopefully become wiser, we really don’t care much about what others think and gain more clarity about what will truly bring us joy.
I knew more than six months before I mentioned to my Board that I needed to hand over the leadership and that my passion was starting to wane. My heart and gut were telling me that it was important to open up some more space to be creative; to write that next book, to start painting, to be open to other possibilities, whatever they might be. For awhile, I was afraid to announce to the Board my intention. However, when I said in early May of this year that by the end of September, I wanted to hand over the reins, I was extremely clear. I had also considered that if no one came forward that I would have to potentially shut down an organization that I had poured my “heart and soul” into. Having that clarity, I believe assisted me and the Board to decide on a Co-Chair model with two women leaders sharing the responsibility of moving the organization forward with the support of others on the Board. It is also a beautiful way to model collaboration, one of the attributes of a feminine leader.
I’m proud to say that we have a strong committed Board and a core of paid members who attend our monthly virtual gatherings with featured guests on a regular basis. We have also co-created a “Mother Earth Ambassador Program”; an experiential outdoor education program for girls ages 9 to 12 that teaches them about Mother Earth, the Mother Tree, and how to become Mother Earth Ambassadors in their homes, schools and communities. More details here: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-mother-nature-the-mother-tree-and-feminine-leadership-intersect-a-unique-program-empowering-leaders-of-the-future/. The first cohort of the program is happening in Metchosin, BC on Vancouver Island and is scheduled to finish in early December. We are currently seeking partners to implement this program across Canada and beyond. Feel free to reach out if you and your organization is interested in that possibility by emailing me directly at email@example.com.
If interested in learning more about Female Wave of Change Canada I invite you to explore our website: https://fwoccanada.com and register to attend one of our virtual monthly gatherings that typically happen the third Wednesday of every month from 4:30 to 6 pm Pacific/7:30 to 9 pm Eastern.
So, how did I reward myself? I planned a three-week vacation in Portugal and invited a dear friend to join me. We had a blast! How will you reward yourself and celebrate your next achievement?
I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
This morning as part of my morning practice, I pulled an oracle card with the message “Embrace the in-between”. That card is so relevant as I am in the midst of yet another transition. As of September 26, I am handing over the reins of a national member-based non-profit I founded on December 7, 2020. It has truly been a labor of love.
Within the last six months I received a strong message that I was done. I shared with my Board in early May at our monthly meeting that as of the end of September I was finished leading the organization. We brainstormed some names of capable women to take over and also decided that a Co-Chair model was a good way to move forward. It also embodies the quality of collaboration which is one of the feminine leadership qualities we speak and teach about at Female Wave of Change’s Women Leading in Change Program and in our programming and monthly gatherings of Female Wave of Change Canada.
I’m happy to report that two extremely capable and gifted women came forward and agreed to take over the leadership. I was over-joyed as I poured a lot of my heart and energy into growing the organization and didn’t want to have to close it down.
Having been through many personal and professional transitions in my life and having coached, written about, and facilitated workshops and retreats on navigating life transitions, I am still learning. The biggest lesson for me right now is learning to embrace the “in-between”; the phase between where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing and the future business, career, life of my dreams.
There is a tendency to rush through this phase as it is filled with uncertainty and often feels uncomfortable. Yet this is the phase where you have the opportunity to create your new reality. How can we embrace the “in-between” in a way that will support us in moving toward that new life, career or business?
Here are a few insights from my own journey:
- Embracing change is an inside job.
- Identify what you need to let go of in your life, career, business, or relationship you are transitioning from. If it was a well-paying position, I invite you to let go of the status, the financial security, and the identity associated with that position. Here are some strategies to support you in “letting go” – https://pamela-thompson.com/letting-go-its-easier-said-than-done/
- The next step is to identify the lessons learned. A helpful exercise is to write down what you do not want; for example, in a future position such as: working 50 plus hours a week on a regular basis, working without a team to support you … then flip these and write down what you do want.
