Living Fully

Since starting my own business and taking the long, bumpy, sometimes tumultuous roads toward my dreams, I made a commitment to myself. I will live this life will FULL engagement. There are times, like today, that this is really hard. However, my true hope is that the words below will offer some guidance and support for you, when you’re having a day where it’s next to impossible to see the forest through the trees.

When saying living a life with FULL engagement, well what the heck does that really mean?

It means making decisions you know in your soul to be right, although what we know is right is seldom easy.

It means not ignoring subtle signs and clues and that powerful intuition of ours, and having the courage to listen.

It means needing to believe in something far greater than ourselves, and trusting the process… as hard, hurtful and fuzzy it may be.

It means that we would rather be alone than to settle—ever.

It means not shielding ourselves from the pain of loss. Just because we know something in our soul isn’t right, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to hurt… badly. But we know shielding ourselves and building walls around our hearts only prolongs the grieving process.

It means giving ourselves time to grieve, breath and witness the emotions that are coming from within us. To feel is to be human.

It also means that we don’t hook into these emotions are accept them as a drama in our life. It’s about feeling the emotions fully so they can pass, not so they can take over our life.

It means to take pleasure in the fact that a full range of emotions and to be with each is to be fully alive.

It means that we know we need to be vulnerable to achieve all our heart’s desire. To love fully and openly is vulnerable. We know we must allow ourselves to surrender to the highs and the lows, to just be in the moment.

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#abfloods: The Humanity that comes with Disaster

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I posted that quote just over 2 days ago on a personal page. Since then, Calgary (my home), along with many other parts of Southern Alberta have been flooded. As many as 75,000 people in Calgary alone have been forced to leave their homes. In High River, only an hour South and the hardest hit, the entire community was evacuated and a few people lost their lives. While it’s affected me personally, this blog is not about what’s happened, who’s been evacuated, and the damage that has been caused. It’s about what happens to people when these things happen to us.

Where 100,000 people are expected to arrive in 2 weeks..

Where 100,000 people are expected to arrive in 2 weeks..

I attend a boot camp most mornings. Every morning the same rotation of women fill the gym and we spend the next 40 minutes sweating. This has been my routine for 6 months and how many of them do I know? Probably two; and they teach the class.

Last week one of the girls introduced herself. She said, you know, I work out beside you most mornings and I don’t even know your name. That struck me. I pride myself in getting to know people, letting them into my world, but here’s a girl I share a (very small and sometimes intimate) space with most days of the week, and I know nothing about her.

The morning of the flood things were different. There was a completely different energy to the room. People were sharing stories and how they were impacted personally. There was so much raw emotion. All of a sudden I felt like I could see these people for who they were, feel their pain and identify with their struggles. I got past all of my own stuff, my own to do list, insecurities and judgments and truly saw them, maybe for the first time.

What happens to us when these emergencies happen? We let strangers into our homes. If they had knocked on our door last week, we would have peered out our window wondering if we should even answer the door for the ‘weirdo’ that stands on the other side of it. We’re reminded of the real, caring and compassionate human beings we not just want to be, but are.

Anyone who has been through a major emergency or natural disaster will (almost always) say how everyone came together. They helped and supported each other. They let their emotions show. They put aside their differences because something more important was happening. They started to build bridges.

So what’s available to us when we practice being more open in our lives?

I call this ‘life in full colour’. Not knowing what situation, opportunity or person we will meet. People, situations and challenges come into our life for a reason, what if we gave up control and danced (sometimes literally) in the moment?

When I was in Costa Rica last year, one morning a girlfriend and I took an early morning trip to the grocery store. Something we did often, and completely normal, until a handsome Costa Rican approached me and asked me if I knew how to Merengue. Before I could say Merng-what?, he grabbed my hands and took me for a spin, dip and all. As he explained the steps (in broken English) I couldn’t help but think, is this really happening right now?! But I went with it, and it’s one of my favorite stories from the trip.

If that same story had happened in the Safeway by my house, there’s a good chance I would have ran the other way, down the street, and into the police station. But I was travelling. My guard was down and I was open to all the amazing people and opportunities that presented themselves.

So how? Is there a way we can keep this feeling of community, support and openness long after the flood waters subside? There is. And it starts with you, and me.

Awareness is always the first step.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Then a shift happens. I wasn’t aware of my behavior during boot camp until the amazing woman next to me introduced herself. When was the last time you noticed how you were feeling/acting in a certain situation? It’s witnessing our actions/behavior/feelings and deciding if they are getting us closer or further away from who we want to be.

Being Open.

Being open takes courage. No one likes to be first. Sharing a hard story first is like being the first one on a frozen pond. There’s a good chance you’ll fall right through and freeze to death; but there’s also a good chance the water will be strong enough to hold you. And once everyone sees how much fun your having, they want to join in.

