Wednesday, May 11, 2022

This or something better: why I quit my job

I quit my job. 

Quitting a job isn't big news these days, even with no new job to go to. The great resignation, or re-alignment, however you choose to frame it, is real, and many have made that choice. My former organization lost many employees over the last year; the small communications team I was part of lost four of us.  

My decision was a long time coming; after I expressed dissatisfaction with a decision around the end of my first year, our department director said, "well, you can always go work somewhere else." 

Seen at Pacific Place, Seattle
That was an early clue that perhaps this wasn't going to go well after all. (We leave managers, not jobs, right?) There were many that followed. 

However, I was hired to work directly with the CEO, and we quickly developed a great working relationship. I adored him. Humble, caring, committed, I learned a lot from him. He said I made him a better leader. But, also at my one-year point, he announced his retirement. The transition would take six months as we searched for and onboarded a new CEO. 

The only thing constant... 

I joined the organization not long after an acquisition, and within the first two years, much of the leadership turned over, new systems were added, policies and practices were revised, there were several organizational restructures, and of course, there were new required trainings. What was once an independent organization was now one of many under a national umbrella. And that's just the beginning of the complexity.    

Despite a director who couldn't manage and didn't lead, there were reasons to stay. I had delightful coworkers who were determined to make a difference, and internal clients I loved working with and duly respected. I led the transition communications for the new CEO. I advocated for and sought to embed equity and inclusion into daily work. I served as communications advisor to a dedicated board of directors and elevated their efforts. And then... a pandemic. 

I have to say... there's nothing quite like working in healthcare during a pandemic. From the initial 'watch' days of January and February, to the all-out insanity starting in March 2020, it was a work experience to be remembered. Then add the all-out social injustice exploding that summer—for a communicator who works with equity and diversity leadership, it doesn't get any more real.

When you know it's time to go

By summer 2021, I was depleted. Trying to make a difference in an organization where burnout and dissatisfaction are rampant was stifling, since my "why" behind the work I do is to make work, and ultimately life, better for people. Instead, I was a "content workhorse" (according to that director), with an audience stretched too thin to care. As the last woman standing in my department, I had a conversation with the staff social worker. He reminded me I still have my experience, my knowledge, and my values. 

It was time to leap, but I wasn't ready. I had work to see through, and emotionally, I was spent and struggled to envision anything else. At the beginning of 2022, however, I regrouped, then wrapped up planning for my DE&I, Women in Medicine, and HR clients, developed the content strategy for an e-magazine, wrote a story about a beloved, retiring leader, and finally gave my month's notice in late January. 

Now what? 

Now that I've been away for a couple of months, I can see what I accomplished and can envision a new future. I know my value; I know my worth. I know I make a difference. 

I am re-energizing and filling my proverbial cup, and I'm eager to explore whatever might be next. If anyone wants me to explain a gap in my resume, I have a few words for them. 

An aside: Resume gaps should never have been a thing as we learn and grow in more ways than professional settings and formal education; I'm thrilled we're (finally) collectively learning that rest is essential to innovation and productivity. 

And... I'm excited about the changes I see. I follow "future of work" leaders, blogs, and podcasts. Because I watched healthcare change almost overnight—quite literally—I know change is possible, even in an industry that's historically slow to change. 

Technology, the millennial mindset, and a pandemic finally transcended some of corporate's most egregious sacred cows. Command-and-control management is on its last proverbial legs—and it couldn't happen soon enough. Leaders must be authentic, empathetic, self-aware, and more transparent. Employee experience, something I've screamed from rooftops about in customer experience conversations, is taking center stage, beyond free snacks and ping pong tables. A business is only as good as those who work there. Care for staff in ways that matter and watch your business thrive. Your customers are paying attention.   

These changes make my heart sing. I long believed that so much of corporate culture was unhealthy for people and planet, and now, I believe it has the potential to be a force for good in the world. And the work I do contributes to that. 

My next right place will value what I offer, and with each job interview that holds promise, I find myself saying, "this or something better." I know it's out there. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

25 years: How did I get so lucky? (A love letter...)

The weekend "we" began:
1996, Cape Flattery, WA

It's extraordinary that here we are at what we together designated our anniversary date, 25 years later. Who knew, when we looked at each other intently after a few bottles of wine, that we'd land where we are now? 

Then: dangling our feet over cliff's edge at Cape Flattery, holding hands at Lake Crescent, camped in a defunct taxidermy shed in the wilds of the Olympic peninsula, Portishead our soundtrack... no thought of a future together.  

Now: we've traveled, climbed, sailed, hiked, and meandered through endless experiences together; you've traveled the world on ships, and here you are, back home with me. 

You are one of the smartest, most knowledgeable, skilled, talented, caring, and creative humans I've ever met. And yes, funny, even though you laugh at your jokes more than anyone else, while we laugh at you laughing at them. I don't think there's anything you can't do, and you're definitely the one I want to be with should the world abruptly end. (Maybe your sister, too.)

