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Posts Tagged ‘self-esteem’

For some reason I awoke this morning in a searching frame of mind. What kept emerging through this search was GRACE. I have always considered GRACE as one of the four pillars of my work and life. I define it as ‘ Being is a state of Grace with the world and within your relationships; allowing yourself to surrender and be in the flow.’

As I continued my rumination my mind tracked back, remembering a chapter in the ME FIRST Playbook in regard to the GRACE Diet. Themes repeat themselves in my life and I saw this as a SIGN to resurrect and review some of the tools and exercises I have created in the past. Memory is an interesting thing for me as I often lose sight of what I have written and taught over the years, not in a way that invalidates it, simply that my mind marches on.

Given the body of work I have accumulated, moving on at this point may mean returning to what I have known and practiced and resurrect the principles, ideas and teaching which have been the backbone of my work. Since I have been called back to GRACE, I have decided to use this as my starting point.

The GRACE Diet was created to address the junk food diet many of us feed ourselves on a daily basis. I am not referring to the food you put into your body in the context of what you consume, rather the diet you are feeding your spirit. Are your words to self spiritually uplifting or depleting? And if you have developed the art of putting yourself down, how can you begin re-programming that inner conversation. This is where the GRACE diet comes in, an acronym standing for Gratitude, Respect, Acknowledgment, Courage and Enthusiasm.

Gratitude: gratitude practices are bountiful these days, whether you keep a gratitude journal, have a daily practice of sharing gratitude with friends, or at the end of day as a before bed ritual. It is easy to assume that such a simple practice is fluffy or unsubstantial yet research has shown that those who practice gratitude regularly are more positive in their view of themselves and of life. Knowing this, why not give it a try. I can personally testify that I have had a daily gratitude practice for over twenty years and it is an activity that fuels my positivity every day.

Here is your opportunity– try the 21 day gratitude challenge, recording 3-5 gratitudes every day for 21 days in a gratitude journal and see what happens. Gratitude helps you notice what is right with your life.

Respect: I am referring to self-respect. In fact you can not elicit respect from others if you do not respect yourself. This is a simple truth. Time to check your inner dialogue and listen to the stories you are weaving about yourself. Remember that a large portion of your story was never yours; it was given to you by others – a parent, a teacher, a friend, some external source. What they saw or believed is not yours to own. Respect implies that you begin to see the truth of who you are and re-direct the inner-critic to becoming your inner-coach. Most importantly begin simply with I am enough.

Your opportunity: listen in to your inner dialogue, record the five most common things you tell yourself and, if they are not uplifting, re-write them. Now say them to yourself repeatedly. You are now in the process of ‘neural re-programming’, creating a new inner pathway.

Acknowledgment: acknowledgment marries gratitude and respect, in fact I often refer to self-acknowledgment as the highest form of gratitude. This takes respect a step deeper but encouraging you to see the gifts and strengths you possess, the impact you have in the world, the important roles you play in the lives of others. This is no small thing even though you may not feel important. I refer to it as the highest form of gratitude as self- acknowledgment means thanking your higher power for the gifts you possess, whether this refers to your abilities within your career, as a parent of family member, for your creativity or expertise. It goes like this, ‘I acknowledge my love for writing and relaying messages of hope and selfness to others.’

Your opportunity: as part of the 21 day gratitude journal, add on 2-3 self-acknowledgment statements. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself. BTW a great source for self-acknowledgment can be harvested from the feedback you receive from others.

Courage: courage is the backbone of GRACE. The ME FIRST journey is not for the faint of heart, it is for the brave. It is easy to go through life accepting everything, never addressing your inner dialogue and riding the wave of self-deprecation. It may not be healthy yet many people will not addressing it on. Trust me; it takes courage to face yourself, go inward, re-shape the inner landscape, face the self-critic and tell him/her they are out of date, and design a new conversation. And those who choose not to join you on the journey will share their skepticism and endeavor to pull you back. Courage, listening to your heart – it desperately wants to heal, which wants to guide you forward into a more positive and beneficial relationship with yourself.

Your opportunity: create a daily practice where you pause, reflect and ask your heart, not your head, what it wants. Simply listen in.

Enthusiasm: begin to identify moments of joy in your life; pay attention to what lifts you up; limit your access to negative news (lord knows there is plenty of that these days), and play with people who generally have an optimistic attitude. In other words, feed your enthusiasm for life. Allow yourself to dream and consider the future. Share those dreams with others and encourage them to share theirs. Create a vision board that lights you up and which, when you look at it, inspires you.

Your opportunity: back to the 21 day gratitude journal, add 1-2 things which are fueling your joy and enthusiasm each day. One of mine: I am enthusiastic about the new opportunities opening to me at this time in my life. (BTW I have no idea what they are, I simply trust they exist!).

