Archive | April, 2011

The wisdom of childhood

30 Apr

I found this piece written by yoga teacher Gloria Latham a while back and always read it whenever I’m taking life too seriously. Make sure to take some time to play today.

10 Good Reasons to Hang Out with Children

1. They love to play and you have completely forgotten how to.

2. They can enter into spontaneous, deep states of meditation by simply staring at ants on the sidewalk (no meditation cushion, or guru required).

3. They love colour and you won’t expand your wardrobe choices beyond black, white, grey and possibly khaki.

4. They break into song and dance regularly and you’ll only sing in the shower and probably haven’t been dancing for ages.

5. Yoga poses are part of their everyday routine whereas you have to work really hard to get all those knots out of your body, not to mention your mind.

6. They hug lots, and you generally avoid all physical contact with anyone you’re not in an intimate relationship with.

7. They nap, and you don’t dare rest until you’ve hit the wall.

8. They have outdoor time scheduled everyday whereas most days, the closest you get to nature is via your laptop.

9. They are extremely honest.

10. They are excited about life…..are you?

Don’t be afraid to tell your story

29 Apr

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Several months ago, I discovered the work of Dr. Brené Brown and was immediately inspired. I feel I won’t do her justice by summarizing her work here, but, in a nutshell, she is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work where she studies and teaches about vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.

Sounds scary, I know.

However, she has convinced me that these are some of the core concepts of living an engaged and balanced life.

My introduction to her was through her TEDx talk on the power of vulnerability. I was immediately struck by her willingness to speak personally about her struggle with the very issues she chose to research in others. She is a truly gifted storyteller who translates her academic research into beautiful lessons we all can take to heart.

She encourages us to own and share our stories in an effort to live an authentic and wholehearted life.

I am currently enrolled in an online course being taught by Brené titled, Ordinary Courage: Lessons on Love, Shame & Worthiness.  The course guides us through lessons based on her books and lectures and challenges us with activities that help put these abstract concepts into action.

Since the core concept of the course is telling our stories, I plan to share some of my thoughts and insights here over the next several weeks.

Here’s to telling our stories to those who are worthy of our trust.

Why I broke up with multitasking

18 Apr

I’ve long prided myself on being a multitasker. I’ve worn it like a badge of honor.

I’ve also looked for that badge on others. Thinking back on the dozens of job interviews I have conducted, I cannot recall a time when I haven’t requested, ‘Tell me about your multitasking abilities.’

The ability to carry out more than one task at a time is the key to efficiency and productivity at work. Right?

Well, recently I began to question the superiority of multitasking. It seemed that despite my best efforts, I struggled to keep my head above water while drowning in endless to-do lists. Things piled up and some even got missed. The cherished tool of multitasking didn’t help. All that juggling wasn’t working.

I came across a 2010 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education exploring the ongoing research on the effectiveness of multitasking. One study cited found that, “self-described multitaskers performed much worse on cognitive and memory tasks that involved distraction than did people who said they preferred to focus on single tasks”.

Perhaps multitasking wasn’t the key to efficiency and productivity as I thought it was. It may have even been hurting my performance. I figured I had nothing to lose.

I decided to try something new.

I started to focus on one task at a time. I shut down my email and let the phone go to voicemail. It may have only been for 20 or 30 minutes, but during that time I gave the task at hand my full attention.  When meeting with colleagues, I listened more attentively and put aside the thoughts of what was next on my calendar.

Amazingly, I’ve found I get more done.  There is still an endless to-do list, but I’m finally crossing things off.  Most importantly, I feel less rushed and anxious.  This allows me to handle the inevitable distractions calmly and confidently.

So that, my friends, is why I have broken up with multitasking.  I probably should have done it long ago, but I just wasn’t ready until now. 🙂

There are times when we undoubtedly need to jump in and put our juggling skills to the test.  We’re just not meant to do it all the time.

Photo credit: BotheredByBees

The key to my balance

14 Apr

Sunset Yogaphoto © 2008 Andrew Kalat | more info (via: Wylio)I’ve been in love with yoga for many years.  I haven’t practiced yoga for all those years, but I have loved it nonetheless.

I dabbled with DVD’s in my home.  I owned a mat, blocks and straps.  I even subscribed to Yoga Journal and a ridiculous number of yoga blogs.  I had learned an amazing amount about the discipline considering I had never stepped inside a yoga studio for a lesson.

So why on earth didn’t I go to a class?  It’s pretty simple.  I was nervous.  My shy self isn’t very comfortable around new people.  I was also intimidated.  The images you see in magazines, blogs and DVD’s are of beautiful women full of strength, flexibility and grace.  I was not one of those ladies.  My arms and legs had long ago abandoned the idea of being firm and toned.  My aching back refused to let me touch my toes.  And grace?  Well, let’s just move on.