Together, we navigated some rough waters and dicey storms. The roughest, a year-long separation, taught us hard lessons with lasting value. I wouldn't trade that time for anything because it got us here, despite exquisite anguish.

I shared what we learned a few years later in a post called 18 tips. We'd set a new course and found our way. 

Now, at 25, we're clearly here for the long haul. I can't imagine my life without you (although I will... because Gavin de Becker's Gift of Fear). 

And, I count my blessings every day. You lift me up when I need lifting, hold me accountable when I don't do what I say I'm going to, call me out when I'm mired in my spaghetti brain, nudge me forward, and make me laugh because you can (and I make you laugh, too, even with, as your dear cousin once said, no humor of my own). 

With you, life is an endless adventure, an awesome exploration, and a living testament that we can create what we want, change what we must, and find #momentsofjoy in the here and now. I can't imagine a better partner to plan a life with, build a house with, work out every morning with, wake up to, and all the other big and small things we do.

To borrow from Red Green, "if she doesn't find ya handsome, she better find ya handy." Thankfully, you're both, and then some. 

Looking forward to what the future brings, knowing it just gets better from here. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Grace required: the end of this pandemic winter

Outside, the birds are singing and the plants are budding. 

As we say goodbye to winter and embrace the scents, sounds, and sights of spring, there's light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. Here in the northwest corner of these "united" states, the days are longer, it's light later, and on the horizon is a vaccine for everyone who wants one, even though the rolloutfor some of usis excruciatingly slow.  

Experience shared, but different 

What that means is that many of us are still hunkered down, tucked in at home, keeping ourselves and others safe, with some semblance of a meaningful life, while some venture out more safely. Some of us are exhausted, some are traumatized, some assess their risks and do what they must to stay sane, while the truly introverted relish the quiet and lowered expectations. 

When we finally put this year-long pandemic winter to bed, such as there will be an end, we will have some form of collective PTSD. While many of us have experienced trauma previously, none of us have experienced trauma together, so broadly, collectively; in this case, myriad losses, challenges, and major life changes due to a pandemic.  

Grace, required.  

To expect normalcy now and in the future is expecting too much. And while "normal" has a nice ring to it after what has seemed abnormal for so long now, an important question to ask is, "What do I want now?" Were the 'before times' all that or is there a better tomorrow ahead? 

While we are, generally speaking, a resilient and capable society, priding ourselves on productivity, we'll need time to reflect, regroup, and assign meaning to this experience. We must re-evaluate our expectations, and while I believe the last year had all of us assessing meaning and priorities, this may look different as we step back into "real" life. 

As we emerge, much has changed. Some of our favorite places are gone. Our habits have likely changed, both good and bad. And we may have lost friends or family, whether to the virus, other health conditions, or to personal beliefs we learned were too different from our own. 

Some of us are already working through this, but others will need more time because what's true for many is that dreams were paused, goals revised, priorities re-evaluated. To borrow from my corporate life, what do you want to stop, start, or keep? 

Personally, I feel like I'm coming out of a long hibernation, an endless winter with few interactions. I'm still head down, working deadline-to-deadline, staying home, staying safe until it's my turn for a vaccine, but hope is in the air and not far away. But as I shake off the dregs of winter, I'm thinking about what's next. 

I hope you'll give yourself grace to be, do, and feel different for a while. Take this time as we emerge to learn and experience the world a little more personally, more mindfully. Remember, your point of power is in *this* moment. 

What do you want to take away from this year of change?  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Buy the ticket, take the ride

“Don’t stop running!”

After signing my life away upon payment, those three words were the only instructions I received from my Brazilian guide—my co-pilot for the next 30 minutes.

We stood 20' from the edge of a cliff, nearly 1700' above sea level just south of Ipanema beach. The view couldn't have been more stunning. The drive up the mountain to the launch point couldn't have been more harrowing. And, it was my last day in Rio de Janeiro and I was ready, no matter what happened. This was soon after my mother left this mortal plane, and life felt precarious anyway. 

We belted ourselves into harnesses, then to the glider, and after safety checks, we were ready. Among my friends, I was the first. My brain hit auto-repeat: Don't stop running. (And breathe!)

When the friends we were visiting first suggested this, I wanted to say no. Which meant I had to say yes. Years prior, I made a personal policy that saying no to something required further evaluation--because chances were my no was due to fear or uncertainty... which I deemed inadequate reasons to say no. 

As Hunter S. Thompson said, "Buy the ticket. Take the ride." Saying "yes" often enough, especially when we want to say no, builds our resilience. 

So don't stop. 

That's our option right now. While this hot ticket was foisted upon us--the cluster that is a pandemic, a recession, and political theatre--it's up to us how we get through it. We can dig in, resist, and refuse to accept what is, or we can say yes and adapt, adopt, and change. I know that's not easy for everyone, as many are experiencing true hardship right now. However, with the resilience we've built, we can also help others. 