Let me close with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “ If you are capable of living deeply one moment of your life, you can learn to,live the same way in all other moments of your life.”

The GRACE diet is a recipe for emotional and spiritual health that can sustain you and lead you to a more meaningful life.

Blessings and Until Next Time,

 

Betty

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You show up every day, sometimes mindfully and sometimes not. You want to make a difference, in the lives of clients and co-workers, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Your intentions are sound, to live a life of purpose and hopefully passion, to be of service and to make a difference. You step into each day, into your work, and you engage, hoping that your efforts will make the world a better place.

This is how I have endeavored to live my life. But how do you measure success; how do you know what your ripple effect has been and whether you have had a beneficial influence on others and the world around you. Reality – for the most part you don’t!

So here I am, about to turn 70 years old (OMG!). I have been working in my career since I was 22. You can do the math – I have been working a long time. Sometimes I have worked in a J.O.B. – Justifiable Occupation or Business. For the most part I have worked in my Passion Place, which makes work play. I suspect that in my Passion Place I have been more successful in having an impact.

Recently, while not looking or asking, I have received a few Mental Pay Cheques, a series of comments from random sources speaking to the impact my/our (Jim and I) work has had through the years. This feedback is not solicited, it simply shows up. It is not ego building it is humbling. And yes, it does feel good especially as I am of an age where I often look back and reflect on the many roads I have traveled career wise and wonder if it has made a difference.

Now it is true that not everyone is carved for the same stone as I am. Not everyone has the luxury of pondering their purpose and designing their work accordingly; so to this end I have been fortunate.

Recently, while attending the National Sales Meeting for our primary client, Jim and I were greeted warmly by more people than we can count. We have been fortunate to work with many of the teams who are part of this multinational Pharmaceutical company over the last ten years.

Our inaugural event with this organization was a Continuing Health Education Program, The Colour of Communication, which we co-designed with their Education Department. This program was created to provide Rheumatologists, and their staff, strategies for being more effective in their communication and teaching with their patients. Over a period of three years, I had the opportunity to teach this program in twenty-three cities across Canada reaching about eighty percent of the Rheumatology community. It was demanding and it was a privilege.

At the recent National Sales meeting, rheumatologists were asked to provide feedback to our client regarding the impact they had had over the last decade. Of the three areas highlighted by the RA Community, this program, the Colour of Communication, took top billing. While Jim and I were not present for this feedback, the business unit manager made sure it was delivered to us when she saw us at the meeting. The organization was thrilled with this feedback as was I. Truly a Mental Pay Cheque.

There have been other such moments recently which I do not need to detail, only to say that when your work feels rewarding, when you sense you are making a difference even if you cannot measure it, there is a good chance you are. If your work is intentional, fueled by a sense of purpose, of being of service, you can be reassured that you are having a beneficial impact. When you go to work versus having a J.O.B. you play in an entirely different field of energy.

Pause – as I am writing this blog the phone rings. Damn, an interruption, just when I am in the flow of writing. And, nope – a coaching client calling unexpectedly just to check in and give me an update on how his business is turning around. He simply wanted to share the good news. A Mental Pay Cheque !

I am waking up and appreciating that Mental Pay Cheques are my roadSIGNS. For months now, maybe even years, I have been struggling with the idea of retirement. In fact, I really dislike the word. In conversation with some of my colleagues, I have also come to appreciate that I have nothing to retire from. It seems to me that these random Mental Pay Cheques are reminding me to stay in the world. I realize that teaching, facilitating and coaching are in my DNA, they are not roles that I play, they are me. They are a part of every conversation I have, whether that is a friend, a family member or client. It is not a J.O.B., it is my work in the world.

Whether I continue to work for remuneration or not, this is a part of me that will remain. Whew! No need to retire, I am who I am who I am.

And I am fortunate. As I mentioned earlier, I have been the creator of my own career for the last 23 years. I do not represent the majority. Some folks have to retire or are retired from their J.O.B. Then what?

I believe it is a new beginning, an adventure, an opportunity to fulfill unlived dreams, passions, and desires. Yes, I am an optimist and I believe that the Third Act, as this phase of life is now referred to, is a second chance at life. It is not to be wasted or endured. It is designed to help you live in ways you had not imagined; a time to be curious as to what is possible.

If you are reading this and wondering where to start, here are the questions that I play with and offer to clients:

  1. As I look around the world today, what is it I want to influence, shift or change?
  2. What is it that gives me joy, lights me up?
  3. What is my sense of purpose?
  4. When I decide to step away from work, what do I want my legacy to be?
  5. How do I wish to influence the world around me?
  6. What are my core values? Am I living from these?
  7. In what ways am I experiencing my joy, my purpose/passion, my values in my life/work?

In some way I feel like I can breathe again. I am in gratitude for the clients who continue to choose to work with us and I am content in the knowledge that when this ends, something else will appear. And I appreciate the random Mental Pay Cheques coming my way, reminding me of the ripple effect my work has had and continues to have.

