Friday, June 29, 2012

You Are Not Your Behaviour

Sometimes late at night I watch cheezy TV. When I was a kid I used to watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leech. (I know, don't judge me! Especially if you know what I'm talking about!)

My latest thrill is the Real Housewives of Vancouver. I admit it, I'm curious how the rich of Vancouver live. Growing up on the West coast, I always felt that we were down to earth people and had our heads screwed on straight. Of course, as I've gotten older I've come to realize that there are *ahem* "interesting" people wherever you go. Even here in my dear, beloved city.

I get sucked in to reality shows like the Real Housewives of Vancouver every so often. Yes, the drama (drama, drama!) is addicting. It pulls me in and hooks its talons into me. But as I watch the events unfold and listen to the women talk about each other, vent and argue with one another, I am actually enthralled by human nature itself.

We have such a strong desire to be loved (by others and ourselves) yet so often we react with incredible fear and aggression against it. We are afraid to let go so we react with fearful behaviour. It's a vicious circle. We create boundaries of power. We bully and victimize each other. We martyr ourselves and separate ourselves into "Us vs. Them" teams.

We fight with each other because we fear change. So many of us are in a fearful holding pattern and yet we don't even know it. No one is immune to this by the way. No one. You could have a PhD in psychology and still be holding onto certain behaviours in a certain relationship of your life and not even notice it. You could be a revered preacher of love and acceptance but when it comes to one particular person in your life, you are stuck. You could be retired, you could be in your 20's, you could be a parent, a mom or a dad. It is human behaviour.

But it is not the talented little genius soul inside you.

Behaviour is NOT YOU.

Behaviour is learned. It is a reaction to past experiences of pain and hurt. Our behaviour is a choice and it can be changed. We can replace bad behaviour with constructive behaviour and still be US.

I believe we have the power to learn and grow through our relationships. In fact, I believe that is why we are here on this crazy roller coaster ride called life: to love, to learn and to grow. The people around us are vehicles to help us evolve with the seasons of life.

I'm not saying growing and learning and changing behaviour is easy. H#ll no! It's messy and filled with drama. It takes hard work and deliberate effort.

And you wanna know what the clincher is?

You can't do it alone.

It's gonna get messy people. It's gonna be tough. But we're gonna get through it together.

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Art and Soul of Us

Everyone can be an artist because everyone HAS an artist hidden inside them. Really and truly there are only four things that make an artist an artist.

Step 1: Find a medium that speaks to you. Raku pottery, ballet dancing, sewing, photography, video game design, radio or television interviewing or reporting, heck, maybe even teaching or managing people turns your crank, the list of options and mediums to choose from goes on and on. It takes time, determination and courage to find something that clicks and speaks to your soul. You will need to try new things and not be afraid to go back to something either. I learned photography in a darkroom and on film but I didn't really start to love it until everything became digital.

Step 2: Hone in on your chosen medium, learn from it, read about it. See what other people do. Try what they've tried. Develop your skills. Develop your craft. Push yourself, challenge yourself. Become curious. Ask questions. Explore. Try something new, find out what works or make it up as you go along. PLAY...

Step 3: Express yourself. Find out what you love about your medium and your craft. Do what you love. Develop a style, a look or a way that makes sense to YOU. Make it your way. Combine ideas. Change it up. Make new connections.

Step 4: Share your gifts and your talents with the world. Show your art to people. Ask for feedback. Create a dialogue. Open people's eyes. Touch people's hearts. But more importantly, bring your own heart. Because the reason we do art (of any kind) is to let the light of our little genius heart and soul shine onto the world.

So let that artist within you shine through, the world can always use a little bit more beauty.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do You Label Yourself an Optimist?

A CultureLab article recently asked the question: Can you train yourself to be an optimist?

This label is really starting to annoy me.

Each of us hovers around a certain energy frequency somewhere in between the negative and positive opposite ends of the spectrum. Our daily emotional state is always in flux around this point and our perspective is also always evolving too. Over time, our life experiences also push and pull us in either direction along this continuum. How we feel and how we see things are interrelated but what's more important is that nothing is static. Instead our emotions, our perspective and our overall energy is constantly in MotiOn.

Who cares if you're labelled an "Optimist" or a "Micromanager" or a "Perfectionist" or even "Lazy". Labels are static and suggest no movement. Labels wrap us up in a tidy little box until we suffocate inside from all the judgement and self limiting beliefs they cause.

Labels make us believe "Once I become that, THEN I will be happy."
Labels make us believe "I only know how to be THIS."
Labels make us believe "I could never be THAT."
Labels make us believe "I would NEVER be THAT."
Labels make us believe "I am this, I am not THAT."

Labels fool us into believing a state of being is permanent, when in fact, every emotional perspective is temporary and fleeting. All living things are energy. Energy is vibrating movement. Movement is either destructive or constructive. Humans are both blessed and cursed because we are able to choose which direction to move. 

All we need to do is pick a direction and take action!

So move, call, email, tweet, blog, message, write, dance, photograph, groove, sing, talk, yell, holla, whisper, stretch, wiggle, hop, reach, push, pull, swim, bike, jump, leap, bounce, swing, roll, walk, run, skip, drive or fly...!