Being Authentic.

I describe being authentic as knowing who you are and what you stand for, having your actions match these beliefs, and being able to share the gray and rough pieces of yourself along with the bright and shiny.

I find we’re so afraid of telling stories of times we’ve failed because we’re worried that others will think less of us, but often the opposite is true! We’re human. We all make mistakes. The power comes when we can be open and share our experiences, especially the ones we’re afraid/embarrassed of.

Being Caring and Compassionate.

Seek first to understand and then be understood. That line is borrowed from one of my favorite books, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I think that’s what comes naturally during an emergency. They put aside themselves and focus on you. I want to help you. I care about you. I want to make things better for you. How would the world be different if we came from this place first not just during an emergency,but in our everyday lives?

The last point I want to offer is that these disasters are not going to stop. And it’s not just global warming that’s to blame. There are wars over just about everything; religion, politics, resources, money, power, terrorism. Mother Nature just offers a different angle. And we may feel like we can’t control these things, but I assure you we can. We can control who we are as human beings and how we treat our neighbors. What we let the world see of us and how we choose to participate in it makes all the difference.

If you or someone you know has been affected (in any way) by the #yycfloods #abfloods I would love to hear your story. There’s also free coaching sessions being offered by Certified Co-Active Coaches (myself included!). More information and how to sign up can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CoActiveCares?fref=ts

Also, if you’d like to donate to help those hardest hit a link to the Red Cross fund can be found here. https://secure.redcross.ca/registrant/donate.aspx?eventid=126477

And lastly, if you’d like to donate something even more precious, your time, a list of forming volunteer organizations and a ton of other information can be found here. https://www.facebook.com/CalgaryCleanUp #yyccares

Thank you Calgary. For not only being my home, but for the amazing people who live here that inspire me to be better.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone We’ve all been there. Wake up in the morning, commute, work, commute again, dinner, tv, sleep, repeat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with routine, we actually need it. Our brain goes on autopilot so we can accomplish more, using less mental capacity. But what if you want more?

I stumbled upon this picture a few years ago and immediately it resonated with me. It has such a beautiful way of putting things in perspective. Since that time I have referenced it when coaching staff, pushing them a little, and urging them to see the bigger picture. Obviously it had some impact because when a cake was brought out at my going away dinner, this picture was on it. I gulped, got more than a little emotional, and thought, “shit, time to walk the talk”.

Last weekend was the end of my ten year restaurant management career. Why did I stay so long? Honestly, I was afraid to leave my comfort zone. I knew the company, it’s culture, and what they expected from me. I was (sort of) working towards a big promotion. But when I was honest with myself, it wasn’t what I wanted; and my performance showed it.

There are two feelings, or clues, your body gives when it desires something more; longing and discontent.

Discontent comes when things don’t quite fit, when you’re unhappy and not quite sure why. Your body is saying there’s something more out there for you, you just need to figure out what that is. With longing, you daydream how your life could be different, yet haven’t taken any of the necessary steps in that direction. They key to both, is being aware and honest enough with yourself to admit you’re feeling this way. And that, can take some time.

It was almost two years before I could be honest (with myself) enough to admit that I didn’t want that promotion.  Even longer before I had the courage to have the conversation with my boss. With time it gets easier, and start small, baby steps.

When I first started meeting with a coach my first challenge was listening. For a whole week I did nothing but listen and get curious. In that week I learned more about my friends, family and myself than I had in the last year combined. The next week we moved on to truth. I was challenged on telling the truth with everyone in my life, including myself. All of a sudden I had to come clean with my feelings, not an easy thing to do. It also started conversations that had been put off for a long time. On the third week we moved on to openness, which again was an amazing (and scary!) experience. All the things I was afraid of being judged for (like the fact I wanted to leave my very safe salaried job and start my own business) were now out in the open. And guess what, the people I thought would be my biggest critics, actually turned out to be the biggest supporters. Through these three weeks the coolest thing started to happen. My “stuckness”, showed the first few signs of movement.

What are your thoughts around listening, truth, and openness? I challenge you to pick even one and practice it for the week. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s exactly where you should be. Discomfort signals growth.

When you have longing or discontent to get out of your comfort zone, start with your thoughts, as small as they may be. Not only is this less scary, it’s amazing how the rest seems to fall into place. When we change our thoughts, feelings change, and finally, behavior changes. Baby steps. The first thing a turtle does before he moves anywhere is stick his neck out. Be like a turtle; take the (baby) step of sticking your neck out. If it’s scary you can always hide back in your shell. But I promise you, once you’ve seen how magical the world is outside your shell, you won’t want back in.