It has taken years for me to appreciate myself and to be authentically grateful for the gift of my work in the world. It is worth pausing, taking a look at the ripple effect you are creating and have created, to receive the feedback and compliments with an open heart, and to see the gift of who you are in the world.

On that note…until next time

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Compassion seems to be the theme running through my life and the lives of others these days. It could also be that I am noticing all the signs as I prepare for a retreat mid-October entitled ‘The Healing Power of Self-Compassion’.

So what have I been noticing?

First is Ed, a 65 + fellow who was participating in a program called Choices and where I was a guest facilitator. My topic was the importance of goals and intentions. While the class was diverse, participants of different age groups as well as reasons for being there, it was clear that Ed was struggling with his Third Act choices.

Although my interaction with him was as part of the group, what I saw was an amazing fellow who did not believe in himself, his worth or what he had to offer the world. At the end of the morning he expressed his desire to simply find his voice and identify opportunities for feeling some level of confidence in speaking.

What was really holding him back was his self-critic, literally roaring in his ear. As I have learned, this voice generally shouts: “You are not worth it” and/or “Who do you think you are”. And that is very damaging, especially when it isolates you and makes you feel like you are the only person who has this voice.

Next is Eileen who I met just last evening. A former nurse and nurse educator, you can see that this is a woman with great knowledge and a desire to share. Because she is also a survivor of coronary disease, she also has firsthand knowledge of  heart care for women. In other words, she is impressive.

In a conversation with her during a New Beginnings Workshop, she expressed her sense of being under-engaged, feeling a lack of purpose. The critical part of her was telling her that this was the time in her life for her to take care of her and that this was the most important focus. After all she had dedicated her life to caring for others. During our conversation I pointed out to her that this is not an either-or discussion. This is a trap I believe many of us fall into, that to focus on ‘ME FIRST” is a unilateral event however, by my definition ME FIRST is predicated on selfness – taking care of self so as to leverage one’s ability to care for others.

As our conversation continued, I suggested to Eileen that perhaps it was a ‘both-and’ conversation, that she could focus on self-care as well as continuing to offer her gifts to others. In doing so I encouraged her to dip into the past, her experiences and wisdom, harvest the gems and notice her passion, and attract opportunities for engaging these. As the discussion continued, I could see her simply ‘light-up’.

 

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
For both Ed and Eileen, it was evident their self-critics were having a field day. This is the absence of self-compassion. The stories they were telling themselves, the criticism they were levying upon their shoulders, were undermining their enjoyment of life. They would never have dreamed of criticizing others in this way and this is what happens. You are much harder on yourself than you would ever be on others.

This needs to stop. All of us need to step into a role of being our own best friend and ally, that person who sits in our corner and lifts us up and stops putting us down. Trust me, self-criticism will never lead to happiness, only self-compassion can do that.

 

The Three Steps to Self-Compassion

Based on the research of psychologists Kristen Neff and Brene Brown, there are three essential components in cultivating self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgment
    Self-kindness is simply easing up, being gentler and kinder in your comments to yourself. You can start by considering what you might say to someone else in a similar circumstance. What words of caring or encouragement would you offer a child, a spouse, a friend or a colleague facing a specific situation. Now offer those words to yourself. You are just as deserving, just as important, just as gifted. There is absolutely no need for you to put yourself down.
    Secondly, when facing a situation where you are tempted to come down hard on yourself, think before you leap. Ask yourself what you really need at that moment. Do you really need more criticism making the situation worse, or do you need some loving kindness. Consider the difference this might make for you in moving forward.
  2. Common Humanity vs Isolation
    As someone who has great mastery in self-criticism, I can tell you that for many years I thought I was the only one who thought this way, who could be genuinely mean to myself. You see, this is something we just don’t talk about. Sometimes I wonder if we should have a party and all come as our respective self-critics!
    When I began to discuss this with other about 20 years ago, I discovered very quickly that I was not alone, that most of us had a ‘Negative Nellie’ sitting on our shoulder who was willing to jump in at any point and reek emotional havoc.
    The second aspect of self-compassion is to recognize that you are not alone, that being imperfect is part of the human experience. We all have an inner-critic – it is best to simply accept him/her, shake hands with that devil and move on. It is helpful to share his/her words and messages with others. You may be surprised at other people’s stories about themselves.
    Also recognize that making mistakes, which is the self-critic’s fuel, is normal. And, not only is it normal, it is important for mistakes are where we learn and grow.
  3. Mindfulness vs Over-Identification
    So how do you start. My experience has been that much of the critical noise in my head is like elevator music. It is playing constantly and I am not mindfully aware of it. The first step in taming the critic is to become aware of what you are actually telling yourself, to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are showing up.
    Then you can exercise compassion and come back to kindness and ask yourself, “what would I rather think or feel? What other behaviors would be better for me?”