That flight over the white sandy beach and azure South Atlantic was extraordinary. We caught some thermals and glided for 30 minutes or so before gently landing on the beach. 

I know that not every landing is soft, but I do know they get easier with practice. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Uncharted waters: How to navigate uncertainty

We areall of usnavigating uncharted waters. 

None of us has previously experienced a pandemic, nor the havoc wrought by an unmanaged, exponential crisis. 

The US has a national election coming up, and many of us are figuratively crossing all appendages that we get real leadership. However, while new leadership may get the immediate crises under control, the real truth is that no matter what the outcome, we have revealed our collective shadow side, and real change won't come from that proverbial top. It comes from usfrom the front line, the activists, the advocates, the beleaguered, the passionate, the concerned... and the privileged. 

Our shadow side... 

Our shadow is largely hiddenoften from ourselves, almost always from others. It's not the part of us we're proud of. 

It's our unconscious bias, our judgments, resentments, and often our fears, it's that little voice that says things in our heads that most of us would never say out loud ("Did I really just think that? OMG!). It's the learned behavior or societal conditioning that makes us think less of ourselves, or less of others. Or that we're better than. It's our inner mean girl (or boy). Our shadow is in part why some of us love horror films, watching train wrecks (hopefully figurative), or watching our frenemies implode. (Read more about our shadow here.)

We all have a shadow side. This is part of being human. 

Something we'll find within that shadow, something I'm just learning about, is that most of us are somewhere on a continuum of racism. This doesn't make us bad people. But it's on us to be courageous and own it, and challenge ourselves to unlearn and do different (as Maya Angelou said, when we know better, we do better). 

Calling myself racist is new for me, something I hadn't considered before. I've worked with people of color and from different ethnic backgrounds for much of my career. In my younger years, I dated boys or men of color. I befriended people who came from faraway placeseven when that faraway place wasn't literal but cultural (desegregation, anyone?). My grandfather, even while using words we'd never use now, showed me what equity meant in practice. But none of that is showing up as anti-racist, the only alternative to racist. 

I'm still part of a system. 

I benefit from racist policies and practices, inadvertently perpetuating racism, and I sometimes stay quiet when speaking up could mean something.  

To truly be equitable, wise humans, we must accept and acknowledge our shadow--and our isms. Make visible that which is invisible. And then, while simple but not easy, we can heal, forgive, let go, move on, and truly be allies. We stop holding ourselves back, or holding others back (intentionally or not) because they're somehow different. 

Do better, be better...  

Over the last decade or so, we see more clearly pervasive white nationalism, vitriol, and intolerance, the fear of the unknown or 'the other'. The defects in our systems are more visible than ever: 

  • the ever-growing gap between rich and poor in our economic system 
  • disproportionate spending in our healthcare system only to achieve outcomes far below all industrialized countries
  • inequitable education systems that fail our kids
  • food and environmental systems degraded for personal gain
  • to name just a few 
We see how these systems and the policies defining them are intricately connected. Cracks in our systems are now floodgates. 

This is probably a good thing, even though it doesn't feel like it.  

Cautious optimism

While things fall apart quickly, the upward spiral takes longer. Real, meaningful change happens slowly, usually in increments. 

I am cautiously optimistic. Like MLK, I know the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." There are many good people doing really great work, but we have to look for it.  

Here are some examples: 

  • The entire global scientific community has come together to find remedies and vaccines for the novel coronavirus; they anticipate having a vaccine in record time
  • Forces collided and the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and support from unusual allies; my employer just committed to becoming anti-racist, and many others are doing the same, recognizing the reality of systemic racism and micro-aggression in the workplace
  • People with big platforms are speaking out against factory farming
  • Scientists, doctors, and health professionals are showing up as heroes and garnering huge social media followings 
  • The world of work is changing for a lot of us, becoming more employee-centric, focused on employee experience

So, how to navigate all this... 

The times we're in are not for the faint of heart, because all-things-good require our effort and support. But, as I continue to learn, we can do hard things (thanks to Glennon Doyle for that oft-repeated mantra and hashtag, #wecandohardthings). 

Now's the time to stay centered and focused on what matters most so when we emerge on the other side of this, we'll be better than we were before, smarter, more innovative, more capable, more empathetic, more resilient, contributing to a more equitable, sustainable world for all of us, not just some of us. 

While there's no easy way, here are a few things I do to help me through. Maybe they'll help you, too.   