And leave that label behind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Being Self Aware can Stunt Your Growth

I am confused.

There is a general theory that people can be categorized into different personality types. There are many different models to promote this theory, dating all the way back to the Ancient Greek idea of the Four Temperaments. In the business world we talk about True Colors or the Insight Discovery Wheel. In the end it's about gaining a greater understanding of ourselves and those around us. It fosters self awareness and compassion for others. These are pretty good things.

So what's confusing me?

Well Brian Tracy, a well known leadership expert, is big on getting people to be responsible for their own actions. He says being responsible or, able to respond, means we are able to choose our actions and reactions. Our behaviour is a choice.

So learning about our own personality type is important because it confirms our inner voice and the nature of who we are. BUT, it often becomes a licence to sidestep the responsibility of choosing our actions and this can not only damage our relationships with others but it can defeat our own personal growth. "I can't help it, this is just who I am," effectively shuts down a relationship that needs to evolve and stunts an opportunity for personal growth. Boom. Conversation done. Defeat. Game over.

So now I'm in search of what's beyond this limited self aware attitude. Now I want to know, what ACTIONS I can take that will still be true to myself but will foster a constructive relationship with myself and those around me.

When I was in teachers college, we went to class after class after class where the instructors talked at great length about the qualities of a great teacher. By the end of our program though, we felt like we still didn't know HOW to teach. We wanted strategies to follow, tips and tricks to try. We wanted ACTIONS.

So we all went out and bought Barrie Bennett's book Beyond Monet and Harry Wong's The First Days of School and signed up for Make and Take Workshops left right and centre. We armed ourselves with any strategy we could find that might help us survive our first year. We traded tips and tricks during recess, we planned and prepared and marked all weekend, every weekend. Finally, low and behold, we made it to June.

And then we crashed and burned on July 1st.

Although I dearly miss teaching Kindergarten in the bittersweet way we will forever cherish our first love, I never found full time work or the opportunity to establish a stable career. So I began a long and challenging evolution to rebirth myself into something just as valuable and just as soul fulfilling. During that time I wrestled with personal demons, fought professional battles within myself and allowed financial weights to stifle and suffocate me. I struggled to maintain confidence in myself but then, somehow in the midst of all that, I caught a glimpse of how my little genius soul is meant to breathe life through my being and I realized that only I can confirm value in who I am meant to be. It took a long time to be able to visualize a future that's exciting and interesting once more.

Now I am ready to move forward in a constructive way. There is no need to fight myself anymore. No need to stop me from being, evolving and growing. Deconstruction was messy, ugly and painful. But now the darkness is lifting and there is peace resonating from within me. It's getting stronger every day as I construct a future for little ol' me and my little genius soul.

Finally I know who, what and where I want to be. Now I'm on a quest to find out HOW to make it happen...

...without burning out or burning bridges.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Motivation and Mantra

The mantra for achieving success and pursuing happiness has evolved over the last few generations.

In the post industrial, modern world people believed: If you work hard you will achieve success.

Then it became apparent that not everyone who worked hard became successful so the mantra had to change. Surely those successful people are just lucky. So the mantra became: If you work hard and with a little luck, you will achieve success. 

But it's not helpful to leave luck up to chance when you're trying to become successful so people tried to figure out how to leverage luck. They found that by thinking positively, visualizing and believing in success they could create more lucky opportunities. So the mantra became: If you think positively, visualize it and believe in your own success hard enough, you will attract success. 

Surely THIS is The Secret to having and living a successful life...?

Well, it's half right. Let me put it this way: If you are not successful, does it mean that you do not believe hard enough? That you do not visualize and meditate well enough? Maybe you don't actually want it badly enough. In fact, we often go even further to suggest that if you aren't successful, it means you CHOOSE to be a victim of your own negativity. That you WANT to be a loser. 

So even though the concept pokes some fight into us, it still leaves us hanging and searching for success.

Why? Because success is about ACTIONS. The whole secret mantra forgets to stress the action. You can't just visualize your way to success, and you can't just visualize harder tomorrow. It's the marriage of the vision PLUS action that equals success.

So now MY motivating mantra is Get Up Offa That Thing and Get into Action girl.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Optimism and Denial

When I'm feeling low and in need of a pick me up, I certainly don't call up the friend with the perky voice who says, "You should save a little extra every month. I always do! Don't worry! Just be happy!" Because I know full well she lived with her parents until she was 30 and never had the reality of bills, rent or groceries to slap her upside the face. I can't deal with that level of shiny, naive optimism when I am trying to pull myself out of the depths of despair. It's called denial and it's how I ended up here in the first place people. 

While I realize that Naysayers and Negative Nelly's are not welcomed forces at the dinner table or the board room table, (hey, I don't invite myself when I'm in that state either) optimists have their own level of inappropriateness as well. I know I'm not alone in this thinking because Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the dark reality of optimism in her talk, Smile or Die. (Check out this version of her talk animated by Cognitive Media  for the RSA.)