In other words, you begin learning to re-program the critic. You make compassionate choices which lift you up, which celebrate who you are, and which acknowledge your gifts.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, and it is important work.

A little compassion goes a long way and can help you have the most amazing Third Act journey. It no longer serves you to put yourself down, and it no longer serves anyone else either. It is time for you to live up to all the potential stored inside of you. This will be fueled by every ounce of compassion you can give yourself.

Take a look at this short video as well:

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I am back. After a hiatus from writing, accompanied by some exploration and reflection, I am exploring the possibility of pulling together a program/learning manual dedicated to Thriving in the Third Act. I always do better when I have a little structure.

In the upcoming weeks I thought I would use my blog to roll out the framework and hope that you, as my audience would offer some feedback to me. I have never written a book this way before, so bear with me. It is a new way of doing it for a new phase in life. So here is the first installment, the Forward:

Thriving in the Third Act

Forward

Tim Carroll, Artistic Director of the Shaw Theatre wrote this for the 2017 season:

“An actor friend of mine said once that all directors are either mechanics or gardeners. A mechanic solves problems so that the machine works; a gardener creates the conditions in which something can grow. Some of the most vital jobs at the Shaw require mechanics but to direct our plays, I want gardeners.”

As I read this, I could not help but reflect on how his words not only applies to plays, they applied to life. If you simply replaced the word play with the Third Act, would the same sentiment not also apply. You can be mechanical in your approach to the Third Act. You can address whatever issues you have identified with a mechanistic approach of ‘let’s fix it’, as if life were a machine that has simply broken down. In fact, this has been in my view, the way in which retirement planning has been approached, a plan which deals dominantly with finances and the practical aspects of the Third Act years.

Or, you can decide to be gardeners and create the conditions for your Third Act whereby you can thrive. And what does thriving mean: feeling curious and engaged, exploring how you might use your gifts, talents and experience differently, being of service both to yourself and others and more.

Carroll went on to say that gardening in theatre work means “a process in which rehearsals are playful and exploratory. It means we don’t try to nail down the ‘right’ version of a scene; we play inside it and allow it to reveal itself.

Isn’t that just perfect. The Third Act is not a new job, it is simply your life’s work and experience. There is no requirement to ‘nail’ it down. The experience is designed to be softer, easier, free-flowing allowing you to ’play inside it and reveal itself ’.

I think this is perhaps the most important aspect of the Third Act, a stage in life, and if you will your ‘two-thirds life crisis’, when you transition into a new phase. It need not be governed by goals as many of you have been forced to live by during your working careers. It is most likely best expressed through intentions, the knowledge of what you want with no need to understand exactly how you will obtain this. Goals nail down the results whereas intentions allow you to live into this new phase of life and let it be revealed.

That said, what you want may not be obvious. I know that has been the case for me. In fact, the ‘do not wants’ have been much more clear at times, most of them predicated on a fear of boredom, and becoming a ‘couch potato’.

Welcome to Thriving in the Third Act, a personal self-discovery journey for ME, as I learn to transition from my career as a coach/consultant into my Third Act and one which I invite you to share.

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In mid-June I attended the Canadian Positive Psychology Conference. One of the questions I carried with me throughout the conference is how can we engage the principles of Positive Psychology to enhance our experience of the Third Act.

It is interesting to note that, at least at the conference, there was little focus on or dialogue regarding this question. Of greater interest to the attendees is the impact of Positive Psychology in education and the workplace. Understood, as this is probably where the greatest opportunities lie. And let’s not be the ‘lost generation’ in this important field of study.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’. So let me share a few of my ‘take-aways’ from the conference and explore how these apply to the Third Act.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0, was the opening key-note speaker. I find her ‘Broaden and Build’ Theory very compelling, as she examines what positivity versus negativity offers us in life. Here is a synopsis of what I took away from her presentation and how I believe this applies to our experience of the Third Act.

Central to Barbara’s research regarding Positivity is what she refers to as the Broaden and Build Theory. BROADEN implies expansive. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions (eg. Response to dangerous situation) and outcomes, positive emotions do the opposite – they broaden your ideas about possible actions, open your awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions, sparking your interest and urging you to explore and learn

Positivity opens us…our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative.

When I consider this concept, I see the importance for Third Acters. Here’s why. Personally I have approached this age with some reticence, largely because of the beliefs I held regarding ‘retirement’. Of course my beliefs have been fed by society’s reaction to this stage of life as well. If however, we approach the Third Act with positivity and optimism, refusing to accept what societal beliefs have been, we have this great opportunity to broaden the possibilities of what is possible, desirable and engaging for us. Key to this notion then of broadening is our ability to exercise our curiosity and explore all the possibilities that light you up and which may have been lingering for a while.