  • Hold a vision: What do you want our world or your life to look like, personally and for people and planetit's OK if more peace in the world or within your insides is all you can come up with; it's a place to start
  • Plan something: Have a plan, a goal, an aspiration, or a dream, and commit to it—even if it's just getting up every day, and showing up
  • Check and adjust: Change direction, your thinking, or your actions when you have new information, and be willing to listen (really listen!) to ideas and opinions different from your own 
  • Pay attention: The winds continually shift and you may need to stand firm or change; you'll know  
  • Prepare: Because anything can happen, anticipate the options and know what you need to get through, whatever "it" is, physically, mentally, or emotionally
  • Ask for help: While we can go through life single-handing, we're better together; let others contribute by asking for help, or get out of the way
  • Know what's yours: We can't be all things to all people, so look for what you can do and know when it's someone else's turn to take the helm
  • Stay steady: Take regular, consistent steps, even if small, that move you closer to what you want to see, be, or do
  • Enjoy fair winds: Seek out the goodtake a break from the news, spend time in nature, breathe, move your body, and find joy in moments
The Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times" feels rather relevant, as 2020 certainly has felt cursed at times. And, we get to be part of something that's so much bigger than we are, that hopefully will make the world a better place for future generations. 

Whether you're out there making change in the world around you, or working on small changes at home, it doesn't matter. It all counts. Being the best "you" that you can be has ripple effects that benefit everyone. 

Change happens when systems and people breakdown. Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs, and while in many ways, we're alone, together, none of us is really alone in this. We've got this. It's worth it. #wecandohardthings 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Being with what is

My mom, Anelda, 1960s. 
I have come to a place of peace in my life, despite circumstances. Or maybe because of circumstances. While our current reality is hard in many ways, it's not the hardest thing I've ever done.

I come to this place honestlythis place of peace and mindfulness, of relative comfort with uncertainty. Today I feel like writing a bit about my journey because I'm sad todayknowing this is a place I occasionally visit but don't stay.

Today is Mother's Day. 

I write this today for anyone who's ever felt alone. For those whose mothers are gone, for those who didn't have a mother figure in their lives, or for those with no children of their own.  

My mother left this mortal plane 20 years ago next week on May 19. While she had been ill for several years, she was maintaining and doing OK. We were getting into a new groove, as she'd recently moved into assisted living. So when I returned home from a morning run and got the call, I felt like I'd run into a wall. Hard. Not yet, it's too soon. 

In hindsight, I am proud of my mother for living as long as she did, despite dying at 64. The youngest of four children, she was unplannedan accident—and felt unwanted throughout her life. When her oldest sister died at 48, my grandmother was inconsolable. My mother was never the same; now, she was also the recipient of my grandmother's spite.  

Family matters...  

Still in my formative years, with my aunt and grandfather gone, we moved into the family home to care for my grandmother, who was paralyzed on her left side from a stroke. She graciously died three years later, and despite an end to the misery, I found myself unhappy and alone. With mom working every day, and no adults around, I went from a well-mannered, thoughtful kid, to a rebellious, self-destructive teenager.  

My mom was a single mom when it wasn't socially accepted; my dad died when I was two, and I didn't know his family. My dad was the love of my mom's life, and I'm not sure that sentiment was returned. (By the way, today would also have been his birthday.)

My grandfather, Ben.
During those earliest years, there were many family gatheringsno siblings, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, first cousins, cousins of cousins, and cousins once and twice removed. Holidays and harvests and many family funeralsfunerals which resulted in fewer and fewer family gatherings. 

From abandonment to independence 

So my friends became my family, for better or worse. I attracted those on the same destructive path. We were a generation with absent parents, latch-key kids. Hindsight being a brilliant teacher, I see the impacts, from an abandonment mindset that impacted my early marriage, to later self-reliance and fierce independence. 

We are both always, and never, alone

So today I write for those who feel alone. I understand. I felt alone for much of my life. I was alone for much of my life. I even made sure I was alone, unconsciously pushing away anyone who caredjust in case they planned to leave.    

I rarely feel alone now because I have learned to be here for myself, above all else. Because in the end, I'm all I've got, and I'm here for me. I spent my single years building my resilience, learning to love and care for myself.   

Now, I'm fortunate to be with a man who chose to grow with me, even with a rocky (and long-distance) start. We, too, have an important date this month: 24 years together on May 18. This wasn't a given. A therapist once said our wounds recognized each other. The odds were against usto come together in a healthy, interdependent relationship was not expected nor even anticipated. And yet, what we created will endure, because (with help) we learned to care for ourselves so we can care for each other. 

We learn from our mothers, intentionally or not

I still miss my mom. Always. We didn't have the easiest relationship, and yet, we grew to appreciate each other. She did what she was able to given the resources she had, which were few. Throughout it all, it was always just the two of us... me and mom. I know she loved me. 

Growing up, I wanted a mother I could be proud of, and I am. I'm proud because she found a way to survive despite it all. She offered words of wisdom that, while seeming less than adequate as a kid, now serve me well, like trusting my instincts and using my better judgment. From her, I also learned resilience and determination. A therapist once asked if I was angry at her. I'm not, although I am sometimes sad. But mostly, I feel gratitude and compassion.  