- Focus on how you want to feel in that new position, relationship, life … . Try using the stem I choose the end result (from William Whitecloud’s work) of a life of freedom and adventure; one where I awaken each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart so happy and grateful to be living a life of joy, connection, fulfillment, prosperity, and abundance.
- Journaling as part of your morning practice is helpful, without any expectation. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and put pen to paper and notice what you notice. I’ve found by doing this it opens up my creativity. An excellent resource is Cynthia Gregory’s Journaling as Sacred Practice: An Act of Extreme Bravery.
- Spend time in nature on a regular basis. Having daily walks by the ocean or to a nearby park is so therapeutic. Notice the beauty that surrounds you. Take a few moments to sit on a park bench and look up at the amazing trees. Nature is calming and grounds us. It helps us to slow down and to not think so much.
- Get clear on your passions is helpful in this “in-between” phase. A useful exercise is:
My unique Strengths and Talents
- Draw a chart with two columns. In the first column, write down all the things that you are good at, or things that come easily and naturally to you. They could be things such as athletics, mathematics, writing, whatever you feel fits.
- In the second column, write down the things you enjoy doing. They could include being in nature, teaching others, using your body, playing piano….
If you feel challenged by this, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child.
Insights and Observations on My unique Strengths and Talents
- Now look at both lists and circle the items that are similar or identical. Then review the circled items. Go inside and get in touch with the feeling each one evokes inside you. Does it excite you? Does it have little or no effect on you?
- Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 according to the level of passion you have around it (1 being “no interest at all” and 10 being “red hot”).
I encourage you to finish this exercise. Sharing your findings with others has additional impact as you may gain insights and support from them.
Keep in mind that even though you are good at something it doesn’t mean that you are passionate about it.
- I urge you to not rush in this phase or listen to others and what they say you should be doing. Practice going inside and asking yourself, what do I really desire?
There is so much to be learned from the “in-between” phase of a transition.
I welcome your shares below based on what you have found helpful to embrace the “in-between” when you are in a personal or professional transition. It is valuable to learn from one another and to realize we are not alone.
 Card from Colleen Baron-Reid’s Spirit Animal oracle deck
 excerpted from pages 108 & 109 of “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women”
In the northern hemisphere where I live, spring is a time of reawakening and rebirth. After a long cold winter where the flowers are deep in the ground and the bears are hibernating, spring encourages us to pause, reflect and reawaken to new possibilities. It is a time when buds start to appear on trees, and beautiful daffodils and tulips burst forth to remind us to notice the beauty in our lives and to celebrate new beginnings.
What new beginnings are you celebrating? What new project do you feel brewing within and how are you wanting to share it with the world? Is it a new book, a new offering, a new partnership? How does it make you feel? Get in touch with those feelings and express them in your own way. That could be putting on your best tunes and dancing in your living room, going out for a walk by the ocean or in a nearby park. It could be painting, drawing, or journalling about what’s in your heart. It could be meeting a friend for lunch or a beverage and sharing the new project or partnership you’re excited about.
When you reawaken to new possibilities, how do you feel? You may be noticing you are low energy, and you need to take some time to refill your tank after a long, cold winter. You may be feeling something like a small shoot starting to grow within your heart that you’re not yet ready to share as it is still growing and taking shape.
I encourage you to take some time for you. Go for a walk in nature and notice the beauty that surrounds you. Listen to the birds and notice various signs of spring. Identify five things you are grateful for and really feel that gratefulness in your body. Another activity that is therapeutic and helpful to do at this time of year is to cull – go through your closet and identify clothes that no longer fit or suit your style. Donate these clothes to a charity you care about. If you’re a paper person like me, go through your filing cabinet and shred or burn documents you no longer need.
Perhaps imagine yourself as one of the spring flowers you most appreciate. For me that is the daffodils who remind me of fun, playfulness, and dancing with life.
How are you choosing to dance with life and reawaken to the new possibilities and magic of spring? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.