The second aspect of Fredrickson’s theory is building, or more accurately resource building.
Again, if you approach life through the lens of negativity and neutrality you will constrain your experience of your Third Act, and your knowledge, of the world. Positivity does the opposite – it draws you out to explore, to mix up your world in unexpected ways. This leads to new learning and gains in knowledge. All of this may be useful during the Third Act, giving you the opportunity to broaden your sense of possibility, leading you to curiously explore what may be next and broadening your experience and desire to learn.

The Broaden and Build Theory holds that – Positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future.

Positivity broadens and builds. It transforms people and helps them become their best. And when at their best, people live longer, and they have more fulfilling lives.

In other words, they flourish.

Positivity also offers you the following:

  • It opens possibilities,
  • improves cognition (that’s important!),
  • has the physical effect of broadening and opening our posture (less stooping!),
  • and affects how you view the world.

 

Like a good diet filled with nutrients, it builds over time, improving your resilience in the face of difficulties, improving your heart rate variability and your immune systems, all essential ingredients to healthy aging.

The Third Act can be a generative time in your life and your capacity to approach it with a positive attitude enhances your ability to broaden and build your life. So let’s imagine for a moment that we all agreed to begin this great experiment where we approached each day with a few simple questions/intentions:

  • I wonder what is possible today?
  • I have always wanted to learn more about….; why not now?
  • I plan to approach each day with optimism, gratitude and wonder; to be a positive influence for both myself and others
  • What a great opportunity I now have. My obligations and responsibilities have lessened. The only responsibility I have now is ME!

Speaking about this great experiment, are you not curious about what we as Third Acters can create when we take this approach; how we may influence the future? Just sayin’!

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The Third Act of Life is a newer term in the ‘retirement landscape’ referring to those years 60 to 90. In re-framing the idea of retirement, the Third Act examines the opportunities that those falling in this age group have to continue to grow, learn, serve and contribute to society. The notion of flourishing, drawn from the Positive Psychology literature, turns the commonly held beliefs of retirement on its heels and examines the strategies and tools by which ‘Third Acters’ can lead a rich and meaningful life beyond the expiration date of their careers.

Although we have arrived in 2016, with an exponential growth in the number of individuals reaching the Third Act, we are still not tapping into this unlimited resource effectively. Retirement programs offered by organizations continue to focus on two consistent themes: financial planning and legal concerns. And while there is no argument that this focus offers important information to retirees, this approach fails to address other key concerns:

  • What will I do once I step away from my job/career?
  • What will be my identity?
  • What will engage me?
  • Will I still be useful to society?
  • Who will be my tribe?
  • Who will I be without this definition of self?

It is fair to say that the exploration of these questions is not the organization’s business or concern but is it really true? From where I sit, many of us are clinging onto our ‘jobs’ because we cannot see the future. In my case this is not so serious. I am self-employed. This is not the case however, where senior employees may be blocking the entry of the next generation. Let me be clear, this is not to suggest that these senior employees are no longer contributing, it simply beckons these question:

  1. If these employees had a clearer sense of what life could look like beyond their current employment, would they choose to stay?
  2. What if they were offered a road map for navigating the waters for one of life’s most significant transitions?
  3. What if they were offered the tools to assess how they can continue to contribute and forge a path filled with purpose and meaning?
  4. What would be the benefits to the organization and the younger generations as well?

This is where ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’ intersects with life, a program dedicated to exploring the waters of transition, where self-evaluation and self-discovery are central tenets, and where the goal is to re-discover self and create a vision for what can be some of the most productive years of one’s life.

Society forgets all too quickly that many of our favorite authors, artists, inventors and scientists made their most significant contributions during their Third Act. A few examples:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie published her first book at age 64
  • Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence at age 70
  • Nelson Mandala became president of South Africa at age 76
  • At age 69 Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Forced to retire at age 70, Peter Mark Roget complied the Roget’s Thesaurus at age 73
  • Gandhi began his quest for Indian independence at age 61
  • Dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench have picked up more awards and accolades in their third act then in their early careers
  • Acclaimed artist Grandma Moses began painting at the age of 76

The list goes on.

It is my belief that those of us approaching or currently living the Third Act need not sell ourselves short. This is the time in our life when we can take inventory, review our contributions and wonder what’s next. We do not fundamentally change; life circumstances do. We have the capacity to learn and to take all of life’s lessons and apply these in new ways.

As I sit with this concept of Flourishing in the Third Act, reflecting on the possibilities that lie ahead, I see a landscape of vast opportunity. I wonder how can I sharpen the focus on that vision. This is where I, and I imagine others, need some structure, some tools for us to enhance our self-awareness and give direction to what’s next.