To honor her, today and any day, I take care of myself, including giving myself grace. Because I know she wanted me to have a good life.

I write this today because we are each on a journey, and we do this alone. Finding our place and being OK with "alone" is essential. No matter who we have, or don't have, in our lives, we have to show up for ourselves. 

Life is a continual journey to grow and learn. Pain is part of it. But through it all, we get better, stronger, and more fully human. The more we accept ourselves and our path, the easier it becomes to change our minds, our beliefs, our experience, and ultimately our lives. 

As my mother said so frequently, this too shall pass. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Making sense of challenging times

Borrowed from Instagram
Every afternoon, an alarm on my phone reminds me that 'everything is impermanent.' I set this alarm as a strategy to get through my workday at a job I haven't loved before we were asked by our governor to "stay home, stay safe". Now it seems almost prescient. 

Where we are at this moment in time is hard. And, as I heard my mom say more times than I wanted to, "this too shall pass." 

We cannot have pleasure without pain, nor joy without sadness. We can't know comfort without experiencing discomfort.  

And sometimes, we require a strong jolt to move out of complacency or apathy to embrace real, lasting, necessary change.

Transformation, ready or not

Over the last month, I have witnessed real transformation every day at work. I work for a very traditional, allopathic medical group—"western" medicine that isn't my go-to but I'm glad it's there when I need it.  

The change is nothing short of remarkable. In the two-plus years I've worked there, the organization has made numerous changes, but it needed to move faster to keep up with a rapidly evolving market. At the end of 2019, they set up an "acceleration office" to ideally usher in change more quickly. That work was just getting underway... 

And... virus. 

Practically overnight, my organization transitioned to nearly all virtual care, adopted new practices and systems, and relaxed outdated policies and adopted new ones. I, and all my coworkers, are busier than we've ever beenwith most of us working remotely. And this isn't true just in my organization, but throughout the healthcare industry overall. 

Opportunity and silver linings

In any way imaginable, everything just got very real. Personally and professionally, no matter where you are in life, what's most important is up for redefining, and our priorities are shifting in countless ways, collectively and individually. 

This might just be a transcendent wake-up call, a reset, a recalibration. At least, that's one way to look at it, and how I prefer to look at it. Not one to waste a crisis, I know from experience there is always something to be learned and gained and that transformation is afoot when things fall apart. This is how we grow, deeply, personally, culturally. 

Yes, I am profoundly troubled by the strife in the worldthe fear, the loss of life and livelihoodsand I'm keenly aware of the very real trauma created by this disease and the impact of the stringent measures required to quell it. 

Sadly, there will be casualties, much like war, and the most vulnerable among us will be most affected. This is heartbreaking on so many levels, because no one deserves to lose their life, or that of a loved one, when every waking moment may feel hard and life as we know it can't continue.  

But I have a deep sense that we need this. 

Our systems don't work

So much about our way of life has been unsustainable. Every one of our systems requires an overhaul to work better for people and the planet; right now, this is more evident than ever in our food, healthcare, and economic systems, as well as our environmental policies.

We now have an opportunity to do things differently and to notice how we rely on each other. We're a global economy, dependent on trade, shared knowledge, and combined resources. Darwin's reinterpreted survival theory requires that we adapt, cooperate, and collaborate, not compete. (Watch infectious disease expert Alanna Shaikh talk about global health here and what we must do now to avoid another major pandemic.)  

We are collectively learning we must also play the long game rather than opting for the short-term profits and wins we've become accustomed to. So much of our financial and political focus is based on short-term thinking, and only those who know the game and how to play it come out ahead, leaving so many behind. Here in the US, it's time to reinstate our social contract and leave the 'rugged individual' mythology behind. None of us can do it all alone.  

Resourcefulness = resilience

All that said, however... we must also plan to care for ourselves when disaster strikes, to ensure those who most need help are able to get it. 

Since the hoarding and stockpiling at the beginning of this pandemic indicate otherwise, we must individually prepare for disasters before they hit. Those of us who live in earthquake zones should have at minimum two-weeks of food, water, and god-forbid, toilet paper, among other necessities. And ideally, governments are learning that we must not rely on a just-in-time supply chain and instead keep back-up emergency supplies. Note to self for Clorox Wipes... 

If you haven't yet read The Unthinkable and The Gift of Fear, please make time for them. Both of these books give examples of why we must think about the impossible, while learning to trust our instincts. My partner, who works on container ships, watches disasters-at-sea videos; when I asked why, since I have no stomach for these, he said to imagine the impossible, because the impossible happens. 

Necessity = ingenuity and creativity 

Some of the bright spotsbecause there are always bright spots if we're paying attentionare the extraordinary creativity, innovation, and ingenuity, along with visible compassion, gratitude, and a real sense of connection, despite physical distance. 