As someone often concerned about looking foolish in front of others, I was not about to line myself up in a room full of graceful, flowing yogis when I could barely hold myself up in downward dog.

Then last summer, while lying on my couch with my laptop, I googled yoga classes in my area and found a new studio had opened just a month earlier in my town.   Full of excitement, I checked out the website.  It was so beautiful and welcoming.  This was a place I’d like to visit.  I knew I probably wouldn’t.

A couple of weeks later, I was wandering through the booths at our town’s summer fair when I came upon one for the new yoga studio.  Well, what did I have to lose?  I went over to ask some questions and found out the first week was free.  Sweet.  Now I just had to get myself to go.

Four days later, I showed up for my first class.  I haven’t stopped going since.

The studio has become a space for me to slow down, breathe and connect with an amazing group of women (and men), most of who started from the same point as me.  We are an array of individuals in all shapes and sizes; our ages from teen to senior.  I am forever grateful for the time I can spend there.

Yoga teaches us to accept things as they are in the moment.  It requires no strength, flexibility or grace.  Instead, these are the gifts that yoga bestows.

Namaste

Do you value your work?

12 Apr

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a career workshop offered by my employer.  (side note: I am truly thankful that an amazing benefit of working for a university is the access to on-going training and education). I had reached a point of needing to make some decisions about the direction of my career and whether I was on the right path.   I hoped the workshop would be the kick in the butt I needed.

I fully expected to feel very foolish as a woman in her late thirties trying to figure out what to do with her life, surrounded by a bunch of recent graduates.  I mean, I’m supposed to know what I’m doing by now, right?

What I found was an inspiring mix of individuals at all stages in life.  Some with no idea of what they wanted to do, but eager to figure it out.  Others on the verge of retirement, exploring what to do in their next career.   A few suspected they were on the right path and wanted some reassurance.  The thing we all had in common was a desire to engage in meaningful work.

Our workshop facilitator was remarkable and led us through several insightful exercises.  One of the most intriguing was on determining our values.  As he described it,

Paying attention to our values helps us become more self-aware, evaluate our choices and decisions, prioritize tasks, develop authenticity and build credibility and trust.

If our work is out of line with our values, perhaps we are doing the wrong work.

These are my values and how they come into play at work:

  • Learning – seeking out new challenges and projects
  • Authenticity – being honest and owning up to your actions
  • Humor – life and work are hard, let’s laugh and enjoy what we can
  • Balance – strive to succeed professionally, but more importantly, personally
  • Support and Autonomy – being trusted by your boss and given the space to direct your own work

I’m very fortunate that, at the moment, my work and my values are pretty well aligned.  I must be vigilant however as it is easy to fall out of balance, and that’s when I lose my sense of humor.

How do you keep your values and work in harmony?

Can I ask you a question?

10 Apr

Who am I?

What am I doing?

What should I be doing?

Am I missing out on something?

I have asked myself these questions, and many more, as I travel through life.  At times, I’ve thought I had them answered only to find myself back at square one.  My need for guarantees and control in life has left me constantly searching for answers.  And filled with anxiety.

I’ve poured over books and blogs.  I’ve taken every personality, skills and strengths test I could get my hands on.  I’ve pestered my husband, family and friends to talk about work, love and life until they could take no more.  If I’m being honest, I’ve mostly pestered them to listen to me talk about these things.

Where has all this questioning taken me?  Well, exactly to where I need to be at this very moment.

It has finally occurred to me that where I need to be is wherever I am at any given moment.  Doing whatever I am doing.  And in just a little while, I’ll likely being doing something else, somewhere else.

The key for me is to focus on being present in the moment and not getting swallowed up by the anxiety of “what if”.

In no way do I mean to suggest that I have somehow found the answers to all my questions. Quite the contrary.  I’ve simply learned to enjoy the journey a little more.  And to really enjoy the moments when I am:

  • laughing and being silly with my husband and family who accept me just as I am
  • deeply contemplating the tough and tricky issues of life with friends until too late in the morning, over too many glasses of wine.  That, and gossiping about our latest pop culture obsessions
  • engaged in challenging work that encourages me to learn and grow
  • taking the time to slow down, breathe and hit my yoga mat when that challenging work starts to take over
  • telling a story

The last one is what brings me to this new venture.  Perhaps, by telling my story of questioning, struggling, being inspired and accepting, here in this blog, I will restore the sanity of those who have patiently listened to me all these years.

All my love and gratitude to those who have listened.  You know who you are. 🙂

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