What immediately comes to mind is to simply remember that everything I have learned up to now is carried forward. I have vast resources available to me including:

  • My accrued wisdom and knowledge
  • My strengths
  • My work experiences
  • My values
  • My talents and gifts
  • My education

Hopefully all of these resources can be married with curiosity and wonder and a desire to understand in what other ways can I apply these various aspects of me to new opportunities.

Certainly curiosity is at the heart of flourishing. There will be those who simply want to retire, and by this I mean dis-engage, disappear, or take their position on the couch. And it is also my belief that this does not define most of us.

So here’s to curiosity and exploring all of those resources we have!

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Recently I have found myself attracted to the stories of older women. Whether it is my own age that drives me there or simply that older women are interesting, I have yet to decide. What I do know for sure is that all of us are going to age and we have a say in how this aging will happen. And so I write this to share some of what I am observing, to explore my own journey of getting older and to share a little of the wisdom I am picking up along the way.

Choose Your Role Models Carefully
I enjoy older women. I like their humanity and I love their stories. There is a deeper sense of wisdom beneath those wrinkles and grey hair. And yes, like you, I have noticed that not all older women (and men) are people I would choose to hang-out with. And so it is that in our own journey of growing older, I suggest we choose role models who inspire us. Maya Angelou comes to mind for me. Now is her late eighties, this is a woman who continues to teach and share her stories with a self-deprecating way that is humorous and wise.

I also watched a brief film on YouTube the other day, Fabulous Fashionistas, about six older women, average age 80. In sharing their lives several things became obvious. First, each of these women had a sense of purpose, whether that was continuing to work, having a passion, or promoting a cause. As I watch my family members and some of my friends age, I realize that growing old happens quickly when there is nothing to keep you engaged, a reason to throw your feet on the cold floor each morning.

Secondly, each of these women had a sense of style, even flare. They embraced a “the hell with it” attitude that spoke of caring little for what others think or do, and simply showing up the way you are and want to be. I love that. Break all the rules, the way you are supposed to act like because someone in society said that older women should not wear miniskirts or jeans, have long hair or drink beer in public.

Thirdly, they were active. Despite knee and hip replacements, daily exercise was a must. Dance, running, yoga, whatever it took to keep the muscles and bone moving; use it or lose it.

Yes, I loved these women.

sparkle

You Know Best
Whether you are 23, 45, 69 or 83, today is the day to decide what aging looks like for you. My suggestion – don’t settle. By that, I mean disregard the expectations of others and decide on what is perfect for you. Set your intentions around what you truly want rather than what you think you ‘should’ be doing.

We are entering an era where more and more of us will be growing old together. At 63, I may be closer than some of you. Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking for those role models at the moment and making some decisions about aging with grace.

I am learning that age is largely about attitude. I have watched friends and family assume that they were no longer valuable and choose to step away. It saddens me to see them, disengaged and growing older with each moment. I have also observed the opposite, those women who continue to ‘kick ass’ regardless (I won’t name them here but you know who you are). They are artists, gardeners, writes, dancers, and most importantly, they are alive. Aging for them seems to be at a stand still.

And so I say to all of you, women of all ages, and men if you choose to join in, it is time for us to celebrate:

  • to be enlivened by life and never put down
  • to live with purpose and never give up
  • to be inspired and inspire others
  • to dress for YOU and disobey the rules
  • to play with your inner child and never grow up
  • to choose your path, what’s perfect for you, and turn a deaf ear to ‘they said’
  • to work and play as you choose rather than being the norm
  • to re-fire rather than re-tire when the time comes.

Final Thoughts
As one of the women in Fabulous Fashionistas noted, ageism is pervasive in society; the focus on youth and all that goes with it lingers. Reality tells us that older women are quickly becoming the majority. I say, let’s not be the silent majority!

If you want this attitude to change, be part of the change. If you don’t know how, find some role models to inform you. If you have retired, re-fire, identify a new project or cause, re-ignite your passion. Most importantly live large, be bold, and be YOU!

Betty Healey

Betty Healey is an award-winning author, coach and inspiring speaker. You can book Betty for a workshop or speaking engagement at www.roadSIGNS.ca or contact her at betty@roadSIGNS.ca.

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I never saw myself as a writer nor did I set out to become an author. Pulling my thoughts together in what has now become a total of five books seems more like a happy accident than a specific goal.

Writing really happened when I began to understand that when I wrote things down, I shifted. Journals became a place to ‘dump’ my hurts and vent my anger; a place where emotions which are sometimes difficult to express verbally could be placed and not judged by others. Recording my ideas has allowed me to expand them.

If your brain works at all like mine, ideas appear in rapid succession and unless written down, disappear. As a result I always have a journal with me to simply capture what is in my head, imbed it on the pages and move on. These are the ideas that spawn my work and also feed my own sense of self-discovery.

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes that “the pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self”. It was her book that started my writer’s journey. One of the exercises within the twelve week program outlined within the book are something called Morning Pages, which Cameron refers to as the primary tool for creative recovery.