People are helping others in ways we haven't seen in decades. A few examples: 
  • We're making masks and donating supplies, creating affinity groups online, finding new ways to fundraise, and re-imagining helpful services. 
  • Our front-line healthcare workers are heroes and she-roes, celebrated by balcony and front porch serenades. 
  • Musicians are performing live online, and local yoga studios and trainers are offering online classes almost any time of day. 
  • Restaurants and bars started new lines of business with take-out and delivery (and I don't mean to diminish how badly these and other services have been hit by this). 
  • Church services are broadcasting via Facebook Live, AA meetings and weddings are taking place on Zoom (along with plenty of virtual happy hours), and 
  • Businesses previously hesitant to offer their staff remote work made it possible overnight. 
  • One of my favorite things so far is a Facebook group, View from my Window, where people from across the world post one (only one per person allowed) image from their window, as the (nearly) whole world shelters in place.  
  • The memes are some of the best ever, and all the late-night shows are broadcasting from home. I highly recommend finding and following people and things you love on Instagram, like The Daily "Social Distancing" Show, Trevor Noah's re-imagined home-based show.   
And finally, great resources are springing up all over for those who are struggling. One of my favorites so far is a support guide, chock full of awesome resources, compiled by author and web TV host Marie Forleo. You can find it here. And if you just want to hear a comforting voice, author Glennon Doyle is broadcasting "family meetings" on Instagram, sharing the challenges of being home with a spouse and bored kids. 

For us, not to us

So, let's ask: Is this happening for me, or to me? When we ask ourselves this question (about this or any other thing), it shifts our experience. We get more control over our circumstances, with space to receive insights to weather our storms and see opportunity, even as we grieve our losses.   

This pandemic, and the subsequent stay home measures, is challenging us like nothing else has, and we will all be changed in ways big and small. I hope we all take time to assess what's worth keeping and what's better left behind. Right now is a great time to visualize the world you want to live in, to spend time in quiet reflection, and hold space for a better future. 

As Leonard Cohen sang, "there's a crack in everything; cracks are how the light gets in." Our cracks are showing us the changes we need to collectively thrive. 

I leave you with this quote from author and extraordinary human, Arundahti Roy: 
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it. 
That I write all this from relative comfort and privilege is not lost on me. And yet I also state it with conviction. Because I have learned we can do hard things. 

While most of us may not be high-risk, we're all, perhaps unwittingly, part of a new, developing social contract, staying in and doing the right things for those we love. At the very least, I hope we hold onto this, and that on the other side, we're all a little kinder, more generous, more compassionate, and more mindful. We are all in this together.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The distance we travel... from who we were to who we are

Looking ahead or looking behind, or
just noticing the reflection...? 
During a recent online coaching program, the facilitator assigned homework. We were asked to record a live two-minute video, owning up to and sharing the "worst" thing we've ever done. 

When I heard it, I thought... really? The worst thing?? Holy crap. Not doing that. However, from a brief stint in Al-Anon, I recall that owning our stuff and making amends is a big part of recovery, so I know exercises like these can be helpful and healing. 

So I took some time for self-r
eflection and paid a visit to my past.  

Looking back over many years, there was a lot of bad behavior, particularly during my teens. Transitioning from that goody-two-shoes I wrote about here, I had few boundaries and couldn't care less about consequences.  

However, from that teenage fog, I evolved into a searching, seeking young adult. It wasn't always easy; there were backslides... but I started to care about myself enough to make good decisions and take better care of myself. Perhaps the seeds my grandfather planted--justice, integrity, and gratitude--finally took root; they're now the core of who I am.  

Troubled years 

I spent many of those teen years looking for love in all the wrong places and numbing myself. I later learned about unconscious beliefs, and what mine were: I didn't belong here on this earthly plane; those I cared about would leave; if anything good came my way, it would be taken away, so why try, why bother... So for a long time, I didn't try, and I didn't bother. 

There's an adage: Hurt people hurt people. I mostly just hurt myself, but certainly, there was collateral damage along the way. I'm not proud of that, but it's because of who I was that I can be who I am today. 

Change is possible 

Somewhere along the way, there were leverage and inflection points. A roommate who had a mental health breakdown. A best friend lost to addiction. Breakups and losses, and some very hard lessons. Then, an introduction to metaphysics. A sociology professor who taught the Handbook to Higher Consciousness. And finally, a job that piqued my curiosity and launched a career, and a Canadian beau who changed my worldview. 

An important lesson: We don't do anything alone. 

I still have a bit of that rebellious teen within me. I also value freedom, adventure, authenticity, and autonomy. 

Looking ahead

There's no way I could have predicted when I was 20 who I would be at 30, nor at 30, who I'd be at 40, and so on. Whoever coined the phrase, "the days are long but the years are short" totally got it. Time slips and memories play tricks, and sometimes it seems that time literally vaporizes. 

With the onset of this new decade, I can't predict where I'll be in another 10 years, either. I know what I'd like my life to look likebut it's impossible to know what life lessons lay ahead of me, and what I'll make them mean. 

Imagining is a good exercise, though--where you'd like to be 10 years from now: who you'll have in your life, where you'll live, what work you'll do (or not), how much money you'll have, the places you'll go between now and then, the lifestyle you dream about. 

Imagining gives you something to strive for, and just like goals, you're more likely to get to the place you want to go if you can see it, feel it, embrace it.  

Worst thing ever? 

So what was my worst thing? Nope, not saying... I chose a couple from an interesting list, some of which previously required amends, to others and myself.  

I don't often revisit my past now because I previously did a lot of healing work. But sometimes it's good to look back againif only to see how far we've come. The good news: we're never stuck. We can always become a better version of ourselves. We have the power to change. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Find meaning and purpose: tips to get started

This gull lives and breathes its meaning
and purpose..
For years, self-help advice said follow your passion. Thankfully, for those of us unclear about what that might actually be, there's another way to think about how to create a life we love (read this, or this).  

What we're learning now that's proving more important: bring passion to whatever we're doing, wherever we happen to be, rather than waiting to discover what we're passionate about or fretting about why we don't have one.  

After meeting our hierarchy of basic needs, what humans truly crave is autonomy, meaning, and purpose (so says Daniel Pink in Drive), not necessarily passion for something specific.  

I've always loved the phenomenally classic Auntie Mame quote, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." I took it as a directive to bring passion to everything. 

Engaging with what we're doing, in the moment, has the potential to fill us with both meaning and passion. If nothing else, it makes life a lot more interesting. And, that said, our humanity sometimes works against us, though... we're hardwired to be cautious. So if you need some ideas to find more meaning and purpose, I've listed some ideas below.    

Follow your curiosity

What makes you go huh...? Or hmmm...? Clues come from what you're reading, listening to, or watching. What about those appeal to you? 

What or who do you want to know more about? Who or what do you envy? What would you study or where would you travel if means and time were available?  

Perhaps you're curious about brain science, like I am, but not willing or able to be a neuroscientist.
If you're curious, you may have a latent talent for something related... I'll never be a neuroscientist, but I love coaching and how the latest research in brain science applies to personal development and human potential. 

Check your checkbook 

Our bank and credit card statements are insightful; they document what we care about. What do you buy, who or what do you donate to, and how are you entertained? Does how you spend your money align with your values?

Perhaps you care about our warming planet. What do you eat? How do you shop? I used to be a mindless shopper, filling an emotional void, until I recognized the pattern. I also care deeply about my health, growing up in a family with numerous lifestyle conditions, so buying healthy food and supporting farm-to-table dining are ways I find meaning.    

Notice when you're angry   

Author, entrepreneur, and funder (and acquaintance) Nathalie Molina Nino wrote in her book  Leapfrog that we should forget about finding our passion and instead find something we want to punch. What makes us most angry may be great opportunities to explore: for work, new ventures, or volunteering.  

You'll also find big clues here about what's meaningful and purposeful for you.  

Test the waters 

When we find meaning and purpose, we find our passions
often right where we are. Fascinated by something, but never tried it? Test it. It's through doing that we build confidence, gain experience, get excited, and yes, find passion.  

Maybe you'd love to own a bakery 
one day; time disappears when you're baking cookies, bread, or specialty desserts. A bakery may not be feasible, but what gets you closer? These days, we have so many options, like starting a microbusiness using the magic of technology.  

Given today's economics, a side hustle is both easy and a good idea. If you need ideas or a how-to guide, Portland's world-traveling Chris Guillebeau is a go-to resource. 

The founder of Seattle's line-out-the-door Hot Cakes started selling that chocolate gooey goodness at the local farmers market. Now she has two brick-and-mortars and recently opened two vegan ice cream shops. They run themselves while she travels and surfs. 

Small steps are better than no steps. 

Know your why

Knowing why you're doing something can keep you on track when what you're doing feels hard. Not sure about your why? Ask why five or seven times until you get your answer.   

Simon Sinek's Start with Why is one of the most popular TEDTalks ever. And it makes sense... why you do something can make all the difference.

It matters 

A colleague recently suggested we should make 2020 the year of the side hustle. If nothing else, we'll add more meaning and purpose. We may make more money. We might just find our passion. And remember: Where focus goes, energy flows.

Meaning and purpose have staying power; passion sometimes fizzles. Man's Search for Meaning author Viktor Frankl believed meaning and purpose, not passion, were essential to survival, and if anyone could attest, he could.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Start 2020 with a strong foundation: 3 practices

Peace lily
On a recent stormy morning, Sam Harris guided me in the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness. Each day, the Waking Up 50-day course offers a different style or approach to meditation. Loving-kindness isn't new to me but I don't use it much... and then I had an a-ha moment.