What are Morning Pages: three pages of handwritten, stream-of-consciousness writing. Yes I am aware that most of you now write with a computer and I have to share that writing longhand is different. Somehow the physical connection of pen in hand is different than pecking at keys. Stream-of-consciousness means that once you begin writing, you do not stop until all three pages are filled. At first it may be nonsense, like ‘good morning world, I have no idea what I am writing about this morning, blah, blah…’. That’s okay for at a certain point something switches and your hand starts writing things that seemingly come from out of nowhere and now you are in the ‘juicy zone’.

As I began my own writer’s journey, I kept to the habit of morning pages for over a year. Poems emerged, feelings were exposed, truths realized. I came to know me. Because I could record anything, free of the judgment of others, I had a sense of freedom rarely experienced in my outer world. In this type of writing, grammar doesn’t matter nor does punctuation. There is no English teacher staring over your shoulder assessing these things. You write only for yourself.

Morning pages is only one of many writing tools however. I no longer keep my ‘pages’, I am more prone to simply record random thoughts and ideas as they show up in my day. There are no rules in my world although serious journal writers would disagree with me.

Journal B W sketch ORIGINAL SCAN

Writing, if you choose this path, is there to serve you, no one else. Writing for self-discovery is designed to feed your soul, lift your spirit, help you to see yourself through the lens of your inner world rather than through the eyes of others. It is designed for appreciation rather than a place for your self-critic to put you down.

That said, I suggest that if you decide to take up your pen, you begin by recording everything you know about yourself, your gifts, strengths and values. As you place these attributes on the pages of your journal, you create an amazing foundation for moving forward and directing your personal journey.

Thanksgiving Day I picked up a book at a friend’s place and found the following poem by author Dawna Markova, which describes my relationship with writing:

 

Thinking Ourselves Home 

I write to fuse inside with out,

to salve wounds and broken dreams. 

I write to understand the many things no one has told me,

to stroke my moments clean,

to squeeze them into tiny mirror fragments shining with mind light. 

I write to turn my bold to ink, to fertilizer, to sap. 

I write so that my yes can feel, so that my heart can lick,

so that my soul can crawl from its hiding place and

gaze upon a mystery which can be neither solved nor explained.

I write to breathe my spirit live.

 

Final Thoughts

I write to breathe my spirit live. Even though you may not see yourself as a writer, I encourage you to pick up the pen. Do it for YOU, no one else. Do it to serve the journey, not to write a book. Do it to find yourself and to discover who you are today and who you are choosing to become, not to live in the past. Do it to celebrate yourself.

 

Upcoming Events: Living Your Strengths Coaching Circle, Saturday, Novemeber 23rd. For details go to:

http://www.roadsigns.ca/upcoming-retreats-events/coaching-circles-retreat/

 

Until next time…

 

Betty

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On the heels of Meatless Monday, I have decided that every Tuesday also requires a specific theme. In considering what this might be, two SIGNS triggered my choice. First was a conversation with one of my clients who decided that October was going to be gratitude month in her organization and coincidentally, October began on a Tuesday. Secondly, October is the month to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, surely another significant indicator.

So, this is my invitation to all my readers to begin focusing on gratitude and, just in case you don’t make time daily for this, to mark every Tuesday, from this point forward, as the day to acknowledge your gratitudes. From now on think of Tuesday as GratiTuesday (nice play on words, non?)

By the way, introducing gratitude into your life has been shown to have many benefits, not the least of which is to look at life differently and to bring your attention to all the great and good things happening in your life. Having a gratitude practice been shown to increase positivity, improve your sense of well-being and make you more attractive energetically to others. For those of you who are parents, introducing children to a gratitude practice has been shown to improve self-esteem and academic performance. Most importantly, gratitude is FREE!

To help you to get started, I have created an acronym based on GRATITUDE.

G =         Great, finding ways to notice and celebrate all the amazing things happening in your life and around you that you typically fail to notice.

R =          Respect, respecting yourself enough to acknowledge yourself for your accomplishments rather than noticing what you fail to get done; taking opportunities to model respect to others by acknowledging their greatness

A=          Awareness, paying attention to life, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, noticing the SIGNS which cross your path every day and which may be passing you by, pausing and wondering what it all means

T=           Truth, telling yourself the truth about who you are, activating your self-coach so as to tune of the inner critic (who does not tell the truth), reminding yourself that you are unique and that every day you make a difference in the life of at least one other person

I=            Intuition, listening to and living from what you know is right for you, embracing your great qualities and strengths and living from that place, allowing your heart to guide your actions while turning down the volume on all of life’s ‘shoulds’

T=           Team/Community, surrounding yourself with your perfect team, those who you love and who love you, those who are your fans and who see you uniqueness and celebrate your contributions

U=          Unconstrained FUN, laughter and joy and sharing this with your family and friends, engaging in activities which light you up!

D=          Daring, engaging in at least one new activity or adventure every month, taking the risk to stretch your pre-conceived notion of who you are and being successful, then celebrating your success.

E=           Environment, taking in random acts of beauty, sunrises and sunsets, the kaleidoscope of fall colors or the pristine whiteness of new snow, a thoughtful letter or complement from a friend or client, noticing that beauty lives in your environment every day.

Gratitude

Putting Gratitude into Practice:
Here’s the plan, if you dare to join me. Each GratiTuesday, post your gratitudes on Facebook, record your gratitudes in a special ‘gratitude journal’ or share your gratitudes with your family just before dinner or while tucking your kids into bed. Make it a weekly practice and have some fun sharing with others. I actually think this is way more exciting than Meatless Monday!

Until next time….

Betty

Upcoming Events:

ME FIRST Retreat: October 19-20th, 2013
Step away from the busyness of your life and re-acquaint yourself with YOU. This two day program is designed to bring you into the present, defining who you are today and who you are choosing to be as you move forward. Details at: http://www.roadsigns.ca/upcoming-retreats-events/

Living Your Strengths: November 23rd, 2013
Using the Lumina Spark Portrait, you will identify your preferred qualities/strengths and learn how to live and leverage your strengths in service of YOU. Details at: http://www.roadsigns.ca/upcoming-retreats-events/

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Your child or teenager comes home from school and presents his report card to you. You review the list of subjects and note the grade assigned to each one: English – A,  French: B+, History: A, Science: C, Math: F. In the following minutes you discuss the results with your child. What do you focus on?

According to Marcus Buckingham, author of GO, Put Your Strengths to Work, more than 70% of parents will zone in on the F grade, ignoring the decent to great marks in the other subjects. It seems that we are programed to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths.

I am sure that most of you have been on the receiving end of this flawed assumption. In an interview recently with one of my clients discussing the annual performance review, they admitted that little time was given to successes and accomplishment during the review process. Time was dedicated instead to what did not happen and the weaknesses they believed the employee needed to address.

Building a Foundation

Imagine building a house or any type of structure using the same principle. Basically the foundation of human development is being built upon the premise that weaknesses must be addressed and strengths taken for granted. If this were a house, what kind of foundation would that be? Would you want to build on a weak infrastructure or would you choose to build on something strong, resilient, secure and so on.

A New Paradigm

In the work we are introducing to organizations and to individuals, we are convinced that building on strengths is the way to go. Buckingham suggests that there are three myths associated with personality and living from our strengths:

Myth #1: As you grow your personality changes.

Truth: As you grow, you become more of who you really are.

That doesn’t imply that you don’t change and grow at all, this simply means that you are born with the personality you have, and with that your innate strengths. Over time what may change are your values, your beliefs, and even your behaviors, the result of your personality gaining life experience.

 

Myth #2: You will grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness

Truth: You will grow the most in your areas of greatest strength

New medical research is actually showing that those who focus their development from their weaknesses are prone to chronic pain and other illnesses. Spending time investing in your strengths however, keeps you engaged, inquisitive, resilient, creative and invested in your learning.

 

Myth #3: A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team.

Truth: A good team member deliberately volunteers his strengths to the team.

We are taught that we must be all things to all people. This is sure to burn you out. A great person or team member is not well-rounded, a great team is. A great team is well rounded because each member comes to play from their respective strengths. It is not your job to be all things.

Lumina Circle

Final Word

If you are feeling disconnected from yourself in any way, chances are you have invested a lot of time addressing your weaknesses. This is not a criticism of you. In all likelihood, you were told you had to, by a parent, a teacher, a colleague or a boss.

Guess what – it’s time to change the conversation because trust me; it is time to start investing in building a strong foundation for your inner house. Find a way to identify your strengths (we use the Lumina Spark Portrait for these purposes). Take a stand for them once they have been identified. Educate those around you, your colleagues, your manager, your family members, about who you are through the lens of your strengths. This is not bragging – it is stating a fact!

On the Mat 06

Take some courses that help you in invest in your strengths and engage them in doing your work, whatever that may be. And finally, address your least favorite activities by activating your strengths.

Each person is unique, possessing a cadre of strengths that defines who they are and how they play in the world. Wouldn’t it be amazing if each person played from their strengths while respecting the strengths exhibited by others? This is true collaboration.

 

What are your strengths?

 

Until Next Time….

Betty Healey

 

roadSIGNS is offering two programs in the upcoming weeks:

 

The Living from Your Strengths Coaching Circle: go to http://www.roadsigns.ca/wp/our-focus/conscious-communication-for-self-discovery/coaching/coaching-circle/, beginiing September 24th.

The Living from Your Strengths Retreat Day – Saturday, Nov. 23rd/13

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