Why NOT practice loving-kindness? Not as part of my morning meditation, but... Every. Single. Day. All. Day. When I'm out in the world, at work, in traffic, with friends... why not just wish everyone I encounter happiness, wellness, safety, and peace?

I typically start my year with gratitude—it's at the core of everything else—but this feels like it needs to be at the core, too. I want to make this a new habit.   

A quick note: My new year planning starts in late December (birthday/solstice weekend), but how I want my year to unfold, what I want to create, how I want to feel, and what intentions I'll set fall into place over about a month. It's OK to take time with this. It's your life!  

Here are three practices you can try, too. 

1) Loving-kindness

The loving-kindness practice, or 'metta meditation', starts with us: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at easeessentially putting on our own oxygen mask before we care for others.

But my new a-ha was... why not do this for others, at any time, in any circumstance? I do my
The traveling Buddha
in my garden
morning meditation and listen to an affirmation I recorded, so I already start my day with self-care. How would my day be different if I adopted this mindset all day every day, every time I feel frustrated or defeated at work, or when I feel triggered by a situation? 

This seems like a great way to smile more, too, which author and entrepreneur Dean Graziosi says decreases stress. A smile tells your subconscious you're happy, even if you weren't just a minute before. And if you radiate positivity, he says, you attract similar people into your life. Who knew smiling was a success habit, and who doesn't want more positive people and experiences in our lives?

What if I practiced loving-kindness with a smile on my face? How powerful would that be?

2) Forgiveness

To have any kind of peace, we must forgive others... and we must also forgive ourselves. Both of these acts benefit us in countless ways. And while we must forgive someone else for any harm they cause, two things: it doesn't mean we forget or condone, and we do this for ourselves as much if not more than we do it for them. 

This practice is an essential part of our healing and self-care toolkit; it allows us to be free of the past, let go of suffering and resentments, and move toward the life we want with self-compassion.

It's often easier to forgive someone else than ourselves, especially for what we think. We've all hurt someone at some point, usually unintentionally, but who reading this hasn't experienced being your own worst enemy, flogging yourself far worse than anyone else would for indiscretions and mistakes? One critical step to changing this habit and moving on is forgiveness.

A daily forgiveness practice can be simple. I include mine in an affirmation I recorded that I listen to each morning and evening, but even just a statement to yourself in the mirror each day, or catching yourself beating yourself up, may be enough. And... perhaps combine it with your new loving-kindness practice... Just sayin'... You can also say or listen to the Hawaiian Ho'oponopono chant: I'm sorry, please forgive me, I love you, thank you. I can't explain it, but this has power. Listen to Carrie Grossman's version here

Without forgiveness, true peace-of-mind will always be elusive. Jack Kornfield has far better words than I do about the practice and its importance. If you haven't spent any time doing this work, I encourage you to read his book, The Art of Forgiveness, Loving-Kindness, and Peace, since it's not for the faint of heart if you're just beginning.

3) And yes, gratitude 

Anyone who's read anything on this blog knows that gratitude underpins everything else for me. I am nothing if not grateful for all of my life experiences, even the painful ones, for everything I have, and for all that's yet to be.

This is the one practice I encourage everyone to adopt, as it immediately makes life better. Where focus goes, energy flows. However you do it... whether you jot a daily journal entry, send a message to a gratitude partner as I do, or put a note in your phone. Something to consider, if you don't use a journal for other types of writing: physically handwriting sends a message to your brain and further enhances neuroplasticity, creating new pathways for good. Acknowledge what you have, even if you don't have much, and attract more of what fulfills you. 

A friend gave me some 'pocket affirmation' cards for my birthday. I wasn't feeling particularly grateful earlier today, so I pulled one. Here's my message: I am proud of myself. I take the time to celebrate how far I've come, even if I'm not yet where I want to be. This couldn't have been more fitting as I lamented my current work frustrations. Which is exactly what this recent Forbes article about gratitude speaks to... we just never know where we'll find our lessons. I'm not where I want to be, but I am extraordinarily grateful for where I am. As I have said many times, my life could have been so different, and more than likely not in a good way. 

There's wisdom everywhere if we're open to receiving it.

Why it matters 

Of course, there are goals to set and lists to make and tasks to start to get the year rolling along, but putting mindfulness practices like thesealong with meditation and/or journalingin place right out of that proverbial gate provides a solid foundation from which to achieve everything else that, after 365 days, will deem the year a success.

Gratitude and forgiveness are my foundation, but I'm eager to see how adding a loving-kindness practice will add to my dayand my year. 

The world needs more kindness, empathy, and compassion, and these further that ideal. As we embrace and embody these practices, we also attract those who share that desire, which then makes our own lives better, too.  

Outside of goal or resolution setting, do you have any practices you do consistently at the start of each year? What do you do that helps to ensure success?

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here.